First Love?

AmstradCircuitBoard.png

We all remember our first loves don’t we?  Whether its the kid in the same class at school as you, 80’s taste in music, or your favourite pop-star…  Well, technically this isn’t my first love, this computer has survived more house moves than I can remember.

As a kid in the 80’s I’d save my pocket money for an Amstrad CPC 6128 Computer and eventually became the proud owner after purchasing from our local retailer.

What made it special? It was one of the first to come with its own colour monitor and a disk drive, this was more affordable than the superb BBC Micro Model B computer we had a school.

The Amstrad CPC also came with a “grown up” operating system called CP/M at the time (the pre-cursor to MS-DOS) so you had the best of both worlds.  Over the next couple of years I learned to code almost anything in Assembly language and created programs and games that were published in the 80’s.  I spent an inordinate amount of time learning the machine inside out, its circuitry, the hardware, the firmware, the hidden op-codes, you name it I studied and understood…

Then along come the 90’s with better music, Oasis, Blur, Snap, Adamski, The Beautiful South, Vanilla Ice, 2 Unlimited, Shakespeare’s Sister etc, the clubbing scene took off and I set aside my trusty Amstrad to pursue clubbing, girls and I bought my first PC, an Escom 486 DX4-100 with 8MB of memory and 540mb hard-drive, and finally my Amstrad was relegated to the back of the wardrobe for its final time.

Fast forward to today and the 8-Bit revival Scene is truly underway with many of us 80’s gamers, coders and enthusiasts forsaking our emulators and sourcing the real thing!

I dug my Amstrad out of the Garage where it sat for many years in non-ideal conditions (for storing hardware).  I wasn’t hopeful she’d survive the order, but non-the-less with screwdriver in hand and compressed air I took the Amstrad apart and cleaned her up.

AmstradDiskDrive.png

The drive will most likely not work and I have ordered replacement parts.

Although today’s emulators are rather mature and emulate the Amstrad and other 8Bit machines very well, the real reason is to transfer my source code for many of the programs I’ve written transferred to SD Card/USB Stick with the intent to share the original source and release a number of games I’d created but never gotten round to releasing.

Because the Retro scene is thriving, there are a number of solutions available that enable me to take advantage of modern hardware like SD Cards to transfer data either way.  (more on this in a future article).

The next phase was to examine the monitor.  My initial thinking is a family of spiders have probably made a home for themselves near the tube, so I expected it to be more dusty and cob webby inside.

AmstradMonnitorPreClean.png

It could have been a lot worse, but with a vacuum in one hand and compressed air can in the other, I manage to get a resemblance of 1st stage clean to the circuit boards and inside the monitor casing.

AmstradMonitorCleanUp.png

I let both the computer and monitor acclimatise inside the house in addition to using Silica Gel sachets to absorb any moisture inside the hardware.

Will this piece of kit that’s been in storage for over two decades still work?  

I have to admit I was a tad nervous that it would… go up in smoke… fuse the electrics or worse…

As a precaution I plugged the monitor in on it’s own and powered it up, at first I didn’t think anything was happening, when I switched the power off I saw a familiar white flash, so thought something was working.  I then plugged the computer into the monitor and powered up.

The result was astonishing!  It actually worked!  I was so excited I put the camera down, typed in a quick program and executed it as you can see in the video.

The video shows the initial test.

So what next?

Well the Disk Drive needs a repair to get that back up and running, after that I will start the task of copying my disks of old to memory stick and start sharing the code.

What could go wrong?

Lots!

The drive might not be repairable…

The Disks may have become corrupt or corroded…

To name but a few…

The project may take all year to complete though, due to my day job taking me to work around the world, so a lot depends on what time I have available to work on this project.

The most surprising thing is that 80’s may have been a bad music era (That’s not surprising), but Amstrad, Sinclair et al, certainly knew how to build computers to last!

So who/what was your first love and what fond memories do you have today?

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