The Lure of Retro Computing

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in hardware on (#3K0)
story imageWhat's the best computer you ever owned? Step aside with your Core Duo, son, and make some room for the gentleman who wants to tell you about his Commodore 64 . Or Sinclair ZX . Or DEC Terminal .

Retro computing is hotter than ever, attracting the interest of a whole new generation who takes interest in the machines of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. You may have missed the Retro Computing Fair in East Philadelphia last month, but that doesn't mean you're out of luck. Roswell, Georgia is hosting a Vintage Computing Festival next month, and museums dedicated to classic hardware are springing up everywhere, like this one in Ramsgate, UK. Most of them are the product of their passionate founders who have opened up their personal collections.

Can't make it anywhere? It's still not too late to play some classic Commodore 64 games courtesy of a Raspberry Pi and some clever emulation.

That's the thing about bits. Eight of 'em should've been enough for anybody.

Retro (Score: 2, Interesting)

by alioth@pipedot.org on 2014-05-08 12:05 (#1FV)

The joy of retrocomputing is that the computers are straightforward, and it's easy to make new add-ons for them (low bus speeds mean you only need a breadboard and whatever kind of connector the computer uses), and while you can do that kind of thing with an Arduino, the nice thing about the old machine is the built in keyboard, BASIC interpreter, and it will drive a TV screen.

Also the classic games. I'm a member of a Spanish retrocomputing organization (http://www.retroaccion.org) and we hold a couple of regular events each year, one in Bilbao (at Euskal Encounter), and the other in November at the University of Zaragoza as part of the week of engineering and architecture. The November one is particularly interesting since the local schools bring their classes for visits, and we have a room set aside for classic gaming with a couple of arcade cabinets and about 20 or so classic computers and consoles. The teachers have trouble dragging the kids away from the games - and these kids all grew up with the XBox 360, PS4, Wii, modern PC gaming etc. It really goes to prove the old adage that it's everything about playability and less about flashy graphics.

I also run a stand at Play Expo in Manchester (England) each October, mostly with Sinclair Spectrums, and it's great to see parents teaching kids to play Manic Miner and Chuckie Egg. Since it's a whole weekend event I often see the kids coming back for repeat visits and trying to beat their old high scores. The thing is these older computers are completely open, very tinkerable, and a lot of fun.

I've designed an ethernet card for the ZX Spectrum, and we've also run tournaments (with prizes!) at Euskal Encounter with a 4 player LAN game (a tank driving capture the flag team game) which was a lot of fun. Here's a video of the event:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fEvuENABZY
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