Category Archives: Apple IIgs

APMSX-card: MSX for Apple II – Part 1

board_details_s

APMSX-card is “Turbo Speed” MSX-computer-in-a-card solution for Apple //e enhanced (ntsc) and Apple IIGS. It doesn’t work in Apple II, II+, //c (no slots.. sorry Javier).

It is deloped by Ian Kim of Apple2.net out of South Korea, who is prominent Apple II hardware developer who have made many other products in a past, like the following :

-SEGA/ColecoVision-card (Z80+VPD)
-Mockingboard 4d (for Apple //c)
-Joypad for Apple II
-Z80 CP/M card
-SD Disk II+ 
-PS/2 adapter
-SD Smart Drive
-SD Music Card
-Hyperion 512k RAM-card

Ian used years in order getting it all together. Being in edge for abandoning whole project but with strong will he pulled it together! That was major task. It was risky project as it was known it would not be cheap card to develop, produce or sell.

What is MSX?

800px-msx-logo-svg

MSX was a 8-bit home micro computer standard founded by Microsoft and ASCII in 1983 trying to create standard for home computers like VHS was at home video tape machines.

MSX was specially popular in Japan even it was sold around the world – being moderately popular in europe, specially The Netherlands. 

MSX hardware was built around Zilog’s Z80 processor and usually 64k of RAM.

More can be read from : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MSX

MSX is also very much alive among hobbysits around the world, with new hardware and software coming out all the time. 

My first computer was Spectravideo SVI-728 MSX so this is like coming to the roots for me. The SVI-728 MSX was quite popular in Finland at the time, but nothing like Commodore 64 was. I only had the MSX for some years and it got replaced with Commodore 128 soon after and shortly with Amiga 500. The games i remember playing with the MSX were “Yie Ar Kung Fu 2”, “King’s Valley”, “Zoids”, “Oh Shit!” (later renamed to “Oh No!” for obious reasons) and some games translated from Spectrum. Getting games was difficult in my circles as everybody had Commodore 64.. so i was kind of was forced to get Commodore. I did like those Konami module games (even expensive) they were really smooth running.


APMSX:

apmsx_card_delivery_s

APMSX comes with:

– APMSX-card
– Joypad and extension adapter-cable  
– PS/2 extension cable for PS/2 keyboard (for full MSX usage)
– Video cable (APMSX to Apple //e)

You need to supply your own video and audio cables.

Originally APMSX-card was supposed to have slot for cartridge games but it was dropped due high cost and not 100% proven compability. That would have been really amazing if that could have worked for sure.

The APMSX-card can be used in many ways and purposes:

1) MSX computer with loading .ROM images directly from card reader.
2) MSX computer with HDD support (SD Disk II+ is needed)
3) Z80 Softcard Compatible CP/M 80 card.
4) 512k RAM card for Apple //e (even during the MSX runnning software)
5) Z80 CPU as co-prosessor, graphics accelarator or sound processor … etc etc…

The processor can be run in different speeds (MSX software) 4MHz, 8MHz and 16Mhz. The 3.58 and 7.16Mhz work only with DMA access of Apple II BUS (i.e. accessing SD Disk II+ in HDD mode).

Conviniently the MSX and Apple II can run at the same time. APMSX basicly is overclocked MSX computer up to 16MHz!

 

APMSX V1.23a
-MSX1 compatible
-VDP: TMS9918 (NTSC)
-PSG: AY3-8910
-RAM: 512KB SRAM
-CPU: Z80 Clock speed; 3.58Mhz, 7.16Mhz, 4Mhz, 8Mhz, 16Mhz.
-Mega RAM Mapper support: 256KB Mega RAM Mapper
-Mega ROM Mapper support: 256KB Mega ROM Mapper (Konami ROM Mapper, ASCII 8K/16k)
-DMA BUS share of Apple II resources RAM and I/O peripherals.
-Keyboard: 1 x PS2 Keyboard port
-Joystick: 1 x MSX DB9 standard port

Compatible with *NTSC* Apple //e enhanced and IIGS. With IIGS it however have some limitations with dual working with APMSX, limited memory card access, but general running MSX games or programming doesn’t have a problem on IIGS.

ROM images can be load from ProDOS .HDV hdd file where they can be launced from any suitable sd/usb/cf-card that supports HDD images.

To use the HDD in MSX mode, you need SD Disk II+ device, as there’s drivers/support only for it.

 
Installation:

apmsx_card_installed_1_s

I installed it to my Apple //e enhanced (ntsc) with just minimal cards on it. The power supply is pretty strong (AE Heavy Duty) but i do not remember if it was recapped or not.. so ..

– Apple //e enhanced (ntsc).
– My LG LCD/TV does not accept correctly the NTSC color signal. Some games did load with colors occationally,  but the colors are not correct in all titles. Need one that does PAL and NTSC correctly..
– APMSX works in any slot expect 3) but but suggested slot to use is 4 as the ready loaders (made in basic) are assuming slot 4. Easy to change however. I had the free slot so i went with the slot 4 here.

AUX – RamWorks8M (a2heaven)
SLOT 7 – Apple disk i/o card
SLOT 6 – SD Disk II+ (4GB SD-CARD) + ext. dial with display unit 
SLOT 4 – APMSX 

sdpluscard_s
SD DISK II+ for HDD in MSX mode support.

apmsx_and_connectors_s

Connections to be made:

-Joystick – extension cable with adapter to joystick 
-Audio OUT 1.5mm
-Video OUT RCA 3.5mm
-PS2 keyboard – Keyboard PS/2 connector for external keyboard
-Apple II video in – Video IN  > connected to //e board mudulator output
-Choose between IIgs/IIe

I used composite-SCART adapter to get video and audio to my LCD/TV.

 

Using the MSX:

PS/2 keyboard is needed if you need any keys pressed for the software/games or you want to use the card as actual MSX-computer.  The PS/2-USB adapter will NOT work. Luckily the PS/2 keyboards are still pretty easy to get. I obtained two different models, both basicly new. Sadly they were swe/fin layout so it’s hit-and-miss using it. If there would be more frequent use i’d get US/UK layout model for sure.

Ian Kim, the developer of the APMSX-card, provides few sample .hdv images to buying customers only as well complate user’s guide.

“APMSX.HDV” HDV-image is for starting the APMSX card. It is Prodos format including lots of .rom and other MSX-files.

If you want to use the MSX hard disk image, you need to connect it to D2 to be used by SD Disk II plus-device (no drivers for other hardware card reader solutions as of yet).

It is possible to use both computers with their own displays! This is somehing i didn’t yet test of. I only focused on playing games from the .rom files 🙂

 

MSX software:

As my display does not display NTSC correctly some colors are not correct. As well for some reasons, occationally starting the games they were black/white. Not correct sync on NTSC signal. This is something i need to invest on.

Switching from MSX mode back to Apple II is done by CTRL+RESET.

game_screen_colors_s ntsc_game_loaded_bad_s
With colors (not correct ntsc) – Black & White (ntsc)

game_screen_colors_2_s
But playability on games such “Yie Ar Kung-Fu II” (Konami) was absolute fun! This game i had as a cartridge back in the day. And yes i’m not that good on it even after all these years… These popular kungfu games were all bascily the same, fighting against enemy screen by screen and finally the big boss. The graphics just changed as well the movements. These cartridge games by Konami are really top-notch quality!

Video in youtube: https://youtu.be/tOPQe0SgrLs

msx_game_knightmare
Another MSX-favorite of mine “Knightmare” played great. It have very clear and arcade styled graphics and very enjoyable gameplay. This is one of the games i come back and play few rounds with.

 

msx_demo_screen_1_s
There were even some MSX-demos on hdv image file. I’ll need to find more of these – i have not followed the MSX-scene for years..

 

msx_demo_unleashed_s
“MSX unleashed” – demo.

 

Thoughts?

The card is NOT cheap investment if you want to use it for gaming and in real MSX-computer mode, you’ll need the SD Disk II+ device as well. With that money you can actually buy an real MSX/MSX2 – computer, not sure what those MSX sd/usb solutions cost but possibly still cheaper. But remember, it took years to develop the card as well, building this card is not cheap either. But for simple MSX game/rom playing, you don’t need SD Disk II+ device, just some device that does ProDOS HDD emulation is enough.

But it really depends. This is extermely compact and convinient solution with lots of other possiblities for hacker-mindeded persons as the card lives alongside the Apple II. It can be made to be much more what it currenly is in the future. The one minor setback is that only SD Disk II+ card is supported if you want to have HDD in MSX-mode. Somebody for a task to write driver for CFFA3000? 

Playing games was easy. Just needed to boot the ProDOS HDD-image and start the game by loading the ROM. For some games there’s ready made basic loader but with APMSX-loader program you could load any ROM easily. For some reasons they do not always start. I am not sure if it’s my setup or what’s the problem. But Ian’s manual mentions this as well. But after reloading or even rebooting, all the games/software on the image worked and were fast as they should to be playable. I didn’t notise any graphical or audio issues. Only my display lacking the real NTSC support was issue for me. For playing i used either the pad that was supplied with the card or my old-favorite, TAC-2. 

The actual MSX-computer mode i didn’t use much yet. That i will get into later as well the CP/M and using the card as RAM expansion etc. More in Part 2.

..i hope someday somebody would do Atari2600/5200/7800 card as well.. that would be neat as well! Why? Because, why not!

 

logo_ians_dream

APMSX is available from:
apple2.net

FinApple 2019 (c)
Apple II Forever.

 

Applesauce client v1.1 with 3.5″ disks

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John Morris, the developer of Applesauce device has added support for 3.5″ drives and also released sync-sensor for the drive to be used. Applesauce client v1.1 was released in (5.5.2019) and it supported fully the Apple 3.5″ drive, reading and writing back to the disk.

Installation:

It’s easiest to follow the teardown instructions by ifixit.com  
https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Apple+3.5+Drive+External+Floppy+Drive+Teardown/92324

installed_edit_s

The sync-sensor is installed next to the spinning wheel of the 3.5″ drive in bottom. The idea is the same, basicly the sensor reads the magnet strip that is installed to the spinning wheel for more accurate location of the disk.

There is room for the sync-sensor cable to route if out of the case along with the connector cable.

Testing?

writing_disk_s

I had only few original 3.5″ (Apple IIGS) floppies so i chose the “Marble Madness” that i had in hand. I first read the .a2r flux image out of the disk and then made .woz out of it (analyze and save). The .woz file then can be written back to blank disk.

working_copy_booted_s
I booted the written copy with my IIGS (ROM3) and it worked perfectly. Pretty amazing!

marble-madness-disk-1-side-0_s marble-madness_sync-disk-1-side-0_s

“Marble Madness” (GS) – without the sync-sensor installed vs with sync-sensor installed (both booted).

John Morris about the copy protction at twitter:
“Marble Madness has an “impossible to copy” track at $20 side 1 (400+ nibbles too big) that was clocked in a way that the IIgs couldn’t write out. Applesauce detects the abnormality and re-clocks the write on the fly. This exact protection scheme proved to be so effective that many competing publishers adopted it. It evolved a bit over the years, but largely remained the same. It is structured in a way that sector copiers think they copied it, but the sectors were actually just a decoy”.

This shows how genious the Applesauce client (and John) really is! 

Applesauce can be bought from:
https://applesaucefdc.com

FinApple 2019 (c)
Apple II Forever.

 

 

Quick: DarkSound by ByteBoosters

The Apple IIgshave GREAT audio capabilities with it’s Ensoniq 5503 DOC – chip but there’s no connectors in the logic board for stereo output for speakers. So the DarkSound-card resolves that problem with simple, single board with connector to the logic board itself taking the signal and outputs it to external speakers/headphones or amplifier in Stereo.

settings_s
The pin settings in the card you can use are as of:
*HIGH – for non-amplifed speakers (direct 8ohm, 1.5mm plug)
*LOW – for headphones or amplified speakers (1.5mm plug)
*LINE – for external aplifer / home stereo-system (3.5mm plug)

The card itself is not slot dependent, as you can install it to any slot and it will maintain the internal slot/port settings.

It also features as digizer as it have input for the signal to be digized with software.

darksoundbybyteboostersappleiigsstereocard_smallTHE PACKAGE COMES WITH:
-The board itself with adapter cable connected (to logic board)
-Stereo adapter (1.5 mm -> 3.5 mm stereo)
-Extension cable (1.5mm male to female)
-Printed installation and user instructions

darksound_connected_side_small
Connector attached to logic board . It’s a bit tight fight with the Apple IIgs 8MBRAM/ROM-card (a2heaven.com) but it did fit there just barely however.

darksound_connector_small
Bit tight but fits.

oma_kaiuttimetI attached the card to crappy-old-Creative 2.0 speakers but they work just ok for time being.

ByteBoosters also produce other products for Apple IIGS. Available is also 4MB and 8MB RAM-expansion cards. Both are tiny and very reasonably priced.

WHERE TO BUY?:
DarkSound IIGS
https://console5.com/store/darksound-apple-iigs-stereo-sound-card-and-digitizer-w-amplifier-line-out-2gs.html

8MB DarkRam IIGS
https://console5.com/store/byteboosters-8mb-darkram-apple-iigs-memory-expansion-card-2gs.html

4MB RAM-expansion IIGS
https://console5.com/store/byteboosters-4mb-xlp-apple-iigs-memory-expansion-board-2gs.html

(C) FinApple 2017.

 

Imaging and GS-findings

With the 5.25″ imaging done i’ve started to take a look of the 3.5″ GS disks what there might be. There seems to be some non-imaged software which would be nice to have imaged soon.

german_gs_software_smallSome German GS-software and original of “LaserForce”.

laser-force
“Laser Force” loading picture.

x-basic-v1-0

x-basic_v1-1
“X-Basic” v1.0 (original) and v1.1 (copy).

rastan_boot_intro
Very nice crack intro (with trainer option) for “Rastan” by John Brooks.

rastan_cheat_small
Trainer-options.

king_of_chicago_small
“King of Chicago” crack screen.

voyage_au_centre_de_la_terre_disk_1“Voyage au centre de la terre” (Disk 1). Sadly the Disk 2 i missing and according by the Mr. Antoine Vignau of Brutal Deluxe fame, the Disk 2 is not been released.

auge_small
And some A.U.G.E. (Apple Users Group Europe) PD disks. I’ll check if there’s any missing from the site : http://www.apple-iigs.info/revueinderauge.php

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Also interesting collection (10 disks+) of UniDOS formatted (800k) Apple II 8-bit games collections.

demo_small
And Apple IIGS demos! There were quite nice collection of 90’s Apple IIGS demo’s. These are of cos preserved all.

marble_madness_small
Also, an original Marble Madness GS floppy. I have also the 8-bit Apple II version of it on 5.25″.

apple_iigs_rom3_setup_small
My current GS-setup (ROM3, CFFA3000, Uthernet II, 8MB RAM/ROM-card) only missing Accelerator and sound-card.. someday.

 

Apple IIGS in Finland

Apple IIGS was never released or sold, in Finland. Only 3 test setups were imported for testing, reviewing and for demo usage.

Tero Sand had one of these donated to and used it for programming and also for the Apple Klubi / Omenahyve magazine creation. This unit was later donated to another user but the unit is now been trashed away. Sadly.

mikro_bitti_2_1987_edit
Apple IIGS was reviewed in few magazines inc. MikroBITTI but also, Tekniikan Maailma and also PRINTTI-magazine in issue 17/1986.

Due copyright reasons, i can’t offer pdf’s out of those reviews.

 

 

Apple IIGS (ROM3) DVI-output is finally here. Me happy.

Finally using Apple IIGS (ROM3) is enjoyable! Specially in Europe, where Apple IIGS was NOT popular or like in Finland, where it was not even sold (after only importing 3 demo units).

So using your imported GS creates an challenge. Before this adapter, you had to either, get an Apple IIGS color monitor from USA and have an voltage transformer 115>230v or be lucky and find an European (230v) monitor somewhere in middle europe. No dice.
What i did before, was to have an custom Scart cable made, but that solution was far from being high quality (specially 80-colums mode was very blurry).

Koichi Nishida’s Nishida Radio to the rescue! Koichi is an electronical wizard from Japan who have created lots of products for Apple II and Japanise home computers (SORD m5).

I managed to get one finally from his webpage, where he sell’s the adapters when they are produced. You can’t just order them. He’ll announce the availability in Facebook in his page.

Where to buy?
http://tulip-house.ddo.jp/DIGITAL/english.html
Currently selling at 50 USD + 7 USD delivery.

Product details:
http://tulip-house.ddo.jp/DIGITAL/gsdvi/index.html

The adapter itself, works ONLY with ROM3 -units due design it uses. I believe there is work under process to create VGA/DVI/HDMI-adapters for GS ROM 0/1 versions as well but not by him.

The adapter outputs TMDS signal with either 27 MHz pixel clock (720 x 480) or 25 MHz (640 x 480) and syncs usually most LCD-monitors do sync on the signal without any issues.

package
The product arrived well-packaged and contained :
-The board itself
-Cable
-Adapter to DVI

top
The adapter from the top shows the DIP-switches, DVI connector cable and additional connection for possible upgrades. The cable is slim so it can easily be slided out of the case and attached to the DVI-adapter board outside of the case, or you can mod it in the case itself.

under
The adapter from the bottom side. See the genius way to install it!

board_installed
Installation itself was super easy. Just plug the adapter over the VGC-chip on left side, just under the Powersupply itself.

Note to myself. Don’t install Uthernet II-card in a wrong way 🙂 The GS wont boot.

from_side
Installed. it’s a tight fit but it’s, just so perfect.

under_the_psu
It does fit under the Powersupply, just barely.

screen_s
Using the ready-made GS/OS 6.0.1 from http://www.whatisthe2gs.apple2.org.za/ i tested the quality and it was impressive.

*More pictures will be updated *

img_20160923_172228
I used temporary setup with ClassicIDE (4GB CF-card) and my 4MB RAM-card. It’s not ideal for me in many ways, so i’ve went back and put back the CFFA3000-card to it.  CFFA3000 is just perfect for any Apple II-usage in all possible ways. I need more of those..