Own softwareScanned itemsRetroChallenge

RetroChallenge 2017/10

After a few years hiatus, I'll make another attempt at the RetroChallenge. Probably I'll get very little or nothing done but the lower I raise the bar, the more likely I will succeed with something.

This time I'll try to revisit some of the projects I've previously failed. In particular, I want to crack the code to serial comms in form of installing the Super Serial Card I bought for my Apple ][+ clone Basis 108 about a year ago but has rested on a side table in the hallway. I will also make another attempt to get a serial connection to my IBM 6151 RTPC. As a friend of mine recently obtained an Olivetti PC-1, we might both be working on our Italian PC's too.

Finally there are lots of repair and solder jobs, programming jobs and more that I can waste my time on when I get stuck with the already mentioned projects. Hopefully I'll make some progress on at least one of those.

Process log - Latest progress

September 26, 12:30 (GMT+2)

Challenge set up.

October 8, 02:00 (GMT+2)

After a busy week, I finally decided to get something done with the RetroChallenge on a late Saturday evening.

I intended to start with installing the Super Serial Card into my Basis 108 (Apple ][+ clone), but as it has a female 25-pin connector just like my existing serial cables, I need a M-M gender changer to get anything done.

Instead I put up my 6151 and while I didn't plug in the serial cable, I got to poke around the file system and with help from people at the #vc IRC channel, I learned commands for dosread and doswrite as well as minidisks.

If I indeed get it to work to read and write files to 5.25" floppy disks, that will be a secondary way of software transfer if the serial doesn't work out.

And yes, this system used to belong to a travel agency so about 1/3 of the total disk capacity is used up with software associated with booking trips. There may be additional unpartitioned space, that time will tell if I discover.

October 30, 21:30 (GMT+1)

So what has happened this past month? Not very much to be honest. I tried to install my Super Serial Card into my Apple computer, using a series of cables: known working DE9F-DE9M, unknown status DE9F-DB25F and a unknown status RS232 gender changer DB25M-DB25M in order to plug in the DB25F cable on the SSC card.

I got as far as loading the ADTPro software and managed to send a request to the PC for a directory, but the SSC didn't receive any data. Since I had so many unknown factors, everyone I asked on the Internet claimed those must be the cause for the failure.

I also tried raw bootstrap, and while the SSC card puts out a prompt, it never gets flowed over by text as it should, which is another indication the cable mix didn't work.

So tonight I soldered my own DE9F-DE25M converter from a diagram found online. Unfortunately even with this one, all nine pins connected, I get no action with the SSC.

Considering that the SSC cable has more and other pins connected to the DB25 than the diagrams for RS232 say it should, I wonder if one needs a custom converter cable. Of course it could also be that my SSC is a partial dud. I have access to one more card that I'll try eventually, but not due to the RetroChallenge.

At least I got a chance to play some Apple games. I also got to solder up a composite video cable for a NEC PC Engine in the mean time, but that was not really part of my challenge. I also made some C64 music in the mean time, plus a lot of non-computing related tasks so the month hasn't been entirely wasted.