Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

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jgharston
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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby jgharston » Mon May 29, 2017 7:20 pm

It occured to me while cooking that it would be useful to have a memory dump from the MAME emulation in whatever state it's got to so far. The memory at &00FFxx appears to get initialised with a jump block and some vectors and it would help to track down where that gets done and what things like the COP vector point to.

Code: Select all

$ bbcbasic
PDP11 BBC BASIC IV Version 0.25
(C) Copyright J.G.Harston 1989,2005-2015
>_

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby Pernod » Mon May 29, 2017 7:53 pm

Anyone know which RTC chip is in there?
- Nigel

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby paulb » Mon May 29, 2017 7:57 pm

paulb wrote:BeebMaster's picture from Wakefield 2017 shows a SAA5240P/A IC, so I guess we can be certain that this is how Viewdata was supported. Richard Murray has information about this in the context of the Ground Control teletext receiver.


Maybe this method of supporting Viewdata was originally part of the "Super Teletext daughter board" mentioned in this January 1986 Practical Computing review:

The standard video display emulates BBC modes 0 to 6 only, since there is no 5050 teletext chip. A monochrome version of the BBC's mode 7 is, however, emulated in the mode 0 display. To provide full-colour teletext the computer may be fitted with a software-controllable Super Teletext daughter board, complete with UHF input and tuner, which plugs into a connector on the motherboard. Screen memory occupies half of one 64K bank of the 65816 address space. The LCD interface supports a 256- by 64-pixel screen, which may be a window of the main display or totally separate.


A possible 32K quantity of screen memory perhaps also explains a claimed 640x320 maximum display resolution.

More on the ULA and mode 7 in this June 1986 Acorn User review:

The display is provided by Acorn's trusty semi-custom chip, 'Aberdeen', also known as the Electron ULA. This single chip contains all the circuitry needed to generate BBC micro-compatible screen modes 0-6, though at the expense of some processor speed when display memory is accessed in modes 0-3. A software simulator exists to provide a monochrome version of mode 7 and this is used by the Prestel software discussed below.


The BeebMaster picture really does make it seem that the SAA5240 is on the main board, though.

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby Pernod » Mon May 29, 2017 8:17 pm

jgharston wrote:It occured to me while cooking that it would be useful to have a memory dump from the MAME emulation in whatever state it's got to so far.

Here's the latest MAME (64-bit) development, doesn't yet include your keyboard matrix. Unzip to a folder and run from CMD:

Code: Select all

./accomm64 -debug

This will start you in the debugger where you can browse memory, disassemble, etc. There's some advice on debugger usage at http://7800.8bitdev.org/index.php/Intro ... E_debugger
Attachments
communicator64.zip
64-bit build
(6.73 MiB) Downloaded 11 times
communicator.zip
32-bit build
(6.46 MiB) Downloaded 13 times
Last edited by Pernod on Tue May 30, 2017 12:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby flibble » Mon May 29, 2017 8:44 pm

Pernod wrote:Anyone know which RTC chip is in there?


I think Phillips PCF8573P

http://www.beebmaster.co.uk/Shows/Pics/ ... r15big.jpg

On that pic it's the bottom row leftmost IC next to the 'watch' style 32.768Hz crystal.

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby jgharston » Mon May 29, 2017 10:39 pm

Pernod wrote:Here's the latest MAME (64-bit) development, doesn't yet include your keyboard matrix. Unzip to a folder and run from CMD:

Code: Select all

./accomm64 -debug


accomm64.exe is not a valid Windows application. :(

Code: Select all

$ bbcbasic
PDP11 BBC BASIC IV Version 0.25
(C) Copyright J.G.Harston 1989,2005-2015
>_

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby Pernod » Tue May 30, 2017 12:44 am

jgharston wrote:accomm64.exe is not a valid Windows application. :(

Are you running 32bit Windows? I've added a 32bit build to the above post.
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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby BigEd » Tue May 30, 2017 9:50 am

Thanks for the runnable emulator! I see I was wrong about Basic's workspace area: in this emulator it's about 48k, and in the photo I posted I see now it was just under 64k. Still a 16-bit address space, but maximised.

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby Arbee » Wed May 31, 2017 1:55 am

Hi, I'm the person who's been doing the MAME driver. I did a lot of assembly on the Apple IIgs back in the day and programmed a commercial Super NES game, so the '816 and I are old friends.

I thought I'd share a few technical details of the Communicator for the benefit of people who don't read MAME source.

- The ULA is definitely the same as the Electron in terms of video and IRQ handling. It's basically got its very own Electron in bank 45: VRAM from 450000-457FFF, keyboard from 458000-45BFFF, and registers at 45FE0x. The cassette and ROM banking functions are unused.
- Acorn got around the 65816's requirement to boot in bank 0 with a bank switch: at power-up, ROM from FF8000-FFFFFF is mirrored at 008000-00FFFF. A write to 440000 serves to restore RAM at 008000-00FFFF so there's a full 64K available in bank 0 for old 8-bit code.
- The keyboard is effectively 2 Electron 4-bit by 14 line keyboards. The first 14 lines are read at 458000-459FFF, and the second from 45A000-45BFFF.

The code itself is pretty inefficient, as I'd expect from first-time 65816 coders. Lots of unnecessary register juggling. Apple achieved almost an order of magnitude speedup in the IIgs system software over the life of the machine as best practices came into view along with fun tricks like mapping the stack and direct page over parts of the frame buffer for faster drawing (which wouldn't be as effective here given the ULA's strange memory layout).

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby BigEd » Wed May 31, 2017 6:51 am

That's great info, Arbee. I think I see that the ROMs we're presently looking at are 1.00, whereas the machine at TNMoC has version 1.70, so if we ever get a dump of those it will be interesting to see how the code has changed - indeed, improved, hopefully.

> Version 1.00 13/Nov/86 (C)1986
> Version 1.70 04/Jun/87 (C)1987

BTW I've posted a link back to this discussion over on 6502.org.

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby Pernod » Fri Jun 23, 2017 9:43 am

Anyone know what the COMP key is supposed to do? It's hardly mentioned in the User Guide. I've mapped all other keys except this and don't have anything left in the matrix that's not handled. The FUNCTION key is also a bit of a guess but seems to be a modifier for keys 1-8.
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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby BigEd » Fri Jun 23, 2017 10:34 am

Could COMP actually be a BREAK key - a reset - as the idea is to get the machine into COMPuter mode?
I haven't counted the keycaps and compared with JGH's tabulation, but if there's one missing, perhaps that's what happened.
Then again, did you find control and shift buttons? And Function?

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby Pernod » Fri Jun 23, 2017 11:31 am

Yeah, I found two SHIFT's, a CTRL, SHIFT LOCK, CAPS LOCK. Not sure about FUNCTION as I don't know what it's supposed to do, but is currently mapped to a key that seems to act as a modifier on keys 1-8.

I'd expect COMP to be a an app shortcut like PHONE and CALC. Putting a BREAK key between these two doesn't sound like a great idea. I thought it may be a shortcut to BASIC, but no keys seem to do that.

Code: Select all

\ This gives this keyboard matrix
\     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
\     | : | ^ | [ | ; | l | 0 | o | k | g | 6 | t | f |   |   |   |hlp|
\     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
\     |   |   |   |ctl| d | 4 | e | s | a | 2 | q |clk| j | 8 | u | h |
\     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
\     |   |   |   |   |-> |ins|up |<- |c8 |c2 |c5 |c7 |stp|spc|clc|ret|
\     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
\     |f6 |f8 |f7 |f3 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
\     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
\     | / | p | _ | - | , | i | . | 9 | v | r | b | 5 |   |   |   |fn |
\     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
\     |   |shf|   |shf| x | w | c | 3 |slk|tab| z | 1 | n | y | m | 7 |
\     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
\     |c9 |c6 |c= |c3 |del|cpy|dn |hom|c. |c4 |c0 |c1 | \ | ] |phn|esc|
\     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
\     |f4 |f2 |f5 |f1 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
\     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby jgharston » Fri Jun 23, 2017 11:00 pm

That's useful.

I've put a physical keyboard layout at http://mdfs.net/Docs/Comp/Keyboard/Communicator
Every now and then I add bits to the disassembly at http://mdfs.net/System/ROMs/AcornMOS/Communi100 mainly working out what each COP call does.

Code: Select all

$ bbcbasic
PDP11 BBC BASIC IV Version 0.25
(C) Copyright J.G.Harston 1989,2005-2015
>_

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby BeebMaster » Sun Jun 25, 2017 11:41 am

Here's my original 5184x3456 camera image of the "Communicator15" picture in case there's any more useful detail before it was cropped, resized and compressed:

IMG_1516.JPG
Image

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby atcurtis » Mon Jun 26, 2017 1:16 am

BeebMaster wrote:Here's my original 5184x3456 camera image of the "Communicator15" picture in case there's any more useful detail before it was cropped, resized and compressed:

IMG_1516.JPG


The era when BT approved devices used huge inductors to hold the telephone line off-hook instead of gyrator circuits.
I guess the static ram was the only persistent storage this had?

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby Pernod » Tue Jun 27, 2017 11:48 pm

atcurtis wrote:I guess the static ram was the only persistent storage this had?

Yeah, there's 32K static which is used to store the configuration files. For other storage you were expected to use a FileStore.

BTW new MAME release in a few hours will have a mostly usable Communicator. Still to do includes econet, RTC, teletext.
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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby Seldon2k » Thu Jul 06, 2017 9:49 pm

This post reminded me that I also have a Communicator buried somewhere in my collection!
I have not seen it since the late 1990's so it will have to stay in hiding for a while longer.

I do recall having some unusual hardware add-ons for this device.
I may be able to get to them more easily so I will attempt to post any info soon.

Terry (Seldon2k)
Last edited by Seldon2k on Sun Jul 09, 2017 2:31 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby daveejhitchins » Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:11 am

After seeing the Communicator, at the Cambridge meeting, sort of fell in love with its looks and concept . . . Now, of course, it's on the list of desirables :mrgreen: So if anyone gets fed up with theirs . . . . . [-o<

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Products: ARA II, ABR, ATI, AP6, MGC, AP5 . . .
For a price list, contact me at: Retro Hardware AT dave ej hitchins DOT plus DOT com

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby atcurtis » Fri Jul 07, 2017 8:27 am

I think it would be cool to clone since it's kinda a stepping stone between the classic Beeb and the Archimedes.

I wish I had the time ... but I'm just toying around with the idea to couple a 65816 + a few cplds + dram etc and put it in a BBC Master or Compact case...

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby BigEd » Sat Jul 08, 2017 10:20 am

I'll be visiting TNMoC today (at Bletchley Park) and might get a chance to play on their briefcase Communicator. I can't think of a way to dump the ROMs though - especially without taking a screwdriver to an exhibit, which would of course require permission and discussion.

The machine has a centronics printer port - possibly we could rig up a fake printer for a future visit, and just log the print output to solid state storage.

It also has a phone connection, but to use that we'd need a modem and possibly a landline.

It has a serial port, which ought to be promising, but it's a weird one-of-4-types of phone-like connector.

It has an edge connector, which could be splendid, if we could interface to it.

It has video out, so we could spool a memory dump to a giant MP4 file, but then it needs to be OCRd or otherwise typed in, and that's a huge amount of work. A gizmo connected to video out which could capture the raw video would be a big step forward.

It probably has a sound system - or maybe has one - so again, a bit of Basic to modulate the sound at oh 10 bits per second, umm, that would take a long time.

Perhaps with some thought and preparation we could get the ROMs on a subsequent visit.

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby Pernod » Sat Jul 08, 2017 10:34 am

BigEd wrote:I'll be visiting TNMoC today (at Bletchley Park) and might get a chance to play on their briefcase Communicator. I can't think of a way to dump the ROMs though - especially without taking a screwdriver to an exhibit, which would of course require permission and discussion.

Whilst there could you ask whether they also have the technical manuals? I'm emailed Cambridge with the same question but no replies. If I can at least ascertain who (if anyone) has them then we can arrange a scanning session at some point.

Oh, and I'm very curious as to what the COMP key does! And in BASIC does MODE7 enter teletext mode.
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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby davidb » Sat Jul 08, 2017 11:35 am

There should be recipes around for paging through ROMs and copying their contents to memory, though I was never very good at getting that kind of thing to work. Dumping ROMs to screen memory might be useful as long as the pictures of the display are good enough. I suppose it's something to think about for a future visit. :)

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby Pernod » Sat Jul 08, 2017 12:47 pm

davidb wrote:Dumping ROMs to screen memory might be useful as long as the pictures of the display are good enough.

That'd be fun considering there's 256K of ROM in there.
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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby davidb » Sat Jul 08, 2017 12:50 pm

That's only 13 MODE 1 screens. I think doing some kind of audio stream might be easier to handle, however.

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby 1024MAK » Sat Jul 08, 2017 2:17 pm

BigEd wrote:I can't think of a way to dump the ROMs though - especially without taking a screwdriver to an exhibit, which would of course require permission and discussion.

The machine has a centronics printer port - possibly we could rig up a fake printer for a future visit, and just log the print output to solid state storage.

It also has a phone connection, but to use that we'd need a modem and possibly a landline.

It has a serial port, which ought to be promising, but it's a weird one-of-4-types of phone-like connector.

It has an edge connector, which could be splendid, if we could interface to it.

It has video out, so we could spool a memory dump to a giant MP4 file, but then it needs to be OCRd or otherwise typed in, and that's a huge amount of work. A gizmo connected to video out which could capture the raw video would be a big step forward.

It probably has a sound system - or maybe has one - so again, a bit of Basic to modulate the sound at oh 10 bits per second, umm, that would take a long time.

Perhaps with some thought and preparation we could get the ROMs on a subsequent visit.

Capturing data from the Centronics printer port is the best option.
You don't need a real telephone line to connect the internal modem to. But you do need some electronics (or Post Office exchange subscriber line off-hook detection relays) and a 50V DC supply to make a fake exchange line and a another modem to talk to it...
Serial port would be good, assuming it has the required serial chip and a suitable "weird one-of-4-types of phone-like connector" can be found...
The other options are much less promising :(

To capture data from a Centronics printer port just requires a suitable computer with a working 6522 VIA (or other suitable input/output chip). The snag being we need 8 bits to grab the data (pins 2 to 9 for data bits 0 to 7), plus an input for the strobe on pin 1 and outputs for Ack on pin 10, and Busy on pin 11. So if using a Beeb, may need some of the Beeb's printer port lines. It's not likely that we will need any of the remaining control or error signals.

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby BeebMaster » Sat Jul 08, 2017 4:36 pm

Remember that Communicator is an Econet Station as well. The one at Wakefield didn't have an Econet interface in it but the other one may have. I'm not sure what Econet kit they have down there at the museum but the simplest thing would be to plug it straight into a FileStore and save the ROM dump to that.

I'm sure I could loan one of my FileStores for the purpose if stuck.

The Acorn Communicator User Guide is at Chris's Acorns; can't see anything more technical on there though.
Image

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby Seldon2k » Sun Jul 09, 2017 1:35 am

Oh dear, I had misremembered the unusual hardware add-ons for the Communicator!
The only device I had for the Communicator was an external ROM Box, as I recalled when I found
the devices that were actually for the Master Compact machines.

They are Mertec Compact Companion's and attach to the side of a Compact keyboard adding a BBC
style Analogue Port, User Port, and 2MHz Bus to this machine.

The following links show them in all their glory.
http://chrisacorns.computinghistory.org.uk/8bit_Upgrades/Mertec_CompactComp.html
http://www.beebmaster.co.uk/8bit/UseMertec.html

BeebMaster:
This connector on your RH Electronics Digitiser is an SO239, the mating plug is a 75 ohm PL259.
This connector was used on early video cameras and monitors, usually in CCTV systems.
PL259 to Phono Female (RCA) adapters are available for £1 to £2 from Radio Rallies etc.
They were also present in early video editing lead kits.

Image

Terry (Seldon2k)

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby BigEd » Sun Jul 09, 2017 6:20 am

Well, didn't get more than a couple of minutes with the briefcase machine yesterday - it was powered off and the chaps in the room didn't have authority to power it on. (It was powered on and working last time I saw it, not more than a year ago.)

I think I like the fake printer idea best, as it could be tested before a visit using any other machine's printer port. Possibly it's an Arduino project, or similar.

From the User Guide:
PRINTER OUTPUT
A Centronics compatible parallel printer may be attached to this interface.
The connector is a 26-way DIL IDC header.
SERIAL I/O
This provides RS423 (RS232-compatible) serial port. The connector is a
6-way, left-handed, W polarised socket.


So for serial connection we need a "630W" (6-way data plug (left handed) with W-type polarisation), which is the same as a Sinclair QL joystick connector, according to this.

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Re: Anyone got Communicator system software? (Basic has 65816 assembler)

Postby davidb » Sun Jul 09, 2017 10:03 am

BigEd wrote:I think I like the fake printer idea best, as it could be tested before a visit using any other machine's printer port. Possibly it's an Arduino project, or similar.

I looked into that briefly yesterday and found an Arduino forum thread along those lines, so it's something people have at least attempted before, as you might expect.


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