I haven't done much #retrocomputing posting lately, mainly been doing car stuff, but that's about to change as I got some stuff in the post recently and the next project is ready to kick off.
I'm going to be doing some work on this "Archives PC" - which is an Australian company's rebadged version of the Pied Piper Communicator.
(Silicon Valley fans are already having a great time in this thread.)
It's a Z80 based CP/M machine and there's some info here: https://oldcomputers.net/pied-piper.html
First off, this is the most thoroughly documented computer from this era I've ever had. I have not only the working computer, but I've got schematics, technical documentation and even the full assembly source code of the boot ROMs.
I could almost build a whole new one, in a pinch.
I'll put together the resources as I get into it. First thing up is that I'm going to replace the power supply with a modern one so I can stop thinking about that. It made some noises last time I plugged it in.
I have two floppy drives for it, but only one seems to work. It might just need a bit of cleaning or lubrication, we'll get to that point later. Right now I know I can boot it.
I've managed to make some disk images on a PC and configured cpmtools to read them - it's a weird format - but I still have some odd glitches. I don't know if the disks are damaged yet or I'm missing something. That's a rabbit hole to go down later.
I have a LOT of floppies for this thing.
This thing seems so ... hand made in many ways.
First challenge after a stable power supply will be a reliable way to get data on and off it. I may be able to create disk images under Linux and use my DOS PC to write them to a 5.25" floppy in the right format. Then I can maybe get some semi-decent CP/M terminal software on there and use a Wifi modem on a serial port for future transfers.
@mike Oh nice, what do you plan on doing with it?
@Rigby_Koyaanisqatsi if I can get to the point of playing Zork on it, I'll consider it a win.
@mike hmm, what about the HDD?
@resynth1943 there isn't one.
Funny thing is, there's a note about a Winchester-compatible header on the board, but an explicit note that the OS has no support for it. Maybe they had that in mind for a future version, but it wasn't a commercial success and that never happened.
This may end up being an interesting diversion if I want to get that deep into hacking CP/M itself.
@mike oh damn!
So, I'm new at this. Would it boot & store things on floppy disks?
@resynth1943 yeah it's purely floppy based so I'm annoyingly dependent on rapidly deteriorating media to get things running right now. It's going to be a fun challenge!
@mike Is there DOS software that will write floppies in the right format?
@freakazoid not that I've found yet, but I've used DOS software to dump raw disk images and configured cpmtools to read them under Linux.
The disk format is unique to this machine, but VERY well documented in the manuals. It's not any of the many "standard" CP/M formats.
@mike Did you have to write a new diskdef for it or something? I guess if you can also write raw images from DOS then you at least have enough to bootstrap the ability send and receive files over the serial port.
@freakazoid yeah I got a working (I think) definition from the system docs, and listings work, and I can copy files off the images ... but there are occasional gaps that might be bad blocks or something missing from the settings.
I haven't been able to go back to the machine while I was waiting for a new PSU, so I haven't been able to determine if the issue is on the original disks, the other drive I'm reading them with, the imaging software or my cpmtools settings.
Too many possibilities heh!
@freakazoid but yeah if I can write a new image from scratch onto a physical disk I'm set. That's going to be the first thing I try once I've got the PSU installed.
@mike Please tell me that's not a power line filter/IEC socket with exposed terminals in the bottom right!
@elb OK, I promise I will not tell you that.
@elb I did get a nice little Meanwell PSU delivered recently though, and I'm going to completely redo that whole area. I'm not treating that part with any respect for its history. 😁
I don't want to modify the case in any way but there's a lot I can do to make this a lot safer I think.
@mike Given that power supplies are a common source of failure, that seems like a reasonable tactic. Even without doing that, it's probable you could find a less ... unfortunate ... filter module. ;-) Maybe one with spades that can take insulated connectors, for example!
I replace a lot of vintage radio line cords with non-period-correct cords that have safety grounds (if practical) and a lot of filters with modern line-rated safety capacitors, so I won't judge non-originality here!
@elb yeah I plan to pull out everything back from the motherboard power connection, and see what I can do. I've got a bunch of various IEC sockets and power stuff lying around, so once everything's out of the case I'll see how much space I've got to work with and take it from there.
The whole thing seems to have been made from whatever parts were available/cheap at the time, so I think I'm well within the spirit of the design doing this.
@mike that's a chonky zed - so angular!
@djsundog It's got a very odd aesthetic to it, not quite like anything else I've seen from the era. It was supposed to be "portable" and incorporates a handle and keyboard cover, so maybe that put some big constraints on the design.
Consider this a friendly, local pub. Make yourself at home, bring your friends, have a good time! Meet new people, have a laugh, enjoy the ambience, and the Oxford commas.