1. Not old. Vintage. :)

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Who am I? - Harvey Kong Tin - Atari 800 owner/user from Dec 1982

Harvey Kong Tin

Galley Slave, Male
Blog Posts:
1
Prior to my interest in home computers - I was into drawing/art and 35mm still photography.
Got into photography in a big way in my last 2 years at High School. My two best subjects at High School was Art and Mathematics.
Worked a couple of years at a local department store as a window dresser/display assistant - then got into a local Colour Film Processing Laboratory - as a laboratory assistant. Didn't get along with the management there, and left - working at a couple of local factories. After about 4 years of that - I went onto a Polytechnic course on Data Processing - having a go with BASIC and COBOL programming - that I wasn't good at.

I already decided go on a 1? year OE (Overseas Experience) that a lot of kiwis go on - at some time in their lives. This was in December 1982 - that I stopped off for a couple of days in LA - where I got to see the Vectrex running, and Tempest running - and it was at Hammersmith, London that I purchased my Atari 800 48k computer with 410 cassette recorder, Star Raiders and Pacman carts with Shamus, Baja Buggies, Race in Space and Matchracer on cassette. I lived in Hull, northern England for 10 months before heading home. I had my Atari 800 converted from Pal A to Pal B before leaving for home - to Dunedin, New Zealand. I did purchase a 810 disk drive a few months before leaving.
I was very much into the gaming side - being very keen on coin-op videogames, especially those with the amazing graphics at that time. Galaga and Zaxxon being keen favourites - then Xevious. I would not say that I was that good at playing them - because I tend not to pump a lot of money into playing them - but enough to sample what the game is like playing. Very few games I persevered with, like Super Zaxxon because it's one tough game and Zaxxon was a favourite of mine.

I met Andrew Bradfield in early 1984 - he was into his Atari 400 16K computer and bought various cartridge games for it. I had a whole load of games because of my contact with a friend in the UK (a retired Bus driver - whom I met, while living in Hull). And so, I would transfer what 16K games I had, he could run. He had special short length tapes - so that he could record one game per side on them. He was still at High School at this time - did a milk run after school - how he paid for his Atari 400, and those game cartridges he had purchased. He moved onto an Atari 800 as soon as he could - and a 1050 disk drive. I recall that he wanted to test that the 1050 could load the copied games off disk - while still in the store. This cheesed off the retailer who was there, watching.
About a year or so later Andrew started on learning assembly language programming - I think he did work on a game/progam in BASIC? But I never saw it running. Maybe he lost it because of it being on tape? I have my doubts now that he would ever finish/complete a game/program in BASIC - because he wasn't really into a high level language - such as BASIC.

Around this time I got into producing two Atari zines as such. In late 85' Go Atari was produced, which was 32 pages, and Go Atari News was 12 pages produced in early 1986. They contained the usual kind of stuff most User Group magazines have in their content. I'll include a few pages here as samples.

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Saving - this is a WIP

Comments: 2 Sep 29, 2020

Sinclair QL 512KB upgrade

Vyper68

Deckhand, Male, from Hurworth U.K.
Blog Posts:
2
Here as promised are the photos from my efforts to expand my QL to 640KB and also fit the new power board to replace the 7805 regulator. You can see the original board and then the "slimline" version I had to produce on the fly after it became clear the original sat way too high to fit inside the case. This probably explains why people bought the expansions that fitted the Eurocard connector. You can also see the replacement Microdrive ribbon cables, these are parts from Farnell and work a lot better than the originals as they have proper metal ends to fit into the sockets rather than the tinned wire ends of the original cables that had no strength to them to push into the sockets. The final couple of photos show the QL after all the upgrades fitted and the Minerva boot screen showing available RAM.

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Comments: 2 Sep 29, 2020

Dragon 32 Blog

Vyper68

Deckhand, Male, from Hurworth U.K.
Blog Posts:
2
So thanks to Andy I am now the proud owner of a Dragon 32. This computer which was manufactured in Wales ( hence the name ) is very similar to the popular American Co-Co computer to the point where some software would run without modification and others with only minor amendments.
So for Graham here are the pictures I promised.
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Comments: 3 Sep 29, 2020

IBM XT Just for Richie

Graham

Deckhand, Male, from Wormley, Hertfordshire, England
Blog Posts:
4
Comments: 2 Sep 29, 2020

A little about what\'s happening at the moment with some history thrown in ..

Graham

Deckhand, Male, from Wormley, Hertfordshire, England
Blog Posts:
4
Maybe peep's can see just how much this glandular fever has affected me. Gone from zooming around with a rocket up my backside to trying to pull along what feels like a 10 ten block of lead.

I've always stated I've never been a lazy sod, and recently I've been missing out, with no get up and go, It just wasn't me. Things are getting better and seemed to be sustained improvement.
Recently been asked to help a new Drama group with there lighting and Sound, something I gave up when I split from my Ex. (It's an amiciable split, but at the time I thought it best to give it up as she was on the commitee)
I had been doing the lighting and helping with setting up the sound for a fair number of years and picked up several what have been dubbed NOSCARS, i.e a take on OSCARS, but given out by NODA for the EAST region (The National Operatic and Dramatic Association)
Apart from the fact I had some kind of flair for getting the lighting looking good, using lighting level,colour and timing, it also gave me a chance to use my electronics & programming skills.
I built within a comic spider, the electronics both to recieve the Radio based DMX signal, and use that to control lighting effects to the spiders eyes and fangs. I'd also built the DMX transmitter and added that to the professional theatre's equipment.

Well I guess I have to organise myself, Drama production if it goes ahead it'll be mid Feb 2021. The guy writing the play, ad acting as Director, has promised to work with me in regard actor's movement on stage etc.
Important as going from a proper full sized theatre, to a village hall stage with limited lighting equipment. Thankfully maybe a few hours each week (on Zoom) at the moment bit more time needed nearer production date.

Also been asked by a good friend to help him with returning to Motorbike racing after over a 20 year Gap
I'll be building engines, looking after the bike I guess in the pit swapping tyres, chains an' sprokets etc.
Well it won’t all be just me; Mike runs a motorcycle business and is very happy working on bikes, but maybe not so much building up race engines. In my youth, I have built and redesign several manufactured engines, V8 Mercrusier's (Chevy car engine's marinised) for Round the Isle of White racing boats, V8 & Straight 6's for Drag Racing, several race engines for saloon car racing, And I'm not sure if any of my road cars had engines that hadn't been played with is some way. I used to do some of this with another guy, He had aspirations and ended up working in F1 initially Benetton, later Renault and then Red Bull Racing, He was my Best man but disappeared of the face of the world following his parting from his better half.

I know Mike wants’ me to sit down and check all the information we have been given for the bike, things like the gear ration and sprocket sizes to give different top speed's and work out what’s best for each circuit we visit, The math is o.k. but depends on how Mike wants the bike setup, better acceleration from corners or ultimate top speed towards the end of the longest straight, or a compromise of the two, so the info, might not be much use. That will be my biggest learning curve as I couldn't do that with the saloon car racing I was involved with. (we did with Drag racing but once found the sweet spot stayed with those gears)
We now have different tyre compounds, intermediate and Wets' plus tyre blankets to deal with so a lot of pit equipment and wheels in addition to the Bike, Mike's just happy to have me doing the rebuilds as reading through the very complete Honda works manual there are some exotic materials used, and can only be reused several times, some parts are single use and replace. All of the engine build history is missing so the first engine build will be expensive with all new bolts, bearings, pistons, rings etc etc. from then on, it's keeping careful records of the parts changed, reused etc. Engine life is about 1400-1500 miles between rebuilds, and I'll have a two week gap, so maybe only a week for a full rebuild, before refitting and checking all o.k for next practice/ race.

I'm sure it will impinge on some other area's as shooting competitions tend to run at weekends as well, however I'll be supporting Mike, and may only miss a few shoots.

I’m only pleased that there are 24 Hours in a day, so at least I can spend sometime playing with my Atarti’s as well.

Comments: 0 Sep 29, 2020

A New XEGS circuit board Build 20/09/2020

Graham

Deckhand, Male, from Wormley, Hertfordshire, England
Blog Posts:
4
20/09/2020
Well it's been powered up, all the voltages checked to each socket, all good..
I've added the 555 timer used in the reset circuit and the 74LS74 in the PAL clock circuit, Reset works fine, checked master oscillator and seeing the input to where Freddie usually plugs in. added a 'Freddie' replacement.. checked and main system clock and now also the PAL clock all good.
Added the rest of the Atari LSI's , a RAM replacement board and a Sophia DVI... Until I got to the MMU & OS ROM ... And... nowhere to be seen.
I'll have to wire in an U1MB to test Doh .. nearly there .. ( Oh and that will be without a keyboard so may have to knock up a TKII and use a PC keyboard until I've decided what to do.. (as no connectors other than power and SIO ( SIO isolated at the moment as no filters added))
I suppose the good news is no magic smoke ... Well not yet anyway ..

19/09/2020

Firstly; as all the PDF's now attached to a Resource

https://atari-owner.com/club/resources/xegs-circuit-diagrams.68/

I decided to remove all the screen shots I'd been working on.

Secondly; whilst I was in KiCAD and laying out ‘stuff’, I thought I’d better sort out the power switch for the XEGS, currently it uses a mechanical push button, which operates a switch mounted on the Mother Board (M/B), and this is also supported with a small metal frame soldered to the M/B. One problem I have is that the frames aren’t available and the switches are expensive as not used on any other Atari. (unlike the Joystick & keyboard ports (near all & 5200).

So I decided on a more modern take, something that’s found on the 1088XEL computer, a simple push button that latches an electronic circuit switching the Computer on and off. The design can be used on any computer that has an external 5V supply.

The intension on the XEGS is to make 3 or 4 small circuit boards that solder to each other to form the support pillar and switch, these will carry SMD components (only due to size, excepting the power FET). A 6mm square tactile push button will be fitted on the top board to allow the original post that used to operate the mechanical switch to operate it, the side supports for this top board hold the circuit components, and another likely used to connect the original switch holes in the M/B. Although this may end up as being the FET leads.

I’ve included an image of the circuit, but I’ve as yet not built is, and KiCAD wants a circuit diagram for each piece of circuit board used so not being very friendly.

View attachment 1355

18/09/2020
I've now posted the updated Schematics as a resource, hopefully I've found all of the error's however If anyone finds an error please contact me.
Just a quick update of what the board looks like at the moment.
View attachment 1341

17/09/2020
WOW Digi-Key parts arrive two day to be processed, shipped from America, and delivered in this country ...

15/09/2020
Digi-Key parts ordered.. waiting on BEST.


So Practically finalised the re production of the XEGS Circuit Diagrams, these have taken a little longer, as I’ve been rechecking the bare circuit board I have, against the circuit I’ve drawn.

It’s at least as accurate as I can get with the board I’m using, and although this is rev A. Its look like some of the components are missing off a Version 3 (and bodge wired in) so I’m guessing this is an earlier board.

I hope that I’ve ironed out all of the issues I’ve found, but I may have introduced some other minor errors.

I’ve made sure all the Circuits have the same label names from one sheet to another, thought this would be useful as wasn’t entirely accurate from the one I started with.
I’m still modifying some of the lay out and a bit peeved that I can’t copy from one page to another within the program.
I also got a little fed up just using a PC program and a Multimeter, and Pam got fed up with the Beep Beep Beep..

I’ve been back to the soldering Iron, and ... found I’ve a few components I’m missing.. wish I’d found out before, anyway just been sorting out a Digi key order.

I also need to finish off the order to BEST as I’ve some items to order, along with some items for Richie.

Thankfully I can still build the majority without a keyboard or joystick ports as examples.TK-II can be plugged in for now.

06/09/2020
Having drawn the Keyboard circuit and the Keyboards Matrix out, I today spent some time checking through this by opening up an XEGS keyboard.
All the circuitry appears to be good, excepting the wiring shown from the Keyboard Socket on the Mother board, going to the Connector on the other end of the cable. The first pins all seem correct but Pins 9-15 are in the main incorrect including wrong power pins. Just in case of confusion I'm using the Pin numbers printed against the connector on the Mother Board, against those on the PCB connector. I'll recheck again and update my schematics before I post, I'll also check the Matrix but this should be correct and bar the LED the same as 65/130XE.

05/09/2020
I've been away this last week, but I did take some of the schmatics away with me, I use labels to show a signal one one page going to another , no different to Jerzy has used. What I've been doing is validating the ones I've used however a few didn't match and I've now found most of the offenders. I've also completed a copy of Jersey's Keyboard Matrix and Keyboard circuit, I'll need to check this against real hardware but I've at least got some drawings to start with, and adjust if required.
I've also update some of the other's already produced in a effort to make these clearer. And when required recreated the circuit symbols, with the Legs of the chip in an order that allow the diagrams clarity, However I can't remove all the crossing over that sometimes happens. I've also created a symbol for the Modulator.
That's about it for now.

31/08/2020
So I've now been opening each of the schematics, any issues I've been slowly resolving, I'd found a fair number of issues the power supply page now shows Four separate points that have individual filtering, rather than three, I added the PAL clock circuit which was missing entirely, made sure that the components have their correct designations to match the circuit board, and of course the correct Values.
I’ve created new symbols so I now have a library with all the Atari LSI's, used along with usual components, capacitors, transistors etc.
I’ll add parts to this in line with some of the upgrades I intend to produce, such as the O.S. Controller, PIA/VIA extension boards etc.
I’m having a few issues with some of the labels that have been used, i.e. say a Label for D0-D7 appears this will be the same and easy to check across all pages, however not all of these match up correctly so I’ll have to go through them all and validate on each page.
I’ve also not reproduced the keyboard schematic nor the keyboard matrix, the matrix is easy as the same keyboard as a 65/130XE but the circuit board in the keyboard itself needs to be reproduced, similar to the rest of the Atari’s but does signal it’s presence so it starts BASIC with the keyboard attached, or Missile command if not (on a standard XEGS we are talking about)
I’ve just noticed I’d not put the modulator on any page, I’ll have to tack this on a page with some space.
However the main work is completed.

29/08/2020
Well I've finished producing the main drawings in KiCAD now, I do have to recheck some bits as some part directly copied from the original's produced by Jerzey Sobola.

Things still to check. All the Power references need to check if it states +5A or +5B it is actually from that branch, the same with all the global tags, I need to go through each drawing and make sure inputs / outputs, bi directional and all the names match. Also the resistor networks have their values swapped about and even wrongly associated that’s still to do and update plus I'll add the pin each is on. ie RP1-1 first resistor on RP1 and RP3-5 5th resistor in RP3 as an example

For now I'll attached them:-
Update Deleted see https://atari-owner.com/club/resources/xegs-circuit-diagrams.68/

24/08/2020
Famous last words well not just yet I hope, but plans made not come to light as yet..
I was looking to build up several of the circuits with a view to powering it up..
Except there were no drawing of the PAL clock circuit among the schematics I have draw up by Jerzy Sobola. Hence I've spent most of my time checking and double checking,
One the values used two where they are and the component identification. And then drawing up the schematic (still to do)
Somewhere I got sidetracked..
I however I have completed most of what I'll describe as the main schematics

Power (this includes Audio and Reset circuit on same sheet as well)
Memory decoding (ROM, MMU, 74ls138)
CPU’s (SALLY, ANTIC, FREDDIE, Master clock)
Video (GITA, 4050, Along with discrete components, |Colour adjust)

I’ve still a lot to do, however some of these are easier to do such as the RAM memory, keyboard cross connections etc.
The main ones I’ll need to do next are those with PIA & Pokey on them.

Deleted see https://atari-owner.com/club/resources/xegs-circuit-diagrams.68/

22/08/2020
Well not a great deal completed on the XEGS Board see Below, however finding evermore issues with the circuit diagrams, with the same lable such as C55 being used for both a decoupling capacitor 100nFor 0.1uF (should be C60) and a 100uF electrolytic capacitor, and thats just one example, finding a few components extra shown on Diagrams, along with those missing ..

Deleted see https://atari-owner.com/club/resources/xegs-circuit-diagrams.68/

I needed a break for a bit, going from soldering iron, to KiCad on PC back to soldering iron etc..

I'll have another go, and finish off the PAL clock circuit along with the Colo(u)r adjust circuit, I may even check voltages and plug in some components and see if it boots to Basic 23/8/2020 Oh I forgot I'll need the reset circuit finished as well :facepalm:

19/8/2020
I've spent some time reproducing Jerzy Sobola's circuit diagrams, I've not gone to far, and one I still have to correct all the part labels as the the colour adjustment circuit was a copy of the 130XE and bare no relation to those labels in the XEGS.

Deleted see https://atari-owner.com/club/resources/xegs-circuit-diagrams.68/

16/8/2020
I've actually started on the build, fitted a few sockets for I.C's I knew will be needed. started on the Power input circuit, came to doing the capacitor's....
Well I've produced a list based on ME removing them from a completely trashed board some while back, and as some parts of the circuit will now be redundant, such as the branch going to the modulator, I 've been going by the XEGS circuit diagrams produced Jerzy Sobola, I did know, there were several small anomalities, for instance one bit of the diagram was copied from the 130XE diagram complete with all the wrong resistor, capacitor etc labels
As I was comparing them, and fitting components as I went, I found evem more issues, however they are a great starting point, but i'll now be redrawing them in KiCAD
I've reproduced this, some may note that we have two capacitors marked as "C2" as an example.
And C13 the 'wrong C2, (left of C4) and C3 are all next to each other, and electrically directly connected, C3 however is correct, and C1 on all three XEGS I have is 1000uF not 470uF.
L4 and C45 & C46 are not required.
View attachment 1117

Here is the original much broken XEGS
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I originally created a Media Album to go along with this Blog, however after consultation with both Matt Baker and Tim Kline; going forward I will be adding pictures as I build and test as I go along, these will appear within in the Blog itself as above and the Media Album has now been deleted.

"Original..
I'll add photos including the original Circuit Diagrams produced by Jerzy SOBOLA
I will gradually build this up with information as to the upgrades included from the start, along with those bits I'll be leaving off of the original board. I'll reproduce the Circuit showing what components have been left out.
"

As mentioned above I'll have to do these correctly in KiCAD.

The three main upgrades will be –
U1MB
PokeyMAX for stereo
Sophia or Sophia2 for DVI Video
Maybe something like this
View attachment 1113

Possible internal upgrades for later on
TKII PS/2 keyboard interface
MIDI / S2 or X2 Synth
CF or SD Card interface based on 1088 XEL/XLD interface.

The build, will also make use of 64K static memory rather than DRAM, and a replacement for Freddie If the Sophia2 turns up then I won’t need any PAL colour clock nor any colour adjustment circuitry (to be checked)
Well A few of my Build thoughts.
As I'll be using an SRAM module from Lotharek, Neither the DRAM chips or any circuitry that supports them will be required, "I'll be posting modified Circuit diagrams showing the components I'll be leaving out."
Actually Newly draw ones.

Having viewed the Circuit diagrams, the first I looked at was the DRAM see Below
View attachment 1116

It appears that none of these components will be used, so saving a bunch of 33 Ohm resistors and the DRAM

Updated 7/07/2020
I'll be using high quality turned pin sockets for all of the components throughout, along with very good quality decoupling capacitors for each IC fitted, I'll be adding those I need initially along with few items recovered from a broken XEGS mother board. I'll be building up the power circuitry first and making sure this has a nice and clean output, most of the parts will be new, however power switch and one of the inductors will be re used. Sockets will be fitted for CPU, Antic, GITA, Pokey, PIA, 74LS138 address decoder and MMU, O.S for connection of U1MB. (https://lotharek.pl/productdetail.php?id=56 )
The 64K Base Memory (Static or SRAM) will sit on a daughter board supplied by Lotharek (https://lotharek.pl/productdetail.php?id=291) in the CPU socket, with the CPU plugged into this.
All of the Video circuitry from the LUM0-LUM 3, Csync, & Colour lines on GITA will for now be left out, as the Sophia will produce its own output on DVI independent of GITA itself. If Sophia 2 is available then I'll not even need to supply a PAL colour clock, as this is inbuilt to Sophia 2 (and replaces GITA entirely)
Freddie is used to provide a clock via a divider chain, along with DRAM refresh signals, I hope to replace this with a custom divider or there is a Freddie replacement to go with Lotharek's SRAM replacement (https://lotharek.pl/productdetail.php?id=233) which has a divider chain built in, along with the DRAM refresh which is not needed and may introduce noise.

Famous last Word's
"Quick note as that as I've been reading and checking Jerzy Sobola's schematics I've found a number of errors, some will be slight different between versions of the XEGS, however some area's appears to be copied from say the 65XE, 130XE with the same component references. I'll try and correct these but I will have to reproduce from scratch."
They will all be reproduced, but corrected for the boards I have

I'll be adding more to the Blog Soon
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Comments: 2 Sep 29, 2020

Is eBay a nice place after all?

Klyde

Cabin Boy, Male, from France
Blog Posts:
1
eBay is one of the best places to find vintage material that makes us so happy.

But as everyone here has experienced, eBay also attracts scammers, sellers or buyers, who deliver items that are far from the description that was made, or who buy your equipment, complain that it is not suitable, and do not return everything, or in poor condition ...

However, sometimes it happens that one can meet very nice sellers with good surprises.

here is what happened to me recently:

I had taken over this compilation of games for Amstrad CPC "Arcade Hits", especially for the Durrell's "Lotus Turbo Esprit" game on eBay. I have memories of playing to this game with my best friend on his Amstrad CPC when we were 15 years old.

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The compilation was advertised at 15.00 € but I contacted the seller who accepted my offer for 10.00 € (excluding shipping), but only by Paypal payment as friends or relatives. I know the risks of accepting this payment method which cancels the buyer protection but 10.00 € is not a big deal.
So I paid, and the seller quickly sent me a message telling me that he will send the package the next day.

A week later, the package was still not delivered. I tried to contact the seller on eBay but of course ... no response from him.

I then admitted that I had lost 10.00 € since I had no recourse against him, by not having used the classic eBay payment method.

But last week, three weeks after I contacted him, the seller sent me a message saying that he was sorry but that he forgot to send the package! And to apologize, he said he would add a surprise into the package.

The package finally arrived today, and not only there was the "Arcade Hits" disk but also 3 other Amstrad CPC games: "Manchester United Europe", "World Cup Year 90" which is a compilation of football (soccer) game, and "Disk 50" (?) which is a compilation of different small games.

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In the end, I thought I was scammed, but the seller was finally sympathetic, despite his oversight, by sending me these 4 game disks for only... 10.00 €!

So, is eBay a nice place after all?

Comments: 9 Sep 29, 2020

Is it real or is it Memorex

Paul "Mclaneinc" Irvine

Chief Officer, Male, from Horrible council estate
Blog Posts:
3
There is indeed a problem with telling old stories, are they true, are they embellished, has the story changed by memory issues etc etc. Every one of these is possible, and even multiple parts of all of them. Time as we all start to find out isn't kind to our bodies, life's stresses also invade and destroy simple parts of us, memory is usually the first to feel the mental effects. I've started to notice that myself but at the moment I live a very stressful life but I do try to relate what I know as clearly as I can, I make mistakes, usually its because I've heard something and taken it 'as fact' only to be thankfully corrected but when it comes to experiences I personally have had I don't embellish, its simply not my way, If I say I worked for Atari User then there's proof to see, but then again for me telling a pack of lies serves zero purpose, trying to remember what version of the truth I told would drive me insane, if I say something happened then that's the way it happened, I may forget some words from conversations but the event was real and as said.

Me personally, I've had a very odd life, never run of the mill, some parts were shear hell, some incredibly sad and others incredibly great. Trust me, mental health stuff isn't good, stress isn't good and life can be a cruel bastard but I think I've had enough positives to outweigh the negatives. I've met people whom I regard as icons in different fields, I've been in the right place at the right time a lot but also very much in the wrong place too many times. While I still inhabit this world I'll just be the same old me, sure if I win the lottery I'll make my family safe and maybe have a few treats but I'll not change, I'm now sort of set in stone. I was brought up with certain values that I uphold daily, decency, honesty and respect. I'll end with a true story about a guy I once worked with at Maplin, his name was Dave and Dave told anyone who would listen that he USED to be in the S.A.S. but was discharged with an injury that left shrapnel in his shoulder. Now one night all of us from work went out and had some beers (can't stand beer now) now one of the others guys from the shop had his mate whose name I can't remember I think it was Tony. Now Tony was a beefy guy, strong as an ox and very straight forward but became a little argumentative when beered up. So dave is doing the old SAS story and Tony is calling him a liar so Dave says "Well I have shrapnel in the should and I have no feeling in this part of the arm" at which point Tony grabs Dave's arm and sinks his teeth straight in to the supposedly numb part, Dave screamed like a man whose arm was not numb and in some agony to which Tony says "bloody liar"........And that is why I think people should keep their stories to as exact as it was in the first place, there's always a 'Tony' looking to prove a point.

Comments: 0 Sep 29, 2020

A bit about me...

Paul "Mclaneinc" Irvine

Chief Officer, Male, from Horrible council estate
Blog Posts:
3
Just some background that most of you know anyway, as I head toward 59 this year I look back a how it all started, NO, not the mum and dad and what they did stuff but how I got in to computing etc and what made me the retro lover I am today.

I was always interested in technical stuff, as a kid I took apart the alarm clock, it was one of those flip over numbers types and I just had to know how it worked. I proved I was excellent at taking it apart in to a million bits but then realised I had made no effort to remember how it went back together, I tried and also discovered I was too thick to work out how to reassemble it. My parents were not so happy about my attempts at conquering the electronics industry, so I got a belt on my arse.

It didn't dampen my interests but had to be very selective what I turned my eye to. I left school with a huge 1 O'Level in art and various poor grades in Maths and English, I wasn't about to start making an empire but I wanted to work as soon as possible, there were Hi fi's I wanted, girls, a camera, girls, a car, GIRLS but the money wasn't great but began working in a Special Needs school as a teaching assistant, basically a dogs body but I loved it, no two days were the same and apart from bites, my thumb being turned backwards and all that sort of stuff I actually liked the work and would have stayed but I had started to get the computer bug and the ZX80 was out about the same time I got married so I got one with what little savings I had made. I truly had no idea what to expect, home computers were brand new to the world, the nearest I had to that was a Grandstand pong machine, I had no clue about programming but the idea of a computer was amazing so I struggled with the ZX80 and later went to a ZX81 with wobbly ram pack, the ram pack was my first purchase with my first credit card. After the 81 I saw a Vic20 and its colour graphics, had to have one. I then started going in to Maplins, an electronics retailer who did the Atari line, brand new as it was.

And then an incredible incident happened that would change my life. I'm originally from Belfast and the troubles forced us to leave in the middle of the night but my older brother who was 9yrs older had already left and moved to England to do his education, he was one who got the smarts. So there was many years where I had not seen him but one night Cindy and I went to the cinema in London, the film we wanted to see was sold out so we watched Blade Runner instead, so there me and cindy watching but I notice the bloke next to me is looking at me oddly, now he looked familiar but nothing was said but as we left we were behind the guy and I went up and said "you look familiar" to which he says "Paul?" and yeah, it was my brother. What were the odds of that, wrong film, same cinema, same day, same time slot and sat next to him. We chatted and I told him where we were etc as he had not kept in touch as him and my old man didn't get on. So we plan a meet at our mums flat and he brings over an Atari 400 and lends it to me. I was then hooked. At the same time Maplins needed a salesman and I had teched up on the Atari by then and because I was always in there using the computers and helping others I got the job. The rest is history, I met so many of my idols in person, had dealings in the pirate scene, was best mates with the first computer pirate to be taken to court in the UK and all around had a great time and owned so many machines. I loved my Atari but I went were the games were so had no allegiance to Atari, I got a C64, an Amiga and then the era of the more powerful home consoles arrived, Playstation, Xbox, Gamecube and all the others, I loved them all and own most till this day. The others I emulated but have slowly got the real things thanks to some great swaps with people on Atari sector, in fact just yesterday I put a 1TB drive in to an old crystal Xbox. Like many I have had losses of gear and joys of getting it back, I still love this hobby, its allowed me to meet so many wonderful people on forums like here and swapped stories with like minded souls.

So that's me, I can't say to look at all machines enough times, being a fan boy just leaves you missing out on great games and machines.

Happy playing!!

Comments: 2 Sep 29, 2020

Bakers hardware mods and hacks

M.D.Baker

Chief Officer, Male, from Kellyville Oklahoma USA
Blog Posts:
2
I decided to get rid of my random thoughts blog and turn it into a blog of all my mods and hacks I've done and will add to in the future. Some of these will be familiar to those of you who saw any I posted on Atari Sector, some will be new and some will be continuations.

AtariLab Interface Mods
The AtariLab Interface is a peripheral that plugs into the controller port(s) of the 400/800/XL/XE machines and as many can be used as you have controller ports for. Originally the Interface came in the 'AtariLab starter set' which was to be the main kit in a series of educational experiment software and hardware modules. The 'starter set' came with one Interface and tools and software cartridge for the first module, the temperature module. Do to poor sales and/or the video game crash of '83/84 which lead to the sale of Atari and the new agenda of Jack Tramiel only one other module for the series was ever released, the light module.

But the AtariLab Interface was made for so much more, and the starter set explains, with minor examples, of musing the Interface for your own experimentation and projects. It's essentially a controller port break-out-box allowing for the easy connection and interfacing to the Atari computer through RCA jacks that use every line of the controller port(s) but for the trigger/fire button line. The Interface can be used as a prototype and experimentation device for anything one can dream up to interface with Atari computers (and any computer with Atari compatible controller ports really) and through it either control or communicate with external devices from the computer or vice-versa. I have no idea why they didn't include all 8 I/O lines (one line is ground) and instead decided to include two +5V outputs on the 8 Interface I/O lines and leave out fire/trigger input.

I was dissatisfied with two things about the AtariLab Interface. One, the missing fire/trigger button input line, and two, a power switch as the interface powers up with the computer or when plugged in if the computer is already on. A pet peeve of mine are devices that only power on and off by plugging them in, when a on/off switch is literally the simplest circuit one can build in electronics and is the basic circuit and basis of all computers. On/off, zero and one, open or closed. Computers are literally made from this simple circuit and would not exist as we know them without it. It's literally what makes up the internals of all I.C.'s and computers work based on which of them are on and off, high or low, one or zero. So why power switches aren't included in every electronic device made is beyond me. But, since it is such a simple and basic circuit, I add my own to devices without them, and the AtariLab Interface is one example.

So after investigating and researching the interface and it's circuit, I added power switches and fire input to the three Interfaces I own. The power switch I installed myself and created the circuit for it. The fire button I implemented trough one of the two +5V lines which are really both connected to the one +5V line of the controller port, and if I need more than one line, it's easy enough to use an RCA splitter to get two or more +5v lines back through the interface. I wanted to make sure that every single controller I/O line is available for me to use for my interfacing projects and experiments.

I have purchased two extra interfaces that are surplus, with no labels, separately from B&C Computervisions (MyAtari on eBay). So why do I want or need more than one? Because I may want I/O possibilities through more than just one port. For example, and the project that caused me to gain interest in the interfaces is the 'Arm your Atari' article from Analog magazine issues 44 and 45, summer 1986. It's a project for connecting a Radioshack Armitron robot arm to your Atari through the controller ports. The full project requires 3 of the 4 ports of an Atari 400/800 and originally requires the user to hack together connectors for the controller ports to interface with the robot arm. With the AtariLab Interface, this is not required and I can connect everything, at least in the research, development and prototyping stages. If needed, the final project can have it's own controller port plugs. I intend, now that I know the interfaces inside and out, to build my own DIY forth interface as I intend to make the 'Arm Your Atari' project merely a starting point that I will expand on, eventually building and interfacing an entire robot through the controller ports and I also foresee the possibility of needing even more I/O lines through controller ports, so I intend to add a second PIA I.C. to my 800 and even more controller ports for this long-term project and others.

So why interface with the Atari through the controller ports (aside from the initial project from Analog doing it that way)? Because the SIO, PBI and cartridge ports on my systems are already clogged with devices that I will need too, and clogging up the plumbing even more for such interfacing could cause traffic jams and interference, etc. with other devices connected to the system. A perfect example of this is the SDrive-Max device that connects through the SIO but will not work with other devices on the SIO unless another circuit is made to allow it to work. I don't want to have to worry about device and communication conflicts when I do my interfacing projects. Also because the PIA chip(s) is a wonderful little chip with all kinds of communication and I/O properties that are hardly ever used and free to use with my projects even with everything else being used.

The pictures below are of what I've modded on my interfaces, and also show how the first interfaces were totally screwed up and Atari had to manually rewire them by hand to make them work correctly, like the center interface, where the green wiring is all Atari's rewiring. Only the yellow, blue and red wires were added to the interfaces by me to create fire button input and power switches. The interfaces on either side are the extras I purchased, which are a later, correctly done revision of the Atari Interface. I scanned the original interface's labeling and printed and cut out two copies for my other devices. They are slightly blurry due to the power switch not allowing the device to lay flat while scanning it, but it's good enough for me, and still better than hand labeling it all myself.

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Atari 800 hacking, modding, upgrading
This section of the blog is all about my adventures in modding my Atari 800. So far I have installed an Incognito board and a dual-Pokey upgrade (less the actual audio output). And I did some repairs on the keyboard and modified a shift key to be more balanced and sturdy by inserting and extra plunger and spring in an empty key spot below it. Hopefully this will solve a design problem that causes the plunger to crack and stop the new plunger from cracking in the outside corners that make the shift key bind.

As I've mentioned elswhere before, all current and future upgrades and mods are from now on going to be installed by me using Dupont connectors as seen in the pictures below, and eventually I intend to retro-fit all my upgrades in this way, for easy removal and installation for trouble shooting.

Below are pictures of these installations. I had her back together already, but the keyboard didn't work, and after rechecking my dual Pokey installation, have come to the conclusion that I used a bad 74LS14 IC, and have now replaced it with a new 74HC14 and am about to power it up, after I finish this blog segment, and see if the keyboard works. The Incognito worked fine.

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To be continued...







Comments: 23 Sep 29, 2020

My Atari 8-bit systems in detail

M.D.Baker

Chief Officer, Male, from Kellyville Oklahoma USA
Blog Posts:
2
Atari 1200XL system

1200XL internal upgrades:
PBI, APE Warp+ 32-in-1 OS, XL/XE MMU, Internal BASIC, Dual POKEY stereo with pre-amp board and stereo headphone output, SuperVideo 2.1 video upgrade, +5v SIO fix, Hi-speed SIO mod, keyboard fix, Pal GTIA conversion board, PAL GTIA, PAL ANTIC, cartridge port mod, Internal RGB LED lighting.

1200XL external upgrades:
Syscheck XL 2.1 PBI board with custom case: (4 OS switcher, 512K sram (576K total system ram)), Super SDX cartridge (SDX 4.8, battery backed Real Time Clock), MyIDE II cartridge: (full PBI compatibility, 512K sram, MyBIOS 4.9, FAT32 partition, APT partitions for SDX HDD drives 5-15, On-board OSS language carts and diagnostic SALT roms), RIX break-out-box audio/video output.

1088K total programmable memory internally & externally!

Peripherals:

1050 disk drive with Happy double density Warp speed x3 57K SIO, built-in 1050toPC and SIO2PC RS232 com ports, front drive # switch and SIO activity LED's, internal LED lighting

1050 disk drive with Happy (see above) and front drive # switch, internal LED lighting.

1030 modem

1020 plotter

1010 tape drive with Rambit Turbo-tape upgrade, Stereo external I/O mod, Power switch mod, SIO activity light mod.

CA-2001 DD 180K Indus GT clone drive with built-in CP/M mode with 64K memory. Custom XL paint job

"1027" R.D. XL/XE eprom burner supporting 2732-27512 eproms with custom XL case.

SDrive-MAX SIO2SD floppy drive emulator w/custom XL case

Panasonic KX-P2023 24-pin dot-matirix printer w/custom XL paint job

CX-40 joysticks x2 with Stick Stand w/modified SpyHunter oil/smoke button

CX-22 track-ball

CX-77 touch tablet

CX-20 driving controller

CX-30 Paddle controllers

Super-Sketch analog drawing board

STFM-1 XL painted mouse

Starmaster Joystick x2

Wico Command Control joystick

Custom XL painted PC speakers

Atari 800 system

Atari 800 internal upgrades*:
Incognito ( CF drive; HDD APT partitions, full PBI compatibility, SDX 4.8 w/RTC on-board, 1MB memory upgrade, 64K flash memory, 4 OS switcher, full XL/XE compatibility), Dual POKEY stereo upgrade, Dual PIA upgrade, audio/video output upgrade, cart port mod for The!Cart, internal LED lighting

External upgrades:
The!Cart w/512K sram, 128MB flash memory.

1088K programmable memory internally, 512K external, total programmable memory 1600K!

Peripherals:

810 SD disk drive

Indus GT x2 DD high-speed drives

CX-77 touch-pad

AtariLab Interfaces x3

Tandy mouse

PC speakers

*work in progress

Comments: 0 Sep 29, 2020