The Sinclair ZX81: a Raspberry Pi retro restyle – Part 1

I love the design of the Sinclair ZX81. It was never a great computer, even in 1981. It only had 1KB of on-board RAM, it was slow, it was small, it could only do black and white graphics, and it’s membrane keyboard was useless for fast typing. But it looked fantastic: black, sleek and totally futuristic. Almost all other 1980s microcomputers now look very dated. No surprise there, of course, but the ZX81 still looks amazing.

Hats off to Sinclair Research’s industrial designer, Rick Dickinson, for devising a design that is genuinely timeless.

The ZX81 membrane keyboard

The ZX81 keyboard hooked up to the Pi via USB and Arduino

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Practise what you preach

Some months back, I posted a guide to backing up a Raspberry Pi SD card using a Mac. I tested it at the time and it worked. It’ll be good to share this, I thought. So I did.

And a good job too, because this past weekend I needed to cook to my own recipe. A long overdue Pi sudo apt-get upgrade followed by tweaking raspi-config zapped my system software.

Pibow Raspberry Pi case

SD woes

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How to build your own Apple iBeacon… with a Raspberry Pi

US department store Macy’s recently said it is implementing iPhone-based tracking tech the better to encourage browsing punters to buy. Of course, Macy has chosen to pitch this as an Apple technology – figuring, presumably, iPhone owners are more receptive to inducements delivered through technology and have more cash to splash than Android fans.

But the fact is, the system Apple calls iBeacon simply makes use of features already part of the Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) spec.

This got me thinking: how difficult would it be to build a similar system of my own? Not very hard at all, it turns out. Choose the right kit and it can be quite cheap too. I created my beacon using a £30 Raspberry Pi and a £12 Bluetooth 4.0 USB dongle.

A Pi's UART pins, connected

Can this operate as an Apple iBeacon? Yes it can

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Review: the Fuze, a Raspberry Pi keyboard case and electronics kit

Back in the day of the board computers of the late 1970s – your Scrumpi, your Nascom 1, your UK-101 et al – it was customary to build a case for it out of wood. If you were a better equipped ‘constructor’ – what we used to call ‘makers’ in those far distant days – you’d build a box out of metal.

Folk like Tangerine offered optional cases, but most home micros made do with homemade jobs or nothing at all. Then along came the pre-knighthood Sir Clive Sinclair with his ZX80, and home micros all had to be clad in plastic from then on.

Fuze

The Fuze looks like an old-style home micro case.


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Raspberry Pi Case Review 2: Cyntech and ModMyPi

A little while ago, I tried a pair of the early Raspberry Pi cases. Desiring a change, I fetched myself two more, one from British online retailer ModMyPi, the other from UK electronics firm Cyntech, which also worked with Pi specialist Pimoroni on the Pi Hub, reviewed here.

ModMyPi and Cyntech cases

The ModMyPi and Cyntech Raspberry Pi cases

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Raspberry Pi Thermal Printing: an update

Reader Daniel Boira recently asked me if I’d experimented with printing large characters on the SparkFun thermal printer (see Hacking a Thermal Till Printer…) that I’d rigged up to my Raspberry Pi’s GPIO. I hadn’t done so, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Printing double-size text

Print characters tall, wide, or tall and wide

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Upper-crust USB add-on for the Raspberry Pi: Pimoroni’s Pi Hub

Raspberry Pi accessory specialist Pimoroni reckons it has the answer to one of the tiny ARM-based computer’s signal limitations: too few USB ports for all the add-ons you might want to hook up to it at any one time.

Pi users have dealt with only having a pair of USB 2.0 ports – and there’s only one on the cheapest, the Model A Pi – by connecting a cheap USB hub. However, Pimoroni reckons most of the hubs users attach are not up to snuff: they’re not sufficiently powerful, being driven by a transformer pumping out no more than 1 or 2A, or deviate from the USB spec in ways that hinder their compatibility with the wee microcomputer.

Pimoroni's Pi Hub

Pimoroni’s Pi Hub: logo-tastic

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