Computing And Retro Gaming

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Commodore 64 Stuff

I recently got a good deal on a Commodore 64 setup to replace my one which has “issues” with loading. The new one works just fine, so I decided to treat it to some SD2IEC goodness from and bought an SD2IEC  and a Epyx Fastload Reloaded cartridge. Plugged in they look like this


The fastload makes things load quicker than normal, so games load in a few seconds instead of minutes. The whole lot was affordable and improves the C64 experience for me, once the SD card was set up (I used the quick install download offered on the site rather than do it myself). Now I am off to play some retro goodness.

ZX Spectrum Repairs For Fun?

Since the last couple of reviews I haven’t really done much updating here, although there has been plenty going on. I’ll start with the venerable ZX Spectrum stuff I have to report. In a box of Spectrum stuff I received last year were two Spectrum 48k + which are now both working but weren’t before, additionally there were two very sorry looking boards, one an issue 2 and one an issue 4S. Visiting the Spectrum4Ever Facebook page regularly and seeing people repairing Speccys gave me a taste for giving it a bit more of a go so I dived in. Here are the two boards, Issue 2 on the right was the one we decided to repair..

Spectrum Board before repairs were started
So first things first I used the Initial Tests video by JoulesPerColoumbe on YouTube to determine the first steps to repair. One of the first things on old computers and equipment is always to replace the capacitors so I ordered some from Ebay, you can find complete kits of caps to save time hunting for the individual ones so I did that. Once the capacitors were all new, I did the tests and found that mostly all of the power circuit was screwed, probably due to the damaged coil you can see in the picture. So that was TR4, TR5, (ZTX transistors) and the 5v (7805) regulator and that coil to be replaced before any power was applied. While the soldering iron was hot I also added a cable to carry the video signal, as the RF modulator was missing, linking it to the points on the board where composite mods are usually taken from. Now the board looks like this
Going back to the initial tests, they were much more like the readings in the Youtube video. The board was now ready for power to be applied, on plugging in there was a loud buzzing but that is normal, voltages were close to the expected ranges (+5v, -5v, and +12v) so on with the next step which is to plug it into a composite TV input. There was a picture (good sign) but it was only a green border and black inside with red flecks (not so good). This brings me to one of my recent purchases, a Retroleum supplied SD Card adapter and also diagnostics board which was perfect for this project. I tested it on one of my other working Speccys first, and it reported that it had an upper memory fault, and even tells me which IC would need replacing, excellent more repairs to do. On plugging it into my newly repaired board I managed to get a picture while it did its testing and told me lower ram chip IC10 was faulty (that would explain the display because apparently lower ram is where the display is stored) and also an upper ram chip IC17 is duff.
Having tried unsuccessfully to remove some ram ICs from the other board, I bit the bullet and ordered some from  so the wait is on.



Review of 3D Stock Car Championship on ZX Spectrum

3D Stock Car Championship by Firebird on the ZX Spectrum comes in a 48k version, and isn’t a game I’d heard of until recently. So firing up the trusty 128k +2A I loaded the game from the SD card in the PICODIVSD which I recently got. The first thing you see once you set up the controls is that there isn’t much 3D involved, at best it’s Isometric, at worst you could call it a strange viewpoint on a racing game. So the countdown to the green flag starts and then you’re off.

The game has a top down racer quality to it, but a very strange idea where acceleration requires bashing of the throttle button repeatedly to increase and maintain speed. That one detail almost made me stop playing after missing out on 3 races, but I held on in there and had another attempt when I found out how to go fast. Then it becomes a fun racer, as you battle with the other opponents (computer controlled in this case but you can have other friends playing). Added in are the car handling “physics” which are actually quite good and add to the experience as the rear of your car slides if you go too fast into a corner, but can be corrected with opposite lock, a nice little fun touch to the game. After a few races you learn how to block the other cars as you turn in, force them into the fences, and how to crash a lot too.

3D Stock Car Championship does not have the best graphics ever seen on the Spectrum, the cars are a little small, and a little basic, but it is an early game so that can be forgiven, as can the lack of sounds apart from a few clicks which get faster to indicate engine revs and a kind of crash sound when cars hit each other. Basic Spectrum stuff then really.

Firebirds attempt at a Stock Car simulation may be lacking in some departments but the gameplay is actually quite addictive once you get started. Sliding and controlling those slides is fun, blocking and pushing the opponents is fun. Winning a race and going onto the next track, and then the next adds a challenge as the tracks become trickier. Overall, 3D Stock Car Championship is worth a little play and will supply a little fun

Score 7/10

New AddOn For My ZX Spectrums

Having just purchased a PicoDivSD from Zaxon on I was trying it out with some demos. It is amazing what the old Speccy is capable of when pushed.

The PicoDivSD looks like this in the Spectrum +2A

as you can see it’s very compact, and barely adds to the Spectrum footprint at all. The hardest part of using it is setting up the SD card with some files, after that plug it in and hit the button to load the menu, choose a game, utility or demo and you’re playing instantly.


And your Spectrum could be doing this

Haiku Demo