Author Topic: Dolch Pac 60 Portable Retro Gaming Rig  (Read 7420 times)

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Offline mountainblocks

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Dolch Pac 60 Portable Retro Gaming Rig
« on: Sat, 08 June 2019, 14:17:51 »
Hey everybody! I figured you guys might be interested in this project. It's a Dolch Pac 60 that I bought in non-working condition in order to turn it into a battery powered portable retro gaming system. I completely gutted it and replaced the internals with off the shelf modern hardware and software. It's based on a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B with a 10" 1280x800 HDMI display.

It's alive!

The first challenge was to figure out how to get the keyboard working with the Pi. I ended up wiring a Soarer's converter to the female RJ9 connector on the inside of the case so the keyboard itself wouldn't have to be modded.

The only other tricky part was figuring out how to mount the display. I ended up using my janky $300 3d printer to make a bracket that I glued in to the case. It's ugly but thankfully it's hidden on the inside.

For power I used two 26,800 mah power banks. One only powers the Pi and the other powers the display and speakers. I haven't fully tested the battery life yet but I know it's good for many hours. One major downside is that I have no way of knowing how much juice the batteries have left and I have no idea how I could make that happen.

Sound comes from a cheap set of USB powered speakers that I hacked apart. They fire out through the sides of the case where the fans were. With the system volume maxed they sound impressively loud and clear.

Charging is done through the original C13 cable connection. The downside of this setup is that you can't use the system while it's charging and there's no indicator that charging is happening. Just gotta have faith!

A lot of the process was just figuring out where everything was going to go and then 3d printing brackets that fit existing holes in the case. Fortunately this thing has plenty of room for activities inside.

I mounted the power, volume, and headphone switches to a 3d printed box that fits in where the floppy disk drive was. They're recessed so they sit flush with the outside of the case.

All of the Pi's inputs are accessible from the outside via connections to the expansion slot covers. I connect to my home network via the Pi's onboard wifi, but I figured it would be a good idea to have access to the Pi's RJ45 connection considering this machine's legacy as a network sniffer. The cutouts in the slot covers are the only part of this build that utilized my CNC mill. It was my first time cutting steel and I broke two tools in the process. RIP. :(

This was definitely an exercise in cable management. The wiring ended up being more complicated and time consuming than I expected. It probably would have helped if I knew what I was doing.

The Pac 60's original price tag of ~ $13,000 shows in its overall construction. It was a beast of a 486 machine in its day. 5 of the 6 expansion slots had cards in them and it was generally jam packed with hardware. Fortunately I got it for $150 shipped which was worth it just for the keyboard alone IMO.

To me the genius of the Dolch Pac keyboards is that they double as the front cover for the machine. It's a shame to see them split up from their original computer and it was a pleasure to build something that keeps the pair together but brings it into the modern era.

The software is basic RetroPie / Emulation Station with Pixel and Kodi added on for good measure. I mainly built it to play '90s adventure games via ScummVM, but it'll also run Quake 3 like a champ. :)

Offline tp4tissue

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Re: Dolch Pac 60 Portable Retro Gaming Rig
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 08 June 2019, 14:21:22 »
Hnnng... you've ruined it.. / anger

Just kidding.. looks gud' great job.

How many hours of d00m u get on that. 

Offline Findecanor

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Re: Dolch Pac 60 Portable Retro Gaming Rig
« Reply #2 on: Sat, 08 June 2019, 14:24:44 »
Really cool. Very inspiring.
You've given me some ideas for sure.

BTW. The keyboard cable in my Dolch 486 was already wired kind of like that on the inside: to an angled DIN connector that is plugged into a DIN socket on a standard baby-AT motherboard.
« Last Edit: Sun, 09 June 2019, 02:12:04 by Findecanor »
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Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: Dolch Pac 60 Portable Retro Gaming Rig
« Reply #3 on: Sat, 08 June 2019, 19:08:06 »
This is awesome.

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Offline Prelim

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Re: Dolch Pac 60 Portable Retro Gaming Rig
« Reply #4 on: Sun, 09 June 2019, 06:52:24 »
wow, I have to do this on my Dolch PAC! Nice job  :thumb:
2x GH60 revC - lubed Linjärs 65g / lubed Gat blacks 65g with SPRIT 5mm acrylic plate | Dolch PAC - lubed vintage blacks 65g | Raptor K1 G80-1890 | Ducky Shine 3 TKL - blacks, white led
Floating on Cherry/GMK caps - White on Black, Classic Beige, Dolch, Olivetti, Alcatel MMK, Hellgrau

Offline Sintpinty

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Re: Dolch Pac 60 Portable Retro Gaming Rig
« Reply #5 on: Mon, 10 June 2019, 14:08:57 »
Wow :O

Offline rowdy

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Re: Dolch Pac 60 Portable Retro Gaming Rig
« Reply #6 on: Wed, 12 June 2019, 21:58:48 »

Excellent use of old technology combined with new, thus saving both keyboard and case and actually making it into something useful.
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But that’s incorrect. It’s in HHKB’s slogan, but when America’s cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

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