Toastie

Eurobricks Dukes
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About Toastie

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    Good Spirited
  • Birthday 02/17/1962

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    Trains
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    A minifig

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    https://www.ptc.uni-wuppertal.de/de/startseite/

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    Wuppertal
  • Interests
    LEGO, electronics, micro controllers, lasers, making things work

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    Germany
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  1. Analog in the sense of having joystick-like thingies? The joystick (or the like) positions, resistor values or whatever is characterizing that position, need to be a/d converted and then fired out via BLE, isn't it? The Buwizzes etc. do all their incoming/outgoing data on that communication channel, isn't it? I don't understand the "analog" bit, that's all. Best, Thorsten
  2. You can't go off-topic in this thread :D And Control Lab certainly >is< considered by the younger audience as "vintage" - or "old" - so this is spot on topic. To the elderly, Control Lab may still be considered as modern; and most of such individuals still haven't figured out why it is not in the LEGO shop anymore You did see this thread, I am sure? This thread started in 2012 - however is very much up-to-date on page 7. On another note: I would like to heartily thank you again for suggesting to search for an individual on EB, who still may have a 9771 card ... as I wrote, I found that individual. If all goes right, one 9771 card will find a new home. And I must say, in a >very< generous way. For some reason, I believe you ... no, that is PM territory :D All the best, Thorsten
  3. Little update: IBM XT running QBasic1.1 with a program I called PBrick Control 1.0 in 2001, and an RCX1.0 running the LEGO standard firm0309.lgo firmware and a program I called "MultipleTrainControl1.1(RCX)" (there are also 2 more for two SCOUTs = 3 PBricks total I had in 2001). Hooked up the tower to the IBM XT's async serial board (RS232), attached a 25 <-> 9 pin adapter, the LEGO IR tower cable, and a serial LEGO IR tower. The QBasic program then tries to "sign-up" up to 3 PBricks by sending out an invitation byte - when a PBrick replies, the corresponding frame turns yellow, and you can press "S" for speed and then a number between 0 and 7 and - it works! The RCX detected sets it's output to 6 when 6 was pressed: I forgot almost everything about both programs - but: The IBM XT controls now PBricks. That also means, I can use my MuLPI thingy, to have the XT control all my LEGO stuff ... as I did with the ZX Spectrum. I am a bit excited, I must say. All the best, Thorsten
  4. Hi Alex, it seems to me that the Psion Organizer II has a slot, that receives a "CommsLink" module, providing RS232 connectivity. I don't think it does that natively, but what do I know. It also appears as if more crazy people out there also deal with alternative approaches. Whereas the PII seems to be available at reasonable cost mostly from UK eBay sellers, the CommsLink module does not. But this: https://incoherency.co.uk/blog/stories/psion-organiser-ii-arduino-usb-interface.html does in fact provide a nice avenue to get the PII back into the game :D Do you have a PII? That would be fun ... Best, Thorsten
  5. How do I get software onto my IBM XT … without much change on the front – it is all about the looks … There are many ways, this post is about what I did: The IBM XT floppy drive controller is operating the two full height Tandon DS DD floppy drives, which the XT can boot from (drive A: only), read from, and write to. DS DD floppies are these 360 kByte data giants. In addition, it can read/write/boot using 720 kByte floppies and 1.44MByte or 720kByte external floppy drives, but it cannot format them. Also, it can operate two more floppy drives from the 37 pin D-shell connector at the back of the adapter card. That provides one good pathway for data transfer to the XT: Using a generic 3 ½“ 1.44 MByte USB floppy drive, 3 ½” DS DD floppies (not HD) can be formatted on a Win11 machine with the appropriate settings: At command prompt level, FORMAT A: /T:80 /N:9 will generate an XT compatible DS DD 720k blank floppy. With my laptop, FORMAT A: /F:720 did not work for some reason. With another desktop-type 3 ½“ floppy drive hooked up to the XT through its back panel connector, file exchange can be done between the XT and a Win11 machine … However, this needs a lot of juggling with a lot of drives, and diskettes. I took another route, which uses a floppy drive emulator from GoTek. There are many alternatives, GreaseWeazle is one, Kryoflux another example. An up-to date GoTek device costs around $20; more importantly for me was that the microcontroller on such a device can be flashed with new firmware from its USB port, which is really convenient. GoTek provides the flashing software required – and the alternative firmware I am using, FlashFloppy (created and maintained by Keir Frazer, https://github.com/keirf) is incredibly powerful. FlashFloppy comes for free – Keir also makes firmware for the GreazeWeazles. What I further like about the GoTek/FlashFloppy combo is that it allows attaching a 128x64 OLED display via I2C. The headers are provided on the PCB of the GoTek. And this combo is very nicely configurable – per text file residing on the root directory of the USB drive. As said before, (semi) permanent changes to the front of the XT are not tolerable ;) so the GoTek had to go inside the XT case. Also shown before, I morphed the GoTek case into an 8-bit ISA slot case – the factory installed 3x7-segment LED panel, USB socket and two miniature push buttons are now on the back of the XT, which makes operating it a bit user-unfriendly: The further plan was to leave the GoTek in the ISA slot, and extend its 2 I2C lines (SCL/SDA), VCC, GND along with three additional wires for three miniature push buttons (up/down/eject) and another one for the LED indicating drive activity, to the XT’s case front and mount an 8-pin female header inside one of the floppy drives. The LED is on when pulled to GND, and the switches do pull to ground, so no further wires required. As full height 5 ¼” floppy drives provide a lot of space, particularly in the region right behind the front panel, this can be done without interfering with the mechanics of the floppy drive. This in turn makes it possible to insert an easily detachable display type panel into the floppy drive using the two guide rails for the floppies – as if it were a “floppy”. It just had to be built … After inspection of the floppy drive hardware documentation and some measurements, I decided to go with a 2 mm thick polystyrene glass plate – that is the stuff IKEA uses as cover glass for their picture frames – and there were some in the closet here ;). The mount for the header socket within the drive, the mount for the display, as well as the display front panel, is LEGO built. I like to do that from time to time, as one can build really oddly shaped things. A Dremel tool and higher viscosity superglue give even more construction flexibility :D. This is the “GoTek display floppy” from the side; the male header is glued to the bottom side; the mount for the display to the top: The display panel is a partly hollowed-out 6x8 slope brick (4515) with a couple of plates, so it attaches flush to the front panel of the floppy drive when fully inserted: This is the mount inside the floppy drive, holding the female header (top); I used 2 2x2plates as base (so I could center the mount), glued to the floppy metal frame: The mount is secured at its back, as the LEGO 1x2 plate is flush with a metal frame part of the drive, so the mount thing can’t be pushed in without using brute force. Display floppy inserted (left) and pushed all the way in (right), making electrical contact with the female header: The display + Gotek combo: When everything is installed, the XT looks like this and can now boot from the GoTek, as well as read/write to 999 different 360k/720k disk images selected with the up/down buttons. A 3 feet long USB extension cable from the back panel provides comfortable access to the USB stick holding all the images – and for software preparation and organization on the Win11 laptop. And this is how it looks like, when the display floppy is removed; the floppy drive can be used in default mode without any problems; the GoTek works also without display, but has to be operated from the back. And now the QBasic/NQC programming frenzy may begin … All the best, Thorsten
  6. I did, I found the fellow (last post 2014) PM'ed him 20 minutes ago and got an answer 5 minutes ago. He'll have a look ... Even if that is not successful: EB is not only a wonderful place to be - it is a vibrant and so helpful platform. Thank you very much for directing me - again, even when this does not work out, getting the tip, trying it out, getting an answer - is soo cool. So EB. All the best, Thorsten
  7. Hi All, as already "announced" :D – here is the (really uninteresting) story of bringing an IBM XT (5160) system back to life. Throughout my whole life, from about 1983 onward, I was dreaming of owning such a computer. Back then, it was not only out of reach, but in another universe: 10000 Deutsche Mark in 1983 – that was a number completely out of my grasp. Well, almost 40 years later … … I found this beauty in one of the storage rooms of my research group at the University of Wuppertal: An IBM XT 5160 equipped with 2 Tandon 5 ¼” 360k DS DD disk drives, a Model F XT keyboard (83 keys), and an IBM 5153 color monitor. The stickers said: “Assembled in England” and has also a sticker from a German distributor “Computerland” :D, who was doing business in Bonn, about 100 km away from where I am ... The year on the sticker is 1985. I asked around, as the theoretical chemists are responsible for taking care of that storage room. “Is it OK when I take the IBM XT?” (I was literally terrified, that somebody would say “Are you crazy? That is mine!” or something in that direction. Instead, I got answers in the following order from different people: “The what?”; “Huh?”; “That thing is so old, I’d rather trash it than hauling it to any other location”; and when I was asking again: “You are crazy. Sure take it. Don’t break your neck, it is heavy”. So I hauled it out there into the mass spec lab, fired it up – power supply fan fanning – but other than that – nothing. Not even a blip on the monitor. Or a beep. Nothing. OK then. Inside were 4 original IBM ISA bus cards: Floppy disk controller, serial and parallel board and a CGA color graphics adapter (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_Graphics_Adapter). All in good shape, judged from the looks. The 5160 main board – hmm – had some “marks” – mostly in the (4x) 9 x 4164 RAM bank region – all different makes of 4164 RAM chips were in there … so out with the oscilloscope. Cards all removed, power applied. Clock worked, but the 4164 did not get any refresh cycles – bad. As I had no idea what was going on, I put the stuff aside and did some research to learn that I am not the only one who is crazy! First thing was ordering a working clone main board – that one came from Poland (eBay). And did the trick! I also asked the seller for a 5 ¼” DOS boot floppy disk, as I had nothing to boot from: The clone main board does not have the IBM cassette BASIC ROM, it just wants to boot something from a floppy in drive A: … Then I looked at the 8088 CPU and had the feeling that maybe – and yes! Swapping the 8088 into the original IBM board made the XT boot into cassette Basic when no floppy was inserted in drive A: and into DOS3.3 when the floppy was in. However, over time (after some minutes) the board lost it again: Parity errors, sometimes no floppy activity, other erratic things. Now, parity errors may come from bad dynamic RAM chips; swapped them from the clone board – same thing. So I decided to go with the clone board – when I have more time, I will check into the original board. But for now, all is good: Step 1 was cleaning and lubing. Back in the days, people must have enjoyed “some” cigarettes in the IBM XT’s office – thus I took everything apart: Keyboard, monitor, case – and gave them a serious bath with powerful chemicals :D. Smooth cleaning and lubing were with these: All keyboard key caps got the same treatment; removed the key caps, metal backplate, the capacitive plate, the 83 metal plates with the springs, removed the foam type “cover” from the keys (well partly dumped that, as it was – funky). Careful cleaning of the capacitive plate and >very< little lubrication for the 83 individual buckling spring mechanism followed. Reassembly was straight forward; some of the springs need a little juggling from the top with a pair of tweezers, as the attached plates need to move freely, which they didn’t on the first try. The monitor was less easy – however, it is possible to get the CRT and the electronics entirely out of the plastic casing – it took some hours, though. Well putting it back together took some hours ;) the labels 25000V, red letters on yellow background, motivated some careful operations here – but in the end it worked out. Case has its original coloring (after that gunk came down; maybe that conserved the surface ;) and there are barely any scratches nor discoloring - and the electronics is free of dust. Power supply was also easy; disassembled the case, removed any dust from the electronics which looked really good, polished the housing and lubed the fan motor. Next up were the two Tandon TM-100 2A DS/DD floppy drives. All dust removed, lubrication of the stepper motor and the rods for the head assembly; very careful cleaning of the heads with alcohol. Lower half of the main housing same thing: Dust removed, cleaned; upper half serious chemical treatment, which resulted in loss of brownish gunk and the original color was back, again hardly any scratches/discoloring. That was that; reassembly – and done. So I had one 5 ¼” floppy with DOS3.3 on it; well both system files and COMMAND.COM, FDISK.COM, FORMAT.COM. GETCLO~1.COM, SETCLO~1.COM, and DEBUG.COM. And 201728 bytes of free space. I was soooo happy – and then realized: And now what? I was thinking to myself: You don’t have a hard drive, no 5 ¼” floppies, no desktop computer, no one at the university believing in vintage computing, no one in the neighborhood believing in electronic stuff older than 10 (or even 5 ;) years – and you, old man, want to do something with a computer almost 40 years old … Well, Google told me: Help is "out there"! a) It may be that no one around here wants to deal with old crap, BUT "out there", many, really many not only do that, but love to do that and provide the other nerds not only with help, but so many nice solutions – hard- and software-wise. b) the same and other folks populate the Internet Archive and other places with software repositories containing stuff from day one of computing ;) to manuals, tech documents, etc. Even extremely cool browser based emulators; here you can select a computer, boot it up using whatever boot software is available per mouse click, load a program AND: Save the corresponding images on your computer. One of these hardware gadgets is the GoTek (there are many) – made by a Chinese company, I believe – there are other even more powerful solutions to my kind of problem (a software dead end), but for less than $20, I gave that one a try. GoTeks behave on one end as floppy disk drives with this generic 32 pin header and 4 pin power supply input – and on the other end they have a USB socket, accepting all sort of mass storage devices, e.g. a 32 GB USB stick. That one may hold up-to 999 disk images in one folder – or more spread out in subfolders. The original idea was, I believe, to get old CNC and other valuable machines up-and running again, when the drives died or the floppies were crunched. Maybe other things as well. How I implemented that one in my XT is up next, Step 2. Best, Thorsten
  8. Thank you very, very much for that tip! The real bottleneck is 9771 though. Nevertheless, I'll try! Thanks again + best regards, Thorsten
  9. @alexGS Hey Alex, oh absolutely - but ... 9771 is nowhere to be found ... at least I have the software (I believe you guys have put up on The Archive) - a whopping 60kB monster! There is hope for getting my hands on an 9750 though. Yeah, my Toshiba Satellite 4090XDVD - Win98 - and "all" the LEGO software of that time. It sure runs BricxCC - it was on that machine, where my very first versions of NQC came to life. Just looked it up: "2001 - RCXMessageControl1a.nqc". That must be the one which goes with the QBasic program I wrote back then as well, and which runs on the XT :D Well, what the PC/QBasic program does is just sending out 2 9-byte LEGO Mindstorms IR type messages (RCX/Scout) messages - the first is an address, the second is payload - which is decoded by the RCX/Scout software so each PBrick knows who was meant to do something - and doing something is either for train engines (speed 0 ... +/- 7; some sound, light on/off) or switch point controllers - I posted some of that stuff here on EB. So the XT can handle that as it just has to push out 2 LEGO IR messages consecutively at 2400 baud (= close to light speed) through the serial port (with a decent 50 ms pause in between of course, an RCX is not running on a ARM Cortex M-7 :D) and then wait for a reply. As the ZX Spectrum could do that, it seems feasible We'll see :D Best wishes, Thorsten
  10. Oh my ... ... just put "everything" together, after >serious< cleansing of "everything" that my IBM XT (5160) consists of - plus retrofitted the GoTek as ISA module - plus an OLED display, an LED, three micro switches, all mounted into a LEGO brick-built display, that fits into the slot of one of the two Tandon 5 1/4" drives as removable fake floppy . Before I learned about floppy images, how to make and use them [FlashFloppy (https://github.com/keirf/flashfloppy), HxC (https://hxc2001.com/), and ImDisk (https://sourceforge.net/projects/imdisk-toolkit/) software]. So then it was time to copy my old stuff still residing on my 1998 Toshiba 4080 laptop - back then I had one RCX, and always wanted to control more than one - as I envisioned to have RCX PBricks operating LEGO trains (on the engines). Made a 720k image containing QBasic1.1, my program files (and command.com ) for the GoTek, which talks flawlessly with the IBM XT floppy controller (that one can read 720k floppies, but not write or format them). So booted into DOS3.3, ran QBasic1.1, loaded my "PBCon.BAS" program ... ... and then I got this: Sorry for the bad image quality, but NTSC is NTSC ... here is a screen close-up: Wow, I even made a revision history string variable; February 6, 2001 ... and then I pressed F5 (run): >Never< expected to see this on an IBM XT from 1985 running code from 2001 in the year 2022. Need to check the serial connection - diagnosis said, that card is OK ... Will post the IBM XT restoration and GoTek upgrade here as well. I know that hardly anyone is interested in such stuff, but it was fun to get it all going. And I used some LEGO bricks to get it done ;) Best wishes, Thorsten
  11. Toastie

    Powered Up question

    More input needed You are using a PUp hub (which one?), I guess a motor does the work, and the PUp app, correct? I believe you need to "sense" the two end points. In other words, when the bridge is "down", a touch sensor (or the like) is sensing that. Same for bridge is "up". As far as I am concerned, this is the only way to go. A 4-port Technic hub equipped with 2 touch sensors and one motor should do. Maybe others have better solutions! Best, Thorsten
  12. True that. But there is also a TLG marketing department, which has concerns about sales. And appearance. And there are (still and many) customers, who believe the size of a box is naturally scaling with the price to pay. In capitalism, almost every company selling generic stuff is doing that; look at any arbitrary shelf containing stuff and compare size of presentation with content. It does not need to be a box, a 64GByte USB stick naturally (as it seems) comes in a large plastic + cardboard thing. Imagine the enclosure would be environmentally friendly - no customer would go for it ... and ABS bricks have become generic. So the size of the box does matter, regardless of content. If you experienced (maybe you did, in any case, no offense!!!) opening a BB special box: That defines "tightly packed". Why? No shelf exposure/competition at any department store, just make postage as cheap as possible. Oh well, marketing. Difficult, I'd say. Best, Thorsten
  13. I strongly sense another vintage victim here - it appears as if EB is attracting more and more of such individuals ... ... writing these lines when I just succeeded in running my QBasic program (I made in 2000 to "sign-up" 3 RCX', and then have them listen and respond to two-"byte" LEGO messages) on an IBM XT from 1985. It just blew me away, when the XT (slowly) "created the screen" I only saw on emulators since they dumped QBasic ... Hope you are having fun with your 9751 Contol Lab!!! Best, Thorsten
  14. Well, no :D It's the equal sign that makes it wrong, as in chemistry, physics and when ever an "amount of something" is dealt with, that amount is described by a number and a unit. Your equation is of course correct, U [V] = R [Ω]·I [A]; in other words, 1 V = 1000 mΩ·A and all is good Best, Thorsten
  15. What a beauty!!! Just read the Wikipedia article about Minitel/Télétel - I had never heard of this before, thank you! From that article: "It downlinked at 1200 bit/s (9 KB/min) and uplinked at 75 bit/s (0.6 KB/min). This allowed fast downloads, for the time." It is always good to recalibrate from time to time ... fast downloads :D How come that you have a "QWERTY" layout on your Minitel? This is a very nice project! A Minitel telling a 3D printer what to do ... I wonder what people would have said back then to 3D printing Oh yes, it is a very slippery slope. And fun to ride it! Best, Thorsten