Interfacing with vintage hardware?
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Interfacing with vintage hardware?

by Hiraghm on Sat Sep 25, 2021 1:13 pm

I apologise if this isn't in the right section; not sure which one would be right.

In browsing the Adafruit online catalog, I came across several devices intended (I believe) to allow access to GPIO sensors from a computer using a USB interface.
(such as the QT Py and Itsy Bitsy R2040).

My passion (or at least hobby) is vintage computers. A long time ago I saw the movie "Medicine Man" wherein Sean Connery connected a Toshiba T5200 "laptop" (with a gorgeous gas-plasma display) to some device and was plotting on a bar chart the chemicals in a sample.
I never did figure out how they connected the spectrometer (or whatever they were using) to the T5200, but I always thought it was neat.
When I saw these devices on adafruit, my first thought was "how neat! I can now connect all those cool Adafruit sensor to my desktop"
The T5200 has two rs232 ports, a parallel port, and now, thanks to my added soundcard, a joystick port.
Would there be someway to connect it via one of these ports to that gpio adapter, and thereby connect to the various (and cool) Adafruit sensors?
I have other vintage computers I'd love to be able to connect to sensors (such as my HP200lx, Psion 3a or Radio Shack Model 100), but most all of them are limited to rs232 (I believe the M100's parallel port is unidirectional, although it does have a cassette tape interface port; don't know if that would be usable.).

So is there any practical way I could connect one of these devices to vintage computers and give them new life (and me new fun) as robotic controllers or weather stations or what have you?

Oh, regarding interfacing with my Model 100... it has a 240 x 64 very slow LCD... so one possible project would be to connect to an external display. The M100 does have an expansion port, but I'm not sure how or even if it could be used. But I thought maybe through the QT Py or Itsy Bitsy R2040 I could connect from the parallel or even serial port to an Adafruit i2c or spi display.

Thanks for any advice or education anyone can give me!

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Re: Interfacing with vintage hardware?

by dastels on Sat Sep 25, 2021 2:17 pm

My approach would be to get an RS-232 to 5v/TTL serial adapter (they're easy to find) and a level shifter to go between 5v serial and 3.3v serial which can be connected to Tx/Rx on the QTPT, ItsyBitsy, etc. That could bridge between serial (back to the vintage PC) and I2C sensors. The hardware side is pretty straightforward, he software side is wide open in terms of what and how you implement.


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