Cardiff Giant Clone

So I was a big fan of Halt and Catch Fire when it was on. Yesterday I decided I was going to build a clone of the fictional machine from the show. I’m wondering if anyone else has put any thought into this. Maybe sticking a Pi in it?

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Pi is always a good standby for putting the computation into a mock-up computer! I haven’t (yet) seen HCF, so for the uninitiated like me, here’s the machine:

To my eyes it looks a little like a GRiD Compass:

Yes. Similar but different. :slight_smile:

I’m not just a fan of the show, I’m slightly (still) obsessed with it. I started rewatching it for like the 5th time, last night. It’s on Netflix, so check it out.

It just reminds me of my early computing days in the late 70s and early 80s when I would go into Radio Shack or Heathkit stores and play with the machines, dreaming of the day when I would own one.

I’ve never seen the show, so I have no idea what it is supposed to be. But what, exactly, would you want your mockup to do?

This is a nice idea! I think, the case and screen will be more challenging than the emulation. The case is luckily on the edgy side, so you could use wood or some sheet material for some nice finish. I guess, much depends on the screen. If you’d go for some fancy matrix display, you may be better off with some of the micro controller variety as compared to a Pi, which requires on an entire OS…
(Some DOS-like operating system has probably been ported to a number of them, just like CP/M.)

Edit: Ah, I see, it’s a monochrome LCD display…

And there seems to be a more refined (less rounded) “production” version:

after a bit of research it seems it would have been a DOS or maybe win 3.1 machine. rather than emulating it, why not just make a new case for an old laptop?

That’s a possibility, but building something with a Pi would make it more versatile. But when I want it to emulate DOS I can do that, too.

Other than that, to answer your earlier question, I want it to look exactly like a Cardiff Giant, from Cardiff Electric ca. 1983, designed by Gordon Clark and Cameron Howe. :slight_smile:

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I was pretty sure what you wanted it to look like, but I was asking what you want it to do. That was the question I asked. I’m not convinced a PI would be more versatile than a PC, but it would be more fun to build.

My answer stands. It’s MOSTLY going to be on a shelf being appreciated so I need it to look amazing. It will work, though, too.

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What do we think - is that about an 8" panel? You can certainly get colour panels of that size - £60 for this one (1024x768) - so it would be a question of optimising for price or features. I’m guessing 640x480 would be more authentic. )A colour panel can of course display a monochrome image…)

I was secretly hoping for a VFD matrix… :slight_smile:

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It was of course a monochrome screen on the show, but I would want to use color on the reproduction.

A Cherry MX switch keyboard it a must.

Something like this:

The mechanicals of how the folding screen would open and close nicely seem like the biggest challenge.

I’d love to 3D print the case, since it was a plastic case on the original.

I’m not up to date with 3D printing. I wonder, can you get something which looks like injection molded and is somewhat durable for a reasonable price? (Most 3D prints I know have quite a texture to them.)

You can use bondo and what not and wet sand the outside to give it a smooth, finished look. I’m not worried about that so much.

I tried watching it when it came out, and just couldn’t get in to it. I felt the entire thing completely contrived. I think I made it 3-4 episodes in to the first season.

(Can I suggest the usual etiquette applies here? If something doesn’t appeal to you, best not to comment. It may appeal to others.)

It’s got an 8.4 on IMDB so someone certainly liked it. But this isn’t a thread about the show, it’s about building a replica machine.

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On the show they mentioned that the case was made of metal, aluminum I think, then they talked about a plastic case. No idea what the prop was made out of.

A maker friend of mine who does a lot of 3D printing made a ton of suggestions. Sculpting parts and making resin molds. Bending metal. 3D printing it in sections and gluing and filling the joints.

If I could model the whole unit, I could send it to a commercial 3D Printing house to get HQ pieces in the correct size. That would cost the most, probably, and if I didn’t get the CAD work right (who gets’s it right the first time?) it might require several printings, which then gets into big bucks.

If I could get a very high quality commercial 3D print of it, I’d be willing to pay good money for that. Say 500-700? But I couldn’t afford multiple printings.


I watched the first two episodes yesterday, so haven’t seen the machine yet. It was good drama, though in real life you could buy the IBM PC Technical Reference Manual and have the full schematics and the source for the BIOS even without buying a PC. The BIOS was only 8KB so the sources (Appendix A) is 81 pages long, not a heavy binder.

The picture of the machine reminds me of the 286 laptop that Brazilian company Softec made in 1988. They didn’t have money for injection molds so it was made from vacuum form instead. The pieces don’t fit together as well, but it might be easier than trying to 3D print something so large.

Previously Softec had made a 8088 portable computer with a steel case - I wouldn’t recommend that.