Old(ish) Tech Find – CMS Super 8+ Controllers

It’s hard to keep up the project momentum over the winter, without secondhand fairs to root around every weekend, but online sources can still throw up a bargain – in this case a nearby pair of CMS Super 8+ arcade controllers – for free!

I love to “pounce” on this kind of bargain, and met the nice man a few hours later to collect the merchandise – one slightly used controller and one boxed, apparently mint. Part of the fun of Old Tech finds is doing a bit of research when I get them home (best to wait, Gumtree missions often go sideways) – not much to learn about these online though!

From the box I gathered they were obviously designed for PC use, having 15-pin connectors, and Greek in origin. Despite the retro style they’re definitely post-2000 as the box has both a web and hotmail address. A poke around the wayback machine narrowed this down further, to around 2002.

2002 snapshot from the wayback machine

They seem like great controllers, very clicky little microswitches and solidly built. It’s amazing to find one of these given their apparent scarcity (outside Greek ebay), but to have a pair and for free makes me feel an obligation to build something cool with them.

Connectivity shouldn’t be a problem, a Player X board or two, or even proper gameport adaptors will get RetroPie linked up, the question is what to build? I suspect there’s enough space inside for a pi zero, to make an all-in-one portable console, but having a matching pair makes me think bigger – much bigger.

I’m thinking of some kind of two-player furniture, either a side-by-side coffee-table job with a big screen or a taller head-to-head “cocktail table”, for the likes of Ms Pac Man. Both of these builds have been slightly done to death but I think working around these cool controllers would be a really interesting challenge. Definitely one for the warmer weather though!


Geordie Score

We’re just back from a weekend up North, retracing the steps of my youth and catching up with the family. The bingo hall I worked in and bars I loved are sadly gone, but one important historical site remains – ESR Electronic Components.

You could make pixel art on those component drawers, there are so many.

It’s an independent electronics shop and as you can see from the wall of over 2000 drawers behind the counter they have a comprehensive inventory.

As well as being an exciting shopping opportunity (stoked by caffeine  & Donkey Kong at Cullercoats Coffee 3 doors down) it was a sentimental one РI bought my first ever electronics kit in this very shop, nearly 30 years ago. After clumsily soldering it together with my buddy Steve we had literally hours of fun with the FM Transmitter , tuning the stereos in Dixons to the right frequency then standing outside and trolling the customers via the FM microphone.

The shop exterior hasn’t changed much since the 80s. Good.

It means a lot that shops like this are still in business, especially so in a fairly quiet seaside town where so much else has changed. They’ve clearly moved with the times though and likely do a lot of business online now, but for me there’s enormous value in being able to walk in with a list and have the full “four candles” retail experience.

Bag of goodies from ESR

I was pretty restrained in there but scored some connectors, a sweet membrane keypad and most importantly several metres of 8 core alarm cable. They had loads of kits & components I’ve not seen elsewhere too, many made by Velleman, as well as full ranges of things like project boxes, harder to find now that the Maplin stores have closed.

Components, Coffee and Coastline within metres of each other, a perfect trip!

For me the whole nostalgia + shopping trip was one of the highlights of the break – I think the family up north may see us more often in future!


Rotary Tuning with the Pi #TVHAT

The Raspberry Pi TV HAT arrived a week or so ago and we’ve had great fun setting it up and using it. It does a great job of streaming a digital TV signal around the house, and I use it daily.

For me though the critical thing was being able to easily stream TV to other Raspberry Pis – I have several converted vintage TVs (Like the Hitachi Pi and Casio Pi) and really wanted them to be able to display actual live TV broadcasts.

With a bit of Python I now have the 1982 TV Experience live on the Hitachi Pi! It uses a script to step through four separate VLC playlists (to match the four channels we had in 1982) using the TV’s original rotary tuning dial. The script is on GitHub and is really simple – you could also just use a push button.

I’ve covered my experiences (with some assistance from the cats) in the “New Spec Review” video below, and the write-up is live on Hackster and Instructables.

The next project is definitely going to be finding and adapting a nice vintage case for the TV server Pi – stay tuned for updates!





The #TVHAT Has Landed!

So excited to receive my Raspberry Pi TV HAT in the post this week! I’ve converted several old TVs using the Pi recently, like the Casio Pi and the Hitachi Pi¬†but there’s always been something missing – an actual digital TV signal.

With the launch of the TV HAT so many possibilities have opened up, from adding a TV tuner to an OSMC Kodi build to streaming digital TV across the home network to other devices.

I’ll be releasing a “New Spec Review” video once I’ve fully got to grips with it (Mostly done, I’m half-watching a live stream of Carry on Cabby on the other monitor as I type), and I’ll also be testing it with my existing TV conversions – and maybe even making a nice retro case to hold the TV Server Pi in style. Stay tuned for updates!