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bbking67

The PBI Device We Need

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I was an early adopter of the ICD Multi I/O, and for me this device was incredible, though it did have some flaws.  In the modern era it's mostly obsolete mind you.  That got me to thinking about what a modern PBI device should have or do.  Some of the shortcomings of the MIO are the unfulfilled 80 Column display, speed of the serial ports, and of course the proprietary serial and parallel port connectors.

 

For me, the PBI device I need in 2020 would be:

 

Super fast serial ports (how fast could you go with a PBI device?)

So the MIO was very limited in terms of speed and was not able to go beyond 19,200.  It would still be useful to have speeds which are at least double or triple that speed.  The faster the better!  I know the serial port is somewhat obsolete at this point but there are still some useful applications including RS232 over IP devices.  How fast would be possible on a stock 800XL/130XE?

 

Fast true 80 Column output (with screen handler compatible with some existing programs)

I actually used the XEP80 quite a bit and I appreciate the crisp output.  It's a nice device, but using the joystick port for data transmission always seemed like such a hack.  I have read on many occasions that the XEP80 chip was quite capable, so a device similar to the XEP80 but with a high speed connection would be very nice.  I also thought it was cool that the XEP80 could be used at the same time as a standard display.  As for output, well composite would be the minimum (composite to a monochrome display was always very crisp with the XEP80), but something more modern would be the best.  VGA, DVI or HDMI would be ideal.

 

Standard DB9 serial ports and a 25 pin Parallel port (basically the same ports as an IBM PC)

This is a longstanding gripe for me as I always hated the weird cable connections.  I'm not sure why they used the weird cable layout, I guess it was using the "850 standard".

 

Now given that there are a number of amazing storage devices out there, I wouldn't pollute the device with storage, RAM, etc and these would just increase cost.  For me standard ports and 80 column remain some of the biggest gaps for the XL/XE.

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The fastest data throughput you can get from a 1.7mhz 6502 is about 200Kbytes/sec.  You can subtract from that any cpu time and propogation delay caused by software/hardware handshaking.. But theoretically, you could could probably do over a megabit/sec if everything was reasonably well implemented.  What would be the point? No standard RS232 device operates at that speed. 

 

I think that something like the Fujinet on PBI would fill/replace many roles. 

 

As far as crisp 80 columns, get a VBXE and a 14khz capable analog RGB display..  

 

As far as the nonstandard MIO DB9/DB25 ports..  I hear ya..   I corrected them on my reproduction MIO board design. There are at least 35 MIOs out there somewhere that have PC-standard serial & parallel ports.. 

 

 

Edited by MEtalGuy66
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I'm not really interested in RS232 or a printer port, but an affordable 80-column solution would be really nice. VBXE is nice and all, but it's over $100 with shipping, and you need to buy an RGB capable monitor.

 

Years ago, I did this: https://os.mbed.com/forum/mbed/topic/2459/?page=1. Something similar could be done on an ESP32. Connect it to the joystick port and emulate an XEP80. I believe somebody on AA is trying to recreate the XEP80.

 

One could also create a similar device, but connect to SIO for higher transfer speeds. New E:/S: driver needs to be written though.

 

PBI is also an option, that will be more expensive. Especially if you want it to act like a real PBI device and load its device driver at boot time and replace the 40 column driver, respect PBI device numbering, etc...

Edited by ivop

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Sophia2 is also around the $100 price point and it doesn't give 80 columns.  I understand there's some issues with connectivity, but if almost no software exists for VBXE after a decade, and less exists for XEP-80 after 3 decades, I don't understand why people keep trying to create more and more devices for 80 columns rather than making what we have work, or at least writing software for what we have.

 

If we don't have software for 2 devices, having 5 different devices is not going to help the situation.

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I don't think you can compare Sophia2 and VBXE in that way. Sophia2 is a lot easier to connect to modern display devices.

 

As for the lack of software needing/using 80 columns, I agree with you.

 

My main usage case of 80 columns would be applications that use the E: driver. Spartados, TLW, (Turbo) Basic, etc....

 

Edit: IMHO it would be nice to have a device costing €30-€40 which just does that.

 

Edit2: Here's the thread about recreating the XEP80: https://atariage.com/forums/topic/313783-attempt-at-recreating-the-xep80/#comments

 

Edited by ivop
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2 hours ago, bbking67 said:

 

Standard DB9 serial ports and a 25 pin Parallel port (basically the same ports as an IBM PC)

Something like this :) , was built when the Centronics 36 pin and RS232 25 pin were standards, but easy to change those plugs.

 

 

 

 

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22 minutes ago, ivop said:

I don't think you can compare Sophia2 and VBXE in that way. Sophia2 is a lot easier to connect to modern display devices.

 

 

The VBXE is relatively easy to connect to modern display devices as well, it just isn't cheap.

 

Cool Novelties sells an RGB/SCART cable that will plug into an OSSC, and then out to pretty much any HDMI compatible display you'd like to use it on. Again, with an OSSC running $150+ this isn't a cheap option though. Also, while the cable was designed with the 1088XEL in mind, I believe it would work with any VBXE upgraded Atari 8-bit, as long as you used a similar connector when you installed the VBXE in your machine.

 

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Personally I'm not looking for a count of 80-columns software, or things like Visicalc updated, even if that'd be cool.

 

I specifically need a solid code editor, DOS, and one terminal emulator to be at 80-column.    VBXE is close.   I have LastWord, although I don't use it, as yet.  First time I went to use it, the code needed me to print an ATASCII clear screen character.

Which I normally type by "Esc ctrl+clear"

 

Atascii $7D....I do that in Last Word, it does nothing.  So I search the docs on ATASCII and find instructions like  CODE, code, ATASCII Attach code "ATASCI" to key code "code"

 

Which means absolutely nothing to me....but eventually I will ask someone how they are typign atascii characters.  Btw, how are you typing atascii characters?

 

 

BobTerm works with XEP, VBXE has a demo VBXE color ansi terminal.

 

I've got my VBXE cabling going to a scart style connector, then a $40 scart converter taking it to HDMI, and that works great for me.  But I rather suspect as folks buy sophia2 for output, they aren't also going to buy a VBXE.

Just as I am not going to find the sophia 2 as tempting because I want one output that also supports 80-column.

 

If someone just came out with a solution for both 80-column and direct to hdmi output, then I'd probably buy in.  Looking for 15khz crt monitors isn't in my plans.

 

 

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13 minutes ago, Dmitry said:

Btw, how are you typing atascii characters?

CTRL+ESC, then the desired CTRL code. It's in the manual. There's also a control key mode which removes the need to escape the control characters at all.

 

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17 minutes ago, flashjazzcat said:

CTRL+ESC, then the desired CTRL code. It's in the manual. There's also a control key mode which removes the need to escape the control characters at all.

 

 

Thanks, but I'm having a mental block

 

CTRL+ESC, then left off the keys, then type 125

 

Prints literally the numbers 125.

 

Holding down CRTL+ESC for a length of time starts print an inverse down arrow.

 

I hate that I take up all this time or even thread space, but....here I am.  So, on the manual, I searched on keyword ATASCII, I didn't find what i needed.  Could you tell me the page, I'll just peruse that for a while.

 

 

Update:

CTRL+ESC CTRL+<

 

Prints a "." on the screen.

 

After playign with other key combinations, that seems to access an international characterset.  So it seems that I would then need to configure LW to use an atascii character set....

 

OK, getting closer, I guess, :)

 

Thanks

 

Edited by Dmitry

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32 minutes ago, Dmitry said:

CTRL+ESC CTRL+<

The dot is a padding character, but is actually the character with code 125. It will never appear as the crooked arrow since it is internally redefined as said padding character.

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5 minutes ago, flashjazzcat said:

The dot is a padding character, but is actually the character with code 125. It will never appear as the crooked arrow since it is internally redefined as said padding character.

thanks! another mystery solved.

 

 

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5 hours ago, MEtalGuy66 said:

 

The fastest data throughput you can get from a 1.7mhz 6502 is about 200Kbytes/sec.  You can subtract from that any cpu time and propogation delay caused by software/hardware handshaking.. But theoretically, you could could probably do over a megabit/sec if everything was reasonably well implemented.  What would be the point? No standard RS232 device operates at that speed. 

 

 

 

 

Oh for sure there is a practical limit to the speed required for the serial ports... it would be great to have something decently fast (faster than a 56kpbps modem).  Being able to use laplink cables and various RS-232 devices wopuld be nice.  I was always disappointed that the MIO couldnt work well with 28.8 and higher modems...

 

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4 hours ago, TGB1718 said:

Something like this :) , was built when the Centronics 36 pin and RS232 25 pin were standards, but easy to change those plugs.

 

 

 

 

I think the typical Centronics is a 36-pin connector at the printer end, but the computer side is 25 pin (on an IBM PC).  Something like this...

 

https://www.amazon.ca/Startech-Com-PB6_-Centronics-Parallel-Printer/dp/B0002XGHAC

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I think beside having a fast RS232 port, it would be nice to have PBI card(s) supporting modern smart home protocols like enocean, DMX/Artnet, 1-Wire, XBee, Z-Wave, MQTT, Dali etc.

 

Would be nice to have our Atari’s integrated into SmartHomes.

But in order to have some one to develop such add on cards there must be a base board in my opinion, like the 1090 was thought for, to provide a stable bus and additional power to not draw everything from the mainboard. Maybe as well manage the PBI device IDs and address decoding so that the cards software does not need to take care for that.

 

But that will be just my dream.

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What'd be nice is if they'd provided the /Halt signal which the ECI has.  Then possibly we could do DMA read/write access which could mean IO speeds only limited by cycles lost to Antic screen and refresh cycles.

Then we could have faster SD card access and may as well throw a blitter in there as well.  And may as well throw in a bit of external Ram and have the blitter capable of rendering character and bitmap softsprites.

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6 hours ago, ivop said:

I believe somebody on AA is trying to recreate the XEP80.

We are actually recreating the ACE80, ACE80XL and DT80 carts, and they will be out in a couple of weeks.  :)
 

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80 column for sure I would put at the top of the list. The XEP 80 is nice but without a way to access its memory, it's no good for code editing. I've been looking at the VBXE but it's certainly a lot more work than using an Antic display. As has been mentioned, RGB monitors are unicorns here, so that's an issue. Modem, printer, sure, maybe USB or some kind of ethernet interface would be nice. Forget about HD access, just stick a SD card or two on it should suffice. I asked Puff the other night if he was up for a V2 Black Box and he just laughed. :;

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9 minutes ago, Rybags said:

What'd be nice is if they'd provided the /Halt signal which the ECI has.  Then possibly we could do DMA read/write access which could mean IO speeds only limited by cycles lost to Antic screen and refresh cycles.

Then we could have faster SD card access and may as well throw a blitter in there as well.  And may as well throw in a bit of external Ram and have the blitter capable of rendering character and bitmap softsprites.

Or a coprocessor for fast math like a 68882. 

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1 hour ago, Spancho said:

 

Would be nice to have our Atari’s integrated into SmartHomes.

 

 

Yeah, at first thought, this sounds really cool. To be able to monitor things from our Ataris. To be able to edit our own code for our security systems and tweak it to our hearts content. Yeah, those things sound great at first, but for something like that, our beloved old Ataris would need to be connected and on 24/7. That could almost be considered abuse at the advanced ages of most of our machines. While I like playing with mine and want to keep them around forever, I know they won't last forever, so I wouldn't want to waste any of my machines' potential future lives on something like monitoring smart home features.

 

To each their own though.

 

Edited by bfollowell

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The 6551 Asynchronous Communications Interface Adapter used in the MIO/Black Box has an internal baud rate generator that maxes out at 19,200, however it can also run at 1/16 of an external clock signal.

 

Western Design Center makes pin compatible CMOS versions of the 6551, the W65C51S documentation lists maximum of 19,200 using the internal baud rate generator or at 1/16 of an external clock signal without a listing of maximum speed, the W65C51N documentation does list 115,200 baud using an external clock of 1.8432MHz. This would be about the maximum transfer speed of a 56K modem with hardware compression enabled, it is also the maximum baud rate of the 16550 UART.

 

So an MIO/Black Box may be capable of 115,200 baud by adding a 1.8432MHz external clock connected to the 6551 ACIA(may also require a W65C51N), and modified firmware.

 

The W65C51N is available from Mouser, price is currently US$7.20ea

 

Atari isn't to blame for the 850 port compatibility issues(it was designed in 1978-1979 after all, if anything Atari was years ahead in reducing the size of the ports, at the time the Centronics 36-pin connector was the standard printer port. I believe the DB25 parallel printer port was introduced on the IBM PC in 1981, and DE9 serial port was introduced on the IBM PC-AT in 1984.

Edited by BillC
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7 hours ago, bfollowell said:

 

Yeah, at first thought, this sounds really cool. To be able to monitor things from our Ataris. To be able to edit our own code for our security systems and tweak it to our hearts content. Yeah, those things sound great at first, but for something like that, our beloved old Ataris would need to be connected and on 24/7. That could almost be considered abuse at the advanced ages of most of our machines. While I like playing with mine and want to keep them around forever, I know they won't last forever, so I wouldn't want to waste any of my machines' potential future lives on something like monitoring smart home features.

 

My son had a 130XE programmed as a clock/alarm clock up and running for several years, switched off during a few weeks of vacation only. We don't have A/C so temperatures ranged between 20 and 35C. It still works. No claim for this to be representative of course. 

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15 minutes ago, slx said:

a 130XE programmed as a clock/alarm clock

Seeting up an Atari as an alarm clock is probably one of the best ways to start hating the sounds it emits :D

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Hi,

 

   I was wondering about whether something based on the Uno Cart https://github.com/robinhedwards/UnoCart would make a good PBI device. I think there are faster chips available now, probably with more onboard memory, but @Wrathchild has done some pretty impressive demos using the STM chip on the Uno Cart: 

 

  Something that supports more memory, wifi and an sd card would be pretty useful.

 

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