[BBC-Micro] Atoms are getting expensive

Rick Murray rick at rs432.net
Thu Jan 28 21:59:17 GMT 2010

On 28/01/2010 21:53, Tim Fardell wrote:

> I must be the only person who goes to the local tip with more interest
> in seeing what's there than actually throwing stuff away :-)

No, tips are a good source of spare parts. :-) Though mom used to go 
nuts when I went to the tip and came back with more than I took.

It can also be useful to "dumpster dive" as Americans call it. There was 
a major telecoms centre in a town that shall remain unnamed. They had a 
huge bin-type skip into which all sorts of stuff would be thrown. I 
wasn't one for phishing (just as well, they either never heard of a 
shredder or were too lazy) but I did remove some of the thrown-out 
hardware. Still got a BT original multimeter around. Grey/green thing, 
SERIOUS quality build inside. Ceramic ICs, gold-plated components, it 
makes your generic made-in-China TV melt into a pool of irrelevance. 
Other stuff... I would open up, poke around, figure I had NO idea what 
the hell it was for - most of it was rackmount with a LOT of buttons on 
one side and rows and rows of IDC connectors on the other side. So I'd 
take it to a guy I knew who swapped it for stuff like a terminal (I had 
a lovely VT102/ANSI terminal, went up to 115kbit) or floppy drives or 
whatever looked good. Those Panini books that Maplin used to sell, I 
think he had the lot and after a year, I acquired many of them. :-)

Anyway, tips. Legal ways to find stuff.
Landfill - if they'll let you on - can also be an interesting source. It 
can be a bit mucky, but then you could sometimes say the same for 
certain boot sales!
Skips... perhaps less legal, whether or not it is interesting depends 
upon the ethics of the people as to what is dumped.

I have two Beebs:

One is my old Beeb. Issue 4? Don't remember. Tape only. Horrible 
solder-hack with some speaker wire for the power connections, damaged 
tape interface with soldering I'm positively ashamed of, and a rigged-up 
reset switch at the back. On the plus side, I did this work when I was 
like 14...

This Beeb has no power supply. I purloined it to fire up the A7000 board 
(argh! there's an ARM I forgot!) and - oddly enough - it has no ROMs, 
though I've got an MOS and BASIC2 around. It ought to work, but to be 
honest I would "reserve" this machine for use as spare parts.

This set me back about a hundred pounds when Beebs were still "in use". 
The school secretary/bursar/something-with-paperwork got it for her son 
and it spent most of its life in a dusty cupboard. Now it's back in one. 
Feel sorry for it. :-)

My current Beeb (issue 7) was a rescue. Floppy interface (standard DFS 
type), dual 40/80 drives. I added Econet (so actually DNFS!), plus 
various EPROMs blown from images. It supports a Micron Plus EPROM 
programmer (given to me) and a cheese-wedge teletext receiver (given to 
me). Last I checked (two years ago, ish) it worked exactly as it should.

I also have two Electrons. I think one was in the box of stuff when I 
bought my FileStore. Ironic (and not in the Alanis Morissette way) given 
the Electron is the machine Econet forgot). The other, my friendly 
neighbourhood tip.

On a less-Beeb note. Mom's very first computer was a tip-rescue. It was 
a delightful 808x jobbie with ST506 harddisc and ethernet. Crammed full 
of circuit boards (I think the motherboard was in three parts, very 
unlike today's ideas) to fit into a really small box, this machine 
looked inside like many mid '80s Beta decks. It was a pleasing maze of 
ribbon cables. Oh, and get this, a HERCULES display adaptor. Ass-kicking 
high resolution (at the time) provided you could find something to talk 
Hercules and you didn't mind a lack of colours. Well, the alternative 
was probably CGA which I equate to "about the same as MODE 2" <grin>
It ran some truly ancient MS-DOS (I started with 3.3 and this box 
started waaaay before me). It had XTree Gold which was bloody brilliant 
(in its time). Right up until Windows 98, I made sure I always had XTG 
around. And it also had the complete medical records of every patient at 
some unknown doctor's surgery where most of the addresses were in 
Waverley. I read that lot, thought something I won't repeat, and deleted 
the files. Then I made a little TurboPascal(5) program to write random 
files to disc (with random contents), then delete all the temp files 
when the disc is full. I left this running overnight to ensure the 
database was truly history. In hindsight, it would have been easier to 
try FORMAT on the disc, because TP5 was a pain in the ass when it came 
to talking to hardware properly, and figuring out which stupid Unit to 
include. But, I was taught it at college and this was in the days before 
I taught myself C (aka a REAL language).

Anyway... gee... yack yack yack! I'll shut up now, suffice to say, tips 
and such. Underrated resources.

Best wishes,


PS: Do your part for the environment, recycle an 8 bit machine today!

Rick Murray, eeePC901 & ADSL WiFI'd into it, all ETLAs!
BBC B: DNFS, 2 x 5.25" floppies, EPROM prog, Acorn TTX
E01S FileStore, A3000/A5000/RiscPC/various PCs/blahblah...

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