Category Archives: Vintage Computing

Enjoy some old school 3D arcade action — courtesy of the Raspberry Pi Pico

In the mid-1980s, I loved Phantom Slayer. Written for the Tandy Color Computer and made available for the Dragon 32, Phantom Slayer was a 3D maze shooter. Think a very basic version of Doom with colours but no textures. It wasn’t sophisticated, but it was quick and, more to the point, incredibly atmospheric.

The Pi Pico version of Phantom Slayer
Do you have what it takes to face down the Phantoms?
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Hail to the Acorn Atom, the Pi Pico predecessor from 1980

If the Raspberry Pi is the BBC Micro de nos jours then the Pi Pico is perhaps the spiritual successor to that earlier Acorn micro: the Atom. So in homage to that ground-breaking pre-Beeb cased computer, here’s the latest offering from Smittytone’s Retro T-Shirt Store.

Atomic apparel
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The Sinclair ZX81: a Raspberry Pi retro restyle – Part 2

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Previously on ‘ZX81: a Raspberry Pi retro restyle’: I used a headerless Arduino Leonardo to connect a ZX81 microcomputer keyboard to a Raspberry Pi via USB, using code to handle normal, shifted and function-shifted key presses.

After some searching on eBay, I found an old ZX81 going cheap because it lacked cables, though when it arrived, I found the computer itself to be in excellent condition. Possibly it has never been used, though how if that were the case the cables were lost and the box got so tatty is a mystery I will probably never solve.

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The Sinclair ZX81: a Raspberry Pi retro restyle – Part 1

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I love the design of the Sinclair ZX81. It was never a great computer, even in 1981. It only had 1KB of on-board RAM, it was slow, it was small, it could only do black and white graphics, and it’s membrane keyboard was useless for fast typing. But it looked fantastic: black, sleek and totally futuristic. Almost all other 1980s microcomputers now look very dated. No surprise there, of course, but the ZX81 still looks amazing.

The ZX81 membrane keyboard
The ZX81 keyboard hooked up to the Pi via USB and Arduino
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Retro Review: Thorn EMI Liberator (1985)

In November 2012, I wrote and published the definitive history of the Thorn EMI Liberator, the first British laptop computer, over at The Register. I’d never even heard of the machine when I first saw a picture of it. I spotted the snap while researching the story of the Dragon 32 – some of the Dragon engineers went on to develop the Liberator after Dragon Data, by then a subsidiary of electrical industry giant GEC, was closed down.

Thorn EMI Liberator
The Liberator in action
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