The gifts from the past

A project log for Discrete YASEP

a 16-bits YASEP computer (mostly) made of DIP/SOIC chips like in the 70s and 80s... with 2010's twists!

Yann Guidon / YGDESYann Guidon / YGDES 11/08/2015 at 16:020 Comments

People roll their eyes when they see the stock of parts that I "conserve". However sometimes it pays off.

If you remember my rant about obsolescence, you know that it's hard to keep old technologies working when software interfers. You need hardware to run software and vice versa so when one gets out of synch, your fabulous expensive technology is bricked. Anything will happen like: no USB, LPT obsolescence, OS "updates" or plain hard drive crashes.

I cherish my computers because they have drained so much of my energy, time, money etc. And I remembered a "lousy laptop" that a family member gave me more than a decade ago. Guess what ? Its OS (Win95) is clean, it has a proper LPT and RS232 port, PCMCIA with drivers to read/write CompactFlash cards...

An old MPLAB was installed, because I did some PIC development on the road (that's the laptop you can see on the Drosephylia picture from 2005). It even had some flashing software installed but not working. I figured that a file was missing and I solved this problem in mere minutes (Things get easier with age and Windows was so much simpler back in the days!).

Et voilà:

Wisdom tells me to get a CompactFlash card ASAP to backup and replace the hard disk. A new power supply would be great too, and a new BIOS battery. The floppy drive is not working anymore but the 2 battery packs are apparently still somewhat healthy since the last boot in 2008. I removed all the packs to prevent drain during storage and it worked !

I can thus flash old BIOS chips (and old parallel PIC) so I can implement lookup tables for the Discrete YASEP. However I must still wait for the delivery of the TL866A (USB for recent Windows) to flash the 16-bits AM29LV160, using a special ZIF adapter...

Next step: I'll try to install the ATF150x tools on this laptop. Wish me luck ;-)