Trip to The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park

Some pictures from TNMOC! (more…)

VCF East XI 2016

Here are the pictures I took at VCF East XI 2016.  I also took some video of our exhibit booth, “Interfacing with Commodore”.


Retro Challenge 2015 – Update #9 – Done!

The last part I needed to work on for my #RetroChallenge project was the “kiosk” interface that ties all of the separate pieces I’ve been working on together.  It’s all one program, but I had written it in chunks that each had a separate task/function.  Now I’ve completed the work on the “Kiosk” interface program and put all of the pieces together, effectively completing my Retro Challenge project!

Here’s a video of the fully operational program, as seeing it is better than reading about it. 🙂


Retro Challenge 2015 – Update #8 – Base Functionality Test Complete!

A bunch of mucking around with spacing, variables, etc… And I have a fully functional program printing exactly what I intended it to print!  Oooooh, look, someone added another custom character!  🙂fr_4622_sm


I decided to record a video of this base functionality test… (more…)

Retro Challenge 2015 – Update #7 – QR Code Fun!

I was making good progress while snowed in this weekend.  I wrote up a really quick QR code display routine.  This is done “the hard way”, simply transcoding the QR code into “PETSCII”.  Test output to screen worked perfectly.  You can see that I split the QR code into 11×11 quadrants.  This allowed me to separate things for easily implementing them in code.  As I mentioned in my prior blog post, my original concept was to print these via custom fonts that emulated the PETSCII graphics.


Retro Challenge 2015 – Update #6 – Ooooh, look, pretty graphics!

The new/used unadulterated Serial interface board is working perfectly!

Just a quick update, graphics are working now.  This is a custom programmed font.


I made a quick-and-dirty Excel spreadsheet to do the calculations…


Retro Challenge 2015 – Update #5 – Defeating the BofA Demon!

The error the printer was spitting out on boot was annoying to me.  I also didn’t like not knowing what other surprises the Bank of America custom firmware may have in store for me.

I think I mentioned it in a prior post, but I spent a lot of time trying to defeat the custom Epson Serial Buffer Module II firmware on a software level.  Image back to factory firmwares, etc.  I don’t know if it’s Epson keeping these firmwares off the streets (maybe only shared with specific parties/partners), maybe you have to contact them directly (which I did not try), maybe the stuff is just so old that the stuff has been lost throughout time and Epson website updates.  Whatever the reason, finding firmware for this serial board was wasting valuable time.

I decided to give up.  Not on #RetroChallenge but on this silly SBMII module.  I felt a little less geeky going this route, but in the interest of time, I present…


Thanks eBay!!  This board was cheap, as it appears people swap these interface boards for things that run other protocols/connectivity standards.  So there are plenty of these on eBay.

Upon booting the printer, no more error!  Now on to see if some of the control codes that were operating in a funky fashion work better now.  An additional benefit, now the printer internal DIP switches actually function properly.

On to the code!!!

Retro Challenge 2015 – Update #4 – Yet Another Reason to Dislike Bank of America

I work in IT, so seeing a custom firmware on a printer with a custom application running on the printer serial board does probably make sense if you’ve got the capital to pull something like that off.  Imagine forcing a printer to always communicate exactly how you want/intend it to.  It has to make the support side of things fairly easy.  No chance for a user and/or hacker to change that.  But from a strictly personal and selfish perspective, I just add this to the long, long list of things that I dislike about Bank of America.  🙂

Anyway, I’ve decided now that the jumper switches are in-place and I’ve confirmed that serial communication to the printer is working at 2400 baud (albeit from a PC), it’s time to move to the Commodore.


Retro Challenge 2015 – Update #3 – Things Aren’t Working

(I’m going to post the following few blog posts all at once, but they are from quite a few nights working on this project.)

So I picked up the Male to Male DB9 gender changer, hooked it into my relatively newly built Commodore User Port RS232 adapter, fired it up, wrote a quick BASIC program, typed RUN and … and … NOTHING.


Retro Challenge 2015 – Update #2 – Serial Comm Established

Thanks to an awesome blog post over at Biosrhythm, I now have RS232 serial communication to/from the Commodore 64.  I built what is essentially the exact same adapter that he used.  The only minor difference is mine is based on the MAX3232 chip.

So I wrote some code based around some code samples I found online.