2 min read

Retro Computing - My first retro computer kit build

Retro Computing - My first retro computer kit build

I got my SC126 Z180 computer kit in the mail a few nights ago. After two nights of soldering after work, I finally got it assembled. Having a flux pen was helpful, even if it did leave a lot of residue on the board.

My soldering skills aren't very good, but everything worked perfectly the first time. The assembly instructions that Steve Cousins has put together are amazing. I only made one mistake, and that was because I didn't follow instructions during testing at the end. I blew the power LED by applying 5 volts directly to it, so now I don't have a power LED. I tried to de-solder it with a solder sucker, but there's still some solder in the hole so I can't replace the LED. I may try a solder wick next.

I wrote my first program for the computer in BASIC (that brought back fond memories of staying up late with my TI-99/4A writing games back in the 80's):

10 FOR I = 1 TO 255
20 OUT 13, I
30 FOR J = 1 TO 100

That makes the LEDs on the board count to 255 (0xFF) in binary.

I wrote the same program in C using the z88dk. Having a way to write programs in C and then upload them to the computer using XMODEM from CP/M is great. It's nice to have modern development tools like VS Code. I used a custom task to do my build.

My next goal is to get Dr. Scott Baker's SP0256-AL2 speech synthesizer card working. I've ordered all of the parts except the actual boards. I'll probably order those tonight. As an exercise in coding, I'm going to write a program to speak allophones on the SC126 using C and the z88dk. Dr. Baker has written a program in BASIC to do this, but I'd like to write it in C. As a .NET developer, my C skills are lacking, so I'll need to spend some time to make sure it's correct. Specifically, I don't fully understand how to use pointers and manage memory like I should. .NET spoils you with it's garbage collector.