Happily, libi striegl and I are slowly getting back to our Slow Networks experiments in the Media Archaeology Lab we began in 2020 as a way to, well, stay sane during the pandemic and have a little fun. To inaugurate our return, today’s experiment involves learning how to use our Fujinet network adapter. We first learned about this gadget from a piece our pal Benj Edwards penned in August 2021, “A Vintage Atari Is an Amazing Weather Terminal in 2020“. In that piece Edwards explains that Fujinet is basically a peripheral that works with any Atari 8-bit computer (taking advantage of these machines’ Serial Input/Output system that allowed the connection of dozens of devices, including 300-baud modems); one of its features is “Weather.xex,” created by Polish programmer Wojciech Bociański to pull “live weather data about your location from OpenWeather, a service that provides the data through an API.”
To us, one of Fujinet’s best features is its simplicity; you can practically just plug it in and within five minutes your Atari 800 is pulling data from the internet. More, if you’ve got an over-air TV transmission set up like ours, you can broadcast your 8-bit weather report; just, you know, put a TV in your car, come within a 200 foot range of the Media Archaeology Lab, and set it to channel 8. As you do.
It’s also a fascinating device because it is one of many examples of a kind of retrocomputing but with the twist that it creates an alternative network from a past that never existed: Fujinet uses wireless network protocols (introduced in 1997) as well as the ESP32 microcontroller (introduced in 2016) to broadcast information from the internet onto a pre-internet machine (introduced in 1979).
We briefly document the how and what below. And, if you’re curious, to date we’ve documented six other “Slow Network” experiments:
- Slow Networks Experiment 1: over-air TV transmission
- Slow Networks Experiment 2 and 3: VHF radio transmission
- Slow Networks Experiment 4: videotelephony
- Slow Networks Experiment 5: very short range over-air transmission
- Slow Networks Experiment 6: Viking two-way phone line simulator
January 27, 2022
Media Archaeology Lab
Atari 800 computer
Fujinet network adapter
Micro USB power cord
CRT monitor or Television
We began by turning on the Fujinet and then plugging it into the SIO peripheral port. We then powered on the Atari 800, waited for the startup menu from the Fujinet to appear, and followed the on-screen instructions to select the file for weather.atr and load it into the drive slot. We then booted the drive by hitting [Return].
The current weather appeared on our televisions within a minute or two, with a bit of snow on the screen from using only one antenna to broadcast to the other televisions. And then, laughter!