Posted on October 17, 2017
“I must confess to you that I have long had a secret desire to operate my own BBS,” _Dr. Lane Lester
the Rainbow November 1983
So do we! Now that we have a souped up 512 upgraded CoCo 3 we need hardware to push that little red wagon. We will also need secure power to drive this beast.
Enter the CoCo SDC! Developed by Darren Atkinson and produced by Ed Snider and we give him 1,000 thank you’s for this little miracle. We do have a disk drive but have no desire to burn it up in 24hr 7 days a week BBS operation. We ordered the SDC (see our previous post as to how you can) received it in the mail and the next step was to print ourselves a case.
In the middle photo below you can see our Flashforge Creator Pro printing the CoCo SDC case designed by xnaron (QR code on the left) and posted on thingiverse. You can download the 3D file here. From the two available SDC designs we chose this one because we felt it would look best in the black filament we had available.
On the far right picture you see the finished CoCo SDC case. We used silver pen paint to highlight the recessed lettering. Pretty slick huh? Well, we thought so.
Next, we added the CoCo SDC eXplorer. The Original Gamer Stevie Strow produced a video walkthru about this on his Youtube Channel. We placed the software on our 32 gb SD card, it organizes and makes visible the files we put on; thus making it more usable. Thank you Steve!
We will go into the Rainboard software, where to get it, how to load it onto the SDC and how to use it in a post in the near future -it is quite an involved story but since one of the original Rainboards was decimated by a powersurge (as outlined by Dr Lester in his 1984 Rainboard update article) we decided a little protection was in order.
Safe power is a must! Not only are our power adapters protected but this particular surge protector protects our hayes dial-up modem and coaxial cable which carries the signal from the CoCo3 to our T.V. monitor. We ordered the APV 11-Outlet model from Amazon.com.
Good news! We have contacted the father of The Rainboard, Dr. Lane Lester who was gracious enough to allow us to interview him. We will have the interview up here as soon as it is finished.
We will begin our series on setting up The Last Rainboard on the CoCo SDC which has taken many twists and turns not to mention mental endurance and intestinal fortitude. Until then this is your Sysop Piff signing off.
Posted on August 27, 2017
We would like to thank the following people who have helped us on our journey toward getting The Last Rainboard BBS up and running.
First, I would like to thank Ed Snider for selling us a CoCo SDC . If you want a SDC you have to email him.
john-ed for the CoCo video interface cable, 75 ohm F-type to RCA conn. We opted to use the RCA adapter instead of the RGB because we are only running a BBS on The CoCo 3 not playing games.
roq74 and The Blue Wharehouse always has a fine assortment of retro CRT T.V.s at great prices. roq74 always packs the televisions very securely for shipping.
A constant thanks to Cloud9tech. We installed the Triad, see pics below.
Finally, we have to thank Home Depot for the wire shelving units as recommended by Scott Schreiber from Retro Gaming Roundup. It is better to go to Home Depot in person, talk to an associate who works there to make sure you have all the pieces you need and they will cut it to the right length for you. Check out our retro Rainboard server rack above.
Soon after we built the shelf our white (piss yellow with age) 9 inch T.V. came in from roq74. We tested the CoCo and the T.V.-they worked. Whew, that could have been bad. Our CoCo 3 was in boxed mint condition so we had hope. Now time to disassemble.
After taking out all the screws the lower left side would not separate. Damn it!! So I watched another Stevie Strow video entitled Performing Surgery on a CoCo 3. Then I looked down and noticed the void warranty if you open case sticker was over the final screw. Very tricky Radio Shack may you RIP you S.O.B.s.
Next, I had to remove four 4464 DRAMS memory chips and snip two green C65 and C66 capacitors. Once the old memory and capacitors were removed the Triad slipped right in. We used a Radio Shack IC extractor not shown.
The entire process was easier than we anticipated. If you have a CoCo 3 we highly recommend you buy the Triad Upgrade from Cloud9tech. The price is good and it works well.
After all of the above mentioned hardwearing it was time to test. It’s alive! Yes, truly an exciting moment friends and neighbors but we are far from finished.
In Installing hardware 2 we are going to go over the CoCo SDC, soon to be followed by the digital archaeology involved in getting the original RainBoard basic code from 1983 working in 2017.
We tracked down the Farther of the RainBoard code Lane Lester (still alive and kicking) we will tell you about him and his original November 1983 article in The Rainbow Magazine that started it all. Until then this is your Sysop Piff signing out.
Posted on August 5, 2017
The computer setup above is where I do all my admin work, not the actual hardware which runs the BBS we will get into that a little further down. I want to tell you about some exciting hardware developments in the CoCo community and the progress we are making here at The Last Rainboard.
Have you heard about Paul Rickards WiFi232 Retro Computer Hayes Modem? Yes, Yes, Yes, it adds WiFi capabilities to the following retro computers as stated on Paul’s website biosrhythm.com
Atari Portfolio (with serial interface and 9 to 25 pin serial adapter)
Atari 520ST and 1040ST
Texas Instruments TI-99/4A
Tandy TRS-80 Model 102 (with 25 pin gender changer)
Apple IIgs (with mini DIN to 25 pin serial cable)
Atari 800XL (with Atari 850 serial interface and appropriate cable)
Amiga 1000 (with 25 pin gender changer)
Digital VT220 and VT240 Terminal
Apple IIe (with serial card)
IBM 486-compatible (with 9 to 25 pin serial adapter)
Notice CoCo is not on there? No worries because Bill Nobel valued member of the CoCo community and others on the CoCo mailing list are diligently, working on the code on a ESP8266 module to make telneting to a CoCo via the module possible in order to run a CoCo BBS on a CoCo with telnet capabilities. Whew, that was a mouth full!
SHIFT838 aka Chris Schneider from shift838.99er.net has released hardware and software plans for making your own DIY ESP8266 WiFi Modem! The plans are available in his excellent monthly (Vol 3 Issue 2 August) TI-99/4A and Geneve newsletter.
Being able to bring WiFi to your CoCo would give you a good reason to join a BBS and hey if you haven’t why don’t you join The Last Rainboard here. We plan on building a ESP8266 WiFi Modem based on Chris Schneiders plans modified for the CoCo, I will document the CoCo-tatastic details here.
We are not using a WiFi module to run The Last Rainboard. See the little jewel on the left that is how you will obtain dial-up access. Using Rainboard software, the Hayes Smart Modem is how it was and how it’s gonna be.
Nothing against upgrading a bit, we did get our Triad from Cloud9tech.com and we finally got in contact with Ed Snider and are on the list for a CoCo SDC. What the heck, here is a picture of the Triad . Cloud9 produced a good video on how to install the Triad I do suggest you mute the volume though. Sorry guys. The TRIAD 512K SRAM Upgrade for the CoCo 3
With all of this exciting retro computing goodness we still have a BBS to run and I must say we are making upgrades every day. Now you see Piff’s latest news when you log on, we are programming CoCo related message areas and our The Last Rainboard login page will be up shortly. Check back often.
One last thing. on our home page you can see if our BBS server is working via our news ticker! If you love the CoCo, Christmas and or little puppy dogs you can go ahead and sign up on The Last Rainboard BBS.
Your Sysop Piff out.
Posted on July 31, 2017
Hello all! I wanted to update you on the current state of The Last Rainboard BBS. I will bring you up to speed on how we are operating now, then we will discuss coming upgrades and changes and finally we’ll discuss what may be possible in the near future.
The photo on the left is indeed The Last Rainboard server. Raspberry Pi3 running the latest version of RASPBIAN JESSIE WITH DESKTOP (which I could only reliably download from the torrent here, remember use the torrent.)
Mystic BBS is the software we use, link here. Paul Hayton has put together a phenomenal Mystic tutorial channel on YouTube here. Mystic BBS software is free and has been in active development since 1997. More features are added all the time, there is a thriving BBS community who use it, they support and help one another. Believe me an active community is important! If you are a member of The Last Rainboard you can visit Fsxnet and visit the Mystic community yourself.
We 3D printed the case, the body out of wood, the base and top out of copper. We installed heat sinks and a quiet 5v fan, keeps our server running at 34-35 degrees Celsius during constant operation.
The network is hardwired into our router providing telnet and remote access for our Sysop. The small bit of white box peeking out from behind it is a US Robotics (Non-Windows) USB modem for dial-up access to the BBS. Our Modem is working and we have the phone line and number set up, we just need to finish the coding, when we do I will make an announcement at the BBS and on this blog and give you the phone # so you can dial-up and test out your CoCo.
We will be running The Last Rainboard on a CoCo 3 as soon as we can. As of this post we have a Triad from Cloud 9 tech on the way.
We need a CoCo SDC if you have one you would be willing to sell or know where we could buy one please let us know via our contact form here.
Currently, we are updating the cosmetics of our BBS. We have a new Title page to replace the Mystic header and several other CoCo related accoutrement. When new items are added we will let you know in our blog.
In the future we believe it will be possible to use an actual CoCo3 for both dial-up and telnet thanks to the WiFi232 Internet Modem (always out of stock) or perhaps someone will come out for one specifically designed for the CoCo. The Adafruit HUZZAH32 – ESP32 Feather Board would make it possible. I have a friend who uses this to telnet with his Ti-99. He used the HUZZAH board and he wrote a Java program to emulate a Hayes Modem. I plan on writing about this in more detail on the blog later. I know it would be possible to do this with the CoCo.
If you are thinking of running your own BBS we would like to help. The BBS is back in a big way and the birth of a new BBS is good for us all. If you have BBS or CoCo questions we would be happy to answer all we can.
Posted on July 26, 2017
The Last Rainboard is dedicated to the BBS “The Last Rainboard” a BBS which celebrates and promotes the TRS-80 Color Computer, software and its users.
The goal of “The Last Rainboard” BBS is to run on vintage TRS-80 hardware and genuine Rainboard software as originally published in “The Rainbow Magazine _communication issue 1984.”
As of the date of this post we have most of the hardware required: CoCo 3, Hayes 3oo baud Modem, Telephone # and line. What we need; a TRIAD 512K SRAM Upgrade from Cloud9 (to run reliably and cool) and a CoCo SDC (instead of a floppy drive) and a retro CRT monitor. We are not able to find the SDC for sale although we know they exist. Please contact us if you know where we can purchase a SDC.
If you would like to help us maintain the BBS by either donating money or hardware please contact us via the contact form.