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Matej

Possible cheap alternatives to VBXE?

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I took a look at your other ~SOC and they all look good of course. I'll ack you probably could get a cart in the $50 range that would be OK. There are still some limits that would put people off from them.

 

For instance, Picasso only plays WAV files that have been sampled at 10k and no stereo. WAV files are gawd awful big. Four minutes of audio could run 20 megs. It pretty much means you will be using something on the Windows/Linux side to load anything you want to play.

 

The first chip, VRT, only does ~256 byte wide screen and unless I missed it, the second, Windbond, only does 320. Granted both of those are superior with respect to color and resolution to what we have now. Lack of a 640x200 means no 80 column mode. Well, 4 pixel 80 column but we have that now.

 

There's a lot of personal bias of course. The chips you found support both NTSC and PAL which is great. My problem: I am frozen in time at VGA. I love VGA! I want to be buried with a VGA monitor, preferably LCD! :)

 

Have you seen any suppliers of the chips? Digikey or Mouser type places?

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[deja-vue]

 

Well,

 

why not create a "universal" cart, that does upgrade sound, gfx, sprites (players & missiles), speed, RAM, etc. ?!? That universal cart could include three or four main chips:

 

- one chip for sound (not nescessarily a SID chip, not second Pokey, not Covox, could be any kind of third-party soundchip),

- one chip for gfx and sprites (which does only more luminances or more colours and luminances, more sprites like in Tomek-8 cart),

- one chip for speed or better speed-ups in certain areas (not a 65816, more something like a math-co-processor or a new/faster math-pack or something like an accelerator for certain tasks similar to Super-Charger that is used in Assault Force 3D),

- one or more chip/s for RAM/ROM (a ROM chip, Eprom chip, flash-chip, RAM chip, whatever suits to hold some code and configuration; needn`t be SDX on it as we already have that in half a dozen of hardware add-ons, but could be a nice GUI or a game that shows some of this carts features)...

 

Think such a cart. would not be cheap, but at least every A8 has a cart-slot and one would not need a screw-driver or a soldering iron to built it in. The programs would then be loaded from disk (image) or harddisk (image). Who would built such a cart ? Not me, but maybe Lotharek, Candle or one of the other hardware experts from Poland... ;-)

 

-Andreas Koch.

 

[/deja-vue]

Edited by CharlieChaplin

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Cheapest possible video upgrade:

 

Make a joystick to PC parallel port cable. Write a PC program that displays graphics based on commands from the parallel port. There you go! Any old PC is now a full-color XEP-80. Kinda pointless, really.

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Cheapest possible video upgrade:

 

Make a joystick to PC parallel port cable. Write a PC program that displays graphics based on commands from the parallel port. There you go! Any old PC is now a full-color XEP-80. Kinda pointless, really.

This is not bad idea at all! SO LOOKS LIKE WE GOT IT!

 

GOOD IS THAT YOU CAN RUN SUCH SOFTWARE UPGRADE ON OLD CHEAP 486BOARDS WITH VGA CARD OR NEW COMPUTERS/NOTEBOOKS WITH USB SERIAL PORT...

 

OR THERE ARE TINY AND CHEAP X86 DEV BOARDS>

 

For example this 40USD Flea86 - X86 emulation board with VGA/EGA capabilities and VGA port, SD/CARD,PS/2 etc etc... On board is also serial port. It can run MS-DOS, Gots VGA and sound onboard. Runs on 150Mhz 8BIT MCU

http://www.fleasystems.com/flea86.html

 

Datasheet:

http://www.fleasystems.com/source/Flea86%20level-1%20Preliminary%20User%20Manual%20rev%200.20.pdf

 

Video:

MCGA/VGA Video RAM (64K max.) 0A0000h - 0AFFFFh

CGA/PCjr/TGA Video RAM (32K max.) 0B8000h - 0BFFFFh

 

Video Controller:
MCGA=320x200-256colors (262144palette)
Audio Generator:
1.) SN76496 4-voice sound generator compatible
2.) User audio DAC channel available /* = with sample bank it will be WAVETABLE!
3.) IBM-PC compatible PC speaker

Serial communication (via FleaCOM interface):
One RS-232 serial communications channel with 31-by
te character receive buffer, supporting
the following speeds: 150, 300, 600, 1200, 2400, 48
00, 9600 and 57600 Baud. Refer to
section 7 for specific details relating to the Flea
COM serial port.

 

flea86boxed.jpg

 

It is small in nice box. Almost like XEP80!!!

 

256color games... 320x200

youtube.com/watch?v=diapn3Hkh1k

Edited by Matej

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Or RaspberryPI (model A - 256mb, no RJ45) <- serial port <- Atari Joystick port...

raspberry-pi-model-a.png

 

Here is RPi serial port tutorial:

http://elinux.org/RPi_Serial_Connection

 

There is TV out plus build in HDMI connector...

There are also 1000s of nice RPi case designs...

 

Price is very good 25USD or 20Euro.

 

We need make minimal linux DISTRO on SD with own graphic serial client...

640x480x256colors plus vga/svga text mods

And I think there can be 16channels wavetable (samples in bank) for

audio upgrade.

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I don't see much point in having the Atari being little more than a glorified keyboard that controls an external device.

 

External video devices via other than PBI just won't work, you can't send data or commands quick enough.

 

Data snooping via PBI/ECI - XL has disadvantage there in that /HALT signal from Antic isn't present. It's needed to be able to differentiate between Refresh and graphics DMA accesses. Also, CSync would probably be handy so an external device can count scanlines, know where the frame starts etc.

Even then, there's the Antic bugs and strange behaviours that would need to be emulated for 100% compatability.

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Just buy VBXE. Save a little bit more and do it. Really!

Yes I will buy VBXE in future... But why you stops me and others from being creative? As I wrote at beginning It is just brainstorming for fun. And who knows maybe we will find good solution for better graphics for few coins...

 

Little inspiration ATARI ST 3D graphic Card based on PIC32...

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To me, new hardware should complement old Atari systems, not replace them. For example, I love the systems for reading SD cards on the Atari, this enhances it but doesn't replace the Atari.

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To me, new hardware should complement old Atari systems, not replace them. For example, I love the systems for reading SD cards on the Atari, this enhances it but doesn't replace the Atari.

 

I agree with that, besides most never technology upgrades come with bare bones hardware support but no real applications designed for it, so what is the purpose other than to say "we can do that too", sure we can do almost anything if we no longer want an authentic 8 bit Atari. I too like external new hardware that give additional or improved access to peripheral devices plus memory upgrades that give atari developers more memory to work with and thus more opportunities for better software (even then there seems to be not too many new apps to take advantage of additional memory)

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To me, new hardware should complement old Atari systems, not replace them. For example, I love the systems for reading SD cards on the Atari, this enhances it but doesn't replace the Atari.

Agreed.

 

Something like new graphic modes, pal/ntsc-vga adapter, more audio channels, faster cpu make sense.

 

Hooking up Raspberry Pi (no matter how cheap it is) to Atari basically as keyboard just makes me go "ughhh...."

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Hooking up Raspberry Pi (no matter how cheap it is) to Atari basically as keyboard just makes me go "ughhh...."

 

So will we proceed with SIO2BluRay and PBI <-> Fibrechannel adapters? :D

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Disk alternatives are a different kettle of fish.

 

Graphics/sound enhancements are a tricky area. The way I see it they need to be affordable, reasonably easy to install and program for and the host system shouldn't become too subserviant.

 

VBXE fits the bill, OK barely scrapes in for ease of install but the way it's done is a necessary evil. It could have been done to hang off the PBI but still would have needed internal modifications to the machine and would have ended up being more complex and expensive because Antic (mirroring) functionality would have had to be included as well.

Edited by Rybags

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I like the idea of a 3D chip that can fill a framebuffer you then map into the cartridge space and is displayed by the Atari itself. If it only did PSX-style affine mapping it wouldn't be so bad - it would just be a more flexible blitter really.

 

You can build one in FPGA but I've no idea how fast it'll be. I've used PCs strapped to such testchips and it's not pretty (pretty much useful for validation and development work but slooow) but if your base machine is a 1mhz 6502 to start with then it might be less of an issue.

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Just something that could area-fill triangles would be good on a cart.

Real 3D is only going to happen in the GTIA modes, as already seen in (mostly slow) demos - ie, stuff like bumpmapping and decent looking textures with plenty of colours or lumas.

 

Something like Carrier Command using Antic graphics with the extra assist for the 3D maths and area fills would be possible at a decent framerate. Old-school checkerboard texturing can in part make up for the lack of available colours.

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Well, remember, the VBXE can have new cores programmed. It isn't limited to the stock one. I always thought it would be cool to try to implement a line blitter, shader, etc.

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Matej,

 

Just a few small corrections to your post regarding flea86..

 

1.) It's not USD$40 it was initially listed at ~$60 per system (without case) for a production run years ago that did not happen (back then)

2.) It is now going obselete due to the non-availability of the chip that powers it..

 

Cheers Valentin (fleasystems.com)

Edited by Basman74

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Raspberry Pi would be PERFECT to replace a pc running APE with something similar which doesn't require a keyboard or bloated OS. You get hard disk, Ram dive, printer, modem/Ethernet. Keep its OS to a bare minimum though ... if I wanted to tinker with linux/BSD etc I've got a PC. Just enough to initialize devices and talk to the Atari. Sio2gpio cable would be in order, & a properly designed boot image the Atari would simply see a series of peripherals attached which would be configured/used just like "real" ones (no clunky PC keyboard at my desk)

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I have the raspberry pi, and the atari 8bit emulator is ace, as many others are.

 

However, the device is massive overkill, and really I cannot see the point, as it would cease to be an atari! you can dress it how you like, but the raspberry pi is light years ahead in power in every area. Only use would be maybe the GPIO connector could be used for something, but I would be concerned with interface speeds with the atari.

 

I would love to be proved wrong on this point though :)

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However, the device is massive overkill, and really I cannot see the point, as it would cease to be an atari! you can dress it how you like, but the raspberry pi is light years ahead in power in every area. Only use would be maybe the GPIO connector could be used for something, but I would be concerned with interface speeds with the atari.

 

I'm with you on this one. The Pi is basically a modern home computer along the same lines as the old Atari machines anyway. I'd be more interested in a Pi in a small plastic case with simple integrated laptop-style keyboard. I'd buy a couple.

 

I'm happy with low_budget's little s-video upgrade board personally.... I just want good clean video. Not looking for extended capabilities. Good buy for $25 or so.

 

For what it does the VBXE is actually quite reasonably priced considering the small production runs and expensive programmable logic. I've considered getting one but just haven't been able to justify it yet.

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Some good ideas here. Remember the abortive LEM project? The basic idea was to make a cart with banked RAM and hardware to generate extra luma video sync'd with the GTIA chroma, doubling or tripling the bits per pixel or the pixels per scan line. It would have worked but it left the poor old 6502 with a 16-24K bitmap to manage.

 

I recently did a project at work with the Arduino Nano, an audio spectrum type app. The IDE was impressively painless. I also saw the TVout Space Invaders app. Cool. The Arduino Mega has 8K RAM and is fast enough to bit-bang about 160 4-level pixels per line. At 16 MHz it's roughly 10 times the speed of the 6502 but it would spend about 75% of that generating video. I see no easy way to sync it perfectly with the GTIA signal, though, so it would jitter.

 

Lately have come faster ARM Cortex Arduinos. The Teensy3 has 16K RAM and roughly 100 times the Atari's speed. I estimate it could do 320 4-level pixels per line or even more in monochrome, with plenty of grunt left to manage the bitmap. Also its clock has a PLL so it could sync to the GTIA video. The cart interface would be mapped to Atari page $D5. The ARM's GPIO is 5V tolerant, so wiring is simple. One Atari bus cycle is about 27 ARM cycles, so the I/O could be serviced in software on the ARM side. The bitmap could be made visible to the 6502 one line at a time, like 192 banks of 80 bytes each, if you wanted to manage it all with the 6502. Or the ARM could have high-level functions to draw into the bitmap at its fast speed, like a blitter. It could even do software sprites, possibly lining them up with GTIA players, offering more bits per pixel there too.

 

I'm so intrigued by this that I just ordered 2 Teensy3s.

Edited by ClausB

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I'm sure you remember some of the older computers that just used a 74LS165 or 74LS166 to load data that would be clocked out as pixels on stuff like the Timex or Jupiter Ace. For that matter I think all the old PC CGA and monochrome displays did the same thing.

 

I was thinking you could use the signals from ANTIC to load the '165 from its own RAM or ROM. That is, the ANTIC would retrieve its memory to feed to GTIA and the signals could be used to toggle info into the '165 from its RAM. The output of the '165 could be tied into the luma signal to double the range. Best choice would be use something like a divider/counter chip so you could clock data out of the chip at double the clock i.e. the system runs off the normal 1.79 MHZ but the '166 runs from a 3.59<7.2?> MHZ or higher. It would run all the time, but you wouldn't see the output if the display wasn't on.

 

You could arrange that display memory as 16 bits wide and use two '165s as a 16 bit shift register to do 80 bytes per screen line.

 

You could do bit planes with three separate '165s each pulling memory to do a RGB output. Writing to one 8k block would be red value, second green, and third blue.

 

A small programmable logic chip on the buss could do this: Just have it normally pass through reads to memory but when the display is active, it intercepts the memory reads and outputs NOPs on the data buss. The 6502 would just step through 8k of memory seeing it as NOPs, while the video chip reads the actual memory and stuffed it into the display circuitry.

 

I find it interesting myself, but I always come back to $20 and have to raise the hood! :) Video upgrades have never been desired by a large segment of the user base or we would all have Bit 3, Franklin, and XEP 80s. I think the only way you could get something popular is to offer to go to a users house with a six pack and install them for free!

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Check out the old thread:

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/152548-luma-enhancement-module-development/

 

We had a design worked out, similar to what you posted, except it was to be a plug-in cart, no soldering required. But it was still up to the 6502 to write all that pixel data. That's where the ARM comes in. Still a plug-in cart, but way faster and more capable.

 

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