Getting An Old Archie up and running.

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JonC
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Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by JonC » Sun Jan 10, 2016 5:28 pm

Just recently (last 6 months) I've got a couple of old Archies up and running, which has been quite frankly a PIA, with much researching in the forums and looking at various other Acorn websites.

It also reminded me of a conversation I had with Simon at the last ABUG North meeting in November about the relative lack of innovative new boards for the 32bit compared to the 8Bit beebs and the problems inherent bring old Archies back to life.

Since it appears that no more Unipods are being made, and the one's stocked by CJE require you to remortgage the house, I thought it worth positing a new Podule that could address a number of issues, and should work on the majority of 32Bit Archies;

Below are the biggest issues I had getting my A440 and A310 up and running;
  • Getting a video display on a modern monitor
  • Finding a working, compatible keyboard and more problematically a mouse.
  • Getting a HDD/CF/etc in the machine in a working manner.
  • Getting data onto the machine (i.e. Uniboot) via the Floppy Drive was horrendous.
While a like a challenge and learning new things, I believe there are probably many old Archies that have been consigned to oblivion for the above issues, so here's a suggestion.

Would it be possible to create a Podule that;
  • Converts the video output to a frequency that can be displayed on modern monitors (e.g. integrates Paulv's Ultra Vidc enhancer), I saw a podule on ebay in an A5000 that did something similar not so long since.
  • Includes an industry standard PS2 interface to drive both Keyboard and Mouse (and is compatible with PS2 KVM's) and has two ports on the back of the podule.
  • Includes (or can connect to) a standard IDE interface, but also has a port on the back of the podule for microSD cards, as well as perhaps an internal one.
Something like this could help to save more archies! :mrgreen: If of course it can be created! :D
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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by flaxcottage » Sun Jan 10, 2016 5:37 pm

A great idea! :D I just wish I had the know-how to help. :(
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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by JonC » Sun Jan 10, 2016 7:14 pm

That's the problem I have, so many ideas, so little expertise! :lol:

I suspect it may be more viable to put an FPGA on a Podule and build all the hardware functionality into that.
Conceivably this could then extend the functionality of the podule for other things (if the right connectivity is added) as well as allowing the existing functionality to be upgraded. 8)
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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by paulv » Sun Jan 10, 2016 8:22 pm

The A5000 on ebay you saw had a "ColourCard" fitted. I've never seen one in real life but IIUC, it takes the output of the existing Arc and then uses the genlock interface to mess with the display and also override modes to provide not only different refresh rates but also more bpp. IMO whilst a clever idea, they seem a bit clunky looping the video signal back into the podule and out again and also connecting internally to the genlock header on the motherboard.

In today's retro environment, I'd argue that a ColourCard is overkill for the Arc as you can pick up a RiscPC which doesn't need one for a relatively cheap price.

A VIDC Enhancer like the Ultra VIDC Enhancer or Watford Super VIDC Enhancer does much less than the ColourCard with its sole purpose in life being to provide the extra clock rates required to support the RISC OS 3 screen modes in a way that is compatible with modern monitors. Soon enough though, VGA will be dead too and even with a VIDC Enhancer fitted, we'll be looking at using VGA to HDMI converters in order to continue to use these machines.

Unique to VIDC Enhancers, the Ultra VIDC Enhancer does provide for one extra crystal on top of the Acorn standards but as it's outside of the Acorn standards, you're stuck with creating your own custom screen modes in order to use that fourth crystal. Also, the VIDC chip itself isn't really designed to go over 36MHz so you'd need to fit some cooling facilities in order to preserve your VIDC chip for as long as possible.

The last thing that the Ultra VIDC Enhancer offers unlike other VIDC Enhancers is a Sync on Green fix to address an issue that affects many Arc's. The fix requires that the Ultra VIDC enhancer is plugged into a specific place on the motherboard to achieve its goal.

Given all that, I'm not convinced that putting a VIDC Enhancer on a podule makes much sense.

A podule with IDE, USB and Ethernet however would make for a very useful addition to the Arc in the modern world. As I stated in another thread a few days ago. A kind of DataCentre for the Arc.

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by Zarchos » Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:33 am

JonC, I've been thinking for a long time, like you, it would be great to have all the features you listed for the old Archies.
But even more, like an additional sound system, some joystick ports etc ...
I don't know how to build a podule, and anyway it would certainly be expensive.
On the Net there are many addons with schematics for other systems (see the Spectrum for example : Divide, SAA sound chip, FM sound chip, SID chip (Sam Coupé)) but I woke up this morning with what I think is a better idea (I always wake up with better ideas, as far as the Archie is concerned #-o ).

So, in short, what we want is a multipurpose add on to connect to the Archie.
It must be cheap, it must be easy to plug in, and it must also be possible to plug it in all models of Archie.
So : why not using a Pi Zero connected to the floppy controller via its ribbon ?
What a strange idea, at 1st but hey, here is how I see it :
- Few Archies have more than 1 diskette drives, so all commands sent to a diskette drive #2 would go to the Pi
- The Pi keeps listening to the commands sent by the Archie, obey them, and for example sends files stored on its SD card ; or performs actions like playing a tune or a sample / read joystick ports connected to its GPIOs and sends back the relevant infos.
Last edited by Zarchos on Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by daveejhitchins » Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:35 am

paulv wrote:A podule with IDE, USB and Ethernet however would make for a very useful addition to the Arc in the modern world. As I stated in another thread a few days ago. A kind of DataCentre for the Arc.
I think this would need to be a collaboration! I'm up for providing a reverse engineered ideA interface schematic and for doing the layout, however, we would need, perhaps, a few more hardware and software inputs . . . Let the fun begin :mrgreen:

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by poink » Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:01 am

paulv wrote:A podule with IDE, USB and Ethernet however would make for a very useful addition to the Arc in the modern world. As I stated in another thread a few days ago. A kind of DataCentre for the Arc.
I've been thinking about this for a while; and kind of came to the conclusion that IDE/CF is pretty much dead. It's not that easily available, and doesn't have any compelling advantages other than working with your existing IDE interface - any current, widely available memory card format has more than enough storage for an Arc.

I was speccing out SD, USB (probably on-the-go) and Ethernet. That's well within the capabilities of a fairly cheap microcontroller nowadays (say, the STM32F407). Add the PHY, a (pretty small) CPLD and an Flash ROM and you've essentially got storage, USB and Ethernet; and there's a number of things you could do with a 168MHz ARM (with hardware Floating Point); not least offloading anything much more than a stub function from the Arc.

Realistically, the really big part of the work is (again) firmware and modules for the podule ROM.

edit: One thing I would add is a place to drop in an I2C RTC or connect things so RTC emulation is possible (that micro does have an I2C peripheral and a RTC) for those machines that have had unfortunate battery incidents.

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by steve3000 » Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:31 am

daveejhitchins wrote:I think this would need to be a collaboration!
Yes, it certainly would. :)
poink wrote:Realistically, the really big part of the work is (again) firmware and modules for the podule ROM.
I'd be happy to do some work on the software side of things depending on what solution is best.

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by steve3000 » Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:42 am

paulv wrote:The A5000 on ebay you saw had a "ColourCard" fitted. I've never seen one in real life but IIUC, it takes the output of the existing Arc and then uses the genlock interface to mess with the display and also override modes to provide not only different refresh rates but also more bpp. IMO whilst a clever idea, they seem a bit clunky looping the video signal back into the podule and out again and also connecting internally to the genlock header on the motherboard.

In today's retro environment, I'd argue that a ColourCard is overkill for the Arc as you can pick up a RiscPC which doesn't need one for a relatively cheap price.
Yes I agree. And it's worth noting that the ColourCard won't necessarily solve the connection to modern VGA monitors. If I recall correctly from the ColourCard I used many years ago, it buffers the output from the Archimedes through it's internal memory, then outputs this at higher frame rates and through a wider palette - for its special modes only. For standard Archimedes modes (for games use, etc), I believe it just patches the standard VIDC output straight through - so these modes will have the same timing problems with modern kit.

I really think the VIDC enhancer is the only sensible solution without reworking the whole video output system of the Archimedes. As/when VGA disappears completely, hopefully some of the VGA -> HDMI converters will still be able to cope with at least some Archimedes screen modes available using the enhancer (27, 31 at least?). Failing that it could end up being a GBS-8200 (or equivalent) followed by a VGA to HDMI...

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by IanB » Mon Jan 11, 2016 6:01 pm

JonC wrote: Converts the video output to a frequency that can be displayed on modern monitors (e.g. integrates Paulv's Ultra Vidc enhancer), I saw a podule on ebay in an A5000 that did something similar not so long since.
Doing a proper upscale would require quite a complex FPGA and support circuity but integrating a VIDC enhancer on a podule would be reasonably straightforward although you might have to take care over lead length to the VIDC header.
JonC wrote: Includes an industry standard PS2 interface to drive both Keyboard and Mouse (and is compatible with PS2 KVM's) and has two ports on the back of the podule.
I've already done a PS/2 mouse and keyboard converter which could be integrated onto a podule with a loopback cable coming out of the back to the keyboard socket. It is already compatible with KVMs as that's how I use it.

details here:
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=9334
JonC wrote: Includes (or can connect to) a standard IDE interface, but also has a port on the back of the podule for microSD cards, as well as perhaps an internal one.
This part is potentially the most useful. One very simple option would be to copy one of the existing basic IDE interface designs as I think there are one or two that used just TTL chips and that would mean the existing ROM could be used as well.
Rather than use actual Compact Flash, it should use CF to SD adapters like the ones mentioned here: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=10545#p128642

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by JonC » Mon Jan 11, 2016 6:21 pm

Great feedback all, glad I'm not the only one who's been thinking about this. :mrgreen:

To address a couple of points that have been made so far; :D
My initial list of tech solutions were just ideas, I deliberately avoided USB as it would mean we'd have to create a USB stack, probably not a small job adding drivers for the multitude of device out there, although limiting the initial driver development to just Keyboards, Mice and pen drives may be doable.

Paulv's vidc, Dave's IDE and IanB's PS2 were all things that I knew existed in some shape or form and all are basic requirements for using an old Archie practically. It made sense to see if they could all be brought together, as it should reduce development time considerably. (In theory!)

So from what's been said so far, does it make sense instead to;
Switch to SATA or a USB based storage medium instead of IDE
Switch to USB for keyboard and mouse instead of PS2
Switch to HDMI output instead of VGA

Answers on a postcard to... nah just kidding. :lol:

EDit: Just a thought, as I know Paulv has just done another production run of vidc enhancers, and to maybe reduce development work on adapting the ideA IDE, would it be practical to have the Podule act as a 'Motherboard' and the other parts plug in as daughter boards? (I realise the vidc will still require some soldering of headers, and chip cutting potentially.)

EDIT 2: An Arc Datacentre is a great idea Paul.
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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by paulv » Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:13 pm

Using a Vinculum USB controller to provide a USB stack like the Datacentre does would mean all we'd need to do is write USB drivers for any devices that aren't directly supported so we could write keyboard and mouse modules, USB CD-ROM modules, etc. and iiuc, FAT 32 support is built right into the chip so it may be possible to create a modified RAMFS style filing system that provides access to the USB thumb drive storage via the Vinculum chip too with drive sizes only limited by the FAT 32 filing system. You could even get the FS to read/write the extra FS meta data to an accompanying file or like hostfs does in Arculator, sees ",XXX" extensions as RISC OS file types so reads and writes filenames with the extra file type extension and does that translation on the fly...

With the Vinculum in place it may be possible to support SATA instead of IDE internally too and we could certainly support a USB to Ethernet bridge...

It's all down to software development then.

The only other issue we have then is video output.

Obviously the Ultra VIDC Enhancer can go one further than most VIDC Enhancers in that it supports 4 crystals including the 24MHz one. So either a 20.25MHz or 40MHz crystal could be added as the fourth crystal allowing for better output to 15kHz compatible monitors as per Jon's other posts over the last few days or providing for true 60Hz VGA in mode 31 as there are already some monitored that don't support the Arc's highest resolution mode because strictly speaking it's a high refresh VGA mode whereas a 60Hz refresh rate pushes it into true SVGA territory.

Horses for courses really. AutoVIDC can be altered to support both crystal speeds easily and it detects what clocks are fitted to the Enhancer. AutoVIDC can then be queried by SWI's so any software can pick the best clock speeds available in the machine they're running on...

Alternatively, you could extend the theory of the Ultra VIDC Enhancer and stick it on a podule with support for 5 or 6 clocks. You could also add in the Sync. Polarity hardware to really provide full monitor compliance as per my recent thread.

Finally, on the video generation front, by getting the VIDC chip to generate true VGA and SVGA screen modes, a VGA to HDMI board would be all that's needed for monitors in the future and we'd have one less frame buffer introducing lag which the Arc -> GBS8220 -> VGA to HDMI solution would entail. As the VIDC chip is producing analogue RGB with sync signals, to get internal HDMI would entail implementing a GBS-8220 frame buffer on a podule. That sounds expensive to me...

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by paulv » Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:25 pm

... and if I made all that sound easy, is more likely to be down to my lack of understanding of what's involved than anything else :lol: :lol:

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by Wookie » Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:40 pm

paulv wrote:Using a Vinculum USB controller to provide a USB stack like the Datacentre does would mean all we'd need to do is write USB drivers for any devices that aren't directly supported so we could write keyboard and mouse modules, USB CD-ROM modules, etc. and iiuc, FAT 32 support is built right into the chip so it may be possible to create a modified RAMFS style filing system that provides access to the USB thumb drive storage via the Vinculum chip too with drive sizes only limited by the FAT 32 filing system. You could even get the FS to read/write the extra FS meta data to an accompanying file or like hostfs does in Arculator, sees ",XXX" extensions as RISC OS file types so reads and writes filenames with the extra file type extension and does that translation on the fly...

With the Vinculum in place it may be possible to support SATA instead of IDE internally too and we could certainly support a USB to Ethernet bridge...

It's all down to software development then.
All sounds good, would it be possible to port ROOL's USB code to the earlier Arc range of machines ? might be easier than starting from scratch ?

One Idea I don't think would work, but I'll suggest it just incase.... Is there any way we have some extra memory on the podule that the Arc would see as normal memory, often a problem with the earlier machines is lack of Ram.

Before you all get carried away with upgrading the video system, it might be worth seeing what people actually use/would use there Arc for ? for example I have a Viewfinder in my RiscPC which is a seriously lovely bit of kit BUT it is no use if all you want to do is play games :(

Personally I'd vote for Ethernet, storage, USB.
cheers Wookie
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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by 1024MAK » Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:42 pm

JonC wrote:Switch to SATA or a USB based storage medium instead of IDE
Switch to USB for keyboard and mouse instead of PS2
Switch to HDMI output instead of VGA
Keep in mind that although low price, high turnover consumer devices / goods manufacturers are dropping old connectors, interfaces and standards quicker than you can say "it's Apples fault", many industrial systems still use these and will continue to use tried and tested technology. So although they will get harder to find and will no longer drop in price (and may increase in price slightly), I expect the so called death to be rather long and drawn out.

After all, you can still buy TVs with composite video, SCART and VGA inputs, even though digital (DVI and HDMI) ports have been around for a fair time now. Same with PS/2 mice and keyboards (BTW a fair few USB mice and keyboards fall back to PS/2 if they fail to communicate using USB protocols).

Some modern interfaces also have the problem of requiring the developer/manufacturer to register and pay for the rights to use it :( [like HDMI].

So yes, it would be good to future proof where we can, but I also don't see a problem with including some so called legacy ports and interfaces. Although I think SDHC is a better route than CF now.

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by JonC » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:15 am

I had a similar thought Mark. IDE, PS2 etc does have longer term industrial applications, and the cost to a business of replacing these can be prohibitively expensive. :shock:

Not to dissuade those who want to go the USB route etc, but the original basis for the thread (rightly or wrongly) was just to get a basic standard level of operation out of an Archie with mostly readily available technology that already exists separately, and bring it all together on one podule cheaply. :oops:

OK, I don't know enough about the various technologies involved to provide an informed opinion really, USB would be nice... :mrgreen:

What about using a displaylink type setup to get video out of the USB (I suspect there are licensing issues here), or something like this;
http://www.amazon.co.uk/StarTech-com-Ex ... K621XKNZN9
Could this bypass the issues inherent in the old vga standards? :o
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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by 1024MAK » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:43 am

JonC wrote:What about using a displaylink type setup to get video out of the USB (I suspect there are licensing issues here), or something like this;
http://www.amazon.co.uk/StarTech-com-Ex ... K621XKNZN9
Could this bypass the issues inherent in the old vga standards? :o
Anywhere you have a full system bus, you can do a lot of wonderful things, given lots of time and effort. But if you want existing software to be compatible, well.... This is a big problem even if the hardware and firmware were straightforward... What you are asking for is for the video data to be sent down a USB connection. Not easy.

That's the trouble with these high speed universal interfaces. They require complex software (driver and application layers and everything in-between).

There are USB interfaces for various retro computers from ZX81 clones to Atari STFMs. But only memory sticks, keyboards, mice etc will work, as the driver software has not been written by anyone.

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by richw » Wed Jan 13, 2016 9:50 pm

Wouldn't perhaps USB be handy if it allowed:

1. Flash drives to be connected so they appear to the Arc as a SCSI or IDE hard disk
2. Keyboards and mice to be connected via an adaptor circuit so they appear to the Arc as the original interfaces

?

No need to faff about with extra drivers, especially with the typical 4Mb RAM!

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by JonC » Wed Jan 13, 2016 10:00 pm

richw wrote:Wouldn't perhaps USB be handy if it allowed:

1. Flash drives to be connected so they appear to the Arc as a SCSI or IDE hard disk
2. Keyboards and mice to be connected via an adaptor circuit so they appear to the Arc as the original interfaces

?

No need to faff about with extra drivers, especially with the typical 4Mb RAM!
Absolutely, but it doesn't exist in the enthusiasts world that I'm aware of (there are commercial products), whereas IDE does (and DaveH has the IdeA redisgn on the drawing board as an upcomming project) and PS2 can't be that hard (reolative to USB anyway! :lol: ) to add to this.

I think the video is probably going to have to stay off the Podule though based on PaulV's comments?

I'm no expert on any of this, I just thought it would be a good idea! [-o<
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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by paulv » Wed Jan 13, 2016 10:51 pm

Like I said before, sticking a Vinculum or Vinculum 2 chip on a podule should give 2 USB ports and support for PS2 keyboard and mouse if you want from what I've read of the data sheet. They also support FAT16 and FAT32 filing systems on thumb drives.

If a RAMFS type filing system was adapted, to work like HOSTFS in Arculator to transparently append filetypes to the filenames, RISC OS compatible storage could be almost unlimited even on old Arc's.

With a Vinculum based solution it really does come down to the community to write the drivers for the things they want.

There'd be plenty of space left on the podule for RAM discs and IDE/SATA ports and an EEPROM to store all the driver modules needed for the hardware. We could even put a TCP/IP stack onto it to save RAM if possible.

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by JonC » Thu Jan 14, 2016 9:32 am

http://uk.farnell.com/ftdi/vnc2-32l1b/c ... price=true

Not as pricey as I'd thought it would be. :)
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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by AndyMc1280 » Sun Jan 24, 2016 12:28 am

Just read this very interesting thread. I'm shocked nobody mentioned that there is already a podule with USB, Ethernet and IDE for RISC PC. Yep the ST Developments Unipod.

Surely this would be a decent base for such an expansion, only perhaps requiring a backport of the RO 5/6 drivers?

It would save lots of hassle if it could be made to work on older machines.

Just a thought....

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by JonC » Sun Jan 24, 2016 1:14 am

AndyMc1280 wrote:Just read this very interesting thread. I'm shocked nobody mentioned that there is already a podule with USB, Ethernet and IDE for RISC PC. Yep the ST Developments Unipod.

Surely this would be a decent base for such an expansion, only perhaps requiring a backport of the RO 5/6 drivers?

It would save lots of hassle if it could be made to work on older machines.

Just a thought....
Indeed it would, however :( ;
JonC wrote: Since it appears that no more Unipods are being made, and the one's stocked by CJE require you to remortgage the house, I thought it worth positing a new Podule that could address a number of issues, and should work on the majority of 32Bit Archies;
Tweaking a unipod to work with older Archies would have been nice.
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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by AndyMc1280 » Sun Jan 24, 2016 12:56 pm

Ah..... I did not see that. My bad :oops:
Pity :(

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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by JonC » Sun Jan 24, 2016 1:54 pm

No worries,

We just need someone with the will, time :shock: and expertise to develop something, probably based around the vinculum chip mentioned previously.
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Re: Getting An Old Archie up and running.

Post by Zarchos » Mon Feb 08, 2016 7:37 pm

From a thread on the riscos.fr list, here is to me an important info, to give the RPi a serial port upgrade :
http://www.davidhunt.ie/add-a-9-pin-ser ... 0-minutes/

On the Rpi the serial port should be activated thanks to this :
http://www.tankstage.co.uk/Software/PiSerial.zip

from here, communication with our old Archie would be possible (except for the A3000 and its missing chips).

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