Retr0-Brite The On Going Saga

To say that I’ve tried my hand at brightening up some of my older machines would be an understatement. I’ve tried doing it to an Amiga 500, an 1200 and even an old Macintosh ADB keyboard that had gone rather yellow. The only success I’ve had to date, was with an Amiga mouse which I changed from smoker’s yellow to having a slight case of jaundice. I’ve never had the shocking ‘Wow’ factor results that other people have posted online, it’s been something of a white whale. So it’s no surprise that every now and then I find myself coming back to have another go, this time with two Apple Pro USB keyboards. Less than 10 years old, both look like they came from a heavy smoking environment, when in actuality they were white when I put them in storage. Clearly, being boxed in the attic has not done them any good. I started with the worst of the two and began stripping it down, removing the keys into an ice-cream tub. I then painted the main keyboard with some 40% Blonde hair bleach, which you can pick up from Boots and Home Bargains here in the UK. In the past I have tried using solutions of Peroxide, mixed with wall paper paste. This ended up ruining the A500 case I had tried restoring. Using the little gold bottle of hair bleach had been suggested to me by Merlin. No not the Wizard(!) but the Amibay username of the chap who came up with Retr0brite to start with. After a lengthy discussion via Skype, where I felt increasingly in over my head, Merlin aka Dave Stevenson finally said I should forget all about mixing bottles and just go for the easy approach. This was great news as up until then I’d begun to think to do Retr0brite you required a PHD in potions and wizardry.

So cancelling my application to Hogwarts, I waited patiently for sunshine and in Yorkshire you have to be patient. Fortunately I was able to bag two good days of sun, albeit with the occasional shower. The results took me by surprise. While the main body of the keyboard had been covered in cream peroxide and wrapped in cling film. I’d submerged the keys in a solution of 40% vol peroxide and hot water, with a little oxi vanish mixed in. The keys had only slightly brightened up, where as the keyboard while not restored to its original ivory white, was noticeably less yellow.

For now, I’m biding my time until we have more sunshine. Then I plan to apply cream to the keys as well and see what the results are. For now I think it is fair to say that I’ve given up using liquid peroxide, in favour of using cream.

So keep watching this space folks!

Theme of the week is Amiga!

Emulation my dear Watson!

So for the past couple of days I’ve been playing with the Nomad. Firstly fixing the silly fault with the system failing to boot after the power has been disconnected. With the new CMOS reset switch installed, I can use the little retro computer without having to worry about it not booting every morning.

Now that it’s working, I’ve been looking at ways to retro the little machine. While Lubuntu does look very basic, one of the reasons I built the Nomad was so I could run old software and return to that old vintage computer feel. Finding a version of UAE (Universal Amiga Emulator)for Lubuntu was a stroke of luck and that it actually worked was fantastic. Truth be told it did take me a night of fiddling to get it running correctly.

So now, I’m using Textcraft 1.0 for the Amiga A500, to write this blog! How cool is that? The overall experience is pretty weird. It looks like an Amiga on the screen and performance wise, it’s acting like an A500+. Which coincidently is what it’s set to emulate. Expect to see more applications popping up as I play around with UAE. Having the entire back catalog of Amiga software available on the Nomad is pretty fantastic. It’s a pity that unlike other emulators, UAE does not give you much input / output options. It would have been nice to have some form of ADF explorer built in to the program. Luckily the is a program called “unadf” which is a terminal program for Linux, allowing you to unpack ADF files. Which made it possible for me to get to the text file I had written in Textcraft.

While it might seem like a chore, it’s pretty straight forward and no where near as complicated as retrieving my blogs from the BBC Model B.


Finally after many months of promising, I finally got round to testing the Retrobrite. My test subject, a rather yellowed A500+. I did say this was an Amiga themed week didn’t I? 😛 Results so far have not been mind blowing, to the contrary I think I must be doing it wrong. As the only thing to happen so far, is some white patches on the A500+ top casing. I’m not certain if this is the “Blooming” effect mentioned on the retrobrite wiki or simply that my mixture is not bleaching the plastic properly.

The plastics are currently undergoing their third coat of retrobrite. I can’t do anymore after this as I’ve run out of peroxide. If it doesn’t work, I might consider using a different thickening agent, as opposed to wall paper paste. I might also try a different UV bulb.

Watch this space!