USB4VC Hacks USB Inputs Onto Retro Computers
While a homogenous array of USB peripherals exist today, this was not always the case. “Retro” computer input devices were a hodgepodge of proprietary peripherals, each platform using its own connectors and protocols.
Of course, this makes finding all the right stuff for retro computing today quite difficult, whether the older proprietary tools are hard to find, difficult to use, or simply degraded to the point of unreliability.
The USB4VC from dekuNukem allows you to use retro computers with modern tools, all connected via USB. An active protocol converter, the device lets users work with a USB keyboard, mouse, and gamepads on a range of retro computers.
Consisting of two halves, a baseboard and protocol card, the USB4VC has a modular design, enabling it to interface with different platforms by simply swapping out a protocol card. Currently on Tindie, two protocol cards are available— IBM PC Compatible and Apple Desktop Bus — with more in the works.
The baseboard, which processes USB input invents to send to the protocol card, contains user buttons, an OLED screen, and a Raspberry Pi. Each protocol card has a dedicated microcontroller, along with the circuitry and connectors appropriate to the specific platform. The split design allows the RPi to focus on input parsing while the protocol card handles timing critical signal generation.
You can watch the device in action on YouTube. The design features an ultra-low latency of 0.5ms, supports wireless and Bluetooth connectivity, and is fully open-source. Technical notes and instructions to make your own protocol card are available on GitHub.
The USB4VC is now selling on Tindie with options to select which parts you need to build it — no need to order a Raspberry Pi with it if you have one already lying around. Future plans include the original Macintosh, the SUN SPARCstation, and more.