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My Pet Project - MMDC Retro Player

Atari 2600 VCS FPGA

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#26 Whiskey Brick OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Sep 30, 2016 6:44 AM

Wow, Just Wow @Crispy.  :-o

Looks like you've worked some amazing FPGA magic here with this! (I've dreamt about something like this for most of my life)

 

I'm really just sorry, I won't be able to fly into the country to the expo to take a look at it hands on, but you deserve a Huge pat on the back to be sure!

 

Really curious; Have you been able to test the input lag (if any) on a good TV via Hdmi?

(Say compared to a 2600 rgb/comp/s-vid into a FrameMeister?)



#27 Crispy OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 2, 2016 12:11 PM

Atari couldn't stop any of the clones back in the day, so I don't think there are any issues with selling the hardware.  Which functions are the various buttons mapped to? 

Here's a brochure I made for the AtariAge display at PRGE. It lists the button and switch functions.

 

Attached File  MMDC Retro Player (cropped).pdf   5.82MB   135 downloads



#28 Crispy OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 2, 2016 12:20 PM

Wow, Just Wow @Crispy.  :-o

Looks like you've worked some amazing FPGA magic here with this! (I've dreamt about something like this for most of my life)

 

I'm really just sorry, I won't be able to fly into the country to the expo to take a look at it hands on, but you deserve a Huge pat on the back to be sure!

 

Really curious; Have you been able to test the input lag (if any) on a good TV via Hdmi?

(Say compared to a 2600 rgb/comp/s-vid into a FrameMeister?)

 

Thanks!

 

I haven't tested the lag with a monitor, but my simulations show that my framebuffer delay varies between a minimum of 5 scanlines and a maximum of 1 frame depending on how the input timing is beating against the output timing. So, with a good monitor the total lag should be less than two frames.



#29 sramirez2008 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 2, 2016 12:29 PM

Here's a brochure I made for the AtariAge display at PRGE. It lists the button and switch functions.

 

attachicon.gifMMDC Retro Player (cropped).pdf

 

This thing needs to be in a catalog!  Would love to have one.

 

Excellent!



#30 bellview17 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 2, 2016 3:14 PM

I would be in for one...

#31 sramirez2008 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 2, 2016 3:22 PM

That's two already sold.  Lets keep at it so we can reduce the cost per unit. :-D



#32 Waggie OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 3, 2016 8:55 AM

Count me in to buy one.



#33 Great Hierophant OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 3, 2016 2:51 PM

 

Since the question came up, I became curious about what it would cost produce these in quantity, so I did some calculations based on some probably wildly inaccurate guestimates, and came of with the following. If I were to do a production run of 100 units, then the retail price would be $769.50 per unit. For a run of 1000 units, the retail price would be $384.75 per unit. The retail price includes what I think is a fair markup over the manufacturing cost.

 

So here's the problem. I could probably find 100 people who would want to buy one of these, but probably none of them would want to pay the $770 retail price. Interesting side note here: this retail price is almost exactly the same as the retail price adjusted for inflation of the Atari VCS when it was released in 1977. The problem is even worse when trying to make a case for a production run of 1000 units. The market probably isn't that big, so I wouldn't be able to sell all of them, and would end up losing a lot of money.

 

Are these numbers still your rough estimate for cost?  When the retroUSB AVS is selling for $185.00, those numbers are not likely to attract that many buyers.

 

I think the Walkman idea and button layout just does not work.  The Walkman may evoke the pre-crash era to some extent, but it does not really make me think of video games or evoke the Atari 2600 in any notable way.  Atari's cartridge design was designed when the portable consumer format of choice was the 8-track tape, not the compact cassette.  I do like the woodgrain finish on the case, anything you can do to bring it out more would help evoke the Atari.

 

The button layout does not help.  All Atari 2600 consoles had labels and placement where you knew exactly what each button did. The buttons on this device are too abstract.  Which button is the game reset and which is the game select?  (The one on the end that looks like |< is the reset, which is a good placement choice.)  Why are the Difficulty Select and Color/B&W buttons so small and recessed?  

 

Finally, the side loading cartridge slot gives some concern.  Which way is this console supposed to be facing?  One very dated element of the 2600 console design is the controller ports in the rear.  But when the HDMI connector is in between the controller ports, this also suggests that it is supposed to face the rear.  But this cuts down considerably on the controller lengths.  But it does give better access to the cartridge slot.  I suppose you could use it on its side, but the 2600 was top loading device and I believe that an angled or flat top loading slot is best.  

 

What do the Play and Stop buttons really do?  Do they turn the system on and off?  Or do they function as a hardware reset?  Does pushing Stop allow you to change cartridges?



#34 Papa OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 3, 2016 2:55 PM

Oh, it's 'tucking' away on a book shelf!  Shew, that makes a lot more sense.  :-D

 

I totally want one.  (I usually side with real hardware and only have stuff like this for testing but it's just...too...cool.!)



#35 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 3, 2016 5:53 PM

I, too, have difficulty with this layout and button configuration. I would need a reference card to make use of it. I thought I'd revisit the thread and see what I think of it now. And I'm still a little meh.

 

I feel there is a lot of clash between different flavors of retro here. 80's cassettes and Walkmen are like their own culture. Same deal with the VCS and a stack of cartridges. Each is retro-cool on its own. But mashing them together isn't doing anything other than confusing me. It'd be like using

 

A pile of tapes, a boom box, a portable player in one corner of the room can look cool. A VCS with old CRT and wall-mounted cartridge holders in the other corner is just as cool.

 

I also believe the angle of the switches, like on the original VCS, is a subtle but important ergonomic factor. It's a real-life self-explanatory control panel!



#36 Jinks OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 3, 2016 6:55 PM

If someone wins the lottery please fund this. Or if ya have $385000USD that you dont know what to do with well...

#37 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 3, 2016 7:12 PM

$385,000 ??



#38 Great Hierophant OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 3, 2016 8:07 PM

If someone wins the lottery please fund this. Or if ya have $385000USD that you dont know what to do with well...

 

Calling Mike Kennedy!   :P



#39 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 3, 2016 8:25 PM

Seems when MK is mentioned that's it! EOL



#40 Whiskey Brick OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 4, 2016 6:20 AM

 

Thanks!

 

I haven't tested the lag with a monitor, but my simulations show that my framebuffer delay varies between a minimum of 5 scanlines and a maximum of 1 frame depending on how the input timing is beating against the output timing. So, with a good monitor the total lag should be less than two frames.

 

 

Wow, impressive. That beats an XRGB mini using original hardware even! congrats!  :thumbsup:

 

If you're ever open to being commissioned, let me know. I'd be happy to commission you for another simple one-off :D 



#41 Metal Jesus OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 4, 2016 11:04 AM

I would LOVE to see a cool logo on the top, similar to the original Sony Walkman...like:

 

AtariMan.jpg

 

or...

 

2600Man.jpg

 

...whichever won't get you sued ;)


Edited by Metal Jesus, Tue Oct 4, 2016 11:04 AM.


#42 Great Hierophant OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 4, 2016 7:57 PM

Seems when MK is mentioned that's it! EOL

 

I've jinxed the project now, I'm so sorry everyone!



#43 Kosmic Stardust ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 16, 2016 12:40 AM

This is so cool. Sorry I missed the project and cannot attend PRGE because the distance is too far.

 

I'm getting an AVS (RetroUSB has taken considerable time to ship it out) and one thing I noticed was Brian reduced the project cost considerably by using a slower FPGA that only outputs 1280x720p. The NES PPU is a wholly different beast to the Atari TIA so there is no variance in timing as with TIA scanlines. It runs solid 60Hz at about 0.17% slower than an NES native 60.10Hz. There is no display buffer as each scanline is generated before being triplicated onscreen, with varios aspect pixel settings including 3x3, 3x4, and 3x5 output pixels.

 

Anyway I am curious what types of scaling options your Atari has. Can you use integer pixel ratios or does it use bilinear or other scaling methods with the triple buffering? I'm a bit concerned about the buffer creating lag but I don't see a good solution to fix this in the event scanlines go over. Halting or speeding up CPU execution to lock framerate might have implications on audio bending or other artifacts as well as inaccurate paddle timing.

 

I would also love to own an FPGA implementation of the 2600 someday. Not 300+ USD worth though. If you could scale it back some and get something under $200, I would definitely buy one. I would also look into having carts stick out more. I wouldn't make the cart well any deeper than a traditional system, regardless of orientation. This would ensure compatability with all oddly shaped carts and accessories.



#44 Jinks OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 16, 2016 1:08 PM

$385,000 ??

$384750 actually
1000units x $384.75 per unit.
250 admin fee. :P

#45 gauauu OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 23, 2016 11:51 PM

Saw this thing at PRGE this weekend. Nice work with it, I was quite impressed seeing it working in person. (And nice to meet you there!)



#46 tschak909 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 24, 2016 12:01 AM

Yup, indeed. It was nice meeting you there, and seeing the result. :)

 

-Thom



#47 StopDrop&Retro OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Oct 26, 2016 12:28 AM

FPGAs are gifts from the gods.

 

I love the aesthetics of this one but I can't help but be disappointed that in the display at PRGE only the speakers had wood grain.



#48 SpiceWare OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Oct 26, 2016 8:55 AM

Do you have a Harmony Cart? If so it'd be interesting to see if this can handle the Bus Stuffing Demos.



#49 Crispy OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 28, 2016 1:49 PM

 

Are these numbers still your rough estimate for cost?  When the retroUSB AVS is selling for $185.00, those numbers are not likely to attract that many buyers.

 

I think the Walkman idea and button layout just does not work.  The Walkman may evoke the pre-crash era to some extent, but it does not really make me think of video games or evoke the Atari 2600 in any notable way.  Atari's cartridge design was designed when the portable consumer format of choice was the 8-track tape, not the compact cassette.  I do like the woodgrain finish on the case, anything you can do to bring it out more would help evoke the Atari.

 

The button layout does not help.  All Atari 2600 consoles had labels and placement where you knew exactly what each button did. The buttons on this device are too abstract.  Which button is the game reset and which is the game select?  (The one on the end that looks like |< is the reset, which is a good placement choice.)  Why are the Difficulty Select and Color/B&W buttons so small and recessed?  

 

Finally, the side loading cartridge slot gives some concern.  Which way is this console supposed to be facing?  One very dated element of the 2600 console design is the controller ports in the rear.  But when the HDMI connector is in between the controller ports, this also suggests that it is supposed to face the rear.  But this cuts down considerably on the controller lengths.  But it does give better access to the cartridge slot.  I suppose you could use it on its side, but the 2600 was top loading device and I believe that an angled or flat top loading slot is best.  

 

What do the Play and Stop buttons really do?  Do they turn the system on and off?  Or do they function as a hardware reset?  Does pushing Stop allow you to change cartridges?

 

Unfortunately the manufacturing cost for the plastic enclosure is really what determines the price. I've been toying with the idea of designing an FPGA based drop-in replacement for the Atari 2600 circuit board. Something like that could probably be sold for about $150 or so, and it retains the Atari 2600 styling since you are using the original 2600 enclosure.

 

I started this project not to sell a product and make money, but rather to create something that I wanted. I think that the Walkman motif works very well. It's compact, and it's something I can set on my coffee table, and play Atari 2600 games on my big screen TV from the comfort of my couch. Plus I think that the "PLAY" button is a cute pun. The connector placement is not an issue since the game console is right in front of me. The only long cable I need is the HDMI cable that connects to the TV.

 

To answer your other questions, I used some styling cues from my Sony Walkman Pro, and that's where the tiny switches came from. The PLAY and STOP buttons simply turn the power on and off. I had thought about adding an eject function to the STOP button, but that made the mechanical design a bit too complex. And finally, I still want to add some kind of logo, and some lettering around the buttons that indicate their functions. I'm leaning towards dry transfer, but I'm not sure how well that will work on 3D printed material. It's on my to do list.

 

Anyway I am curious what types of scaling options your Atari has. Can you use integer pixel ratios or does it use bilinear or other scaling methods with the triple buffering? I'm a bit concerned about the buffer creating lag but I don't see a good solution to fix this in the event scanlines go over. Halting or speeding up CPU execution to lock framerate might have implications on audio bending or other artifacts as well as inaccurate paddle timing.

 

 

The 2600 core timing is always running at the exact rate of the original Atari hardware. I'm using a triple buffer to frame sync the 2600 video timing to the output video timing, and the horinzontal scaling is always an integer multiple of the 2600 horizontal resolution. The vertical scaling, on the other hand, uses what's called a polyphase interpolating filter to scale from 208 or 224 lines, user selectable, up to the output resolution which can be 480, 600, 720, 768, 1080, or 1200 lines.

 

One day I might experiment with trying to V lock the output timing to the 2600 timing, but for right now the delay through the triple buffer doesn't bother me.



#50 Crispy OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 28, 2016 1:55 PM

Saw this thing at PRGE this weekend. Nice work with it, I was quite impressed seeing it working in person. (And nice to meet you there!)

 

 

Yup, indeed. It was nice meeting you there, and seeing the result. :)

 

-Thom

 

Definitely. We'll have to do it again next year.

 

In the meantime I can't wait until November when Al puts your games up for sale in the store.







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