Thursday, June 20, 2013

TS1000 Meets a Modern TV

So you want a Timex Sinclair 1000 but need to hook it up to a modern TV (in the U.S.). Well, there's an RCA/phono jack on it, so you can just hook it up to the composite video connection on the TV, right? Not so fast! Phono plugs were used for many RF applications in the 80's. The video from the TS1000 is an RF signal that we would expect to see from a modern CATV/antenna cable (coax with an 'F' connector). We need an adapter to plug it into the CATV/antenna jack of a modern TV. The adapters provided with the TS1000 won't work. Fortunately, you can buy the correct 'F'/RCA adapter from RadioShack for less than $4. This adapter plugs into the back of the TS1000 and you can use a standard CATV/coax patch cable to connect from the adapter to the TV. Then set the TV to channel 2 or 3 depending on the position of the channel selection switch at the bottom of the TS1000.

You can modify the TS1000 to output composite video, but the RF signal is good enough for most purposes.

Ok, now you know you can buy a TS1000 for less than $40, and you know how to hook it up to your TV. So, if you don't have one, go out, get one, and join me for the RetroChallenge!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Timex Sinclair 1000 Background

Yes, the power is overwhelming.

The Timex Sinclair 1000 is pretty much a Sinclair ZX81 made for the North American market with 2kB of RAM and NTSC RF video output. Like the ZX81, it has a 3.5 MHz Z80A 8-bit processor and 8kB ROM with a BASIC interpreter. Its quite simple and very small compared to an Apple II. It is about the size and weight of a Kindle Fire HD. At a list price of $99.95 when introduced in 1982, it also cost about the same as a Kindle in 2013 dollars. Its small size and low price led to some limitations, most notably the small membrane keyboard, limited graphics and no sound.

I don't think I had ever heard of a Timex Sinclair until very recently, most likely due to following some of the RetroChallenge entries. You can get a working TS1000 for about $40 on ebay without trying hard. I found a fairly complete setup, advertised as working (more on that later), for less than $25 shipped so I just bought it. A Zilog Z80 based computer at such a low price was too much for me to resist. Considering the prices Apple IIs are fetching on ebay, the TS1000 is an affordable introduction to retro-computing, just as it was an affordable introduction to modern computing back in the 80's. This is the first vintage computer I have owned that isn't an Apple. I don't think my marriage can afford me expanding my computer inventory, so I don't plan on keeping this guy very long. (It is small enough to hide inside an Apple II though...)

Friday, June 14, 2013

RetroChallenge 2013SC

Welcome to my new blog. The RetroChallenge inspired me to start a new retrocomputing specific blog here. I will be moving my previous retrochallenge stuff from my other blog MacLCD over to here in the coming weeks. First, a list of goals for RetroChallenge 2013 Summer Challenge:
  • Repair the Timex Sinclair 1000 that I recently bought on a whim (and for less than $25 shipped!) from ebay. Then I will try to write a game for it in BASIC. Assuming I get it all working I will offer the computer up as a prize in the RetroChallenge.
  • Finish fixing my Apple IIGS Upgrade computer.
Since I have a busy month at work I'm going to keep my goals within reach for this challenge.