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The Versa-Tile

B ehold, the Versa-Tile: It's not just a solder-it-yourself Simon.   It could be:  - a self-contained electronic game  - an electronic game driven by a computer  - a versatile and interesting controller for your game   Technically, it’s an Interface between your computer / microcontroller and a set of buttons and coloured lights. ie a ‘driver’ and multiplexer for a set of lights and buttons, with all necessary buffering and protection. Drive up to 7 LEDs / speaker / buzzer and/or listen to up to 5 buttons using just 3 input and 3 output lines, 5v or 3.3v The reason for this multiplexing is that I wanted to create electronic games, driven by a Commodore, which has a user port containing 8 lines, (can be set individually to input or output). That's not quite enough for the five buttons, five lights and vibrator that you can see in the video. It's also useful if your  project is already using connections for other things and GPIO lines are limited. Or if you just want to keep
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Comparing dual-SID solutions

T his is an ARM2SID in my sixtyclone: Before now, I didn't appreciate that the ARM2SID is two ARMSIDs in one package. You might guess that from the name, but most of the pictures show two of them hooked together which gave me the incorrect impression that you needed two. Having two of these connected together actually gives you 3-SID sound and FM Sound Expander capability.  At first, I fitted a single ARMSID into my sixtyclone. It has a very good sound, is configurable for 6581 / 8580 and supports paddles.  For dual-SID work, I first tried the SID2SID board. It's cheap and easy to install, doesn't overhang any chips and works fine with two ARMSIDs. The drawback to this is that the second SID sits at either DE00 or DF00 and that's it. So for more configurability I tried a MIXSID. This gives you loads of configurability (ie option of having second SID at D420) and also allows you to mix the stereo.  A drawback to this solution is the size of it. I had to use an extra sock

Curing a recalcitrant Commodore keyboard

T his is the process that I've gone through quite a few times now with Vic and C64 keyboards, as well as Plus/4 and C16. The results are amazing; the keys feel as-new and make contact every time with a light tap. The computer being worked on here is another Vic from my deep stash. Most of my computers were collected for peanuts at car boot sales in the 90s, although one of these Vics (I don't know which one - possibly this one) is my original one.  This involves a complete disassembly, requiring a key-puller to remove the caps, and the correct screwdriver to separate the PCB from the mounting bracket. It's also necessary to desolder the two wires from the bottom of the mechanical shift-lock switch.  Cleaning the keycaps is a time-consuming job. I soak and scrub all faces of the caps. The legend on the top  is moulded in, so giving those a hard rub with a mild abrasive can only improve them. But this doesn't apply to the graphics printed on the front of the keys. Treat t

Tape loading on the Vicky Twenty - flawless victory!

T his parcel from Rod at Future Was 8-bit has landed at the perfect time.  The Vicky Twenty board is a clone of the Vic20, tape loading should work, but since breathing life into my Vicky, I haven't tried it yet. Andy at Hewco makes consistently excellent Vic20 games - Vic Nibbler, Pumpkid, Escape 2020, Cheesy Trials and more... Hewco games have their own folder on my SD2IEC card. I will add this, I won't be loading from tape every time, but doing it occasionally is fun. Tape loading is something I guess we're all grateful that we don't *have* to do any more, but the nostalgia is strong when you occasionally do it because you want to. (Muscle memory automatically typed ,8 after the quotes though...)  I'm using a black datasette here (with adaptor) because of half a dozen datasettes, this is the one that works the best. (I guess I should learn how to service the others.) Perfect! Fitting a playable game into the unexpanded Vic's 3.5k is an admirable achievemen

Vicky Twenty - home made Vic20 - case closed

S ince early on I'd felt that pink was the right colour for my Vicky Twenty (so named and gender-reassigned by Rob, designer of the board ). I've been undecided about the case. One option was to design a perspex enclosure, with transparent top / opaque pink keyboard bezel. Another is to spray an original case. I went for the latter to remain in keeping with the classic breadbin design, and used the most blotchily-yellowed of the cases I have. Badges, stickers and feet removed, case scrubbed. The paint is Plastikote satin cameo pink . The can doesn't mention primer so after a test on the inside, here goes: Several thin coats later, here we are reassembling her. Internal SD2IEC fitted and slot cut in the case. I'd love to tell my teenage self that I'd be fitting a storage device into a Vic that stores gigabytes on a thin card around an inch square. No-one needs to see more pictures of keys being scrubbed. In this case I stripped the keyboard to clean the pcb conta

Vicky Twenty - home made Vic20 - SHE LIVES!

S ince completing the board I've spent a few days scratching my head over why it hasn't been starting up.  Long story short, I had assumed that the W65C02S (available new today) was a drop-in replacement for the original 6502. It isn't*  With a borrowed 6502 in place, it's working well, and the picture is great.  *  (NB  The Byte Attic has designed an adaptor board . I'm in two minds because it doesn't look very discreet.)

Making new ROMs for the Vic20 / Vicky Twenty

M y Vicky Twenty is *very* nearly complete.  As things stand, the board and every single component is new. The processor and VIAs are newly-manufactured (W65C02 and W65C22).  Obviously the Vic1 chip isn't manufactured today, but there is 'new old' stock about. I have been able to buy a Vic 1, date code 1987 (which seems very late). It obviously hasn't been in a computer before, passes the acetone test and works. The same goes for two of the ROMs - character and BASIC. But I haven't been able to buy a new-old Kernal ROM (901486-07). I am able to borrow one - all of the boards I have, have this particular ROM socketed. I don't know whether all of this indicates that the Kernal has proved less reliable than the other two. I recently bought a TL866 for another project. Of all the retro-computing hardware things I've had to learn to do, making ROMs has been one of the simplest. So far, everything has been very easy and worked first time.  I'm not sure that it