Commodore 64 “breadbox”.
Recently, I retrieved a Commodore 64 “breadbox” version from my parent’s attic that was given to me by a friend in the early 90s. As I recall, it wasn’t fully functional even back then. It would halt as soon as a program tried to play any sound. But when I connected it now and powered it up, all I got was a black screen.
The broken ASSY NO. 250407.
I took it apart completely, even the keyboard, in order to give the case and all the mechanical parts a good cleaning. Then I went on to see what I could do to fix the “ASSY NO. 250407 REV.B” motherboard that I found inside. Continue reading
Following the first prototype of the LM1881 based SyncFix64 I made a few minor changes, improving the schematics and layout. Then I was ready to order the first batch of properly manufactured PCBs. The boards took a little over two weeks for production and shipping.
As hinted at earlier, I made a couple of mistakes when designing version 1.0 of the WifiModem64 and they will be fixed in version 1.1.
Still, with some minor manual modifications, those first boards are still usable. In short, RTS must be connected to WeMos D7 instead of D8 for the ESP8266 to boot reliably and the WS2812 LED must be connected to WeMos D5 instead of D0 if you intend to use it.
These are the step-by-step instructions to get WifiModem64 V1.0 on line: Continue reading
After the encouraging results of my first attempt to fix the composite signal from a C64, so that the cheap TFT monitor could display it, I shared the idea on Forum64 to double-check and get some feedback. Consensus seems to be that the circuit at least won’t hurt the video source. Since, in addition to that, it seems to be working for me, I decided to design a board for it in KiCAD.
The goal was to make it so small that it would fit inside the display’s case alongside the display controller, so I went for all surface mount components. To get immediate results, I created a single sided layout and etched the board myself using the toner transfer method. Continue reading
A couple of months ago I dug out my old Commodore hardware again and started tinkering with it – the goal being to finally try out a bunch of mods, hacks, and builds that I missed back in the day. To start with, I bought a cheap TFT display (
new link on eBay, even newer link on eBay, a little harder to get on eBay these days) for around 13€ to connect to the C64 and C128.
It was meant to sit on my work bench to e.g. quickly test a naked C64 board. It wouldn’t matter if the video quality wasn’t great. But after I made the necessary adapter cable and hooked everything up, I was a little disappointed to find out that the display wouldn’t show anything other than a black screen interrupted by an occasional flicker. I verified that the display itself was working by connecting it to a Raspberry Pi and I double-checked the cable I had made. Continue reading
I’ve been playing with the ESP8266 since late 2014 and it was love on first sight: so many possible uses for such a small device at such a low price tag. And very early on I thought: wouldn’t it be great to build a WiFi “modem” from this? That shouldn’t be too hard. But I didn’t find the time to pursue the idea then. When I remembered again this summer, I was not surprised but still excited to find that others had had the same idea and hadn’t been as lazy as me.
Alwyz’s instructions on how to build such a device couldn’t be easier! I followed them and it worked like a charm. For the next months, my setup then looked like variations of this:
When I discovered the MMC2IEC / SD2IEC project by chance back in 2009, it made me dig up again my soldering iron and electronic components after many years of disuse. I built myself one of those devices on a prototyping board and had a lot of fun doing so. It was the first time that I got involved with micro controllers and I learned a lot in the process.
Now, many years and projects later, I was looking for an excuse to try out KiCAD and to learn how to design my own boards using it. I had already ordered a small PCB I found on the net as a proof-of-concept to see if the Gerber files I produce would result in working boards. When they turned out just as expected I was eager to create something myself. This was the perfect opportunity to revisit the subject and make myself a brand new SD2IEC.
I wanted the design to be based on Shadowolf’s latest version but also make my own additions and changes:
- The board should be able to tap into the cassette port of the C64 for power supply.
- It should be board for external use with proper connectors just like my first build.
- All components should be cheap to buy from Chinese suppliers.
So, this is the first prototype of what I came up with. I call it the “SD2IEC pluggable”:
The discovery of the SD2IEC back in 2009 rekindled my interest in electronics. I started this blog after I built myself one of those devices but I never got around to documenting it. At least I’d like to share the images I took during the assembly process now.
Still trying to save my batteries
By now it is time for at least an intermediate update on this project. In the meantime I have indeed revised the sensor boards by adding a switching transistor controlled through one of the remaining digital pins on the ATmega. The firmware was modified, and it will now power down the attached sensors before entering sleep mode. Disappointingly, this resulted in a battery lifetime extended by no more than roughly 10%.
On a mostly unrelated note, the voltage graph now looks “stepped” when compared to the previous one. This seemed to be a direct result of switching from maniacbug’s original driver for the RF24 module to the one newly optimized by tmrh20. I’ve got absolutely no clue why this would affect the voltage measurement against the bandgap reference, but there it was. If you can shed some light on this, please leave me a comment.
The next thing I tried, somewhat desperately, was to reduce the number of data samples by increasing the sleep time from 1 minute to 5 minutes. This had no discernible effect on battery life-time. But at least it leads to the conclusion that I need to further investigate power consumption during sleep mode.
So, just assuming that it was the sensors that were draining the batteries in sleep mode turned out to be a bad idea. Now I really need to replace my crappy 7€ multimeter with something a little more precise that will allow me to actually measure which part of the circuit is drawing which amount of current.
With all components finally having arrived from China, I built the first couple of wireless sensors a few months ago. They are using the cheap nRF24L01 transceiver modules for data transmission based on the RF24Network network layer. I’m using a Raspberry Pi with the transceiver module directly connected to its GPIO pins as the root node. The sensor nodes are controlled by an ATmega328 microcrontroller flashed with the Arduino firmware for convenience.
Each sensor node currently features a DHT11 humidity sensor, a DS18B20 digital thermometer, a BMP180 barometric pressures sensor and it’s powered by three AA cells. The controller spends most of its time in power-saving sleep mode, waking up to send a data packet about every minute. Each packet contains the readings from the three sensors as well as the battery voltage as determined against the bandgap reference.
The setup is far from final. For one, I’m still not sure how to store the data. Currently, it is just logged into a text file with an occasional and experimental import into OpenTSDB. I haven’t really come to trust OpenTSDB since I haven’t found a suitable and convincing way to backup the HBase data, yet. Also, I might still replace the Raspberry Pi root node with an Arduino based MQTT relay.
First though, the power consumption of the sensor nodes needs improving. When I started out I was hoping for each node to run for close to a year on a single set of batteries. As you can see in the graph above, with the current design a set of three NiMH batteries with low self discharge lasts for no more than 6 weeks. What comes to mind in order to improve this, is to switch off the sensors and the transceiver in between samples. That is probably what I’ll try next. Please let me know if you’ve got any other ideas!