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  • [typing] [jazz piano music]

  • Today, I'd like to share with you

  • one of my favorite devices as of late.

  • The WiFi232,

  • a wireless internet modem allowing dozens of classic computers

  • to connect to a modern wifi network.

  • In effect, it's a peripheral that plugs into a serial port on an old computer

  • and that computer will see it as a serial dial-up modem.

  • allowing you to connect to different networks online

  • and all sorts of cool stuff.

  • I've been messing around with this thing for days now,

  • not because it's hard to use,

  • but the exact opposite.

  • It's so easy to use

  • across such a wide variety of machines

  • that I'm kind of addicted.

  • Because, man, as fun as old computers are to use offline,

  • a big part of the computing experience

  • for many users back in the day

  • was getting online.

  • And for a long time, that did not involve the web or ISPs.

  • It was all about bulletin board systems, or BBSes.

  • I know that personally.

  • My first online experience

  • was ogling a BBS at a friend's house,

  • sitting in awe at all the games you could download

  • and the colorful, blocky artwork that streamed in line-by-line.

  • The overall BBS experience

  • will have its own dedicated LGR episode in the future,

  • but, to put it briefly,

  • bulletin boards very much set the stage

  • for the websites and online services we know today.

  • And using them on a machine from the time period

  • offers a truly captivating experience.

  • Of course, in their prime, you dialed into them

  • using a modem and a telephone line,

  • similar to how you'd connect to the Internet using dial-up.

  • But nowadays, the most popular method

  • of connecting to a BBS is via telnet,

  • a network protocol that's even older

  • but is still easily connected to through the modern Internet.

  • While you can connect a vintage computer

  • to a telnet BBS using Ethernet,

  • null modem and even Raspberry Pi solutions.

  • This often requires separate hardware

  • and setup processes for each machine.

  • Enter the WiFi232!

  • A handy little device that plugs into an RS-232 serial port

  • and acts as a Hayes- compatible modem wirelessly.

  • This was put together by Mr. Paul Rickards,

  • a tech geek of the highest caliber,

  • if his punchcard business card is anything to go by.

  • This is awesome, look at this thing.

  • He initially made the WiFi232

  • to act as a wireless server

  • for serial printers and plotters,

  • but it soon turned into a more broad wifi serial solution.

  • While I don't have a serial printer to test out,

  • I do have plenty of computers with RS-232 ports

  • to dial into a BBS.

  • And I say "dial into" even though

  • the WiFi232 isn't exactly dialing any phone numbers

  • and simply uses Hayes-compatible AT commands to communicate.

  • The Hayes command set was the de facto standard

  • in modem control for years and

  • as a result, it's supported by an absolute crap ton of vintage computers.

  • Which means this works with IBM PC compatibles,

  • classic Macs,

  • TRS-80s,

  • Apple IIs,

  • Commodore PETs, 64s and Amigas,

  • Atari STs,

  • various workstations and terminals.

  • Pretty much, if it has an RS-232 serial port,

  • it's gonna work fine with the WiFi232.

  • It does this by using the ESP8266 microcontroller.

  • to hop onto wifi networks and send out Hayes commands.

  • And combined with the other features Paul added,

  • it becomes one of the easiest and most compact

  • serial wifi modems around.

  • Setting it up is simple,

  • with the steps being laid out quite nicely

  • in this 13-page PDF manual you can print out.

  • Just plug the board into a free serial port

  • and then power it on with a mini-USB cable and charger.

  • Once it glows blue, you can then turn on your computer,

  • then start up your terminal emulator of choice.

  • I'm using good old Kermit for MS-DOS

  • in this selection of footage captured from the LGR Woodgrain 486.

  • Although, I'm also fond of BananaCom and others.

  • Regardless of what you use,

  • you first select the COM port it's plugged into

  • and the modem speed,

  • which right now is Port 2 and 1200 baud.

  • After this, you'll open the terminal itself

  • and do the rest using the AT commands from the manual.

  • And what's great is the process is the same

  • regardless of the computer you're using,

  • since you configure it using the WiFi232's

  • built-in web server.

  • There's an SSID command

  • to enter your wifi network's name

  • and a PASS command to enter the network password.

  • Typing ATC1 will then connect to wifi at this point,

  • It'll remember the network either until the device is powered off

  • or you save the credentials to the device's onboard memory.

  • You can also change the speed of the modem,

  • which ranges anywhere from 300 to 115,200 baud,

  • and check for firmware updates,

  • which it does on its own

  • through wifi to minimize hassle.

  • And now you're free to choose a BBS

  • and type in the ATDT command to connect.

  • There are still hundreds of active boards

  • to log into over telnet,

  • and the Telnet BBS Guide website

  • is a great place to start your ANSI-flavored journey.

  • Augh, I love this stuff!

  • And I love the fact that this feels so authentic.

  • Sure, you don't have the screechy modem noises

  • since it's using telnet,

  • but the experience otherwise is pretty much just how I remember it,

  • down to the speed, or lack thereof.

  • My first computer had a 2400 baud modem

  • which is what the Black Flag BBS is running with right here.

  • This slowness leads to an exciting feeling of anticipation,

  • seeing what the next screen would hold,

  • watching it draw characters out line-by-line

  • and wondering what treasures were inside each coming room.

  • Posting on message boards, checking email,

  • downloading games, playing multi-user dungeons,

  • it's all here and it is legit.

  • Again, I know it's really easy to connect to these boards

  • on a modern computer through a telnet program,

  • but there's something undeniably more enjoyable

  • about doing this on an original IBM AT,

  • or Apple II, or Commodore 64 or whatever.

  • Not only that, but having any classic computer connected wirelessly

  • just amuses me to no end!

  • It somehow reintroduces that feeling of

  • me being a kid filled with wonder

  • at everything about computers,

  • where it all seems like magic.

  • And the WiFi232 is one of the most approachable,

  • versatile, and affordable solutions

  • to make this magical feeling happen,

  • costing just $30 for a kit

  • and $45 for one pre-assembled.

  • Or at least it was.

  • And... they're sold out at the time of this video going live,

  • so... sorry about that.

  • They weren't sold out when I started writing this episode,

  • so that's my excuse.

  • But, hey, it looks like if there's enough demand

  • using the form on his website,

  • he might make some more of them in the future.

  • And I really hope he does, too,

  • because the WiFi232

  • is easily one of my favorite things to screw with right now,

  • and I'm having a blast trying it on every computer I can.

  • So, if you'll excuse me, I have to go chat

  • to the sysop about playing a game of LORD.

  • (synthesized music)

  • And if you enjoyed this look at a thing,

  • then you might enjoy some other looks at things

  • here on LGR.

  • There's new episodes every Monday and Friday.

  • And as always, thank you very much for watching.

[typing] [jazz piano music]

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WiFi232ワイヤレスモデム。レトロPCでBBSを楽しもう (WiFi232 Wireless Modem: BBS Fun on Retro PCs!)

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    林宜悉 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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