Building a new old computerPosted: September 18, 2011
With ever increasing electricity bills and the measure of your carbon foot print, being something for serious thought. The thought came to me while doing my routine roaming of the internet for vintage tech. What about building a new computer, eco friendly, good for surfing and encompassing my favourite past time, vintage computers. A quick look will reveal a wealth of information on old computer mods. Mini ITX boards squeezed inside Atari 2600’s, Commadore 64’s and much more. However that wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted to build an old looking computer, around a modern mini ITX motherboard as the platform.
With a fondness in my heart for the blinky LED’s of the MITS Altair 8800, I had a rough idea what I wanted. Grabbing a few sheets of paper, I sketched out a general design.
After a good search around my local electronic stores website, I discovered a perfect ABS plastic project box, coincidentally closely resembling the case of the new Altair mini. If great minds think a like, I was certainly pleased to discover I was using a case similair to very machine I was using as inspiration.
Next I was faced with a hurdle, how to reproduce the front panel. Over the years as the micro computer or as its commonly known today, the personal computer (PC). Coined by the brains at IBM the term PC eventually became the common word for and computer used in the office or at home. But as I was saying, the front panel! If you glance at a modern PC, you will commonly find two LED’s indicating power and drive activity as well as a power and reset switch. Compared to the computers of old, its become a bit bare. Now how the devil was I going to populate the front of my computer with only two active LED’s. Well a wise man once say “If you have it use it and if you don’t, fake it!” So that’s exactly what I planned. Utilizing some form of LED driver circuit I would make the lights blink, giving the impression of activity.