July 24, 2014
I’ve covered SwinSID micro and nano few times before. It’s a great idea – a micro controller based SID chip replacement, working as a spare part for a C64 or C128, or as a substitute to some other application like a DIY-synth. For Commodores, it’s especially suited for a gaming machine, as only very few games feature such tricks that would not sound about right on the SwinSID.
However, there’s this downside with the SwinSID that it does not support analog controllers. This is because it’s the SID chip that handles the reading of analog controllers in the C64, and the A/D converters are not implemented in the SwinSID. The number of games supporting paddles, mice or analog joysticks is not that big, but still it’s a shame that they won’t work with SwinSID. Also the few games that support second joystick button are affected. They behave as if the second button would be triggered constantly.
So there is a lack of fully featured replacement for a SID chip. This is a shame as SID chips are sought after, and supply for good and working chips is getting more and more scarce. The demand of SID chips have been recognized, as it’s not that difficult to find a supply of SID chips from Asia. It’s just that many have found out that these chips are often dead, faulty or downright fakes, and often rebadged.
Knowing that there are a lot of these faulty SID chips with bad filters or missing sound channels, it had occurred to me that maybe these could be combined together with SwinSID to make at least a fully featured replacement for the SID chip. Sound from the SwinSID, and A/D converters from an otherwise faulty SID.
Recently I ordered some spare parts from Mutant Caterpillar Games, who have a selection of chips for 8-bit computers in stock, including SID chips. As we were talking together with Ian Gledhill about SID sourcing challenges among other things I mentioned this idea of mine. He kindly sent me few faulty rebadged SID chips to test it out.
So, off I am to build an adapter that allows me to install SwinSID and a ‘badSID’ to the C64. Read the rest of this entry »
May 14, 2014
The Commodore 64 has a disk drive that is unique in many ways. Not only is the Commodore 1541 said to be the world’s slowest disk drive, but it’s also big, bulky, noisy and unreliable. Also, it works in an unusual way. In many ways it’s the disk drive that has defined our experience with the C64.
In addition to the original model 1541 there were also the updated models 1541C and 1541-II from Commodore. The drives have different looks, differences in hardware and in ROM versions, but the basic functionality and features are principally identical.
Some later models in Commodore’s 8-bit serial disk drive range were improved in some ways, but those have less importance today. For a C64 as a retro system, the 1541 is the de facto standard. Still, in this time of emulators and hardware add-ons, compatibility with the original 1541 disk drive is regarded as a must.
And today, for someone who doesn’t want to resort to emulators only, the large and unconventional disk drive brings some practical challenges. So understanding the 1541 helps us to understand the options we have for replacing it! Read the rest of this entry »
November 29, 2013
Here’s what I made as a 30 year birthday present for a friend of mine. Maniac Mansion cartridge for the Commodore 64!
Of course a cartridge like this never existed back in the day, as the original Manic Mansion released for the C64 was disk only game. It’s only thanks to the crackers, patchers and hardware developers of recent years who we can thank for the possibility to have this much acclaimed and loved game in a C64 cartridge format today.
You’ve probably guessed already that it’s an EasyFlash cartridge in a ‘custom’ Maniac Mansion themed cartridge case. And on the EasyFlash, there is written the excellent EasyFlash-patched Maniac Mansion Mercury by Onslaught. Read the rest of this entry »
September 22, 2013
My retro enthusiasm is not limited to C64, or Commodore alone – not at all.
Recently I put together an old PC. In fact, everything started when I grew interested in MIDI music. Or to be more precise, how different consumer sound cards render the music. I found it fascinating how MIDI compositions can sound very different using different sound cards and sound patches. Especially when it comes to previously familiar game musics. Many have felt the same, and there are various sites on the net where you can listen and compare game musics recorded from different sound cards.
Inspirited from all that I bought myself a NEC XR385 from eBay. Basically it’s an OEM Yamaha DB60XG MIDI daughter card. These seemed to be regularly available from a Chinese seller, and didn’t cost that much. Bought mine in early spring, but it ended up taking almost four months until I actually got my card, but that’s another story. By now the supply from the Chinese seller seems to have been depleted, sadly.
The NEC XR385 MIDI daughter card
When I finally got the card, I had to put together a setup around it. The card cannot be used alone as such, as it is designed to be plugged into a special wavetable a.k.a. Wave Blaster interface found in many 90s and later sound cards. Another option to use the card would be to convert it to an external MIDI sound module. Read the rest of this entry »
June 17, 2013
Already good while ago I bought this MMC2IEC kit from Retro-Donald together with other junk. Basically it is just one hardware design variant that runs the popular and widely used sd2iec firmware. Just like the uIEC, SD2IEC, C64SD and many other devices. If you randomly come by an SD card drive for 8-bit Commodores, it’s probably some sort of SD2IEC/MMC2IEC variant.
This particular variant of the hardware goes by name Peter Sieg Platine, Peter Sieg plate. It’s Lars P. hardware configuration – which is important information when flashing or updating the AVR firmware. The kit came with ATMega 1284 AVR – a 128k chip that is likely to fit also the upcoming updates of sd2iec firmware in future.
Anyhow, this one was not a complete ready to use device, but a DIY kit that consists of nothing but the board, the SD card slot and an optional preprogrammed AVR chip. The kit with programmed AVR didn’t cost very much, and the remaining electric components were only few euros from a local electrics shop.
Even though this kit is no longer available from Retro-Donald’s Sinchai shop, I’ll go ahead and run down what I did with mine and how I built it. After all, this device is so simple, that it would be fairly easy to build one without any kit. If you have the possibility to make the PCB and program the AVR, plus solder all the parts together, you can basically make this very device from scratch.
The PCB design and layout files are also available in different formats here and on the author’s page. Read the rest of this entry »
April 13, 2013
It’s been already quite a while since I last wrote anything about 1541 Ultimate. In the meantime I’ve gotten myself also the new model, the 1541 Ultimate-II. It’s a good time to recap the project and device status at the moment, especially since the latest firmware update brought some nice new features.
So what’s different from the previous model?
Let’s start with the physical differences.
Obviously the appearance has changed a lot. The most apparent change is that this new model comes in a case, and is more compact. Now it actually looks like a cartridge, and it doesn’t have those silly legs the previous model was standing on. And yes, having the case on it is a definite plus.
The smaller size comes with a downside though. The SD card slot is replaced by a microSD card one. Regular size SD cards are much nicer to handle I think. But it’s not only that! Since the first few production batches the microSD card slot part had to be changed due to sourcing issues. Mine is with the new slot, and I must admit, the new microSD slot is a bitch. With this new card slot, the microSD card goes deeper inside the cartridge. You need to have something thin to insert or eject the card. You just can’t do it with the tip of your finger. Read the rest of this entry »
January 29, 2013
Just check out these awesome self-made cards I got for my 30th anniversary! Big shout-outs to my dear study- and workmates! I was totally blown away :)