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The People's Permacomputer

An ultra-low power computer designed to survive a societal collapse.

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The People's Permacomputer (henceforth known as "the people's computer", or "the permacomputer") is a project dedicated to building, and then eventually resourcing the specification, and then construction of a 'permacomputer' which will: (a) be ultra-low power; and (b) survive in storage for up to anywhere between 200 to 500 Earth sol.

In order to provide video output, a 30-scanline Nipkow disk television is implemented (i.e. a mechanical TV).

% Revision 002

# CPU

  • Motorola MC6800. Not as famous as the 6502 but still ubiquitous. Could be pulled out of old arcade machines.
  • Clock: MC6875 with 4.00 MHz crystal.

# RAM

  • Base: 1K bytes.
  • Expansion: to 32K

# ROM

  • CHIPOS interpreter/monitor: 1K bytes.

# Display

  • 64 x 32 dot matrix;
  • Each dot is 4 TV lines square;
  • Uses 256 bytes of RAM at location 0100 for refresh by DMA.
  • Video output: 1Vp-p @ 75 ohm.

% Model 001

The purpose of this model is to build a "proof of concept". It is a construction of the permacomputer using ceramic DIP TTL packages.

# CPU

  • Ceramic 8 bit CPU @ anywhere from 1-3 MHz. 
  • This CPU is most likely going to be a NOS ceramic intel 8080 @ 2 MHz due to how cheap and plentiful they are on alibaba and ebay (cost: AUD50).
  • Looking around, it seems like it may be possible to source ceramic Motorola MC6800s, which would provide a lot more peace of mind in terms of my own capacity to program this machine.

# RAM

32K. Static. Whatever suits the 8080, which i think is both SRAM and DRAM alike (cost: 100-150AUD).
RAM is still a question ultimately: core rewrite is intensive.

# Storage

  • Floppy disk.
  • IDE (i.e. CompactFlash).

% Televisor Unit

  • VIDEO - 30 lines. A nipkow disk mechanical TV. Very simple to create.
  • Light source: a fast LED, or neon bulb (cost: AUD15).

The televisor unit is a mechanical television, as explored by John Logie Baird. It is a flashing light placed behind a spinning disk perforated with holes that sweep over the light source. Each hole represents a possible scan-line of the televisor.

To light colour-bursts across a scanline, the computer controls the intensity of the light source as the hole in the disk passes over the screen area.

% Purpose

The purpose of implementing a mechanical television is to ensure that the video output technology is simple and reproducible after the effects of a societal collapse. All that is needed is (i) a Nipkow disk; (ii) an electric motor; (iii) a bright light that can be driven by a signal source.

The technology of a mechanical television is simple enough that I am optimistic that if there is some massive disruption to the economic development of computers due to societal collapse (i.e., no CRTs, LCD TVs, or other kind of more complex display technology) this televisor will perform in its stead.

% Concept Image Gallery

Above courtesy of: http://users.tpg.com.au/users/gmillard/nbtv/nbtv.htm

Above courtesy of: http://bs.cyty.com/menschen/e-etzold/archiv/TV/mechanical/scanningdisc.htm

*

Above courtesy of: http://bs.cyty.com/menschen/e-etzold/archiv/TV/mechanical/scanningdisc.htm

  • February 2024 Update

    Blair Vidakovich3 days ago 0 comments

    In our exploratory research we came upon an australian design from the late 70s which i think would prove highly amenable to the goals of our project.

    http://www.mjbauer.biz/DREAM6800.htm

    Attached is a bill of materials along with other errata from a fellow peer's construction of the DREAM6800 computer in 2019. 

    (see attached PDF)

    I am having difficulty sourcing parts. I laboriously inputted and was able to locate every part on aliexpress, but multiple items from the same vendor would not cause a saving in the postage.

    Does anyone know a more equitable method of sourcing the parts listed in this PDF?

    Much appreciated.

    Blair Vidak.


    Please find reproduced below the schematics for the DREAM6800 computer.

    Power:

    -** Cassette circuitry. Kansas PSK encoding.
    - *** CPU and Clock generation via the Motorola 6875:
    ** Video Display Generator (composite video):

    The keyboard circuitry, implemented by the Motorola PIA:

    Current smoothing capacitors and auxiliary circuit definitions:
    Memory:

    The full listing for the CHIPOS interpreter / monitor program resident in 1K ROM:

    **

  • Video Teleprinter

    Blair Vidakovich05/25/2023 at 13:52 0 comments

    (this is in collaboration with a comrade 'S')

    The People's Permacomputer Project (acronym: P3) is designed to meet a special design case. That is: modern digital civilisation has collapsed. Complex computer hardware is hard to come by, and will not be easy to repair. This hardware project will also attempt to meet a use case scenario: storage upwards of 200 years, and be durable enough to still operate.

    It is my hope this permacomputer will truly be able to last around 500 years with minimal need for maintenance or repair.

    ~The Nipkow Disk Video Teleprinter~

    Please refer here. the hellschreiber is a shortwave radio compatible facsimile device. In other words, the hellschreiber is a type of radio fax machine.

    The principle behind the radio fax is similar to a mechanical televison. Instead of using ink to print onto paper, the television uses a nipkow disk to scan across a flashing light source, such as an LED or fluorescent tube. The flashing light is timed to the position of each of the holes in the nipkow disk, allowing luma pulses to be created, mimicking pixels on an electron-beam CRT.

    ~Construction of the Mechanical Video Teleprinter~

    The first movement of this project is to design a mechanical television. This stage of research and development will be considered a success if an operating 30-scanline nipkow disk television can be built.

    Why? Because video is important for the human-computer interface, and resources will be severely limited in terms of what will be able to provide a standard, as well as modular interface into the digital logic of the P3.

    The mechanical television is a good choice for demonstrating the possibility of video output from a digital computer after the collapse of modern society.

    Please find attached the research material from the Ben Heck show.

    Episode #1


    Episode #2

    Suffice it to say: you construct a 30 line televisor @ 15 FPS with the following materials:

    - a cheap electric drill
    - some vinyl LP records
    - a cheap LED or fast fluorescent light

    This construction is a happy congruence with the processing limitations of the digital computer to which the mechanical TV will be attached. It will only be capable of 30 scan-lines of resolution.

    Please refer to the reference images of what i imagine this mechanical TV will be able to render.

    Up Next Time: Ceramic DIP 8-bit CPUs (:

    http://www.mjbauer.biz/DREAM6800.htm

    https://maggi9295.github.io/projects/dream6800/dream6800.html

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Discussions

Dr. Cockroach wrote 05/25/2023 at 22:24 point

I have always been interested in building a mechanical Nipkow disk display and it makes since to try to adapt it as a basic computer data display.

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Peabody1929 wrote 05/19/2023 at 00:21 point

Contraption

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Ken Yap wrote 05/18/2023 at 22:47 point

Why ceramic packages? Have you explained that somewhere?

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Blair Vidakovich wrote 05/25/2023 at 13:56 point

the main explanation is that plastic packages will not withstand extreme temperatures

IIRC, plastic only withstands 0-70C, whereas ceramic will tolerate -50C-125C

  Are you sure? yes | no

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