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The Official "Super Expansion Module" Thread


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#1 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Oct 15, 2009 9:02 AM

The "Module" project started around 2005 when I realized that some of the games I had planned for the CV couldn't be done due to lack of RAM memory. The project went thru a thousand different iterations for many years, but last year I started to settle on some more realistic specs. Then a few months ago the project got split into two different pieces of hardware: an expansion module and a standalone console, compatible with the CV but with added module functionality and more. Since I am a single individual and cannot pursue two projects like those at the same time, I decided that until next year my mission is to finish the expansion module, and just think about the standalone, which is a much more complex project in many ways, after that.

Before I go on to discuss the (hopefully) final specs of the module, let me just clarify something about the name. Many of you who have been following the module's never ending "drama" since 2005 probably noticed that the module has gone thru many different names, and just when you were getting used to a name, it could change again. So for that I apologize. When I first had the idea for the module, it was going to be called "Super Game Module", obviously inspired by Coleco's never released piece of hardware. Back then the module was supposed to come with a floppy drive (!) so I thought there was some similarity with the Coleco project. Daniel then shown up and said I shouldn't use that name because that would be confusing, after all the modules weren't the same. So I agreed and changed the name to "Super Expansion Module", which still sounded Coleco-ish in my mind. So the module stayed SEM for a while until Luc came aboard and suggested the name "Opgrade Module". While I always thought the OM thing was clever and kind of cute, I never really liked the fact that it pretty much defines the module as a 3rd party product. Now call me crazy about that, because it is obvious the module is a 3rd party product, Coleco isn't around anymore, but there is a couple of emotional things going on here: 1st is that I always thought that any piece of hardware produced by anyone but the console maker wasn't cool. I don't know, perhaps it has something to do with design, usually hardware done by the console maker matches the console design, has the same logo, while 3rd party stuff doesn't have, they just don't match.

The 2nd reason is probably more curious. Even though I have been a ColecoVision fan since I first played it in early 1983, I had never really been a Coleco fan, I mean, the company. I was an Atari fan, I always thought Atari was a great company, even with all the mistakes they did, but Coleco, hm, not so memorable in my mind. So when I started making games for the CV I decided to differentiate myself from Coleco. Differently from many homebrewers I didn't try to release my games under the Coleco name, I didn't use the same box layout as Coleco. But for some reason, once I got more involved with CV homebrewing I started to admire Coleco a lot more, to the point that I can say I am a Coleco fan today. I really think the ADAM is a very cool product, the mini arcade tabletops are cool, and most of their ColecoVision products are cool too. Sure, they had some quality issues, but the concepts and engineering behind every product were usually very good. And they had some questionable ports and games, but hey, so had Atari (is there anything more atrocious than Moon Patrol for the 5200? Or what did Atari have in their minds releasing "Taz" in 1984, a game that would have looked like a rudimentary piece of crap even in 1982?)

So because of that I decide to change the name back to "Super Expansion Module", and have the module released as a "Coleco" product. Not sure what RWB is going to think about that, I don't even know if they are still around, but that is what I plan to do...

Edited by opcode, Thu Oct 15, 2009 9:05 AM.


#2 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Oct 15, 2009 9:09 AM

All that said, I am starting to find it hard to plan ahead without knowing how much interest exist on this project, because all the parts I will need to secure, etc.
So I think this is the time to start a reservation list for the module/Donkey Kong Arcade. I would prefer to do that later, closer to production, but I need to estimate production so probably now is the best time. As usual no money is required, I just ask you that you contact us only if I are really committed to purchase the module/game in the future. The other problem is to start a reservation list without a final price, but letís say for now that it should be in the $50~100 range for the module+game. If you very price sensitive, I please ask you to state that when you contact us, like "I will buy the module/game only if the price is no higher than $80".
Ok, so what is going to be included in the box you ask? Well, here is the list:
- Expansion module to be plugged in the CV expansion port.
- 24kB of expanded RAM (allows for more advanced games)
- 32kB of Save RAM (non-volatile memory to save any game data, like high scores, save points, etc)
- 128kB of MegaRAM (allows even more advanced games, MSX MegaROM games)
- 128kB of flash BIOS (includes the old BIOS, new BIOS for supporting the new devices, GUI)
- General Instruments sound generator AY-3-8910 (3 extra sound channels, envelopes, no frequency limitations)
- Expansion Parallel interface (to connect new types of devices, special controllers, CV-2-CV, etc)
- 3 programmable push buttons (Pause, call GUI and a 3rd button not defined yet)
- Flash BIOS includes user interface for settings, save data management, and more. BIOS can be updated.
- Power LED indicator
- Donkey Kong Arcade/XPanded game cartridge
- 128kB version of the arcade game
- Persistent High Score table
- Sound uses the GI AY-3-8910 sound chip, and possibly the Oki sound chip too, in case it is included
- Donkey Kong Arcade/XPanded manual
- Module manual

What isn't 100% decided/defined yet, though chances are pretty good:
- Oki ADPCM sound chip (voice and sampled sound during gameplay) (90%+ plus change of being included)
- Module custom plastic case (matches the CV design)
Of course price will be adjusted to reflect the inclusion or not of those items.

What should follow shortly after the module release?
- The MSX ports Knightmare and Goonies, with several improvements over the originals, including use of save RAM.
- The arcade ports Arkanoid, Pengo and Rally-X.
- Re-releases of Space Invaders Collection and Sky Jaguar, both module-ready (SIC is going to get a complete sound makeover)

So if you are interested what should you do? Please contact Bia (bia at opcodegames.com, replace ď at ď with @).

**** IMPORT: Please, please, do NOT post requests here. It's hard for us to keep track of requests posted in forums. Again, please DO NOT post your request here, you will be ignored. *****

You can also help: please let people that don't have access to this forum to know that the module is coming and how to reserve one. The more names we get, the easier it will be to produce the module and the lower the price.

#3 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Oct 15, 2009 9:10 AM

You may want to check some of the [crude] videos I have produced. More coming soon... (Arkanoid included)

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=ARLCKRgRfwA
http://www.youtube.c...h?v=X46Hzs2NUYM

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=nvJN9_Gyjzw
http://www.youtube.c...h?v=xBEszJZ5XCg

#4 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 16, 2009 3:14 PM

New video, now showing a very early build of Arkanoid



#5 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 16, 2009 6:56 PM

Guys, I have some good news: we are now approaching 50 names. That means the SEM has some real good chances to go into production next year.
I would like to really thank everybody who contacted us for helping make this possible.
So what is next?
Well, the file for prototype #2 has been fully checked and is ready to go to the manufacturer. I hope to have the PCB in 3 weeks.
I hope to place an order for 100 Oki sound chips in a couple of weeks.
I should keep working on DKA and the BIOS XP until everything is ready.
I hope to start contacting a few key people and companies to check about casing soon.
I plan to start pushing Dale about all the artwork and packaging I will need for both the module and DKA game. That includes not just the game artwork and manual, but also the module manual and logo.
Yeah, lots of work ahead... :)

#6 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:48 AM

Guys, another milestone reached: we have crossed the 50 names mark and have now 55 names.
Also, prototype #2 was sent to manufacturing today.

#7 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:05 AM

Just a quick update:
I should start soon the latest prototype, now going fully SMT. That means a lot less of PCB space and about half of the price in terms of components. Probably I am going with TSSOP packaging when possible, the PSG being an obvious exception because it is available in DIP format only. Just to give you an idea of how small TSSOP is, check the image comaparing a 14pins DIP with equivalent ICs in SSOP and TSSOP format. DIP is the format they used during the 70's/80's, with the chip pins going thru holes in the PCB (the CV PCB is all DIP).
Furthermore, the 3rd prototype will contain all the features planned to the final module (including the Oki sound chip), so once it is tested by me, I will create a few more copies and start beta testing...

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#8 Mr. John ColecoVision OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:52 AM

Just a quick update:
I should start soon the latest prototype, now going fully SMT. That means a lot less of PCB space and about half of the price in terms of components. Probably I am going with TSSOP packaging when possible, the PSG being an obvious exception because it is available in DIP format only. Just to give you an idea of how small TSSOP is, check the image comaparing a 14pins DIP with equivalent ICs in SSOP and TSSOP format. DIP is the format they used during the 70's/80's, with the chip pins going thru holes in the PCB (the CV PCB is all DIP).
Furthermore, the 3rd prototype will contain all the features planned to the final module (including the Oki sound chip), so once it is tested by me, I will create a few more copies and start beta testing...


I would like to volunter for beta testing! :lust:

Edited by rga321, Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:52 AM.


#9 VectorGamer OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 23, 2009 1:42 PM

I would like to volunter for beta testing! :lust:


Me three....

#10 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:57 AM

Guys, the second prototype board has been shipped to me today. I should get it early next week. Again, it has everything but the Oki sound chip, which will have to wait until next board is made.
However... there are lots of very interesting stuff going on... Stay tuned for the announcements...

#11 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Oct 29, 2009 1:32 PM

Guess what shown up in the mail today... :)


I should start assembling it soon...

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#12 ten-four OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:36 PM

Man, this is great.

I look forward to see what you have to show us this time. :D

#13 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:51 PM

Man, this is great.

I look forward to see what you have to show us this time. :D


The board isn't as big as it seems from the picture, just 4.25"x7.5" (or about 11x19cm for us users of the metric system), not considering the edge connector extension. The final board should be smaller once we shrink everything to SMT, probably something like 4"x5" or so (10x12cm), perhaps even smaller.
But there is a few surprises cooking up... stay tuned...

#14 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 2, 2009 5:33 PM

Ok, so I finally found the exact edge connector the module needs, however the price is a bit steeper than I was expecting, $8.68 each for 200 pcs. But that is my first quote. I am waiting for further quotes.
Anyway now I have a fairly good estimate for all the components: something around $35. That doesn't include PCB, assembly, case, DKA, etc. Still looking under $100 though.
Plans are to have the final module hardware done by the end of year. That means final beta PCB using SMT components.
Bia is designing the custom case (in case the price is reasonable) for the module. Once she has a more complete design I should start looking for quotes.

#15 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 2, 2009 6:58 PM

Good news, just got a second quote, this time $4.39 each for 200 pcs. So we saved $5. Components are back to $30. Excellent...
My plans are to order those connectors and also 200 Oki MSM9842 (ADPCM sound chip).

#16 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 3, 2009 8:22 PM

For those keeping track of this project, something big to announce in a few days... The pieces are falling into place, this project is going to happen. Stay tuned..

#17 swlovinist OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 3, 2009 11:03 PM

I cannot wait!

#18 VectorGamer OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 4, 2009 8:41 AM

Eduardo - you are the man!

#19 Mr. John ColecoVision OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 5, 2009 5:38 AM

Woo hoo!!

#20 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Nov 6, 2009 8:55 AM

The packaging for Donkey Kong Arcade has been officially started. As usual Dale Crum is taking care of that. And we are going for something a little different this time, and we hope to raise the bar a few notches...
After that we will use the same templates for Knightmare and Goonies to be all released sometime next year. I want all 3 games to be out in the space of 6 months in the worst case.

#21 jeremysart OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Nov 6, 2009 10:08 AM

The packaging for Donkey Kong Arcade has been officially started. As usual Dale Crum is taking care of that. And we are going for something a little different this time, and we hope to raise the bar a few notches...
After that we will use the same templates for Knightmare and Goonies to be all released sometime next year. I want all 3 games to be out in the space of 6 months in the worst case.


Your the man!
Cant wait to see the Super Expansion Module.
You are working on tons of exciting projects!
I will be proud to own a SEM, Donkey Kong Arcade, a Red Mario Bros Cart, and im really excited to see where Arkanoid goes.

Keep up the good work, keeping the Colecovision/ Adam alive!

#22 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 7, 2009 7:19 PM

Guys,

Here is the 2nd prototype board assembled. Now I can start testing the MegaRAM and saveRAM.
However the important news is that we now have a manufacturing deal for the SEM. I should reveal the partner in a few weeks, for now suffice to say that the SEM will be manufactured in China, the board will come already tested and assembled. I will just need to assemble it inside the case and ship it.
BTW, the push buttons shown in the 2nd proto wonít be present in the final version. I just realized that they are more trouble than benefit.

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#23 youki OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 8, 2009 2:57 AM

SEM will be manufactured in China,the board will come already tested and assembled.


Not sure it is a good news... Surely yes for cost.. but... let's see.

#24 ten-four OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 8, 2009 5:51 AM

Not sure it is a good news... Surely yes for cost.. but... let's see.

Hi Youki :)

I think that Asians can fully cope with today's technology.


And Eduardo, what is the multi plug for in the bottom of the pcb. ?
And the 3 buttons you want to remove again. :)

#25 opcode OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 8, 2009 9:23 AM

SEM will be manufactured in China,the board will come already tested and assembled.


Not sure it is a good news... Surely yes for cost.. but... let's see.


Most of the best electronics today are made in China. The best PC motherboards, video cards, etc. So, yeah, China can also produce some s*** stuff, but I can assure that isn't the case here, as we are using a proved manufacturer. I can't reveal beyond that though, as I am under NDA. Suffice to say there is a big name behind the module manufacturing now...




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