Sunday, 12 June 2016

RF to VGA out conversion on Amiga 600

Today I am looking at the conversion of the RF port on the Amiga 600 to a VGA out port, from the Indivision ECS!

First off though, I wanted to mention that today, four years ago, I started this blog! Hard to believe it has been 4 years and I am still regularly blogging about all things Amiga, Classic and Next Generation systems!

Thank you for reading along so far, and I hope you have enjoyed the blog posts and that they have inspired you in some way to continue to enjoy your Amiga systems in 2016 and beyond!

For those who have followed my blog closely you will know that my Amiga 600 was bought second hand in 2014, completely stock standard, and extensively upgraded since then.

I have covered every step of the Amiga 600 build process on this blog, including all the hardware upgrades, installing the system on CF card, and more too.

I have included the blog post links to this Amiga 600's story so far below in case you want to follow it's journey from the start - it also saves me having to explain all the upgrades the system already has!

A quick update also on my non-working primary AmigaOne X1000 from back in March 2016 (I currently use my backup X1000 system). Two weeks ago I was told to send it back to Amigakit and so I sent it back to them in the UK to work out what the problem is and the next steps. Hopefully it can be easily sorted out so I can use it again.

Today's job though is to fix an annoying problem with the Amiga 600.

The Indivision ECS works great on the Amiga 600, but there is nowhere for the VGA out port to be mounted, other than drilling a hole in the case which I don't feel comfortable or capable of doing...

The other solution comes in the form of other people's A600 upgrades I found on the internet, which involve desoldering the RF modulator from the Amiga 600 motherboard, and replacing it with the VGA out port from the Indivision ECS, which apparently fits perfectly in the A600's RF out port hole at the back.

The RF modulator is rarely used since the AV out is more common and much easier to setup on modern TV's - losing it is not a problem for me at all.

The problem is - well - I suck at soldering. So this project has sat on the back burner until this week, when a friend Aron, a regular attendee at the Adelaide Amiga Retro Computing group, offered to do it for me at the meeting on Friday night! Thanks so much for doing this mate!

I needed to completely remove the A600 motherboard from the case, including the metal protective shield to make it easy to work on during a busy meeting for me as one of the organisers! I got this done in time fortunately.

Here is Aron ready to start work on my A600 board at the Adelaide Retro Computing meeting on friday night.

After some work the RF modulator is slowly being removed carefully to avoid any damage to traces on the board:

The RF modulator has now been desoldered off the A600 board thanks to Aron's skilful work:

Here is the old RF modulator:

With that done, I now have the space needed for the VGA port from the Indivision ECS card to go into it's place.

Once I got the board home after the meeting, I could then get started on this task on the weekend (after doing my blog entry for the Meeting of course!).

The screws on the VGA port create a problem because they are too wide to fit into the RF modulator slot on the back of the case, as below:

Like this, the motherboard also can't be screwed in because the port screws push the motherboard position too far forward to line up with the screw holes in the case...

If I remove the screws then it fits fine as below, but it needs to be secured otherwise it will push into the case everytime a VGA cable is connected:

So I located some flat screws to use to secure the VGA port to the metal shielding, making it safe to use and fitting in the case (I hope!):

Here is the VGA port before and after securing it with the new screws in place of the normal ones on the VGA port:

I then needed to put back in all the other screws into the metal shielding for the other amiga ports on the back of the board:

I then put the board into the case to check for fit, and it fits perfectly:

The motherboard lines up with the screws on the case so we are good to go with this! :-)

I then set to work putting the various hardware upgrades I have on the Amiga 600 back into it:

I make sure to route the Indivision VGA cable around the ACA630 accelerator as that accelerator does get hot when running.

Re-assembled, I decide to re-use my USB hub from the X1000 and just have one usb cable coming out between the top part and bottom part of the A600. I still need to find a solution to the USB ports too, but this task is for another day!

Here is the view from the rear of the assembled Amiga 600, showing the VGA cable connected into the former RF modulator port, as well as the MAS Player connected into the parallel port and RCA audio outputs (and the joystick port) to provide MP3 output using hardware on my Amiga 600.

I also took the opportunity to bring out my spare Amiga mouse (brand new, never used) since I couldn't find the old one easily and came across this first when looking for it :-)

Power on and it's still working after the desoldering work which is fantastic news!

Here is the Amiga 600 booted up on Workbench 3.1 using MagicWB 2, AmigaAMP playing MP3's with no significant cpu overhead with the MAS Player attached to the parallel port, and DOpus 5.91 (amongst many other things that are covered in my previous blog entries - please check the links at the top of this post if interested to learn more about this A600 build):

Success! I now have a VGA out port on my Amiga 600 installed using the unused RF modulator port and I am very happy about it. Now, next to work out the USB ports...

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Adelaide Retro Computing Meeting June 2016

Last night was our monthly Adelaide Retro Computing group meeting, with a theme of Retro console systems from prior to 2000. Of course naturally I brought my Amiga CD32 for a 2 player versus game competition for a prize on the night! We also saw some other very interesting and rare console systems on display!

Early on it was clear we were going to see some very interesting retro game consoles!

First up is some Playstation 1 development kit hardware and SDKs - even a PS-One with the optional attachable screen:

Casio PV-1000 anyone? Never seen one of these before!

This Japanese system also included a seriously different joystick controller:

Can't imagine that pressing the start and select button, or hitting the sliding Main/Attack functions in game would be easy!

Also present was this NEC PC-FX game console - I definitely had a game on this one!

Paul from RetroSpekt showing us how it's done on the PC-FX:

I decided to bring along a number of systems - an Amiga CD32, Intellivision Flashback, Neo Geo X, the first ever Nintendo Game & Watch game called "Ball" (this one is a remake for Nintendo Club members - available only as a reward in Japan) and more:

I received lots of feedback about the Neo Geo X system particularly:

It's party piece is that the main unit is a big docking station for the system which is actually a portable gaming console:

Moving around the bustling event room I came across this amazing music production system, using a Sega Megadrive and other musical devices to produce music directly using the megadrive system (with a specially made cartridge).

The creator was present on the night, showing off it's capabilities - very interesting!

I love stuff like this - so interesting to see these kind of projects in development, right here in Adelaide:

There was plenty of interest in this system:

Next to this system was also an Atari Lynx, Sega Game Gear, Nokia N-Gage, and a Megadrive portable gaming console (also running the same development kit as the Megadrive system shown above):

Sega Master System II, Sega Megadrive I, Sega Saturn and Sega Dreamcast also were on display:

Speaking of Retro, how about this system - a Philips Tele-sports TV Game system:

You can also see a Hanimex TV Game system box in the background - I had a game of Pong on this system and it was surprisingly fun - I did lose though:

The main controller allows you to control the speed of the ball, the size of the bats on the fly, which makes for a challenging game when your opponent keeps changing it!

You can see the smaller second player controller connected to the main unit:

For me though, a big highlight was being able to finally see and play a Fujitsu FM Towns Marty system. I have wanted to play with one of these systems since the early 1990's when I became aware of them. Only ever sold in Japan, they are a very interesting system indeed:

Some close ups of the FM Towns Marty, showing the tray load CD drive, mouse, and the floppy drive installed on the side:

I definitely had a few goes of Raiden on the Marty:

While doing that I couldn't help but notice the Casio Loopy box perched above - another Retro console system I have never heard of, which was on display at our meeting tonight - I was glad to see it:

Also on display was this FZ-10 Panasonic 3DO. 

An Atari XE Game system was on display (which was at our last meeting), and now upgraded with extra ram internally that allows it to run some interesting demos from it's specially made SD to cartridge converter:

The hall was busy throughout the night:

An Adelaide developer has been working for the last 6 years on this Atari Jaguar game Rebooteroids, which he brought along especially to show off at the meeting tonight - very impressive:

Aron was on soldering duty again tonight, helping out myself with an Amiga 600 soldering project (I will cover in a later blog entry), and also an unwell Neo Geo CD system - thanks mate for doing this service at our meetings:

Also present was some interesting portable gaming systems, like these Retro Pacman systems:

I remember the yellow one in the middle really well from when I was a kid, and quickly had a go at it:

Lots of Gameboy variants were on display too - such as these Gameboy Color, Gameboy light, Gameboy Pocket and original Gameboy systems:

Sega Game Gear was also running Mortal Kombat, with the optional TV Tuner and magnification add ons on display too:

 For our presentation at the meeting, George introduced Dave from RetroSpekt, who gave us a quick overview of the groups activities and doing their best to advance retro gaming awareness and enjoyment throughout the community - great to see!

After Dave's presentation, I then setup the Amiga CD32 for a 2 player retro gaming competition - the prize was a boxed Atari Flashback 3 system I donated as a prize!

I decided on Skidmarks 2 as the game to play, a fun isometric 3d racing game that can be completed quickly, allowing us to have as many challengers as possible to have a go:

We had plenty of challengers, and it was a lot of fun to watch:

In the end the prize went to a very worthy winner - here I am (on the right) presenting the prize to the winner:

Moving back around the room it seems new systems just kept popping up on display! Here is a Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo 64 and SNES that Traksion brought in:

Another rare system on display on the night was this Nuon system, which was released in the late 1990's in a standard Samsung DVD form factor case - here running Tempest 3000:

Yet another system I had never heard of until this meeting!

Nuon system boot screen and Iron Soldier 3 being played on it:

A Sears rebadged Atari 2600 (VCS) was also on display, brought in by Aron:

After some work by Aron, the Neo Geo CD was connected up and running late in the evening, although it still has some issues to work through - it was nice to see it running at the meeting though:

The meeting tonight was a great night with a large attendance, and we sincerely thank everyone who came along, and especially those people who brought in systems to display, and I hope you all had a great time! I am very much looking forward to next months meeting! :-)