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Thoughts on emulation using vintage hardware

kc8eyt

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I ran across this eBay listing:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/392922964142

(The $5000 asking price is nuts by the way)

It's a TRS-80 model III that has been modified to use a RaspPI for motherboard emulation, an Arduino to remap the original keyboard, and a custom video adapter from HDMI to analog to use the original green screen CRT.

I'm wondering what others think of this approach with vintage parts getting harder to find and properly repair. The system for all practical purposes "appears" to function as an original Model III allowing for the original experience.

I have a few Tandy 1000EX empty cases laying in the shop and sometimes they just call out to me for a mod like this. It would be a trivial retrofit to perform but would someone looking for an EX prefer the original iron over the "experience"?

Any thoughts on this?
 

Agent Orange

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I ran across this eBay listing:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/392922964142

(The $5000 asking price is nuts by the way)

It's a TRS-80 model III that has been modified to use a RaspPI for motherboard emulation, an Arduino to remap the original keyboard, and a custom video adapter from HDMI to analog to use the original green screen CRT.

I'm wondering what others think of this approach with vintage parts getting harder to find and properly repair. The system for all practical purposes "appears" to function as an original Model III allowing for the original experience.

I have a few Tandy 1000EX empty cases laying in the shop and sometimes they just call out to me for a mod like this. It would be a trivial retrofit to perform but would someone looking for an EX prefer the original iron over the "experience"?

Any thoughts on this?

It would be a nice project for someone, but it's not a Model III. Also, it's not worth 5K. Someone taking advantage of the the market situation and I can't find fault with that. There just may be that someone out there who would be willing to pay that exorbanate amount. I will say that interfacing the keyboard to the Ras Pi seems intriguing.
 

kc8eyt

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I will say that interfacing the keyboard to the Ras Pi seems intriguing.

Yes, I've run across sites and videos explaining how to do this. Pretty straightforward. The Arduino basically remaps the keystrokes from the original hardware to PC/AT scan codes.
 

Chuck(G)

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Aren't/weren't there C64 "clones" that took the same approach? That is, you couldn't get a real 6502 to drop out of the thing no matter how hard you shook it. :)
 

kc8eyt

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Aren't/weren't there C64 "clones" that took the same approach? That is, you couldn't get a real 6502 to drop out of the thing no matter how hard you shook it. :)

Yes, I think there were Atari based systems like this as well. Those systems were purposely built as clones. What I'm referring to here is using actual vintage hardware (well some of it) to create a clone, such as the TRS-80 Model III had done to it above.
 

cruff

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Well, it's hardly "fully loaded" if it is missing major original components. Seems absurdly over priced too given that it doesn't have those same components.
 

durgadas311

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Renovation, Restoration, or Virtualization. Each has a place, price, and a buyer. I personally hope they don't get the $5K, but what's that that P. T. Barnum (supposedly) said?
 

AndyO

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That particular 'Model III' has been on eBay for months, and was previously priced at $750. I suspect the seller isn't all that interested in selling.

However, the question of whether I, personally, would buy a modern recreation of a vintage system is that since I buy systems to use them, yes I would. I can see why collectors, purists and many enthusiasts wouldn't, but I'm in it for the experience, and for the functionality. And to me, the great problem with genuinely vintage systems is the risk that each time I want to boot it up to use it, it could well be the day it fails.

Modern hardware largely removes that fear, yet still offers the platform to use.

I'm hoping for a modern reworking of a classic compact Mac.... though I do greatly value my Classic and Classic II, neither of which I really dare use!
 

Timo W.

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I'm wondering what others think of this approach with vintage parts getting harder to find and properly repair. The system for all practical purposes "appears" to function as an original Model III allowing for the original experience.
I think that's an acceptable solution if one has the case only. But removing the original guts or doing that as a "repair" would be a no-go for me. That system in broken state would have a higher value than what it is now.
 

kc8eyt

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However, the question of whether I, personally, would buy a modern recreation of a vintage system is that since I buy systems to use them, yes I would. I can see why collectors, purists and many enthusiasts wouldn't, but I'm in it for the experience, and for the functionality. And to me, the great problem with genuinely vintage systems is the risk that each time I want to boot it up to use it, it could well be the day it fails.

Modern hardware largely removes that fear, yet still offers the platform to use.

I feel the same way. I was in need of a solid working XT but instead of going the vintage route I purchased a Monotech NuXT motherboard for the same reason. Thank you for the insight.
 

kc8eyt

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I think that's an acceptable solution if one has the case only. But removing the original guts or doing that as a "repair" would be a no-go for me. That system in broken state would have a higher value than what it is now.

That makes sense. I agree that the Model III in question is not worth "vintage" value any longer but instead the new parts and labor taken to create it.

The two Tandy 1000EX cases I have came from systems that sat in the weather for 20+ years. The internals were rusted beyond use. I distributed as many of the parts (I sent the power supplies to someone on the forum for shipping cost, the motherboards went to someone that wanted the audio chips) as I could and salvaged a few of the chips but the rest was hopeless. Trying to source all the parts needed to fully restore them would have been impossible.
 

Eudimorphodon

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The two Tandy 1000EX cases I have came from systems that sat in the weather for 20+ years. The internals were rusted beyond use. I distributed as many of the parts (I sent the power supplies to someone on the forum for shipping cost, the motherboards went to someone that wanted the audio chips) as I could and salvaged a few of the chips but the rest was hopeless. Trying to source all the parts needed to fully restore them would have been impossible.

Curious, are the keyboards also total losses? I guess I don't actually need one for my Tandy 1000 SUX after all the work I went through adapting a Wyse terminal keyboard, but I can't help but wonder what 20 years outside would do to one of the original Tandy KBs. Off the top of my head I'm not sure what mechanism they use.

As to the broader question, my philosophy is probably if you have a thing and it's "deader" than you think you can economically repair and it's not something so rare as to actually qualify as a "museum piece" then, sure, go ahead and gut it to make either a novelty/sleeper "fully modern" PC or simply to accommodate guts which to the greatest degree possible emulate the original, if that's what floats your boat. All I'd ask is, yeah, give others a shot at the parts you rip out as spares for their original machines.

I guess for me personally my appreciation of the hobby has mostly migrated to (on a completely amateur basis) repairing original machines and designing and building my own add-ons using clunky 1970s-80's-era technology, so "retro re-creations" using modern SoCs and emulation technology are largely outside my sphere of interest. If I'm going to shove a Raspberry Pi in a retro PC's box, sure, I'll set it up to emulate the box for laughs, but I'll probably mostly use it for other things so I'm not likely to go the extra hundred miles to make it completely authentic. (The guy selling that "Model III" even admits it was more rewarding building the thing than actually playing with it.)
 

kc8eyt

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Curious, are the keyboards also total losses? I guess I don't actually need one for my Tandy 1000 SUX after all the work I went through adapting a Wyse terminal keyboard, but I can't help but wonder what 20 years outside would do to one of the original Tandy KBs. Off the top of my head I'm not sure what mechanism they use.

As to the broader question, my philosophy is probably if you have a thing and it's "deader" than you think you can economically repair and it's not something so rare as to actually qualify as a "museum piece" then, sure, go ahead and gut it to make either a novelty/sleeper "fully modern" PC or simply to accommodate guts which to the greatest degree possible emulate the original, if that's what floats your boat. All I'd ask is, yeah, give others a shot at the parts you rip out as spares for their original machines.

I guess for me personally my appreciation of the hobby has mostly migrated to (on a completely amateur basis) repairing original machines and designing and building my own add-ons using clunky 1970s-80's-era technology, so "retro re-creations" using modern SoCs and emulation technology are largely outside my sphere of interest. If I'm going to shove a Raspberry Pi in a retro PC's box, sure, I'll set it up to emulate the box for laughs, but I'll probably mostly use it for other things so I'm not likely to go the extra hundred miles to make it completely authentic. (The guy selling that "Model III" even admits it was more rewarding building the thing than actually playing with it.)

The Tandy 1000 EX systems have keyboards built into them, think Commodore 64 but much bigger. The keyboards were a loss too although I was able to save the key caps themselves and they cleaned up nicely. I have two full sets of key caps for a Tandy 1000 EX/HX (and many other models of the 1000 series used the same caps).

Here is the Tandy 1000EX on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tandy_1000#1000_EX
 

Eudimorphodon

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I have both an EX and a Frankenstein computer I built out of a bare HX motherboard (my “Tandy 1000 SUX”)so I’m familiar with the form factor. ;) I’m just not sure what the switch mechanism on the original boards is; the manual doesn’t really go into that detail and while I’ve had my EX apart to swap disk drives I haven’t examined the keyboard in any detail. So was it a rubber dome/capacitive plunger affair?
 

kc8eyt

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I have both an EX and a Frankenstein computer I built out of a bare HX motherboard (my “Tandy 1000 SUX”)so I’m familiar with the form factor. ;) I’m just not sure what the switch mechanism on the original boards is; the manual doesn’t really go into that detail and while I’ve had my EX apart to swap disk drives I haven’t examined the keyboard in any detail. So was it a rubber dome/capacitive plunger affair?

It's some kind of custom switch type. The picture below is one of the keyboard internals pulled from one the EX systems. Sorry about the image quality. I had to compress this image down to 83K just so the forum software would allow it to upload.

IMG_0587.JPG
 

Eudimorphodon

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Huh, interesting. The plastic casting reminds me of a Commodore keyboard but it has little metal leafs for each switch instead of the rubbery domes?

Guess I'll continue to be happy with the Cherry Blacks that came along with my Wyse keyboard hack.

fetch
 

alltechfix

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There are a number of peripherals for the TRS Model III such as the Appliance and Light Controller that should work providing the serial port protocol and voltages are correct.
 

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voidstar78

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...Someone taking advantage of the the market situation and I can't find fault with that...

Just curious, what market situation?

Prices for real estate are also up, all throughout this past summer. (at least in Texas) Not sure if it's related, such as people just in general having more time combined perhaps with extra disposable funds? (i.e. spending less on concert tickets, sporting equipment, or other entertainment related items). Or subjectively, that threshold of crossing 40 moves things into vintage category (again, subjective). Or certain warehouses basically dumping a lot of equipment c. 2019?

With a rise in minimum wage, that implicitly means people time is more valuable now. Perhaps that attributes to higher costs overall, on everything? Or that surge in the meme stocks earlier year, maybe that attributed to more than usual spending in certain areas? (for those not waiting for capital gains time periods)

Guess we can speculate all day on reasons.



EDIT: to be a little more on topic - I saw one of those modern-build C64 emulations. I don't think it had a user-port, so yeah limited on what peripherals it could support. Some YT video I saw I think had the following comment - the (original) vintage equipment is like art. I once looked into vintage piano restorations, in the order of like $20k (just as a curiosity, I'm not really a hardcore collector). They do take it seriously, they won't start with any piano that has been modified in any way from its original form (so IMO I wouldn't even do any kind of light cleaning, unless you're going to commit to a full restoration). My mother in law took the initiative and decided to "clean" all the piano keys I had on a 140 year old piano - I appreciated the gesture, but she had rubbed away some of the WWI markings that were written into the side of some of the keys. (I never told her about this, just had to smile and say thanks -- I blamed myself, I had removed the keys and had them in a box, and I had left for travel for a week, and those keys did have a kind of bad odor, she just wanted to clean that up)
 
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