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Strider

Odd, rare, or just bad computers you've owned?

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20 hours ago, SlithyMatt said:

I like how "CENTRONIX" is still in Latin letters, as there is no attempt make it into a Russian word, even phonetically. Even more interesting is that the Centronix parallel port is only used for the plotter and not the printer, which uses some entirely different protocol.

It looks like the printer is connected to an OZU 512Kbait — sorry, 512Kbyte RAM module. Probably a multifunction card with both memory and the printer connection, as opposed to the adapter interfeisny, interface adapter, which only has the serial and parallel ports. I'm guessing there were constraints that prevented having both interfaces as well as extra memory all on the same card.

Some of these transliterations are mildly amusing: dzhoistiki, for example, and Vinchester.

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On 2/22/2021 at 5:10 AM, Lucky Phil said:

I still have an Amstrad PPC640 - actually, it's a replacement for an old friend from my vocational study days! Being a modest tertiary student, I could only afford to buy a PPC512 (the slightly lower-spec model of this machine) - but I'm still in awe of what I could achieve with a grey-on-green CGA screen and two floppy drives! The crisp, spritely keyboard was a dream, putting many modern examples to shame. I only traded the PPC512 to upgrade to a 'modern' PC, though I've since consoled myself with a vintage PPC640, complete with manual and custom backpack!

There has recently been a video on YouTube of someone trying to replace the screen on a PPC512, trying several different options.

 

Edited by kelli217
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I have picked up a VTech IQ Unlimited from a junk shop a few years ago. It was sold as a children's toy laptop in the 90s (at least this model, there are other IQ Unlimited branded machines that look diffenent). It has a dedicated mouse peripherial, a GUI, applications like a Wordpad-like text editor, a drawing program, and among others, even a BASIC interpreter. It can save files to an internal battery powered memory (and the battery is still not dead). From what I gather, on the inside it's an 8-bit microcomputer!

Too bad it has a horrible non-backlit B&W LCD screen, a very awkward-feeling keyboard. And no external storage, which means no software support, and no way to backup the files you created.

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12 minutes ago, Wertzui said:

on the inside it's an 8-bit microcomputer

David made a video on it: 

 

It has a Z80, so it should be pretty capable. Maybe even able to run CP/M.

 

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Yeah I know. This is the IQ Unlimited that pops up in searches.

I'm actually not sure if it's the same architecture at all. The UI is more like GEOS with Windows 3.1 styling, all pixel-graphics instead of characters (and pretty slow too). But it's hard to tell by looking at the miserable LCD display that's built into the laptop form factor, and there is no other output. The sound is just a few crunchy, obnoxious cartoon sound effect samples. There's no way to open it up to see the guts (safety measure for children I suppose). Curiously, it has a printer port like on old PCs.

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Posted (edited)

Nice recommendation there, kelli217! For anyone interested, I thoroughly recommend the YouTube clip showing replacement of the original monochrome PPC640 screen with a colour VGA equivalent... amazing how such a relatively simple change (speaking from a completely non-technical background) can smartly bring a retro item into a comparatively modern focus?

 

Oh, and that wonderful keyboard...! It needs NO revision.

Edited by Lucky Phil
Correction of textual content
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Posted (edited)

@Cyber A compact IBM PC clone in a keyboard, connecting to TV? That's pretty unusual... and awesome!

Did it use the much neglected composite CGA mode? With artifact colors? (altough I'm not sure PAL TVs can actually make artifact colors)

The Videoton TVC had a similar style of expansion cartridges.

 

Edited by Wertzui

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Posted (edited)

I didn't own one, but might just aswell bring it up: the Hungarian-made Videoton TV Computer!

457988985_VideotonTVC.thumb.jpg.9d0f63631fee535c723164f0d7c57af1.jpg

 

8-bit Z80 CPU, the architecture is based on an early prototype of the British Enterprise 128, but it had to be adapted to parts available in the eastern-bloc. It had a built-in joystick knob.

It was mostly used a in schools. I didn't see it much in action, partially because the whole class had to share it one-by-one (our elementary school in the rural had ONE on them), and partially because it was very prone to failure and had to be repaired all the time. What I heard, before our time it was used for a faculty math class, but then someone in the education ministry ordered that there has to be general computing classed now. We were taught (or at least that's what they were trying) BASIC, and some form Turtle LOGO language.

 

Then there were the Commodore Plus/4 machines. It may have been a flop in America, but then they were dumped into countries like Italy, Germany, and Hungary. The Hungarian education system bought many of them, and thus generally it was considered as a school computer (at least in more equipped towns). Our math teacher had one, and she was very anxious when she had to bring it in the school when the TVC was down.

 

Oh, and the unsold Enterprise 128 units ended up in Hungary too for some reason, but I didn't see one in live. That one had 256 colors, stereo sound, and the sound capabilities are still debated about because very few software took advantage of it beyond a simple 3-channel square-wave PSG.Enterprise128_01_(edited).thumb.jpg.9f9b7d0d6e394a548db5535206654282.jpg

 

Edited by Wertzui
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My family's first computer was a TI 99/4A, followed by a Coleco ADAM and then a Zenith Data Systems PC clone.  The first computer I personally owned was a machine by a company known as Orange Logic.  it used a PIC microcontroller as a CPU, and the sound system consisted of an RCA 1802 and an 8-bit DAC, and the built in language was Chip-8.

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16 hours ago, Wertzui said:

@Cyber A compact IBM PC clone in a keyboard, connecting to TV? That's pretty unusual... and awesome!
Did it use the much neglected composite CGA mode? With artifact colors? (altough I'm not sure PAL TVs can actually make artifact colors)

Well, kinda yeah, but actually it's not that compact. It's slim, but pretty large and heavy. And PSU is enormous. You can check out some good photos here: https://www.computer-museum.ru/articles/personalnye-evm/967/
No, it did not have composite CGA, graphics mode was 4 colours only. My dad even had to solder special PCB and mount it inside TV to connect it to Poisk.

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I love seeing all these other computers that I never knew existed!

19 hours ago, Kalvan said:

My family's first computer was a TI 99/4A, followed by a Coleco ADAM and then a Zenith Data Systems PC clone.  The first computer I personally owned was a machine by a company known as Orange Logic.  it used a PIC microcontroller as a CPU, and the sound system consisted of an RCA 1802 and an 8-bit DAC, and the built in language was Chip-8.

The TI99/4A, my first, and still a favorite. 🙂

I never owned a Zenith PC, but I did see them around. Found it funny back then that a TV/Radio company was making computers. Then again, seems like everyone was trying to break into that market at the time. Just like in the 90's when Magnavox tried the home game console market. 😛

Never even heard of Orange Logic either. Sounds like neat little system though!

On 3/4/2021 at 7:04 AM, Wertzui said:

I didn't own one, but might just aswell bring it up: the Hungarian-made Videoton TV Computer!

That thing looks cool! It has that metallic copper industrial look to it, almost like it would not look out of place in a Star Wars or Aliens film set of the era.

Thanks for sharing!

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On 3/4/2021 at 10:39 PM, Kalvan said:

My family's first computer was a TI 99/4A, followed by a Coleco ADAM and then a Zenith Data Systems PC clone.  The first computer I personally owned was a machine by a company known as Orange Logic.  it used a PIC microcontroller as a CPU, and the sound system consisted of an RCA 1802 and an 8-bit DAC, and the built in language was Chip-8.

Some really weird design decisions going on there .... this must be an incredibly rare machine.

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Quote

Orange Logic

It takes the saying "comparing apples and oranges" to a whole new meaning, haha!

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Posted (edited)

My "worst" computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000. I don't know how rare they were in the US, but my dad bought me one knowing I liked computers (it was still a dream to own one at that point) he found on clearance for only $35 in the early 80s. I never ever could get it to work with any tape recorder, so it was a write only code platform with that magnificent 2K of RAM. A luxury by the standards of some computers, but yeah. He did pick up a 16K RAM expansion module for it too, but it was so flaky that the computer wasn't very stable.

Edited by Scott Robison
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On 3/19/2021 at 4:05 PM, Scott Robison said:

My "worst" computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000. I don't know how rare they were in the US, but my dad bought me one knowing I liked computers (it was still a dream to own one at that point) he found on clearance for only $35 in the early 80s. I never ever could get it to work with any tape recorder, so it was a write only code platform with that magnificent 2K of RAM. A luxury by the standards of some computers, but yeah. He did pick up a 16K RAM expansion module for it too, but it was so flaky that the computer wasn't very stable.

I never had the opportunity to own, or use, a TS 1000. Back then, and to this day, I really dislike "chiclet" or soft mushy keys and avoided them as much as possible. I was also not a fan of the smaller or pocket computers in general.

Of course, much later in life I got to mess with and appreciate a lot more, like the ZX Spectrum, but that's as close as I got to a TS 1000.

Still, I wish we had a computer "museum" in my area, I would love to play around with some of these systems I missed out on. :)

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4 hours ago, Strider said:

I never had the opportunity to own, or use, a TS 1000. Back then, and to this day, I really dislike "chiclet" or soft mushy keys and avoided them as much as possible. I was also not a fan of the smaller or pocket computers in general.

Of course, much later in life I got to mess with and appreciate a lot more, like the ZX Spectrum, but that's as close as I got to a TS 1000.

Still, I wish we had a computer "museum" in my area, I would love to play around with some of these systems I missed out on. 🙂

Yeah, the membrane keyboard wasn't the nicest thing in the world to use. My only other computer experience up to that point had been several PET 4032 (I think) at my school, which I thought felt great. Then the TS 1000 which wasn't all bad, and it was a gift, so I hate to sound ungrateful. 🙂 Then I bought my C=64. ❤️

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On 4/9/2021 at 4:44 PM, Scott Robison said:

Yeah, the membrane keyboard wasn't the nicest thing in the world to use. My only other computer experience up to that point had been several PET 4032 (I think) at my school, which I thought felt great. Then the TS 1000 which wasn't all bad, and it was a gift, so I hate to sound ungrateful. 🙂 Then I bought my C=64. ❤️

I started on a TI-99/4A, then moved to Commodore, and of course Commodore won me over pretty quick. :)

My TI was a gift from my uncle in 1981, and I was thrilled beyond belief to get it. My parents were not gonna drop that kinda money for something they had no idea if I would keep using... boy were they surprised. I spent every free moment behind that keyboard. From that point forward, they fully supported my interest in computers.

Good times!

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I started on a TI-99/4A, then moved to Commodore, and of course Commodore won me over pretty quick. :)
My TI was a gift from my uncle in 1981, and I was thrilled beyond belief to get it. My parents were not gonna drop that kinda money for something they had no idea if I would keep using... boy were they surprised. I spent every free moment behind that keyboard. From that point forward, they fully supported my interest in computers.
Good times!
My parents saw the computer as a toy, and to a degree it was. Restricting my use of it prevented me from discovering the art of programming well into my adulthood. I really wish learning basic couldve happened during my formative years. A friend had a c64 in his room and the only memory I have of us using it was a flight sim.

We had computers at my elementary school but a course in it was offered only to the GATE program students. By junior high we had apple 2s but their use was limited to typing class. In high school we had a mac plus lab but by then I had developed a hatred for apple computers.

Sent from my SM-T720 using Tapatalk

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On 3/20/2021 at 5:05 AM, Scott Robison said:

My "worst" computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000. I don't know how rare they were in the US, but my dad bought me one knowing I liked computers (it was still a dream to own one at that point) he found on clearance for only $35 in the early 80s. I never ever could get it to work with any tape recorder, so it was a write only code platform with that magnificent 2K of RAM. A luxury by the standards of some computers, but yeah. He did pick up a 16K RAM expansion module for it too, but it was so flaky that the computer wasn't very stable.

Mine had working cassette storage, so maybe you just had one with a flaky chip somewhere. But between the constant crashing when the 16K RAM was connected, the membrane keyboard and the speed of operating which was AFAIU due to using the CPU as the display chip so it only executed programs during the vertical blank, it was more than anything an explanation for why I opted for a C64 system when I had the chance.

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4 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

Mine had working cassette storage, so maybe you just had one with a flaky chip somewhere. But between the constant crashing when the 16K RAM was connected, the membrane keyboard and the speed of operating which was AFAIU due to using the CPU as the display chip so it only executed programs during the vertical blank, it was more than anything an explanation for why I opted for a C64 system when I had the chance.

It is possible I had some hardware defect with the cassette interface. I suspect the problem was either the cassette player I had at my disposal at the time, or my inability to fine tune the volume to successfully play it back. Never underestimate the incompetence of a 15 year old who knows very little about how computers work using a fire sale priced discontinued bit of hardware (I think my father paid $35 for it in 1983).

Really, the more incredible thing in my mind is the price. $35 in late 1983 is about $90 today according to https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm, which pales in comparison to modern tech such as a RPi.

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Posted (edited)

I think it was my uncle that got my parents to see that computers were not just expensive toys, but actual learning tools that they could also use. Sadly, my parents never really used any of the computers we owned over the years. My dad played a few games on my C64 from time to time, but that was about it. Still, they saw how much I liked them, and I think they were just happy there was something I had at home that I preferred doing other than wandering around town with my friends, something I still did a lot of. haha

I agree on the "never underestimate the incompetence of the 15 year old", I came close to, and successfully fried, my fair share of stuff back then. I look back on it now as mistakes I learned from. My dad was really good with electronics, but has very little computer knowledge, so he helped me learn the components he knew, and what they were for, and I tried to teach him how it all worked as a computer. Good times.

Edited by Strider
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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Scott Robison said:

It is possible I had some hardware defect with the cassette interface. I suspect the problem was either the cassette player I had at my disposal at the time, or my inability to fine tune the volume to successfully play it back. Never underestimate the incompetence of a 15 year old who knows very little about how computers work using a fire sale priced discontinued bit of hardware (I think my father paid $35 for it in 1983).

Really, the more incredible thing in my mind is the price. $35 in late 1983 is about $90 today according to https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm, which pales in comparison to modern tech such as a RPi.

My dad bought mine for me when it was it's "full price" of $100 ... I went ahead and got the RAM expansion pack. My experience with that plug in RAM expansion pack made "64K RAM built in" an even bigger selling point for the C64.

My biggest "never underestimate the incompetence of a 15 year old" moment happened in my mid-20s, when I got back from the Peace Corps and bought a C128D, and when I went to plug in my printer interface, I plugged the power tap from the datasette port in upside down. Now, there WAS a notch, so a datassette power tap COULD be keyed to make it impossible to plug in the wrong way, but the parallel port interface I had didn't bother to do that and relied on user competence instead. Needless to say, I fried the 8510 processor in the unit, which is tied directly to the datasette port.

That is, indeed, "why" I brought a C64 to grad school rather than a C128D ... the C128D had been turned into a large and expensive monitor stand.

Edited by BruceMcF
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10 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

My biggest "never underestimate the incompetence of a 15 year old" moment happened in my mid-20s, when I got back from the Peace Corps and bought a C128D, and when I went to plug in my printer interface, I plugged the power tap from the datasette port in upside down. Now, there WAS a notch, so a datassette power tap COULD be keyed to make it impossible to plug in the wrong way, but the parallel port interface I had didn't bother to do that and relied on user competence instead. Needless to say, I fried the 8510 processor in the unit, which is tied directly to the datasette port.

I bought a color dot matrix printer (so awesome at the time) to go with my C128D, and I had one of those cassette port adapters. I'm very fortunate that it was either keyed or that I happened to insert it right side up!

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3 minutes ago, Scott Robison said:

color dot matrix printer

I used my school art/math lab's Apple ImageWriter with a color ribbon to print out a report cover sheet for my English class. I made it using a paint program on a IIGS - the height of technology circa 1991. My English teacher was Blown. Away.

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Can we add a more modern hybrid into the competition?  I have had to fix this computer twice, since I bought it for my son to work on.

1. I guess when they developed the idea of the sliding keyboard they did not take into account the number of times someone would open and close it.

The mini 8 pin ribbon cable which connects the keyboard to the driver board, over time fractures from the stress, and becomes an intermittent fault.

2. I also had to add a fan, which circulates air when the keyboard is closed, since their giant heat sink is starting to effect the plastic of the keyboard. 

Again, I guess they assumed someone would not keep it running for days at a time.

3. And finally, the holes which are suppose to secure and align the raspberry pi for its connection to the power/driver board are not spaced properly.

Thanks to everyone for sharing their stories! I was beginning to think I would not find a group of people who had some of the same experiences as myself growing up.

Nice to see so many enthusiasts out there.  Have a great day!

pi-top.png

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