Lyonsden Blog

Tag - Commodore

Retro Gamer Magazine #200 with Turrican CD!

Another absolutely brilliant couple of freebies with this months Retro Gamer magazine. First off there’s the A2 colour poster which contains the full image used on the front cover of this special 200th issue of the magazine. It’s like ‘Where’s Wally?’ only for retro geeks! I challenge you to find the C64 and Amiga 500 hidden in the poster!

 

Retro Gamer Turrican

Retro Gamer Issue 200 Cover

 

Secondly there’s an amazing Turrican soundtrack CD included, featuring 14 music tracks from the game.

 

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But these aren’t straight rips from the game, oh no. The first 8 tracks have been performed by a full orchestra and sound phenomenal. The final 6 tracks are remixed studio versions of the game tracks which sound terrific too. I’ve listened to this CD twice already now it’s that good. In fact I’d say the CD is worth the price of the magazine alone!

 

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There’s loads of great content in this months issue but I especially enjoyed the trip through the decades of gaming starting in the 70’s passing through the 80’s and ending in the 90’s. Plenty of coverage of both 8 and 16-bit Commodore machines too. I’d say this months edition is definitely worth a buy, even if it’s just for that epic poster and the Turrican CD!

Retro Acrylic LED Signs

Retro Acrylic LED Signs

So I was indulging in one of my favourite pastimes recently… idly browsing through retro stuff on eBay (or junk as my wife calls it). I came across these cool looking retro acrylic LED signs that I thought would look great in my man cave. The seller offers a wide range of designs to choose from. After much oohing and aahing I settled on a really geeky and detailed C64 Circuit board design and a fairly plain Amiga one.

 

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There’s a range of colours to choose from including white, green, blue and red. The colours are fixed and do not change although that would be a great feature if it was offered. I opted for blue and red. The signs arrived a couple of days later with each comprising three separate components which you assemble yourself.

 

Sign Components…

 

Firstly there’s the acrylic sign itself which is 210mm long, 148mm tall and about 4mm thick. It’s basically the same size as an A5 piece of paper. Then there’s the wooden base with the LED’s in it which is a little longer in length and about 50mm wide. The sign simply slots into it and can easily be removed if necessary. Finally there’s a USB power cable which is about 1m long and has a round male plug one end and a standard USB connection at the other.

The base of the sign is constructed from two pine wood strips glued together. They’ve been well finished with nice rounded corners and edges so no danger of getting splinters. Personally I would have preferred the option of a hardwood base but that’s just nit-picking.

 

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USB Power Cable

 

There’s some kind of circuitry within the USB adapter which makes the plug quite long and the plastic casing feels a little flimsy as a result. I’ve had no issues with it but I’d imagine you need to be careful not to put any sideways pressure on it or it may damage the solder joints. The signs are advertised as being 12v so I’m assuming the circuitry is required to step up the voltage from USB’s normal 5V.

 

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The signs illuminate pretty well even in a well lit room. The LED lights shine up through the acrylic plate and refract through the etched design very effectively.

 

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However dim the lights or use them in a dark room and they really come into their own. Both colours offer a significant glow around them in addition to illuminating the design. The blue is noticeably brighter than the red as you might expect with the latter being much more subdued. I actually found the blue to be too bright to use in a dark room if it was anywhere in my field of vision. However the red was easy on the eyes and created a nice warm glow.

 

Signs in a room with lights dimmed…

 

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Signs in darkened room…

 

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As I mentioned earlier you can remove the signs from their base easily. So, if you’ve bought more than one you can swap them around to see which sign looks best with which colour. Fingerprints become very visible on the surface of the plates though so it’s best to use gloves or handle them from the edges only.

 

In conclusion…

 

These retro acrylic LED signs cost £23 including postage within the UK and are available from this seller. All things considered I think this is a fair price considering what you’re getting. They do look a little ‘functional’ in daylight but once the lights go down they look amazing and really add an interesting focal point to your man cave/office/study/games room.

I do have reservations about the robustness of the USB plug but hopefully it will be fine. I have them plugged into Alexa controlled sockets so they shouldn’t really see much wear and tear. However if anything untoward happens to them I will update this article.

Amiga User 8 – Special Edition

Amiga User 8

This delivery of Amiga User 8 came as a welcome surprise, especially considering that I only received issue 7 a couple of weeks ago! This is actually a special edition issue of the magazine created specifically for the recent Amiga34 party which took place in Neuss, Germany.

 

Amiga User 8

Amiga User 8 Cover

 

Because the magazine was intended to be sold at the event in Germany it is presented in dual languages. The first half of the magazine is in English and the latter half in German. It’s also not as thick as regular issues, weighing in at 40 pages so in reality there’s only 25% of the usual amount of content. However it makes up for this by the addition of several other goodies bundled with it.

 

Amiga User 8 Bundle

Amiga User 8 Bundle

 

Amiga User 8

Amiga User 8 Goodies

 

Extras included with this issue:

  • Amiga User lanyard
  • Amiga User bookmark
  • Cover CD in professionally produced DVD case
  • Ten very cool looking professionally printed multi-colour Amiga disk labels
  • A 3.5″ Rescue floppy disk for booting your Amiga in the event of HD trouble.

 

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So what’s actually in Amiga User 8 then? Well it’s clear that this issue was designed as a ‘taster’ to introduce new readers or lapsed Amiga users to the fold. Consequently the content matter reflects this.  There are articles looking at the alternatives to using physical floppy disks, including a great guide to installing and configuring WHDLoad for new users. There is also a comprehensive guide on how to setup a Hard Drive and install workbench on it. The guide continues with tips for formatting floppies to transfer files from a PC and also for updating key parts of the OS like the Installer. Finally there is a guide for creating your own workbench icons.

 

Cover CD

 

The cover CD itself contains dozens if not hundreds of utilities and applications that you can install on your Amiga. Programs such as Directory Opus, MUI and CyberView. Of course most of these are readily available to download off Aminet or around the web but it’s still convenient to have them collected together.

 

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All of the applications and resources referred to in the magazine are included on the CD too which I find very useful. Besides the practicalities, there’s also the fun of rummaging around the disc to see what’s on there. Maybe uncovering a few surprises or jogging a few memories along the way. It all adds to the nostalgia which is a big part of what the retro scene is all about.

 

Cover CD Contents

Cover CD Contents

 

If you fancy getting hold of your own copy take a look at the amiga.net.pl website. Amiga User is produced in Poland but the English is excellent. I don’t speak much German so I can’t comment on the quality of that aspect. Delivery to the UK only takes a week or so. If you’d rather get a digital version they offer that option too.

If you’d like to take a look at some of my previous previews of the magazine then please click here.

Amiga User 7

Amiga User 7

Another new retro computing magazine was delivered through my door this week. This time it was the turn of Amiga User 7, making it’s second appearance of the year and crammed full of interesting Amiga content.

As I’ve said before, this is definitely a magazine devoted to the Amiga enthusiast rather than gamers. There’s a strong focus on hardware and software applications along with guides and tutorials to follow. More of a reference source than a typical magazine and well worth picking up if you are a ‘tinkerer’ like myself.

In this issue there’s a look at configuring next-gen Amiga OS’s MorphOS and AROS. A review of GoADF! 2019 plus articles delving into aspects of Dopus 5, ImageFX and even ShapeShifter!

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Here’s a peek at the contents page so you can see what else is covered in this issue.

 

Amiga User 7 Index

Amiga User 7 Contents

 

If you fancy getting hold of your own copy take a look at the amiga.net.pl website. Amiga User is produced in Poland but the English is excellent. Delivery to the UK only takes a week or so. If you’d rather get a digital version they offer that option too.

If you’d like to take a look at some of my previous previews of the magazine then please click here.

Cassette Deck Maintenance: Demagnetising a Tape Head

Binatone Data Recorder - Demagnetising Tape head

In addition to regular cleaning another vital part of keeping your cassette deck running smoothly is demagnetising the tape head. This applies to both computer cassette decks and Hi-Fi ones. Over time a residual magnetic field can build up on the head. Not only can this adversely affect playback (more noise and loss of high end response) but it can also degrade the quality of any tape passing over it.

A cassette tape is basically a strip of thin plastic coated with a ferrous material. Music (or data in the case of a computer tape) is recorded onto it by using an electro-magnet to magnetise the tape surface to varying degrees. A tape can be erased by placing a strong magnet near it so even a weakly magnetised head will, over time, slowly erase any recordings passing over it. The more you play a tape on a deck with a magnetised head, the greater the cumulative effect will be.

TDK HD-01 Tape Head Demagnetiser

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So what can you do about it? Well thankfully there are a number of different ways you can demagnetise tape heads. Popular methods include a mains powered electro-magnetic wand and those cheap cleaning cassettes that contain a rotating magnet on a little disc. In the past I relied on an the latter; an old Maxell cleaner/demagnetising cassette. However just recently I stumbled across this TDK one advertised as ‘New Old Stock’. I’ve always trusted TDK as a brand, they make good quality products and know their stuff. It was a little on the expensive side due to me needing to pay shipping and import taxes from the US but I felt it was worth it.

 

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Although the box it came in was very tatty, the contents were like new. Inside there was a small instruction manual and the demagnetiser itself. The device is powered by a small 1.5V lithium battery which should be good for 500 uses according to the instructions.

Naturally I had to install a new battery before I could get it to work. The rear of the instruction manual is stamped with the year 1978 so this little gadget is now over 40 years old! Thankfully it takes a standard size A76/LR44 button cell battery that is still readily available.

 

How does it work? – Demagnetising the tape heads

So how do you use it? Well it really couldn’t be any simpler. You basically pop it into your cassette player and press play! There’s a small plastic micro-switch above the play head that is activated by the motion of play head moving upwards when you press the play button. A red LED illuminates at the centre of the cassette to demonstrate that it’s working and that’s it, job done! When activated the circuitry inside the demagnetiser generates a pulse signal which demagnetises the play head in a matter of seconds.

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There’s a little more to the process than that if you are using the device in a cassette deck that doesn’t have a mechanical play button. The device won’t work until the play button is pressed so if you have a deck that won’t allow you to press play whilst powered off then you need to take a few precautions. This is because of the strong signal it outputs which can damage amplifiers and headphones if you don’t make sure to fully turn down any volume controls first. My Hi-Fi has a fully electronic transport mechanism so I have to be careful when using it on that device for example.

 

Commodore C2N - Demagnetising Tape head

Commodore C2N – Demagnetising the tape head in progress!

 

Thankfully most older devices have fully manual play buttons and need no such precautions. With devices like the Commodore C2N Datasette I can simply pop the cassette in, press play and the get the job done in seconds. I would imagine virtually all Walkmans would be equally simple to work with.

The manual recommends demagnetising your tape head every 30 hours of playing time. Therefore, how often you need to do this will depend on what sort of tapes you are playing and how often you play them. For my Hi-Fi deck regularly playing C60 and C90 tapes this could be as often as once a fortnight. For my computer decks playing relatively short C15 tapes much less frequently, once every 6 months would be more appropriate.

Despite the cost I think the device is totally worth my time and money. Given how precious some of my old cassette tapes and games are to me, anything I can do to help prolong their lifespan is worth doing in my book.

Retrokomp Issue 2 (1) Out Now!

Issue two of the multi-format retro magazine has finally been released and I received my copy a few days ago. Just to confuse things slightly this magazine is actually named Retrokomp Issue 1. That’s because the first issue was in fact numbered ‘0’. This is a slightly odd numbering convention that can be found on their other magazines such as Amiga User too.

 

Retrokomp Issue 1

Retrokomp Issue 1 Cover

 

This issue is packed with even more Commodore content that the previous one and arrives with a hefty count of 76 thick glossy pages.

 

A welcome bias towards Commodore in this issues contents

 

As I mentioned in my look at the very first issue, this is definitely a magazine aimed at the more serious user. There’s a big emphasis on productivity and creative software rather than gaming. This is no bad thing though as there are plenty of magazines offering gaming news and reviews now. That’s not to say the Retrokomp doesn’t dabble with games though. This issue has the first part of really interesting series of articles delving into MicroProse F-19 Stealth Fighter, possibly their finest flight simulation ever in my opinion.

 

F-19 Stealth Fightrer

F-19 Stealth Fighter on the C64

 

Rocket Smash EX Review

Rocket Smash EX Review

 

Of course there’s no shortage of interesting articles to expand your retro computing knowledge either. I particularly enjoyed the LHArchie GUI guide that shows how to install a GUI for the previously shell only LHA archive utility.

 

LHArchie GUI

LHArchie GUI

 

Other stand-out articles for me were the Ray-tracing and Brilliance articles for the Amiga.

 

Amiga Ray-tracing

Amiga Ray-tracing

 

Brilliance

Everyone remembers Deluxe Paint on the Amiga but who remembers Brilliance?

 

A quick run-down of the Commodore-centric articles in Retrokomp Issue 1:

  • F-19 Stealth Fighter
  • Data compression methods on the PET
  • Truths and myths about the Commodore 64
  • Rocket Smash EX Review
  • Black Box cartridge: Assembler support
  • My personal games set for Plus/4
  • Raytracing on the Amia 500 with 1MB RAM
  • Amiga Vision
  • (True) Brilliance: 24-bit on Amiga chipset
  • Get to know AmigaOS: programs and processes
  • PowerPC software tips
  • LHArchie GUI

 

 

Plus/4 Gaming

Plus/4 Gaming

 

If you’ve never come across Retrokomp magazine before you might like to read through my preview of the first issue here.

Alternatively if you’d like to purchase a copy of Retrokomp Issue 1 for yourself then visit the publishers website here and show your support.

A look back at Pinball Spectacular and Raid on Fort Knox for the VIC20

Pinball Spectacular

Picked up another duo of classic VIC20 game cartridges off eBay to add to my collection this week. Pinball Spectacular and Raid on Fort Knox, both of which are in pretty good condition complete with their original boxes and instruction sheets.

As usual I spent some time scanning the boxes in and adding them to my ‘3D VIC20 Game Museum‘. It’s so much easier to do this as and when I get new games. If I leave it too long they pile up and I develop a kind of mental block that prevents me doing them!

I’ve never seen or played either of these two before so had no idea what to expect from either of them beforehand. Thought I would share my thoughts on each title in the form of some mini reviews…

 

Pinball Spectacular

I’d never even seen Pinball Spectacular for the VIC20 before so this was a particularly interesting purchase for me. The game requires the use of paddles which was another reason I was keen to pick it up. There weren’t many paddle games made for the VIC so I grab any I can find!

Once I loaded this up I quickly realised that this is not a pinball game at all. It might take a few cues from it but this is basically a version of breakout.

 

Pinball Spectacular

Pinball Spectacular Title/Player select screen

 

You control two horizontal bats that you can move left and right with the paddle. Once you launch the pinball with the fire button you need to keep batting it back up the screen to destroy the coloured blocks. This can quickly get tricky as the ball ricochets, often at high speed, at all sorts of angles due to the design of the ‘table’. The goal here is to clear all the blocks and release an alien which you then destroy by hitting it with the pinball.

So far, this has far more in common with breakout than anything else. Here’s where the the pinball elements come in to play. You can hit the ghost at the top of the screen for extra points. Likewise if you can direct the ball to hit all the little faces (turning the frowns into smiles) you can gain another bonus. Light up the letters E X T R A and unsurprisingly you earn an extra ball.

 

Pinball Spectacular

Pinball Spectacular

 

It’s a very simple game but it’s presented attractively with a great use of colour and some decent sound effects. Best of all it’s actually really good fun to play, helped in no small part by the use of paddles to control the bats. I can see myself coming back to play this often, trying to rack up higher and higher scores.

 

Raid on Fort Knox

This game has a lot in common with other games such as Pacman or Radar Rat race. The aim of the game is to steal gold bars from the vaults in Fort Knox and escape back to your hideout with them. Fort Knox is represented as a maze of corridors and for some reason there are black panthers patrolling that you must avoid. Not sure why there’s panthers around instead of guards but no matter. If one touches you,  you lose one of your three lives, lose all three and it’s game over.

 

Raid on Fort Knox

Raid on Fort Knox Title Screen

 

Whilst you are navigating through the corridors to retrieve the gold, one bar at a time, there’s no time limit. However as soon as you grab a gold bar a countdown timer bar appears at the bottom of the screen. You must get back to your hideout, whilst avoiding the panthers, before the time limit runs out. The faster you get back to your hideout, the bigger the payout. If time runs out you get nothing for your troubles. If you steal all the bars you move on to a bonus vault before moving up to the next level.

 

Raid on Fort Knox

First level of Raid on Fort Knox – on the left are the gold bars. You’re the little blue guy top right.

 

The graphics can best be described as rudimentary, as are the sound effects. If it was a budget game on cassette I’d forgive these shortcomings but for a cartridge game it’s disappointing. I reckon it was probably written in BASIC. I’m glad I was able to add it to my collection but in all honesty it’s not a title I see myself coming back to in the future.

 

Raid on Fort Knox

Raid on Fort Knox Bonus Level – avoid those black panthers.

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor Diagnostic Cartridge Review

Trilogic 64 Doctor

I picked ‘Trilogic 64 Doctor’ up a little while ago as I thought it might come in handy one day. As it had been sat around on a shelf for some time I decided it was time to have a play around with it. You would be forgiven for thinking that this was new old stock given that Trilogic (as we know it) ceased to be a long time ago*. However this is actually a factory fresh product, made under licence by the prolific Tim Harris of SharewarePlus.

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

Here’s the contents of the box. From left to right. User port dongle, test cartridge and serial port dongle.

 

Inside the box you get an instruction booklet, some flyers for other Trilogic products, the Trilogic 64 Doctor diagnostic cart itself, a user port dongle and also a serial port dongle.

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor Instructions

Here’s the instruction booklet along with some very retro looking flyers for other Trilogic stuff.

 

What does it do?

So what does the Trilogic 64 Doctor actually do? Well there is a little clue in the ‘doctor’ part of the name itself. Basically you plug it in and it will then perform a barrage of tests on your Commodore 64, from RAM chips to joystick ports.

Here’s a list of the tests it can perform:

  • Keyboard
  • Serial Port
  • Cartridge Port
  • Kernal ROM
  • Video Chip & Video Banks
  • NVI & IRQ Interrupts
  • Cassette Data
  • Joystick Port
  • User Port
  • BASIC ROM
  • CIA Chips
  • Sound Chip
  • Cassette Key Press
  • Joystick(s)

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

Rear of the Commodore 64 with cartridge and both dongles inserted.

 

Keyboard Test

When you first turn your C64 on with the cartridge inserted you are presented with an on-screen keyboard. This is the keyboard test and allows you to quickly determine whether any of your keys are misbehaving. As you press each key in turn, their on-screen counterparts light up in yellow. If any don’t light up then you know there’s a problem. The restore key isn’t included in the test per se, but given it is needed to progress to the next test it will be obvious if it’s faulty!

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

The Keyboard test screen

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

Successfully passing the keyboard test

 

Joystick and Joystick Port Test

The next test is for the two joystick ports and of course whatever joystick you happen to have plugged in. Simply press up, down, left, right and fire with a joystick attached (in turn) to both ports. Like with the keyboard test, an on-screen visualisation of the presses should appear if all is working correctly.

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

The joystick test screen

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

Successfully passing the joystick test

 

Chip and Ports test

The final and probably most important test is that of the various chips and ports of the Commodore 64. This test includes both the User Port and Serial port so long as you have plugged in the supplied dongles. Video, SID, Kernel, CIA and several other chips are also tested too. If you need to test the cassette port then you must connect a datasette to it, after making sure you unplug the serial port dongle first.

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

Successful chip tests

 

Trilogic 64 Doctor

Successful cassette deck/port test. Notice how the serial port lists a fault – this is because the serial port dongle has to be unplugged for this part of the test.

 

After the tests…

Once the tests have completed you will either be presented with a clean bill of health or a fault to fix. The included manual provides a wealth of useful information not just about faults but also how to fix them. It goes into great detail about common reasons for each fault, how to troubleshoot them and ultimately what you can do to fix them. It even goes as far as recommending other useful tools that you may need to diagnose faults or perform repairs.

 

Conclusion

With the inclusion of the two dongles this offers a very comprehensive phalanx of tests for your Commodore 64. Combined with the informative manual, whether you need to troubleshoot a faulty C64 or just want to have it ‘in reserve’ in your retro toolkit this is a recommended purchase.

If you fancy getting hold of one yourself, these are listed on the SharewarePlus eBay store for around £25 at the time of writing.

 

 

 

 

 


*Curiosity got the better of me so I did some googling. Although Trilogic Computers does still exist, it is now a PC repair business. It’s still in Bradford only located at a different address. A look through the records at Companies House indicate that they changed from their old address to their current one back in 1997. Maybe one day when I’m in the area I’ll pop in with my old Expert cart and ask them to fix it!

TerribleFire 330 – CD32 Upgrade

TerribleFire 330

One of the things I’ve always loved about the Amiga is it’s expansion possibilities. There was always some upgrade or gizmo you could add that would let you do something new, or do something faster. The TerribleFire 330 is touted as being able to do both of these things and then some. Naturally, as soon as I spotted it on AmiBay I wanted one…

What is it?

The TerribleFire 330 is an expansion for the Amiga CD32 that adds many new features to the console. It’s attached by means of a ‘Riser’ card to the expansion port which itself offers some benefits to the user. Here’s a quick run-down of the extra features it offers:

  • 68030 CPU over-clocked to 50Mhz
  • 64MB Fast Ram
  • IDE Interface
  • RGB Video Port (on the riser)
  • PS/2 Keyboard port (on the riser)

In a nutshell, it converts your CD32 into a souped up Amiga 1200 with built-in CD-ROM drive.

 

A Closer Look at the TF330

 

TerribleFire 330

Here’s a close-up of the top of the board. CPU on the left, IDE connector top right.

 

TerribleFire 330

Here’s a view of the underside of the board. The foam pads are there to prevent the exposed solder pads from touching the metal shielding cover inside the CD32 when inserted.

 

TerribleFire 330 Riser Board

Here’s a view of the riser board.

 

Riser Board

The is a straight-on view of the riser board. The male DB25 port on the right is for hooking up an RGB video cable for vastly improved picture quality. The PIC chip in the center provides a means of converting the inputs from a PS/2 PC keyboard into key presses that will the Amiga will recognise.

 

TF330 PS/2 Port

A better view of the PS/2 port.

 

TF330 68030 CPU

Close-up of the 68030 CPU. As you may notice it’s officially rated at 40Mhz. On the TF330 board it has been overclocked to run at 50Mhz.

 

TerribleFire 330

Side view of the TF330 – note how the CF card can be tucked underneath.

 

TerribleFire 330

Another view of the TerribleFire 330 card.

 

 

Installing the TerribleFire 330

 

Installation is pretty straightforward and involves removing the plastic expansion cover on the back of the CD32 console. There’s only one phillips screw to remove. Both the screw and the cover can be safely stashed away at this point as they won’t be getting used again.

 

CD32 Expansion Cover

This is the CD32 expansion bay where the TerribleFire card will be installed.

 

With the cover removed you can clearly see a big empty space left above the shielding. This expansion bay was original intended to allow the use of the official Commodore CD32 Full Motion Video Module.

 

CD32 Expansion Bay

Here’s a view of the expansion bay with the cover removed. The edge connector can be seen at the bottom of the image. The TerribleFire 330 card will occupy that empty space above the shielding.

 

You can simply install the TF330 as it comes but I found a nice little 3D printed clip to hold the IDE cable and CF card in place on eBay. With this fitted the card is securely held underneath the main TF330 board out of harms way. Not an essential purchase but as I store my CD32 vertically I thought it was a worthwhile extra to prevent things moving around.

 

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Installing the TerribleFire 330

Here are some photos of the TF330 after I installed it. It does protrude from the back of the console somewhat and it certainly ain’t ‘pretty’ but I’m more than happy to overlook this given the features it offers.

 

Installed TerribleFire 330

TF330 fully installed – you can clearly see that it protrudes about 1″ from the back of the console to the edge of the PS/2 port.

 

TF330 Riser installed

The transparent plastic stuck over the circuit board protects it from being shorted out accidentally. The PIC chip is missing for reasons that I will explain later…

 

 

Booting up for the first time

My TerribleFire 330 came with a pre-installed copy of Workbench on an 8GB Compact Flash card. To boot into Workbench all you need to do is turn on the CD32 without a disc inside it. After a few seconds the CD activity light starts to flicker away and then up pops the workbench screen.

 

TF330 Workbench Screen

You can see the 68030 CPU recognised along with the extra 64MB of RAM on the title bar of the screen.

 

As with any accelerator upgrade for the Amiga I couldn’t resist loading up Sysinfo to see how my pimped out CD32 fared against other systems in the Amiga range. I was not disappointed, it ranked between the Amiga 3000 and 4000 which is impressive. It’s almost twice as fast as a stock A3000 which has a 25Mhz 030 processor.

 

TerribleFire 330 Sysinfo

SYSINFO: Nearly half as fast as an Amiga 4000…

 

TerribleFire 330 Sysinfo

SYSINFO: Zoomed in view.

 

And of course with the ability to run Workbench off an installed CF card comes the option of using WHDLoad! My card came pre-installed with hundreds, if not thousands of games all ready to play with a few clicks of a mouse. The CD32 already has the required 2Mb chip RAM and with the TF330 it also has plenty of Fast RAM now too. Throw in a PS/2 keyboard and you can also exit games cleanly back to Workbench and play games like Star Crusader that require one.

 

CD32 WHDLoad

TerribleFire 330 lets you use WHDLoad on the CD32.

Compatibility

I don’t have a whole lot of CD32 games right now but I have noticed issues with a few of the games I do own, namely Wing Commander and Lotus Trilogy.

Wing Commander

This loads with all the colours messed up when the TF330 is installed, however I did manage to download an ISO of a fixed version of the game which ran fine.

Lotus Trilogy

This actually works with the exception being that the initial menu screen where you select Lotus 1, 2 or 3 doesn’t display. You can hear the music in the background and if you press fire it will load Lotus 1 just fine. You can access the other 2 games by blindly selecting them (pull down once or twice before pressing fire).

The board was described as having a ‘disable jumper’. Removing it is supposed to make it invisible to the CD32 so it can boot up as normal. However in my testing this simply doesn’t work, in fact removing the jumper prevented my console from booting up at all. I contacted the seller on AmiBay who said there’s still a bug with this and that it would hopefully be fixed in a future firmware update. If that ever happens I’ll update this article.

As things stand right now I can either remove the board if I come across an incompatible CD32 game or see if there’s an alternative version on the internet that has been patched to work. Alternatively I can also try the WHDLoad version.

 

RGB Video & PS/2 Keyboard Functionality

 

The RGB port works exactly as described and offers a beautifully crisp, vibrant display with a regular Amiga RGB SCART cable. Much better than the composite I was having to use previously. Whether or not I was using Workbench or playing a game off CD this worked flawlessly.

 

TerribleFire330 RGB

A beautifully crisp display thanks to the TerribleFire 330’s RGB video output.

 

Unfortunately I can’t say the same for the PS/2 port. The whole point of this is to allow people to use cheap PC PS/2 keyboards with the CD32 instead of super scarce Amiga ones. However I tried three different brands of PS/2 keyboard and only one of those worked… for about 10 minutes. No matter what I tried I couldn’t get that keyboard to work reliably. It turns out that the PS/2 keyboard compatibility is very poor with the riser card. People report greater success with really old keyboards rather than currently available ones. I was advised by the seller to get a CD32 AUX to PS/2 adapter.

 

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I chose this one on eBay for about £18. The seller was really helpful and even offered to refund me if the adapter turned out not to work. Thankfully that wasn’t necessary as it worked perfectly with my cheap Genius PS/2 keyboard that I picked up off Amazon. There’s some clever electronics hidden inside the adapter that converts stuff like the two ‘Windows’ keys into ‘Amiga’ ones so you can still do a soft-reset. It works really well and I highly recommend getting one, even if you don’t get a TerribleFire!

 

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Actually there was one other issue that I had to solve before I was in PS/2 keyboard nirvana. The keyboard initially behaved like a key was stuck down. There is a conflict between the PIC chip on the Kipper 2K riser and the PS/2 Aux adapter. Simply removing the PIC chip solved this problem completely with no negative effects.

Here’s the PS/2 keyboard I’m using with my CD32, it’s just a cheap one I picked up off Amazon but it does the job and isn’t a bad match for the dark grey colour of the console either.

 

CD32 PS/2 Compatible Keyboard

CD32 PS/2 Compatible Keyboard

 

Conclusion

I can’t deny it’s shame the built-in PS/2 keyboard option doesn’t work as well as it could and that I can’t disable the board without removing it. However these small niggles don’t stop the TerribleFire 330 from being a beast of an expansion for the money. You’d be hard pressed to find anything else offering as much bang for your buck.

With the TerribleFire 330 installed my CD32 has become the ultimate Amiga gaming machine. It can play CD32 and CDTV titles and thanks to WHDLoad it can now play pretty much any other Amiga title as well. In fact with mouse and keyboard attached it can even be used for productivity stuff just like an A1200, only with a built in CD-ROM drive!

The extra grunt of the 50Mhz 030 also helps it run games like Alien Breed 3D, Frontier Elite 2 and Wing Commander at their very best. The addition of the RGB video port makes everything look its very best too! Bottom line, if you have a CD32 then the TerribleFire 330 is an essential upgrade for it.

 

Ultimate Amiga gaming machine

With the TF330 my CD32 has become the ultimate Amiga gaming machine.

Commodore 64 Joyswitcher Review

Joyswitcher

If you have two joysticks permanently plugged into your Commodore 64 then you would probably have no use for the Joyswitcher. However, if you’re anything like me, you might find that this is something you’ve wanted for a long time without realising it. I don’t play 2-player games but do play a wide variety of 1-player games, including those that require paddles or a mouse. Not only that but I also dabble with GEOS from time to time too. This means I’m constantly having to switch my joystick between ports 1 and 2 and swap in my mouse or paddles for those games and programs that require them as well. Not only is this a little tedious but it’s also a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on my C64’s 35 year old joystick ports.

 

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Enter the Joyswitcher

I stumbled across this little device over on AmiBay recently. This is a neat little gizmo that plugs into both of your Commodore 64’s joystick ports simultaneously. It allows you to attach any combination of mouse, joysticks or paddles and freely switch between both devices and ports without ever having to unplug anything. The guy that makes these little devices is based in Hungary but it only took a week to arrive and was well packaged too.

The Joyswitcher itself is really well constructed and very sturdy. Those DB9 joystick ports are very securely attached and don’t move around at all when plugging stuff in. There are two female DB9’s that plug into your C64 on one side of the Joyswitcher and two male DB9’s on the opposite side for you to attach your gaming devices. On the underside is a little brass post that is just the right length to support the board so that no strain is placed on the joystick ports.

 

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How it works

On the top of the device is a chunky illuminated square button, helpfully labelled ‘swap ports’ on the board. Press this for a second and you can switch the ports around from their normal position to a ‘crossed over’ one. This button stays illuminated all the time making it very easy to find if you’re playing at night with the lights dimmed.

When you first attach the Joyswitcher the default port arrangement looks like this:

Port 1 > 1

Port 2 > 2

However after pressing the illuminated button the port mapping switches over like this:

Port 1 > 2

Port 2 > 1

 

Joyswitcher

Notice the little LED to the right of port 1. When illuminated you know the ports are operating in their normal way, (not switched).

 

You can tell at a glance which mode the Joyswitcher is in as a little LED lights up when the ports are are in the ‘normal’ position. The Joyswitcher also remembers it’s last switched ‘state’ even after being powered off which is very useful.

 

Joyswitcher

Joyswitcher operating in normal mode with a pair of paddles attached to port 1 and a zipstick in port 2.

 

I still occasionally have to swap my paddles for a mouse and vice versa but not very often. Certainly nowhere near as often as I was when having to juggle a zipstick, paddles and a mouse between the 2 ports.

If I could change a single thing about the Joyswitcher it would be to add a 3rd input port so I could leave everything plugged in permanently. However there’s probably very few other users like me and it would complicate the design of the board no end so I can accept that it will probably never happen!

Conclusion

This is a fantastic little device and well worth the €32.90 it cost me. Can’t really fault the device as it does exactly what it sets out to do, is well constructed and looks like it will last a long time. I really love the aesthetics of it and appreciate being able to see everything exposed in an ‘industrial’ kind of way. It certainly looks way cooler like this than it ever would hidden away in a bland plastic case in my opinion. No doubt if you don’t feel the same way you could probably find a 3D printed case for it online.

Retrobrighting with Just the Sun!

Retrobrighting with Just the Sun

Came across this idea of retrobrighting with just the sun on YouTube. I was highly sceptical so thought I’d give it a go myself! It’s a pretty simple idea. Instead of slathering your yellowed computer in peroxide, or immersing it in bath of bleach, simply stick it out in the sun for a few days! Sounds too good to be true right?

Enter the VIC

My VIC20 had some pretty unpleasant yellowing to it so I used that as my test subject. For 4 days straight I put it outside on a south-facing bench in the garden. I’d place it there before I left for work in the morning and bring it in once I got home in the evening. Today was the 4th and final day.

I’ll let the results below do the talking. I used the same white cotton bud in each photo as a frame of reference to judge the level of yellowing. I also took the photos in the exact same location at the same time of day to keep the lighting as similar as possible. No flash was used in any of the photos.

Before & After Results

I’m extremely pleased with the results. The overall yellowing has vanished, even the quite pronounced yellowing around the grill area has gone too. The beauty of this method is that I literally did nothing – the sun did all the work for me. I didn’t even need to dismantle the computer!

Conclusion

I’ve had some disastrous results using peroxide gel in the past. On one occasion I ended up with an appalling marbling effect on a rare C128D keyboard. After that incident I had vowed never to try my hand at retrobrighting again, however this test has changed my mind. It looks like it’s the safest and easiest way imaginable to brighten up yellowed plastic. It’ll be interesting to see if the brightening effect lasts. If the yellowing comes back in future I’ll update this article.

My New Amiga CD32 Console

Amiga CD32

Introduction

I never owned an Amiga CD32 Console back when they launched in 1993. I remember reading about them in Amiga Format and wanting one desperately but could never justify or afford one at the time. Not long after they launched Commodore went out of business and so the CD32 quickly disappeared from the shelves and from my mind.

Fast-forward some 25 years and I recently found myself pining after one of these mythical beasts again. Reading numerous articles about them in magazines and on the ‘net added further fuel to the fire. So I did the only sensible thing a middle-aged bloke could do and bought my very own Amiga CD32! Here she is in all her 32-bit glory!

 

Amiga CD32

My new Amiga CD32 console

 

For it’s age and what I paid for it I think it’s in great condition. Sure there’s a couple of blemishes and the badge is scratched but for a 26 year old machine I’m more than happy with it. It’s already been fully re-capped so I don’t have to worry about that side of things either.

 

Amiga CD32

Close-up of the Amiga CD32 control panel. From left to right: reset button, power and drive activity LED’s, volume slider and headphone socket.

 

All the ports, buttons and outputs work as they should. However I can’t really see myself using it as a CD player much but at least the option is there should I want to!

 

Connectivity

 

Amiga CD32

Amiga CD32 expansion port

 

Amiga CD32 expansion port

A look inside the CD32 expansion port

 

There’s an expansion port on the back which can be used to install all manner of wonderful contraptions. In the past there were FMV cartridges, floppy drives and the SX-1 which could convert the CD32 into a full blown computer. Nowadays you can hook up a TerribleFire expansion which offers extra RAM, faster CPU’s, IDE interface and more. I’ll definitely be looking to utilise this port soon!

 

Amiga CD32

Amiga CD32 rear connectivity. From left to right: power rocker switch, power socket, RF aerial output, s-video, composite video and right/left audio RCA sockets.

 

There’s plenty of connectivity round the back as standard. No less than 3 video output options, RF, composite and S-video. The latter provides by far the best picture if you have a TV capable of utilising it.

 

Amiga CD32

View of the Amiga CD32 rear – that rusty screw definitely needs sorting…

 

 

Amiga CD32

Amiga CD32 left side. From left to right: controller port 1 (for gamepads), controller port 2 (for gamepads or a mouse), aux port (for an Amiga keyboard).

 

Amiga CD32

Amiga CD32 right side. Not much to see here really.

 

Amiga CD32

Made in 1993 in the Philippines.

 

Amiga CD32

View of the CD tray and laser pickup.

 

The CD mechanism is pretty basic but it gets the job done. My CD32 came with a spare laser pickup assembly but hopefully I won’t need to use it for a long time! Discs don’t click into place like on a lot of modern CD players. Instead they’re held in place by the friction of the lid pressing down on the CD when it closes.

 

Amiga CD32

Inside of the lid. This is what presses down on a CD to grip it.

 

A Few Issues

 

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If there’s one facet of this CD32 console that concerns me, it’s this rear left corner. The rusty screws are an eyesore but also easily rectified. No, the thing that worries me is that it looks like the lid has cracked at some point and been glued back together. The repair actually looks quite effective and from a normal viewing distance isn’t that noticeable (I’ve zoomed in close in the above photo). However there is a spring loaded lever underneath this corner which ‘lifts’ the lid up automatically once you start to raise it and so this area is presumably under a lot of strain. I’m not going to do anything with it for the time being other than keep on eye on it. I will however be keeping my eyes peeled for a replacement lid just in case!

 

A Quick Peek Inside

Because, why not? Had to make sure that it had actually been re-capped as advertised (it had) at the very least! Also wanted to take a look at the Akiko chip which is only found in the CD32. This is the chip that allows it to convert planar to chunky graphics in hardware for 3D games.

 

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CD32 Controller

The controller that came with my Amiga CD32 console is in superb condition. In fact I’d go as far as to say it’s in mint condition. It doesn’t look like it has ever been used. Sadly though it actually proved to be faulty – the D-pad ‘up’ just doesn’t work at all. Very disappointing – no idea what is wrong with it so will have to open it up and take a look soon.

 

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Amiga CD32 Competition Pro Controller

 

Luckily I was able to pick up this Amiga CD32 compatible ‘Competition Pro’ gamepad off eBay pretty cheaply. Although it doesn’t look as cool as the official controller it works perfectly. At the end of the day that’s all that matters so I can still play with my new toy until I get around to sorting the original controller!

 

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At the request of a reader here are some photos of the inside of the controller. The photos show that is is actually a ‘Honey Bee SF-3’ which is both on the back of the pad and printed onto the circuit board itself. Upon opening it up I also discovered that the insides were absolutely filthy! The board and contacts received a good cleaning with Isopropyl Alcohol before being reassembled. I hope the images prove useful and if anyone has any further interesting info about the controller please let me know I will be sure to update this page.

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PSU

Sadly my CD32 console didn’t come with an original Commodore PSU but rather this modern one made by LaCie. Although given the ropy nature of some of the official C= PSU’s maybe that’s a good thing?

 

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That Badge – Revisited & Fixed!

OK, I’ll confess that the scratched Amiga CD32 metal badge annoyed me more than I though it would. I started hunting around for a possible replacement. Replacement badges are quite commonplace for the Commodore 64 and Amiga computers so I had planned to replace my scratched up old one with a brand new one. Turns out CD32 badges are quite hard to come by. However I did come across a guy in Switzerland selling vinyl CD32 stickers on eBay that he claimed fitted exactly so I ordered one.

 

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True to his word, the vinyl sticker was indeed a perfect fit in terms of size. It’s also a very close match in colour and tone to the original, certainly close enough for me anyway. It was a little tricky to get it lined up perfectly, but now it’s in place I think it looks fantastic. Sure it’s not quite as glossy as the original, it’s got more of a silk finish, but I’m very happy with the end result.

FYI, I didn’t remove the original badge – I simply stuck the new one on top of the old metal one. The reason I did this was so that if I ever wanted to go back to a 100% original finish I could simply peel the new one off.

 

We have ignition!

Here’s a quick video I did of the awesome CD32 boot-up sequence. This must have been amazing back when it launched, two years before Sony’s original PlayStation in the UK! The quality is a little bit ropy as it’s only connected up to my TV using composite video at the moment.

 

 

Definitely time to dig out my CD32 Scene magazines and see what games I need to buy to start my collection!