The VT510 & The RasPi Zero, Part II

The Pi Zero with the 2GB MicroSD card has become the brains for the VT510 at last! it’s messy, but it’s the best I can do until I can find the pinout to the ROM expansion port on the back of the VT510 and figure out if that could be a viable connection path to go with in the future.


As you can see here, the Pi Zero has been connected to, and successfully works with the VT510. but that’s the finished product, until the null modem gender changer comes in as well as getting a short enough straight cable to not be obtrusive during use.

We start off first with the dremeling of the plastic. I couldn’t find my box of dremel bits, so I had to use the rough cheapo chinese metal pointed burr I had on hand. hence, most of the cuts and holes made with this to a point, aren’t the cleanest, but the point wasn’t to make it look clean, but to get the project done. when this is 100% complete and I feel I can do it better, I’ll get a proper enclosure 3D printed for me by a friend with a Microcenter Makerbot clone.

This is the last, unused Pi Zero next to the other of the Max3232 boards I purchased from eBay, alongside the Ralink RT25xx-based 802.11g “Plus MIMO” (Ha!) Belkin dongle I used for this project and an ADMtek Pegasus II-based USB Ethernet adapter (Natively supported in the Pi’s kernel without any need of firmware, unlike the Realtek USB Eth adapter I tried), which was originally used to get the system up and running via a wired connection to the internet:


and This is the enclosure, these pictures having been taking during the dremeling process with my old Moto Droid X running LiquidSmooth 4.4.4 KitKat. it’s slow, but it takes really good daylight photos, in my honest opinion.

Once the null modem adapter gets in, it’ll cover up the disgusting cut of the RS232 port from the Max3232 up quite nicely, and I won’t have to deal with people saying “oh, that looks like crap, why didn’t you do a better job with it blah blah”

because that’s the point. it’s not supposed to be pretty and elegant. it’s supposed to do a single job, and when I feel it needs to be revised, it will be.

So, here’s what it looks like inside now.


Yes, there is only one screw holding the Pi in place. the USB cable coming in has the shielding soldered to the now unused MicroUSB power input port. 5v is provided through the +5v on pin 2 and ground on Pin 14, while the Max3232 uses Pin 2 +3.3v, Pin 6 Ground, and Pin 8&10 for BCM14/15 TXD and RXD for TTL Serial. The thinger there in the MiniHDMI port is just a port blocker to prevent it from mushing in on itself somehow when I was building this all, but I’ve decided to leave it in. it came from a video card, and I don’t remember which one it was– I think it was a Gigabyte GTX 570.

on the 5v positive rail is a switch I pulled from something ages ago and never found a legitimate use for, so it sat in a box until just yesterday when I put this all together.

This isn’t a guide for you to build your own, but hopefully this is some good insight into how to probably (or not) go about it, hopefully with a bigger or purpose-built enclosure. the enclosure dimensions I used for this project were 100x60x25mm. it just barely fit everything I needed it to.

That’s about it for this. Have a good one!

Stay tuned for Part III where we go back to 1885 using 1955 technology to re-build the time circuit supply and stuff the Pi Zero into a ready-made  purpose-built handheld game console.

Look, it even does cmatrix!


And, for the sake of sanity, here’s what it looked like for the first bit while I was testing it out and making sure everything was good and stable before dropping it in the project box. this is a bit neater than how it looks now. cu5rsopusaagkzg-jpg-large

Edit: Thank you to Hackaday for doing a small piece on this project! There’s still lots left to do, but it’s getting closer! The Pi Zero is now on and underclocked to 700MHz with a 350MHz GPU/L2 clock. The enclosure is now on the side of the VT510, and is connected to the back serial port through another serial cable found in the boxes of cables given to me by my very good friend Aziz. As of right now, this is how it is supposed to look, albeit with a shorter serial cable in the future, and the removal of the DB9 to DB25 adapter on the back of the enclosure:



The VT510 and the Raspi Zero, Part I (Plus, some updates.)

A few weeks ago I picked up quite a few RasPi Zeros from my local MicroCenter while they were going for $1 throughout the month of September. After doing a USB port mod to the first one piggybacking off the USB test pads on the bottom, I was able to get a couple of them going properly. the last one pictured below has since been populated with a 2GB MicroSD card to get an install of MiniBian on it for messing around with, but not much has been done in terms of actually making it do something.

Past this, I was still looking for something for one of these to do, be it one of the Zeros or my trusty Pi 1-B 512. Fortunately, I saved a wonderful new toy from getting scrapped at my buddy’s place yesterday to possibly do just that:

a DEC VT510 hailing from around 1998 in manufacture. There were also VT520s there, but they all had scratched-to-hell CRTs. Had I known at that point that I could just swap the board into the VT510, which seems doable, I’d have done it. Here’s an image of the VT520’s logic board, which includes a second MMJ jack, whereas the VT510 only has one. Else, the two are, from my perspective, rather interchangeable so long as all the cables aren’t cut.


At this current point in time, I don’t have a MAX232 board handy to pop a Pi to it, but I did modify a DB25 male to female cable that was given to me last year in a box full of wires (Thanks Aziz!) to get that working and happy with the SPARCStation 5. At the current moment I’m researching the pinout of the ROM port on the back of the VT510/520 to see if one can tap into it to use that as the insertion port so the rear serial ports don’t have to be messed with, but in the event that this isn’t doable, I’m going to see if I can get a case printed up with the right dimensions to fit a DB25 connector, MAX232, and a Pi Zero or Pi all inside to at least make the end product less messy. it’s goign to be hard, and will probably take quite a number of weeks to have everything happen, including either learning CAD myself to design such an enclosure or having someone else I know that DOES know how to do CAD give me a hand in that, and then having the case printed up in DEC Red.

the SS5 has seen a bit of action in the past couple weeks for things like this, though. The other thing I did find in that box of cables was the correct 50-pin SCSI cable to connect up a lunchbox SCSI enclosure encapsulating a Seagate Elite 9 hard drive from the mid-90s, originally with an install of what I believe to be SunOS for a SPARCStation IPC I once had.

and, before I forget, the SS5 also did have to have its NVRAM tended to, as it died back in March. Finally took care of it in July. I may have also killed the Happymeal card at that point too, but hopefully I’ll be getting a replacement soon to use instead, and some other cards to putz about with inside, including an S24 framebuffer to stick in the AFX slot…!


And for anyone wondering about the Ultra 10 and how it’s doing, I did clean up the insides a bit. as an update from the last post I made about it on here, it has quite a few new things now, including a Radeon 7000 (AKA the XVR-100.)