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I have created the tag , with the idea to apply it to questions concerning contemporarily made computers that are either re-creations of old hardware or new designs made from old parts; often those are sold as soldering kits. This would cover computers like the Mini PET, Gigatron, PE6502, Spectrum Next or the (still in-development) Commander X16, but not Arduino or Raspberry Pi that are based on modern architectures.

Then I noticed we already have , and ; there seems to be no clear distinction between them. We also have a question Commercially-available modern computers with retro characteristics?, tagged , but the answers don’t seem to actually address whether this area is in-scope for this site. Frankly, I don’t understand why it was moved here; nothing in the question or answers relates to Retrocomputing Stack Exchange itself.

So my questions are:

  • Is there an established name for this field? ‘DIY computing’ is something I made up mostly as a placeholder term. It’s not hard to see it as an extension of hobbyist computing of the 1980s, so perhaps the name we choose could allude to that.
  • Is ‘DIY retrocomputing’ in scope, and to what extent? Obviously Raspberry Pi or Arduino would be out of scope, but how about new retro-based designs like CX16? Modern clones and near-clones? Where should the line between computing and electronics be drawn?
  • Should the tags , and be merged, and if not, what should distinguish them from each other?

We don’t seem to be under a deluge of such questions, so this is not necessarily a top priority, but perhaps it would not hurt to get this sorted.

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has a very clear and different meaning. Think IBM PC clone as the prime example - a computer that is itself retro that mimicked (to varying degrees of compatibility) another computer of its time. Yes, you can "clone" a retro computer today with either retro or modern hardware (or even a simulation in software), but that is something entirely different.

and the other possible tags get a bit more complicated. They can encompass both homemade/diy items of years gone by - which include everything from totally designed from scratch to based on published designs to kits (which can themselves range from buy a PCB and parts list to all-inclusive Heathkits). I don't see how any of those tags hits the specific concept of "building something in 2021 that has elements of Retrocomputing".

I would certainly consider this topic in scope of Retrocomputing. But I don't know how to tag it.

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The community that grew up around the project now called SBC v2 calls itself RetroBrew Computers. While it's a coinage, it does capture the idea of old technology, but in homebrew ways.

Obviously Raspberry Pi or Arduino would be out of scope

I wouldn't be so sure. Arduinos and Raspberry Pis find a whole raft of uses as high-performance interface chips, second processors, video interfaces, Bluetooth serial ports (because no-one wants to be in the same room as a Model 33 ASR twice) and even replacements for processors that have crossed the Rainbow Bridge. And since emulation is in scope here, I think we could field questions about a KIM Uno without the off-topic banhammer falling.

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    because no-one wants to be in the same room as a Model 33 ASR twice -- Ah, cmon. When a room full of ~30 ASR 33s all print "SYSTEM RESTARTED" at the same time, that's the sound of joy. Aug 7 at 3:22
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    … and impending deafness.
    – scruss
    Aug 7 at 17:11
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Preface: I do understand and sympathise with this topic although being a bit unease at details.

Is there an established name for this field? ‘DIY computing’

There is a very classy (well, classic) term for this: homebrew

Is ‘DIY retrocomputing’ in scope, and to what extent?

Tough one.

Obviously Raspberry Pi or Arduino would be out of scope

This is already where it gets blurry.

Think of Oscar's very fine KIM UNO. Hardware wise it's nothing else than an I/O 'shield' for an Arduino Pro Mini (Atmega328P)

For this and similar systems (like the PiDPs - again by Oscar Vermeulen), I would suggest going the same way as with emulations: If the issue at question is something that would as well occur with the real hardware, then it's clearly on topic, as the different hardware is gets cancelled out.

but how about new retro-based designs like CX16?

Rather not. I guess you made already a good point with

"...re-creations of old hardware or new designs made from old parts.."

For faithful re-creations of classic system I'd say yes without any doubt. I, for one, only recently learned that there is a new (!!!) Triton board. It doesn't happen often that I get really excited about recreations, but that one really got me involved :)) It only replaced the 1k by 1 RAMs with still available 1k by 4 and a few secondary components (like ROMs). Beside that it's as original as it can get. Awesome and I'd be all in favour to accept questions about the - after all, these will be exactly the same topics the original systems would have had.

A creation with classic components should be treated like a homebrew machine from back then. My preferred example here is the Steckschwein. It is a complete new design not direct following any example (well, the memory part is screwed C64 style), combining a 6502 with MMC and 9958 based graphics. So again, while new, I would accept questions about such systems, as the issues are exactly the same.

Developments like the RC2014 series might, at times, be borderline, but falls into the same category.

Modern clones and near-clones?

This is were machines like CX16 or Spectrum Next come in. I have a hard time to see them still as classic systems, as they are on hardware level thruout modern systems. A FPGA loaded with some CPU code that can execute (among other) classic Z80 instructions is maybe a lot, but not a Z80 and even less a classic CPU. They rather offer some kind of hardware assisted emulation and should be treated like emulations. Questions about host system or emulation interna must be off topic.

Given, Spectrum Next et.al. carry some of the classic spirit, but so do Small-BASIC users on Windows 11, while at the same time any modern system based on an AVR or alike is in hardware terms more classic than these modern developments.

Where should the line between computing and electronics be drawn?

Like so often it can only be judged by intend and target. If it's about basic electronics on itself (like asking how to calculate a resistor for some network), then it should be off topic and go elsewhere. If it's about the same resistor network in context of a specific (classic) computer, then it's of course on-topic as it is about that computer.

Now for the tags:

clone is a very distinct term that is quite needed with classic machines as well. Not only for the fact that IBM-PC clones had such an impact, but as well for all the cloning that happened early on.

  • An IMSAI is an Altair clone
  • Lobo or Genie are Tandy clones
  • Laser 2001 and MPF-II are close Apple II clones
  • SYM and AIM are in some ways KIM clones
  • ... and so on.

It seems that clone is needed whenever a question is about such machines and their relation to the prime version.

diy and diy-computing on the other hand seem not only redundant but random as well. In addition they may be less easy understood by non native speakers. Similar homemade. To me a common tag

  • homebrew

seems more appropriate. This tag can be used for old and new machines as well.

To mark new(ish) developments, I'd suggest a tag (re)creation (or re-creation). Or even better:

  • new (re)creation,

which would mark it without any doubt.

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