Big box of PCB’s

January 30, 2020

This week saw the arrival of another big box of PCB’s. A lot of PCB’s. Some old but many new.

Arriving where some new stock of RC2014 prototype board, prototype plus boards and extender boards which I sell on Tindie.

Also in the box where some new board designs. No new RC2014 PCB’s this time but some boards for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 computers. I’ll share more details of these in the coming days and weeks.

Time to break out the soldering iron 🙂

Here’s my Tindies store.


ZX Spectrum Projects – Diagnostic & Repair

November 1, 2019

Now I’m back on my retro computers I’ve put together this quick guide for those looking to diagnose and repair ZX Spectrum computers.

Schematics and Service Manuals:

Having a set of schematics or even better a full service manual is the good thing to have before starting any repair. Fortunately for us, full schematics and service manuals for the all ZX Spectrum models are available on the web. I have my Speccy schematics printed out on the biggest paper size I’ve got access to, namely A3. The service manuals are a great place to start when looking to diagnose a fault.

Schematics and Service manuals can be found at:

World of Spectrum

Spectrum for Everyone

IC Data sheets

wikipedia
7400 series
4000 series
Zilog Z80

Diagnostic Software Tools:

Happily the ZX Spectrum has quite a few diagnostic software tools to help the would be fixer in his fault diagnostics. Most of these are based on external ROM device which avoids the need to have a fully working Speccy or the problem of loading diagnostic software from tape.

Here’s a few ROM based diagnostic tools

Brendan Alford on github has “ZX Diagnostic”

Paul Farrow of fruitcake has the following ROM tools: 128K RAM Tester & ROM Tester
he also has the official Sinclair Test ROM as well
Phil Ruston of Retroleum has the following “ZX Spectrum Diagnostic ROM”

Tools needed:

Hand tools
Side cutters
Pliers
Screw Drivers: Philips and flat blade
IC extraction tool

Soldering Iron
De-soldering tool

Multimeter

Advanced
Oscilloscope
Power Supply (Adjustable/current limited)

Diagnostic software tools (see above)

TV Monitor/Screen (or car reversing monitor for composite video)

Repair mat
Anti static wrist or foot strap
IPA Wipes (no not the beer) – Isopropyl alcohol to clean edge connectors and contacts

Good web sites:

If the your own best efforts have not yet found the problem then there several good web sites that share their repair achievements where you can search. I like the following sites:

Dave Currah of Tynemouth Software

nightfallcrew

If you’re still no wiser, then try asking on one of the various Retro Computing Forums or general electronic forums in their repair section if they have one.

Remember to share as much information about the Speccy model, what it is not doing and what you have tried so far. Avoid simple statements like “Speccy not working please help”. It goes without saying that following the forums etiquette for posting will usually get you a more productive and polite response.

World of Spectrum forums
https://www.worldofspectrum.org/forums/

These are more general forums:
atariage forums

EEV Blog fourms


Apple II Prototyping PCB’s

June 29, 2018

I recently came into possession of a Apple IIe (an enhanced Apple II from the early 80’s) and decided to build a few PCB’s to help get this old warhorse back up in running. The first board  designed was an extender card for the Apples expansion card to make testing and fault finding them a little easier. The second PCB was a prototyping board to allow me to build up various test circuits.

 

Both will be available on Tindie soon


Retro Computing with the RC2014 Bus

November 29, 2017

I have very fond memories of using and building 8-bit computers during the 1980’s, so I’ve been following Spencer Owen’s RC2014 modular 8-bit computer project with some interest. For those interest the RC2104 is a simple but very modular 8-bit microcomputer based around the Z80 microprocessor.

In its most basic form it uses a number of single row 40-pin headers (or sometimes a 39-pin header) to make a computer backplane and which takes various “computer” and add-on cards to build a system. The add-on cards currently have a choice from various Z80 CPU cards, a 6502 CPU, various sizes of RAM and ROM memory cards, serial I/O and digital I/O cards.

I was fortunate to meet Spencer at Maker Faire UK back in April 2017 and chat with him first hand about the RC2014 project and he was very open and enthusiastic about sharing all aspects of his project. So much so, a small community of fellow builders has popped up and added to the project with their own add-on cards.

 

I’ve put together a short list of RX2014 related web-sites:

https://rc2014.co.uk/
https://github.com/semachthemonkey/RC2014
https://github.com/RC2014Z80
http://www.sowen.com/tag/retro-challenge/
https://github.com/RFC2795

http://www.smbaker.com/
https://github.com/sbelectronics/rc2014

http://ancientcomputing.blogspot.co.uk/
https://github.com/ancientcomputing/rc2014

https://github.com/electrified/rc2014-ym2149

https://github.com/mattybigback/RC2014

https://github.com/anachrocomputer/RC2014tester
https://github.com/mooped/rc2014_bank_switcher
https://github.com/mooped/rc2014_tools
https://github.com/trcwm/rocket2014

Other Platforms
http://www.ndr-nkc.de/compo/index.htm //very similar system from 1980’s
http://hschuetz.selfhost.eu/ndr/doku/buch/index.html
https://www.retrobrewcomputers.org/forum/index.php?t=msg&goto=2148&
https://www.funkenzupfer.de/CMSimple_4-7-2/?NDR-Klein-Computer


R-Kade Mini pictures

May 30, 2016

It’s been a while since I last wrote about R-Kade Mini so I thought I would share a couple of new-ish pictures. These were taken at Maker Faire UK in April.

R-Kade Mini Makerfaire2016-small

Instead of painting the cabinet I used black clothes dye instead. I’m please to report it work much better than I thought it would, giving it a nice flat black finish with no brush marks or paint smears. The decals were a mix of ones I printed off and some I bought off ebay. All in all I very pleased how it all turned out.

R-Kade Mini & Zero Makerfaire2016-small


Hackaday.io: R-Kade Zero

February 26, 2016

I forgot to mention, you can also find build details on hackaday.io:

https://hackaday.io/project/9844-r-kade-zero


Son of R-Kade

September 29, 2015

Sequels are always an interesting proposition. Some are as good or better than the original, for me the film Aliens is a great example of this. Some sequels take things in a different direction, again I’ll use Aliens as an example for this: action vs. horror. But in reality most sequels are just pants 🙂

R-Kade_eDay4_1_small
So when the Raspberry Pi foundation announced their 7″ Touch LCD Screen, I knew I wanted to make a sequel to my Raspberry Pi powered bar top arcade cabinet: R-Kade.

I designed R-Kade for the Raspberry Pi way back in December 2012 after wanting to build an Arcade Cabinet but never having the space for a full size cab and the Pi’s small size offered me a chance to make something on a smaller scale. It was built it in early 2013 and took it to the Maker Faire UK in Newcastle in April of that year. It’s been to every Maker Faire UK since, Edinburgh Mini Maker Fire twice, eDay three times and numerous other maker events. I finally got around to updating its wiring earlier this year by designing and making “ArcadeIO”, an joystick and button input interface HAT-like board. Whilst it is built like a tank and has taken almost every abuse the eager punters have thrown at it, it was always a big and cumbersome thing to carry to events. So with new 7″ LCD in hand here goes…

opening sequence:

Son of R-Kade

R-Kade7_1_small

R-Kade7_2_small

p.s. Here’s hoping its not as bad as Phantom Menace (oh wait a minute that was that a prequel)