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The PBI bus on my 800XL always held magical and mysterious powers... It seemed to be the key to unlocking unlimited potential of my Atari. In my earliest years with the XL (age 9-13 or so), I didn't really know much about what lay behind the port cover. As I got a little older, I learned about the products like the Multi I/O and the Black Box which could be plugged in, but these were always priced out of my reach. As it would happen, I was destined to eventually follow a career path of software & electronics engineering, but my understanding of topics like parallel data buses would not come until I was a bit older yet, and had already moved on from the Atari to my first PC. Over the many years since then, I've gone on a few "nostalgia benders," digging up my old Atari gear and playing around with it for a while. Each time, I'd idly thought about maybe doing a PBI bus project, just to "check it off the list" so to speak. Well, this time I'm hoping to actually make it a reality, and I've started some work on a project that I think will blend the "old" (being the Atari) and the "new" (being some modern technologies I've been working with on other projects) in interesting ways. I've debated whether I should labor away in the dark without sharing any info until I reach some arbitrary milestone, or share a progress log to get feedback, help and motivation from folks here. I've opted to try the latter. So, I present the very first fledgling steps of my PBI bus to WiFi adapter for the 8-bit. I'm basing it on somewhat absurdly powerful but relatively inexpensive technology (an Espressif ESP-32 - a dual core processor standalone WiFi/Bluetooth module, and a small Altera MAX 10 FPGA). This is a massive pile of technology compared to the Atari, but I've been developing on the ESP32 for a few months on another project and am pretty familiar with it, and I've wanted an excuse to do a small FPGA project for a while now. I like the idea of combining these things. My initial goal is to make a wifi coprocessor for the Atari, with the ESP32 doing most of the heavy lifting for dealing with TCP/IP connections. In the initial incarnation, I'd like to present it to the Atari as an R: compatible interface, so it can be used right out of the gate as a replacement for an 850 + Lantronix device, except hopefully much faster. This way it can be used with BBS and terminal software. Longer term goals? Well, the sky's the limit really. The ESP32 has all kinds of interesting hardware support in it, and I've used much of it for another project. SD cards, audio, serial ports, I2C, Bluetooth, etc. There's a ton of potential to make it a PBI-based disk drive for example. Combined with the capabilities of the FPGA, it opens a lot of doors to doing interesting things. The daydreaming is great, but I'm trying to keep focused and meet a reasonable goal and then see where the project goes. My rough architecture is that the ESP32 is going to communicate with state machines in the FPGA over a high speed SPI bus (it has no parallel buses). The FPGA will mediate between the slow Atari parallel bus and the high speed SPI bus. The FPGA I've chosen has a bunch of RAM and Flash ROM elements in it, so it can contain shift registers or dual ported RAM to aid this, and it can also contain the small amounts of PBI device handler code that need to be mapped in. I'm breadboarding the first version because there are a few unknowns, and sometimes it's just easier to go old school and hand-wire stuff. I started this process last night, wiring up the address and data buses to the necessary level-shifting bus transceivers, because the Atari is a 5V system while the FPGA and the ESP32 are both 3.3V. I also have the FPGA eval board and the ESP32 development module positioned on the breadboard, but not yet connected.
I wanted to show everyone a test box and cart that I made with the help of some fellow AA members! I made this prototype to see how close I could get to making it look like a official Micro Fun release and I think it turned out great! I have always loved Boulder Dash for the Colecovision and I have always hated Telegames. Boulder Dash is one of those games that is really good and extremely rare. Do to that combination, the price for the game is around $500+ That's a lot of money for a "in my opinion" ugly Telegames box & cart. I have been wanting to make a near perfect copy of Boulder Dash that looks just like Micro Fun would have made it back in the day. I have talked to Collectorvision and if there is enough interest Collectorvision would be willing to make a official homebrew release of "The Micro Fun Boulder Dash" that will look just like my Prototype. This is not a preorder as Collectorvision will take care of that. This is just to gauge interest to get the green light on the project. My question to you is "would you want one?" I'm not sure of the price of the homebrew release as it depends on how many people would want one. The more people interested the lower the price will be. I don't think it should cost much more then a normal homebrew release but that would be up to Collectorvision to make that call. Here is my video showing off the game: http://youtu.be/-NQCfD_ZJXc As a bonus to all my Canadian Colecovision fans I also incuded in the video a special Beer Review of the best Canadian Beer I have ever had!!!! Let me know what you guys think!
Has anyone one ever considered turning a spare TI console into a dedicated weather station? I got to thinking today (I know uh oh), anyway the TI joystick has 5 digital inputs that could be used for other things... One input, say the fire button could be used for an anemometer. A simple XB program could be written to count impulses from a simple mechanical sending unit and 'set' to a baseline. The impulses could be compared to a clock (an existing software based clock) for calculation. The other four digital inputs could be used for a very rough wind direction display (N,S,E, & W) if more than two inputs can be scanned at one time (I don't know if that is possible), it might be possible to use those four inputs for 8 different readings like (NE, SW, etc.) Now the temperature part has me baffled. Is there any place on the TI that could be used as an ANALOG input? If so, some transistors can be used because the values change based on temperature, the program would just need to be written to translate the resistance value to a known temp. So calibration with a real thermometer would be a must for every individual system. This could even possibly be combined with an X10 project to turn on a heater below a set temperature, or using a solar cell when a value goes below a certain light threshold, to turn on a lamp.
After 29 days (including waiting for parts) I finally restored (partially) my friends Atari 2600. It had been sitting in his Mom's closet for 25+ years and when I plugged it in, it worked like a charm. I placed a fresh coat of paint (trim) and restored his joystick with all new parts because the parts that were inside were very worn, especially the top of his joystick. I fixed and replaced much more (link provided). I gave his Atari 2600 a nice bubble bath w/ scrub (laughs) and a nice (small) moderate shine. The parts that can be washed that is. LMBO. Enclosed is a before (top) and after (bottom) photo. My friend died in 2007 from a chronic disease at age 38, thus last month his Mom sent me his Atari system as a gift. Enclosed is the entire project at the link below. Click on images for description. The story begins on photo #2. RIP Charley. PS All the games were his (I cleaned and shined them up/contacts), excluding Donkey Kong, which I purchased. https://flic.kr/s/aHsm6ZFZ3Q