September 2008 Archives

Recapping and the N8VEM Taking Shape

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I’ve done quite a bit of soldering over the past couple of days.

Yesterday, I dove into the monitor in my Neo Geo cabinet and performed an extensive capacitor replacement. I’d recapped it somewhat a little while ago and that really cleared it up quite a bit, but it was still blurrier than I would prefer. This time I replaced every capacitor on the chassis, including the capacitor on the neck board.

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What a difference it made, too. In fact, the new neck board capacitor completely threw the color balance out of whack as it had been tuned against the old, dried out electrolytic. After adjusting everything, it’s pretty darn nice - great color and it no longer blurs after it’s been powered up a while.

I’ve also nearly completed the N8VEM single board computer. In fact, I’d be performing the smoke test right now, but Digi-Key seems to have neglected to include a couple of the components in the shipping box even though they show up on the invoice. I put in one last mop-up component order this evening, so hopefully I can finally smoke - er, power up - the unit in the not too distant future!

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Starting on the N8VEM SBC

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I took the first tiny step into assembling my N8VEM SBC this morning - soldered two carbon composition 1K resistors into the board. Kind of funny - these two resistors were second sourced from Allied Electronics; Digi-Key was out of stock and wasn’t going to get more until something like next January. Anyway, they arrived first so I stuck them in.

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Hopefully the rest of the parts from Digi-Key and Jameco arrive soon so I can really tear into it - I’m chomping on the bit! Once the SBC is completed and verified working, I’ll start ordering parts for the ECB bus and bus monitor boards.

Lear Siegler ADM-3A

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Well I finally got a hold of a ADM-3A terminal. This is one of those toys I’d been looking for a little while, and one finally popped on on eBay for a reasonable price ($29.95 before shipping).

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The reason the unit went for such a low price is due to the condition of the screen - it suffers from “CRT cataracts”, a somewhat common malady on older CRT equipment. My understanding is that the glue layer (polyvinyl acetate or PVA) that binds the lens to the CRT breaks down over time and causes patches and specks which make it difficult to use the screen effectively.

There are a couple methods to repair this condition. One option is to remove the lens with a heat gun, clean and reattach. The entire CRT can also be replaced; new tubes can be had for around $50.

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The ADM-3A arrived in its original packaging, which was quite a surprise. All the original manuals, warranty cards, etc. were included and in great condition. The ADM-3A itself wasn’t so lucky however - the unit and the plastic bag that contained it was smeared with a nasty, brownish liquid.

Indeed, the entire terminal was awash in this strange oily residue. I have no idea what it is - it almost looks like something that might leak from a battery, but the ADM-3A doesn’t contain anything like that. I opened the machine and couldn’t find anything that looked like a source - it was all over the place. It took me about an hour to clean it up, blotting at the logic board with a microfiber cloth.

Of course at this point the CRT cataracts were the least of my worries, and I was a bit too flustered to bother to take pictures of the oily mess. It’s kind of interesting in a way - the unit shipped from Houston and the auction closed right after Hurricane Ike. Whether it’s related, I have no clue - but I was concerned that the unit may not have even survived at the time.

PICT1484.JPG After the cleaning, I decided to give the unit a try. Upon power up, it beeped and a cursor appeared in the home position. I toggled the local mode DIP switch and typed some text on the screen. Yay!

The keyboard works great and the CRT actually seems pretty decent underneath the lens cataracts, so it may be worthwhile to try removing/cleaning the lens first. I figure if I break it I can always fall back on the new CRT route.

The other thing to look out for is a lowercase ROM - the socket is sadly empty. There is a site with some guidance on producing a lowercase ROM utilizing an EPROM and an adapter board - I’ll try contacting the author and see what can be done to get one going.

All in all, I’m happy now that the unit is cleaned up and functioning. The fluid bit is really weird though - hopefully I don’t sprout a new limb or something.

Applied Engineering RAMWorks

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This morning I managed to get my Applied Engineering RAMWorks card up and running in the Apple IIe Platinum.

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A couple weeks back I picked up the RAMWorks card (with 256K installed), a set of floppy media with utilities and diagnostics, and an additional 256K in HM50256P-15 DRAM chips - all from different eBay sellers. Once the three packages arrived, I was ready to give it all a try.

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I carefully installed the DRAM chips, inserted the card in the IIe’s auxiliary slot and booted the diagnostics. The excellent diagnostics utility goes so far as to display the layout of the card on screen and marks any bad DRAM chips for easy troubleshooting.

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Sure enough, I had one bad chip and hadn’t bothered to order an extra. I performed basic troubleshooting: moved the chip to a different socket (failed in new socket) and tried a replacement DRAM from a GS RAM card (passed). I then put everything aside while I waited for a couple more DRAM chips to arrive.

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Now that everything is up and running, I can allocate a RAM drive under CP/AM which is nice. It’s too bad the original RAMWorks can’t reach a full megabyte though - it requires an unobtainium daughter card in order to perform that feat. Should still be adequate for my purposes though, and it was kind of fun snapping some chips in the sockets. What can I say - I’m easily amused.

I have lots of projects going on at the moment - I usually like to save the blog entries until I’ve completed something so I don’t get too boring with progress updates. Unfortunately I have so many irons in the fire right now there aren’t a lot of completed projects to report on.

Here are some of the various things I have going on at the moment:

CFFA card in Apple IIgs: The card has arrived and is currently installed in slot 7. I performed a test install of GS/OS 6.0.1 on the supplied 16MB test card and it boots right up, but I don’t want to head too far down that road until I grab a bigger CF card.

BOS on Apple III: Recently obtained BOS (“Bob’s Operating System”; replacement for Apple SOS) from Washington Apple Pi. I plan to install this on the ProFile drive in the near future.

ADTPro on Apple II: Have the cable, just need to sit down and try moving some disk images back and forth between an Apple II or III and my Mac.

TOP-DOS on Atari 800: I’ve received the original OS diskette and manual - need to test drive it.

Power up IMSAI 8085: Already talked about this machine a couple days ago, but it’s certainly something that’s still on the schedule as well. The 8” drives on this beast dovetail nicely with the 8” diskette project I’d mentioned earlier for the TRS-80 Model II; I’d like to be able use these drives to create boot disks.

Create new keyboard cable for TRS-80 Model 16b: Yeah, this is another recent acquisition. My 16b doesn’t have a keyboard and the Model II’s keyboard won’t work as-is since Tandy reversed the cable layout (the Model II has an integrated keyboard cable and the 16b has the keyboard cable on the keyboard itself). I’m going to order the parts to make a new cable that should allow the Model II keyboard to work with the 16b.

N8VEM SBC build: I’ve ordered the bare boards for the N8VEM single board computer and ECB backplane. Once they arrive I’ll need to order the components and start assembling it. I’m really looking forward to this project!

I have a bunch of other projects of varying size out there in addition these, but this is getting too long as it as. I’ll stop making excuses for not getting something done and cut into something I did work on today.

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I played around with the Kaypro II a bit this afternoon. As mentioned earlier, this was a freebie I’d picked up last week. I may have given the impression it was 100% functional due to my glee over the IMSAI acquisition, but the truth is that despite powering up and requesting a boot diskette, the drives themselves failed to seek.

So I opened the machine and poked around a bit. Everything looked pretty decent except the large power bus connector on the power supply seemed to be backed off the pins just a tad. I reseated it and tried the machine. It booted CP/M 2.2 off drive A: without issue. Easy fix!

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Also happy to report that both the CP/M 2.2 and MEX diskettes work. I also tried the CP/M diskette in my Kaypro 2X but it failed to read it. Not a huge surprise as I’ve heard it needs a special version of CP/M despite being a “2” (it’s apparently more like the “4” than the “II”; Kaypro was rather annoying with their somewhat mentally imbalanced machine version scheme. Heck, their first machine was the II!)

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And that’s all for this weekend - I’ll have more during the coming week.

Enter the IMSAI PCS-80/15

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Craigslist can be an amazing resource - you just never know what will turn up.

While browsing through the vintage computer listings on Craigslist this afternoon, I stumbled upon a free Kaypro II system. It was by just chance that I found it; I normally I search on keywords like “vintage computer”, “museum computer” or a mixture of brands (Atari, Commodore, etc.) For some reason I tried “Kaypro” this time, probably because I hadn’t gotten any hits on anything else for a while.

The Kaypro II post was already three days old. I figured it was probably long gone since it was free, but I wrote anyway:

“Hi - I don’t suppose the Kaypro is still available?”

The response came back quickly. “Why, yes it is! :) Let me know…”

After a brief phone conversation for directions and the best time to meet, I drove down to Los Altos to grab it.

When I arrived, the seller already had the Kaypro II set up on a bench outside his garage. He powered it on and showed me the boot screen.

He mentioned his wife had thrown out his diskettes at some point, but the Kaypro II CP/M 2.2 system and MEX114 (ModemEXecutive) communications diskettes were still loaded in the drives. Sweet!

“So, why did you want the Kaypro?” he asked.

“Well, I’m a CP/M fan - I’m always looking out for fun hardware to play around with,” I responded.

“And you didn’t want the S-100 system?”

I froze. “S-100 system?”

“Yeah, I advertised an IMSAI S-100 system on Craigslist too, but before you wrote no one had contacted me about either one. I offered the S-100 to the Computer History Museum, but they told me they already had several examples. Do you want to look at it?”

“Oh definitely, that would be great! Are you asking anything for the S-100 stuff?”

“Oh no, I just want to get it out of here. I have too much junk in my garage as it is and it would be a shame to take it to the dump.”

We headed back behind his garage where he had the IMSAI stored. It was a massive machine with a hand built, 8” drive tower. He mentioned that this system had belonged to his father in law and that he had hand built the memory cards.

So what started as pretty cool if low key mission to pick up a free Kaypro II turned out to be an amazing find. I’ve wanted an S-100 system for nearly twenty years, but they always seem to go for “Captain Insano” cash. Even the reproduction kits are extremely expensive. I’m still giddy over this!

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When I got the IMSAI home, I did a little bit of exploration. Inside, there’s a label and Post-It note which seem to indicate it was once sold at a hamfest or swap meet: “Make offer - all or parts” and “Most docs avail.”. There was also a S-100 card and spare oscillator in an anti-static bag tucked in front of the installed cards, which may have been purchased at the same time and simply stored. The power cable was also stored inside the system.

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The S-100 backplane is a massive 19 slot Thinker Toys Wunderbus. I tried pulling some of the cards to get a better look at them, but they’re pretty well stuck. I don’t want to break things this early in the game so I’ll come back to those. From what I can see, there are a couple 32K memory cards, I/O, floppy controller, CPU, etc. - around eight cards aside from the one in the bag.

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The drive tower consists of a combination metal/wood chassis with three bays. The bottom two bays hold Shugart 8” drives, and the top bay is a storage compartment which also hides some control switches. It currently contains the unit’s power cord. The builder added some extra moulding to the door to make the compartment resemble one of the Shugarts. The whole thing just reeks of geeky homebrew retro goodness.

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I’ll explore the system more as time allows - I don’t want to jump in without cleaning it throughly and making certain it won’t explode when powered on. I’ll also need to track down software for it which should keep me busy for a while.

Fun stuff though; I’m psyched!

Installing Atari Rainbow TOS

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This morning I finished up installing Atari “Rainbow” TOS 1.4 in my Atari 1040ST.

I say “finished up” as the process began a couple weeks ago when I’d discovered a set of Rainbow TOS 1.4 upgrade ROMs on eBay. The auction stated to specify whether I required the two ROM or six ROM version. Not knowing this information off hand, I needed to rip the 1040ST apart and find out.

Getting to the TOS ROMs was surprisingly difficult. On the 1040ST, they’re located deep within the bowels of the computer, underneath the power supply. To get to them required a complete disassembly of the system, removing numerous screws, RF shields (with little twisted metal locking tabs), connectors, the power supply, etc . Once I’d done all that and confirmed I needed the six ROM set, I set the whole pile of parts aside until the ROMs arrived - it was a lot of work tearing it all down and I didn’t feel like reassembling it and doing it a second time a few days down the road.

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Yesterday afternoon the new TOS ROMs arrived. They shipped in the original, unopened package just as dealer would have received directly from Atari. In fact, the supplied documentation stressed that this was a dealer, rather than end user install. Being that this is 2008 and all, we’ll throw that advice to the wind.

Since the machine was already gutted, swapping the chips out was straight forward, but figuring out where all the various sized screws went two weeks on was a bit challenging (yeah, I know - should have taken notes). I also had a bit of clear plastic sheeting left over - looks kind of like it was meant to isolate the power supply from the RF shield, but I couldn’t puzzle out how it was supposed to fit. No matter - off to the wind with you, odd bit of plastic!

Once everything was reassembled, the machine booted into TOS 1.4 without complaint. The “About” dialog on TOS doesn’t give version numbers like most other operating systems, but you can verify the version by the copyright dates. The old TOS 1.0 I removed was copyrighted 1985, and the new TOS 1.4 in 1989.

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The Atari ST is kind of an odd duck in that the entire operating system is supplied on ROM rather than diskette. So why bother to upgrade to this newer version? Primarily for the MS-DOS diskette read/write/format compatibility - this will make it a lot easier to swap files back and forth between a modern internet capable machine and the ST. There are also other sundry features and bug fixes rolled in which makes this a worthy upgrade all around.

Neo Geo Upgrades

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Over the past couple weekends, I’ve been working on refurbishing the console and controls on my Neo Geo arcade machine.

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The machine had obviously seen some hard use in arcades over the years, and the existing Happ sticks/buttons and Cherry microswitches were corroded, sloppy and just not very attractive. One neat thing about this cabinet though is that it has an all-metal console - much like a Japanese style “candy cab”. This makes it fairly easy to mount Japanese joysticks and buttons which are primarily designed for metal or plastic consoles rather than the more common wood consoles on machines here in the west.

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I hopped over to Lizard Lick Amusements’ website and ordered two Sanwa JLF-TP-8T joysticks with GT-Y octagonal restrictor plates and Seimitsu LB-39 “bubble tops”, a full set of gorgeous Seimitsu PS-14-KN pushbuttons, and a bunch of .110 solderless quick connects to wire everything together (Happ controls use .187” terminals so these needed to be replaced as well).

Next, I headed to Arcade Overlays and ordered a slightly customized Neo Geo console overlay. You’ll note in the “before” shot of the console, the original Neo Geo field was positioned well above the controls. I had Arcade Overlays print the replacement about 4” down from the top so the controls actually fit on the red/white striped field.

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Once the controls arrived it was modification time. The Seimitsu buttons are 30mm rather than the approximately 28mm on the old Happs. This meant that the mounting holes in the console had to be ground out to allow the new controls to fit. A Dremel tool with a grinding attachment (and my brother) was used for this purpose.

I also needed to fabricate new mounting plates for the Sanwa joysticks. The existing console has integrated mounting bolts for Happ style sticks which don’t match up with the Sanwa mounting plates. I did a little research online and found a fellow who mentioned he’d fabricated new plates using junction box covers sourced from a local hardware store.

Following his lead, I headed down to the local Home Depot and poked around their selection of junction box covers. I found some that were even better than the ones the blogger had used - these already had the center hole for the stick pre-punched, and were of the correct dimensions so nothing needed to be trimmed away with a metal saw. The only modifications necessary were the eight mounting holes for the stick and plate.

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My brother took the plates home and returned the next weekend with both plates drilled and nearly ready to go - I had to widen the console mounting holes a bit so the plates could travel down the bolts completely.

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Next, the wiring harnesses on the Sanwa sticks were integrated with the existing JAMMA harness, and the .110” terminals installed on the buttons. Finished!

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There’s still quite a bit left to do on this machine, but getting the console done was a huge step forward. I think maybe my next project will be to get a new arcade monitor and plexiglass. In the meantime though, Matrimelee with the new controls is pretty sweet!

ICD Flicker Free Video

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I took some time yesterday afternoon to try out an ICD Flicker Free Video 2 I’d recently picked up.

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The Flicker Free Video 2 is a small card that plugs into the Denise socket in older Amiga systems. In addition to the board itself, it arrived with documentation and a driver diskette.

The install process was rife with problems. More than likely unrelated - but annoying nonetheless: a capacitor exploded on my Newtek Video Toaster immediately after applying power to the system.

I also encountered nearly insurmountable problems actually mounting the Flicker Free Video to the Denise socket. Small cutouts on the card, presumably designed to allow it to fit around large motherboard components (such as capacitors), just do not align in the slightest fashion to the topography of the Amiga 2000 motherboard. This made it extremely difficult to mount. I was able to get it to work somewhat by adding a second socket to the motherboard which provided a bit of elevation, but it was still a really dodgy install.

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Once “mounted” (and after the smoke had cleared from the Video Toaster), I was able to get a really nice picture on an attached LCD monitor. After reassembling the A2000 however, the FFV ceased to output a usable signal. While troubleshooting this, a pin snapped on the makeshift socket booster I’d cobbled together, so all further investigation is now off the menu until another socket arrives via Digikey. On the bright side, the Amiga still seems to work normally using the traditional monitor output.

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Knowing that ICD actually sold this card as an A2000 compatible part, I really wonder what they were thinking when it came to the design of the board - it’s just crap. Maybe it aligns okay on an A500, but given a choice, I’d recommend an external scan doubler solution over this one. There’s much less pain involved.

The Mysterious APX-Z80BD-1

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This is kind of an odd one.

Recently while browsing around eBay, I ran across a vendor selling large quantities of Apple II compatible CP/M cards for $15.99 each. I already had an Advanced Logic Systems (ALS) Z-Engine card which works just fine, but I figured for the price it couldn’t hurt to grab another. Maybe I could even convince it to work with the IIgs!

The oddity started a couple of days after I’d made the “Buy It Now” purchase. I’d already received confirmation from the seller that the card had shipped. Out of the blue, eBay sends down a “SHMO Notice” advising me that the auction had violated eBay policy, had subsequently been removed, and I was “not required to complete the transaction”. Sure enough, all signs of the auction had been scrubbed from eBay’s database. Personally, I saw nothing in the auction’s description or content that looked out of place - other than a reasonable price for retro Z-80 card.

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Despite the doom and gloom, the card arrived this afternoon safe and sound. In addition to the card itself, it shipped with a three-page typewritten manual describing basic installation and use, titled “Z80 CP/M Board (APX-Z80BD-1)”. A quick search on Google for more APX-Z80BD-1 information or history yielded nothing.

The APX-Z80BD-1 could be a limited run, hobbyist produced card; there’s no obvious branding or marking other than a silkscreened “Z-80” label. It appears to be a well made, nearly identical clone of the Microsoft SoftCard in both layout and function. Most of the chips - including the Z-80 CPU - are manufactured by GoldStar, while the card itself is silkscreened as being made in Taiwan.

It also has an interesting row of four DIP switches which unfortunately aren’t documented in the supplied manual. I later found these to be a replica of the SoftCard’s DIP switches, and most likely have the following functions (from the Microsoft SoftCard Software & Hardware Details manual):

  • S1-1: Address offset (when off)
  • S1-2: Z80 DMA enable (when on)
  • S1-3: Non-mask int. (when on)
  • S1-4: Z80 interrupts (when on)

The normal operational setting for all four switches is ‘off’.

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Another hint that this may be a fan produced project is this entry from the final page of the documentation:

“A CP/M DOS is not included with your board, as this would raise the price of the board tremendously.

Should you find a need for the CP/M DOS, check with your local or a large Apple computer club library. Almost all clubs have a few, if not many, public domain CP/M diskettes that have the operating system on them.

The board you have just bought is MICROSOFT compatible. That means the normal CP/M programs that run on a normal Microsoft board will see and use your Z80 CP/M board as a replacement.”

But most importantly, does the card work? Absolutely! I installed the card in my Platinum IIe (using slot 4 as recommended in the manual), and booted Applied Engineering’s Apple CP/AM 4.1 successfully, just as with my current ALS Z-Engine. I was also able to get the card running on my IIgs as well, though I had to first set the system speed to “slow” in the Control Panel in order to boot CP/M without freezing.

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I’ve left the APX-Z80BD-1 in my IIe and installed the Z-Engine in my IIgs; the APX-Z80BD-1 is a lot longer than the Z-Engine and I worry that it might smack into the somewhat bulky TransWarp GS in slot 3 and short something out.

For a low cost, compatible CP/M card for the Apple II, you just can’t go wrong here. As mentioned previously, I’m not sure what the malfunction is with eBay, but Atlaz Computers does have them listed directly on their web site for $15.00 each if anyone’s looking for one.

Briel 4MB GS RAM

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This past weekend I set aside a bit of time to install some additional RAM into my IIgs in preparation for a new CFFA and GS/OS 6.0.1 upgrade in the coming days.

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I’ve been shopping around for a 4-8MB RAM card to replace my old school 1.5MB Applied Engineering GS-RAM card for a couple months, and finally pulled the trigger on Briel Computer’s 4MB GS RAM card. There are a couple existing vendors of GS RAM cards out there at the moment, but Briel’s offering can be had for $55 via their eBay store, less than a third of the 8MB Sirius RAM IIgs’ hefty $179 price tag. Considering most software won’t take advantage of more than 4MB RAM (not to mention disabled DMA for anything above 4MB), the allure of having the maximum possible RAM in my GS just wasn’t compelling enough.

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The Briel card is quite cute, opting to use what appear to be standard SIMM modules rather than the discrete RAM chips found on most GS RAM expansions. This greatly reduces its footprint.

Installation was a breeze - I simply popped the top of the GS, removed the old Applied Engineering card and shoved the new Briel card in its place. A quick reboot and a glance at the memory control panel confirmed the new RAM was fully recognized and operating as expected. Fortunately, there do not appear to be any conflicts with the existing TransWarp GS card.

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I’ll report more once the CFFA arrives - that’s when the fun should really start for this particular machine.

Happy 1050

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In addition to playing around with retro computers, I enjoy installing various aftermarket upgrades which push the technology in interesting directions. A few such upgrades have started trickling in over the past few days, and more are still on the way. This evening I decided to crack into the installation of a new Happy 1050 upgrade for my Atari 1050 floppy drive.

The Happy 1050 is a small circuit card containing a new 6502 processor, PROM, RAM and support logic which plugs directly into the 6507 socket on the 1050 drive’s logic board. It provides enhanced functionality, including true double density operation, sector buffer cache, accelerated transfer speeds and MS-DOS floppy read/write support. The Happy upgrade was originally produced and sold by Happy Computers in the mid-eighties, but new units can still be purchased from AtariMax today.

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The card shipped in an anti-static bag which also contained a Happy R7.1 software diskette, a letter with download URLs for the Happy manual/installation guide, and a page of advertising for other AtariMax products. The installation guide and Happy software manual PDFs must be downloaded from the AtariMax website - no soft or hard copy is provided.

The installation procedure was straight forward and nicely documented in the installation guide. I opened the drive chassis and removed the drive mechanism, logic board and RF shielding covering the CPU and ROM chips. At this point the old Tandon PROM and 6507 CPU were pulled from the logic board, and the Happy card installed in the 6507 socket (the logic board’s PROM socket is left vacant). Finally, after checking and double checking the cable connections (there are seven cable connections between the drive mechanism and the logic board with no orientation keys), I closed up the chassis.

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I fired everything up and was greeted with … nothing. The power LED on the 1050 lit up, but the drive did not seek and was otherwise silent. As far as the Atari 800 was concerned, there was no drive attached at all - it “happily” dropped into the Memo Pad.

I became a bit concerned, having read the warnings in the manual on the various and sundry ways I could potentially fry the drive by not connecting the cables in the correct orientation or location, or by improperly installing the card itself (missed or bent pins, oriented backwards, etc.). I’d checked my work throughly - the only thing that stood out as a potential problem was that the pins from the Happy 1050’s onboard RAM chip protruded from the underside of the card enough that they hit the top of one of the existing chips on the 1050’s logic board. This caused the upgrade to sit in its socket at a slight tilt.

I removed the Happy 1050, and using a pair of pliers, carefully bent the row of pins on the bottom of the card off to the side. Once reinstalled, the upgrade seemed to fit into the socket a bit more securely. I did a test run without the drive’s cover installed just in case.

Presto! The drive sprang to life and booted the Happy 7.1 diskette. The software correctly identified the drive as a Happy 1050, and the diagnostics routines passed.

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In closing, if you decide to pick one of these up you may need to mod it slightly if any of the chip pins aren’t allowing it to fit flush in the socket, either by bending them aside or trimming them down. Other than that caveat, it seems to be a great little upgrade and I’ll be playing with it more as time allows.

Tezro

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This past Friday, my latest SGI workstation arrived - a rather nifty Tezro.

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I purchased the machine on eBay, knowing going in that there were a couple of caveats. For one, the seller didn’t know much of anything about the machine, so details such as the amount of installed memory, number and speed of CPUs - or whether or not it even contained a hard drive - were completely absent. The other rather large issue was that it was clearly missing the IO9 PCI card, which provides essential services such as the TOD clock, NVRAM, SCSI, IDE and console. This is probably the one thing that kept the final price so low - there was undoubtably a certain level of uncertainty as to whether or not the machine was even fully functional.

However, a little knowledge of this type of system can go a long way. I already had the IO9 situation covered as there were two of these cards installed in my Origin 350 system - you only need one if you’re running two bricks NUMAlinked together. The other helpful tidbit was that the high quality photos provided in the auction description clearly showed an eight PCI-X slot system, which meant at the absolute minimum spec, I was looking at a dual 700MHz machine. Knowing this, I bid based on how much such a system would be worth to me, and if I scored something better - well, that would be pure gravy.

This turned out to be a sound strategy. What I received in the end was a quad 700MHz machine with 3GB RAM, 18GB hard drive, DVD-ROM, DMediaPro DM3 and a Dual Channel Display option (DCD) on the V12 card.

There was a little bit of work involved getting it all up and running. First, the IO9 needed to be installed. I found the system’s IO9 retention bracket floating in the bottom of the case, which actually was quite nice - now the IO9 is securely installed just like a factory install. All the drive cables were intact, though the cable end at the SCSI drive bay was unplugged. I had to fiddle around in cramped quarters to get that reattached.

The boot drive was a stock SGI firmware 18GB Cheetah, with a base install of 6.5.23 and no root password. The drive was installed in the wrong SCSI bay; it needed to be moved down to the first (lower) bay. Finally, the side access panels were installed backwards with the push button latch releases facing towards the front, which makes them completely inaccessible. It was a bit tricky figuring out how to remove the panels in that configuration - I wound up tugging on the metal locking tabs with needle nose pliers to release the latches.

Once all the gremlins were chased down, cables reconnected and everything tightened back up, it was good to go!

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Finally, I moved over several items from my Fuel, including PCI cards (SAS/SATA, U320, FireWire and an extra gigabit network card), hard drives and an additional gigabyte of RAM. So far I’m loving it - I’ve been playing with it as much as possible over the past couple days.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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