Denham Car Boot Sale

We did a 7.00am start at Denham Car Boot today with the dogs. My retro technology purchase today was a Sharp Elismate EL-1101 calculator.

Bought it from a house clearance van. He had no idea what it was but asked for a £5. This seems to be the standard price they all quote for small unknown items. I said £3 as it had batteries but would not switch on I would be taking a gamble. The battery cover was missing but I found it inside its case. The seller said £4 and so I started walking away when he stopped me and accepted the £3. Git home, shoved some batteries in and it worked fine. They seem to be selling on Ebsy for about £35 so Gael deal.

Lego Raspberry Pi Arcade

This is my table top arcade machine based on a Raspberry Pi and built from Lego bricks and some Lego compatible Blox from Wilkinsons (cheaper).

I’m not sure how many bricks there are but its a few hundred.

The computer I used was a Raspberry Pi 3 with a 64GB SD card. I installed a pre-configured image with Retropie, Kodi and added some games..

The Pi has a Picade Hat fitted to deal with the input from the standard arcade controls. This lovely little device also has an amplifier built in for some retro sounds. It also allows you to connect a button and use it as soft power switch.

You can but a picade kit with controls and speaker here for about £45 plus postage.

The screen was a 17″ open frame LCD touchscreen monitor I bought used on Ebay for about £45.

The beauty of using Lego is that I could easily make any shaped cabinet I liked and through trial and error get it to fit all the necessary components and still look cool. There is a MAME marquee at the top with a little 5V blue LED backlight (just search ebay for 5V USB LED strips – they are about £4-5). I’m also using a wireless keyboard that can be bought from Ebay for a few pounds so it can still be used as a normal computer without having to open up the case to access the USB ports.

Because the RetroPie image came with everything installed this was an easy project. It took some trial and error to get the Lego frame the way I wanted it but this was like being a kid again and playing with Lego. I did have one or two initial problems with the Picade software setup but their forum was fantastic and quickly helped me here. Finally I added a Lego minifigure and a Lego Head on top. They obviously serve no purpose but I like Lego Star Wars!

Its dimensions are 40cm wide x 29cm depth x 51cm height (60cm with the optional Batman Head). It weighs about 10.5 Kg and I have only glued one of the Lego plates that holds the joystick in place as this often came loose when people got energetic with it. Everything else can be dismantled brick by brick.

I would image the final costs was around £300 including the Lego bricks.

Amazon customer service

In the past Few have had one or two moans about Amazons customer service. Usually regarding their next day deliveries not arriving next day and Anazin not really caring about this issue.

We went to charge up our Ring doorbell a couple of days ago and after leaving it charging via USB for a few hours I went to switch it on and it wouldn’t. The USB port was also very hot.

So I went onto Amazons website and looked up the order from December last year. There was no return option for it as it’s been more than six months,

So after a bit of searching I found the contact us page which had two options available, Call back or Chat. I opted for a call back from them in 5 minutes. 5 minutes later they called back, I explained the problem and after ten minutes on hold at their expense, a replacement is on its way. When it arrives I have 30 days to send the old one back at Amazons expense. Straightforward. Just a bit worried that this is the 2nd doorbell we have had to return for charging issues

Ready Player One

Finished the book. Best read I’ve had for a while after “Sully”

Can’t believe he did a resl Easter Egg in his book and I’ve missed it. Still I don’t think I was going to break any Workd Records in his choice of video games. Shame he didn’t go with Titanfall, I might have had a chance. It did inspire me to fire up an emulator of Joust and Black Tiger. I need slot of practice.

Can’t wait now for the film. Just seen the trailer and it looks just like I imagined in my head.

Reading the book, reminded me of so many of favourite TV, films and games from the 80’s and 90’s. The author is American so most of the references are also American but they were still part of teenagers lives in the U.K during this time.

My car boot sale purchases

When I go to a car boot sale, I am always on the lookout for old consoles to add to my collection. In the past couple of years however there has been fierce competition in the local car boot sales. Traders go from one car boot sale to another in the same day looking for items like consoles to buy and sell and make a quick profit.

I have no problem with this except for the tactics they use. Its almost like a hunt. They sometimes work in packs and can be rude and unscrupulous. The start by approaching cars before they even get parked up and then ask the drivers if they have any of the items they are looking for.  They also rummage through peoples car boots as they are trying to set up their stalls. I know what I would do if they tried to go in my boot!

They then use various intimidation and ‘wont take no for answer’ tactics until they purchase the item. They will push other people out of the way and even try to take stuff out of another potential buyers hands. I am often walking around the car boot sale listening to one trader bragging to another but how he just got his latest acquisition at a steal and I can see the box of an old console I recognise sticking out of their oversized bags. They are ruining the car boot sales. Arguments amongst each other and sellers occur every week and security often have to move overzealous buyers and traders away from someone’s car when they see a crowd gathering. Thefts from people’s stalls are also common.

I don’t have the cheek to approach a car before it even stops and certainly wouldn’t fight me way into someone’s boot just to get something I wanted but I still get my hands on a bargain every now and then. Sometimes it’s just luck and I see a console appear in someone’s stall just as I’m passing. Some car booters will deliberately not sell to the traders now as they know they will never get a fair price. Again this is where I can benefit. I buy to collect for myself, not make a profit, although I still like to know I got a good price for whatever it is I’m buying.

Last Sunday, I came across one of the large vans that are selling items from house clearances. Sometimes these guys have interesting items. There are two problems with these types of sellers.:

  1. They don’t know anything about the item, whether its working or how to use it.
  2. They treat the items badly often damaging them.

On Sunday, I saw two items of interest on this sellers stall. One was a retro 1980’s Atomic Pinball game. The other was an Atari 520ST computer in a box. I didn’t even bother asking the seller whether they were working but he told me he wanted £30 for the two. They are worth more than this if they are working. Normally I would walk away without some confidence in the seller but I decided to take a gamble and ended up paying £25 for the two (technically, Debbie bought them for me).

When I got them home, I noticed the Atari’s box was a little damp and when I opened the box the bottom of the computer was slightly wet. I hoped it had just been stored poorly and left it to dry out for a couple of hours.

Whist I waited I popped some D cells into the Atomic Pinball and it worked fine.

After tuning my old TV into the Atari, I was surprised to see it fire into life and display its GUI desktop. It had some disks with it but these were just blank ones. Will need to order some software from Ebay me thinks.

The good news, they work. The bad news is that I have to find somewhere for them to live.


The Atari 520ST in action:


Amstrad GX 4000 Homebrew

The Amstrad GX 4000 was a very unsuccessful console from the late 80’s, early 90’s. It was very unpopular and was not in production for very long. It was based on the Zilog Z80 and used ROM cartridges for software.

Not a lot of software was produced for it and when it comes up for sale on sites like Ebay, the cartridges are generally £30+ if boxed.

The console came with a game called Burning Rubber which I have and then I purchased a copy of Operation Thunderbolt, one of my favourite arcade games from the 90’s

After some searching recently, I cam across a homebrew cartridge with all the games ever produced for the console on one homebrew cartridge. A bargain at about £35 and was quickly ordered from the European site.

Over the summer, I sorted my loft and garage and managed to locate my Amstrad GX 4000 and decided to test the new homebrew cartridge.

Burning Rubber worked out of the box. Operation Thunderbolt didn’t work initially but after a clean of the edge connector contacts works fine. Had some problems initially with the homebrew cartridge but this turned out to be an aftermarket multi-voltage PSU I was using with the console set to the wrong voltage. A quick change and everything seems to work fine. You use the bank of dip switches to select which game you want to load from the homebrew cartridge.


The full list of games can be found here:



And the geeks shall inherit the Earth – is this the future of VR?

Just started reading my new book, “Ready Player One”. Excellent so far!

The book is based on a dystopian future where everyone engages in a virtual reality environment that reminded me of Second Life – perhaps it could be the evolution of second life.

The designer of a Virtual reality software system called OASIS dies and leaves a fortune to the person who solves a complex puzzle and the main character seeks to find the fortune by following clues that only someone with intimate knowledge of pop culture could solve.The whole book is full of references to music, games and pop culture from the 80’s onwards. Its a Geekfest.

So far, we’ve had mention of many of my guilty pleasures, Krull, 80’s arcade games, 80’s home computers like the TRS-80, Commodore 64, Atari 2600, Dungeons & Dragons, Easter Eggs, Monty Python, The Last Starfighter (which is on Sky TV this week!), BBS, modems, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Betamax, Atari 800XL and more. I’m only on chapter 4.

VR has been around for a long time now but has been gaining some ground recently with the likes of HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. People are beginning to see some possibilities of how this technology could change our lives, particularly in areas such as education.

As a lecturer, I can fully see a future where students study from home without having to physically attend a school or college. Think of the advantages. The government could save millions. The students log in and find themselves in a classroom with their peers studying. With VR, they could go on field trips every lesson. Haptic feedback technology is also advancing rapidly now so again to crack VR users would still want some feedback from their environment. haptic gloves and bodysuits could fulfil this. At the moment these are being developed with gaming in mind but could easily be adapted for learning.

In the book, the VR school environments are still interactive lie the real world and have interesting ways of managing behaviour that we cant employ in the physical world.

I will update this post as I read more of the book.

And finally, they are going to make a film out of the book – I cant wait.