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Cloning the Gram Kracker

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Heh. Before anyone gets too far... this is just something that was prompted by me getting kind of upset at the huge prices these Gram Krackers are going for on eBay. Note that I'm actually very happy with all the other solutions that have been popping up, especially my cartridge boards (Ksarul mentioned there's probably over 2000 16K, 64K, and early 128K ones out there) and all the offshoots, adaptations, and all the other new hardware that has been come out recently (UberGROM, SAMS card, SID 99, FlashROM99, etc.)

 

This is not meant to replace any of those, I just want to do this for the fun. I've been thinking long and hard after the cart board for my next project, and this one is sufficient enough of a challenge to be fun.

 

Some caveats and assumptions:

 

1) Bare PCB only, probably with rubber mounts on the bottom

2) Need to find Craig G Miller (probably in his 60's now.. originally from San Dimas, Diamond Bar CA area) and get permission first if at all possible. That won't stop me from prototyping it first, though.

3) More modern hardware will be used, shrinking the footprint of the thing a small bit. However, the spirit of the original will still be there. (i.e. I want this down to one board).

4) I need to make a schematic of the old one first (if anyone has one... well, please attach it here!)

5) We will need to adapt the 8K EPROM (2764) on board and make some adjustments (read on...)

 

Now that we got that all out of the way:

 

Background:

1) The Gram Kracker came in 56K (7 chip) and 80K (10 chip) versions. These used 6264 8K RAM Chips. Both units used 56K of stacked chips (2, 3, and 2). The 80K used an additional three chips you could put in.

2) The GK is in two parts. The whole bottom part is those 10 SRAM chips, the 8K 2764 EPROM (menu, loader, etc), the cartridge slot, and a battery. That's it.

3) The top part consists of the logic chips that runs the thing. That means about 11 74LS series logic chips that are simulating GROM, plus support circuitry (diodes, resistors). Included are 74LS138 (1), 74LS161 (4), 74LS139 (1), 74LS04 (1), 74LS74 (1), 74LS08 (1), 74LS32 (2).

 

So, with that out of the way, here's my initial ideas on this, once again, keeping faithful to a 'reproduction':

 

1) Use a 1MBit (128K) 5V DIP SRAM such as this instead of 10 chips worth 80K. Why? How about adding some more RAM banks? We can add six more 8K banks, for a total of eight 8K banks (64K), as well as the 64K of GROM.

* Note, we will have to get some assembly guru's to see if we can hack the loader a bit to accommodate six more 8K ROM banks in code. Plus make sure the header on the files can take it.

2) I plan on using the same logic chips, and I plan on socketing everything.

3) I plan on using the same types of switches if possible.

4) I really want to put a Lithium Thionyl battery in place of that large Lithium cell. This will last super long.

5) One final modification I need to investigate is the battery drain from leaving the thing in the console.

 

Right now, I don't have this started yet. I don't have a timeline, but it is my next project. I actually had another 'next project' in mind, but I'm going to shelve it for a little bit... Ksarul and Ralph both know a little piece about that proposed project we still need to chat about it at length and it might become the next simple sidecar expansion....

 

If anyone has any feedback, let me know. I'll be making a parts order soon to breadboard it.

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Also look at C.A.D.D. Electronics GRAMULATOR from Mark Van Coppenolle would be a good idea also.

 

Unlike the GRAMULATOR the GRAMULATOR supported MBX modules and Supercart emulations with multiple banks.

 

ftp://ftp.whtech.com/datasheets%20and%20manuals/Hardware/CaDD/gramulator%20manual.pdf

 

ftp://fremontoktoberfest.com/programming/GPL/Gilbertson/gplsup.txt

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Appreciate the effort you're about to put into this. The more modern replacements for old peripherals there are, the easier these things become to collect and actually use.

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Also look at C.A.D.D. Electronics GRAMULATOR from Mark Van Coppenolle would be a good idea also.

 

Unlike the GRAMULATOR the GRAMULATOR supported MBX modules and Supercart emulations with multiple banks.

 

ftp://ftp.whtech.com/datasheets%20and%20manuals/Hardware/CaDD/gramulator%20manual.pdf

 

ftp://fremontoktoberfest.com/programming/GPL/Gilbertson/gplsup.txt

 

Yes, the Gramulator is very closely related to the GK. However, we'd have to get Mike Wright's permission, see if he has schematics, and possibly a loaner unit for me to examine. I actually own a GK, so it's a little easier to do all of this with a unit in my hand :)

 

Also, I did some Googling, and Craig George Miller passed away in 2009, in Sandia Park, NM. No obituary that I can locate; just the death record from his property tax transfer to his wife. Plus confirmation on a death certificate website. He very much kept to himself, apparently. :(

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Heh. Before anyone gets too far... this is just something that was prompted by me getting kind of upset at the huge prices these Gram Krackers are going for on eBay. Note that I'm actually very happy with all the other solutions that have been popping up, especially my cartridge boards (Ksarul mentioned there's probably over 2000 16K, 64K, and early 128K ones out there) and all the offshoots, adaptations, and all the other new hardware that has been come out recently (UberGROM, SAMS card, SID 99, FlashROM99, etc.)

 

This is not meant to replace any of those, I just want to do this for the fun. I've been thinking long and hard after the cart board for my next project, and this one is sufficient enough of a challenge to be fun.

 

Some caveats and assumptions:

 

1) Bare PCB only, probably with rubber mounts on the bottom

2) Need to find Craig G Miller (probably in his 60's now.. originally from San Dimas, Diamond Bar CA area) and get permission first if at all possible. That won't stop me from prototyping it first, though.

3) More modern hardware will be used, shrinking the footprint of the thing a small bit. However, the spirit of the original will still be there. (i.e. I want this down to one board).

4) I need to make a schematic of the old one first (if anyone has one... well, please attach it here!)

5) We will need to adapt the 8K EPROM (2764) on board and make some adjustments (read on...)

 

Now that we got that all out of the way:

 

Background:

1) The Gram Kracker came in 56K (7 chip) and 80K (10 chip) versions. These used 6264 8K RAM Chips. Both units used 56K of stacked chips (2, 3, and 2). The 80K used an additional three chips you could put in.

2) The GK is in two parts. The whole bottom part is those 10 SRAM chips, the 8K 2764 EPROM (menu, loader, etc), the cartridge slot, and a battery. That's it.

3) The top part consists of the logic chips that runs the thing. That means about 11 74LS series logic chips that are simulating GROM, plus support circuitry (diodes, resistors). Included are 74LS138 (1), 74LS161 (4), 74LS139 (1), 74LS04 (1), 74LS74 (1), 74LS08 (1), 74LS32 (2).

 

So, with that out of the way, here's my initial ideas on this, once again, keeping faithful to a 'reproduction':

 

1) Use a 1MBit (128K) 5V DIP SRAM such as this instead of 10 chips worth 80K. Why? How about adding some more RAM banks? We can add six more 8K banks, for a total of eight 8K banks (64K), as well as the 64K of GROM.

* Note, we will have to get some assembly guru's to see if we can hack the loader a bit to accommodate six more 8K ROM banks in code. Plus make sure the header on the files can take it.

2) I plan on using the same logic chips, and I plan on socketing everything.

3) I plan on using the same types of switches if possible.

4) I really want to put a Lithium Thionyl battery in place of that large Lithium cell. This will last super long.

5) One final modification I need to investigate is the battery drain from leaving the thing in the console.

 

Right now, I don't have this started yet. I don't have a timeline, but it is my next project. I actually had another 'next project' in mind, but I'm going to shelve it for a little bit... Ksarul and Ralph both know a little piece about that proposed project we still need to chat about it at length and it might become the next simple sidecar expansion....

 

If anyone has any feedback, let me know. I'll be making a parts order soon to breadboard it.

 

slow_clap_citizen_kane.gif

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Yes, the Gramulator is very closely related to the GK. However, we'd have to get Mike Wright's permission, see if he has schematics, and possibly a loaner unit for me to examine. I actually own a GK, so it's a little easier to do all of this with a unit in my hand :)

 

Also, I did some Googling, and Craig George Miller passed away in 2009, in Sandia Park, NM. No obituary that I can locate; just the death record from his property tax transfer to his wife. Plus confirmation on a death certificate website. He very much kept to himself, apparently. :(

 

Mike Wright is very active still and afaik he is planning to attend CTIUG 2016. Don't hesitate to try asking. Oh my, Craig Miller passed away. Sorry to hear that. He was a knowledgeable man.

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So sad about Craig Miller. He was a legend in the TI world and, even though I never met him, somehow a big part of my childhood (well, teenage years at least).

 

Darryl

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Heh. Before anyone gets too far... this is just something that was prompted by me getting kind of upset at the huge prices these Gram Krackers are going for on eBay. Note that I'm actually very happy with all the other solutions that have been popping up, especially my cartridge boards (Ksarul mentioned there's probably over 2000 16K, 64K, and early 128K ones out there) and all the offshoots, adaptations, and all the other new hardware that has been come out recently (UberGROM, SAMS card, SID 99, FlashROM99, etc.)

 

This is not meant to replace any of those, I just want to do this for the fun. I've been thinking long and hard after the cart board for my next project, and this one is sufficient enough of a challenge to be fun.

 

Some caveats and assumptions:

 

1) Bare PCB only, probably with rubber mounts on the bottom

2) Need to find Craig G Miller (probably in his 60's now.. originally from San Dimas, Diamond Bar CA area) and get permission first if at all possible. That won't stop me from prototyping it first, though.

3) More modern hardware will be used, shrinking the footprint of the thing a small bit. However, the spirit of the original will still be there. (i.e. I want this down to one board).

4) I need to make a schematic of the old one first (if anyone has one... well, please attach it here!)

5) We will need to adapt the 8K EPROM (2764) on board and make some adjustments (read on...)

 

Now that we got that all out of the way:

 

Background:

1) The Gram Kracker came in 56K (7 chip) and 80K (10 chip) versions. These used 6264 8K RAM Chips. Both units used 56K of stacked chips (2, 3, and 2). The 80K used an additional three chips you could put in.

2) The GK is in two parts. The whole bottom part is those 10 SRAM chips, the 8K 2764 EPROM (menu, loader, etc), the cartridge slot, and a battery. That's it.

3) The top part consists of the logic chips that runs the thing. That means about 11 74LS series logic chips that are simulating GROM, plus support circuitry (diodes, resistors). Included are 74LS138 (1), 74LS161 (4), 74LS139 (1), 74LS04 (1), 74LS74 (1), 74LS08 (1), 74LS32 (2).

 

So, with that out of the way, here's my initial ideas on this, once again, keeping faithful to a 'reproduction':

 

1) Use a 1MBit (128K) 5V DIP SRAM such as this instead of 10 chips worth 80K. Why? How about adding some more RAM banks? We can add six more 8K banks, for a total of eight 8K banks (64K), as well as the 64K of GROM.

* Note, we will have to get some assembly guru's to see if we can hack the loader a bit to accommodate six more 8K ROM banks in code. Plus make sure the header on the files can take it.

2) I plan on using the same logic chips, and I plan on socketing everything.

3) I plan on using the same types of switches if possible.

4) I really want to put a Lithium Thionyl battery in place of that large Lithium cell. This will last super long.

5) One final modification I need to investigate is the battery drain from leaving the thing in the console.

 

Right now, I don't have this started yet. I don't have a timeline, but it is my next project. I actually had another 'next project' in mind, but I'm going to shelve it for a little bit... Ksarul and Ralph both know a little piece about that proposed project we still need to chat about it at length and it might become the next simple sidecar expansion....

 

If anyone has any feedback, let me know. I'll be making a parts order soon to breadboard it.

Yes, I think it is a very good idea. There were only limited numbers of these, and other sought after TI hardware items, that is why they are so collectible and expensive. But we are getting more people, old and new, who want to delve into this old lady that we call the TI994/A and there needs to be some resources for them(and us) too. So keep on developing, maybe all of our desires will be met.

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Yes, the Gramulator is very closely related to the GK. However, we'd have to get Mike Wright's permission, see if he has schematics, and possibly a loaner unit for me to examine. I actually own a GK, so it's a little easier to do all of this with a unit in my hand :)

 

Also, I did some Googling, and Craig George Miller passed away in 2009, in Sandia Park, NM. No obituary that I can locate; just the death record from his property tax transfer to his wife. Plus confirmation on a death certificate website. He very much kept to himself, apparently. :(

Hmm Mike Wright had nothing to do with the GRAMULATOR.

Mark Van Coppenolla invented and created the GRAMULATOR and the software that was installed in it.

 

You have confused Mike Wright with his work on PC99 with Mark Van Coppenolla as they created the project together.

Edited by RXB

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Hmm Mike Wright had nothing to do with the GRAMULATOR.

Mark Van Coppenolla invented and created the GRAMULATOR and the software that was installed in it.

 

You have confused Mike Wright with his work on PC99 with Mark Van Coppenolla as they created the project together.

 

Cadd Electronics (Mike Wright Company) was the company who produced and sold the Gramulator.

ftp://ftp.whtech.com/datasheets%20and%20manuals/Hardware/CaDD/gramulator%20manual.pdf

 

Edit:

"CaDD was started by Mark van Coppenolle, who also designed and built The Gramulator. Some years back Mark wanted to be out of the TI business, and sold all rights to The Gramulator and remaining parts to Tex-Comp."

That info is directly from Mike Wright. Never the less I highly recommend you to contact Mike Wright on this.

 

Klaus

Edited by kl99
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Cadd Electronics (Mike Wright Company) was the company who produced and sold the Gramulator.

ftp://ftp.whtech.com/datasheets%20and%20manuals/Hardware/CaDD/gramulator%20manual.pdf

 

Edit:

"CaDD was started by Mark van Coppenolle, who also designed and built The Gramulator. Some years back Mark wanted to be out of the TI business, and sold all rights to The Gramulator and remaining parts to Tex-Comp."

That info is directly from Mike Wright. Never the less I highly recommend you to contact Mike Wright on this.

 

Klaus

 

So does that mean that Mike Dudek owns the rights to the Gramulator now? :)

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One note, I do have permission to duplicate one existing GRAM device: the Wiesbaden Supermodul II. It gives five GROMs and four ROMs, and fits into a standard cartridge case (using a few interesting tricks to get all of the ICs in there). I can have a current layout for that one done and up on OshPark within a week or two. . .and if there is enough interest, I can do a run of boards and provide assembled cartridges later this summer (once I can source the right switches and the rest of the components I'd need in quantity).

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Cadd Electronics (Mike Wright Company) was the company who produced and sold the Gramulator.

ftp://ftp.whtech.com/datasheets%20and%20manuals/Hardware/CaDD/gramulator%20manual.pdf

 

Edit:

"CaDD was started by Mark van Coppenolle, who also designed and built The Gramulator. Some years back Mark wanted to be out of the TI business, and sold all rights to The Gramulator and remaining parts to Tex-Comp."

That info is directly from Mike Wright. Never the less I highly recommend you to contact Mike Wright on this.

 

Klaus

Hmm RXB was sold and marketed by C.A.D.D. and with a agreement with Mark for years before Mike Wright ever formed a partnership with Mark.

I had very many phone calls with Mark and Mike over the years so the reason I pointed this out.

I was just making it clear that you seem to ignored a span of years between events and seem to crush them in a non liner version.

Yes Mike took over but my original partner for RXB sales and development was Mark for many years and Mike was never involved.

Edited by RXB

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FYI, someone asked me about the death record for Craig Miller -

 

Here is where they purchased a house in NM:  https://eaweb.sandovalcountynm.gov/Assessor/taxweb/account.jsp?accountNum=R055259&doc=DOCCTRNR10831

 

This is when Craig passed away circa 2009:  https://eaweb.sandovalcountynm.gov/Assessor/taxweb/account.jsp?accountNum=R055259&doc=DOC284S60

 

The only reason I'm posting this is that the information is no longer current.  

 

 

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Craig George Miller:  Dec 16, 1950 - Sep 21, 2009 at Sandia Park, NM.

 

In the late 80's early 90's he was writing custom databases using DBase. Sometime later they sold the condo at San Dimas and went on the road doing ISF Calibrations on MITS TV's across the nation. You'll find his name in several threads in the AVSforum web site in the early 2000's. We exchanged a few emails around that time. A few years later his website had a posting that he was retiring from that endeavor since their daughter had just had a baby and they wanted to set down roots again near her.

 

It was several years later that I found out he had passed in 2009. I never did find an obit and forgot about this until this was mentioned here.

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1 hour ago, retiredqwest said:

Craig George Miller:  Dec 16, 1950 - Sep 21, 2009 at Sandia Park, NM.

 

In the late 80's early 90's he was writing custom databases using DBase. Sometime later they sold the condo at San Dimas and went on the road doing ISF Calibrations on MITS TV's across the nation. You'll find his name in several threads in the AVSforum web site in the early 2000's. We exchanged a few emails around that time. A few years later his website had a posting that he was retiring from that endeavor since their daughter had just had a baby and they wanted to set down roots again near her.

 

It was several years later that I found out he had passed in 2009. I never did find an obit and forgot about this until this was mentioned here.

Yep - it would have been great to have made contact with him when he was still living.  His wife sold their house in Sandia Park a few years after he passed away.  I often wonder if his wife and descendants know just how much we are thankful for his work 35 years later.

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The Gramulator had an add-on to do MBX carts.

I also like that Mark put the battery on the outside, so you didn't take the chance of messing something up to replace the battery.

Worse case, you bent the battery holder, you could take care of that without cracking the case.

 

@Ksarul wrote:

>One note, I do have permission to duplicate one existing GRAM device: the Wiesbaden Supermodul II. It gives five GROMs and four ROMs, and fits into a standard cartridge case (using a few interesting tricks to get all of the ICs in there). I can have a current layout for that one done and up on OshPark within a week or two. . .and if there is enough interest, I can do a run of boards and provide assembled cartridges later this summer (once I can source the right switches and the rest of the components I'd need in quantity).

 

Ksarul, did you do a run of these board in 2016?

 

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Mark Van Coppenole is (or was) on Atariage recently. I sent him an EPROM. Also, the original DSR for the Gramulator would NOT do MBX arts but a later version would. I have both in my collection. and could duplicate the DSRs.

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I would order a GramKracker, though as I mentioned on the informal zoom meeting Sunday evening where I got my dates mixed up, it would need a case.  I would not be enthusiastic about a GK without a case.  

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I am gathering the data I need to reproduce it. I now have permission to do so from the original developer. As already noted, the board won't be a major problem--but I still have to do some hunting to source a suitable case.

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