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Old 25th Apr 2024, 8:21 pm   #1
SiriusHardware
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Default MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

Out shopping with SWMBO earlier, I assumed my usual holding position in front of the magazine shelves and was surprised to see 'MK14' on the front of a magazine, which turned out to be the May 2024 issue (issue 314) of Linux Format.

Inside there's a four page article which first covers the history of the base machine and briefly mentions the cassette interface, VDU and an (unknown to me) 4K RAM / 16K ROM extension card.

It then looks at various ways of using an MK14 now: Buying an original (considered too pricey). Emulation, software, as in Doug Rice's online emulator, emulation, hardware, as in the PIC14 for which Budgetronics is mentioned as a kit source, and replication, as in the JM Precision replica PCBs. There is also some discussion of SC/MP assembly language. Even the SCRUMPI gets a tiny mention, as a potential competitor for the MK14.

Overall it's a pretty accurate article - one minor error that I noticed was the onboard RAM being referred to as 2112s (in reality, 2111s) which could mislead people into thinking that RAM for a replica is easier to find than it is, but otherwise it was hard to find fault with.

Sadly, we don't get a mention.
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Old 25th Apr 2024, 9:34 pm   #2
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

Thanks - that’s an interesting piece to find in a Linux magazine. You can read the first page of it at https://gb.readly.com/magazines/linu...beb1337019c65e and it has a nice photo of a version of Karen‘s PIC based MK14 emulator.

The front page of the magazine reads „How to revive the MK14 - the daddy of the ZX80“. I would have said more like a distant uncle

We might not get a mention, but I have to wonder if the article would exist without the interest that’s been generated on this forum. Great to see it mentioned in the big wide world though.
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Old 26th Apr 2024, 9:26 am   #3
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

Although architecturally quite different, I think it's the 'Daddy' of the ZX machines in the sense that it sold well enough to convince Clive Sinclair that there might be a market for affordable personal computers. Without the MK14 there might arguably have been no ZX series of computers and, by tenuous extrapolation, no Acorn and therefore no ARM.
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Old 28th Apr 2024, 1:07 am   #4
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

Thanks for the pointer to this. I went into WH Smiths earlier and managed to get this (the last copy they had on the shelf!) before next month's issue is out in a few days - Ironically I was only in there last Sat (a quite-rare visit into town for many weeks, to get some Vinyl on Record Store day), but I hadn't noticed what was in this issue, as it's not very prominently positioned in there.
And many larger Tesco's have now cut-back on selling most Computer & Music etc. mags, where I had also bought it from a few years ago.

I used to quite-often buy Linux Format (inc. back-issues) online from the 'magazinesdirect' (Future) publisher's website, as they often had good offers / free-delivery, that made it much-cheaper than the shops, buying many during COVID shop closures.
But they now add £1 to the issue cover-price in advance, to cover 'free' delivery (However, not much-more if you go via TopCashBack to get 10% cashback) Although all other online-sellers are charging much more, with it being sold for over £10 on eBay (With 'free delivery')!

I mainly got Linux Format for articles on the RPi (Now 12yrs old just over a month ago on 'Pi-day') & Python etc. I do recall when they originally had cover DVD's, but permanently dropped these apparently due to cost.
There is mention in this issue of using the Pi Pico as a Custom GPU - maybe kind of like ones developed on here for the MK14 to replace the original VDU.


Looking through the LinuxFormat M14 article, I note they show a picture of the original PMOS ISP-8A/500D but they don't seem to state that it was only the SCRUMPI (they briefly mention, with its 'User Interference'! comprised of just toggle switches) that used that with the MK14 actually using the later NMOS SC/MP-II INS8060 (although they do point out that was the 2nd generation and the INS8070 the 3rd).

The article also said they couldn't discover the cost of the SC/MP IC (Well IIRC I saw it was advertised for around £15 in component-supplier adverts back then), but it must have been much-less than the 8080 / 6800 that retailed at $360? (I thought they were more-like $200, before that got slashed to less than a third of this when the Z80 & 6502 got launched at rather less - eventually being much-cheaper than the SC/MP(II) ever sold for) as the complete MK14 kit only cost £39.95 (plus delivery?)

They rather unfairly say that National Semiconductor is now defunct along with countless other many-forgotten companies that produced processors.
Which is maybe a little unfair as it was only in recent years that NS was merged with / acquired by TI, with their LM... analogue part numbers still living on.
Although it is true that NS did mostly have little success with getting most of their attempts at processors over the years being more widely adopted.

They also state that the SC/MP was National Semiconductors first single-chip microprocessor. But it looks like they might not quite be true.
As it seems there was a 'PACE' / 'IMP-16A' single-chip implementation of their earlier multi-chip IMP-16, just before this / at the same time, according to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microprocessor_chronology
(Which also seems to show the 4004 was not the even the 2nd but the 3rd 'microprocessor' - with none of them quite single-chip back then, as even the later 4040 needed several specialist 'support' IC's for a minimal system.)

I recognise the author of the article as a familiar name from the days of ETI etc. magazines.

Last edited by ortek_service; 28th Apr 2024 at 1:13 am.
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Old 28th Apr 2024, 1:27 am   #5
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

I thought there was a lot more the author could have included if there had been say 20 pages for him to wallow around in, but there weren't so he limited himself to single examples for each case - for example in the matter of MK14 replicas only the JMP replica PCB was mentioned when there are also, in no particular order, the very faithful Czech (Martin L) issue V replicas, Chris Oddy's 'standard' replica plus his MK14E, MK14man's noughties reworking, Slothie's 'issue VI' and the 'issue VII' spinoff from that with cherry switches - but just discussing the pros and cons of each of those would have taken up the whole article. It was reasonable to say 'there are replica PCBs available, and here's an example'.

It must be extraordinarily difficult, really, to write an article on any subject without diehard fanboys like us coming out of the woodwork and saying 'well, actually'...

I didn't even realise LF weren't doing cover discs any more until I bought this issue - pity - in the past I tried a few different Linux distros which I probably wouldn't have tried if they had not been sitting on a disc in front of me. Unfortunately it is increasingly common for PCs, especially laptops / notebooks like this one, not to come with optical drives.

Last edited by SiriusHardware; 28th Apr 2024 at 1:35 am.
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Old 28th Apr 2024, 2:00 am   #6
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

Yes, reading through it a bit more now, I see the (available for Linux) ZEsarUX was the only mentioned Sinclair emulator, that also included the MK14 - but had little documentation. Whereas I thought MAME now had MK14 and is maybe more-widely known.

I've also seen their pictured one doesn't have seem to have a 5V regulator fitted and they say it didn't include the necessary 5V PSU - just like the RPi. Whereas I thought these were designed to be used with a 9V PSU and an on-board 5V regulator was normally always fitted.

But the article is generally fairly accurate - I've bought Retro computer books that have had some significant errors in their facts.
(And I recently-saw on a 'Bidding Room' BBC TV programme (S5 Ep12) them discussing an old Bush TV24 405-line TV (made between 1950-52) and that there were 'only 3 channels' back then - when BBC2 was only ever on 625-line, and ITV wasn't launched until 1955. So many on here would have been surprised that their generally quite-vintage 'experts' hadn't recalled things more-accurately.)


I think LXF etc. were now assuming most people had fast unlimited Internet access, so could just download a live-DVD image etc. Although even DVD-readers / writers have been obsoleted on more-modern Laptops (as well as only larger-Asda & WH Smiths being about the only shops still selling blank DVD's), so now have to use USB drive as long as PC isn't too old to support booting from that.
I think other remaining computer mags (like PC Pro?) that gave you lots of (often just limited-functionality 'shareware') software on a cover DVD, started publishing a download link in each magazine. But it seems these expired after a short time, if you didn't use them at the time!

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Old 28th Apr 2024, 9:46 am   #7
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

The author also stated that he had been unable to find an SC/MP assembler (which is not the same as saying there wasn't one, merely that he could not find one) - it may be that there is no specific stand-alone cross assembler for the SC/MP but as we know there is SBASM3 and I think a couple more have been mentioned in the past, including the one which Karen used.

Before I came across SBASM3 I started to write an SC/MP assembler in Python with the aim that it would be able to assemble MK14 program listings exactly as written in the MK14 manual and I got some way into that before I then found SBASM which didn't, at the time, include an SC/MP cross (If you read San Bergman's note on the SC/MP cross, you'll see that he found the SC/MP to be so quirky that it was one of the most difficult ones to do) - I knocked up what I thought was a reasonable working attempt - in fact in my 2012 Youtube video demonstrating my original MK14 uploader, you see my SC/MP cross for SBASM3 working - SBASM3 didn't have one at the time. I sent it to San, he didn't say a word but was obviously so horrified by it that he decided to do it properly himself, and so that was how SBASM3 came to have an official 'cross' for the SC/MP. You're welcome.

Even so, it would be possible to make a 'fork' of CRSCMP.PY, call it CRMK14.PY, which allows the MK14 manual assembler specific syntax as well as the syntax it accepts now. Unfortunately I just don't have enough free hours in my life to do something like that now, and I think the folks who are seriously into writing MK14 software are now completely accustomed to SBASM3's way of doing things.
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Old 28th Apr 2024, 11:11 am   #8
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

I havent managed to get a copy yet so I haven't read it, but its worrying that a bloke who was specifically researching 'our' bag didnt find an assembler, didnt find us or the FB group, and only found one clone - makes you wonder how visible are we in the great wide interweb, and how many noobs miss out on our community (theres that word again...) "Passing like ships in the night" as my old boss used to describe IP4 & 6 to work-experience kids
Regarding the cross file, I didnt know that G, so thank you! if not verbatim, he would no doubt have considered your concepts & ideas - and take pride in the fact that the only fully-working SC/MP cross is yours Its unfortunate that San isnt more communicative but thats been my experience too. Different people, different priorities I suppose.

Re the fork, rather than CRMK14.PY, would 'CRPACE' include the MK14 and be more generic? I think we're generally comfortable with SBASM now (but only with your cross) although I did eventually face my fear of AS, its actually a pussy cat
I just wish San would officially adopt your cross mods and issue a 'final', working version
Cheese
Pies

Last edited by Phil__G; 28th Apr 2024 at 11:18 am.
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Old 28th Apr 2024, 11:55 am   #9
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

For the record, there isn't a single line of my original SC/MP cross code in San's SC/MP cross, so it really must have been bad. Not bad in the sense of not working as it obviously did work, but 'bad' in the way / style that it was written. San's own python code is really very elegant which is why it's not too difficult to understand and modify, but mine obviously wasn't at all like that.

The suggestion that my bad version forced San to write a better one was rather tongue in cheek, but I don't think it is entirely without foundation...

I don't think the author of the LXF article failed to find other replica PCBs, he just chose to focus on a single example of each sub-subject due to lack of space. He did cover a lot of ground in just four pages.

Regarding not finding us, we come up fairly high in any search for information about the MK14 but consider the sheer width and depth of information about the MK14 and SC/MP that there is here now - it is a LOT to go through, especially if you are up against some kind of publishing deadline.

Last edited by SiriusHardware; 28th Apr 2024 at 12:09 pm.
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Old 28th Apr 2024, 12:10 pm   #10
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

[QUOTE=Phil__G;1634986]I havent managed to get a copy yet so I haven't read it, but its worrying that a bloke who was specifically researching 'our' bag didnt find an assembler, didnt find us or the FB group, and only found one clone - makes you wonder how visible are we in the great wide interweb, and how many noobs miss out on our community (theres that word again...) "
>>
>>
/QUOTE]

Well Google searches often seem to feature posts on this site quite prominently whenever I've been looking for further info on things that have been discussed here - In fact I've often found it the easiest way to find previous posts I've recalled / made, but struggled to find with the site's 'built-in' search.
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Old 28th Apr 2024, 5:01 pm   #11
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

Does this forum only come high up on the listings for us because of our past search history, and any other tracking that google has collected?

I just tried searching MK14 facebook on google and didn’t find anything on Soc MK14. I don’t use facebook and don’t intend to start, it was just to check the search listing.
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Old 28th Apr 2024, 7:46 pm   #12
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark1960 View Post
I just tried searching MK14 facebook on google and didn’t find anything on Soc MK14. I don’t use facebook and don’t intend to start, it was just to check the search listing.
Thats odd, I tried he very same search and it was the first item listed....
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Old 28th Apr 2024, 8:09 pm   #13
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

There might also be some dependence on the location of the search, and google.ca might give a different result to google.co.uk.
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Old 28th Apr 2024, 11:21 pm   #14
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

With hindsight, MK14 was a bad name / model name to choose because there are so many other things which go under the moniker 'MK14' - not least a Milton Keynes postcode - but also Spitfires, Torpedoes and a popular (?!) type of assault rifle. All of those things get in the way if you just search on plain 'MK14' but usually "MK14 computer" or "Science Of Cambridge" yields better results, the latter because SOC only really had the one main product. Once you get Google barking up the right tree, results from this forum are usually quite high up the list.
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Old 29th Apr 2024, 7:32 am   #15
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

I found that Googling for MK14 or even SC/MP followed by Facebook wasn't finding much that was relevant / on FB - mainly things in Milton Keynes.
But when I tried "SC/MP Computer Facebook", that group was top of the list_

Although being a closed-one? / FaceBook no longer showing you much if not a member, then you won't see much there (Google seems to be able to see more than you can!).

However, This forum does often make appearances in those searches - including thread where the FB group was pointed to - And posts here are viewable by anyone unlike many other forums you have to be a member of to see.
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Old 29th Apr 2024, 10:47 am   #16
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

Hi All

I've update the wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MK14 to add links for the SB assembler and cross file. If there is a better or more preferred link for the cross file, please update or let me know and I'll update it.

I think I'll add other links next week.

Regards
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Old 29th Apr 2024, 11:48 am   #17
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

Thanks OldCPUs - if you are going to be editing the wiki page further maybe you could correct the statement that early orders amounted to 20,000 (possibly true) and that around 15,000 (?) were sold. Chris Curry said in an interview with the Centre For Computing History about 7 years ago:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrTmvqwpZF8

...that around 90,000 were sold, which is rather higher than the variously 15,000 to 50,000 figure usually stated elsewhere.
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Old 29th Apr 2024, 12:02 pm   #18
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

Hi SiriusHardware

Yes, I'll do that next week.

Regards
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Old 29th Apr 2024, 12:09 pm   #19
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

The best place for the most up to date SBASM3 SC/MP 'cross' file would be in the official download 'package' of SBASM3 but unfortunately the author San Bergmans does not seem to want to respond to any attempts to communicate with him - he did at various times in the past, but not recently.
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Old 29th Apr 2024, 12:32 pm   #20
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Default Re: MK14 article in Linux Format mag (May 2024)

Agreed. My number 1 priority if I was serving a broken package would be to fix it but the 'official' crscmp.py cross file remains flawed. I've also tried but still no response from San.
He has said that SBASM is very low down on his priorities, obscure cross files even lower - San says he's never written a line of SC/MP code. Its a great shame as SBASM itself is very good
To the heavy-users - Realtime, Coolsnaz2, Chris Oddy and to a much lesser extent myself - the Sirius modded cross is perfect, if only we could get it officially adopted!
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