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Possible cheap alternatives to VBXE?

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Are there any possible alternatives to VBXE?

I have read about TOMEK-8 by Nosty.

There was speculations to use two GTIA.

There was XEP80.

 

Anything else?

 

What about:

GTIA/ANTIC with extra colors or pallete and 320 (2x160) x200 and 640x384x2 hires mode -> emulation on low priced MCU ATMEL, PIC or very fast STM32???

VBXE is amazing, very beautiful graphics card (but cost like core duo android tablet). But what if there will be graphics card running on 6EURO ARM? So whole will cost 20Euro (PCB).

And what about using VGA instead (LCD monitors) of composite or s-video?

 

I think we needs very cheap graphics upgrade. Simple solution like StereoPokey is. Just GTIA/ANTIC and MCU on small PCB plug into socket like StereoPCB... Or maybe into JOYSTICK port like XEP80... And use other JOYSTICK port with Joystick Doubler... Or as cartridge expansion. GraphCart for example.

 

Take it as brainstorming, as topic for fun.

Edited by Matej
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What can do 6Euro STM32 with few resistors???

SPRITES

youtube.com/watch?v=xs_Puw_lOWg

GFX

youtube.com/watch?v=HkUUJ-rOUPg

TXT

youtube.com/watch?v=X_2JPXgoZNQ

VGA

youtube.com/watch?v=RY92VcNa1fI

COLORS

youtube.com/watch?v=ZbPpcszZonY

 

Or even I can imagine it will be multimedia board with VGA and SOUND (playing MOD no 6502 CPU take) upgrade.

 

DEMO with sound

youtube.com/watch?v=KsToQmFndpg

youtube.com/watch?v=ymGCeG9_6c0

 

:) I am not HW geek. Just thinking little bit... :)

Edited by Matej
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IMO there's not much point introducing yet another deviation from the standard.

 

VBXE strength is that it offers so much - VGA quality video output, Rambo +256K compatible RAM banking via PORTB.

 

For something of lesser cost, my proposal would be something that simply replaces the standard video output with either/both Component/RGB or HDMI.

A device inline could use the already digital luma + sync coming from GTIA and also decode the colour output by phase delay in relation to the system clock, then create a better video signal.

Such a device could also potentially allow redefining the entire video palette, that's about the only software controllable enhancement I'd want.

 

VBXE has been around some time and takeup been a little slow, there's not really any point introducing yet another standard.

 

But an exception to what I say is with cartridges with coprocessors in a plug/play fashion. This is one area where we need some development. Although of course these make no difference to video quality and are in a different league.

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I've been wanting to build a PBI/ECI device that emulates GTIA and ANTIC in lock-step with the internal GTIA and ANTIC. It could then output a crystal clear VGA signal that totally bypasses the internal circuitry. The great thing is that it would work on a stock machine without any modifications.

 

As for making it cheap, I'm thinking a board with two processors would be best -- one for emulation and one for VGA with a RAM buffer shared between them. The Beaglebone Black might work since it has PRUSS coprocessors.

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BTW, the Chameleon for the C64 works on the principle I'm describing. "VIC-II screen duplication on VGA through intelligent bus snooping techniques". We need the Atari version of this. The great thing is that you can put all sorts of other peripherals on it too.

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chameleon uses 16000 LE FPGA device plus 8mbytes of SDRAM, VBXE has as little as 2880 LE and 512k of static memory

price tag is nowhere near vbxe too - 200 euro for Chameleon compared to 89 euro for VBXE

you've also mentioned beaglebone - this one uses arm cortex a8/a9 processor running at 1.2GHz in 0.65mm BGA package - not really something an amatour could route just like that

i could route it on 6 layer board, this is 4 more than VBXE or Chameleon, normally it would require 8 layers to route

 

why bother?

 

bottom line - you won't get any cheaper really without increasing volume considerably, and there is not really that much of a market for any Atari related hardware to justify this

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Right, I was thinking more in terms of using a stock $45 Beaglebone Black and just building a PBI to GPIO adapter which would hopefully be cheap to make. So you'd have a Beaglebone Black hanging off the back of your Atari and it would be connected to your VGA monitor. In other words, take advantage of the economies of scale for the high performance part and just build the lo-tech adapter.

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Right, I was thinking more in terms of using a stock $45 Beaglebone Black and just building a PBI to GPIO adapter which would hopefully be cheap to make. So you'd have a Beaglebone Black hanging off the back of your Atari and it would be connected to your VGA monitor. In other words, take advantage of the economies of scale for the high performance part and just build the lo-tech adapter.

 

Would the benefits of this device justify the cost? How much improvement could one may make compared to the standard s-video signal of the stock machines?. There are already various S-Video/Composite to VGA/HDMI video converters at the $45 price range.

Edited by atari8warez

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Once you have a digital signal (as Rybags outlines), you could flip frames at 60hz at the input and output one frame at 30hz. This would be the frame rate NOT the display frequency - that would still be 60hz at 320x200x4 or 160x200x16 and such. VGA...

 

Take a 160x200x16 display. You would build one frame at GR.15 that displays color, for example, and the next GR.15 frame (in a different part of memory) that displays luma. Those two frames would combine to a 160x200x16 display. You could still use the sprites on at least one frame and things like character animation and DLIs would work as always.

 

Programming would be pretty much like the existing graphics, just in two fields.

 

Bob

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The thing I keep saying endlessly - if you take a (by today's standards) crap signal as input into an upscaler or HDMI converter you'll get a crap picture as output.

 

Like the old computing saying of GIGO. If people want to spend 50 bucks to convert S-Video for the sake of inputting it to HDMI or a DVI monitor then OK but the bottom line is it'll look no better than running on a 1084 monitor running in Col+Luma mode.

 

I think a "plug under GTIA" device could be a reality - if it could be done at 60 bucks or less then it presents as a better alternative than converting crap to HDMI and a much cheaper alternative to VBXE and some people would buy multiple units.

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I like Rybags and Bobs solution. Its is far more simple than using STM32 or another MCU. We need small PCB board. Super simple solution. 320x200x4 or 160x200x16 sounds amazing to me and with RBG or VGA or HDMI. It will be plugable to all new TVs or monitors.

VGA is good. Still lot of monitors have VGA connector. HDMI is very near future...

I was inspired by little STE board who provides extra colors to palette...

 

As I said we need 15-20USD/Euro solution.

 

PS: I will buy VBXE in future. It is amazing piece of art... Graphics looks almost like on my Sega Megadrive.

(I have played boulder dash clone in Altirra)

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How about a device which is 100% compatible with the VBXE but costs less and requires no soldering?

 

That for me would be the perfect device.

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Nothing can be done cheap. Even if it could be done for free and given away, it would probably actually get installed in less then 100 computers. Just the way things are, there may be 1,000 people that would ask for a free widget, but as soon as you get to that first step "Take a Philips head screw driver" 900 will drop out.

 

Just bought a 6532, 35 year old IC used in the 2600 and 1050 drive. Cost me $8 plus shipping. If you look at prices for printed circuit boards you will find they cost $20-$50 per. Price drops when you order large quantities of course, but the quantities will never be more then a few hundred and have to recover the cost of the first development boards.

 

There are problems that are just facts of digital circuits. In order to enhance any graphics beyond what you can do with what you can do with a stock Atari, you have to display more memory. If people are using a 48k Atari 400 as the bottom, arbitrary but perfectly valid point I like, you are talking about 8k for a high rez screen + another 8k at least for interleaving screens or hardware solution. That 16k has to come from somewhere, either the original 48k or added RAM. Either solution is bad in that you have reduced the amount of available memory for everything from programs to text buffers in a WP or you just added another 28 pins and $3 to your hardware bill. Then there is the cost in CPU time of moving all that data around. It's going to take twice as long to load and twice the storage space for the data. Remember I am only talking about 8k extra. To get something exciting you would probably need 64k-256k of video memory. On the high side, this would fill a stock 1050 to overflow.

 

That being said, purely from a academic standpoint. What probably would work within the limitation of nobody would install it and nobody would write software for it, something that would take a snapshot of an existing screen and 'hold' it in sync/genlocked with the subsequent screen. Easier yet would be to have it add luminescence values. Bob did this with 2nd GTIA hack years ago but it had always been limited by the number of people that have his skill level to duplicate it along the high price of PC board real estate and vintage Atari chips.

 

There are several low cost programmable logic development kits you can buy in the $15-$50 range. If you just add in a single 8k static RAM, you could probably get away for less then $20. A similar 4 resistors summing network added to the existing circuity would be an inexpensive solution. You would get the usual no tricks involved 4 color gr. 15 mode with 16 + 4 original luminescence values.

 

This isn't to bad when you consider games like Dungeon Master were ~320x200 mode on the ST. Thing is, not many people play DM anymore and these instructions would still start with "Take a Philips screwdriver."

 

I can't see anything being done for less the $20 in parts anyway and if they were built by someone, i can't see them doing hundreds of boards for free.

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For something of lesser cost, my proposal would be something that simply replaces the standard video output with either/both Component/RGB or HDMI.

 

 

Simply that. It doesn't need to do anything more.

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Hmm. What about use 5USD ARM development board with USB (so you can easy upload new firmware there)???

It is opensource. Cheap. But I know it will be hardcore to write enhanced VDP (ANTIC,GTIA) simulator. Probably it will be in ARM assembler not C.

Take it as idea. I am no coder or HW geek. But there are already assembled ARM boards. So no PCBs, no soldering /only wires/...

 

MCHCK tiny opensource board. Lets go this way... You are right with 20USD PCBs it will be nonsense...

 

WebPage

https://mchck.org/about/

GitHub

https://github.com/mchck/mchck

 

TOMEK-8 cartridge use PIC... So it is possible to use MCUs for better or faster graphics... When PIC why not ARM?

 

mchck-r4-mchck.jpg

 

Or maybe ADAFRUIT TRINKET AVR board...

http://learn.adafruit.com/introducing-trinket/

 

9630150263_1cf887c013_z.jpg

Edited by Matej
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Do you remember/have you seen the exchange in Blade Runner where Roy Batty is talking with his creator Dr. Eldon Tyrell? The one where Roy starts asking for a way to beat the system and live longer?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcJs4qJPQ_M

 

That's a lot like what we have here. Cheap, including great stuff like MC Hack, are serial. This one in particular only has 8k of RAM so you would have trouble fitting program variables and a Micro Illustrator screen. You still need to add video summing circuitry or lift the hood<Philips screwdriver>.

 

Here's one I bought and used.

https://www.sparkfun.com/products/11767

Actually a nice device for the money. Problem is the interface is still serial.

 

Serial was done with the XEP80. Some people liked it, most did not.

 

Programmers and hardware guys alike want something they can write to. That gets you back to expensive and Philips screwdriver or PBI with the related costs.

 

You can have cheap serial that ~half the fan base won't like. You can have expensive parallel that will be too expensive for ~half the fan base.

 

If all you want to do is get better graphics you could do the same thing as these devices with an interpreter on the PC side. Just a simple terminal program and a null modem connection could get you 80-132 columns, gigabyte drives for storage, and fancy VGA graphics. There hasn't been a lot of demand for that. Unfortunately most people just use the PC and toss the Atari.

 

You could even do something like Alternate Reality Atari-PC where the Atari instructs the PC what to play and what to display. At that point people are just going off and playing WoW or something.

 

Better graphics for cheap is a tough nut to crack.

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I looked at the datasheet and it lists:

BUS0-BUS7 pins (GPIO 8-Bit Bus):

8-bit parallel General purpose I/O Bus.

Foggy memory, I am pretty sure they don't have interrupt capability. I don't think they work in external register mode/latched either. Target market seems to be for things like automotive displays and GPS type devices. Push a navigation button, light an LED kind of thing while continuously polling.

 

The serial link is pretty quick, something like 600k BAUD. I could be wrong, I just think the Atari fan base would not like something that isn't closely tied to the machine. That is for the display anyway, all the serial storage solutions are popular.

 

I like the device. I have mine set up to work as a stand alone display. It has the ability to load programs and displays from its SD card, something like name a compiled file 'autoexec.4ds' and it comes up running. If you look at the manufacturer's web site in the forums, they even have a tiny BASIC running on the thing.

 

The 'gotcha': I've been following 8 bits for a while. I don't think I have seen nor heard anyone say "What we really need is an VGA XEP80 replacement." The programming cable for the device is another $30 so with shipping you are into it for $100. I think even the cores are $15 http://www.4dsystems.com.au/product/20/67/Processors_Graphics/PICASO/ which puts you right back at the prototype boards stage and the added costs of assembly.

 

All I am trying to say is a cheap alternatives can be done, they will not be nearly as viable as VBXE or as closely tied to the machine. Pretty much you get what you pay for. I don't really see people who have bought VBXE down grading their systems for a new standard. This is the core group of enthusiasts you want for any mod. If you can't get them on board, you are lost.

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Thanks for Picasso infos. 15usd is very good price. Can be attached to cartridge too?

Maybe best will be to have cheap cartrige so people who can not solder will just plug cartride and play

games with better graphics,music,fat16,sdcard...

 

Picasso-graphics,pwm wav playback,14kb flash (for firmware),fat16,sdcard.

 

Hmm just imagine such cartridge... We need search more.

 

I found this (6502):

http://www.vrt.com.tw/datasheet.php

http://www.vrt.com.tw/product_detail.php?Id=57

Feature:
System
- Working Voltage 3.0~3.6 V
- Main CPU: 6502 @10.7368MHz in NTSC and 10.64068MHz in PAL
- Internal optional Data / Boot / Program ROM: 4K Bytes
- Internal Main CPU 12K Bytes RAM, includes 6K bytes dedicated RAM and 6K bytes shared RAM)
- Internal 4K Bytes Shared Video RAM
- Direct Memory Access (DMA) Sprite RAM / Program RAM / External memory up to 10Mbytes/sec.
- Single 16bits external data bus
- Support 4 type of T.V. signal output (NTSC, PAL, PAL-M, PAL-N)
- Sleep mode and Auto wake up mode
- 56 individual controlled GPIO ports
- Cartridge combination function
- External EEPROM boot up function
Peripheral
- ADC: 10bits, 8 Times-Division-Multiplex channels with microphone, and battery detection
- Master/Slave SPI Interface:
- UART duplex Interface up to 115200 bps
- TFT LCD Interface.
- STN LCD Interface
- SD card interface
- Master IIC interface with 16bits addressing mode
- ITU656/601 Video Input Interface
- Enhanced ALU, 16 by 16 multiplier and 32 by 16 divider
- RTC (Real-Time-Clock) with Alarm function
- 3-chanel LED PWM output
Graphic Processor
- Background resolution: TV 256dots x240 lines
- 3 independent background layers.
- Background 1/2 character mode (8x8 / 16x16): 4/16/64/256 indexed color mode.
- Background 3 character mode (16x16): 4/16 indexed color mode.
- Background 1/2 bitmap mode: 4/16/64/256 indexed color mode
- Background 1 bitmap 32768 colors hi color (direct color) mode
- Background 1/2/3 independent vertical extension: x1/x1.5/x2
- Background 1/2/3 horizontal scan line line-based scrolling: -128~+127
- Sprites are 16/64 colors.
- Sprite character size includes 8x8 / 8x16 / 8x32 / 16x8 / 16x16 / 16x32 / 32x8 / 32x16 / 32x32 (H/V).
- Sprite vertical extension (Global): x1/x1.5/x2
- Max Sprite index number is 65536.
- Sprite resolution 256dots x 240 lines / 512 dots x 240 lines
- 512 Color palette
- Dual graphic Output ( TV + LCD or LCD + LCD).
- Dig-Hole, Fade in / fade out, Blend or gray effect
- RGB independent 32 level fade-in fade-out effect
Sound CPU
- CPU 6502 @21.4772MHz in NTSC and 21.28136 MHz in PAL
- 6K bytes dedicated RAM includes 4 K bytes local memory and 2K bytes shared memory
- Stereo 10bits audio DAC
- Provides CELP, ADPCM and MIDI driver.

Edited by Matej

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Or>

Winbond/Nuvoton W55V91

 

W55V91 is a highly-integrated chip for TV-toy

applications. Several devices are embedded in the
W55V91, including a 65C816 uC, CRT controlle
r (CRTC), TV encoder, Programmable Sound
Generator (PSG) and video mask ROM. Additionally;
the Direct Memory A
ccess (DMA) mechanism
makes the W55V91 even more powerful in image processing.
2. FEATURESz
27 MHz X’tal used for 27 MHz system and 6.75 MHz uC clocks.
Embedded 65C816 uC core, and power down mode is supported.
Five interrupt sources, including Vertical
blank, Horizontal blank, I/O port, TimerG and
TimerN.
Direct Memory Access (DMA) mechanism.
Almost 3.7KB of built-in, dedicated
Program RAM (PRAM) [$000080 - $000EFF] and a
total of 1,152KB Program ROM (PROM) and Video ROM (VROM).
Built-in VROM, divided into two groups. Ea
ch group consists of four 128KB blocks.
Embedded TV-encoder that supports 320*240 pixel resolution.
Four programmable color modes: 4/16/64/256 and 16M different colors.
Fifteen picture layers: Background 0 (BG0), Ba
ckground 1 (BG1), Sprite x 12 and Text x 1.
Layer priority is Text, Sprite, BG1, Sprite,
and BG0; Sprite layers can be configured to be
higher or lower than BG1.
8x8 pixel patterns in BG0 and BG1. Both BG0 and BG1 have scrolling functions, and BG0
is divided into 5 planes.
Additional RAM [$002000 - $0029ED]
that can be configured to provide BG1 RAM or
PRAM.
16x16 pixel patterns in sprite layers. The W55V91 supports 96 sprites per frame, and 12
sprites per scan line. In addition, each spri
te has zoom-in (x2) and mirror functions.
8x16 or 16x16 pixel patterns in Text. The W55V91 supports 8 lines of text and 27
characters per line.
Dual tone melody and two-channel noise generator.
Watch Dog Timer (WDT), configurable using mask option.
Sixteen bi-directional ports and 8 input ports, all built-in.
Low power 3.0V ~ 3.6V operating voltage.
I have it in LEXIBOOK CYBERARCADE LCD game handheld.
It cost 20Euro (LIDL/Tesco hypermarket).
So chip must be super lowcost...
NUVOTON W55V96
The “TV Edutainment/ Game Family” is the highly integrated chip for TV-toy/game application. In W55V9x, many functions are embe
dded;
including 65C816 μC, CRT controller (CRTC), TV encoder, Programmable Sound Generator (PSG) and other miscellaneous peripherals.
Additionally, the Direct Memory Access (DMA) mechanism can make W55V9x more powerful in image processing.

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The thing I keep saying endlessly - if you take a (by today's standards) crap signal as input into an upscaler or HDMI converter you'll get a crap picture as output.

 

Like the old computing saying of GIGO. If people want to spend 50 bucks to convert S-Video for the sake of inputting it to HDMI or a DVI monitor then OK but the bottom line is it'll look no better than running on a 1084 monitor running in Col+Luma mode.

 

I think a "plug under GTIA" device could be a reality - if it could be done at 60 bucks or less then it presents as a better alternative than converting crap to HDMI and a much cheaper alternative to VBXE and some people would buy multiple units.

 

Obviously with a video converter the output will only be as good as the S-Video signal, no doubt about that, my real question however was how much of an improvement over the S-Video signal can one get with your proposed setup and whether the benefits are enough to justify a higher cost, I personally wouldn't bother for a barely visible difference.

Edited by atari8warez

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Obviously with a video converter the output will only be as good as the S-Video signal, no doubt about that, my real question however was how much of an improvement over the S-Video signal can one get with your proposed setup and whether the benefits are enough to justify a higher cost, I personally wouldn't bother for a barely visible difference.

One problem is that a lot of new TVs don't even have s-video input, and on some the composite is shared with the components Y input.

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Partial retraction of my opinion re yet another standard - the LEM project I do support, ie the external addon "Luma Enhancement Module" - threads elsewhere on that one.

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One problem is that a lot of new TVs don't even have s-video input, and on some the composite is shared with the components Y input.

I realize that, that's why i suggested using an s-video to HDMI converter if one wants to simply be able to connect their Atari to a newer TV and that any video upgrade to the Atari (that is less expensive then VBXE) must be able to make a visible difference to be prefered over a readily available video converter.

 

In fact for me the only video upgrade worth bothering for would be a clear and compatible (no software redesign is required) 80 column mode, that would make me use my A8 more often for sure.

Edited by atari8warez

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