This page is an insight into the ye olde machines I'm tinkering with at the moment.

Last Update: May 2018

Microcomputers

I started collecting old '80s microcomputers in the early part of 2018. While I'm keenly interested in most models from this time period, I'm most enthusiastic about BBC and Acorn devices.

Description Originally released Type Operating System Hardware Specs Main use Acquired
Acorn Electron August 1983 Desktop Acorn MOS v1 1-2MHz 8-bit MOS 6502A, 32KB RAM, 32KB ROM Retro gaming & BASIC January 2018

This Acorn Electron was picked up largely as an impulse buy, but it was definitely worth it. I was sent a massive box containing hundreds of cassette tapes, manuals, boxed games and accessories.

It did however only come with one expansion adapter (for connecting joysticks), so I won't be connecting a 5.25" floppy drive or making use of an extra 32KB RAM any time soon! I am also in the process of replacing the after-market tape deck I was sent because it only seems to work intermittently.

Once I've had some fun the plan is to make wave file recordings of all the tapes and scan in all the box covers and manuals so they can be preserved on the internet archive. Also if any of the cassettes fail or the manuals are ever damaged, it will be comforting to know I can recreate them if I need to.

IBM PC-compatible

These aren't PCs I use for day-to-day tasks. Often they're for specialised purposes like retro gaming or specific tasks

Description Originally released Type Original Operating System Current Operating System Hardware Specs Main use Acquired
Asus Eee PC 900 April 2008 Netbook Windows XP Home Edition Trisquel Mini 8 900MHz Intel Celeron M 353, 1GB RAM, 20GB SSD Single-run file conversion & transfer tasks August 2016
12" Dell Latitude X200 May 2002 Laptop Windows 2000 Professional Windows XP Professional SP3 933MHz Intel Pentium III, 640MB RAM, 120GB HDD Retro gaming April 2017*
eMachines 740 Early '00s Desktop Windows XP Home Edition Windows 98 Second Edition 1.6GHz Intel Pentium 4, 256MB RAM, 40GB HDD Retro gaming May 2018

I picked up a cheap Asus Eee PC 900 as despite its low-powered processor it's still a great machine to just pick up and run scripts from, or use as a remote desktop to other machines around my home network.

The Dell Latitude X200 laptop started out with a 40GB PATA HDD and just 128MB of in-built RAM. When I figure out how to do it safely I'll also replace the dead CMOS battery, but for now I use a network time-syncing app. You can read this blog post to find out more about my initial tinkering with this machine.

The eMachines 740 desktop was upgraded with a Gigabyte ATI Radeon 7500 LE graphics card, AOpen Cobra AW744L II (Yamaha YMF744B-R) sound card and a TP-Link TG-3269 1Gbps ethernet expansion slot.

PowerPC Mac collection

Towards the end of 2017 I picked up some old PowerPC Macs I remember coveting when I was in my early teens. Now I have to figure out what to do with them!

Description Originally released Type Original Operating System Current Operating System Hardware Specs Main use Acquired
14" iBook G4 "Snow" April 2004 Laptop Mac OS X 10.5.8 "Leopard" Lubuntu 14.04 LTS 1.07GHz PPC G4, 1.25GB RAM, 40GB HDD Tinkering with GNU/Linux December 2017
12" iBook G3 "Clamshell" June 1999 Laptop Mac OS X 10.3.9 "Panther" Mac OS 9.0.4 366MHz PPC G3, 320MB RAM, 40GB HDD Retro gaming November 2017
15" iMac G3 "Bondi Blue" August 1998 Desktop Mac OS X 10.2.8 "Jaguar" and 9.2.2 Mac OS 9.0.4 233MHz PPC G3, 288MB RAM, 4GB HDD Retro gaming January 2018
12" iBook G3 "Clamshell" June 1999 Laptop Mac OS 9 None 300MHz PPC G3, 64MB RAM, 10GB HDD (broken) Parts. Not working December 2017
15" iMac G3 "Bondi Blue" August 1998 Desktop Mac OS 9 None 233MHz PPC G3, 32MB RAM, 4GB HDD Parts. Not working November 2017

In the case of the first clamshell this is surprisingly still a snappy and usable machine. Office 2004 still runs fine, with Entourage still able to pull down modern email. Its main limitation is browser support for modern websites. Kamino does the best out of those I've tried.

As for the iBook G4 I was pleasantly surprised at how much you can still do with the PPC version of OSX "Leopard". Aside from iMovie you can still install and use iLife '08. iWork '08 and Office 2004 also runs just fine, and you can still install a fairly recent version of Firefox. Macports also still works with the help of an old version of XCode, although not all the packages were correctly installed when I tried it out.

I still have all the original install disks for the iBook G4's OS and the packages I've mentioned, so I am currently testing different GNU/Linux distros to see if they can run on it. If I can find one that does so reliably without crashing it could give this laptop a new lease of life as a productive modern machine. (I'm currently thinking OpenBSD might be my best bet)

The working iMac G3 is currently setup for retro gaming, and it's possible that the G3 iBook will be too. I think it'd be awesome to be able to network the two for LAN battles, and to have a portable version of all those classic turn-of-the-century and '90s games I remember from when I was a kid.

As for the other two PowerPC Macs, unfortunately they aren't working at the moment. I managed to zap the iMac with an ESD while I was performing a hardware upgrade (expensive lesson learned!) and I need to replace the hard drive for the other clamshell. On the upside I was able to swipe the RAM from the broken clamshell and put it in the one that still works!

Standalone boards

At the moment this is made up entirely of old Raspberry Pi devices.

Description Originally released Current Operating System Hardware Specs Main use Acquired
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B February 2016 LibreELEC 1.2GHz quad core ARM Cortex A-53, 1GB RAM, 16GB MicroSD Kodi media streamer February 2018
Raspberry Pi Zero (PCB 1.2) November 2015 None 1GHz single core ARM11, 512MB RAM, None None January 2016
Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ July 2014 None 700MHz single core ARM11, 256MB RAM, None OwnCloud NAS (Planned) August 2014
Raspberry Pi 1 Model B April 2012 RISC OS Open 700MHz single core ARM11, 256MB RAM, 8GB SD Nostalgia April 2013
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