Sir Clive Sinclair (1940-2021): how it all began

Clive Sinclair formed the first company to bear his name in 1961 while he was a 21-year-old electronics journalist. He had received no formal education in the subject, but as a highly intelligent autodidact, he had developed a passion for electronics during his teens. He also had an entrepreneurial bent, and even in his youth spotted a business opportunity in designing and selling kits to fellow electronics enthusiasts.

Sir Clive Sinclair (1940-2021) in 1985
Continue reading

How to build a cellular IoT device with the Raspberry Pi Pico — part two, the code

In part one, I described an IoT demo setup based on the Raspberry Pi Pico and the Waveshare Pico SIM7080G Cat-M1/NB-IoT cellular add-on board, and wrote about some of the design goals. Now it’s time to implement that design with some C++ code: a host application, drivers for the modem, the HT16K3-based display and the MCP9808 temperature sensor, and some third-party libraries to decode incoming commands formatted as JSON and encoded in base64 for easy SMS transmission.

Pico + Waveshare cellular module = compact IoT development board
Continue reading

How to build a cellular IoT device with the Raspberry Pi Pico — part one, the hardware

To turn the Raspberry Pi Pico into an Internet of Things (IoT) device, you need to add wireless connectivity. I thought I’d give it go, to see how straightforward it might be to connect the Pico to cellular networks and have a bare-metal app written in C++ run the show. For a modem, I chose to use Waveshare’s suitably sized Pico SIM7080G Cat-M1/NB-IoT.

Raspberry Pi Pico piggybacking on the Waveshare cellular board
Continue reading

Spectrum, Oric, Dragon… even Enterprise — demanded designs come to smittytone’s retro tech T-shirt store

You asked for it and you got it: following the ZX80 and ZX81 keyboard layout T-shirts comes my ZX Spectrum version — giving you the chance to steal a march on April 2022’s 40th anniversary!

Wear your ‘dead flesh‘ with pride. ZX Spectrum keyboard shirt modelled by yours truly
Continue reading

PreviewApps updated

All three of my PreviewApps — PreviewMarkdown, PreviewCode and PreviewYaml — got big updates this week. Headline features: significantly improved font, style and colour selection, across-the-range stability improvements, and faster PreviewCode theme preview presentation.

Continue reading

How to pop up a Picoprobe from the Adafruit QT Py RP2040

A little while back I wrote about Adafruit’s QT Py RP2040 and how it makes a nice, compact Picoprobe. That’s a Raspberry Pi RP2040-based device used as a bridge between your computer and a target device for debugging work using Single Wire Debug (SWD). I first used the QT Py RP2040’s side-mounted GPIO pins, but SWD hosting is a great role for the device’s QT Stemma connector.

QT Py Rp2040 with its SWD-ready QT Stemma connector in black and RGB LED marked NEO
Continue reading

Tackle async signal safety in Swift

How do you safely interrupt a command-line program written in Swift? This question was posed to me this week by a reader who got in touch to point out that boilerplate code included in my How to write macOS command line tools in Swift post might not be totally safe: it could leave a program and system in an undefined state, which is never a good thing. So I took a closer look.

Continue reading

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Sinclair ZX81 with this multifunction-key-tastic T-shirt

Nearly half a century ago, Clive Sinclair’s Sinclair Research made history. It released the ZX81, one of the key home computers of the 1980s, as the first low-cost micro available to High Street shoppers. And you can express your love of early 80s tech with my latest retro-wear: the ZX81 keyboard shirt.

Modelled by yours truly
Continue reading