1. trondd

    trondd Loyal Comrade

    Keri and Pyat like this.
  2. Zausel

    Zausel Genosse Forum Donor

    The Robotron III was the first computer ever built entirely out of GDR produced parts, if I remember correctly.
  3. turbofiat124

    turbofiat124 Premium Member Forum Donor

    We must be on the same wavelength. Fiat 124 Spiders, Trabants and now Commodore computers. Don't tell me your into vintage stereos as well? I've got a collection of those.

    I was big into Commodores back in the 1980s. My first Commodore was a VIC-20 then I later got a Commodore 64. My father thought the computer was a toy. Well I did use it for gaming but it did give me a heads up on computer.

    I still have my old Commodores! They are boxed up but I plan on getting them out one day and setting them up in my den. My original C-64 crapped out from so much use. The amplifier in the sound chip must have went bad and some of my games started to crash.

    Three years later bought one of the new white "re-bodied" C-64s in 1989 when I was in college taking a basic programming class. Being the hoarder that I am, I still have that old C-64 with issues. This winter if it turns too cold to work out in my garage, I'd like gut that old C-64 and install a Raspberry Pi in it with Chrome operating system and the board that allows you the C-64 keyboard.

    Check out this video:

  4. trondd

    trondd Loyal Comrade

    Yeah, we had a C64 when I was a kid. It's was a game console to me. All I knew how to do was put a floppy disk in and type load"*",8,1 and play games. :)

    I had no idea it was a BASIC environment you could program with. I didn't dig deeper into computers until we got a 286 PC and I never went back to the C64. I still have all our C64 stuff. I wonder if the disk drive still works...

    A modernized C64 would be a neat project. I like using the classic hardware, though. I'm currently playing with an Altair 8800 (clone). The Altair was a decade or so before my time and I'm amazed by the simplicity (I have a Trabant, can you tell I like things simple?). It's already too cold for playing with cars, so I'm back to computer projects.

    P.S. Nope, no vintage stereos. You lost me there. Although by virtue of just being something older, I do have my mother's college stereo system and bookshelf speakers. Woodgrain and chrome with lights inside for some reason. :) Really neat and still works fine.
  5. turbofiat124

    turbofiat124 Premium Member Forum Donor

    At one time I tried playing around with those C-64 emulator programs for the PC but never had much luck with it. One issue is trying to interface the Commodore floppy drive with the PC using a serial port. You have to use a PC serial port on one end and a DIN port and match the wires up. So you can load the software directly to the PC.

    Someone is now making an SD card reader for the C-64 that looks like a miniature C-64!

    And Ethernet cards for the Commodore to connect to the internet.

    I don't know why I have so many "Monkey Ward's" vintage stereos. They seem to pop up more often at thrift stores than other brands. That's not the same TEAC dual cassette deck I have in my garage.




    My collection of 8 tracks!

  6. VADOC

    VADOC Premium Member Forum Donor

    After watching the video the conversion is not as simple as it seems, I was trying to figure out if you could also configure an ardurino.
    But to do what was done in the video you have to have access to a contemporary system with CAD or other program with 3D printer to make the installation brackets.
    I've never played video games, but this seems lie a lot of effort to play PacMan when other emulations can do that.
    Anyway, if you are into classic stereo system I have a professional Akai reel-to-reel that needs a new home.
  7. turbofiat124

    turbofiat124 Premium Member Forum Donor

    Yeah I got allot of emulators for the PC. I just thought it would be cool to turn an old C-64 into a PC. But not for games. Just looking up stuff on the internet when I'm out in the garage.

    However back in the 1980s, these computers other than PCs with a separate keyboard were not the most ergonomically correct keyboards to say the least. So it's more/less a novelty item. I've got one of those HP Chromeboxes running Google operating system right now.

    I don't normally play video games either like I used to. I got too many car projects going on!
  8. trondd

    trondd Loyal Comrade

    I had been watching ebay.de for a long while and finally my own piece of DDR retro-computing has arrived.


    It's a Robotron KC 87 with a couple RAM expansion modules. BASIC in ROM, B&W output, and mandatory terrible 80's home computer keyboard. I love the aesthetic of this thing.

    I have the voltage converter I need, but I didn't notice the video output port is different. I guess it's a PAL standard. I'll need to find a cable or rig up some kind of connector.

    I've read that most people in the DDR could not afford computers like this and they were used mostly in business and schools.

    Quite a lot of information about these machines (mostly in German, of course).


    And as an additional note, there was a recent podcast about computing in the DDR, none of which I can understand so I don't know if it's actually any good. :D
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2019
  9. turbofiat124

    turbofiat124 Premium Member Forum Donor

    I'm wondering if SE-CAM, PAL and NTSC formats are even used now since that was an analog thing and everything has moved on to HDTV and digital formats. I was testing an old CRT TV awhile back and after watching HDTV for years, I couldn't stand to watch a CRT TV anymore!

    I'm sure in these days you could find a PAL to NTSC analog converter pretty cheap off Ebay from China. I actually have a "black box" that removes the copyright protection from VHS tapes so they can be copied. Otherwise the picture looks crappy.

    I've heard if you have an old black and white TV you can adjust the vertical and horizontal settings to convert a PAL signal to NTSC.

    I tried this once with a VHS tape that was recorded on PAL and hooked it up to an old RCA B&W TV. I couldn't get a watchable picture but I did have sound so this trick may not work on video tapes. I ended up having to have it converted by a photography store for something like $25 back in 2000!

    Interesting I upgraded the old CRT TV/VHS system in my 98 Chevy conversion van with an LCD/DVD system. My daughter was watching some DVD carton movie and "PAL" popped up on the screen. The DVD came from Wal-Mart but was produced by some French television channel. So the DVD may have been recorded in PAL format but this TV could recognize both formats.

    Despite being a digital signal, I thought that DVDs recorded in PAL wouldn't play on NTSC players due to copyright reasons. Things may have changed but there once was a country of origin script written in the code on a DVD to prevent this. Same reason some British radio stations blocks people outside the UK from listening to radio stations.

    BBC TV shows are a different story since their programming is paid for in TV licences instead of advertising.

    I bought an APEX DVD player when DVD players finally came down to less than $100 and these players could be hacked to where they would ignore the country of origin code.
  10. trondd

    trondd Loyal Comrade

    My modern TV has a tuner and supports NTSC/PAL/SECAM. I found adapters on Amazon for the plug. I think usually, it's the color encoding that gets lost with the wrong format. But this computer doesn't output color anyway. :) Later versions did, though.

    We'll see how it goes. I'm more worried about the 220V input requirement. The step-up converter I got is outputting 252V which is within 10% tolerance for modern 230V electronics but out of spec for 220V.


    Region coding is it's own issue. I don't see why I can't pay for and play media that isn't sold in my country. I wasn't buying bootlegs. There was just "no market" in the US. I used to have an APEX DVD player, too with region coding disabled. It failed to play more and more newer DVDs so when I needed to upgrade to a Blu-ray player, I got rid of it. I kind of regret it as I do still have some non-US region discs.
  11. turbofiat124

    turbofiat124 Premium Member Forum Donor

    What you could do is use a household dimmer switch and mount it in a junction box between the power supply and computer. Adjust the knob and measure the voltage output before you plug the computer up until you get the voltage you want. I wouldn't worry about current draw since 230 volts should cut the current draw in half. You sound like you know what you are doing so I won't give you an AC tutorial on how to hook it up but it hooks up just like a regular light switch!

    Back before houses had to be thoroughly inspected, there were alot of weird wiring schemes. It seems people who wired houses were not really trained electricians and were left to their own devices.

    When I was a teenager I would hang out over at my cousin's house and we would copy/trade/play bootleg Commodore 64 video games. In my cousin's bedroom he had a dimmer switch I think his father installed but for some reason if he adjusted the knob, it would reduce the voltage going to the outlet that powered the computer and cause it to act weird!

    My guess was hot power went through the light switch first then to the outlet. Then both were connected to neutral.

    I don't know if when he turned the switch off if it would kill power to the outlet or not. This sounds like a typical living room wiring scheme. I don't know about where you live but in the southeast at least back in the 60s and 70s they did not install an ceiling light in the living rooms but instead usually two three way switches at each entrance going to receptacles which fed lamps. I think this fell out of fashion by the 1980s.

    My house has built in 1972 and has ceiling heat which was big back in the 1960s and 70s. Back when electricity in the southeast was dirt cheap. Despite the fact that heat rises, the system actually works quite well although I have only used it as a backup when my heat pump has stopped working in the middle of winter.

    Check out this DDR phone I bought. It was simple to wire up. The color codes are different so I had to research this. Only two wires to get it to work and it dials just the same. The ringer is about worn out. I have no idea what function the white button does. Maybe it was a speed dial to the Stasi for ratting on your neighbors!

    I had to swap the microphone from an old AT&T rotary phone. The original one was going bad and causing a crackling noise. People who I've talked to on it say it sounds like I am talking in a tin can!

  12. Steve

    Steve Loyal Comrade

    What the hell has all this got to do with Trabants??????? Go play computers on another forum.
  13. trondd

    trondd Loyal Comrade

    I bought a used variac on ebay so I can get 220V out of the step up transformer and safely run the Robotron. Figured out how to use the 2 memory expansion modules to get a full 48K. This thing is pretty crazy to use. The keyboard is terrible, it's capital letters by default and the shift key makes them lower case.

    Even got some Trabant content for the peanut gallery (p.s. This is the DDR nostalgia forum, don't read it if you're not interested). The characters are shorter than on a modern OS and it doesn't have all the symbols so it's a bit off. :D

    Berlin89 likes this.
  14. Berlin89

    Berlin89 Puttering Along

    This stuff is neat, thanks for posting!
  15. turbofiat124

    turbofiat124 Premium Member Forum Donor

    Looks good!

    I can't believe how non-ergonomically correct computer keyboards used to be. I bet that caused allot of carpel tunnel syndrome issues!

    What were these people thinking? I believe the Sinclair, sold by Timex in the US under licence was the world's worst. At least the Commodores didn't use that awful membrane style keys.

    The one you have doesn't look too bad as far as height is concerned. Commodores were not too bad except the motherboard was underneath the keyboard which caused wrest fatigue. Interesting, I never seen anything sold in the computer magazines that would fit in front of the computer to support wrists. Now that I am crafty, I could make a wrist support out of wood and cover it with some felt padding or something.

    When I'd type in computer games, I'd have one finger on the line on the page and use my right finger to peck and type. That way I wouldn't loose my place!

    What kind of storage does this Robotron having? Does it support a cassette tape media?
  16. trondd

    trondd Loyal Comrade

    It was all about being affordable to as many people as possible. Most systems ended up being game machines so users didn't type much anyway. Otherwise, it's pretty much one finger pecking. :)

    Yeah, Robotron primarily used cassette tapes. Eventually a set of expansion modules were produced that allowed connecting a floppy drive for running CP/M. The cassette interface is the same DIN connector that Commodore used for composite video so I bought a couple cables to try to get the right connections to load tape data from wav files.
  17. turbofiat124

    turbofiat124 Premium Member Forum Donor

    Years ago (like around 2000), I downloaded a Commodore program off a website that was in .WAV format. Hooked my stereo up to my computer, popped in a tape and hit record and low and below, My Vic-20 or C-64 recognized it and it worked! I take it that you are able to find Robotron games on the internet using the same method?

    I started fooling with Commodores when I was 13. Do you remember Jumpman and Jumpman Jr.? These was for the Commodore 64. A friend of mine owned the tapes but the company did not copy protect it so I was able to copy the program and the screens using the load then save method. At the time I didn't have a stereo with two cassettes decks to dub it with . That would have made things easier.

    I remember the game being on something like 2 to 4 tapes. The initial program would take about an hour to load . So I'd do my homework, watch TV, or eat dinner in the meantime.

    The game had several screens so you just left the play button on the tape player after it stopped and when you completed that screen, the tape player would startup and load the next screen and so on. A good way of making use with only 64K of RAM!

    What people put up with back in those days! If kids of today had to wait an hour before they could play a video game, they wouldn't even bother.

    One of these days I'm going to set my Commodore computers up in my den. I got them stored in plastic totes in my basement so I could show the younger generation what computing back in the 1980s was all about!

    There was this one 12 year old kid I knew who was fascinated by the manual window cranks on my Yugo! He had never seen a car with manual window cranks before.
  18. trondd

    trondd Loyal Comrade

    Yeah there are a couple sites with some games and software. Not too much that I have found. I guess systems from the DDR were rarely compatible with each other. Even systems from the same company. It's also hard to find stuff as these systems are rare and pretty much unknown outside of Germany. I have been told in several places that most people actually had western computers that were smuggled in.

    I had the disk drive for my C64. Well, my Dad's C64 technically. It's mine now, though. :) We never had cassettes or cartridges for it. Even from floppy, it could take 10s of minutes to load a game. I didn't know about things like fast loaders until recently. There is a huge C64 retro scene, mostly in the UK, producing all kinds of modern improvements, like loading from SD cards, networking, and new games.

    The older technology is a lot of fun. It's something you can actually understand fully. Simple has its benefits, like a Trabant. :)
  19. turbofiat124

    turbofiat124 Premium Member Forum Donor

    Yeah, I got a floppy drive for Christmas one year. Funny they cost more than the actual computer!

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