ZX Spectrum Bare Metal

I recently came across this post and thought I would give this a try on one of my spare Raspberry Pi Zeros. A Sinclair ZX Spectrum bare metal emulator that opens almost instantly.

First I went to zxbaremulator and downloaded the images for different raspberry pi models.

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To get this to work, the instruction suggesting copying the all files zip download onto a new formatted fat32 micro sd card or using an image supposed to work on pi 2 & 3’s.

I downloaded etcher.io and copied the relevant pi 2/3 image onto the micro sd card.

I signed up to a website called the oldcomputer.com where you can download back up

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copies of any ROMS you own. You can download various tap and tzx files used by spectrums. As the instruction’s suggested, I copied these onto the root of the sd card and raspberry pi image. I then inserted into the pi and turned on. The pi booted straight into the spectrum emulator. I pressed F1 to select any game rom files but none were shown on the screen. I tried the raspberry pi 2,3  image and copied this onto the micro sd card and tried again but the pi zero would not boot. One final attempt, I tried downloading a Raspbian image. Then renamed the kernel7.img file to kernel7.img.old and copied the all files zip onto the micro sd card. Again no boot.

I suspected the image did not like my pi zero so I tried a new raspberry pi 3 b+. installed Raspbian onto the micro sd card, kernel7.img file to kernel7.img.old and copied the all files zip onto the micro sd card. Copied some tap and tzx files across and this work first time.

It took me a while to work out keyboard controls on a standard UK PC keyboard but this worked for me:

F1 to load the game selection screen. Choose your game and press select then Escape. This takes you back to the home screen. Then press J to type the LOAD command and then Control+P twice to insert the speech marks “”.

The game takes a short while to load and looks like its loading from a tape cassette. I tried chuckie egg for a test. Because i’m using a PC keyboard I tried to remap the maps in the game to the arrow buttons on my keyboard but this didn’t work. In the end I found that using QA,N,M and space worked well for me.

 

I Broke My Own Rules

Its Mothering Sunday and the family decided to meet up at the Taplow Car Boot Sale. It was a chilly start and the boot sale has only for going for the second week since finishing for the winter last year.

The boot sale is only in the small field at the moment but was very busy today and as usual I found myself competing with the “traders” who just go straight up to the cars as they are trying to park and ask them if they have any items of interest of my personal favourite, just start looking through someone’s boot as they are trying to set up their stalls.

After walking around twice, I came across a mother and daughter selling some computer related items. They are business sellers rather than someone just clearing out their loft. I often worry about these types of sellers as they treat the items badly often throwing them on the floor and this is how I came across an Amstrad PPC640 just as she laid it onto the grass. I immediately asked her much and she said £30. I tried negotiating but she did now want to move on the price. This is £10 more than my limit for “punts”. I inspected it and without powering it on, it appeared complete (rare) and nothing obvious was missing/broken. The seller told me it was working but when I asked for a little more information she obviously knew very little about its working condition. Alarm bells were faintly ringing!

In the end I decided to break my own rules and still purchase it, banking on the case and accessories to be worth something even if it didn’t work.

At a nearby stall, we picked up a Nintendo  64 GameBooster cartridge for playing Gameboy games on a Ninendo 64 for £1 (currently on ebay for nearly £40), a Bratz boxed Gameboy Advance game £1, a mini display port to VGA adapter £1, Synthesizer LP Album £3 and The Best Air Guitar Album in The World Ever! Volume 1 for £2.

 

Summary

Amstrad PPC640 Computer £30-70 if working

GameBooster Cartridge £40

Bratz Rock Angelz boxed game £5-10

Mini DisplayPort to VGA Cable £1

Synthesize LP £5

Air Guitar CD £2.75

Total cost £38

Total resale value £83.75 – 128.75

When I got home, I excitedly plugged in the mains adapter and straight away saw a red light. This was a good start. These computers have a mono green screen which is not very clear but I saw some writing appear and could see a message about the internal battery and the date/time needing to be reset. Again, a good sign that it was functioning. I delved into the case it came in and found all the original manuals/price guides, car adapter and eventually some discs including the DOS. I put one of these into the first of two 3.5″ drives and heard some faint motor sounds and after a short while, DOS appeared on the screen. I haven’t tried all the keys yet or the car adapter but this seems to be a fully working Amstrad PPC640 which is a good deal for £30 with the original accessories in good condition.

Now I just need to try the music , find my N64 for testing the cartridge and take the Amstrad to work to try an external CGA monitor.

 

Commodore 64 Repair & Test

My partners beloved Commodore 64 switched on and managed to load games via a multicart but I couldn’t get any sound output.

After a short Internet search, I found many articles suggesting the SID chip would probably be faulty. This chip is the sound synthesizer for the C64. The diagnostic cart test showed some errors and when it got to the sound test, again there was no sound output.

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The case opens after removing three screws along the bottom of the case.

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This is the faulty SID chip on the motherboard.

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This is the new 6581 SID chip that I ordered from Etsy for just under £38.

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The diagnostic cart still shows errors but the sound now works.

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This is the multicart with a selection of games to play.

Looking at the list of games on the multicart:

Playing Astroblitz from the multicart:

 

 

Ouya console test

I bought my OUYA console from Game shorty after it was launched successfully on Kickstarter back in 2012 I think. Its an android powered console that allows users to sideload apps. This means you can purchase apps from the OUYA store or other android app providers.

Some apps are free but most require payment straight away or after playing one level of a game. Commercially this console was a failure and I used it for 10 minutes after buying it and its stayed in its box ever since.

The apps and games are ok but I came across a site with guides on how to get apps like XBMC and various emulators onto it. This makes the console more interesting as I can now play games from other retro console like the Sega Megadrive, Commodore 64, Nintendo consoles etc.

Using the Ouya controller can make it difficult to use all the emulators. I found the C64.emu a little difficult at first but after mapping some of the Commodore 64 keys to the Ouya controller buttons helped.

So, step 1, was connecting the OUYA to my TV using the HDMI cable, connect the power adapter and turn on by pushing the small round button. After a few seconds the main menu appeared but the controller did not work. I pushed the small button between the two thumb pads/joysticks on the controller and some LEDS began blinking and shortly after this the controller worked and allowed me to start navigating menus.

Step 2 was configuring the wifi on the OUYA so I can get on the Internet and browse the OUYA store for available apps. The date/time updated soon after this so all good. I already had some apps/games loaded. I checked for available updates but apparently there were none.

Step 3. I came across a site with suggestions on how to make the OUYA more useful. I decided to download and install some retro emulators. This was easy enough.

After this, you need to get some ROM images onto the OUYA and into the right locations for the emulators to pick them up. I had most problems with the C64.emu. I decided to use a USB flash drive which once inserted into OUYA is picked up straight away. You then need to go to http://www.explusalpha.com/home/c64-emu.

Download the BIOS file and put into the root directory of the flash drive and within this folder you need to download the ROM files (as long as you own the original or they are copyright free). I went to https://wowroms.com/en/roms/commodore-64/daley-thompsons-decathlon/127202.html

OUYA c64.emu bios file

Once this is done, you can run the C64.emu emulator, use LOAD GAME and browse to this location on the flash drive and the game will start to run. At first I couldn’t get much to happen but I soon  realised that I would need to set up the Commodore 64 button to OUYA controller key mapping. You can see me doing this in the video:

I’ll do an update to the post when I get some more emulators and games running as well as XBMC.

Testing the Philips Videopac G7000 Computer

Another computer from my collection for testing. This one has a tatty box and comes with 2 hard wired joystick controllers. One of mine has a broken button which someone has modified with a red switch.

Plugged this into a small TV for testing today and nothing happened. There doesn’t appear to be a power button for these. After tuning in Channel 36 on the TV I managed to get a picture and test one of the game cartridges, 38, Munchkin, a kind of Pacman game.

This console has no serial number that I could find.

Terrible sound and graphics but still great fun and not bad considering it was released in 1978. just need to find my other cartridges for some more retro 8 bit fun.

Blaze Atari Retro TV Handheld

Got home on Saturday morning to find my Atari retro console had arrived. I initially preordered this in March and after at least two manufacturers delays it finally arrived from Funstockretro.co.uk.

It costs £34.99 plus postage and includes some artwork cards and a gold Atari coin.

It takes 4 x AAA batteries. Switch it on and you are presented with a menu of the 50 Atari games that are built in. The screen is small and can only just be seen. Sound is not good but I still enjoyed playing the retro Atari games.

The build of the console is perhaps a little cheaper than I was expecting and disappointing, although this is advertised as a TV console there is no 3.5mm AV cable supplied. I used my own and at the moment can’t get it to display a picture on my TV. I am going to try another cable just in case but it might be heading back to Funstockretro for a refund! Using it with the small screen would not be very practical in the long term. Overall I have mixed reactions at this stage. I will hopefully something more positive to say if I can get it working on the big TV screen.

Update 2/11/18

Have now tried 4 different TV’s and 3 different AV cables that are known good. Cannot get the unit to output onto TV screen. Finally tried pulling the AV cable out of the socket slightly on the handheld and managed to get a picture but no sound. A quick wiggle again and picture and sound but if I push the jack all the way into the socket it doesn’t work. Not sure if these need a particular type of AV cable or this is a fault. I am going to email funstockretro and see what they say. There website doesn’t seem to have the recommended AV cable in stock yet to purchase.

Update 19/11/18

Since my last post, I contacted Funstockretro’s customer support and they got back to me very quickly saying that they did have the right AV cable, it is different to a standard cable and this would fix my problem. I wasn’t convinced but ordered the cable and it arrived a few days later. Plugged it in and it worked straight away. I think they said the polarity of the cable is different to other cables? Happy I can confirm the cable works great and I am now playing the games on a big screen TV.