Back on the bench again

The BBC Master 128 is back on the bench again. And, thus begins RetroChallenge.

I couldn’t remember exactly what state I left the Master in so I kinda re-tested stuff from the ground up. Here’s the current state of the machine: It boots with a loud constant beep from the speaker and the keyboard mostly doesn’t work. I say “mostly” because it actually responds to the keypresses for the CMOS reset sequence. But, it doesn’t go to a prompt when it should, and I can’t just type on it.

With 3.6V from my bench supply fed to a RetroClinic battery holder (which includes the diode), I boot the machine with ‘R’ key held, and it tells me ‘CMOS RAM reset. Press break’. So, I press break. It then shows me ‘Acorn ADFS’ with a flashing underline cursor beneath it. However, it does not respond to input at this time. Then I press ctrl-D + break and I get ‘Acorn 1770 DFS’ but, no star prompt. Something seems to be keeping it from ever booting to BASIC.

Many moons ago, I bought a quad ROM switcher from Kjell Sundby, so I installed that as a test. When set to the Master ROM, the behavior is exactly the same, so I think the ROM is fine. And when booted to the 32K “B” ROM, I get a prompt, but the keyboard doesn’t work.

My current guess is maybe this is a 6522/VIA problem. But, my VIAs test fine using the BackBit Chip Tester Pro. I wonder if this is another case where the BB tester is giving me a false-positive test result.

Anyway, more testing tomorrow on stream.

Oh, by the way, I stream Tuesday evenings at 7PM US/Eastern on

Windows 98 Install

Well, this was a pain in the ass.

Originally, my intent was to use one of the Gateway 2000 OEM Reinstallation CDs to install this system. Now, I know that’s probably a bad idea, and it would technically be best to just install from the Microsoft CD-ROM. But, I thought it might be fun to see the OEM installation with all its wallpapers, and branding etc. Unfortunately, none of the discs I had seemed to work.

Basically, they started up okay, and acted like they were installing a system image, but then, the installed system wasn’t bootable due to what appears to be a corrupted MSDOS.SYS file. Rather than fight with it further, I reached for my Retail CD.

So, okay, I pulled out my Windows 98 Second Edition CD-ROM and fired up the installer. But, after screwing around with this PC for a couple hours trying to make the OEM CDs work, I realized that I did not want to listen to that spinning rust HDD while using this machine. So, I dug out a spare CF-IDE adapter I had and popped in an 8GB Lexar CF card. The system BIOS seemed to like it… but Windows setup did not. I tried installing Ontrack Disk Manager, but I wasn’t able to get its boot manager to load up the Windows 98 install CD. Breaking down, I ordered some 4GB CF cards from fleaBay and figured I’d come back to this another time.

Then, I realized that this BIOS didn’t default to LBA in the HDD setting. I went in and changed it from Auto to User, and enabled LBA mode. After that, things went…. slightly more smoothly. Honestly, I don’t recall ever having this many issues installing Windows 98 before.

I spent a few hours getting the drivers installed for all the cards as well as some other packages.

I installed drivers for:

  • Ethernet
  • Adaptec SCSI
  • USB Mass-storage (flash drives)
  • Updated Windows installer

I was quite impressed at the driver that I found for USB Mass-storage. The ability to copy files to this machine from a USB flash drive will be pretty useful, so I’m super happy to have this working as well as it does. I was expecting using it to be reboot-city, but it actually works to hot-plug and remove the drive!

This last bit was required to install the Opera 10 web browser. While still quite ancient, this appears to be one of the more modern browsers available for Windows 98. However, trying to browse the modern web, even with this browser, is not a pleasant experience. Very few sites (like Google) still support the ancient crypto that this browser has. And with most sites redirecting everything to TLS, I don’t think I’ll be doing much with it other than accessing my own server to transfer files occasionally. At least my pal Benj’s site is still available without HTTPS.

I captured video of the Windows 98 install process. I might edit that into a high-speed version. Would make an interesting GIF. 🙂

Baby steps: CF card adapter

In my previous work installing the system to an IDE-CF adapter, I’ve just been using one that I had lying around. This cheap-o adapter has only 2 mounting holes, and appears to be designed for some sort of permanent install in a 2.5″ drive bay or something. Obviously, I needed something better for a permanent solution.

That solution arrived today in the form of this adapter which mounts to a rear expansion card slot. This allows the card to protrude from the rear, and I’ll be able to swap / remove it without opening the case. Yay!

Unfortunately (there’s always an “unfortunately”, isn’t there?) this required installing a longer IDE cable than the one the machine came with. I discovered that I’m down to my last IDE ribbon cable, somehow. Luckily it was long enough, so I’m saved for the moment.

I installed the adapter in the “reserved” slot below the graphics card. I was never going to use this slot, anyway, as I wanted the space for a future GPU upgrade that required a fan. The adapter is pretty short, and hopefully I’ll still have clearance for that future upgrade. At least for now, though, this is a much better solution and finally allows me to close the case on this beauty.

Cards, cards, and MOAR CARDS!

Ah, that’s more like it. Feels good to get a few more cards into this thing. From top to bottom, we have:

  • Creative Nvidia TNT2 32MB AGP Graphics
  • Linksys LNE100TX PCI Ethernet
  • Adaptec 29160N SCSI Host Adapter
  • Creative AWE-32 ISA Sound Card w/ 8MB RAM

And I still have one PCI/ISA (combo) slot left. Technically I have one more PCI slot, but it’s right up against the AGP slot and I want to leave room for a fan-cooled GPU in the future, so I’m declaring that slot “off limits” to cards.

The GPU I talked about in the previous post. The Ethernet card was just a PCI card I had lying around and it should do the job. Plus it’s got a socket for a boot ROM in case I want to burn an iPXE netboot ROM for it (or any other ROM shenanigans I want to undertake). Somehow I’ve managed to acquire two Adaptec 29160 SCSI adapters, so it’s obvious I should shove one of them into this GP6.

The AWE-32 is, I believe, the only component I still have from my original Windows 98 machine. It came in a 486 that I bought for a family member and I’ve held onto it for ~25 years. Until now, it’s been housed in my Compaq Deskpro 386/20e. I had to dig that desktop out of the depths of my shelves to liberate it. It’s quite a lovely machine (yellowing aside) and pretty easy to get inside to swap cards.

I need to find a card to replace it, so again – back into the tub. I came up with these two ISA cards (I thought I had more, honestly): An Ensoniq Soundscape VIVO 90, and a Creative VIBA 16 Sound Blaster card. The Compaq is already set up for SB drivers, so I’ll pop the VIBRA 16 in here for now. It’s an incredibly budget card, but it will do in a pinch.

The AWE-32 is an amazing card. While it had a (crappy) on-board ROM wavetable instrument set, it also supported up to 12MB of sample RAM via 30-pin SIMM slots, similar to the Gravis Ultrasound. Unfortunately, not a lot of games (or demos) supported this card, so I mostly use it for a couple of MOD players that do support it. I have 8MB in this card at the moment. Funny thing about this AWE-32: When it was in the Compaq Deskpro, it had more RAM on it than the system it was installed in. 🤣

Isn’t it beautiful?