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View Full Version : is mini itx conversions a crime?



asteroid
November 15th, 2004, 11:54 PM
whats everyone's opinions on the growing trend of getting a vintage computer and ripping the insides out and building a modern computer inside using Mini ITX miniture motherboards?

Ive seen some good conversions of the Commodore PET, C64, SX64, and Atari 2600 and 800.

obviously emulation of the host system is essential ;o)

Im about to do this with a 80s system which I will reveal soon.

Erik
November 16th, 2004, 06:54 AM
I don't have a problem with it. If you own the system you can do what you want to it, IMO.

Obviously it's preferable to use a fairly common system (such as those you described) so that you aren't destroying a piece of history. Better still is to use systems that are already non-functional so that nothing is really lost.

Either way, though, if you own it. . . :)

Erik

vic user
November 16th, 2004, 07:14 AM
if you do it with a vic 20, please send me the main board. i would glaldy pay shipping, and would hate to see a vic 20 go in the garbage ;)

chris

carlsson
November 16th, 2004, 10:36 AM
A broken external disk drive like Commodore 1541/71 should be a nice challenge for ITXers. Maybe those are too small - traditional ITX is 17x17 cm IIRC. Another platform is a worn out VCR, but I'm sure those have been made thirteen a dozen.

I agree with Erik; it is your stuff - you decide to sell it on eBay, donate it to a computer club, rip it apart, smash it at a party or throw it away (or all of those if the previous step didn't work out). But if it is an uncommon machine which still works, I would have second thoughts.

carlsson
February 16th, 2006, 01:37 PM
Here is one of the more unusual ITX projects, an almost life-size Manga doll with a motherboard hidden behind the "hair":

http://www.mini-itx.com/projects/ern005pc/

I suppose if you like these cartoons, a such doll makes a nice decoration to your room and you don't need another computer box, but otherwise it seems to take much more room than required. After spending so much work on designing a frame, adding polystyrene foam, clay, finish and paint it, I was a bit disappointed that the PSU, motherboard, drives etc are located behind the doll rather than inside it. Maybe it was designed in that way for ventilation and/or service purposes. Once assembled, the parts are barely visible anyway. Compare to this project, fitting an ITX board into a partially home-made teddy bear (which is significantly smaller than the Manga doll):

http://www.mini-itx.com/projects/teddybear/

There are a number of other interesting projects there as well - often the author mentions that the computer or other host item used was non-functional, and many try to reuse keyboards, outputs and so on even if the parts would be sub-optimal for a modern PC. I mean, rewiring standard outputs from an ITX board to custom connectors on an 80's computer which will need an adapter to connect to standard equipment on the outside seems a bit overdone.

vbriel
February 21st, 2006, 06:10 AM
I think if the computer is dead, and beyond hope of living, why not. I did it with a TRS-80 Model III. I put a pentium PC inside and would run a TRS-80 emulator (strange). Anyways, I have a Apple IIplus case I'm considering putting an ITX mobo and ps in. For the keyboard I'll have to custom make a ASCII to ps/2 converter so that I can use the same keyboard. Not sure what I'll do about a monitor.

I've always thought that new computers have no personality like our vintage machines. Nowadays, they are just a box. Sure they do a lot more but are they as fun to use?

Anyways, it's a long ways off, I've got too much going on now to play.

Vince

carlsson
February 21st, 2006, 10:29 AM
Some of the projects are really innovative also, like that remote controlled LCD screen picture viewer hosted in a picture frame. I'm sure a such product could be mass produced and find its customers, although it would compete with a standard DVD player and TV.

As the boards get smaller and smaller - nano-ITX and perhaps pico-ITX - it will open for even smaller home made media controllers and other computers. Personally, I would probably find it enough challenge to fit a board and parts into an empty Mac LC case, much less more intricate designs. But if one wants to participate in that community, you have to start somewhere. One could also attach computer parts inside a desk drawer, if you have a drawer to spare but no space elsewhere for a computer box.

Micom 2000
February 21st, 2006, 11:50 AM
I'm mixed on this issue. The classic Mac "goldfish bowl" project for instance I find distasteful. Some CPU collectors are also known to trash some old systems just to get the CPU for their collection. But I do love maxing out older computers. For example I have an IBM PC with an Intel "inboard 386". It was done before I got it and I do have a couple of the original PCs. When it's hooked up and functioning it's amusing to see the expression on knowledgeable computer people faces at the capabilities of this ancient PC.

My biggest "to learn" thing is to become more knowledgeable about controlling external transceivers and sensors with the port outputs, much like the old TRS H-10 home controller systems or some form of robotics.

The internals interest me much more than the Case or form factor.

Lawrence

billdeg
February 22nd, 2006, 03:11 AM
It's OK if you carefully store the working parts for future use, assuming the overall system is beyond repair. I don't think that it's worth destroying a working vintage computer for a hack project.

That said...Carlsson's comment about taking a 1571 drive and turning into a mini tx computer may not be possible due to size, but there are larger drives like a Micropolis 1033/1053 that would be large enough for the job and would produce a cool looking desktop.

vbriel
February 22nd, 2006, 03:37 AM
My biggest "to learn" thing is to become more knowledgeable about controlling external transceivers and sensors with the port outputs, much like the old TRS H-10 home controller systems or some form of robotics.

The internals interest me much more than the Case or form factor.

Lawrence

There are many projects and sample programs and books written about controlling devices with the parallel port. You can turn on/off appliances with relays, things of this sort. Is this what you are talking about? Also, I never condone destroying a good system, but don't you think it is better to find a use for that old non-functional case than throw it in the dumpster?

Vince

Half-Saint
February 22nd, 2006, 05:17 AM
Well, I recently finished my ITX project. I used an old HP Apollo workstation case, mounted a miniITX motherboard, shuttle power supply and 120GB Maxtor HDD to make everything work. I'm still waiting for my article to be published. All the changes on the case (except for the motherboard mounting holes) are reversible and I saved the original HP Apollo parts.

Cheers!
SainT

vbriel
February 22nd, 2006, 07:51 AM
Maybe if there was a case available that had a vintage "look" to it people would be interested? ;) Maybe one that actually functioned like a vintage machine, yet could hold that nifty P4 system inside? Meanwhile back at the bat-cave....

Vince

carlsson
February 22nd, 2006, 03:46 PM
taking a 1571 drive and turning into a mini tx computer may not be possible due to size
It has already been done, at least with an old style 1541:
http://www.mini-itx.com/projects/c1541/

As the modder noted, a slot-loaded DVD would look better.

I remember knowing or at least hearing about someone who went to demo parties with his PC. It was at least a first generation Pentium, or if it was even newer (perhaps Pentium III?). In order to make it less attractive for some long-fingered guests at the party, he had built it inside an IBM XT case. In that way, it looked very old and dull, and he thought people would leave it alone. Not sure if it worked, but that's another aspect of modding and selecting a case, to make it look as dull as possible.

Half-Saint
February 22nd, 2006, 11:14 PM
I kind of like the idea of putting a 386 inside an original PC case BUT... there's always a "but"... I did a similar thing a few years ago with my dad's Peacock XT. I put a 286 board inside, VGA and just kept the disk controller. Now I feel I'd like to restore it to its previous state. Dunno... just doesn't feel right anymore :) And the old 20 MB Seagate is developing bad sectors... should try a low-level format, if I can find the disk with the tools.

Cheers
SainT

carlsson
February 23rd, 2006, 03:24 AM
Have I been dreaming, or did some case manufacturer recently make new ATX full-height desktop cases imitating the look of original IBM XT?

Half-Saint
February 24th, 2006, 03:00 AM
Well, I believe case mods involving old cases are a good thing in every aspect. The modder gets to be creative and old cases basically get new life instead of ending up on the junkyard. There are plenty of attractive non-PC cases out there that would make great mods just waiting for people to discover and use them :) Just my two cents.

Cheers!
SainT

carlsson
February 24th, 2006, 01:37 PM
I have an empty Commodore 1530 datassette, which would be superb to use for something. A full-fledged computer is yet out of scope, since the smallest nano-ITX are 12x12 cm, and there is not so much space inside, at least if one wants to honor the screw holes. Perhaps one could make new fittings for screws, and a motherboard would fit.. but what about some kind of media? A 2.5" drive would be far too big, maybe a smart card reader and a picoPSU transformator which takes 12V DC from an outside adapter. The latter is 31x45x20 mm, so it would a tight fit too. Of course, a such case could be used for any other homemade circuit board or just as a hard disk case, but it would barely be worth the effort to molest the case.

Mad-Mike
February 24th, 2006, 06:24 PM
I dunno, I've done my one retro-case, and I'm sticking to it! Why'd I want anything else. Until they start making cases like this again I'm sticking with this one.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v157/executioner020983/gembanner.jpg

However, I did just change the keyswitch to a working Digital Readout that reads 69, and changes to G9 when the turbo is pushed in (yeah, pointless, but it does disguise it pretty well).

Micom 2000
February 25th, 2006, 12:12 AM
There are many projects and sample programs and books written about controlling devices with the parallel port. You can turn on/off appliances with relays, things of this sort. Is this what you are talking about?
Vince

Any recommendations ? Particularly books about sensors and control of external transceivers. Do you have any ? I have a considerable library for trading.

Lawrence

vbriel
February 25th, 2006, 06:46 AM
Yeah, here's an easy one, and it's free:

http://www.beyondlogic.org/spp/parallel.htm

This will get you started in actually building things connected to your printer port. In my opinion, still the easiest way to control some device from your computer. Fast 8 bit bi-directional port that can be controlled with software with ease.

There used to be whole books written about this subject, but now it's "been done" and forgotten. Most books delt with the original XT parallel port and not the EPP or ECP ports which give you more bi-directional control.

http://www.epanorama.net/circuits/parallel_output.html

This site will talk about interfacing and shows a commercial product for controlling appliances :)

I thought about having my computer be able to control appliances over the net, but the hack risk is too great.

Vince

Half-Saint
February 25th, 2006, 11:27 AM
I have an empty Commodore 1530 datassette, which would be superb to use for something.

To be honest, the only use I can think of for a 1530 datasette is an external HDD enclosure (USB/Firewire) to be used with a modded C-64 like this one: http://www.mini-itx.com/projects/c64/. That would be cool :)

Cheers!
SainT

80sFreak
February 25th, 2006, 11:55 AM
Before I checked out the link I thought it was going to be a 1530 as a hard drive enclosure for a *real* C64 using something like IDE64...

Cheers,

80sFreak

P.S. This has probably been said many times before - It would have been a truely cool hack/mod if you were able to use the keyboard worked.

80sFreak
February 25th, 2006, 11:57 AM
Before I checked out the link I thought it was going to be a 1530 as a hard drive enclosure for a *real* C64 using something like IDE64...

Cheers,

80sFreak

P.S. This has probably been said many times before - It would have been a truely cool hack/mod if the keyboard was functional.

Micom 2000
February 25th, 2006, 02:19 PM
Some great sites. Tomi Engdahl provides a veritable treasure trove of electronic hacks. Thanks.

Lawrence

carlsson
February 26th, 2006, 01:53 AM
I believe on some of the conversations, the keyboard is functional. There are a lot of microcontrollers and different projects around to convert a custom keyboard to a PS2 or USB standard. For the Commodore range, there are both DIYs and some commercial solutions, most recently Keyrah from Individual Computers.

Ruud Baltissen posted an idea to connect an IDE hard disk to the controller board of a 1541, but it is only on the idea stage (i.e. not yet a functional DIY): http://www.baltissen.org/htm/1541ide.htm

Half-Saint
February 26th, 2006, 10:37 PM
I've seen some people use a C128 keyboard with a PC. As for C64 it probably has too few keys for any serious use. Besides, there are much more comfortable keyboards out there ;)

Cheers
SainT

carlsson
February 27th, 2006, 11:57 AM
You would have to sacrifice a bit, like Windows and Menu keys. One CTRL should be enough, and do you really need both Backspace, DEL and INS? 12 function keys as well as a numeric keyboard? Perhaps one or two keys could be used as mode toggles for an alternative layout.

Think Space Cadet keyboard, although seven "shift" keys may be a bit excessive:

http://world.std.com/~jdostale/kbd/SpaceCadet.html
http://www.antionline.com/jargon/space-cadetkeyboard.php

(No, I've never seen one in real life, but it might be fun to try to use it

Computer Collector
March 6th, 2006, 11:37 AM
I would think of it as a "crime" if its still working. Do it to one that doesnt work.