These kinds of things ignore the main value of the raspberry pi in comparison to an older computer - the power efficiency. My old laptop from ’05, hooked up to a power socket and required (IIRC) 240V~, it takes 44W to run it. My raspberry pi zero generally runs at around 4W, but with some tweaks you can nudge it even lower
To say nothing of the size! A raspberry pi, arduino, propeller, or even a vintage picaxe or basic stamp takes very little area on a workbench, or volume in a finished project.
It seems like trying to find PC hardware old enough to have a parallel port but new enough to boot off USB is going to be more work than just spinning up a cheap modern microcontroller, and not really any easier. I guess this is a nice bit of history for those who didn’t experience the days when it wasn’t considered unusual to hook up your own hardware to a PC, but it wouldn’t be the route I’d suggest someone wanting to get started go. Something like a CircuitPython board would give you a nicer development experience (the boards plug into your USB port and mount as a mass storage device – you just open the code in your editor and save directly back to the board to update), and access to a bunch of modern hardware that would be difficult to interface w/ parallel port bit banging.
It really depends if you have such hardware laying around already (and a monitor that still supports it).
I don’t think that it makes much sense for any other reason.
Yes you want to drive an 8-bit numbers on LEDs over a serial port you can just use a shift register and a USB to serial cable.
CH341A-based usb to serial adapters even have i2c, spi and limited parallel port (they are rare, however).
Why is the “boot from usb” bit important?
Booting from the network (ipxe), booting from IDE (ide2cf) and booting from your own custom rom (as an extrom on e.g. a romcard) is more than good enough. So is a floppy most of the time.
There’s always the Plop boot manager.
When it works. The USB boot with boards that do not support it is hit or miss, and haven’t had much luck with it lately. That feature aside, I prefer grub.
If only if grub had the starfield background.
Freedos offers a lot of fun to be had. BASIC is OK for this, but there’s openwatcom (C compiler), FASM (assembler, comes with a tiny ide), freepascal and others.
Embarcadero has available some versions of Turbo Pascal and Turbo C/C++ as freeware that could be fun to use for such a project:
Oh this brings back memories. I remember building an infrared receiver on a perfboard off a computer magazine. There was a program in Turbo Pascal that would read the IR pulse and you could save pulses to a text file and ‘record’ commands using the pulses in your TV remote. So ‘play’ could be ‘reboot’ and so on. This was in 1999 or so.
I didn’t really understand what I was doing back then (I was 11). I wrote down the bill of materials and went with it to a local electronics shop, bought a soldering iron and some equipment and the parts on the bill of materials. All with some birthday savings.
I followed the instructions and soldered it in the course of an afternoon. Unfortunately it didn’t work, but then I went on IRC and found some helpful people. I had to borrow my dad’s brand new first digital camera and then take photos of both sides and upload them via FTP for troubleshooting. We got it to work in the end. There was a short or uncut perf trace or something.
The design was quite simple, there was a infrared diode that was routed into a parallel port plug (only 3-4 pins were used) and other components and the rest was done in code in Turbo Pascal.
It was my first real electronics project aside from some school solder-this-game kits we had in woodworking/metallurgy class. It was a lot of fun! I showed it to my parents, they were pretty amazed. I could reboot the system and boot to windows and execute random .bat scripts. Of course I plugged it into my sister’s computer without telling her, aligned the receiver just so, and zapped her computer from outside her window. That was fun.
The project is somewhere in my parents’ attic but funnily enough that same chunk of perfboard still has found its way into every apartment I’ve had as an adult. Every spring cleaning time my wife asks what this orange coppery plastic bord thing is.
Parallel ports were cool.