New A/B Switch

On March 18, Daniel DiPietro posted on Facebook about adding an A/B switch to his Apple //c.  That way he could leave both a mouse and a joystick connected all the time and just change the switch to use either one.    I have done such things many times in the distant past, but never thought of it for this case.  When I read about it, it made so much sense that I decided to do the same thing.

Tuesday morning I ordered an all female DB9 serial A/B switch and a DB9 Male to Male Serial Cable from two different sellers on eBay.  One said delivery by Saturday and the other by Monday, yet the both came early Friday, yesterday.  Great service from both.  One thing that surprised me was the size of the A/B switch.  In the past I used the Black Box switches and they were quite a bit larger.  This box was about the size of a 100 count package of 3×5 cards.

I plugged in the cable from the Apple //c to the A/B switch and then connected the mouse and the joystick to the A and B ports on the switch.

I tested the mouse with Dazzle Draw and the Joystick with Columns, a Tetris like game.  Both worked as planned, so I printed out labels with my label maker and put them on the switch box.

Norton, Done and Gone!

Yesterday, we lost power in our area due to lines going down.  Ice, I believe, was the cause.

Anyhow, when power came up Norton did it’s thing and tried to quarantine E11.

I decided I was tired of this game.  I uninstalled Norton and went with different antivirus protection.  I will just have to see how that works.


Last Update 30-Mar-18


Norton Ruins My Day!?!?

Almost a week ago, I sat down to my computer and saw a notice from Norton about a virus.  Norton in its usual fashion took care of it.  It removed the file.

The problem was; and the reason I am writing about it here, is the file it removed was e11.exe.  E11.exe is a program by dbit, Ersatz 11, that emulates the PDP 11.  As I wrote in my last post I have been working on an older version of Oregon Trail on an emulated PDP 11/70.

I downloaded it again and reinstalled it on my hard drive.  Norton once again spoke up and warned about the virus.  I asked it for details and it turns out it was not so much a virus as the file only reported as being used by 50 people, so it must be dangerous.  I told Norton to leave it alone.

I went and started it up, except all was not back to normal.  Instead of starting up my PDP 11 emulation all I got was the prompt for E11.  I exited and did a quick directory; no data files or init files.

My most recent backup was before I started Oregon Trail.

I was pissed.  I am not a typist and only manage about 32 word per minute, so typing in Oregon again was a significant investment of time that I did not want to do.  I took a step back and decided to think about it a couple of days.

During that time I thought of a few changes I would like to make in my emulated system.

Finally, a couple of days ago, I sat down.  I was going to re-setup my emulator.  I went to the directory on my C drive to start and had a flash.

My system, when I had it built, had some unique features.  I installed a small SSD (120GB) for a boot drive.  Added to that, I installed a new 1TB hard drive and another one from my old computer that I was replacing.  Windows went on the SSD (C) and the other software went on the new 1TB hard drive.  That included Ersatz 11.  When I reinstalled it, it went to C instead of where it should have.

I moved E11 from where it was installed to the proper directory and I was back up and running.




Oregon Trail

Oregon trail has been documented historically in other places, but it first came out in 1971 and you accessed it using a teletype.  It went away for a few years and came back under MECC in 1974 and you still accessed by terminal.  I was in school all during the 70’s on the east coast, so I never ran into it.  MECC had it rewritten for the Apple II and released in 1985.

I got my first Apple computer at the end of 1984, an Apple //c.  Over the years, I kept an interest in the Apple II world and still have my original Apple //c.  It doesn’t work and have replaced it with a slightly newer version but, still hope to get it repaired.

I never heard of Oregon Trail until maybe twenty years later.  I’ve since then played the Apple II version using AppleWin and realized that it is exactly the kind of game I would have spent hours playing in school.  Of course, had I played it in school, it would have been using a teletype or other terminal, since the Apple II didn’t come out until several years after I finished school.

I was recently reading a history of the game and found a basic listing of one of the earlier versions was published in the May-June 1978 issue of Creative Computing.  I tracked a copy of this issue to and printed out the article.  My plan is to enter this game into an emulated PDP 11/70 running RSTS/E and BASIC-PLUS giving it the feel to a certain extent of the original.  You would have to log on using a terminal in order to play the game.

RC2017/04 – April 20

Right after the last post, I came down sick.  Now I have to pick it up and get it together.

As of my last post I hadn’t even decided what to do for a game. Two games that I played in the past, came to mind.  I played Hammurabi on the PDP 11/70.  Star Merchant was another game I came across.  Both have possibilities, and apparently Creative Computing agreed about Hammurabi, because they published Dukedom, which was supposed to be a multiplayer version, although I never quite got it to work that way.

That leaves me with Star Merchant.  This would have been my first choice anyway, but I was concerned it might be to complicated to the short amount of time to work with.  Dukedom and Star Merchant were both published in the book, Big Computer Games in 1984.

Star Merchant is a game where you as captain, take your starship in a trade route of your choice between ten different star systems.  At each star system you buy and sell cargo in the attempt to gain a profit.

The original single player version from Creative Computing has been typed in and can be run on my emulated PDP 11/70.  Once you are signed on you can run it by entering:


Last Update: 01-Apr-18


RC2017/04 – April 5

I spent the last few days working on what I call recipes. They are short documents explaining how to do things. In this case I set up recipes for logging in, logging out and getting around RSTS/E.

A final recipe is actually just a list of telnet clients that I have used.

RC2017/04 – April 1

For this RetroChallenge I plan to write a multiplayer game that will run on an emulated PDP 11/70.

The first computer I ever used or worked on was a PDP 11/70 in High School. The main operating system when I had access to it was RSTS/E. The version back then was V06B and later V06C. I have had a fascination with the system ever since. Over the years I have run emulations of the PDP 11/70 under SimH and recently under Ersatz-11. The closest version of RSTS/E I have been able to setup is V7.0-07, so that is the version I will use.

On past RetroChallenges, I have seen some that in addition to following along reading the blog posts, it would be interesting to get hands on as well.

With that in mind, I have set up separate accounts in my emulated system to store my work and make it available to play with as I go along. The emulated system can be reached with telnet at: puff dot mooo dot com at port 4000. Once you connect you can log in with the account number 17,4 and password of RC. I’ll post a recipe above shortly showing how to get around in RSTS/E.

TI 99/4A and Games

Since I now have a fairly complete working TI 99/4A, I wanted to play with it.  The strangest thing I found, was I didn’t have any memories of using this machine back in the 80’s.  I have four cartridges for it, which are Home Financial Decisions, Music Maker, Othello and Adventure.

I have no musical ability and Financial Decisions is not a game, which leaves the last two.

I fired up Othello and played that for a couple of hours while watching TV.  Playing on the easiest settings I managed to win both games, but it was no a walk away.  My Othello skills were quite rusty.

I few nights after I got my program recorders worked out, I started up the TI and put in the adventure cartridge.  After choosing 2 for Adventure I get a startup screen of:


Scott Adam's Adventure Splash Screen

Scott Adam’s Adventure Splash Screen

Once that was running, the game wanted me to load the data off the cassette tape, which I set up.  It tells you step by step to rewind the tape, stop and press play.

How did I not remember that when you load the data off the tape it sounds like a dialup connection?  It is also not very fast, taking a little over 2 minutes and 33 seconds.  That doesn’t seem bad until you listen to that noise for over 2 1/2 minutes

The resolution of the text on the TI is not nearly as fine as most modern users are familiar with.  “Forty characters per line using 24 lines” (40 characters in quotes) is not much to work with.  This can make the game a little less descriptive than more modern games of this type.

I made a video of loading this adventure to show what it was like.



PHP 2700 – Texas Instruments Program Recorder

My adventures with the Texas Instruments Program Recorder.

On September 4, I found a beautiful Texas Instruments Program Recorder on eBay and bought it from MAKBONE2012.  It was delivered on September 13 and the packaging was really well done.   I bought this one because the seller said it was tested and working.  I bought a new set of Duracell ‘C’ batteries, put them in along with a tape.  The simplest test I could think of was pushing the fast forward button, nothing.  I tried the rewind button and again nothing.

I contacted the seller and told them what happened, the response was very quick along the lines of; that’s weird, I’ll issue a refund.  I got the whole refund right away.  I asked what I should do with the recorder, toss it, was the reply.

I go back to eBay and find another one, which was also said to be tested and working.  I order on September 22, and it arrives very quickly in good shape.  I try my simple test with the new Duracell batteries.  Fast forward, click, nothing.  Rewind, click nothing.  Rats.

I go out and buy another set of ‘C’ batteries, this time Energizer.  Same test, same results.  I try them in the first recorder which I haven’t tossed yet and get the same results.

It seems unlikely that two tape machines that were tested and working before I got them would not work.  I’m looking them over, no visual signs of damage.  I do notice something I had not paid attention to.  On both machines, they had six buttons for controls, but they also had a slide switch on top.  One setting was Play/Record and the other was Pause.  Both were set to Pause.  I moved the switch to Play/Record and tested it.  The machine quietly starts to fast forward, I push stop and try a rewind, resulting in it quietly rewinding.

I grab the other set of batteries and put them in the first player, move that switch and away it goes.

Now for the hard part.  I had this first player from MAKBONE2012, that works.  I can’t keep it and the money, so I contact him through eBay, let him know what a dummy I am and issue a refund back to him.

Now I have two program recorders and in my searches, I found several people selling cables for using two recorders with the TI.  I ordered one, which came in right away and am now set up to use them both.