As 2020 comes to a close it’s time for another PowerBasic video. Last year we did a little snow simulation in PowerBasic around Christmas. This year we are going to do a fireworks simulation instead. And with a little sprinkle of x86 assembly language even!
We already had a C64G on the channel, which was working fine, but was missing some keys and came „only“ with a SwinSID. This time we get a regular brown breadbin C64 with a fault: It’s showing flickery colors. This might be due to two things: Either the 1K color SRAM or the PLA might be broken. One way to find out: open up and replace some chips!
There are many solutions to image old floppies on a very low, flux based level: Kryoflux, Catweasel, Fluxengine or Supercard Pro, to name a few. The Greaseweazle is a low cost, open source variant that can be had for less than 10 EUR. It is suitable to generate disk images of a wide variety of formats, including but not limited to IBM PC, Atari ST, C64 and Amiga. In this video you can see me test the device and create a pipeline for more or less easy creation of different disk images. In theory you can even salvage data off of damaged disks. This heavily depends on how much of the disk is still readable though, and you should weigh your options carefully if the data in question is really valuable, of course.
Roland produced a number of SoundCanvas and related products. The SoundCanvas 55 came with an optional device called the SoundBrush 55. This was a floppy based MIDI recorder and player. Musicians could use it to either play back MIDI files or alternatively to record their performances. We will of course use the device to play back video game music without the need of a PC! I will have a look inside this device, which is well over 25 years old and also will hook it up to my SC55 and the MT32.
A good friend of the channel by the name of matze79 supplied me with a rather cheap C64G. As I didn’t own a C64 at the moment, this was an excellent opportunity. The poort little C64 came with two missing keys, which were fixed by 3D printed replacements. While this looks interesting and is impressive in its own right, I wanted a more long lasting fix. The C64 was also missing its SID chip and came with a nice little SwinSID. But again, we have some better replacement on hand! So let’s open up the machine, fix those things and enjoy the fantastic world of programs the C64 has to offer!
The VGA cards for historic PCs have an analog video output that is being driven by a so called RAMDAC. This is an IC that converts the digital framebuffer information into analog VGA signals. Modern PCs don’t need this anymore since they use digital output (like HDMI and DisplayPort) and digital displays. But our old retro machines use this to drive either an LCD or a traditional CRT. There are good RAMDACs out there and bad ones. One problem some RAMDACs have is noise when the VGA palette registers are written. This happens in games and demos for example when the screen is fading in or out. I found a supplier of new old stock INMOS RAMDACs, and I hope that replacing the cheap ADV RAMDAC on my Tseng ET4000 will remove the noise that I am seeing.
The holy grail of PC soundcards include a few special devices. But one of them is surely the Gravis Ultrasound. It allowed mixing of 32 independent channels with (near) CD quality. This could be used for sound effects or music, and was particularly popular in the demo scene. But also game classics such as Jazz Jackrabbit, One Must Fall, Epic Pinball and Pinball Fantasies used the card to great effect. However today an original Ultrasound costs anywhere between 200-400 EUR, which is a bit too expensive in my opinion. So we try out a cheap homebrew clone! Meet the GUSar lite!
In 2019 Sam Demeulemeester (he’s actually Belgian, although I say French in the video) did a Kickstarter for the ATX2AT smart adapter. It allows you to safely attach a modern ATX PSU to a retro mainboard with AT connectors. That is your precious 286, 386 or higher will now be safe from overcurrents due to wrongly inserted CPUs, broken expansion cards, failing tantalum capacitors or rogue power supplies. It might not save the world, but it will probably save your valuable retro PC. I already lost two precious mainboards and am glad to have finally received the ATX2AT smart adapter!
The Innovation SSI-2001 was a very early PC sound card which appeared roughly during the release period of the Adlib. It was supported only by a handful of games and disappeared very quickly from the market. What makes it notable is the fact that it used the MOS6581 also known as the SID as its core. This chip was better known as the chip that drove the Commodore 64’s sound. Hence this card is particularly interesting. Early this year I hand soldered a replica of this card, known as the Renovation SSI-2001. Today we want to test drive a couple of games and compare different SID implementations: An original MOS6581, a SwinSID nano and the ArmSID. Can the much cheaper emulated SIDs hold a candle to the expensive and ever rarer original in this setting? We also take a short stab at getting the SID to produce a tone using MS DOS QBasic!
I am a big fan of interactive fiction, better known as text adventures. I am also a big fan of MS DOS games. And retro games in general. And when there is a new release of a retro game, a text adventure, which supports MS DOS and other platforms, I am all ears. Enter: The Curse of Rabenstein. A brand new release with a nice physical big box with lots of goodies. But is the game also a goodie? Let’s see…