July 07, 2020, 03:14:24 AM

Author Topic: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.  (Read 1085 times)

Offline jaydec02

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #15 on: June 02, 2020, 07:21:48 PM »
This looks sick! I wonder if it'd be possible to reverse engineer the other STARs.

Offline techknight

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #16 on: June 02, 2020, 07:24:16 PM »
which ones, exactly?

I already have the WeatherSTAR Jr and the 3000 working. I did that beforehand.

Offline jaydec02

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #17 on: June 02, 2020, 07:38:05 PM »
I was always a sucker for the XL. I love the graphics it came with, especially in V3 of it.

Offline techknight

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #18 on: June 02, 2020, 08:08:15 PM »
Oh, Yea I suppose they probably work too, but I dont own any of those. So I cant personally verify.

I am an analog STAR guy, I grew up in the 4000 era.

Offline curtjr4

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #19 on: June 03, 2020, 12:01:22 AM »
I don't want to hog the entire spotlight because I do really have to thank the group of guys I worked with and continue to work with that helped me bring this into fruition, they shall remain nameless unless I have their permission to mention them, or they mention themselves :-)
You've got my permission :rofl:

Other STARs do, in fact, work. It just takes a bit of computer knowledge, patience, and some very long nights to grasp exactly what is going on with them.

I already have the WeatherSTAR Jr and the 3000 working. I did that beforehand.
Figured I'll drop some pictures on here of the III running on my end... some people may like to see it.


There's two other pictures on Imgur: https://imgur.com/a/oaCnmlq

Offline TWC Fan

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #20 on: June 06, 2020, 09:24:34 PM »
That's how it would look on a real TV set like that one for example.

Offline techknight

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #21 on: June 08, 2020, 10:51:36 AM »
Parse Error Reading Sentence....

I am going to assume you mean that This is the way its supposed to look on a TV? yeah as its a real STAR on a real CRT TV. Nothing photoshopped here... No emulation either.

So I am uncertain of your statement above.

Offline techknight

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #22 on: June 14, 2020, 03:55:56 PM »
Here is a video I did of Flavor J on my Unit, I just completed the flavor script earlier today.

Enjoy:

https://youtu.be/Ac91sE46pTI

Offline twcclassics

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #23 on: June 19, 2020, 07:52:01 PM »
Did you program all the weather data parts? I've never seen "Scd T'strm" or VAR6 on any real STAR. And apparently there isn't going to be any sun light in Boston or Cleveland tomorrow. :blink:
« Last Edit: June 19, 2020, 07:55:02 PM by twcclassics »
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Offline techknight

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #24 on: June 19, 2020, 08:22:07 PM »
Did you program all the weather data parts? I've never seen "Scd T'strm" or VAR6 on any real STAR. And apparently there isn't going to be any sun light in Boston or Cleveland tomorrow. :blink:

The data comes from an API so it is whatever the API gives me. I dont have any preprocessing code except for the basics I need to provide to the teletext frames for the presentation engine. Its not like I have access to the satellite feed anymore, or have the exact data that TWC sent back when these were in service. I have to handle the cards that I have been dealt.

Now there is a chance I have a bug. it took me several months to write this engine and debug it to this point. It was not easy as I had to work within the same limitations that they did.

Anyways, I noticed you like to nitpick at this stuff. Any particular reason as to why?
« Last Edit: June 19, 2020, 08:25:38 PM by techknight »

Offline curtjr4

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #25 on: June 20, 2020, 05:27:12 PM »
The thing to keep in mind with these older WeatherSTAR units is they are essentially "dumb". They are just character generators that can be addressed over satellite... so, if memory serves, a Digital PDP-11 mainframe at TWC would create slightly modified UK Teletext packets to send to the STARs, addressing a specific unit that is hooked up to the satellite feed.

As an example, imagine you have a WeatherSTAR III unit who's address is 00011111 in Denver, and a WeatherSTAR Jr with address 00022222 in Minneapolis. Both units are hooked up and connected to a VideoCipher II that has been authorized by TWC. The mainframe at TWC would gather all of the necessary weather data, 36 hour text forecasts, etc, and build pages to push to the units. The mainframe would fetch the information for Denver, and create a page header packet specifying how many lines should be on that page with some other information, then packets would follow it with what text should be displayed on what line. These packets would be addressed to unit 00011111, and sent over the satellite. Then it would do the same thing for Minneapolis. Gather the necessary information for Minneapolis, and create packets to address unit 00022222. The mainframe defines exactly what will be seen on-air. "Conditions at Denver" could be changed to "Your weather for Denver", or whatever else in the current conditions product... if they made that change at the mainframe.

I hope that makes sense. It's not an in-depth explanation, and there are a lot of technicalities -- but that's just a dumbed down example of whats going on behind the scenes. The 4000 operates a bit differently, but it follows the same premise. It's addressed by the mainframe, and just displays whatever is sent to it. This is why during sun outages, you would see random characters appear on these older STARs... because the data packets are getting screwed up.

Information overload. But that's the basic run down. I might do a little write up here of my WeatherSTAR III and the road taken to make it run again with the combined efforts of Techknight and a few other forum members on here... that way I don't clog up the 4000 topic with III/Jr stuff ;)


Edit: Here's an example off of my YouTube channel. I'm sending these lines to the unit... totally custom page I built. Only example of this that you'd see in the field was back in the early 80s when they'd advertise upcoming programming, or show that eclipse warning from like 1984 or something around there.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2020, 06:05:21 PM by curtjr4 »

Offline twcclassics

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #26 on: June 22, 2020, 07:27:34 PM »
Anyways, I noticed you like to nitpick at this stuff. Any particular reason as to why?

I'm a programmer, so I find this stuff really interesting. I've asked Mike (the guy who programmed the 4000 for TWC) a lot of questions too.
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Offline techknight

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #27 on: June 22, 2020, 07:37:25 PM »
Well maybe I am interpreting it incorrectly, it just felt like a debbie-downer type response. Anyways.. I digress....

I don't know any of the original guys unfortunately, and ive tried getting in touch with them but nobody is willing to respond. Maybe they all just want to forget TWC entirely, Which I cant blame, it was just a job to those guys.

Mike was the only one who did respond, but he was the graphics designer and didnt really know too much about the under the hood operations unfortunately.

If I could get the 3 wishes type questions answered from the original under the hood programmers, I have some open-ended questions and issues I have with framebuffer operations/hardware that I would love to have answered. but ya know, doubt itll happen.

Anyways, so I had to go it alone and totally reverse engineer the 4000 back down to a schematic diagram for each board, just so I could understand what was going on. Plus, I needed to reverse engineer and dump the PAL logic. I even tried cracking the FPGA bitstream but that got me nowhere since the reverse engineering script for the XC2018 was based off of the XC2064 and has bugs. Doesnt work properly as the XACT output was wrong.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2020, 07:41:28 PM by techknight »

Offline twcclassics

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #28 on: June 22, 2020, 07:43:12 PM »
The thing to keep in mind with these older WeatherSTAR units is they are essentially "dumb". They are just character generators that can be addressed over satellite... I hope that makes sense. It's not an in-depth explanation, and there are a lot of technicalities -- but that's just a dumbed down example of whats going on behind the scenes.

Yes, that does help explain things. I assumed that if you were able to get one working, it would work pretty much the same as it did when it was at TWC. I didn't know you could customize it that much. It also explains what Mike told me about how whenever they wanted to update the graphics, they had to either ship new hardware or have the cable operators download the update from the satellite. Which explains this somewhat cryptic message that aired in early '92:

https://twcclassics.com/view.php?file=4000-change92
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Offline techknight

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #29 on: June 22, 2020, 07:52:53 PM »
Yea, the 4000 was entirely upgradeable over satellite, it was also volatile. so if the power was cycled, Poof everything was gone. All of it. So it had to redownload it all from the satellite.

The 3000, and Jr had the software in ROM, which unfortunately was non-upgradable unless they send new ROMs or new boards.

Anyways, since the 4000 runs at 8Mhz, I had to crank the GCC optimizer up all the way to 3 just to squeeze any ounce of performance out of it. But hey, it works.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2020, 07:55:19 PM by techknight »