WiFi9600 Modem retro-cycles my childhood Practical Perpherials 9600SA RS-232 based modem to use the Internet. The goal of the project is to enable my vintage computers to telnet to modern BBSes. (Which, of course, is so that I can play Tradewars 2002!) For an authentic experience, the modem emulates proper baud rates, plays modem connecting sounds, and replicates the front panel LEDs from my original modem.
- Part 1: WiFi9600 Modem Introduction and Prototype Demo.
- Part 2: Firmware changes and mechanical pieces
- Part 3: Retro-Brighting explanation.
Getting from here to there
Except for some coding and retrobrite, I streamed the entire WiFi9600 modem project on Twitch. It spanned about 14 streams, which means it represents at least 30 hours of work. Looking back, it is not hard to see where it went. Reverse engineering, KiCad board designs, soldering those boards, testing them, writing code, and then bringing it all together. Doing a project like this live in front of people was both scary and motivating. I knew I had to make progress in each stream, but there were also times when I wanted to give up. For those who participated in a stream, thank you so much for your help!
Once the WiFi9600 modem was done, I decided it was time to play some Tradewars. What is Tradewars? It is a text-based game with ANSI "graphics" that we played in the 90s on BBSes. It isn't quite a multi-user dungeon (MUD), but it is a similar concept. You explored space looking for ports to trade resources, places to creates planets with the Genesis torpedo and fight Alien races. Players could be aligned as good (Federation) or bad (Pure Evil) and fight each other. System Operators (SysOps) had a ridiculous amount of configuration options available to keep games between BBSes (or boards) slightly different.
According to this Telnet BBS Guide, today, there are literally hundreds of BBSes running Tradewars (and other games). Lately, I have been playing on Wildcat's Castle BBS for my "testing." Here is a Twitch clip of me playing Tradewars with WiFi9600 Modem.
Appendix: Future changes.
Converting a real modem into a WiFiModem has been on my Project TODO list for years. I cannot wait to use it with some of my other retro-computers, like the C64 and Apple IIgs. While I am going to call this project "done" for now, there are a few enhancements I'd like to work on someday. Maybe in a future Bald Engineer Live stream!
- I want to implement a shift register to make the modem fully compliant. I want to have CD, RI, RTS, etc., all wired correctly. (TX and RX and alone go a long way!)
- When dialing a host, I'd like to get the MP3 player to play the DTMF tones for each number in the host's IP address.
- There are AT-commands to change the volume level of the modem's speaker. I want to use those to change the MP3's volume as well.
- Use the "auto-answer" button to enable or disable the "telnet client-server."
What about you? If you had access to a modern modem inside a vintage case, what would you want to connect to? Let me know in the comments.