SwinSID Ultimate

April 24, 2016

SwinSID-Ultimate-header

I’ve written about the need and importance of having a proper replacement for the SID sound chip few times before. So I won’t repeat myself on that, as this is going to be a lengthy article anyway.

Because what we have here is big news on this front.

A duo from Hungary, Máté “CodeKiller” Sebők and Mihály “Hermit” Horváth have been working on improving SwinSID, originally developed by Swinkels.

What they have come up with is a highly modified and expanded version of the Nano SwinSID, now called SwinSID Ultimate. The enhanced hardware is mostly developed by CodeKiller, and Hermit has rewritten a new sound engine almost from scratch. The aim has been to make a more compatible, more capable SID replacement than what the Nano SwinSID already was.

At least the list of improvements is impressive: Read the rest of this entry »


SwinSID Evolution

April 17, 2016

SwinSID lineup

Since it’s initial release in 2010, the Micro SwinSID from Swinkels has gone through some improvements over the years. These improvements have come in form of both hardware and firmware updates.

Most obvious improvement was the change of form factor from the Micro SwinSID to the more familiar Nano SwinSID. Initially the Micro SwinSID was based on DIL-packaged ATmega processor making the board that housed also a full-size crystal oscillator and couple of trough-hole components almost twice as wide as the SID socket. Some time later a redesign appeared that was based on surface mount components, squeezing all the same components into a small PCB that’s no larger than a real SID chip. Or at least as long as only area is considered. Pin headers, components and jumpers make the board somewhat thicker.

Micro SwinSID and Nano SwinSID side by side

Micro SwinSID and Nano SwinSID side by side. Both designs have the same components and features, except for the additional filter jumper in Nano.

During the first few years since the introduction, there was couple of official firmware updates. These firmware updates improved the sound emulation and compatibility with the behavior of a real SID chip, reducing the number of cases where Nano SwinSID would not sound or act ‘right’. Down the line there was also a feature update that made it possible to select the filter emulation between 8580 or 6581-like behavior using a jumper.

These refinements have improved Nano SwinSID, making it more feasible SID replacement with each improvement. Sadly there hasn’t been a new official, or publicly available firmware for the Nano SwinSID since 2012. As if SwinSID had reached its maximum potential with some of its flaws to remain.

This changed in 2014 when Máté ‘CodeKiller’ Sebők stepped up with a new firmware. Read the rest of this entry »


Graphics with old C64 colors and how to view them

April 9, 2016

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Continuing presenting some of the graphics I’ve done for the Commodore 64, this article revolves around my latest picture and how to view it – in technical sense.

This picture is a bit different, since it’s made for old PAL C64 with so called “old lumas”, which I covered in my previous post. In other words I’m making use of the slightly different color palette found in early C64s. And not only the palette, I’m also exploiting the color bleeding introduced by the PAL color encoding. The result is that the picture appears to be more colorful than one might expect from the 16-color palette of a C64.

This picture requires a specific hardware setup. Namely a PAL C64 with early 6569R1 VIC-II chip. A real C64 is needed, or alternatively, an emulator or viewer that can simulate the effect of PAL color encoding/decoding while supporting the old lumas. The reason is that with this picture I’m exploiting color bleeding together with the different color palette.

Orbital Impaler micro64 screen shot

Screenshot taken using an emulator with old luma settings and PAL video encoding emulation.

 

Work process

Working on this piece started on Excel. I wanted to have a proper palette for the old luma colors, so I ran the same calculations that Philip “Pepto” Timmermann has made, but using the old luminance values. This way I got an old luma version of the so called pepto palette. A link to palette at the end of the post. Read the rest of this entry »


Old VIC-II Colors and Color Blending

March 30, 2016

Old VIC-II colors

Early VIC-II chips produced somewhat different colors than the later ones. In the earliest revisions the 16 colors had five luminance levels, i.e. brightness values. Black and white are the lowest and highest values, and the remaining 14 colors use three luminance levels that are evenly spaced in the brightness spectrum. Simply put, there are dark grey, medium grey and light grey, and all the colors are as bright or dark as these three shades of grey.

In later VIC-II revisions four intermediate luminance levels were introduced. Now there was nine luminance levels instead of the previous five. The palette with nine luminance levels is what most people consider as the normal C64 colors. From this article you can read all about C64 luminance levels and colors.

In this picture you can see how the different luminances affect picture that has been made for the “normal” C64 colors: Read the rest of this entry »


Commodore 128 motherboard in high resolution

March 4, 2016

Here’s a high-resolution photo of C128 motherboard for no particular reason:

Commodore 128 motherboard

Click for more pixels

This one has a Scandinavian character set, that’s why the three paper labeled EPROM chips.

One point worthy of note, though; You often find being said that the Commodore 128 has the “new SID”, 8580. That’s not the case however. Read the rest of this entry »


How my pixels got into ROM

February 26, 2016

P0-Snake-cart-header

This time I’m writing about a C64 game and how I got involved with it, rewinding to early 2015.

For my part things got in motion when my Out Run Memories picture got some positive attention at the time of its release. Thanks to that I got in contact with Antonio Savona, who kindly asked me if I could make a loading picture for his game P0 Snake. Antonio had already created the game for the RGCD C64 16KB Cartridge Game Development Competition 2014, and the game ended up winning the competition by a fair margin!

And it’s no surprise. It’s a clever snake game with a twist, with varied levels and gameplay, and an ingenious one-button game mechanics! On top of the solid game design there are some surprising features for a 16k game like a password system and digitized speech samples! I mean, the game fits into 16 kilobytes. And when that game greets you with a speech sample saying “Welcome to P zero Snake” and introduces more samples during the gameplay, it does raise an eyebrow! There’s an interesting article at the game’s development blog about the challenges with the audio and how it was pulled off.

Just take a look. Note the clever references to various classic games:

Thanks to the 16k game’s success and popularity, it was going to have an extended RGCD C64 cartridge release. And for this extended version I got to make the intro screen! Read the rest of this entry »


Out Run Memories – Making of

January 14, 2016

Out-Run-Memories-header

At X’2014 C64 Party I took part in graphics competition with a piece called Out Run Memories, part of which you can see above.

Some time later an extended version was released as a one-file demo called Out Run Memories Upshift!

Crafting the picture together was quite a lot of work – it all came back to me now that I started to clean up my old work files. While going through the numerous files I had laying around, I thought it might be fun to put together an animation of the work steps I went through.

So here you go, both versions considered, more than five weeks’ spare time effort put into one gif animation. Read the rest of this entry »


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