Fun Stuff

Amiga day 2015 Watch “Playing Fire And Ice on Amiga” on YouTube

More Amiga day goodness this short video is of me badly Playing Fire And Ice on Amiga:

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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.



Retro Additions

Over the last few weeks I have been getting a few bits and pieces together for my various retro computers and consoles. So here’s a quick rundown of the bits and the results good or bad.

Commodore 64:

This is a tape interface which you can use to load from MP3 players, phones etc. I got it, plugged it into the C64 instead of a Datassette and tried loading a file from my phone. Tried various volumes, various files, loaders, players on the phone, and couldn’t get a thing from it. I’m not blaming the interface as it is likely the C64 is playing up even though it has had a new switch as the supply to the tape deck kept going away. I need to try again but the Commodore 64 and me ain’t friends.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum:

Back to the good old Sinclair ZX Spectrum, one of my old favourites as this was where it all started for me with home computers (well technically the ZX81 was but moving on) and it’s nice to get back to something which works. Firstly I have been bringing another 48k plus back from the dead with a new keyboard membrane, and an adjustment of the modulator (which you should never touch but I did and it tuned into the TV) and another Speccy brought back to life, and a composite mod done on it for good measure using the videos and tutorials found online (Mark Fixes Stuff Youtube and Retro Games Collector UK tutorial)


Next was a deal too good to pass up for a ZX Spectrum DivIDE MMC on a pre-order from Zaxxon on SellMyRetro for about half the price of other similar products

As soon as it arrived I put some software on a microSD card and added some Spectrum software and plugged it into my 128k plus. Wow, what an amazing piece of kit to add to a ZX Spectrum, as soon as you turn it on and hit the small button on the card you have a listing of what’s on the SD card, select a .tap or .tzx file and click enter and it loads, instantly. This was a bargain, I would recommend this to any Spectrum owner, follow the link to SellMyRetro and seek out Zaxxon for one of his DivIDE MMC boards.

Also on the Spectrum I purchased a Sinclair Lightgun which is a nice addition to the Speccy for playing the few games which use it. It works as well as most lightguns from the 80’s, pretty accurate and fun to play with, I just need to find a few more games to use it with.

Commodore Amiga 1200:

For my Amiga fix I have several machines, A500, A1200 and a CD32. For the 32 bit Commodore I recently purchased a Gotek Floppy Emulator from Ebay.

This morning I opened up my A1200, disconnected the internal floppy drive and connected the extended leads which came with the Gotek kit I bought and put the leads through the floppy drive hole and closed the Amiga back up. Once I’d added some software and a couple of games (Putty Squad the legally downloadable ADF’s thank you) to a USB thumb drive it was time to fire the Amiga up. After a few seconds the loader software has done it’s job and you can use the on screen gui to load .adf files into virtual disk drives on the Gotek. Reset using the on screen display and it loads up the game. Another brilliant buy well worth the money. I also ran Pinball Fantasies from it …

That is all for now, hopefully some more updates will come soon..

Making chocolates with Phoebe

Following on from our recent chocolate mould shennanigans we ordered all the moulds and today had another session of being choclatiers (well pouring chocolate in moulds), here is my step to step guide of chocolate moulding with a ten year old daughter.

Step 1 order moulds from Amazon. Change card details when Amazon uses an expired card for anything from an Amazon shop even though they manage to charge everything they sell to the right card.

Step 2 After a few days have passed explain to 10 year old daughter why all your moulds are here already but their Doctor Who one hasn’t arrived yet.

Step 3 When the wife asks if there’s anything you need at the shop, tell her to pick up lots of chocolate bars.

Step 4 get a microwave safe bowl and break up a chocolate bar into the bowl. Remove ten year old daughters fingers from bowl while some choclate remains.

Step 5 place bowl in microwave and nuke at full power for 30 seconds and check to see if the chocolate is melted and runny, repeat until chocolate is melted and runny..

Step 6 open Microwave and check bowl to ensure fingers don’t get burnt (or use an oven glove). Use feet to keep ten year old away from you and to ensure fingers are kept out of bowl of melted chocolate.

Step 7 give spoon to ten year old and tell her to use it to put the melted chocolate in the mould. Remove spoon from ten year olds mouth and explain again that the chocolate has to go in the moulds, not the mouth.

Step 8 give ten year old the job of breaking up more chocolate while you try to get melted chocolate off the worktop, moulds, cutting boards, drawer handles, fridge, microwave. Then spoon what is left of the almost set chocolate into the moulds.

Step 9 check on ten year olds progress with breaking up chocolate as the laughter has the air of a warning to it.

Step 10 get a dustpan and brush and pick up 3/4 of a bar of bits of chocolate from the floor before the ten year old picks them up and uses them anyway, and before the dog eats enough of it to get really ill.

Step 11 break up more chocolate into the bowl and write mental note to get extra chocolate next time.

Step 12 melt chocolate in the microwave and finish filling the moulds (or as many as possible with the leftover chocoalte which hasn’t been eaten, dropped or smothered over every surface in the house).

Step 12 walk chocolate filled (semi filled) moulds to the fridge, with help from a ten year old to carry one across.

Step 13 pick up mould from the floor and wipe up gooey chocolate from the floor tiles.

Step 14 wait 2 minutes until Ten year old asks if the chocolate shapes are ready yet, tell them no and they must waiti about half an hour at least.

Step 15 repeat step 14 every 1-2 minutes for as long as you can stand to do it. I lasted nearly the full 30 minutes but finally cracked.

Step 16 remove moulds from fridge and try to remove chocolate shapes while fighting off multi armed chocolate dependant ten year old.

17 just let the ten year old at it, and tell them to wash their hands, face, and change clothes when they’re finished.

It was a lot of fun though and we made these

Choclate filled moulds Doctor who, pacman and spaceinvaders

Doctor Who Dalek ChocolatesDoctor Who chocolate shapes K9 Tardis

Space Invader, Pacman, Doctor Who Tardis, K9, Angels and Cyberman

For links to the moulds to make these just go to this blog post

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Retro gaming (And Doctor Who) Chocolates

Used this recently to make some chocolate shapes, and they came out brilliantly. They are really meant to make ice cubes for your drinks, but being silicone they are supple enough and slippery enough to use as chocolate moulds too. Just add some cheap (Tesco Value) chocolate melted in the microwave or using a pyrex bowl above some simmering water. Wear oven gloves when picking up the hot bowl though. Then pour in the melted chocolate and put in the fridge to set.

Ours came out looking like this and tasted as good as the cheap chocolate does. Cadburys chocolate for the next batch…

Now I have bought the Pacman moulds and some Doctor Who ones too. My lil girl loves Doctor Who as well as sharing my retro gaming hobby.

The Official Father Christmas, From Alternative Software on ZX Spectrum (review)

Spectrum Santa Game The Official Father Christmas,  From Alternative Software on ZX Spectrum

It’s that time of year when Santa hitches up his reindeer to his sleigh and sets off to deliver the presents to all of the nice children around the world. This would be enough for any man, but this year there are some added complications for poor old Father Christmas as, just like most of us do at times, he is having a bad day. Your job is to try to help Santa to get the Christmas eve back deliveries back on track.

The Official Father Christmas game is a little difficult to pin down as regards Genre as it changes from level to level. Level 1 has you running round Santa’s house trying to find parts of his sleigh which the mischievious elves have dismantled and hidden. Run into an elf while carrying a sleigh piece and it will be taken and hidden again. At this time of year you should be looking after your elf (old retro joke thrown in for free), but in level 1 you feel like kicking the little err guys. Build the sleigh, and then level 2 has you trying to catch the 6 presents you picked for your list which fall among the other presents at random. I made it to level 3 which has you trying to drop the presents onto the marked houses as you fly over the top, with planes and clouds pushing them off course.

The Official Father Christmas game makes good use of the Spectrum graphically with some big bold sprites and well presented backdrops for you to play on, and obviously you have to allow the colour clash as it’s a Spectrum staple. The sound is pretty bad even for a Spectrum game and it makes you glad there’s not too much to endure. The gameplay is good festive fun with the variety of game types keeping things interesting and luring you on to see what comes next. Overall I give it a 6/10

Sega Master System Composite Video

So the parts have arrived, resistors, capacitors and Phono sockets. It was time to start the soldering. First I soldered the wires to the sockets in readiness, adding the resistor and capacitor to the video line as per the instructions at which seemed to concur with other sites I checked.

With the wires etc. soldered onto the sockets I opened up the Master System console and removed the main board (actually the only board) and located the Sony CXA1145P chip and marked the pins I’d be using to solder to. A little tinning on the wires and a bit of fresh solder on each pin connection pad and it was time to put wire to pin. Being old and large chips rather than todays tiny surface mounts components the soldering is relatively easy and in no time the sockets were in, the wires connected and the Master system ready to test. All plugged into the TV and power on, and nothing!!

I opened the console back up and removed the board to find one of the wires had snapped from being bent into position. Resoldered, re-assembled and retested, and this time the Master System displayed composite video on my TV, and mono sound could be heard too. Another success then. All I will say is that the picture is good but I have a bit of brightness / colour drift as I play games on the Sega. It’s not terrible or anything but noticeable. It’s still better than trying to tune the Tv to the RF output and having it wander around trying to fine tune automatically.

I also searched out my Mega Drive 1 and found it still worked and I had a composite lead for that too. So more Sega fun was had with the 16 bit big brother of the Master System. Happy Days.