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Thread: Is it wrong to hot-rod a Model T?

  1. #1

    Question Is it wrong to hot-rod a Model T?

    I'm curious what other people think of retrofitting retro-computers in ways that are permanent. Or, perhaps more accurately, where on the spectrum of permanent mods do people feel comfortable?

    I remember when “macquariums” were cool that some people felt strongly that it was a waste of a computer that likely needed only minor repair. Personally, I'd never gut an original Macintosh like that. If I couldn't fix it, I'd pass it on to someone who could.

    On the other hand, I have no problem modifying the exteriors of computers that are too common to be worth donating to a museum, but too ugly from yellowing to actually have out where I can see them regularly. For example, I've got a TRS-80 Tandy 200 8-bit "laptop" that I'm considering painting South of France Green, to go with the sea-green LCD screen. I feel no qualms at all.

    But, what got me posting this question is a thought I had: My Tandy 200 has a perfectly working, but also perfectly useless, internal modem. I've read the system schematics and if I physically cut the traces to the modem chip, I could try adding an ESP8266 circuit which takes AT commands over serial and connects over WiFi. Now, this is definitely doing violence, or at least drastic surgery, to the original machine. It may end up destroying the modem for nothing if my project doesn't work. And even if it does work, thirty years from now WiFi will be obsolete, but the change will be irrevokable.

    After some thought, I decided that I believe the highest purpose of these old computers is to be used, even if that means consuming them in the process. I'm adding the “Wireless Model T” to my long queue of retro projects. But, I'm curious what do other people feel?
    Last edited by hackerb9; May 21st, 2020 at 12:01 PM. Reason: add link

  2. #2
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    It's not the last Tandy 200 on earth, so preservation is less important. What you describe is minor.

  3. #3
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    Well, as long as you don't stuff it full of blue LEDs, it's not that bad

  4. #4

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    Make them useful to give them new life. That's what I say. It's your property, and what you do with is totally up to you, right?

    Sounds like a cool project. And in 30 years, when our current wifi is obsolete, the modem will also still be obsolete, so no loss.. not like your going to revert to dial up. *Braces for impending semi-apocalypse to send us back 30 years*

  5. #5

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    It's your stuff, so do with it what you want!

    That being said, if I still had all the old computer stuff that I got rid of back in the day, in stock condition, I could probably ebay it all and retire early! Then again, that stuff was from the days when computing was more diverse (I hate to use that word nowadays, but it seems to be the most fitting in this instance) and interesting, and the computer hadn't really become a ubiquitous mainstream appliance. I don't think that Windows 95-era and later stuff will get as valuable as old Amigas, 68k Macs, DEC stuff, etc have. There's just so much of it, and it's all so droll. And it's too complicated to really work on at a low level in an amateur setting, I mean like breaking out the soldering iron and such. It's the class of stuff that is just meant to be binned and replaced when it goes bad.

    But then again, I remember when the iPhone first came out, I said "Why would anyone want a phone built into their PDA? That will never take off!" So I may not be the best judge of such things......

    What I like to do, is try to push the old stuff to the maximum of its ability. Adding modern expansion hardware and such, and running more modern OS, etc, but keeping all modification completely reversible. I go to the trouble of imaging all the original media on a machine (even if there's nothing interesting on it) so that I can put it back *exactly* the way I found it, if I decide to.

    I hate to drill a hole to mount a, say, ROM switch or whatever, but I'll do it if I have to. I think it's better to attach an external switch box with double-sided tape or something and run wires in somewhere in the back where the hole is a lot less obvious, though.
    Last edited by bladamson; May 21st, 2020 at 02:35 PM.
    -- Lee
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  6. #6
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    I own a Tandy computer that looks like this:

    irc.jpg

    So I'm the wrong person to ask about preserving every single original specimen in a pristine state.

    Regarding the idea of hacking the modem, according to the service manual page 4-13 the RS-232 signals are demultiplexed by ICs M22 and M23, if you don't want to cut traces you might be able to do something tricksy like desolder the pins going to the modem circuitry, isolate them from the pads, and run jumpers to your wifi device without cutting traces. That would technically make it possible to isolate the modem yet leave it reversible without having to jumper over a cut trace.

    In any case it's probably not a big deal. There are other Model 200s out there.
    My Retro-computing YouTube Channel (updates... eventually?): Paleozoic PCs

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eudimorphodon View Post
    I own a Tandy computer that looks like this:

    irc.jpg

    So I'm the wrong person to ask about preserving every single original specimen in a pristine state.

    Regarding the idea of hacking the modem, according to the service manual page 4-13 the RS-232 signals are demultiplexed by ICs M22 and M23, if you don't want to cut traces you might be able to do something tricksy like desolder the pins going to the modem circuitry, isolate them from the pads, and run jumpers to your wifi device without cutting traces. That would technically make it possible to isolate the modem yet leave it reversible without having to jumper over a cut trace.

    In any case it's probably not a big deal. There are other Model 200s out there.
    That pony sticker though...

    Magnificent. Is that from the era?

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    Quote Originally Posted by KlaxMaster View Post
    That pony sticker though...
    I have little girls in my house, it's either ponies or Pokemon on *everything*. To my mind it works, though, because a Tandy 1000 is the sort of computer a kid might do their homework on and the sticker is very much something you'd find on a period-correct 80's Trapper Keeper.

    Magnificent. Is that from the era?
    Nah, I built it myself last year to hold a bare Tandy 1000 HX motherboard I was given to test the Tandy Plus expansion cards I was designing in. (Currently holds my latest prototype that adds a meg of EMS RAM along with everything else.) I subsequently love it more than the by-comparison "factory fresh" 1000 EX I started with and it's my daily driver retro machine. Just something special about building your own custom "ride" and I'd strongly recommend it to anyone that has junk lying around.

    I'm not thrilled about gutting old machines to stuff gamer computers into them or stealing their keyboards (thus rendering the leftovers useless) because "CHERRY ALPS BUCKLING SPRINGS OMG!", but mods to enhance or otherwise get real use out of the actual old tech inside? Yeah, go nuts, within reason anyway.
    My Retro-computing YouTube Channel (updates... eventually?): Paleozoic PCs

  9. #9
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    What, no "Hello KItty" stickers?

  10. #10
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    Nah, it's all about the Pokemon. Gotta catch them all, apparently.
    My Retro-computing YouTube Channel (updates... eventually?): Paleozoic PCs

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