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ColecoVision wonderclone discussion

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With all this talk lately about the ColecoVision Flashback, 5-11under's CV console replacement board, and all the CV and Adam mods pictured left and right, I'm left wondering what a ColecoVision "wonderclone" would be like.

 

The basic specs I would like to see are:

 

- 24K of RAM

- Flash-based multi-BIOS, so it could be updated/upgraded easely (multi-BIOS = BIOS selectable from boot menu)

- F18A graphic chip (new games made specifically for the wonderclone could take advantage of the added video modes and extra features)

- Modern Z80 CPU, but still fully compatible with legacy/homebrew CV carts

- HDMI output (perhaps other output options too, but HDMI seems to be the good choice for the future)

- Modern equivalent to the old CV sound chip, with perhaps added sound channels to "emulate" the SGM's sound chip (not sure what form that would take...)

- Standard ColecoVision cartridge slot

- USB ports for joysticks, with detachable keypads similar to the Champ Adaptor, so you could use any USB joystick or joypad, or perhaps plug in a special controller like a modern USB steering wheel or paddle controller (BIOS could be altered so that legacy software would be playable with modern USB controllers).

- SD card slot (great for homebrew development)

- Would work with any generic 12V power supply, bought in any electronics store.

- Custom plastic casing for the console

 

A console with such specs would probably be way too expensive to produce in small quantities, but we can dream, right? What specs would you like to see in a ColecoVision wonderclone? :)

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Could you imagine the time needed to test every CV game currently in existence to make sure that there were no compatibility issues!!! :-o

 

As far as specs, I think you covered them all pretty thoroughly.

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What about the expansion slot? Or at least an Atari 2600 cartridge slot with SGM capabilities built into the console itself. Also, I like the pause button on the YurkieVision so that would be nice to include.

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Could you imagine the time needed to test every CV game currently in existence to make sure that there were no compatibility issues!!! :-o

I don't have to imagine it, I did that very exercise for the SGM with my CIB collection, both legacy and homebrew! :D

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With all this talk lately about the ColecoVision Flashback, 5-11under's CV console replacement board, and all the CV and Adam mods pictured left and right, I'm left wondering what a ColecoVision "wonderclone" would be like.

 

The basic specs I would like to see are:

 

- 24K of RAM

- Flash-based multi-BIOS, so it could be updated/upgraded easely (multi-BIOS = BIOS selectable from boot menu)

- F18A graphic chip (new games made specifically for the wonderclone could take advantage of the added video modes and extra features)

- Modern Z80 CPU, but still fully compatible with legacy/homebrew CV carts

- HDMI output (perhaps other output options too, but HDMI seems to be the good choice for the future)

- Modern equivalent to the old CV sound chip, with perhaps added sound channels to "emulate" the SGM's sound chip (not sure what form that would take...)

- Standard ColecoVision cartridge slot

- USB ports for joysticks, with detachable keypads similar to the Champ Adaptor, so you could use any USB joystick or joypad, or perhaps plug in a special controller like a modern USB steering wheel or paddle controller (BIOS could be altered so that legacy software would be playable with modern USB controllers).

- SD card slot (great for homebrew development)

- Would work with any generic 12V power supply, bought in any electronics store.

- Custom plastic casing for the console

 

A console with such specs would probably be way too expensive to produce in small quantities, but we can dream, right? What specs would you like to see in a ColecoVision wonderclone? :)

U had me at hdmi output!

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Is 2600 compatibility still - 30+ years later - really a selling point for a new ColecoVision system? In that case, I believe you might consider making the console multi-format so it takes both SG1000 and Sord M5 cartridges to begin with.

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I think a sega master system modified to run colecovision games would solve many of these problems

 

It even has an everdrive available and can already run sg1000 games.

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Why only 24K of RAM? Why not include the Adam's memory structure?

I dunno, anything more than 24K seems like overkill to me. :)

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Since AT games will now offer brand new CV controllers, I think we should preserve the DB9 controller ports .... and having 2 USB controller ports as well ... you know.. just in case

 

HDMI is certainly the way to go, however I would like to have the RGB option as well

 

Expansion port is much needed! Hey! We have to be able to use the SuperGame Module

Otherwise, it must be built in

 

Having MSX and SG-1000 cartridge port AND , SD card support IS the way to go if you want to make it a selling point

This kind of project should be a Kickstarter project, and having 3 systems in one is a really neat selling point

 

I think we should simply build a team and make this project happen!

It is not that complicated, it's all about having a solid product idea AND ....money of course

 

So.... Let's say I'm in! Others who want to step in?

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I think we should simply build a team and make this project happen!

It is not that complicated, it's all about having a solid product idea AND ....money of course

 

So.... Let's say I'm in! Others who want to step in?

Why don't we just let Harvey finish his replacement board project and then we'll see what we can do collectively. :)

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I agree it may be best :)

If Harvey manages to achieve a fully-working prototype of his board replacement, he's probably going to need some help to produce enough of these boards to meet the demand. That's what I expect anyhow. At that point, this could become a nice community project, although Harvey may have other plans, I dunno...

 

In any case, it's a big project for a small community like ours. :)

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I've got a question for you tech-savvy guys: I know that when developing a new custom chip design, you start with what is essentially an FPGA, and once you've worked out all the kinks in the design, you turn that FPGA into an ASIC chip. I don't know much more about the process than that, but my question is whether there are companies that do FPGA-to-ASIC conversions on small scales. For example, let's say you wanted to create a custom sound chip that would reproduce the ColecoVision's original sound chip and also contain the extra sound channels offered by the SGM, would the only way to create such an ASIC chip be to mass-produce it in very large numbers? In other words, is producing custom ASIC chips in small numbers prohibitively expensive?

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I've got a question for you tech-savvy guys: I know that when developing a new custom chip design, you start with what is essentially an FPGA, and once you've worked out all the kinks in the design, you turn that FPGA into an ASIC chip. I don't know much more about the process than that, but my question is whether there are companies that do FPGA-to-ASIC conversions on small scales. For example, let's say you wanted to create a custom sound chip that would reproduce the ColecoVision's original sound chip and also contain the extra sound channels offered by the SGM, would the only way to create such an ASIC chip be to mass-produce it in very large numbers? In other words, is producing custom ASIC chips in small numbers prohibitively expensive?

 

The price is very high to do, in the millions. FPGA chips are not much, so that is certainly the route to go. I know for the Intellvision arcade controller the circuit was small enough to fit in a CPLD, but that was only around 30 gates. Altera and Xilinx are both places I would checkout. Lattice might be another.

Edited by grips03

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The price is very high to do, in the millions. FPGA chips are not much, so that is certainly the route to go. I know for the Intellvision arcade controller the circuit was small enough to fit in a CPLD, but that was only around 30 gates. Altera and Xilinx are both places I would checkout. Lattice might be another.

Yowser... I just had a look at the official web sites of Altera and Xilinx, and I don't even understand the specs I'm reading. :P I see FPGAs which are less than 100$, some others over 1000$. This is all way out of my league. :ponder:

 

Lesson learned: Don't ask questions when you're clearly not qualified to understand the answers. But thanks for answering my main question, grips03. :)

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Yowser... I just had a look at the official web sites of Altera and Xilinx, and I don't even understand the specs I'm reading. :P I see FPGAs which are less than 100$, some others over 1000$. This is all way out of my league. :ponder:

 

Lesson learned: Don't ask questions when you're clearly not qualified to understand the answers. But thanks for answering my main question, grips03. :)

 

small FPGAs can are anywhere for $1.65 - to $10.

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The FPGA are measured in logic units/elements or LU/LE, these are building blocks containing a handful of gates and latches.

 

Check the FPGA usage for a Colecovision clone :) http://www.fpgaarcade.com/?q=node/18 it uses 3000 logic elements of 12000 available, plus the internal memories.

 

It uses the EP1C12Q240C8 whose price is $44.90 http://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/EP1C12Q240C8/544-1081-ND/703788

 

So these are indeed expensive. Converting it to ASIC is done by same manufacturer and price can drop drastically, but I read one time you'll need a minimum order of 5000 or 10000 units.

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Thanks a lot for the information, nanochess. It's a little clearer now. :)

 

From what I'm reading in the FPGA CV clone description, it contains all the logic for "emulating" the CV's Z80 and also the graphic and sound chips? That almost sounds like a ColecoVision-on-a-chip.

 

Since it's using only a fraction of the total logic units available, could it be assumed that the SGM's components (extra RAM and MSX sound chip) could be added to the FPGA's programming?

 

Of course, I'm just asking out of curiosity, I'm sure adding a cartridge slot and joystick ports to the design would make the whole thing quite complex to implement. :)

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A ColecoVision On A Chip would be awesome! :-o

 

I wonder if it would be worth looking into such a thing.. would there be enough buyers to make it worthwhile?

 

I really don't know a whole lot about clones, other than some of the NES stuff.. I always prefer and use real hardware 99% of the time and don't own any right now. I'd like to read up on the whole process though, very intriguing. However if a CV clone or revamped board were ever made available, i'd be all over it! :grin:

 

Something else to think about, a separate project.. a portable CV would be really cool.. I'm sure everyone saw that one that Ben Heck did, its pretty neat! I may try it someday..

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perhaps reachout to Matthew who did the F18a. He used Xilinx for F18a, but once you have the Verilog or VHDL its very portable. You also might be able to use a small FPGA if only a 1/4 of the resources on the dev board were used.

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A ColecoVision On A Chip would be awesome! :-o

 

I wonder if it would be worth looking into such a thing.. would there be enough buyers to make it worthwhile?

 

I really don't know a whole lot about clones, other than some of the NES stuff.. I always prefer and use real hardware 99% of the time and don't own any right now. I'd like to read up on the whole process though, very intriguing. However if a CV clone or revamped board were ever made available, i'd be all over it! :grin:

The success of a clone depends on how well it emulates the original hardware. If the emulation is downright perfect in all aspects, I think it would attract a lot of attention, especially if the cartridge port is present. But reaching this perfection is easier said than done. For one thing, the graphic chip must be perfectly emulated, supporting such oddities as Smurf Paint & Play Workshop and Cabbage Patch Kids Picture show (multi-color mode) and also Girl's Garden and Battle of Hoth (which use magnified sprites).

 

EDIT: If the SGM features were added into the clone, in order to ditch the front expansion port, you'd also need to test all the SGM games properly.

 

The fun aspect is that new controllers don't need to be designed, we can just use the ones from the ColecoVision Flashback. Hacks of Turbo, Destructor, Slither and Victory that make them playable with standard controllers already exist, so there's no big loss in not supporting the steering wheel and Roller Controller (I suppose Dukes of Hazzard could be hacked too).

 

 

Something else to think about, a separate project.. a portable CV would be really cool.. I'm sure everyone saw that one that Ben Heck did, its pretty neat! I may try it someday..

That could be cool, but then you need to factor in a battery compartment, battery life (how should the unit react when it's about to run out of juice? This would likely complicate the electronic design), an extra jack for an A/C adaptor (because some people can't stand using batteries)... Seems to me it would be simpler just to use an existing ColecoVision emulator on a Game Boy Advance...

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Since it's using only a fraction of the total logic units available, could it be assumed that the SGM's components (extra RAM and MSX sound chip) could be added to the FPGA's programming?

 

 

Most FPGA have small memories, so 8K ROM, 16K VRAM and 1K RAM and then FPGA is full (check the memory usage report in the link I provided), and for extra memory you need to change to another FPGA more expensive or put together a RAM memory.

 

Interestingly the extra logic of SGM would fit very easily with little space used.

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Most FPGA have small memories, so 8K ROM, 16K VRAM and 1K RAM and then FPGA is full (check the memory usage report in the link I provided), and for extra memory you need to change to another FPGA more expensive or put together a RAM memory.

Would it be possible to map everything to a single 64K RAM chip, which would include 32K of RAM (SGM support) and 16K of VRAM? The remaining 16K of the 64K chip would be unused, or perhaps the BIOS could be copied to that unused area, to simplify the board logic.

 

EDIT: Also, I'm noticing that the existing CV FPGA uses a DAC for video and audio output. If the clone had HDMI output, I guess such DACs would be unnecessary?

 

Interestingly the extra logic of SGM would fit very easily with little space used.

Good to know... Do you have some experience with FPGAs, nanochess? :)

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