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Sharp MZ-700

Found originally on ebay at a little’ too high price tag but – after contacting the seller when auction expired – I could get an agreement on a more reasonable price (although not negligible, however) aligned to technical and sentimental quality and the overall conservation status of the object, adding this wonderful Sharp MZ-700 to my collection.
Sure, it is risky to treat a purchase outside of the protections of ebay and Paypal, with a complete stranger who could grab the loot and disappear in the depths of the Net, but the experience and intuition in these cases, help a lot. However, I must say that, in the context of the retrocomputing fans , there is a sense of belonging and fairness that everybody shares’ , usually. At least I have not had any unpleasant surprises so far. 🙂
Returning to the subject of this entry, we speak about an original personal computer, produced by the creative and unconventional Sharp, who never hesitated to propose technical and aesthetic solutions in total autonomy, earning the esteem and respect of professional and home computing enthusiasts, and contributing to the evolution of personal computing. Continue Reading

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Casio PB-770

In the first half of the glorious 80s, some manufacturers, mainly the Japanese Casio and Sharp, battled for dominance of one of the most creative segment of personal computing: the pocket computers one, made of hybrid machines, halfway between a scientific calculator and a laptop.

Casio-PB-770

Casio PB-770

Recently, I used to peek on ebay ads, and I came across a specimen declared as not working of the Casio PB-770, with its original leatherette case , bought at just 14 euro. If it were not for shipping fees…

The Jewel seemed to have a memory problem because, although having no program stored in its 10 slots, it returned an error code related to a memory shortage.
I feared the worst, since the ram chips installed in these vintage machines are no longer easily available. As a first step, I opened with much patience the case of the Casio PB -770 and I did a quick inspection. Continue Reading

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An evening with the SG-1000

Had long wanted to verify the operation of some cartridges ordered in Japan, a month ago, for my beautiful SEGA SG-1000 Mark II, and finally I was able to arrange.
The precarious situation of my bolognese camp didn't assisted me. In fact, here I haven't a decent TV to connect devices like this, very special and exotic, and I resorted to an old portable LCD TV that I had from my house, in deep southern Italy…
In addition to the small TV I proceeded to pack a AC/AC converter, that allows to plug devices operating at 110V on Italian's mains, within a certain power limit.
The tolerance of this transformer widely covers requests for ballasts designed for computers, consoles and small appliances in general.

The mini TV that I brought with me, can display different TV standards, including PAL, NTSC and SECAM. After entering the first cartridge into the console, I proceeded to switch power on and I started the automatic channel search. After three rounds for the various bands covered by the tuner (actually took only the UHF) and about 5 minutes of spasmodic wait… nothingness! Continue Reading

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Sord M5

During the golden age of home computing, namely, the first half of the '80s, I've never read anything about a Japanese manufacturer called Sord, nor was I aware of the great machines, mainly aimed at the professional market, It has produced so far. I did not even know they made an attempt to expand their consumer segment, already almost exclusive domain of Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum.
This attempt to expand their market was realized through an object of exquisite shape, both aesthetic and engineering sides, with technical contents that there were shortly to become the MSX standard: the M5 model.

Just because of the contents, rather sophisticated for its time, the producer was unable to keep down the price tag of its M5, decreeing a de facto commercial exclusion that was never overcome. In fact, the spread of this computer is mainly due to the initiative of a few enterprising distributors, who imported directly from Japan.
In some cases, the distributor was granted permission to market the M5 model with its own brand; is the case of the CGL (Computer Games Limited), who covered the M5 diffusion in the UK.
However, the maximum diffusion of Sord M5, although very marginal for the time, occurred in Japan and Czechoslovakia. Continue Reading

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Sega SC-3000

After years of unbridled desire and extensive research on markets and online auctions, I finally filled a big gap in my collection (and in retro-collector affections of mines), getting myself a Sega SC-3000, although it shows with a different brand. Yeno was a French company that handled the distribution of the SC-3000 on its territory, a deal with Sega to sell computers under its own brand, reserving the name of the original manufacturer to the upper right corner of the case, labeled white “Manufactured by Sega”.

The Yeno SC-3000 is in all respects identical to the Sega design, with the exception of a very good quality RGB video output , thanks to an additional card installed inside the case, mounted in piggyback mode, and connected to different pins, with obscene flying cables, to the motherboard.
The R/F module originally present in almost all manufacturer's machines, is absent in all specimens distributed by Yeno on French soil, which show a sort of rubber cap in place of the R/F output. Continue Reading

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Epson HX-20

The personal computer has become wearable. There are very compact instruments, light, refined in both design and materials. Today we use smartphones, or tablet devices like iPad or the most varied, by shapes and sizes, running Android. If we are a bit more demanding we opt for a netbook or a “classic” notebook.
Today we take for granted that there are these little gems, but how this category of devices had its origin?
It was, needless to say, groundbreaking '80s. The very first device, which actually created this segment, was produced by Epson in 1983, and was called HX-20.

The Epson HX-20 was simply revolutionary. A light computer, equipped with a LCD display capable of displaying text on 4 rows and graphics on a matrix of 120×32 pixel.
On the right side was possible to install a microcassette unit, such as voice recorders so dear to journalists and students of the times, on which it to store data and programs, while on the left side, it had a dot matrix microprinter, in all respects similar to those mounted on the office calculators or on cash registers, also modern ones. The Epson HX-20's printer was capable of printing up to 17 characters per second. 🙂 Continue Reading