Entrants List 2018/04

Listed below are the competitors joining us for the 2018/04 event:

Halftime comments in blue...(except the judge missed doing a halftime review this time...)

Final comments in red...

Rebuttal comments in orange...(anyone?)

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 or ESP8266/ESP32 WiFi Module ).

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

In the previous year, there has been made available an RS-232 to WiFi Module from the Commodore Community from CBMSTUFF, which is Jim Drew, an established hardware provider.

The possibility of reaching this goal has increased dramatically because of Networking Improvements made in the last three months, specifically for the Tandy Color Computer ( CoCo ).

Allen Huffman has a simple, direct WiFi solution that uses the RS-232 Pak, of which are not as common as the CoCo with it's Built In, Bit-Banger Port, and Jim Brain of Retro Innovations is developing a new RS-232 Pak replacement so the viability of this Hardware is a certainty.

Oh, MarkO! Failure to launch??

Matteo Trevisan (aka Toolkitman)



In This Retrochallenge i want to take part to the Radio Shack Community by makeing a new way to login and use the Coco Basic Operating System. It's not an easy task also because i'm veteran of a 50 miles run and i'm a little tired : ).

I will make my best explaining it to the community.

Matteo is back on his CoCo, this time demonstrating his "COCO OS 2018 Released Operating System". I'm not too sure about the practicality of his system, but practical is not really an issue for RetroChallenge! Along with his demo program(s) written in BASIC, Matteo also produced a convincing CoCo2 replica from paper and cardboard during the month.  It certainly seems like Matteo was having fun, and that is the most important part of RetroChallenge.

Kevin Becker



I have two TRS-80 PC-3 pocket computers that aren't working 100%. I'd like to see if I can get them fully functional again.  I also have two cassette/printer interfaces for them that have dead nicad batteries.  I haven't found any info online about replacing these batteries, and there may also be corrosion damage so I will also be attempting to revive these as well.  Finally I have a fully working PC-4 but no cassette interface for it.  I'm going to try to either build working cassette interface or, preferably, build a solution that allows transferring files directly to and from a Raspberry Pi.

It sounds like Kevin at least started a RetroChallenge adventure dealing with PC-3 and PC-4 TRS-80 Pocket Computers, and it sounds like there may be some unseen video still out there. I hope my lack of a half-time report didn't contribute to ending this project prematurely! In any event, hopefully Kevin enjoyed himself in the time he found for RetroChallenge!

Mark Sherman



This time I'll be build a new replacement joystick for the Atari 5200.  The original design is horrible, new-in-box ones are often DOA, and the few third party alternatives are expensive items.

What is thing thing supposed to be, a telephone?

Mark decided to take-on the Atari 5200 controller this time. (I wonder if he was talking to Ben Heck?) It looks like he put some good effort into things, and even made some decent progress. The picture on his blog with the mounted joystick and trackball had me reaching for my wallet! Alas, it seems that a finished product (or even project) remains just out of reach...




My objectives, by priority:
  1. Organize my office full of old computers and identify stuff to eliminate. 
  2. Repair some damaged Apple II+ parts.
  3. Get ElWhip <http://apple-crapple.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_19.html> source code uploaded to GitHub <https://github.com/>.
  4. Test out an ESP32 <https://www.espressif.com/en/products/hardware/esp32/overview> (new version of ESP8266) as an internet modem / PPP server for old Macintoshes.
  5. Test out an ESP32 as virtual serial port for Apple II.
  6. Add SmartPort compatibility into a2usbdsk.
Epooch gives us a hodge-podge of mini-projects. I must say, it is satisfying to see someone finishing (or making substantial progress) even on small projects -- I guess that doesn't happen enough around here! While this is probably not the most "retro" entry in the bunch, it did leave me a bit jealous of that garage loft...


(Twitter free)


A brief synopsis of your project: Finish the last three items on my website designed for vintage computers, http://www.nocss.ml/, which includes an internal messaging system, a website proxy (with https support), and a google search. Also finish testing all the aspects of the site on my Macintosh Classic.

Edison set about to getting his old Mac on the Internet, only to find that the modern web isn't too friendly to old computers anymore. So he built a website that catered to users of old machine and provide some basic, almost BBS-like services. Its a cool idea, especially with what appears to be more and more retro-philes getting their machines on the Internet with various "Internet modems" and such. Unfortunately his page already seem to be down, but perhaps that is just temporary?

Jim Gerrie

(Twitter free)


Don’t know how much I can accomplish this round.  Very busy at work.  But I’d like to use the RetroChallenge 2018 to motivate myself to complete blog posts on my latest projects:
  • 10 Liner Programming contest entries
  • FOD port
  • Meteor Storm
And possibly I’ll come up with some original game or a new port for the contest if things work out.  Oh and I’m cleaning up my Zip with the VMC10 emulator (latest version) with all the programs and docs of the elite programmers in subdirectories of their own off the main Cassette directory.

If there is anything that is known about Jim in the CoCo world (aside from his dedication to the MC-10), Jim is known for his prolific MC-10 software development. Jim did not disappoint, bringing us a variety of ports from various sources and even an original title. In the latter, Jim pokes some fun at a CoCo icon, displaying some wit and humor that had previously been unknow to most of us. It is definitely an honor to see Jim package up this collection of his work for consideration in the RetroChallenge!

Michai Ramakers



Making a working firmware for my "Bait-a-Cart 64" Commodore 64 cartridge-adapter.

This is a physical adapter-board with flash and a microcontroller, sitting in between the C64's cartridge-port and an existing cartridge. (The Bait-a-Cart is plugged into the C64, and an existing ROM-cartridge is plugged into the Bait-a-Cart.)

The idea is to have the Bait-a-Cart contain a program that displays a logo, intro or text. When the C64 is powered on, this intermediate program is shown until the user presses space, which will start the actual program on the existing cartridge. It's very much like adding an crack-intro to a game, except done in hardware.

The goal is to easily customise a retrocomputer-setup with a club-specific logo, intro or similar, for events or retro-spaces.

At the moment, the Bait-a-Cart hardware exists, but firmware does not. RC2018/04 effort will go into testing the hardware with an actual C64 and ROM-cartridge, and making Bait-a-Cart firmware (running on the Bait-a-Cart microcontroller) as well as finishing a C64 intro to be displayed before the ROM-cartridge is started.

Michai succeeded very well in this event, picking a slightly weird but technically challenging project, executing the work required to honestly claim project completion, and providing documentation that seems to be both low-level enough to be useful and high-level enough to remain interesting to a broader audience. He even follows-up with idea for continuing the project, which may prove inspirational either for himself or for others in the future. Well done!

Dale Goodfellow


<blog url needed>

For this April's RC I plan to do something related to radio.

That might be as basic as trying to get some old software working for RTTY or PSK31, be that on MSDOS, Win3.1 or OS/2 Warp; Perhaps using the Tandy 100 for portable logging- or writing a logger for  the Tandy.

I could go mad and try and build the RTTY interface for the Dragon 32-but i bet i don't do that.

Or i might just see what software is available to play with, this being the more likely option as work grinds me down over the month.

Something radio related.
Something related to software.
Something related to either an old machine or an old OS.
Something i will likely fail at.

Toot Toot!

Dale -- did I miss your blog? :-(

Eric Smith



Port Infocom ZIP intepreter to Apple ///, to run games (including Zork) natively under SOS. At the moment the floppy drive of my Apple /// isn't working properly, so I'll have to fix that or replace it with one of my spares, though the spares aren't necessarily in working order either.

Eric seems to have hit a snag with the floppy drives on his Apple ///. At first undeterred, he put some effort into diagnosing the problems and even did some nice blogging on the topic. Unfortunately the posts tapered-off early in April, and worse, never any sign of an Infocom ZIP -- better luck next time, @brouhaha!

Aruino Enigma



The Original Sinclair Scientific Calculator had its CPU chip decapped and was reverse engineered by a team of people. Ken Shirriff reverse engineered the program and wrote an online simulator in Javascript (http://righto.com/sinclair). I ported this simulator to the Arduino platform and designed a custom PCB using an Arduino Nano, interfaced to some tactile push buttons and some 0.25" tall seven segment LED displays. This device, like the original, is powered by 4 AAA batteries. While the current version works, the design of the PCB is not quite the same dimensions as the original calculator.

For this retrochallenge. I want to completely redesign the PCB so it has the same dimensions as the original: 111 mm tall / 50 mm wide. While the display will remain the not period-accurate LED, all the components will be placed so that their centerline is in the same position as the originals. The board might end up being used with an enclosure, so components will beplaced away from the edges such that a smaller version can be be quickly manufactured. Lastly, for aesthetic reasons, the board will have the same color scheme as the calculator and the traces will be discreetly run in the back, as much as possible.

Geeks of old loved their calculators, and modern geeks surely love their Arduinos. So there is something beautiful about using an Arduino to emulate a calculator, a mating of young and old as lovely as my old boss and his secretary... ;-) But seriously, this is a cool use of technology to recreate a beloved and useful item from the past, and done so in a way that allows for some extension and hacking. The blog is a bit prodigious and overwhelming, but there is definitely some good info in there if you are willing to go after it -- enjoy!

Diego Barizo



1. Write a new game in Super Extended Color Basic
2. Install a full OS and applications in my AcerNote 730 laptop

Hmmm...maybe I need to ping Diego?

Jim McClanahan





Back around 1981, I developed a fairly simple "raceway" game for the Ohio Scientific C4P MF. I plan to do a "port" of the game to a recently acquired Color Computer 3 that I want to become more familiar with, but also document some aspects of how the original game came to be. In essence, that part of the story involves a bit of reminiscing how computer hobbyists handled "collaboration" before the age of the Internet or even the widespread use of BBSs.

I really like Jim's entry -- not only does it represent a real attempt to "get back into the hobby", but it also tells a human story of reviewing something from the past, looking at how to reimplement it, and even asking yourself "why bother?" and "what did I achieve?" Bonus points for doing it on a CoCo, of course! But I really like the introspection at the end, and it seems obvious that Jim enjoyed the time spent -- aces, all around!

Mark Wickens



A programming project to emulate the iconic 1980's handheld electronic game Grandstand's Astro Wars

Well, it sound like a cool project and it looks like a cool game..perhaps he wrote his blog on the back of the entry from @woodf? Hmmm...

Raphaël Assenat



This will be my first participation in the RetroChallenge, and I would like to attempt the following:

  • Design an adapter to connect an original NES Zapper to a Tandy 1000 EX PC.
  • Code a Duck Hunt clone and/or an original mini-game if I find inspiration.
  • Use the Tandy-specific 16 color video mode. (It would be a shame not to!)
And if I have enough time:
  • Also support CGA 320x200 video, and test the game on my XT-clone with a CGA card.
  • Experiment a bit to find out if an unmodified Zapper can also work on a VGA monitor.
  • Let the game also be played using a mouse (speed could be accelerated to make aiming more difficult.)
Another entry that was a joy to read. I know it must seem like I am a sucker for projects using Tandy computers -- that might even be correct! But I am definitely a sucker both for games and for anything involving a technical hack (or deep dive) on an unusual hardware peripheral. Is the NES Zapper unusual? More so than a mouse or normal joystick, for sure... :-) Anyway, the project was cool, the game looks fun, and the blogging was done at a nice level of detail as well. I may have to wire-up my own NES Zapper to Tandy joystick adapter...well done!

Devon Ostendorf



I am going to FINALLY build (at least v1 of) the Spy Hunter-inspired driving game I lacked the skills to create back in the '80s.  I recently (once again) became the proud owner of an Apple ][e, so this will be written in some mixture of 6502 assembly and BASIC (the exact mixture depending on how far I can get through [Roger Wagner's] Assembly Lines between now and April 1st!).

Another great entry featuring a game! Devon doesn't seem too impressed with his output, callit a game "despite the warts, omissions, and shortcomings". But he is definitely correct when he follows-up with the idea that what he has produced so far is "ready for refinement and improvement" -- you go, dude! You will be ready for KansasFest in no time! I am definitely glad to see that I can still get excited about stuff on a non-Tandy home computer... ;-) Great job!

Scott Lawrence



This month, I plan to work on my LL530 project- it's a keyboard and controller interface for Amiga 1000/500/2000/3000 keyboards and as many Amiga and Atari-style controllers as possible, including: Joystick, Driving controller, keyboard controllers, Atari 7800 controllers, Amiga CD-32 controller, Sega Master System/Genesis, Amiga/Atari ST Mice, paddle controllers, etc.

  • Finish up the firmware to support all of the standard controllers
  • Autodetect controller and use the preferred key/joystick HID USB mapping
  • Write my new interrupt-driven keyboard routine to handle A500 and A1000 keyboards
  • Add support for all 5(?) known keymaps (US, UK, FR, DE, etc)
  • Debug my homemade CD-32 controller
  • Mount the device in an Amiga 500 along with a Raspberry Pi, to be stealth-Amibian Amiga 500.
So basically... complete the project.

I can't say that this looks like a completed project. But, the PCB layout looks nice and the documentation looks like it is going to be top notch. Amiga owners may want to watch that Tindie store, as this might get to be more important as we get older and our old pal "Arthur" start moving into your knuckles... ;-)

Norbert Landsteiner



Trying yourself in the high art of "racing the beam" is something every programmer should aspire to at least once in a lifetime. So it's going to be something involving the Atari VCS (the first one, AKA 2600, as we have now to specify) and it will be in 6502 assembler, probably something ludic, maybe even ludicrous. Any further specifics are still top secret and unbeknown even to me.

Norbert has fashioned-up an _original_ game for the Atari 2600! Along with that, he managed to squeeze-out a dozen or so great blog entries, a web-based sprite editor, and even an extra Atari ROM for making music. It would be completely unfair to call this anything less than an amazing piece of work -- awesome!

John Cook


<blog url needed>

About 3 months ago I spent a couple evenings throwing together a prototype for a JavaScript app that allows you to change the startup text and colors of a Commodore 64 kernal ROM binary. I did this because I recently got a C64 Reloaded MK2 which allows you to upload custom ROMs and I quickly got tired of editing the ROM by hand. It works, but it's pretty crappy.

My prototype is on GitHub here:


I contacted Elwix who runs style64.org and obtained permission to use their fonts for this project. So over the next month I'd like to accomplish the following:

  1. Get the style64 fonts into my repository.
  2. Major code cleanup, implement new JavaScript ES6 features to clean up things.
  3. Get it hosted on my site (retronerd.com) so people can use it.
  4. Document things a bit better.
  5. Test with a few different popular ROMs (I've already tried the stock ROM and JiffyDOS).
I will blog about my progress at *least* weekly. Ideally twice per week.

Hmmm...the project description is up, but I don't see any other posts. Failure to launch?

Richard Loxley



Last month I bought an Osborne 1 (the world's first truly portable computer).
Sadly I have been unable to get it to boot.  I have now bought a second one (I
pick it up in the second week of April).

My goals for this Retro Challenge are:

  1. Refurbish the second Osborne 1 (re-cap the PSU, service the disk drives) and get it booting.
  2. Try to make new boot disks for the first Osborne 1 and get it booting.  I can then hopefully pass it on to another collector.
  3. Find a way to get internet-downloaded software onto the Osborne (possibly using a USB floppy drive emulator, possibly using the serial port).
  4. Conclude by playing a classic CPM game on my portable computer! Preferably Colossal Cave Adventure or The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy :-)
Richard comes-through with a great set of blog posts and even a summary/follow-up video worthy of a view by any retro fan. It's nce to see the Osborne's get refurbished -- if he were a bit closer, I'd be tempted to send him one of the ones from my pile...  I am definitely eyeing that USB drive update! :-) Clearly another excellent example of follow-through leading to success.

Christopher Just



I'd like to enter my Retrochallenge project, which will be part 4(!) in my quest to write a C64 CRPG. I'm really optimistic about getting more done than last year.

Christopher continues work on a good looking CRPG for the Commodore 64 that he has been using to tease us for a while. He reminds us that picking-up an old project has its own startup costs, then entertains us with some fun war stories of his project restart woes. Eventually he settles into his development groove, completes some housekeeping tasks, and eventually moves on to implementation of the first game dungeon. Along with solving a few problems with new game elements, he even extends the scripting engine that will ultimately enable flexibility in his game design. Still an incomplete project, but another good effort at moving the ball along -- definitely good progress!

Dana Bowen


My project, which will be a multiplayer game running on an emulated DEC PDP 11/70.

Dana demonstrates how easily life's sirens can call us away from our retro glory. So much real life, so many projects, so many other things to do. Dana did force himself to work a bit on his game, but how much fun is it when you have to force yourself? Oh, well...hopefully next time Dana's retro spirits will cooperate!

Evan Wright 

(Twitter free)


Build an Altairduino kit, port my ZX81 Hunt the Wumpus game to it and write additional games if I don't run out of time.  All deliverables will be uploaded to GitHub.

Evan's project begins with the assembly of an Altairduino,  an Altair 8800 replica based on a modern Arduino platform. Not content with that alone, Evan proceeded to port (and write) some simple-ish games to run on the emulated Altair. Along the way he learned a lot about CP/M, terminals, and differences between the Z80 and the 8080. Despite having hand surgery during the month, Evan also produced a thorough blog that strikes an enjoyable balance between "just the facts" and "stream of consciousness. This is really a nice project, and I hope Evan enjoyed himself at least as much as I enjoyed reading about it!

NOTE: Evan did his challenge outside the normal window of competition. I was aware of his activity and its timing.

Mike Finger



For RC2018/04, my main goal is to complete (or as close as possible) a game on the Apple II that is a programable box sorting game similar to the iPad game CargoBot.  My ultimate goal is to have a core engine and then be able to "render" the game in Text, LoRes, HiRes and Double-HiRes, although that might be a stretch for within RC2018/04.  My plan is to use CC65 for the work and as a sub-goal is to get a smooth build pipeline based on the XCode pipeline (http://quinndunki.com/blondihacks/?p=1904) but for the JetBrains tools (IntelliJ/CLion).

Mike begins with setting-up his build pipeline, based around cc65. (I've never used cc65, but it seems to be an effective tool, particularly by those on good terms with the C language but that want to dabble in some "serious" retro-programming.) Of course, this continues with installation of an emulator and a tool for manipulating disk images -- so far, so good!

Well, it looke like Mike got off to a great start, but the last blog entry I found was on the 8th of April. No doubt something in real life came-up and distracted Mike. Well, at least he has a solid setup ready to entertain him or to use next time...

Micah Bly

(Twitter free)


Restore/complete an incomplete new-from-factory-in-Germany Commodore CBM 710. This is one of the rare CBM II series computers. This particular one was apparently bought from factory leftovers in Germany by the previous owner. It has never been turned on. For some good reasons: It is missing a 6509 CPU and some other bits. My challenge is to source a working 6509, find out what the other empty sockets are and get replacements, and swap in a new power supply. This power supply is for Europe, and I'm in North America. The main challenge there will be supplying a 60Hz timing circuit, which the machine requires in order to run. My goal is to document the process so that other CBM II owners in the same boat can get their machines working too.

Stretch goal: acquire a working SD-card exchange mechanism, so I can load programs onto it from my modern computers. This is "easy" in that other people make them, but probably not do-able in the span of this Retro Challenge, because of low availability right now.

Micah takes-on an unusual playmate -- a Commodore B-series. These machines are so pretty that they wouldn't be seen with Steve Jobs, even in his prime! After the required history briefing, Micah sets-out to replace a few chips, make some minor repairs, and gain a working CBM 710. He gives some details on identifying various chips, finding ROM images, etc. Even after admonishing himself for writing too much, Micah continues to provide plenty of detail... ;-)

As he got blocked on locating a 6509 CPU, Micah revisited his development environment, and set about to write some assembly language code and demonstrates using VICE to debug that code. On almost the last day, he took time to document a rather thorough design for a game! The game didn't get finished, but Micah did find a code snippet from Steve Wozniak that helped him along. Was this a good use of time? In Micah's words, "if I have to explain that to you, you probably aren’t reading this blog in the first place." -- well said!

Seat Safety Switch

(Twitter free)


I am returning an Amiga 2500 back to being a useful machine, but also fixing other machines in my old computer collection at the same time.

SSS offered an Amiga 2500 restoration, and that was certainly part of his month. Along with that there was work on a SparcStation, a C64, an Atari ST, and even a Super Famicom -- lots of retro-repair goodness here! Its great to see SSS banging-out so many projects and having tons of fun. However, the lack of focus is a bit distracting...

Frank Linde


I'm going to build a new home computer. Hm, that's a paradox, isn't it? Well, I mean 'new' in terms of integrated circuits that are still in production. I mean 'home computer' in terms of favouring easy to understand concepts over an all-in-one device suitable for every purpose. That's not a new idea as similar projects are already in existence, like RC2014, The Hive, Uzebox, Veronica to name but a few. But to develop a home computer has been my dream for ever and a day, so I'll do it anyway! The challenge is to define achievable goals for a first hardware version and to have a working proof of concept on a breadboard by the end of April.

Frank fearlessly takes-on the ambitious project of implementing his version of a "new" home computer. The goal is both admirable and intriguing. The project gets started with a keyboard, a big AVR, some SRAM, and a VGA circuit, and Frank's breadboard layouts are almost too straight and clean to be believed. Unfortunately, it never progressed much beyond there and a little refactoring, alas! Frank says the audio card comes next: you heard it here first... ;-)

Gabriele Gorla

(Twitter free)


I am going to pick up where RC2017/10 ended and upgrade the georam design to 4MB. As usual the design will be open hardware.


Building upon his earlier work of reverse engineering the Berkely Softworks georam, Gabriele moves on to a hardware guys's next logical step, building a (better) clone! His plan involves replacing some random logic with a PLD and expanding the memory from 512 KB to an utterly massive 4 MB. Gabriele's initial blog entry analyzes the original circuit and describes the changes needed for his 4 MB version. In his next entry, Gabriele shows a rendring of his PCB layout, including the use of mostly through-hole chips -- a definite plus for retro-ness! He then announces his use of CUPL for programming the PLD, and discusses some of the particulars of his state machine.

Everything looked to be going well, but I only see those two blog entries. Did the project get finished? Or is the blog merely incomplete? Perhaps we have another victim of "real life" interference? It seems so close...if it isn't finished, then hopefully Gabriele will find time to finish before long -- someone probably wants to buy one of these!

Best of Luck To All Competitors!!

That's the list I have for now -- did I miss anyone? :-)

It's way too late for new competitors! It's far later than I intended to wrap-up my "Judge's Comments" as well -- once again I am apologizing for my lateness. I still think that a difference schedule may be better for me...hmmm...

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