vintage hardware emulation
Friday, April 26 2013
I went to Tivoli today to work on the local network of Alex, one of my web clients (because he didn't know who else who could do it). Alex's local internet provider is Frontier, which has a monopoly in Tivoli's riverside community, where there is no cable. For some reason Frontier has been allocating dynamic IP addresses from a part of the IP address range that is filtered out because of its use by spammers, and this was making it impossible for Alex to FTP into his website. So he'd been forced to upgrade to a fixed IP address, which the Frontier installer had for some reason configured such that it only provided internet access for a single computer on his network. Getting it to go through a NAT such that all the local computers could connect seemed like a simple job that I would nevertheless have to go there to do. Unfortunately, though, it wasn't simple, and I kept dealing with issues such as flakey devices that had to be reset to factory conditions. It turns out that I'd never actually set up network that communicates with the internet via a fixed IP address, and (mostly because of the way the Zyxel DSL router had been set up), I was doing it wrong. I should have just set the local network to do DHCP in the 192.168.1.X space instead of setting it to provide the one fixed IP address to the network (and then try to do NAT from a second device). Five hours later, that's what I did, but not before having to make three arduous calls to Frontier, experiencing those weird shoulder pains I always get when technology that should be working doesn't, muttering a lot, and almost giving up. I gave a significant discount on my usual rate, but he gave me a big check anyway, mostly as payment for a new [REDACTED] ecommerce idea he needs me to build a web page for.
Back at the house, a package had come in the mail: a C-64 DTV joystick I'd bought used for about $30. The DTV is a complete hardware emulation of a 1982 vintage Commodore 64 in a package so tiny that fits inside a joystick. In addition to the miniaturized hardware, there is a ROM with 30 classic games. My interest is not with those games, however. I loved the old CBM BASIC that ran on these machines, particularly because of the fact that anything printed to the screen could immediately be recycled as input, which made editing programs much easier than it was on other 8-bit platforms such as the Apple II, the RadioShack Color Computer, or the Tandy Model 102 (which renewed my interest in vintage computer hardware). I never actually had a Commodore 64, though I did have a VIC-20 and a Commodore 128, the latter of which had a C-64 emulation mode, and I did a lot of tinkering (both hardware and software) with both. The DTV is a close-enough emulation that there are actually points on its board where one can attach wires to a connector and then attach a vintage floppy drive such as the 1571 (I actually still have one of those back in Virginia). One can also attach a PS/2 keyboard, so theoretically one could make a small self-contained Commodore-64 knockoff.
I happened to be down in the laundry room this evening either dealing with laundry or looking for a still-missing extra shock collar when Joe, our houseguest, returned from his day interning at the animal sanctuary in Willow (where he has been working getting grants or something). I hadn't really talked with him much, partly because he's sort of weird and Aspergery, but somehow we got to talking and he was curious about the buildings I'd built. So I told him about the greenhouse and the brownhouse, and also about my urinal system. People are usually a little shocked to learn that I willingly shit in a plastic bucket when I have four toilets I could be using, but Joe was intrigued, so I ended up giving him showing him the urinal system and then climbing up on the roof and showing him the solar panels. At around that time Gretchen and Sarah the vegan returned from Rosendale having watched a showing of the 1974 classic Young Frankenstein (Gretchen says its humor has not aged well). Sarah would be spending the night in our other basement guestroom, her dog sitting job in Bearsville having ended prematurely due to the illness of one of her charges. Though he's less than half her age, Gretchen and I were nevertheless hoping (mostly jokingly) that Sarah and Joe would get it on.
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