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Microvision replacement screen project - pre-order & purchase here

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I have a working Microvision I would be willing to donate. It has a little rot but still very visible and functioning. I had planned to use it for a button mod. However this is more important.

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if it's a matter of working with a China company and fronting some money to get a couple hundred produced I will gladly help get this project going. 

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Status update:

 

1. Make contact again with the company I've been dealing with

  • e-mail sent; waiting for a reply. The company's web site says they're open. I asked if the "file" was still active, and if I could send them the Microvision for evaluation/optimization [Apr. 8]

2. Send them a Microvision so they can evaluate, and optimize the screen

3. Wait for them to evaluate and optimize (possibly additional steps if they need to send me more samples)

4. Send them money

5. Wait for product

6. Test product

7. Sell product

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Thanks for the update! I've waited decades for a viable replacement screen, I can wait a little bit more. Thanks for your work on this!

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Status update:

 

1. Make contact again with the company I've been dealing with

  • Apr. 8: E-mail sent. The company's web site says they're open. I asked if the "file" was still active, and if I could send them the Microvision for evaluation/optimization.
  • Apr. 13: Oops. I found my e-mail in the drafts folder. I sent it, and they responded today that all is well, and I can send them the Microvision for evaluation/optimization. Step 1 is complete.

2. Send them a Microvision so they can evaluate, and optimize the screen

  • Apr. 13: I have a Microvision pretty much ready to go. I just need to make sure it's exactly how I want it to be, to make it easy for them to evaluate (without the shell, but with a cartridge attached - which normally isn't do-able). As per the plan from a couple of weeks ago, my self-imposed deadline is to send them the Microvision within 1 week (Apr. 20). I'll update when it's been sent.

3. Wait for them to evaluate and optimize (possibly additional steps if they need to send me more samples)

4. Send them money

5. Wait for product

6. Test product

7. Sell product

  • Like 2

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"Apr. 13: I have a Microvision pretty much ready to go. I just need to make sure it's exactly how I want it to be, to make it easy for them to evaluate (without the shell, but with a cartridge attached - which normally isn't do-able). As per the plan from a couple of weeks ago, my self-imposed deadline is to send them the Microvision within 1 week (Apr. 20). I'll update when it's been sent."

 

 

I have a working unit to which I added a card slot and cobbled up keypad for some tinkering I was doing. The bare card from a cartridge plugs in. Mounted to a rigid backing. Probably something close to this would be workable for your purposes. Added a 1/8" jack to connect a battery through.

 

15868728985176300371767826399596.jpg

 

(I was working on understanding the protocol between the cartridge and LCD controller. I thought I might build a new LCD controller that translated between that protocol and a modern LCD panel. Got sidetracked writing a game on a PIC to prove to myself that I understood the protocol. I got about 25% through writing the game then moved on other things. Maybe I'll pick it up again some day.)

Edited by BigO
Typo

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I have a question regarding the replacement-screen: There are two versions of the Microvision, the original one that needs 2x9V batteries and a later version that runs on 1x9V battery. Does this make a difference for the screen?

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7 minutes ago, dantist said:

I have a question regarding the replacement-screen: There are two versions of the Microvision, the original one that needs 2x9V batteries and a later version that runs on 1x9V battery. Does this make a difference for the screen?

didnt think of  that, ive got a 2x9 model if we end up needing comparisons between the voltage outputs from the board

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10 minutes ago, dantist said:

I have a question regarding the replacement-screen: There are two versions of the Microvision, the original one that needs 2x9V batteries and a later version that runs on 1x9V battery. Does this make a difference for the screen?

I don't think the design of the screen changed at all.

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Glad this was brought up. Most likely it doesn't matter.  I kinda have a feeling they added the other battery because it could last longer. But I could be wrong.  I have the 1x9 

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3 minutes ago, Relicgamer said:

Glad this was brought up. Most likely it doesn't matter.  I kinda have a feeling they added the other battery because it could last longer. But I could be wrong.  I have the 1x9 

wrong actually, the 2x9 was the first version, then a supply dispute made them change the processor and they found that they could get away with just one battery for about the same battery life

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Yep, and they didnt modify the case and just made the 2nd battery spot into a holder for a backup battery.

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17 hours ago, nickle241 said:

wrong actually, the 2x9 was the first version, then a supply dispute made them change the processor and they found that they could get away with just one battery for about the same battery life

It's interesting that they chose to eliminate the second battery. It had to always be optional whether or not to install it. The processor is in the cartridge, not the console. So battery life will still be relatively poor when playing a game with the less efficient processor.

 

I guess they saved the cost of the contacts and labor to install them.

Edited by BigO

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1 minute ago, BigO said:

It's interesting that they chose to eliminate the second battery. It had to always be optional whether or not to install it. The processor is in the cartridge, not the console. So battery life will still be relatively poor when playing a game with the less efficient processor.

 

I guess they saved the cost of the contacts and labor to install them.

my understanding of it is that there are two processors, the one on the main board and the one with the game stuff on it on the cartridge, the console one was originally a higher spec one that needed a higher voltage, but the later replacement while less capable needs less power and apparently the split processing meant that the games ran fine despite the downgrade, that or the first one was overkill

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8 minutes ago, nickle241 said:

my understanding of it is that there are two processors, the one on the main board and the one with the game stuff on it on the cartridge, the console one was originally a higher spec one that needed a higher voltage, but the later replacement while less capable needs less power and apparently the split processing meant that the games ran fine despite the downgrade, that or the first one was overkill

There's an LCD controller in the console. Definitely no CPU. The CPU is in the cartridge.

 

Dan Boris has put together a lot of great information: http://www.atarihq.com/danb/Microvision.shtml

 

I've reverse engineered the protocol between the cartridge and the LCD controller and subsequently wrote enough code to display whatever I want on the LCD so can confirm the architecture from that perspective.

Edited by BigO

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7 minutes ago, BigO said:

There's an LCD controller in the console. Definitely no CPU. The CPU is in the cartridge.

 

Dan Boris has put together a lot of great information: http://www.atarihq.com/danb/Microvision.shtml

 

I've reverse engineered the protocol between the cartridge and the LCD controller and subsequently wrote enough code to display whatever I want on the LCD so can confirm the architecture from that perspective.

fair enough, i knew about the cartridge processor, but the lcd controller is often described as a processor so my confusion.  it doesnt have that many pins and it seems that its a fairly simple input format, do you think it might be possible to use an led board instead of an lcd? it might be easier to produce and its not like the pixel count is high enough to shoot the idea down immediately and it seems like it could be interesting

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33 minutes ago, nickle241 said:

fair enough, i knew about the cartridge processor, but the lcd controller is often described as a processor so my confusion.  it doesnt have that many pins and it seems that its a fairly simple input format, do you think it might be possible to use an led board instead of an lcd? it might be easier to produce and its not like the pixel count is high enough to shoot the idea down immediately and it seems like it could be interesting

There were a few considerations that I allowed to talk me out trying the LED array.

 

1 - power consumption would be higher

2 - the row and column outputs switch polarity frequently to protect the LCD from some sort of damage. It needs to maintain about a 50/50 swap of polarity. This would significantly impact the brightness of the LEDs.

3 - I'm guessing that some of the "readability" of the screen relies on the persistence of LCD pixels that don't turn off instantly. LEDs turn off faster.

 

I did verify my protocol discoveries by capturing frames with a logic analyzer and using a c# program to display the image on a PC, so am fairly sure a decent microcontroller could be used to drive whatever display one could conjure up.

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23 minutes ago, BigO said:

There were a few considerations that I allowed to talk me out trying the LED array.

 

1 - power consumption would be higher

2 - the row and column outputs switch polarity frequently to protect the LCD from some sort of damage. It needs to maintain about a 50/50 swap of polarity. This would significantly impact the brightness of the LEDs.

3 - I'm guessing that some of the "readability" of the screen relies on the persistence of LCD pixels that don't turn off instantly. LEDs turn off faster.

 

I did verify my protocol discoveries by capturing frames with a logic analyzer and using a c# program to display the image on a PC, so am fairly sure a decent microcontroller could be used to drive whatever display one could conjure up.

I've done it with an Atmega chip (Arduino programming), driving a small LCD screen. Basically made a drop-in replacement motherboard:

https://atariage.com/forums/topic/250994-microvision-screen-replacement/

That way I could control the persistence myself. It worked fairly well (for some reason my programming worked perfectly on my hacked-up motherboard, but less well on the new motherboard), with 16 MHz chip, fairly optimized I/O methods (the standard Arduino I/O is pretty slow), and a screen that I wish had slightly lower resolution (would have required less data transfer). If there were a lot of changes on the screen during one pass, it would lag for a few frames, but then would catch up (there's one game that quickly flashes the screen black to white and back again).

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