Kodak Ektar 100

While I’ve recently got my hands on some Fuji Superia 400 to run through the new (to us) 35mm point and shoots we’ve picked up at thrift stores, I have been a bit behind in getting film developed.

I had a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 that I sent off to North Coast Photographic Services, who turned around in their usual efficient manner.

I usually shoot positive slide film, so I am a little out of touch with print film. I was pleased with the color response and dynamic range of the Ektar. When there is a strong light source (e.g the sun) in front of the camera, I noticed some glaring - but that could easily be the old Canon AE-1 Program.

Slight flaring around the tree; and a general coldness to the photo.

I’m so used to the warm tones of Fuji Velvia, so I was rather pleased with how Ektar portrays blue tones, without being cold. I’d call it well balanced:

The park at Seneca Lake

Even indoors, where 100 ISO film might begin to falter, the colors and clarity are excellent (I do not recall the camera settings for this shot, but it was shot without a tripod, so the shutter could not have been too slow):

Mashed potatoes at Christmas

The contrast in the interior shot may be slightly lacking, but it’s a very visually rich photo.

Outdoors the film shines and the colors pop. This spring photo from a couple of years ago really pulls in the dots of dandelions against the green field. The whole thing is accented by the magenta of the crabapple tree and the delicate white of the cherry tree in the background.. I’m really happy with this film overall and will definitely be keeping several rolls on hand.


Vintage Computing Pt. 3: Epson Equity I+

The Epson Equity I+ is an 8088 based business workstation from the 1980s. It sported a 20MB internal hard drive, along with a 5.25” floppy drive.

The hard drive was toast, so I removed it. It’s also harder to make or get bootable 5.25” disks, I swapped in the 720K 3.5” floppy drive from the Epson 286. The system supports this drive natively, though it will not support 1.44MB floppies.

I picked up a USB floppy drive that claimed  to have 720K support. I have had some success with that drive formatting newer HD floppies to 720K. It’s touch and go at times, and may just depend on the brand. At first, I used masking tape and a sharpie to cover the High Density hole, but switched to electrical tape pretty quickly. I cut the tape long enough to wrap over both sides of the hole.

I wrote several disks: MS-DOS 3.3, MS-DOS 5.0, as well as a disk with a couple of games I remember fondly from the early days: Inside Trader and Corporate Raider, from SoftServ, Inc.

The Paradise Basic EGA card that was in the Epson allegedly supports monochrome modes, and I was anxious to have that work as the Epson monitor I have is monochrome (green phosphor). Nevertheless, while I could get a cursor to blink on the display in monochrome mode, nothing else would appear. More to come on this.

Booting off floppy is great fun, using an IBM CGA monitor, and I could easily run any programs that ran from a single floppy (the games listed above, for instance), but it’s of limited use. To really run this machine, a hard drive would be needed. Since the original drive was shot, and I have no interest in trying to use ancient controllers and hard drives, I did some research and there is thankfully a large contingent of hobbyists who continue to use these old machines. There is also an industrial market for modern components that will work in old equipment.

There are, therefore, some pretty nice options to replace and old hard drive with - basically - an SSD.

I ordered an XT-IDE controller kit from The Glitch Works, which arrived in a timely fashion. Here’s how it comes:

The XT-IDE Rev. 4 Kit

The board is beautifully silkscreened, and all the components are through-hole which makes assembly a breeze. I put about two hours into the whole thing.

The XT-IDE Rev 4 fully assembled

The XT-IDE Rev 4 fully assembled

It took me a little while to figure out the correct DIP switch settings on the board. I found these pages invaluable to getting everything set right.

What I found worked for me was the following:

I/O Address Switch: 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0

ROM OPT Switch: 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 0

Because the BIOS ROM came with BIOS version 1.x, I had to set the topmost jumpers for Compatibility mode instead of Hi Speed. I guess I assumed the board would come with the most recent BIOS, and initially assumed Hi Speed would work fine. At a later date, I will probably burn the updated BIOS to the chip. To do this, I need to set switch 8 on the ROM OPT switch to “On”.

With the controller built, I also needed a drive. I purchased, off eBay, a IDE -> CF bracket. I used a TexElec IDE CF Bracket purchased off eBay, along with a 1GB Cisco CompactFlash card I already owned.

The TexElec IDE / CF Adapter bracket

The TexElec IDE / CF Adapter bracket

With all this put together, it was time to boot the system. I booted the DOS 5.0 install disk, and once I ran a format c: and format c: /mbr on the CF card, was able to install the full MS-DOS environment.


Once installed, I pulled out a couple more fun floppies I had made up, including a Christmas demo disk from the 1980s:


And the ever-classic Family Feud (which I remember well from my Commodore 64 days):

Family Feud for MS-DOS

Family Feud for MS-DOS

The music and graphics for Family Feud are nowhere near the quality I remember being possible on the Commodore 64, which is interesting. Since we have only a PC speaker in this machine, and CGA graphics, it’s not too surprising.

I thought I would give one more stab at having the monochrome screen work, now that I had the full MS-DOS install booting well. I tried adding the command “mode mono” to the Autoexec.bat file, set the DIP switches on both the motherboard and graphics card appropriately, and booted it up.

Sure enough, once MS-DOS booted and ran that command, I had a working display! It seems very strange that the motherboard won’t talk monochrome without being forced into it by a DOS command; according to the manual I’ve done everything right. I suspect it’s the graphics card at fault- but until I get another monochrome card to work with, I can’t test. Nevertheless I feel like this is a pretty fair victory in getting this old Epson Equity I+ up and running again.

Finally up and running the way I want it…

Finally up and running the way I want it…

Vintage Computing Pt. 2 - Trying Things Out

In my last post, I have a brief inventory of the five 1980s class workstations I’ve come into. In this post, I’ll outline the issues that are currently occurring with each and what I hope to be able to do with them. 

IBM PC XT 5150: This machine powers on and shows a display on the IBM CGA monitor. It displays a memory error, which reveals one or more faulty memory chips on the motherboard. Since the first fault is in Bank 0 - soldered to the board - this goes down my list of repair priority since it’ll require a complete disassembly.

IBM PC XT/286 5162: This machine does not power on: a light whine comes from the power supply when it’s turned on. Very likely a faulty capacitor, so something to explore later. 

IBM PC AT 5170: This machine didn’t power on; the power supply fan would spin briefly, and then stop. This indicates either not enough load...or too much. The 5170 power supply is sensitive and will not power on without a load on the 12V line. IBM would include a resistor load for workstations ordered without a hard drive. This unit has the hard drive, so it became likely that a short in the motherboard or an option card is causing the power supply to shut down. I pulled the option cards, and the system powered on. Through elimination, I determined the tantalum capacitor on the CGA card was bad. Snapping it off fixed the problem. From there...the system reported bad memory chips. These are socketed chips...so an easier repair later.

Epson Equity II+: This machine blew the power supply fuse; even when not connected to the motherboard. The power supply is faulty somewhere; swapping the fuse and thermistors didn’t resolve it.

Epson Equity I+: This machine powered up and tries to boot with no errors; it just wants a floppy disk to boot off of!

I made the decision to focus on the most functional machines: the IBM 5170 and the Epson Equity I+. These two represent some great CPUs; and since I have an Epson monitor and two IBM monitors, it all lines up rather nicely. More to come on each!