Retro IBM 12″ VGA monitor (8512) attached to a Raspberry Pi!

Retro IBM monitor with raspeberry pi
One of our members, James Muirhead, managed to get a classic IBM monitor working with his Raspberr pi! He says:

Reasons for doing this…

I’ve had this monitor knocking about in the attic (used for years in the 90s) for years and I’ve wanted to do something like this. It’s taken me a while to get an HDMI to VGA adapter which actually supports 640×480 @ 60Hz.

I was partly doing this for estetic reason (it’s awesomely retro) and partly because it’s an old device I wanted to breath new life into. I always try to reuse before recycling.

Required config.txt changes

hdmi_group=2
hdmi_mode=4
hdmi_drive=2 (if audio supported by VGA adapter).

When it first started I saw nothing but green snow. I thought it wasn’t working so I tried all the different relevent settings. It however turned out that I needed to restart the Pi somehow, whether by bridging the reset pins (this requirtes a Revision 2 Raspberry Pi), or by using sudo reboot from SSH command line (via network).

Future expansion

If I were to make this a perfamant build (I don’t have the desk space or the spare Pi right now).

  • I will likely wire a Solid State Relay to control power to the monitor from a pin on the GPIO (this monitor is way too early for automatic power control).
  • I would also probably create some from of circuit to reset the Raspberry Pi automatically (to avoid green snow). Either using a 555N in monostable mode or a suitably programmed ATtiny45/85.

2 thoughts on “Retro IBM 12″ VGA monitor (8512) attached to a Raspberry Pi!

  1. The original VGA text mode was actually not 640×480 but 720×400. Unfortunately from I inderstand Raspberry Pi does not support a legacy real text mode. Its VGA 640×480 mode is a graphical mode, not text and it will always look kind of not right on the old CRT.

    If you want to have real VGA text mode you need to use a real PC.

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