Entrants List 2017/10

Listed below are the competitors joining us for the 2017/10 event:

Halftime comments in blue...

Final comments in red...

Mark D. Overholser (aka MarkO)



To make this a project that actually can be completed in time, I am "attempting" a Multi-Player, Networked Text Adventure, with a Server running on a modern PC, and the Clients being the Apple ][, ( with the Uthernet II Card ) and the Tandy CoCo, ( with a Serial Port and a Lantronix UDS-10/100/1000 ).

I still have not given up on the Idea of Networked CoCos and Apples and C64/C128s and such..

I WILL have something to Demonstrate this Time...

No apparent progress -- too much CoCoTALK! so far this month? ;-)

Failure to launch...

Shaun M. Wheeler (aka Conceited Jerk)



I've been out of the hobby for far too long, and it's time I got back into it.  There are two Amigas in my lab in dire need of TLC, as well as a Sparcstation IPC (of unknown origin) that begs to be explored.  My goal is to get each of these systems running,  then to do something marginally interesting with them.

No apparent progress...?

Failure to launch...

D. Bruce Moore

(Twitter free)


Getting "Forest of Doom" shipped for November 2017. This includes more and more testing, promotional material, and refusing to add any new features.

Seems like good progress, evenhas a swag shop! But it is difficult to separate earlier progress from RC2017/10 efforts...

Bruce finished his game and got it published. The project is impressive overall, but it remains unclear what bits were done specifically for the RC2017/10 contest and what was done at other times or for other reasons.

Mark Sherman



Count me in.  It'll be at this address, but I'm not sure what it will be yet.

A surprise CoCo project! Certainly a clever way to "butter-up" the judge... It seems Mark has had a string of successes getting an 8080 emulator running on a CoCo, and Altair BASIC running on top of that emulator. It seems like he could be done already -- or is he? Either way, Mark may need a spot on The CoCo Crew Podcast for this one... ;-)

Definitely a nice effort! Mark was mostly done at half time, but he did finish-up by publishing to GitHub and issuing a post with some final comments. Congratulations on the respectable finish! Also, let us know when you are ready for that CoCo Crew interview!

Paul Robson



I'm going to try to create a plausible emulation/simulation/bit of both of the Atari Cosmos. This is going to require a fair amount of research and coding as there is no technical information (other than a few pics and the COP444) and no ROM dumps and only a few pictures and descriptions.

Definitely an interesting piece of techno archaeology -- resurrecting an LED display Atari handheld game with an emulator written in Javascript! Lots of good work here so far, including a number of game implementations and some cool graphics...even "holographic" overlays for the virtual LED display, and a custom assembler for the COP444 CPU -- wow!

This little bit of "interpretive archaeology" remained interesting until the end. I'm not sure how much of a following the Atari Cosmos has (being an unreleased product from 30+ years ago), but Paul certainly made a good showing of his exploration of what might have been. It is certainly a great reminder of how much gameplay can be squeezed out of a few buttons and a handful of LEDs, simulated or not!

Niels Moseley (aka TRC_WM)



I'm going to attempt to implement the General Instruments SP0256 speech synthesizer chip on an FPGA, unless it turns into something else completely...

Here's an interesting one: a technical deep dive on the SP0256-AL2 speech synthesis chip, followed by a re-implementation on a hobbyist FPGA board. Definitely a marvelous feat of skill and some great pedagogical material for those that want to learn as well -- off to a great start, for sure!

That robotic retro-siren, the SP0256-AL2, never seems to run-out of retro admirers. In some ways a marvel of its time, it helped to define in the public mind the seemingly sorry state of pre-Siri computerized speech synthesis. But rather than mere admiration, Niels uses the SP0256 as the focus of a project for learning Verilog and occupying his mind and hands for a bit of fun. Along the way he provided a healthy number of blog posts that were both informative and entertaining (at least for geeks). Nicely done!

Frank Linde



At the beginning of RC 2017/04 I promised my dearly beloved PET 2001 that it will be transformed into a Color-PET this year. I stand by my promise.

Spring-RetroChallenge lead to a color graphic system on a breadboard. It was capable of displaying 320 by 240 pixels at 256 colors on a VGA monitor. Besides a few quirks it worked quite reliable but was not connected to the PET at all.

During this RetroChallenge I plan to get rid of the remaining bugs, integrate the graphic system into the PET and write a BASIC extension that supports graphic primitives like DrawPixel, DrawLine, ClearScreen, etc.

Frank picks-up with a continuation of a previous project. His PET gives him a little normal retro-computing trouble, then he has some problems dealing with his breadboarded color video circuit, then he moves on to bang his head on some coding problems. The thing is, he keeps going and he makes progress. I get this way on lots of my projects, and my wife says "are you _sure_ you're having fun?" Yes, dear, of course this is how we have fun... :-)

Frank's project covers a broad technical range, including both hardware and software development and even some "networking" (i.e. communications) between his PET and his graphcis board. Admittedly the graphics are a bit slow at times, but they are both pleasing to the eye and quite impressive when set back into the late 70's era from which the PET comes. Frank also includes blog posts that are well written and quite informative. Frank sets a high standard for other projects to meet!

Sean McNamarra (aka europlus)


And so, for the third Retrochallenge in a row, I am entering my “continuing stooooooory” of a europlus Refurbapalooza into the mix for Retrochallenge 2017/10.

I’m now at the stage of chronologically aligning the base (with serial number) to power supply to motherboard – my intention is to troubleshoot the motherboards once attached to the bases and connected to the power supplies, but before affixing the top case – it will make swapping chips out that much easier, especially at the front and back of the motherboards.

I’ll also aim to replace any missing/damaged/moved rubber feet on the bases, and hopefully clean the top plastic cases.

My minimal aim is to have at least one extra fully operational unit by the end of October – given the glitches I saw when I quickly ran through all the machines, I think it’ll be a stretch to get them all working, but I will try.

Refurbapalooza episode 3...but did it actually start? No sign of progress so far...

Not much progress, then a small injury and a "soft exit' -- better luck next time!

Jim Gerrie

(Twitter free)


Here's a brief list of some of my latest games for the MC-10.

"Fly Wheel," a Pole Position style game:

"Atanarjuat" (a legendary Inuit runner), an infuriating maze race against the computer:

"Pyramid Solitaire:"

"The Search for Sherlock Holmes," text adventure:

"Star Traders," the original space trading simulation (1974), by Dave Kaufman. This may be the only working Basic Version on the Net (at least that I can find):

"Mt. Fuji Eruption," run and avoid the falling lava! Based on a game of the same name for the NEC PC6001:

I’d like to join in on the Retro Challenge.  I’ll try to blog about the projects above that I haven’t written about yet.  Basically, Fly Wheel, Atanarjuat, Pyramid, Sherlock and a few other little progs I have been fooling around with lately.

Jim is a tireless juggernaut in the lowly world of the Tandy MC-10. In a very real sense, nearly every bit of Jim's year seems to be his own version of Retrochallenge, month after month and year after year. Even so, Jim seems to have stepped-up his own pace at porting a variety of games to the MC-10 from other retro consoles. How many will there be?

Jim does not disappoint. I count at least five new MC-10 ports for the month of October. Games are ported from a variety of other retro systems, including one from the little-known (and not-so-politically-correct) arcade game Gotcha! The games are accompanied by blog posts explaining their origins and gameplay. Jim provides another welcome addition to this chapter of Retrochallenge.

Scott Lawrence



Finish up and release v1 of LlamaTerminal- my portable serial terminal software, with retro computer theming/colors. (C++, QT Composer, Linux/Mac/Windows)

I have oodles of fonts already in it for various computers and terminals(png based fonts) and I've got much of the front end done.  I need to finish up the serial code and menus to make it into a usable app.  (Originally inspired by having an RC2014 and a spare CHIP computer.)

I put the fonts I made in the project here https://github.com/BleuLlama/LlamaTerminal/tree/master/Fonts and I tried to make the license open enough so that they may be reused. :)

Oh and perhaps make some of these as TrueType/Web Fonts if I have time.

Hmmm...Scott's blog has been moved, but the redirect is broken. His github links don't look too active either. I've gotta mark this one as no apparent progress...

The blog is back, but no October activity. Failure to launch?

Matteo Trevisan (aka Toolkitman)



In this Retrochallenge entry i want to try to duplicate in paper, the case of the original Power Mac G4 Cube and to modify Raspbian to be similar to his original OS. Nothing more nothing less.

Matteo is back at his hobby of recreating computer cases using cardboard and paper...and dreams...and a little whimsy...oh, and a Raspberry Pi for the brains. I'm not sure that this is everyone's cup of tea, but as long as Matteo is enjoying himself than I say "Run, Matteo, run!" :-)

It looks like after halftime, Matteo switched to writing what he calls an Apple 1 emulator in Applesoft BASIC for the Apple ][, including source code on his blog. I think Matteo had a good time working on his project, and ultimately that is the important part for everyone. :-)

John W. Linville



For this RetroChallenge, I intend to start basic reverse engineering of the TRS-80 VIDEOTEX terminal. Possible outputs include a memory map, a high level schematic, a custom software image to run on the device, or a simple MAME emulation of the device.

Hmmmm...well, uh...did I mention that Tandy Assembly was awesome! :-) :-) :-)

Excuses, excuses -- work has been a bit crazy lately for me, etc, etc, etc...it's not like I can win anyway!! :-)

Anders Carlsson (aka carlsson/zapac)



Serial comms on Apple ][+ clone & IBM RTPC, playing with Olivetti PC-1, repairs, soldering, programming...

Anders got started with some hardware installation and poking a bit at both his Apple ][+ clone and his IBM RTPC. Unfortunately, the blog trails off from there and nothing more so far. Hopefully he will roar back in the last week?

It looks like Anders got caught by a cable failure, a serial card failure, or something in between. Oh, well...at least he got to play some games on his Apple!

Florian Reitz (aka bluemeanie)

(Twitter free?)


I'd like to build a replacement for the Apple IIe Mouse Card. The original card and mouse are hard to find and go for high prices. That's why I'd like to make a replacement that supports modern USB or PS/2 mice.

Florian starts with a little lecture on the meaning of verschlimmbessern, a German word that I think many of us will appreciate. Despite that kick-off, it looks to me like Florian is making good progress toward his Apple IIe Mouse Card. Some setbacks, then some successes -- it looks like fun and mostly progress. :-)

It seems that Florian fell short of his actual goal, only managing a basic prototype for his Apple II Mouse Card. I reckon he got distracted by another project and never quite finished. Still, it seems like he learned the best part about Retrochallenge -- the only losing move is not to play!

David Stephenson



Getting to know the NEC PC-8401BM

There is very little information on the inter-tubes about the NEC PC-8401BM, AKA the NEC PC-8401A and AKA NEC Starlet. As luck would have it one has fallen into my lap very recently, and just in time for the Retrochallenge.

For the next month I intend to explore this tidy 'little' machine through the examination of some of the available online articles, by working through some the manuals (I'll possibly start scanning these as they are none I can find elsewhere on the Internet) and begin generally exploring how this machine can be used today, practically or otherwise.

Exact outcome unknown, we'll end up where curiosity takes us.

David starts off by doing a good job of collecting, digesting, presenting, and summarizing a variety of information about the NEC PC-8401, and he does so with a thorough yet entertaining and well written blog. Beyond that, he enters into the tech world with some relatively minor repair/maintenance work. Definitely a good project so far!

We left our hero just as he was starting repairs on his NEC PC-8401. After what appears to be a full sweep of capacitor replacement, David progresses to writing some software for his new acquaintance. After some quick exercises with different versions of BASIC, David moves on to using Z88DK for some programming in the C language as well. He then rounds-out his journey by using his PC-8401 as a terminal connected to a Linux box -- it feels like a time warp back to the early 90's! At the end, it sounds like David has found a new toy to enhance his retro hobby. What a great project, and really a good show!

Stephen Barriball (z0m8ied0g)



Pimp out my BBC Master with a cool paint job and lots of new hardware expansions.

Write some code to send pages to my Teletext inserter.

Dial something with my new acoustic modem.

Stephen starts with a nice layout for a month's worth of BBC Micro fun, even including an acoustic modem and a teletext inserter(?!?). But then the trail runs cold...Stephen, are you still on the case? ;-)

Real-life items like work and moving house combined with a power supply failure to be just a bit too much to overcome this time. Sadly, I must rate this one as a failure to launch.

Gabriele Gorla (GG)

(Twitter free)


I recently acquired a vintage Berkeley Softworks Georam 512KB for the commodore 64/128. My plan is to fully reverse engineer the card, rebuild it and publish all the new design files under the GPL. If I end up with extra time, I will also modify the design to support 2MB.

Another nice start! But after an initial project description and device teardown post, Gabriele's leaves us another cold trail. We want to see more Georam!

No progress since halftime report...

Andy Collins



Please count me in for RC2017/10.

I have just added a rather splendid Nascom-1 computer to the retro-fold. Sadly it isn't working. This time around I will asses the situation and get this classic UK computer back up and running.

Andy throws himself fairly hard at a recently acquired Nascom-1. I think he was hoping for a "rough running barn find", but it is looking like this little ride may need a full "frame off restoration" -- hopefully not, but Andy is doing things right in a bit-by-bit approach but he isn't getting any breaks so far. Maybe he'll find some magic before the ghosts and goblins arrive later this month?

Oh, poor Andy! The end of the month still found him with a non-working Nascom-1. The fact is that these machine are just getting older, and it can be amazing when they work at all. Along with that, while they are simple by today's standards they are still complex electronic beasts. Hat's off to Andy for wrestling this one as far as he did, and I hope he finds the time and strength to carry-on with whatever it takes to get this one breathing again!

Christopher Just



This time around I'm going to be continuing my work on a C64 RPG loosely in the style of Questron/Ultima/etc. There's enough in this project to keep me going for a good long time :)

Christopher takes on another round of working towards his C64 RPG. Unfortunately, this time fate intervened with a hardware failure on the 'modern' side of the house -- at least the C64 is fine! Christopher is putting some serious thought into game design, and trying to not just be "copying Ultima". Game design can be a lot tougher than game programming -- we wish him the best of luck, for sure!

Christopher caught a second wind after halftime and got down to some business implementing the combat system for his RPG. It looks like good progress, although I don't think we have a real game just yet. I did enjoy some of the technical discussion in the blog posts, especiallly the bits on dealing with the realities of using "conventional" (i.e. "modern") C programming techniques on the 6502 versus some uglier techniques that (to me) oddly resemble some things I've seen in really ancient C code over the years. Hmmm...

Well done, Christopher! You may get me to pull-out my C64 just yet... ;-)

Abraham Vreugdenhil (avretro)



"Working with Transputers"

I lot of year's I have intrest in Transputer's and last time I have a couple Transputercard's to test. Last month's a have build a ISA to Transputer link interface. And now I must go to learn how the system around the Transputer and OCCAM is working. Let's go to work with Transputers. Making documentation about the status of my project and try to learn how to work with the OCCAM language. This is my goal for the RC2017/10.

Abraham gives us a little intro on Transputers, and then moves-on to constructing his own Transputer interface based on a schematic in a book! With that working he loads some code and shows the machine working... Last word is that Abraham is learning tForth -- where will that lead by the end of the month? I guess we'll have to check back then... ;-)

I have to admit, I'm not familiar enough with Transputers to fully understand what happened here. But, it looks like Abraham succeeded both in building an ISA interface to talk to his Transputer setup, and also in building a network of four functioning Transputers. Now he has a platform for extending his Transputer education and fun -- what more could one really hope to achieve in a month of Retrochallenge?

Mike Spooner


In spite of my better judgement. i'm entering 2017/10 with a hopefully
short primary project:


and if I finish that one in short order (impossible!) maybe I'll get around to making a start on


Mike takes on some aging SGI MIPS hardware. While newer than some other "retro" gear, these machines definitely carry enough age to have some problems. Failing power supplies are all too common, and this one is its own special story. This may be as close to a "wrench turning knuckle buster" story as you are likely to find in this competition!

As predicted, a harrowing story of stuck screws, hard to find parts, hard to reach PCBs for desoldering, etc. Unfortunately, the effected repair was insufficient! Even after augmentation with another last minute capacitor replacement, the old SGI beast refused to roll over. Those that dabble in hardware repair will all recognize this story. But, hey! A bad day in the retro lab is still better than most days...

Joel Ewy

(Twitter free?)


My project is to write an 8-bit artifact color palette explorer program in Basic09, that will allow the user to generate a 16- or 4- color CoCo 3 palette, using joysticks and/or the keyboard to cycle each palette register through all 64 possible values, and see the effect on 256 color rectangles on the screen in real time.  The screen display can be harvested using a video capture device on a modern-ish PC to generate the 8-bit palette, and the CoCo palette can be written out to a text file or possibly a .VEF format header that can be concatenated to an image file to produce a ~256 color picture.

Joel also gets a good start with a nice introductory blog post out of the blocks. Alas, yet another entry's trail quickly goes cold...whither to art thou Joel?

It looks like "real life" more or less got the better of Joel this month. Nevertheless, he did provide some good instructional material on how to make use of a CoCo3 video mode that some people still seem to think is a myth. Maybe Joel can save his project for RC2018/04?

Josh Malone



My challenge is "Bringing the REX back from extinction"

I've got my first post up explaining my goals.

We are always happy here to see a Tandy project (even from a guy sporting an Atari Fuji)! Exploiting the option ROM socket and adding option ROM software to the Tandy Model 100/102 and related machines seems to have been solved by that little community some time ago, but it can be a bit mystifying to us retro geeks on the outside. Josh is giving us a good show with a lot of tutorial and example information. We are excited to see how it ends-up!

Oh no! Just as Josh was 'rounding the third turn' (in NASCAR parlance) he "hit the wall" and let out the magic smoke! The last entry sounds hopeful, suggesting that replacement parts were already on their way. Unfortunately, the trail goes cold from there. Hopefully Josh got things together one way or the other. Maybe he'll be back next time?

Jeff Salzman



I'll be improving something I worked on back in the early days, hopefully tapping all these years of experience to create a noticeable improvement, even if it may be a pointless improvement by today's standards. My programming ability was crude, even by standards of the day. My goal is to rewrite/improve the programs I had on a tape I used on my VIC-20 back in the day, documenting the changes as I go. I will attempt to improve as many programs as I can, starting with my own personal programs first, then maybe some of the magazine typed-in programs I had on the same tape.

Jeff also gets started with a nice, extensive intro. But once again, the trail goes cold -- no!! Will we ever get to see "Merry Christmas IV"? I'm hoping so...

No apparent updates since halftime...real life claims another victim?

Eric Pooch (Epooch)



Set up automatic build and deployment pipeline from cc64 and Xcode on Mac OSX to real Apple II hardware. "Hello World" on Apple II.

Gotta admit, I love to see a good Makefile. This venerable tool seems to be nearly forgotten in some segments of software development -- feared by many, overlooked by most, and understood by few. Making the most of Make -- then good on ya! Beyond the apparent build chain successes, we hear of some disk hardware issues that could be crippling. Will Eric resolve the problems with the back end of his tool chain before Halloween? Stay tuned...

Another case where the trail runs cold around halftime. Clearly, I need to be more timely with my halftime reports...

Eric Smith



Making an affordable FPGA-Elf with an inexpensive FPGA module and a few custom PCBs.

Not quite Christmas, but Eric is out chasing an ELF. I pursued an ELF about a year ago, but I think the wire wrapping did more to tie me up than anything else. Anyway, Eric is wisely pursuing his ELF with more modern tech. He definitely seems to be on track for a strong finish.

Eric certainly succeeded in building a nice project. Look at that PCB! Definitely a beauty. Having built an ELF using the venerable technique of wire-wrapping, I am definitely jealous of his clean, beautiful, and robust hardware. Including the Pixie graphics was a nice touch, and a great way to tap into the power that an FPGA brings to the table. It would be difficult to find fault with this project.

James Ots



I have an Amstrad PCW, but it takes up too much space, so I want to modify one to use an external monitor (VGA to start with, HDMI as a 'stretch goal') and an SD card instead of a floppy drive. Hopefully I can get it to boot from the SD card. Then I'll try to add other things such as sound and serial IO. A case would be nice too.

James is marrying old and new technology, using CPLDs to get video from his Amstrad PCW to a modern LCD. A late entrant, James is more than making up for it with a slew of blogging including lots of pictures and lots of explanatory prose. Don't count this baby out -- plenty of potential here, for sure! 

I think James may have surprised himself with this project. He picked-up the Amstrad PCW more-or-less on a whim, and started trying to adapt it in various ways to fit his workspace or whatever. Along the way, he (perhaps inadvertantly) pulled-off some impressive hacks in his effort to adapt the machine to its modern surroundings. His blog has some good writing, cool pictures and even video. This is yet another well done project that is a joy to observe. I hope James is enjoying his new obsession! :-)


  1. Dear John i had a problem with my previouse blog so i have rebuilt one for the retrochallenge entry at this address www.toolkitmanretrochallenge.blogspot.it can you update this link in the entry page? Thank you Toolkitman

  2. Good stuff John, just checking in on the 1/2 time update, will be interested to see who pulls it out of the hat this year.

  3. I literally enjoyed reading your post John.You always come up with some entertaining and exciting topic and this time again you maintained your record.

  4. Fun month. Thanks John and everyone else!