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:




5 thoughts on “The VT510 & The RasPi Zero, Part II

  1. Pingback: Dumb Terminals And Raspberry Pis | Hackaday

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  3. Very cool!

    Be careful: the eBay MAX3232 chips are overwhelmingly counterfeit and will probably fail short and dangerously overheat soon. Be careful.

    I did a little write-up on them not long ago and it was posted on Hackaday.

    Real ones can be had cheaply from vendors like DigiKey and whatnot. I have a few genuine ones lying around the parts box and would be happy to send you one if you want. Just drop me an email.

    • Sorry it took so long to reply to this– I’m still not completely used to how wordpress works on the backend of things. I’m well aware that they’re most likely counterfeit chips– from the time hackaday picked this up to about the end of december, the Pi was running practically uninterrupted, and the VT510 was still able to send/receive okay when powered, so I’m not completely worried, but I did pick them off of the same seller that a friend uses for those boards to use as an interface with a specific brand of PBX his mom-and-pop telecom business sells and remotely maintains. for the moment, until something fries, and something probably will, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt seeing as the Zero was only 88 cents or so cheaper on sale than the two of the 232 boards I got from the shenzhen marketplace side of eBay. the loss in total is only a couple bucks, and at most, a few more for another MicroSD card.

      the next step from here is going to be the integration of one into the casing now that the Zero W exists. As of late I haven’t been able to find my MicroSD card reader to make that a whole-hearted reality yet, but I did pick up a Pi Zero W the other day to fart around with this idea and how it’d be implemented.

  4. Once the RS-232 interface is installed on the Raspberry Pi, Are there any things you need to do in configuring the Raspberry Pi OS (and speaking of OS, which one — debian, ubuntu, or other) to allow the terminal to connect?

    I assume you need to tell the Raspberry Pi to set the port to match the baud rate, duplex, and other serial settings of the terminal. Just never done it before.

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