Just a quick post to break the long silence. Here’s a picture of my Amiga CD32‘s motherboard:
90s Amigas are prone to have leaking SMD capacitors, which in extreme case can destroy the whole motherboard. I opened my unit to check how its electrolytic capacitors are doing. Sadly there are some signs of starting corrosion from electrolytic fluid leakage. Luckily no big damage yet. So it’s about time to have its caps replaced.
If you would like to use the picture for something, please feel free. But please let me know, or at least credit the source. I’m also able to provide the picture in ~30% bigger resolution and with its background removed / transparent background.
While me and couple of hundred other SID fanatics are waiting for the SIDFX units to arrive, a new advanced dual SID board design appeared out of the blue; MixSID by Henning Bekel.
The arrival of MixSID is quite interesting, as feature-wise MixSID appears to be on-par with the SIDFX. Want to install any two SID models to any C64 model? Be able to switch between the installed SIDs on the fly? Choose between mono, dual-mono or true stereo operating modes? Have flexible selection for the second SID address space? Adjustable digi-boost for 8580? Volume level balancing for the installed chips? Reduced noise?
Both SIDFX and MixSID are capable with the above, and more. Of course SIDFX has even more some interesting features, including software configuration for the settings, and automatic configuration (voltage, filters) for the installed chips etc.
Comparing the two is not exactly the point of this article, but I can’t help myself doing that spec-wise, as both are advanced dual SID boards, with many similar features, and appearing around the same time.
The biggest difference between the two is actually the approach and design philosophy; SIDFX states being a plug and play, solder free solution that automatically detects the installed SID chips and configures itself accordingly. MixSID, in turn, is manually configured, comprehensively documented, open source, and DIY-friendly.
In fact, you can only have MixSID by building one yourself. You can go ahead and order or make your own pcbs, but Henning also sells the MixSID boards as kits, and I was sure to get myself one.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Screenshot taken using an emulator with old luma settings and PAL video encoding emulation.
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 »
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 »
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 »
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.
Also the production phase faced an unfortunate incident, as the plastic molding company that produced the cases suffered a fire in the factory. The fire destroyed the transparent cases which had been the first ones pressed. Despite these shortcomings and delays the cases got pressed and sent out in the last couple of weeks. Related forums and social media groups have been filled with photos of these new cases and nice C64 setups installed in them.