Category Archives: Retrotechtacular

Retrotechtacular: The Gyro-X

In the 1950s, American automobiles bloomed into curvaceous gas-guzzlers that congested the roads. The profiles coming out of Detroit began to deflate in the 1960s, but many bloat boats were still sailing the streets. For all their hulking mass, these cars really weren’t all that stable — they still had …read more

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Posted in Alex Tremulis, gyro-x, gyronaut x-1, gyroscopic car, Hackaday Columns, Lane Motor Museum, Retrotechtacular, Thomas Summers | Leave a comment

Retrotechtacular: The Art of the Foundry

Mention the term “heavy industry” and the first thing to come to mind might well be the metal foundry. With immense machines and cauldrons of molten metal being shuttled about by crane and rail, the image of the foundry is like a scene from Dante’s Inferno, with fumes filling …read more

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Posted in Boiler, cast iron, casting, fettling, fitting, foundry, Hackaday Columns, Retrotechtacular, steam, steel | Leave a comment

Retrotechtacular: 934 MHz CB Radio

The radio spectrum is carefully regulated and divided up by Governments worldwide. Some of it is shared across jurisdictions under the terms of international treaties, while other allocations exist only in individual countries. Often these can contain some surprising oddities, and one of these is our subject today. Did you …read more

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Posted in 934 MHz, cb, cb radio, radio hacks, Retrotechtacular, uk | Leave a comment

Retrotechtacular: The Speaking Clock Goes Silent

It used to be that time was a lot more relative than it is today. With smartphones synced to GPS and network providers’ clocks, we all pretty much have access to an authoritative current time, giving few of us today the wiggle room to explain a tardy arrival at work …read more

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Posted in clock, Hackaday Columns, optical, photocell, Retrotechtacular, soundtrack, speaking clock, telco, telephone | Leave a comment

Retrotechtacular: Transputer

Back in 2016, Hackaday published a review of The National Museum of Computing, at Bletchley Park. It mentions among the fascinating array of computer artifacts on display a single box that could be found in the corner of a room alongside their Cray-1 supercomputer. This was a Transputer development system, …read more

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Posted in inmos, multiprocessor, Retrotechtacular, transputer | Leave a comment

Retrotechtacular: Nellie The School Computer

When did computers arrive in schools? That should be an easy question to answer, probably in the years around 1980. Maybe your school had the Commodore Pet, the Apple II, or if you are British, the Acorn BBC Micro in that period, all 8-bit microcomputers running a BASIC interpreter. That’s …read more

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Posted in classic hacks, elliott, elliott 405, mainframe, Retrotechtacular, school computer | Leave a comment

Retrotechtacular: How Not to Design With Transistors

Consider the plight of a mid-career or even freshly minted electrical engineer in 1960. He or she was perched precariously between two worlds – the proven, practical, and well-supported world of vacuum tube electronics, and the exciting, new but as yet unproven world of the transistor. The solid-state devices had …read more

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Posted in comparative, design, electrical engineering, electron tube, Hackaday Columns, Retrotechtacular, transistor, vacuum tube | Leave a comment

Low Tech High Safety and the NYC Subway System

The year is 1894. You are designing a train system for a large city. Your boss informs you that the mayor’s office wants assurances that trains can’t have wrecks. The system will start small, but it is going to get big and complex over time with tracks crossing and switching. Remember, it is 1894, so computing and wireless tech are barely science fiction at this point. The answer — at least for the New York City subway system — is a clever system of signals and interlocks that make great use of the technology of the day. Bernard S. Greenberg …read more

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Posted in Featured, interlock, new york, nxsys, nyc, Retrotechtacular, safety, signal, subway, train, transportation hacks | Leave a comment

The Mother of All Demos, 50 Years On

If you’re like me, chances are pretty good that you’ve been taught that all the elements of the modern computer user interface — programs running in windows, menus, icons, WYSIWYG editing of text documents, and of course, the venerable computer mouse — descended from the hallowed halls of the Xerox Corporation’s Palo Alto Research Center in the early 1970s. And it’s certainly true that PARC developed these technologies and more, including the laser printer and object-oriented programming, all of which would grace first the workplaces of the world and later the homes of everyday people.

But none of these technologies …read more

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Posted in Biography, demo, gui, history, mouse, Retrotechtacular, time sharing, word processing, WYSIWYG | Leave a comment

Retrotechtacular: Remembering Radio Shack P-Box Kits

If you are under a certain age, you probably associate Radio Shack with cellphones. While Radio Shack never gave us access to the variety and economy of parts we have today, they did have one thing that I wish we could get again: P-Box kits. The obvious questions are: What’s a P-Box and why do I want one? But the kit wasn’t to make a P-Box. P-Box was the kind of box the kit came in. It was like a piece of perfboard, but made of plastic, built into a plastic box. So you bought the kit — which might …read more

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Posted in Hackaday Columns, kit, P-Box, radio shack, Retrotechtacular, wireless hacks | Leave a comment