Friday, July 12, 2024

fixing a dead Amstrad PCW9512+

I'm on a bit of a "i wish I had a PCW as a kid" kick. So yeah, I have a working out of the box PCW8256 that has been upgraded to a PCW8512 (but with only one floppy drive for now. Stay tuned.) I got lucky; that one was in the US and didn't need any modification to work here. (And, amusingly, although it's setup for US power - and shipped with locAscript instead of locOscript, it's still configured for 50Hz UK and 256 line display!)

But yes, finding PCW's in the US - well, any Amstrad really - is super difficult. So when I saw a PCW9512+ for sale by someone in Florida, I jumped at it.

... unfortunately although the seller was listed in Florida, it came from Cairo! So would it survive the trip? who knows. It was sold as "didn't power on", the internal photos didn't show any evidence that the tube was cracked, so .. maybe I'd get lucky.

Coming from Cairo meant that it would be wired for 240v power, and indeed it was. So, up on the bench it went. And yes, it was very dead. So, I pulled out the boards and started testing the switch mode power supply.

First - start by discharging all the AC side capacitors and EHT side capacitors - and the tube, just in case! - and then start checking components from the AC line input all the way to the big switching coil. If you're lucky, it'll be something stupid like the fuse. If you're unlucky, the coil is open or the switching transistor is dead. (Or in the case of the PCW, a big honking integrated switchmode controller hybrid IC which is unobtanium in 2024.)

Here's what I started on:

This covers the AC input, EMI filtering, switching and AC -> DC rectification. The output of that rectification from 240v AC RMS is around 330v DC peak. So be careful, that stuff will definitely kill you dead!

Basic continuity tests of each of those components in circuit didn't show anything obviously wrong. But since there's a rectifier there, it's not always obvious that something's bad. So it's best to lift the parts out to test. So I did that, and .. oh look. R5001 is very, very dead.

I spoke with Jaz ( about it a bit to figure out why it's there. They pointed out it's very likely a damper resistor to stop any ringing that may happen between the filter coil on the left side, the capacitors in the circuit around it and the diodes switching on and off. It likely would get hot in normal use, so the fun question was - did it die because the whole unit was just running for too long in a hot room, or is something else dead / shorted and the power supply was being over-taxed?

In any case I wanted to test the rest of the power supply with that fixed, but I didn't (yet) want to light up the monitor circuitry. If there's a problem with the monitor circuitry - eg a shorted power transistor or hybrid IC - I didn't want to risk further power supply damage. So, back to the circuit diagram I go to see how the monitor side is powered up.

On the power supply side, there is a separate 12v DC supply to the monitor, called B+:

And on the monitor side, there's a few places it branches off of that B+ net:

Ok, so off to the layout diagram!

Now, see the track there with W2? That goes off to the horizontal deflection circuitry and flyback input to feed the tube EHT.  The rest of that W2 track/net is all of the other monitor circuitry. So how's it hook up into the Q5003/VR5002/C5026 net? The actual 12v monitor B+ line?

The answer - a solder blob! Here's how it looks after I was Very Intentional about cleaning around it after desoldering it.

So, with that blob removed, the 12v B+ output from the power supply doesn't feed the B+ input into the monitor, so none of the CRT related hardware is energised!

Well then! Off to test the rest of the power supply circuitry I go!

(Stay tuned for part 2.) 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

On "repairing this commodore 1551 drive" and "don't plug in the head cable backwards"

I bought a "dead" 1551 drive a few months ago. It's a european model, only 220v, and they said "it smoked when it was on". Well, i figured it was dead but I figured maybe not dead dead.

So, step one was removing the .. huge ass transformer.

I stripped off the regulators and hooked it up to a pair of bench supplies to feed 5v and 12v with a current limit.

(And yes, by this stage I had done a bunch of debugging already, so i had taken out the ROM, PLA and RAM and socketed the PLA / RAM.)

I unplugged the drive head cable and measured it - the heads measured just fine. So, I left them off whilst I debugged everything else.

Then I fired it up - the drive spun, a bunch of CPU pins were blinking on the oscilloscope, but nothing quite worked. The drive constantly spinning is a sign that even the early boot code isn't running.

So I then wanted to know if the CPU worked. The problem? All the pins kinda looked fine. Except A15.

It looked very sus. Like ok, NMOS has some fun rise times, but the other pins weren't this fun.

I decided to socket everything so I could pull the RAM and address decode gate array out. I thought about the 42 pin drive gate array IC but I figured if that was fried I was in for an unfun time.

The next thing was to figure out how to test that the CPU kinda worked. I figured I could write a little program to toggle the activity LED quickly and see it on my scope. I started with the disassembly here - - to see how the LED is blinked. The 6510T CPU has an 8 bit IO port (versus the 6 bit IO port on the 6510 CPU).

The program looked roughly like this:

.org $ff00
SEI ; disable interrupts
CLD ; clear flags
LDA #$6F ; IO direction bits
STA $00 ; program IO direction bits
LDA #$60 ; turn on LED
STA $01 ; program IO port
LDA #$68 ; turn off LED
STA $01 ; program IO port
JMP loop

.org $fffa
.byte $00, $ff, $00, $ff, $00, $ff

This didn't work. So, I got a new CPU. A15 on that CPU was much better.

Then this did work. The LED was blinking at a few hundred kilohertz. Ok, but the original ROM? Nothing. My guess is the ROM is also busted, so I programmed another 27128 EPROM with the right image and inserted it into the drive.

Everything worked! So, time to plug in the head cable OH CRAP I PLUGGED IT IN BACKWARDS. Bang, I blew the head coils. Crap.

Anyway, the rest of the drive seemed fine. Stepper motor, drive motor control. Now, the challenge - it's a mitsumi drive. I went on ebay to find a replacement drive - lots of "untested" 1541's everywhere. But I did find a "tested, guaranteed works" SX-64 drive. However, it's an Alps drive. They're supposed to be more reliable, but .. well, it arrived a few days later.

The main physical difference between the two is the connector. The thing I remember is that the write current is slightly different and some 1541 drives have a jumper to change said current.

Luckily there's a 1541 service manual and it has the Alps drive pinout for the 1541, which is surprisingly exactly what I need for the 1551:

So I followed this guide, verified at each step that it worked, and connected it all up.

And yes, I put superglue in the key hole for the head connector so I didn't plug it in backwards.

And .. well, it works!

Well, kinda. I had the commodore 16 drop into the monitor after HEADER (which formats a blank disk) completed. I've also had some issues with commands hanging and not running on the drive. So, there may be some other issues lurking.

I also want to figure out a suitable mod for the write head current change.

But hey, I guess I do have a working Alps drive in my 1551.

And yes I did tear the head apart to see how it's put together... :-)

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Reinstalling AmigaOS 3.1.4 on my Amiga 2000 or "oh crap it didn't boot"

This post is about AmigaOS 3.1.4 on my Amiga 2000. AmigaOS 3.1 from Amiga works fine. However, there are a few interestingly subtle differences between 3.1 and 3.1.4 that are worth knowing about, and they stem from both OS and ROM changes that you need to be aware of.

Let's start with why I reinstalled it.

I did it a few months ago and didn't notice that I had only allocated a 10 megabyte OS partition. Oops. So, I figured I'd install it again before I started doing more work on it, and I remembered the hilarity from last time. This time, though, I took more photos to demonstrate it.

First up, the Amiga 2000. It has the 3.1 ROM from Amiga Forever. I think it doesn't include workbench.library and icons.library in the ROM due to size restrictions. So, you need to have that installed onto your boot media. AmigaOS 3.1.4 does that for you. If you use 3.1 ROMs with earlier installs of AmigaOS then you need to grab those libraries and put them in your SYS: folder yourself.

So, yes I bought some.

Then, the install disk. I have a TF536 in here and 8MB of Zorro-II RAM, hence the large amount of RAM.

Anyway, I started off by re-partitioning the drive using the HDToolBox program. It's supplied on the installation disk. Now, the 3.1.4 ROM includes a scsi.device that works with Amiga 600 style IDE, so I don't need any extra stuff to use the CF adapter on the TF536.

Oops. My boot partition is too small. Let's delete and reinitialise this.

Ok, that's better. Let's save and reboot.

Next - we reboot and reinitialise the disks with a fast format. Here's workbench:

Easy. Now, we run the installer. And, we select "Intermediary" install - or it won't correctly the detect the machine I am installing on, and thus won't install the right version of libraries that are no longer on the 3.1.4 ROM.

And now we begin.

Now after a bunch of disk swaps, it'll ask which version of hardware you have.

The first time I did this on the Amiga 2000 I did the Novice install and it asked for my Amiga 600 disks. Well, obviously I didn't have an Amiga 600.  But when I bought the disks I didn't have the modules disks either! I had to sleuth around on the internet to find them. So now I have them for my Amiga 500/1000, 1200 and 2000.

Anyway, it goes and installs the extra bits and pieces.

Finally it's done and I am told that I have a 32 bit CPU (which I do) and I need to do some extra work after reboot (which I will.)

I reboot, and here we are, basic install done. I'm warned again that I should go and install the CPU support stuff.

That's it for now. Next time (if I remember) I'll take photos of installing the CPU support toolkit, the network interface driver and then run AmigaTestKit and SysInfo to show it all together. Then after that it'll be reinstalling the network stack, and then on to music editing stuff.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

resistance is not futile, or "why does my amiga 1000 keyboard not work?"

I gave my amiga 1000 keyboard cable to a friend so she could complete her Amiga 1000 setup. I then ordered some replacement RJ12 cables (4 wires!) to get mine working.

But they didn't.

Let's talk about why.

Firstly - yes, the cable is a RJ12 4P4C rollover cable. Ie, if you hold both connectors up next to each other and aligned the same way, the left hand pins are numbered "1-2-3-4" and the right hand connector is "4-3-2-1". Don't get this backwards or you'll end up reversing the power to the keyboard and damage stuff. It seems most phone cables are 4-wire RJ-12 and rollover pinout, but it's good to double check.

This is different to the early Macintosh keyboard - the RJ12 cable there is straight through. "1-2-3-4" goes to "1-2-3-4".

But it didn't work. I pulled apart the keyboard and started debugging it ... way too hard. The TL;DR is this. When I powered the keyboard from a 5v dedicated supply it was pulling 5v at around 125mA.

The cable I was using, straight from the bag:

The pinout is fine, but each leg has a 40 ohm resistance. There's no way to get 125mA out of 5v at 80 ohm resistance (+5v and GND, 40 ohms each.) The voltage on the keyboard side was closer to 2v.

The one I build/crimped until it worked:

18 ohms now, and can supply ~ 250mA. It was happy with this.

So if you're looking to replace a keyboard cable with an RJ11/RJ12 from Amazon or some other store, double check the pinout, double check that there's 4 wires in the cable, and double-check the series resistance!

Monday, January 16, 2023

I got lucky with an Acorn Electron

 Ah, the Acorn Electron.

Wait, no. I never had one as a kid, I had access to a couple of BBC micros in my primary school for playing a pirate / math educational game that I have since not found online, and I've never really wanted one. Until a close friend's birthday - at which point I got them one.

And then we fell down a rabbit hole together.

So, I bought a dead Electron motherboard. Here you go.

And the ULA - quite a bit of damaged tracks there.

Yes, the ULA is supposedly dead, like a lot of these Electron PCBs. My goal was to strip the PCB of components and make a replica rev4 board. However, first up, i wanted to see if i could repair it.

So, I took off the ULA and fixed up the busted pins. Some copper tape and solder did the trick. One pin was completely missing, and that was quite a challenge to get right.

Then I socketed the 6502 CPU and BASIC/OS ROM. The 6502 was already socketed but the soldering job was pretty bad. I tossed the nice machined socket because it was soldered in bad and I didn't want to clean up all the bad solder from on top of the pins, and I instead just whacked a cheap socket down to test.

Then I powered it up.

Oops. Guess I have a working Acorn Electron. Well, I don't have a case, power supply or keyboard. Guess I'm going to have to make a keyboard for it.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Who's the /BOSS on the Amiga 2000 ?

 I slipped and bought a TF536 to put into my Amiga 2000. TL;DR is it's now running, but it took a bit of fiddling to get there. When I was last getting it going I noticed it didn't like any Zorro-II RAM in there, so I simply disabled it (it wouldn't do much) and left it alone. The storage card I'm using (a GVP SCSI job) doesn't do DMA to Zorro-II RAM - it does DMA to/from a 64k IO/RAM window which then the driver memcpy()'s out.

Whacking it in with the CPU riser I got from booted up fine as long as no other RAM cards were installed.

If I installed my storage card or any zorro-II RAM cards it just hung. Not fun.

So then I thought, wait a sec. It's going into the CPU expansion slot, not the CPU socket. And there's this thing called /BOSS which accelerator cards in the CPU expansion slot should assert if they want the DMA and some other signals routed to them rather than the main CPU socket.

So, I grabbed a different one.

This one has a jumper for /BOSS to keep it enabled, and also has the FC0..FC2 pins (indicating the CPU state) also routed.

I plugged this in and bam.

(note I didn't leave the 2MB RAM enabled on the storage card after this test; until I'm ready to screw around with programming stuff that explicitly wants to test Zorro-II/Zorro-III space RAM, I'll leave it off.)

I also tested it with an 8MB Zorro-II RAM expansion (the ZoRAM card that's available on the internet) and it also works fine.

Anyway TL;DR is - don't forget to ensure your accelerator card installation on an Amiga 2000 has /BOSS asserted, or a bunch of DMA/Zorro-II lines won't get routed to the CPU expansion slot and things won't work right.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

damnit i slipped and (mostly) built an amiga 500

EDIT - the original article has an image of the PCB with the floppy power connector mounted the WRONG WAY. 

This is the INCORRECT WAY. Do NOT do it this way!

TL;DR - I'm half way through building an Amiga 500+ replica. The goal:

  • New PCB
  • New clear case
  • Actual floppy drive!
  • TF534 Accelerator, yes I am interested in FPU stuff for reasons and yes I'm sad about the 4MB of RAM but I'll make do - terriblefire does a great job designing/building/debugging these accelerators and I'm glad they exist!
  • ECS Denise, also for reasons
  • 2MB chip RAM and some slow RAM too because again why not
  • 3.x ROMs
The challenges!

  • I need a keyboard for it, but my "donor" machines, like my "donor radios", all now work. Hilarious.
  • The Amiga 500+ board wasn't well documented for assembly, until I looked. Closer.
  • Well, the 8375 Agnus I acquired is a PAL one, so I guess I'm building a PAL Amiga 500+. (Which is fine as you can switch it in software after boot, but STILL.)
  • Oh yeah, floppy drives. Ugh.
Ok, so the PCB. I picked it up from . There's a link with the component list, and I got them all with some hunting around. I wish I had a "dead-ish" donor Amiga 500 of suitable vintage to grab parts from, but again, all my machines now work. Ha.

Here's it assembled. Well, mostly.

I still have some connectors and the RTC to add. Yes, it's a 2.x workbench ROM. Yes, it boots to ROM fine.

Now, what do I do about the jumpers? The instructions don't have the Amiga 500+ rev8 PCB jumper descriptions. Ok, they're in the service manuals. And yeah I can read the schematic, but I wanted to be lazy.

Ok, so I started to look at it. I definitely wanted the 1MB/2MB option. I wanted the expansion RAM to show up in chip RAM to start with. Ok, ok. But, guess what. The PCB has them already kinda done.

Here, look closely.

JP3 is already done for us. (For 1MB/2MB I need to have them horizontally jumpered, not vertically.)

And for JP2:

It turns out the two bottom pins are already joined. I'd have to cut the track to start using the expansion RAM slot as slow RAM (in $C00000) or if/when I fit a Gary Adapter / RAM expansion add-on.

Finally, the case is here and the TF534 is installed and boots up to ROM fine.

I'll finish the installation once the sockets arrive - and yes I may go and borrow my rev5 amiga 500 keyboard and Gotek floppy drive emulator until I get suitable replacements. Or, maybe just design an Amiga 500 keyboard drop-in replacement with cheap cherry MX style switches. Why not.