Category Archives: Upgrade

vTech Laser 128 expansion slot card:

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There were some interesting periphals for the vTech Laser 128 series including the external expansion box. It was externally powered, external box that held two slots inside for Apple II compatible expansion cards. 

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Original expanion box (picture by Javier Rivera (c)).

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Original expansion box inside (picture by Javier Rivera (c))

The box is now obiously quite rare and hard to find but luckily A2heaven.com had a new version made. It doesn’t come in a box but in a plain expansion card you can plug in the side expansion connector of the Laser 128 providing now two more slots (5 and 7) to be used.

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A2heaven.com Laser 128 expansion slot card features:

-Adds two external slots to Laser 128 (Slot 5 & 7, congifurable)
-It can use internal or external power supply (USB).
-Build in LED to control all voltages
-Build in jumper to select ON/OFF of all power lines (+5,+12,-5,-12V)
-Provides -5V power on slot.
-Legs attached to card so it touches the table surface and not cause bending.

This is fantastic solution for Laser 128 users, otherwise you’d be limited to ONLY one expansion slot. The slot assignments can be altered from the switches from bottom of the unit, either enabling the slot 5 and 7 internal OR external use. WIth the adapter, you can have both slots 5 and 7 as external as pluggable slots.

The “Chinese Education Computer”-models (CEC-I and CEC-E) had also one expansion slot, either on top (CEC-I) or on left side (CEC-E) like Laser 128 does. No idea if this would work the CEC-I or CEC-E as well. They also actually have setting dips on their motherboards but naturally just for one slot.

 

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So i went ahead and tested some cards that i was intereted to run with the Laser 128, either alone or together:

And these cards worked fine, i have no reason to believe other’s would not work but these gave the most benefit when added on.

-Booti-card #7 (hdd, by David Mutimer)
-Fastchip //e #5 (Acceration up to 16.6MHz by a2heaven.com)
-ReActiveMicro Drive/Turbo IDE Controller #7 (hdd with CF – Reactivemicro.com)
-MegaAudio #5 (Mockingboard etc emulation by a2heaven.com)
-Atari/SNES joystick adapter (byteboosters/console5)

After testing i used the unit for few weeks for playing and found no issues or problems with it. There might be some exotic cards that have issues but that goes for everything. But having cards like booti that adds hardisk functionality or accelerator like Fastchip or Megaudio speaks for itself really. That’s something not otherwise could be added to Laser 128 by any means. I am not sure how popular the original expansion box was – maybe mostly used by the powerusers of the day. That’s really something that we missed with Apple //c.

I found the expansion card being very usefull if not essential for using Laser 128 users.

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Laser 128 Expansion Slot Card is available from a2heaven.com 

The card used used here wasn’t sponsored by a2heaven.com

 

FinApple 2020 (c)
Apple II Forever.

 

vTech Laser 128E/EX/EX2 memory expansion card:

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This is a clone of memory expansion card for Laser 128E, EX and EX/2 models, 702175 Rev.C – made by Renee Harke. It’s not compatible with the FIRST revision of 128 but is with the later, 128E. I have the -E revision (later motherboard design with the RAM-expansion port).

It provides up to 1MB of “Slinky” RAM for the Laser 128 aka you can use it as RAM-disk etc.

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See more details a:
https://reneeharke.com/tech/2019/12/31/laser-128-memory-expansion.html?fbclid=IwAR0qxykFwOPGudYMXQEdqquYckDdlJE7JZo2yfnLaZVZBsJCILKgBvyK0HY

Renee sells this either as a kit with all parts included or fully soldered ready-to-be-installed.

I bought this as a kit with all parts included because soldering is fun!

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After soldering (took few evenings as i didn’t have the time to put on this project in one-go) i used the quite handy tool sold in ebay (few euro’s) that bends the IC-legs (it has two different sizes) to correct angle – so they are easier to install to the sockets.

 

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I had removed the metal shield already as it’s pain to install back .. so installing the card was pretty easy and straightforward. Renee even included the 3 little screws needed for installation – that’s nice detail and good thinking.

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Installing the case back together is slightly more frustating compared to //c – even it’s very similar design. I’m really not a fan of the plastics vTech used…

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Also need to configure the Slot 5 as “INTERNAL” for the RAM.

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The internal RAM test can be found from the monitor (CALL-151) and then typing C50AG  … i was happy my soldering was successfull…. it worked!

 

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..and it was seen by the ProDOS as correct size.

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FinApple 2020 (c)
Apple II Forever.

 

 

 

 

Hack/test Apple //e upgrade?

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Apple //e non enhanced 6502 PAL

I have one Apple //e that i use for testing cards and generally playing & hacking around, as my main rig is Platinum //e that have the parts installed permanetely. This system is PAL, non enhanced 6502, Apple //e with UK-keyboard but i wanted to upgrade it to NTSC. As the position of AUX connector on PAL //e aligns up with Slot 3 and that wont allow installing long cards to Slot 3. I find that bit annoying. And i had one NTSC board available so i thought to just swap it around and as well, install better, in this case, Applied Engineering heavy-duty power supply to it.

Original cards setup:
#1 FastChip //e (a2heaven)
#2 quikLoader (D.Mutimer)
#3 -empty-
#4 TimeMaster II H.Q. (a2heaven)
#5 -empty- 
#6 Disk II (apple)
#7 VGA-scaler (a2heaven)
AUX RAMWorks 8M (a2heaven)
+MultiFont custom ROM (a2heaven)
+Regular original Apple gold long model power supply

Putting in parts and suprises!

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NTSC vs PAL board differences

So i removed all the cards and put the case in parts. Then, it’s easy to just put it back together with new PSU and board… but, NO. I had totally forgotten that the design of the NTSC board is pretty much different to PAL one. So.. the keyboard connector and speaker connectors are in different locations wich means.. they have longer cables. Oh no!

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OK, not biggie. Making longer (abx. 32cm) keyboard cable isn’t really that difficult, so i got 1 meter of 26pin flat cable and some IDC26P female connectors. It took few minutes to get one done with correct tool i luckily had bought few years ago when i made new Disk II drive cables for myself. 

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PAL vs NTSC board keyboard cables.

I however did not get longer cable for the speaker (i tend to keep it unplugged anyway) but that’s something maybe needs to be done later.

 

AE heavy-duty power supply:

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It really looks good doesn’t it? Applied Engineering is one of my favorite companies that made products for Apple II-line.

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And it’s beefier than the regular, stock power supply that Apple used.

VGA-scaler installation:

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As i used the VGA-Scaler (from a2heaven.com) i installed that too. It’s installed the same way as in PAL board, but just the chips are in different location. I had to use longer cable to reach the chip in location F5 that i was using with the PAL board.

Installed in : SLOT 7
Board type: Apple IIe NTSC 1982, 620-0064-B/607-0164

Installation:
– SEROUT > C5 74LS10 PIN 3  
– GR > D5 344-0022 PIN 2 
– 14M > F5 74LS166 PIN 7

New cards setup:

AUX RAMWorks 8M (a2heaven)
#1 -empty-
#2 -empty-
#3 Transwarp (AE original)
#4 TimeMaster II H.O. (a2heaven)
#5 MicroDrive/Turbo CF-HDD (reactivemicro)
#6 Disk II interface (apple original)
#7 VGA-Scaler (a2heaven)

I might change the keyboard too, i feel one of the other //e’s i have does have better response keyboard… different switches?

 

FinApple 2019 (c)
Apple II Forever.