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I dragged my first computer out for a photo-op. It's a Timex TS1000 bought used in 1984 that I hardwire-hacked a TI99/4A keyboard onto. That took cutting a lot of the TI keyboard's circuit traces and soldering in jumper wires to match the TS1000 kbd layout.

 

I soldered the memory pack's connector terminals to eliminate problems with program loss. Installed in a crude plywood cabinet, the open-air design and added heatsink let me play for hours without too many lockups. Not sure if the aluminum foil helped with TV interference or was just to keep out the tinfoil hat brain scanners, lol! I'm surprised to see the high-tech fixments of masking, electrical and packing tape are still holding things in place. Rude and crude perhaps, but it worked well.

 

I could really enter code on the TI keyboard when I put the Timex into Fast mode. Another feature of my FrankenTImex was a top-mounted power switch and a meter to help set the cassette Load volume level.

 

I dubbed my creation "IBM" which stood for "I Built Mine". It got a lot of laughs from my friends, but I did get some serious gaming, programming and business use out of this setup till I upgraded to the TI99/4A a few years later.

 

My main use of it was to run my original Darkroom Timer program to handle the complex timing sequence for making color prints. Ah, the good old days!

 

-Ed

 

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Edited by Ed in SoDak
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Wow I love that! That thing must have made quite a statement sitting next to a standard TS1000. Awesome work. I find it funny to because I did some thing very similar. A couple months ago I hard-wire hacked and 80's teletype keyboard into a modern usb keyboard. I too just cut traces and added jumpers. 30 years later my method was no different than yours.

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I was cheap back then and now as well. I could build a ncer-looking case today, but I like the crudeness and simplicity of my original effort.

 

The method still works today because electrons have proven to be remarkably resistant to change, lol!

 

-Ed

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Very cool! A great way to learn. What sort of monitor could you use in the darkroom?

 

I modded my ZX81 wth internal SRAM, but nothing as extensive as yours. Cool that yours still works. My keyboard ribbon cracked.

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Very cool! A great way to learn. What sort of monitor could you use in the darkroom?

 

I modded my ZX81 wth internal SRAM, but nothing as extensive as yours. Cool that yours still works. My keyboard ribbon cracked.

You can buy a replacement Keyboard through this Web Site, RWAP Software.

 

I haven't bought any, but some of my ZX-81's have the cracked ribbon too,,,

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Thanks for the replies! I majorly hacked and programmed on this setup till the TI99 came along.

 

My "monitor" was a cheap b&w tv. I cranked contrast and brightness to where it was not too noticeable. For making b&w prints, a red illumination is safe, so I placed a sheet of red acetate over the screen.

 

For making color prints, I used a light-safe tank that rotated on a motorized base. Once the prints were loaded, room lights could be turned on for the remainder of the time and I could see the tv.

 

The Timex had no sound, so I used a video inverting routine to flash the screen to give me a flashing reminder that the time was up. The Timex had a built-in counter that was easy to fetch for placing a clock on the screen. Very simple code, really, and something my TI99 lacked.

 

I also lost a couple keyboards to the ribbon cable cracking. Some times you could trim it shorter to get past the breaks, but too short and you couldn't get it reinserted. I used needlenose pliers with electrical tape on the jaws to assist with getting the keyboard pluggied in a bit more safely.

 

I also wrote a game called Sandy's Treasure Hunt based on one I found in one of my books. Entering Assembly code was interesting since you typed in graphics characters using Basic and did a LOAD USR command to run the code.

 

-Ed

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Aluminum foil and tape. I love it!

I have one of those keyboards laying around somewhere and a couple of TS-1000s.
Hmmmm...

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Seems like a heckuva lot of work for a machine with the ZX81's deficiencies. Still, that does solve at least one of the system's problems!

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It was worth the effort. Making prints from slides takes 11 timed steps. I was always forgetting to reset the "real" timer or forgetting which step I was on. I was getting $20 per tank's worth, so it was important to avoid stupid errors and do-overs.

 

The stock Timex loved to lockup at the wrong moment, so this little box really came to my rescue. I added little features to the program to alter the timing on demand. It was precise, repeatable and fairly stable, just what I needed to make consistent, saleable prints.

 

You could buy fancy programmable timers to do this, but they couldn't play Frogger or Treasure Hunt after work, lol!

 

-Ed

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I Love it man. I was a timex1000 user back in the day, and once the zx81 and t/s1000 computers got out of style, I picked up many of them at yard sales to turn into my creations.

 

I will try and dig out my personal master creation. It was also a wooden frame like yours. I built a custom power supply, and installed a 32k ram pack, printer, and byte-back 1 relay module inside. Then I bought a real keyboard to wire it all up to. I used it for years as my main "hacking" machine. I would program with it, and then transfer the programs over to one of the other 1000's that I had. The byte-back plug in was WAY ahead of its time. I used it to control lights in the house, came up with a program for my old model train set, and even did the Christmas tree lights with it one year.

The zx81 is one of the few computers of any era that a person could really get to know. I must have 30 books written on it. Each one giving up some new trick that could get a little more from our little friends.

 

I even got a monochrome monitor at a school sale and converted mine to display an inverse composite signal. Heck If some one didn't know better they would have thought I had a half decent computer.

 

I moved on to bigger and better things, but I kept almost all of my timex stuff, and pull it out once a year to piddle for a month.

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Thanks for the great reply, Compumater! I think some pics are required, or it didn't happen, lol. ;)

 

Do you have a copy of the "51 Game Programs..." title I show in my first post? That book was my Timex Bible and it had all sorts of tips and routines you could lift into other efforts. You can see in the pic how thumbworn it is.

 

Sir Clive Sinclair was quite the forward thinker. His remarkable confuser ultimately failed on its unreliable hardware, outclassed by systems with more square inches of real estate, thereby perceived as more substantial and worthy of consideration for "important" tasks. People wanted power blenders, Sir Clive sold wire whisks made from Brillo pads and you purchased them in the next aisle over at the grocery store, next to the cap guns and other "toys."

 

The things you could accomplish with them was still pretty amazing, given their humble design. They were just begging to be hacked on and improved by electronics tinkerers like you and I.

 

I don't revisit it as often as you, but I kept all the gear, books and tapes I accumulated during the three or so years I was heavily into programming and using it.

Edited by Ed in SoDak
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