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Thread: Picked up a Sceptre Videotex system

  1. #1
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    Default Picked up a Sceptre Videotex system

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Com...72.m2748.l2649

    I realize in 2018 these are functionally useless, but I thought with the box and all it's a pretty neat example of early attempts to 'network'.

    Interestingly, I was researching these and found out that a Videotex-type system was in use to provide electronic mall directories at certain malls in Ontario in the early to mid 80s. I posted about those a while back... when I was a kid I used to be fascinated by the one they had installed at Oakville Place - just stood there forever pressing buttons and watching it slowly draw pictures for various stores. I'd always assumed those were standalone PC boxes, but maybe not? That'd be really cool if they were 'networked'.

    I saw a demonstration of a Minitel online where the owner had connected it to some kind of reconstituted or simulated version of the service they used to run on. Has anyone attempted this for Videotex systems like AT&T's, just for demonstration purposes?

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    Cool! Glad to see the Sceptre terminal found a home here in Canada, given our historic role in developing the NAPLPS image encoding protocol that drove its display

    I can confirm that at least some the videotex systems deployed in Ontario in the early/mid 80s were networked. There were some networked field trials here in BC also. I have a relic of that era, a Microtel VTX-202 terminal, in my office at the moment (on extended loan from the SPARC museum in Coquitlam).

    You should be able to get something running on that terminal. Assuming you can establish a serial connection to something a little more modern, you can fire NAPLPS graphics at the terminal using basic serial connection protocols. NAPLPS images are encoded as ASCII ... or more accurately, each NAPLPS opcode and data byte have a corresponding ASCII representation to facilitate serial transmission.

    A while back I wrote a very simple proof of concept connecting a software NAPLPS client via emulated null modem to a python script that serves up NAPLPS images in response to user input. That script, documentation and demo graphics are available here if that's useful at all.

    cheers,
    John

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    Falter, you are referring to the Telidon system. Very cool. I saw it in school as a demonstration and it actually coaxed me into getting into computers.

    I have a few Videotex systems including the Sceptre, an AlexTel terminal (Minitel) and two different Tandy Color Computer videotex terminals. I am still on the hunt for a Burroughs/Unisys ICON Telidon terminal.

    I would love to connect one of my Videotex terminals via modem to a server to try it out.

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    I wonder if dialup machines like the Sceptre can be reconfigured for serial. I note it has something resembling a serial port on the back.

    Yeah I know I'm pretty lame for bringing it up but I really thought those mall kiosks in the early 80s were fascinating as an 8 year old. That was a really special time... when computers, no matter how mundane the task they were assigned, seemed like magic. To me that kiosk felt like a window to another world. Our family friend owned a Compucentre franchise in Oakville Place and I remember 'browsing' his store with that kiosk, which was about the size of an arcade machine, whenever my parents ducked into a store nearby it that I didn't want to go into. My brain wants to remember it as being like 4 color CGA. But it could well have had more than that. You'd pick a store or mall map, and it'd take a good 20 seconds to draw and fill in all the shapes. I only remembered recently Eaton Centre also having one. Don't remember when it was withdrawn. Couldn't have generated any sort of return on investment.

    I think we should make a project of developing a basic videotex server of sorts to be able to demo these units. Would be a lot of fun learning how to draw with those basic shapes and colours.

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    Quote Originally Posted by falter View Post
    I think we should make a project of developing a basic videotex server of sorts to be able to demo these units. Would be a lot of fun learning how to draw with those basic shapes and colours.
    That would be a great project. NAPLPS did have a brief second life on dialup bulletin boards so there might be some software out there already that could be repurposed.

    In terms of creating NAPLPS graphics, there is a NAPLPS drawing program called MGE ("Microstar Graphics Editor") in the old Simtel archives, MGE201A.zip. It's a /little/ unintuitive, but a bit of trial and error goes a long way ...

    http://cd.textfiles.com/simtel/simte...PS/.index.html

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    Of course, you don't need a graphics program to draw Telidon/NAPLPS graphics. Since the encoding is ASCII, with enough elbow grease you can create them in a text editor. For an example, see the "COMPUTERESE" graphic that leads off this CBC article. Bill Perry created it in a text editor on an Apple II. You can see the graphic incrementally rendering at the start of this video.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Worblehat View Post
    That would be a great project. NAPLPS did have a brief second life on dialup bulletin boards
    That wouldn't have been the RoboBBS software would it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by falter View Post
    That wouldn't have been the RoboBBS software would it?
    I'd never heard of RoboBBS before ... based on what I just read about it, it sounds really cool. But I don't think it was based on NAPLPS. I think most NAPLPS-enabled BBS's just served up NAPLPS files for the client to render, along with a couple of bytes telling the client to shift from ASCII mode to NAPLPS rendering mode.

    NAPLPS probably saw its greatest adoption as the graphics system for the Prodigy online service. There's a project to bring back Prodigy but it's moving fairly slowly.

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    Teleguide! I was just looking up Telidon and found Teleguide, and then found a video of a Teleguide terminal here. I'm not 100% sure but I vaguely remember that name and that logo appearing on the mall terminals!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgXS54o7uH0

  10. #10
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    I think you're right. Teleguide was one of the services that was developed with Telidon technology. The PC Museum in Brantford apparently has one of the original Teleguide terminals ( https://pcmuseum.ca/details.asp?id=69 ).

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