MEGA Audio by a2heaven.com: Quick look

3_cards_s

MEGA Audio is a new audio card from a2heaven.com – developed by Plamen Vaysilov, for Apple II that holds inside several audio cards itself. It supports emulation of several different kinds of audio cards that were/are available for Apple II-computers, all-in-one:

2 x Mockingboard-cards (no support for SSI-263 speech chips emulation)
1 x A.L.F.-card
4 x S.A.M.-cards (4 x DAC)

MEGA Audio uses the internal speaker signal and routes it thru the emulated cards for output without connecting the cable from i.e. Mockingboard-card to motherboard connector. So you can hear the “beeb!” from better speakers now as well..

 

What it emulates?

mockingboard_a_s
Mockingboard:

Originally by Sweet Micro Systems with different versions.

The sound was generated through two AY-3-8910 chips for six audio channels and had two open sockets for optional SSI-263 speech chips (depending of the card model).

It worked in Apple II models with 48k RAM or more. Lots of software that had Mockingboard support, often needed 64k or 128k.

Support for Mockingboard-audio card on software/games was somehow limited. About 30 games/software supported the Mockingboard.  Very few games even supported dual mockingboards like “Ultima V” as well some modern Apple II-demos as well.

The known games/software supporting the Mockingboard:

Adventure Construction Set
Apple Cider Spider 
Berzap! (A clone of the classic arcade game, Berzerk!)
Broadsides 
Crimewave (Speech support)
Crypt of Medea (Speech support)
Cybernoid Music Disk
Guitar Master – Guitar tutoring
Lady Tut (Specific Mockingboard version)
Lancaster
Microbe
Mockingboard software (Sweet Micro Systems)
Mockingboard Developers Kit
Mockingboard Speech Developers Kit
Music Construction Set
Music Star (Patched version)
Night Flight
Oid Zone (Michael Packard)
One on One (Opening sequence music only)
Phasor software (Applied Engineering)
Popeye
Rescue Raiders v1.3 – (Speech support)
Silent Service 
Skyfox
Spy Strikes Back
Thunder Bombs
Ultima III
Ultima IV
Ultima V (Dual Mockingboards)
Under Fire
Willy Byte
Zaxxon (Mockingboard version)

 

 alf-mc1-a2heaven_s
A.L.F. -card “Apple Music II / Music Card MC1”

The ALF uses 3x SN76489N chips, thus allowing nine simultaneous voices (similar to three MC16 cards). Rather than starting at the same pitch as the lowest note on a piano (A0, the A below the C three octaves below Middle C) like the MC16, the MC1 started 15 semitones higher,  at C2 (the C two octaves below middle C; and rather than having an 8-octave (96 semitone) range,  it had a 6-octave (72 semitone) range. The Music Card MC16’s software was modified to operate the MC1. 

 sam_card_s
Software Automated Mouth-speech card (S.A.M.)

Is a versatile, 8-bit digital-to-analog converter, high-quality speech synthesizer card, created entirely on software and it does therefore have an built in timer module as Mockingboard-card does. It is easy to use and program with simple statements with BASIC or assembly-language. You can use the S.A.M. features directly from Applesoft or Assembler-language.

The card is now also supported by “Drum8 – 8-bit Apple II Drum Machine software” with 16 sounds, 8 simultanious, real time edit with mouse and 256-step pattern sequencer.

 

MEGA AUDIO HARDWARE:

 megaaudio_retail_s

MEGA Audio is based on Lattice small FPGA. Firmware (written by “Bulgarian Woz” Mr.Plamen Vaysilov) for the FPGA emulates chips of the audio cards supported by MEGA Audio: AY8910, VIA 6522, SN76489N and discrete logic using in these cards. The firmware is trying to be as close as possible to the original design of these cards hardware and emulate it. The card can route the internal speaker audio directly to external speakers without any extra cable.

The S.A.M.-card have one DAC assigned on address C0XH (X is 8+slot number and (Slot 1 = C090), H is a any address from 0..F, C0X0..C0XF). When you write value to address C0XH you set analog voltage on output and if you write fast on this port with some values you can make voltage shape of sound. So MEGA Audio have 4 DAC’s independendly assigned to C0X0..C0X3 therefore you can make 4 audio shapes in same time – 4 channels of S.A.M.

The supplied LED-equalizer unit comes with cable (50cm/19.5inch) – it is attached the connector on top of the MEGA Audio-card.

led_info_s
External LED-equalizer display:

Displays the activity of each channel in colored bar-formation. For example for the dual-Mockingboard setup the visuals would be:

-Mockingboard #1 Green    Left channel
-Mockingboard #1 Yellow    Right channel
-Mockingboard #2 Red       Left channel
-Mockingboard #2 Blue      Right channel

leds_3ledsleds_2

The led equalizer-bar-displays can be swapped to another style if desired. The type is: “10 Segment Bargraph Light”.

 

 card_led_colors_s
MEGA Audio-card leds:

When enabled and in use, the MEGA Audio-card’s led colors cycle thru rainbow colors, speed of cycling is dependent of frequency of the output of each channel.

 

INSTALLATION:

installed_s

MEGA Audio works in any slot (expect AUX in Apple //e). Depending of the emulated audio card you are using – they often need to be installed in certain slot, for example Mockingboard in #4, ALF in #2 and SAM in #4. Some games/software, allow you to setup the slot where the card is located, but not always. Some games that autodetect the Mockingboard and the slot & might have issues doing so if you are also having accelerator like FASTchip //e installed and running faster speeds then just 1MHz. Just slow it down and try again. This is not MEGA Audio problem.

For the audio we need either external active speakers attached or headphones (if those have audio level adjustment, the better).

 
setup_s
My testing setup:

Apple //e platinum

SLOT / CARD 
#7 CFFA 3000 & Smartport #7
#6 For Disk II-virtual slot (CFFA 3000)
#5 MEGA Audio : Mockingboard 1 / SAM (depending which one you are using)
#4 MEGA Audio : Mockingboard 2
#3 -empty-
#2 MEGA Audio : ALF 
#1 FASTchip //e
#AUX RamWorks III+VGA add-on adapter

+ External active speakers
+ Headphones
+ Attached external led-equalizer display module

ENTER THE MEGA AUDIO CONTROL PANEL:

You can access the MEGA Audio-card Control panel settings from monitor by typing:

]CALL -151 [ENTER] – to enter the monitor
*CFFF    [ENTER]
*CX00   [ENTER] X = slot number where MEGA Audio is installed, for example C400 (Slot 4)
*C800G [ENTER]


megaaudio_menu_s
MEGA Audio Control panel:

Here you can change and save the configuration:

Slot # – what emulated audio card is using which slot. In this case the setup is as : #2 ALF (A), #3 Mockingboard 2 (m), #4 Mockingboard 1 (M) and #5 SAM (S).

Output – If you want the output being Stereo or Mono. Mixing all chanels with one (mono mode audio) for example SAM outputs only in right channel with this option.

Light – if you want to turn the led’s of the MEGA Audio-card itself, On/Off.

Speaker – for speaker audio level adjustment – that is output to the MEGA Audio and the speakers.

 

HOW IT SOUNDS?

-Mockingboard & Mockingboard dual:

I played around many different Mockingboard-supported games and they all worked fine and sounded as with any Mockingboard-card. It is so great to have the same quality audio when playing games that the other 8-bit computers had in the 80’s.. sadly the Mockingboard did not get more support than it did. I found new favorite game, Night Flight! 

Tested also music disks like “Chiptunes” and “Not So Cheap Tunes” that did sound absolutely fantastic and i kept coming back to it and listening them as a backgroung music when i was doing other things. There’s also some demos that support Mockingboard, released by the great late French Touch. Also some modern games like Michael Packard’s “Oid Zone” supports the Mockingboard.

There’s only few known games with Dual Mockingboard-support, i.e. Ultima V that also have menu where you can listen the songs used in the game. Those are 12-channel tunes and they do sound fantastic, specially when you turn up the volume! Ultima IV says it would support dual Mockingboard but i could not get it working. I had Mockingboard’s configured to slots #4 and #5 – even you can also configure them at the menu as well to other slots. The reason for it is mostlikely bug in the Ultima IV’s code. There’s also music disk by French Touch that have dual Mockingboard support (12-channels) and wow, that did sound different and fantastic. It’s hard to believe it’s the same old Apple II with the “beeb” you’be used to listening! 

Some videos:
Night Flight : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFnSj0-q0LY
Chiptunes (#2) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b75ZsO63SU8
French Touch 12ch music disk : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ug7TIpg2Vc
Ultima V (12ch) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tZNJyWEhek
Popeye – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBUjGqfAsTs
Ultima IV – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bv-TsecFaE
Skyfox – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV3DnszTxJ0

-A.L.F:

Usually used in Slot 2 but is configurable with the software.

Played the ALF Album disk – series and they did sound just like the vintage, or the clone, ALF-card would have. I however did not try to compose any music of my own (due my limited musical limitations). But if you’re into composing your own vintage computer music, this is an another possibility for you. Sadly the ALF-card did not get more support, it was great audio card of it’s time!

ALF music player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-GU4Lgns24

-S.A.M. / Software Automated Mouth:

Usually used in slot #4.

Played around the old SAM speech disks that demonstrate the synthesization capabilities of the card. It is always fun to hear computer to speak. And the possibility to use it with your own Applesoft programs makes it even more fun and opens more possiblities.

Drum8 (Slot 5) – Absolutely great drum machine software if you are into making your own music. It supports 16 sounds, 8 simultanious, real time edit with mouse or keyboard and 256-step pattern sequencer. The quality was nice, but i am not much of a musician (more or less blues/guitar picker) to get more out of it but i played around and i was able to create some sort of a background beat for a song! The editor is quite easy to use.

I suggest you to take a look of it if you have the beat with you: https://blog.juicylizard.com/drum8-apple-ii-8-bit-drum-machine/

SAM Speech (demo): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73X_zTTocZU
SAM Speech (#2) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCtahfcyvGY
Drum8 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVy0H9bxvjE
Drum8 “RockIt” : https://soundcloud.com/user-352744039/drum8-megaaudio-rockitwav

 

CONCLUSIONS AND THOUGHTS:

The card very handy and convinient by size, about the size of the FASTchip //e and supports many audio cards for Apple II -serie of computers. It’s reasonably priced card if you need to have several different types of audio cards in your Apple II. Having Mockingboard in optional dual-setup is already very interesting and possible deal-maker for some. We can hope more support in form of new games or demos, will appear after this kind of setup being so easily had (Michael are you paying attention..).

Accessing the Control panel menu thru monitor & commands is not difficult, but it would be more convinient if it could be done while booting the Apple II by pressing some key, like with FASTchip //e for example. The need to configure the slots within the MEGA Audio might not be something you need to do often however, depending your needs of course.

Audio quality, with my setups, was excellent. I had some humming when using old vintage 90’s PC-desktop active speakers but less, if any, with modern, quite new Lenovo desktop speakers. But then again, rarely those cheap active speakers are that high quality. With iPhone headphones the humming noise was clearly heard but not with better quality over-the-ear type. Routing the headphone-cable better away from the computer, might help if you have long enough cable to do so. The (dual) 12-channel Mockingboard sound was really awesome, rich and clear, sadly not much supported by software. The “regular” Mockingboad audio, i found myself listening Chiptunes and Not So Cheap Tunes -music disks as a background music when i was doing something else elsewhere. Those just sound that good!

The idea of having more than one audio card built-in is just plain genius! I wonder if Applied Engineering’s Phasor-card would have been added as well, even it’s basicly the same as two Mockingboads and why not then… bear with me, SID-chip? There is soundcards supporting SID for even BBC Micro called “beebSID”. So maybe we’ll see updaded MEGA Audio Pro someday?

If you don’t have Mockingboard card already, this is one way to get it and more, in one small package for the price of one.

 a2heaven_logo

Available soon at : https://www.a2heaven.com/webshop/
Estimated price for MEGA Audio is $85 + $20 for the Equalizer display (free shipping everywhere)

  

FinApple 2018 (c)
Apple II Forever.

 

NOTE : The FinApple is having issues with WordPress and hyperlinks can not be added correctly. The blog will be moved to another domain some time soon….

 

Half-height slim-floppy drives:

top-front_s
Got these from a friend as a trade. He had saved these from the 80’s and not used them ever since. These were once used in a local textile factory close by his home. 

bottom_s
Bottom-view. Just different color from the bottom. The mechanism looks the same on both however they do sound totally different when reading the floppy.

cec-e_with_two_drives_s
I wanted these as the original Apple II disk drive, Disk II-drive didn’t boot for some reason with the CEC-E (it did with CEC-I). Disk II-drive did power up, but it would not boot or read anything from it. These drives work just fine (as i thought) and they are quite quiet as well. And they do look nice with the clone that CEC-E certainly is.

cec-e_with_one_drive_saxxon_s2
Zaxxon time! The colors look bit off. I think some component on the board is having issues as the picture starts to degrade after few minutes when the CEC-E is been turned on untill it’s totally unreadable mess. An another project then with another time…..

FinApple 2018 (c)
Apple II Forever.

A2heaven products for the summer.. coming soon!

a2heaven_logo

FastChip //c

fc2c_s
This summer you’ll be able to ACCELERATE your Apple //c up to 16.6MHz!
Easy to install, easy to adjust speed, all you ever need for your Apple //c. If it would be faster, it would be I-N-S-A-N-E.

RamWorks III VGA add-on-card (PAL/NTSC)

all_top_s
RamWorks III VGA add-on card is very handy add-on card to your Applied Engineering (or equilevant) RamWorks III card.
This add-on board enables you to use VGA-monitors with your Apple //e (PAL or NTSC) and save up an slot compared to other
VGA-solutions. There’s never too many slots!

Color modes available are as of:
1 – Colour
2 – Colour Alternative
3 – Shades of Green
4 – Shades of White
5 – Mono – Green
6 – Mono – White
7 – Mono – Amber
8 – Mono – Green (Bold)
9 – Mono – White (Bold)
10 – Mono – Amber (Bold)

 

MegaAudio

ma_s
Mega Audio is audio card for your Apple II that holds inside several audio cards itself. It supports emulation of :
2 * MockingBoards , 1 * ALF , 4x * SAM cards .

 

ALL THESE ARE SOON AVAILABLE AT : https://www.a2heaven.com/webshop

Apple II and CP/M:

digital_research
CP/M being very popular Operating system back in the 70’s and early 80’s, lots of CP/M (soft) cards were made for the Apple II as well. One of the first ones was released by Microsoft, called “Z-80 Softcard” in 1980 and being first hardware product released by Microsoft. That card then was obiously cloned by Taiwanese and other manufacturers.

Wikipedia:
The Z-80 SoftCard is a plug-in coprocessor card developed by Microsoft to turn the Apple II personal computer into a CP/M system based upon the Zilog Z80 CPU. Becoming the most popular CP/M platform and Microsoft’s top revenue source for 1980, it was eventually renamed the Microsoft SoftCard and was succeeded by Microsoft’s Premium Softcard IIe for the Apple IIe.

Introduced in 1980 as Microsoft’s first hardware product, and bundled with the Microsoft BASIC programming language, the Z-80 SoftCard is a coprocessor card enabling the Apple II to run the Digital Research CP/M operating system, which was the industry-standard operating system for running business software. This gives Apple II users access to many more business applications, including compilers and interpreters for several high-level languages. CP/M, one of the earliest cross-platform operating systems, is easily adaptable to a wide range of auxiliary chips and peripheral hardware, but it requires an Intel 8080-compatible CPU, which the Zilog Z80 is, but which the Apple’s CPU, the MOS Technology 6502, is not. The SoftCard has a Zilog Z80 CPU plus some 74LS00 series TTL chips to adapt that processor’s bus to the Apple bus.

 Recent additions:my_cards_s
I came across few interesting cards made by Applied Engineering (Z-80 Plus) and Personal Computer Products Inc. (APPLI-CARD) and those run either 4 or 6mhz. These are the high-quality cards and not just plain clones.

setof_s
I think this picture of the set was from ebay:

floppy_s
Software:

box_s
Box of the set:

Applied Engineering Z-80 Plus (Z80 @ 4mHz)
http://ae.applearchives.com/all_apple_iis/z-80_plus/z-80_plus_brochure.pdf

Personal Computer Products Inc. APPLI-CARD (Z80 @ 4mhz or 6mhz)
http://apple2online.com/web_documents/appli-card_manual.pdf
http://apple2online.com/web_documents/pcpi_mini_manual.pdf

CP/M by Digital Research:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CP/M

FinApple (c) 2018.
Apple ][ forever.

Apple II-software tapes

Thanks to Marko for these Apple II tape donations. These were first Apple II software tapes released by Apple Computer Inc. , in my collection.

COLOR DEMOSOFT / LITTLE BRICK OUT
600-2023-00
1979

ALIGNMENT TEST TONE / RENUMBER/APPEND
600-2024-00
1979

These are naturally digitized and preserved by the great Antoine Vignau of Brutal Deluxe at :
http://www.brutaldeluxe.fr/projects/cassettes/apple/

 

apple_ii_software_tapes_s

FinApple 2018 (c)
Apple ][ forever.

Chinese pirated Apple II manuals (中国盗版苹果ii手册)

chinese_copy_manuals_s

These Chinese pirated/copied Apple II books/user’s guides were obtained from Sweden (Peter Fuks) last year. These are quite faithful copies of the originals, only printed in cheaper paper and all copyrights/product info removed as one would imagine..

– Apple II User’s Guide
– Visiterm User’s Guide
– Apple 6502 Assembler/Editor
– Apple Writer
– Apple Writer II
– Bag of Tricks
– Beneath Apple DOS
– User’s Guide Lisa 2.5

FinApple 2018 (c)
Apple ][ forever.

From Belgium with Floppies

“Floppies! Floppies! Let there be FLOPPIES.”

Bryan Bogaert sent these floppies to be preserved. One never knows what there is to be found.

box_s

What software were used:
-As most of the disks were not originals, not protected ones, i just used CFFA3000 to read the disk images (.dsk) out of the floppies. That’s the most easy/realible way to get the images read quick. For more difficult ones, or slightly protected ones, ADTPro could be used to read the .nib file, but currently i don’t have ethernet based network setup in my mancave/hobby/work-room so i had to skip that in this moment.

floppies_around_s

Any intersting finds?
Lots of basic stuff. Cracked game collections (i’m specially interested finding software cracked by European, less known, groups or persons), AppleWorks, DOS-masters -the basic stuff really.

ghostbusters_crack_screen
Cracked by some Dutch group/person:

itt_floppy_sBut atleast something very interesting, i found software made for the Apple ][ clone, ITT 2020!
Basic-Couse and some financing products labeled as “Bell Telephone Mfg. Co. Retail Management Program – Verkoop en Facturatie and Stock -en Klantenbeheer”. There were versions 1.0, 2.0 and 2.1 but all i could find were version 2.0 and 2.1. Those disks were really in bad shape, the mylar surface was badly grooved in few tracks. Cleaning did not help on that.

passported_sFew i could read with the Passport by 4am and it revealed that those were actually protected with DOS3.3P.

Also found some Dutch PD-collections:
-Apple Gebruikersgroep Amsterdam : Het Diskschift
-Software Bibliotheek Stichting Apple 2 Support
-IAC Klok-series

Images that did not contain any personal data, were uploaded to archive.org and asimov.

FinApple 2018
Apple ][ forever.

A peeled Apple IIe

Finally got around framing this cool Apple IIe poster. “A peeled Apple IIe”. It seems to be from Australia, so far i could find the “Kurrawood Computers” was located in NSW, Australia. It’s not in perfect condition, but when placed under the glass it does look good.

It’s good addition to my mancave/work-room wall.

apple_iie_poster_s

FinApple 2018 (c)
Apple ][ forever.

 

WiModem232 w/OLED

What and Why? BBS’s and modems in 2018?

wimodem232_s
WiModem232 with oled-display / www.cbmstuff.com

From cbmstuff.com:

  • WiModem232 is an internet modem for (any) computer with RS232 interface port that
    emulates Hayes compatible modem. Plugging the WiModem232 to the serial port and you
    can connect to BBS’s anywhere, in 2018.
  • The WiModem232 requires access to your local router and supports easy WIFI-setup inc.
    WPS one-button setup.
  • Firmware updates are done using simple command that fetches the lastest firmware from the cmbstuff.com server and updates the WiModem232 without even having to remove the WiModem232 from your computer.
  • WiModem232 supports 300 to 115200 baud.
  • This model have 128×64 pixel OLED screen.
  • Requires external 5v power using Mini-B type USB-connector.
  • WiModem232 controlls all standard RS-232 lines: Rx, Tx, RTS, CTS, DSR, DTR, DCD and RI.
    So you can run your own BBS!

Using the WiModem232:

I haven’t used modems since late 80’s (calling to BBS’s) so this was all “new” to me again. I had no idea what to do really, so it was all learning from almost zero to me again. I had a huntch of cause…

So i started with buying an DB25-DB25 -cable that i connected to the WiModem232 and Apple’s own Super Serial Card II. The WiModem232 would benefit from a enclosure but right now there is no such thing available. The cbmstuff.com does have it coming (you can print/get it printed yourself) however.

I tried using different versions of ProTerm but for time being, i could make the ProTerm v1.9p working only.

Super Serial Card II -settings (thanks to Jeremy Apple@a80sappleiibbs)
-Block facing to MODEM (Jemery’s setup was facing to “Terminal”, but i could only get it working like this)
DIP-switches:
#1 OFF,ON,OFF,ON,OFF,OFF,OFF
#2 ON,ON,ON,ON,OFF,OFF,OFF
(you can check your SSC-cards manual for the DIP-switch settings & details)

settings_s2
 ProTerm v1.9p :
-Modem: Null modem Driver (RTS/CTS)
-Port: Apple Super Serial Card (Slot #2)
-300 Baud (for setup)

Basic commands :

ATI – that gives information from the device itself, good indication the connection is working. The WiModem232 display says “looking for router” untill the connection is been established.

AT*N – to see list of available wireless networks you have access to.

AT*SSID NETWORKNAME,PASSPHRASE – to connect your wireless network with passphrase. Connecting is possible with WPS as well if you choose to do so.

connected_s
connected

When connection was made i changed the connection type to TELNET with command:
AT*T1

calling_bbs_s

..and made connection to BBS with : ATDT a80sappleiibbs.ddns.net:6502

And voi’la. It worked.

There actually were a firmware update for the WiModem232 and it downloaded quite quick and worked fine. You can install updates with command AT*UPDATE.

Download the .pdf manual from cbmstuff.com website for more details.

Happy BBS’ing!

FinApple 2018 (c)
Apple ][ forever.

 

Suncom TAC1+ analog joystick controller

I rarely see anything Apple II-releated sold in this side of the world (i.e. Finland) so i just had to get one more, joystick. This time it was TAC1+ made by Suncom that works with :
Apple IIe, IIc, IIgs and compatibles “plug A”
IBM PC, XT, AT, PS2 and compatibles “plug D”

fb_img_15129325997663
The handle does look odd and not so comfortable at first but it actually is quite easy going and lightweight. Pretty accurate as well. It’ll just need some cleaning.

fb_img_15129325974003In bottom there’s the switch between IBM PC and Apple II.

1
It came with small User’s Guide.

2

 

FinApple 2017 (c)
Apple ][ forever.