Category Archives: Hardware

My Nordic Apple ///: Part II

apple_iii_fin_s

The previous repairs ended when the power supply started to no longer provide enough current to boot the unit so i ordered the Univeral Power Supply from Reactivemicro.com as i’ve done earlier as well. That’s the best you can get for your money. It’s designed for all Apple II and /// models. The Apple /// can be so problematic so it’s more than good idea to go the roots of the possible problems and replace that power supply in the first place. That’s where it all starts anyway.

Also needed a replacement light bulb for the power light as it was burned off. The unit CAN  be booted after pressing reset but that’s very annoying at least. Some references say the Apple /// won’t boot if the keyboard “power” lamp is burned, that’s simply NOT true. It does need just reseting the unit.

WHAT WAS LEFT TO BE REPAIRED OR TESTED?

-Ordering and installing the Universal power supply.   
-Rubber feet replacement.
-Keyboard power light bulb replacement.       
-Keyboard top cover repairs. 
-Reparing video chips.   
-Testing the keyboard layout with configuration file. 

INSTALLING THE UNIVERSAL POWER SUPPLY: 
 

rm_upsu_s

I ordered the Universal Power Supply with the new DC-output cable from reactivemicro.com and it arrived in few weeks (with some +24% tax added). It’s very straight forward to install for the ///.

1) Open and remove the basepan (main logic board) and remove the power cable from the main logic board.
2) Open and remove the power supply from the enclousure. 
3) Remove the original power supply and disconnect few cables as per instructions.
4) Install the new power supply PCB, the new power supply unit and attach the new cables as per instructions.
5) Screw the power supply back to the main chassis and attach the new DC-cable to the main logic board.
6) We’re done!

In this case i had to double check few things as the wiring was different than any of the previous /// power supplies i’ve had so i ended up swapping few cables around. But in the end, it worked perfectly.

Only thing that is annoying by design is the DC-output cable that goes from power supply to the main logic board. The opening between the power supply and the “wall” where the logic board is located, is quite small. The memory card connector hits the cable and it’s very tight fit almost damaging the cable itself. I would say that is design flaw by Apple originally.

RUBBER FEET REPLACEMENT:

new_rubber_feet_s

The two front rubber legs were missing so i replaced them with replacement ones. The ones i got from ebay were slightly smaller (but good for the Apple II) so i placed small piece of another kind of rubber sticker under it (cutting it to correct size) and the height was the same. 

 

INSTALLING THE NEW LIGHT BULB:

new_lamps_s

These lamps are available these days only online, atleast i couldn’t find any locally anywhere. Those lamps are  around $1.00 each depending where you buy them. The shipping in the otherhand… that was pricy. But what can you do? One could, if know how, replace them with modern led-lights. I just wanted to have the original style replacement at this time so i bought 10 pack of original Sylvania 7328 6v 0.2A bi-pin lamps.

keyboard_opened_s

It’s very easy and straight forward job – first need to remove the keyboard cover by just removing 5 screws underneath the keyboard and lifting the top of the keyboard part away.

lamp_removed_s

Removing the old lamp is easy, just pull it. It comes off easily.

new_lamp_installed_s

Replacing the new one is slightly more difficult as you really can’t see anything. Just push gently the new bulb in as straight as possible. The legs might get bent easily so get them straightened if needed. Replace the keyboard cover after you’re done.

I notised the keyboard cover was bit in “suffered” state, meaning the holes where the screws go (plastic pilars with hole on them in middle) had broken off from the right. Those would need fixing somehow or replacement cover. 

 

…EASY. BUT

power_and_j20_pins_s

As i had opened the /// several times over the weeks, last time i had put it together i had ACCIDENTALLY installed the DC-cable to J20 connector for some odd reason… so it would not power up. Now that’s not good! So i installed the DC-cable to correct connector (it DOES read “POWER” on PCB..) and powered it up, it DID power on but it did not display any video on LCD and very distorted image on very right side of the CRT monitor as well. BUT it did boot software so far i could see. So it’s not totally busted! We have (new) hope..

 

REPAIRING. AGAIN. (get used to it, it’s Apple ///):

page_506_small

Thanks to technical assisstance at Facebook’s Apple /// group, i was suggested to replace the first chip on line,  74LS153 (0.58€/ea locally). So i got few and replaced one. Sadly that didn’t help but i was very kindly assisted further looking into other chips in that line:

U90: LS153 @ L8 dip16 74LS153
U119: S175 @ B12 dip16 74LS175
U141: LS00 @ H2 dip14 74LS00
U146: S86 @ B13 dip14 74LS86
U147: LS11 @ K8 dip14 74LS11

Swapping these however did not help.  I had bought few more chips but didn’t test them at the time. 

Something odd happened! Later, after a long period of time, i tested the machine again, with different monitor and … it worked. WTH? What just happened? I am not sure if actually swapping the chips helped or something else happened. The “new” Samsung LCD/TV does better NTSC even not  perfectly correct colors however. But – i’m not complaining.

On thing i noticed (finally) however:

The European /// have (naturally) different crystal (50HZ) 14.25045/1970002. Making it NTSC/50HZ so that explains why no colors on most displays. It uses Video chip : 341-0060-A (instead of 341-0030-A in North America)

341-0060 – III – ROM 2kb*8 – Video scan decode ROM 50 Hz
341-0030 – III – ROM 2kb*8 – Video elements/attributes generator

https://kb.pocnet.net/wiki/Apple_Chip-Bezeichnungen

 

TESTING THE SWEDISH/FINNISH-KEYBOARD LAYOUT (configuration file)

testing_keyboard_layout_s

As this is Swedish keyboard model (same as in Finland) i thought to see how the localization works with SOS. I booted the SOS Utiltiies and with SCP i loaded up the language/keyboard configuration and saved it. It’s fun to see those ÅÄÖ on screen even i prefer US-layout in a long run. Happy to see Apple did put effort on localization this much. This leads me to thinking, there problably never were any Apple /// original manuals translated to Finnish?

Works in any SOS disk with SOS.DRIVER file on it and the driver added naturally.

Fully functional /// – is that even possible?

So after all the trouble, goofin’ around and repairs, the /// seems to be working fine. My herd of ///’s have grown since i started this article – so more repairs were ahead with two more of these. Luckily slightly easier.  /// is great machine with lots of potential. It’s great shame no more homebrew hardware/software have been released to it over the years. 

What still i haven’t figured out is that strange “humming” noise that most if not all, Apple ///’s make. It feels like it comes from the speaker… but why? Or is the the grounding in PSU causing this? 

 

FinApple 2020 (c)
Apple /// Forever.

Apple II clones: “BOSS-1″ – Multi-System Personal Computer” – Part II:

 

board_with_z80_installed

The original power supply let the magic smoke out of itself and is been repaired by a fellow hobbyist. Meanwhile i took a power supply from the Apple //e clone that came built inside a IBM 5150 XT styled case as the pinouts were the same.

rom-card_for_boss-1_topside

I also got the original BOSS-1 ROM-card from Juha Seppänen of https://kakkostyypinomenat.blogspot.com a while ago. I dumped the ROM contents and they are now in Asimov archives if somebody needs them.

bad_ic_s

I inspteced visually the chips on board, pressed them down, cleaned some and swapped some as they had rusty legs on them. Luckily i have few clone boards that are great for donating parts now..

 

fixed_trace_s

There was some broken trace close to Slot 7, but it was reapaired earlier on. So i didn’t touch it.

 

boss1-rom-card_s

The BOSS-1 manual says to my understanding, that you can boot the BOSS-1 two ways:

-ROM-card installed to system slot that is the slot 0
OR:
-ROM-chip installed to location U6 that contains the “OS” (Applesoft) that should start an boot menu when unit is booted.

M.S.P.C. VAR 4.1
1) FP BASIC
2) Z-80 CP/M

So it’s basicly a boot-menu, after choosing what you want to use, you insert the floppy and press 1 or 2.

-First i tried with just the ROM at U6, but nothing, buzzing sound and garbage on screen.
-Then WITH the ROM-card, with the same results.
-Last just the ROM-card installed and the unit booted fine to text on screen “BOSS ][“.

When i got this unit in the first place, it came with the ROM-chip at U6, no Z80 CPU but a cloned Apple ROM-card with 6 x Applesoft ROM chips and it naturally booted “APPLE ][” on screen before the power supply releated the magic smoke (it wasn’t just the typical RIFA’s). But really it doesn’t matter, i’ll keep the original ROM-card in Slot 0 as it’s not a big deal.

boss_1_cpm

As i had some loose clone boards i removed one Z80 processor and installed it in BOSS-1 and CP/M 56k booted without a problem.

 

 

HARDWARE TESTING:

boss-1_setup_s

All ROM and RAM were OK. Colors are very vibrant when using JVC PVM 9″ CRT and not so much with a modern LCD. The colors when using modern LCD are hossibly ghostly, black & white.

50-60-hz_pads_s

The board is 60Hz NTSC. It’s pretty clear that your luck with Plus era Apple II’s and LCD’s is really depend of the model and maker of the display. I’ve not been able to get my Apple II PLUS units output colors with just swap of the crystal. 

Tested few cards to see how this clone would work as the ROM-card might cause issues etc.

 

RAM-cards:

saturn_multirom_cards_s

As the ROM-card needs to be used, there’s no ROM in main logic board, RAM cards do not work well. I tried with the original ROM card and Saturn Reboot 128k card as well original 32k RAM card but it didn’t work at all.

locksmith6ramcardok_s

Only with David Mutimer’s MultiROM card and Saturn Reboot 128k i was able to get 16k RAM card functionality, by installing the 128k card in Slot 0, and the MultiROM card in Slot 1 (Applesoft).

80-column card:
I had boxed clone 80-column card so i installed that. The monitor i used (9″ CRT) is quite small so it was difficult to read the text, but it did work. 

total_replay

Booti (ProDOS HDD-emulator)
Slot #6, booted Total Replay hdd-image succesfully and played some games. 

accelerator_s

Accelerator II (clone) 65c02@4MHz
3.58MHz, Slot 0 = MultiROM (Applesoft), Slot 1 = Accelerator II (clone), Slot 6 = Disk II interface + wDrive.


Game Controller DIP16:
There’s regular, standard DIP16 game controller connector on board where you can install the paddles or joystick.

 

 

FinApple 2020 (c)
Apple II Forever.

 

 

Bebek Electronic catalog 1-3/1984

catalogs_1_3_1984_s

I found these Bebek Electronics catalogs from online auction site for few euro’s so i naturally just had to get them. I saw there were few ad’s about BOSS-1 clone that i have, so i was super excited to obtain any additional information about the model and it’s history. There’s so little information of anykind of this model.

 

Brief Bebek Electronics history:

“Bebek Electronic began operations in Lahti in the mid-1970s, when Resit Bebek, who first moved from Turkey to study in Germany and came to Finland after graduating as an electronics engineer with his Finnish wife, did not find a job elsewhere”.

– Then I had to try it myself.

“From Lahti, operations gradually expanded to Helsinki, Tampere and Kuopio. In addition to the four locations, supplies are  currently sold in the company’s own Bebek.fi online store”.

Some interesting ad’s from those catalogs:

boss-1

BOSS-1

boss-1c

BOSS-1c

 

hitachi_compact_3inch_drive

Hitachi 3″ compact floppy disk drive. These were sold in here in Finland in few places. I have one as well. The 3″ format itself wasn’t really popular, it was used in Amstrad computers in UK. It works as any floppy drive with Apple II, regular Disk II interface card will do. It’s dual sized.

cards_for_boss_mack64 cards_for_boss_mack_apple

Some cards they sold for Apple II and clones (MACK-48, BOSS-1). I assume those cards were also clones from Taiwan/HK.
I’d like to find that 6809-card long with the FLEX-OS they bundled it with. There were 6809 card made in Germany by IBS as well.

cards_for_apple_ii

These cards look clones as well to me.

boss_1_ad_3 boss_1_ad_4

boss-1_ad

boss-1_offer_for_businesses

Different pricing for companies. They also sold AMDEK monitors.

minifloppydrive

They carried also Teac half-height floppy drives.

 

 

BOSS-1 information + link to my blog:
https://finapple.hho.fi/finapple/index.php/2019/02/24/apple-ii-clones-boss-1-multi-system-personal-computer/

Link to full resolution scans at archive.org
https://archive.org/details/bebekelectroniccatalog1984

About Resit Bebek (In Finnish)
https://www.sahkoala.fi/ammattilaiset/artikkelit/yritys/fi_FI/elektroniikka_ei_enaa_kiinnosta_nuoria/

 

I am very interested finding more about the BOSS-1/BOSS-1C computer so please contact me if you have anything about BOSS-1/1c.

Also interested if somebody have more of these Bebek Electronic catalogs from 1980’s.

FinApple 2020 (c)
Apple II Forever.

Apple II PLUS accelerated

case_s

Got an another Apple II+… but a-c-c-e-l-e-r-a-t-e-d. I got this for spare parts but it’s quite ok condition for it self. Nothing fancy otherwise, just basic II Plus, luckily with the “good” keyboard.

serial_s
Serial: A2S2-247248

board_serial_s
Board : 820-0001-07 and serial : 8014. Feels like this board have been swapped later on? Most of the IC’s on board are from 1982.

case_date_s
8-2-1982 case date.

lock_s
In previous life this Plus was in some public place… no wonder it didn’t get stolen heh-heh.

psu_switch_s
Power supply by ASTEC AA11040 that luckily had the 115/230v switch.

psu_labels_s
Added some stickers so i know it’s been switched. Just for safety.

clear_legs_s
Added some legs that happened to suit it quite well, just the color being wrong. I have correct, black coming that i’ll swap when they arrive.

 

keyboard_cleaning_s

The keyboard. All other keys worked expect the spacebar. I took it off the unit and.. nasty 80’s Cola-Cola or Sugary-Coffee was spilled all over it… that took some time to get it off there. Nasty nasty stuff.
Looked like some traces were bad but after good cleaning and measuring i was amazed they all worked, expect the Spacebar. Measured the switch and it was dead. Thought already to swap the switch that i happened to have one extra of (thanks to Eduardo!). Cleaning with lots of IPA and lots of pressing the switch made it work however. 

keyboard_testing_s
…and finally it did work again.

 accelerator_s

Got also a accelerator card with a UM6502C (4MHz) prosessor installed. Seems to be clone of Saturn Systems Accelerator II-card. This works in Apple II and II+ only. The next revision by Titan Technologies (formerly Saturn Systems) Accelerator IIe worked with as the name indicates, with the IIe as well.

 

FinApple 2020 (c)
Apple II Forever.

 

 

APPLE II PLUS 1979

case

I bought these Apple II plus parts (complete case, power supply and revision 4 board – no keyboard) from a fellow kasettilamerit member in order to get my original Apple II ready and assembled as it was missing few parts. I thought just to sacrifice some parts from regular common Apple II plus to it. My ][ was missing just power supply and the main logic board.

case_serial

It turned out that the Plus i got was actually nice reasonably early unit with serial A2S2-12313 making it from later part of 1979.

 

board_serial

The board was Revision 4 from 44 week of 1979. It had also full 48k RAM and Swe/Fin keyboard character ROM “R0 3-2513-703/CGR-703/7932U”-instaled. 

Apple II+ was released in June 1979 (around weeks 22-26 in June) and the production ended in December of 1982.

 

rev_4_boad_under

The board was wired with two wires to Slot 7 in order to be able to use the PAL Encoder-card for color. This was typical practise before Europlus was released.

 

power_supply_a11040_end

Power supply was silver model of Astec AA11040 with 115/230v switch and date code APR 11 1979. Period perfect as well.

 

oyks_asset_tag

What was nice touch was that it had asset tag from “OYKS” (Oulu University Hospital) and it was entered in an inventory 31.12.1980.

asset_tag_side

I however removed the one placed in the lid, but kept the one on left side of the unit.

 

case_date

11 5 79 2 stamped inside the case. Manufacturing date of the case.

 

keyboard_cleaning

Cleaning the keyboard i had obtained earilier.

 

cleaned_open

It turned out pretty nice. The keyboard have such great touch to when typing. Really like it.

 

testing_no_colors

But as it’s Revision 4 board it wont output colors nicely, not to my LCD or my 9″ PVM.

 

So i kind of went backwards with the ][ restoration but it doesn’t matter really. That unit can use any parts as it’s never going to be 100% accurate. Revision 0 boards cost fortunes as well do the early type of keyboards. I’ll most likely use Rev.7/RFI board with it and some working keyboard when ever i find those.

Finnish Apple II history again preserved. 

This is why Finapple exists.

 

FinApple 2020 (c)
Apple II Forever.

 

 

 

Pravetz 8M

pravetz_company_logo_s

 

setup_arrived_s
This is a unit i got from Plamen Vaysilov (a2heaven.com). Luckily it didn’t get busted by the several shipping companies on it’s way over here so i considered myself lucky. Only small crack on the power supply backpanel (plastic) but it’s not serious.

 

broken_psu_s
Power supply that took a hit during transportation. It’s just cosmetic.

 

pravetz_floppy_drive_s
Cloned Disk II – drive.

The thing i noticed right away was how heavy the thing was. The power supply is really built from old skool heavy components! Real bulgarian iron. The plastic used is similar, almost like bakelite, quite hard. They used similar plastic on those Chinese Apple II+ clones (CEC-I).


Specs:
Pravetz 8M – Integrated second CPU Zilog Z80A at 4 MHz to be able to run CP/M and its software.  The military version features integrated terminal design. It was essentially a version of Apple II+ with the optional CP/M card integrated on the motherboard. It had 48K of RAM on-board, a switching  power supply and an off-white plastic case with an improved design.

Timeline around 1985-1987
Processor – Synertek 6502@1MHz + Z80/4MHz (upgradeable to Intel i8080)
RAM 48KB 
ROM 12KB
DOS 3.1 – 3.3, ProDOS, CP/M (Z80)

pravetz_8m_video_connector_with_adapter_s
As the video output is BNC i needed to get an adapter, BNC > RCA but those are easily available, even locally.

 

switch_s
There is switch with 8 dips on board. That is for different configurations, enabling the Z80 prosessor, different  keyboard layouts as well turning audio on/off. I haven’t yet figured out how to get Z80 running and CP/M loaded.

pravetz_disk_ii_interface_cards_s
Found few floppy drive interface cards and they suit perfect for it. Naturally the original Apple II Interface card also works.

pravetz_8m_frogger_quikload_s
Tested few Apple II cards for the fun of it:

-wDrive (works)
-quikLoad (works)
-Saturn 128k rebooted (works)
-MultiROM-card (works)

 

I really like this clone! It’s design is kind of Sovjet-era style, quite bulky but technically much more advanced what the Sovjets were able to produce. Bulgaria was the leading “east block” country what came to computers and electronics.

Hope to find the Pravetz ’82 someday as well.

pravetz_and_a2heaven_logo_s
Thanks to Plamen Vaysilov of a2heaven.com!

 

FinApple 2020 (c)
Pravetz Forever.

 

 

 

Booti – card with Apple ///

booti_for_apple_iii_s

Booti – card by David Mutimer is nice small card (or two parted card) for Apple II. It is smartport/blockdevice card meaning you are able to use it as (ProDOS) HDD. It’s NOT a floppy emulator.

The support for Apple /// is based on Problock v0.0.4 beta by Robert Justice who also provided driver boot floppy images as well HDD images. See his github for more details (link at the end).

booti-card_apple_3_s

The card fits really nicely without any problems inside the Apple ///. Some cards like CFFA3000 and CFFA2 had their problems before. It’s very tiny card.

I installed the Booti – card to my “main” /// to see if would work in different scenarios and emulations (expect CP/M that i didn’t get around testing).

My setup:
-Softcard /// (#1)
-Titan /// plus (#2)
-Titan /// plus //e (#3)
-Booti (#4)
-Clock chip/batteries
-OnThree 512k RAM expansion

-Booti = Slot 4 + extention cable for USB – memory (get’s the USB – memory outside of the case, more convinient surely)
-Setup to Blockmode 

Robert is offering these images at his github:

selector.start_pb3.dsk – a Selector boot disk with the driver preloaded.
sos_selector_hd.zip – a 16mb po file for use with the above disk
bosboot_pb3.dsk – a bos boot disk with the driver preloaded
bos_cffa_32.hd – MAME hd file for CFFA2 with /BOS & /HOME.
bos.po.zip – a 16mb po file with BOS for use with BOOTI

configuration_menu_s

Files needed:

-Setup the Booti with “bos.po”- a 16mb po file with BOS for use with BOOTI
-Boot floppy “bosboot_pb3.dsk” – a BOS-boot disk with the driver preloaded.

The driver works with according to Robert:

-CFFA v1.3 – The CF Card needs to be formatted for Apple2 mode. This means 32mb partitions which are  problematic with SOS.
-CFFA v2 – Only tested with MAME emulation. The CF Card needs to be formatted for Apple2 mode. This means  32mb partitions which are problematic with SOS. . In MAME, if you use the option to mount a 16mb .2mg or .po image directly, then it works well.
-Booti – Tested with the card set to block mode
-CFFA3000 – Works ok booting Selector and sysutils, but will not work with BOS for some as yet undetermined reason
-Focus – Only tested with the MAME emulation

There is also cards like ClassicIDE that is basicly clone of the CFFA2. 

 

Setup/regular Apple ///

-Boot with Apple II emulation (48k) floppy (built-in)
-Boot Apple II floppy > break 
-Go to monitor > CALL -151
* 42:FF N CX0AG (where X=slot where booti card is installed)
-> Configuration menu
-> Choose the HDD image “bos.po” in this case
-Boot with boot floppy i.e. “bosboot_pb3.dsk” (make real floppy or use suitable emulator with adapter cable)

Setup with Titan cards installed:

-Boot with TITAN emulation floppy. 
-Boot BOOTI firwmware update disk in //e mode 
-BRUN FS (doesn’t work everytime for some reason)
-> Configuration menu
-> Choose HDD image

Or you can access the menu from monitor:

-Boot with TITAN emulation floppy.
-Start //e emulation > break
-Go to monitor > CALL -151
* 42:FF N CX0AG (where X=slot where the booti card is installed)
-> Configuration menu
-> Choose HDD image.

 

 

Apple /// mode:

hdd_working_s

I was able to boot the BOS-HDD image and load all software preinstalled to the image. This is really awesome solution compared to anything else! I am not fan of configuring partitions and formats to CF – cards..

 

Apple //e mode (Titan):

a3_total_replay_s

Under the Titan, Apple //e emumation i tested the recent brilliant collection of games, “Total Replay” and it worked as well! I just would need joystick installed to my emulation card in order to play the games.

 

What next?

Robert have shown videos where he is able to boot the HDD image *directly* from the USB-memory.  He’s developing custom ROM for the /// that will allow him to do just that. That is what have been in dreams of Apple /// user’s since 1980. Direct boot from HDD. Nice!

 

LINKS:

https://github.com/robjustice/Problock3
https://github.com/robjustice/Problock3/releases

 

Apple /// forever!
FinApple 2020 (c)

Ramworks III repair

errors_80col_s
My good old AE RamWorks III card that i had used with several Apple //e’s with the handy VGA-adapter (a2heaven.com), started to give strange graphical errors, kind of missing lines and waves when using 80-column mode. Only in the few top lines of the screen (a2osx shown here).

fixing_s
Luckily Mr. Plamen Vaysilov figured out quickly what could be done, small mod of soldering capasitor of 22-33pf (of any voltage) could be just soldered and get it fixed. It however took few weeks to get the part as just my local electronics supplier had IT-system issues and they were forced to close their shop… Luckily most hobbyists have other projects too so it was’t that much of a big deal, just shift of focus for other things.

repaired_s
But later i got the parts and i soldered 27pf capasitor as shown. Might not be the best of soldering work but it works… Yeah the legs could be.. shorter.

fixed_80col_better_s
No more missing lines or waves. 

 

FinApple 2019 (c)
Apple II Forever. 

 

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.

 

Applied Engineering: Z-RAM II for Apple //c

board_fixed_by_henry_s

Bought one Apple //c few years ago with Z-RAM II-card installed but i could not get it working. It had broken pins and some were replaced with wiring. It could not get it running so i sent to to Henry Courbis at reactivemicro.com for repairs. He did splendid job and got it working in notime! Big thanks to Henry!

 

What is it?

Z-RAM II is combined co-prosessor and memory expansion card that can be expanded from 384k to 1024k. The basic comfiguration is 256k (soldered to board) so you get 384k of RAM with basic setup. The expanded memory can be used in programs like AppleWorks and many others as well as high-speed solid state (RAM) disk. The card have also a Z-80 prosessor on it so it can run programs from large CP/M program library. The card was originally supplied with CP/AM 4.0B disk.

 

Installation

installed_s

The installation is fairly easy. Obiously needed to open the //c and then needed to remove the disk drive and the keyboard to have good access and have everything in sight.

-CPU -> removed and moved to empty socket in Z-RAM II  
-MMU -> removed and moved to empty socket in Z-RAM II  
-Also needed to attach the “pin grabber wire” to TGM chip (pin 2). I found out that the cable had to be covered with tape in order not to intefere the belt of the floppy drive.

Then just insert the card (carefully!) to the sockets of CPU+MMU by pressing the card down. i tried to take extra care and not to bend any pins.

There were one additional connetor for extra RAM but at the moment i do not have such RAM module that would work in this card.

 

Usage?

So what could be done with it then? Addional memory for the AppleWorks usage is obious, if that’s something you would be still doing, as well using the extra memory as RAM-disk – but maybe using the CP/M is more usefull, or is it? Depends your interests. 

cpm_s
Running CP/AM 4.0B

ramdrive_dos_s
RAM-Disk DOS 3.3 options.

ramdrive_prodos_s
RAM-Disk (ProDOS) options.

 

ram_test_s
There’s also RAM-test to ensure your card is running with all RAM working.

I must admit this card is more like collector’s piece, actual usage might be quite limited. But running CP/M is kind of cool with the Apple //c. Ramdrive is quite handy only if it would be backed with battery.. this system had ROM0 on it, i could upgrade it to the custom ROM to have more options enabled.

 

FinApple 2019 (c)
Apple //c Forever.