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About this blog

Ramblings and documenting of various experiences, ideas...etc. from the Ivory Tower Collections.

Entries in this blog

Sega Master System - FM upgrade Region Switch Info

I've installed the FM upgrade board 4 times now into a few different SMS NTSC consoles now and something that I tend to always forget, is that the official instructions for installing the board has a few mistakes in it. One of those mistakes is a pretty big one that I've mentioned to Tim Worthington a few times but it never seems to get fixed in his guide. That step is regarding the process for getting the region switch working on NTSC consoles. Now the steps listed I'm sure are accurate for PAL

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Atari 7800 :- Controller remote pause function modification

This is something I've messed with on and off again over the years. After I discovered the controller pause modification you can do on the Sega Master System, it got me to thinking if something similar was possible on the 7800. And yes, it totally is as similar to the SMS, the pause line on the 7800 is always active and only when pulled low to ground does it trigger the pause. So I had played with it a bit using home made perfboard setups etc. But it wasn't really as useful or needed on the 7800

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7800 oddity - a Maria that kinda? Works?

Had a 7800 come into the ITC lab to get refurbished, and upgraded with a few things. Among the updates was to get a UAV plus mount board setup as I've been doing for over a year now. This is where it is important that you always...ALWAYS test the current status of electronics before you dive in and start doing stuff. A rule I didn't follow so what I discovered after putting all this work in, isn't something I could verify was an issue before the work started. I had been told that it was wor

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New PCB Design for Intellivision installs - Sample install pics

I already made a blog post not that long about about my new designs and had posted pics of the render of the PCBs. Well, I actually received the PCBs in the other day and have had a chance to test them out. While I did make a pretty big blunder on my model 2 specific PCB, it was easily fixed and isn't that big a deal to fix in situ when installing. And it only affects me since the gerbers that I play to release publicly already have the fix in place so future boards that get made up should be go

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New PCB Designs & New Option for UAV Installs Soon!

For the past several weeks on days where I have some off time from other console service requests, I've been designing up some more new PCBs to assist me in the services I provide for folks.  I know I recently posted about a new PCB mount for the Intellivision and while I do have those new mounts in place, I wanted... more. So I designed new ones that are currently on their way to me. It is a 2 piece PCB design that uses a thicker bottom PCB as a base that can be used with either model Inte

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Latest stuff at the ITC

I know I've not made a video in a very long time on my ITC Youtube channel. But I figured I would mention here the latest things happening at the 'Tower'. Just because there haven't been any vids uploaded, doesn't mean there isn't something always still going on. First is that console service requests have picked up quit a bit for me over the past 2 years. It really started during the pandemic, but then larger and larger service requests started to come in since and at this time, there is p

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Player 2 auto triggering fire button...again!

I already touched on this in an earlier blog post not that long actually, but I will summarize again really quickly. Main issue is that in 7800 mode and games, one or both fire buttons might show as being pressed without a controller plugged in. Plug in a controller and everything behaves as it should but ultimate, the console shouldn't read anything actively from the ports without a controller plugged in. In my previous blog, I mentioned that an out of spec resistor located at R35 was

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Atari 7800 Powering On / Off issues...

As stated in another blog, I have a few 7800 sent to me for repairs and eventual upgrades. This 7800 had an interesting problem where as soon as you plugged in the DC power to the console, it would immediately power on and would NOT turn off. While there are a few components in the mix that can cause, this, I've found really only two components well technically 3 that should be looked into as possibilities:   The first component and the one most people already know about, is the power

Very dark and poor RF output? Look to the 74LS32 IC...

A few 7800s have been sent to the ITC for repairs and eventual upgrades. Before any upgrades are done, I always get the consoles back to fully working stock condition first. This 7800 was working but had very dark, fuzzy, and as such very poor RF output. Now yes, RF output doesn't look that hot on modern displays to begin with, but this was obvious something was wrong. After looking over the board for a bit, it became apparently that someone in the past had replaced or tried to replace the 74LS3

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Weird Paddle 3 issue on a 2600 4-switch?!

I've seen something similar to this before although not in the way I was seeing with a recent 4 switch console I was servicing. As part of diagnostics I will use Paul Slocum's excellent Test Cart program as it should some primary colors, shows the current state of all switches minus power of course, but also has a basic graphical view of each controller and small block on the bottom that will move left/right when you plug in paddles to test those too. So all in all a nice utility to know that al

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Atari 7800 - Self activating fire buttons?!

I received an A1 series 7800 main board in the mail recently where the owner stated it was working properly but was missing a pause button for some reason. Well, when I receive a 7800 system for services, one of the things I do is to pull up a test utility without any controllers plugged in. The reason for this is to ensure that the system controller ports are working properly. But you ask... "How does not having any controllers plugged in, help to know if the ports are working properly?" E

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Just a simple but kinda cool project?

The 'Tower' was without power most of last week due to powerful storms on Father's day. As a result it put me behind a bit on console services and projects. Well last night as I've been working kinda constantly on console stuff to try and get caught up, I took a break and decided to do something I'd been meaning to try and implement for a while now. I'm sure many of you here are aware of the Atari Vox? In summary it is a small device that plugs into controller port 2 on the 2600 or 7800 sys

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Loctite and ABS = Gallium and Aluminum...

So over the past few months, I've been trying to find ways of making the RCA jacks that I install into consoles more secure so they don't free spin over time. What I've been doing in the past that actually works 90% of the time far as I know...is that instead of using the small lock ring washer that typically comes with RCA jacks, I use inner star washers of the right diameter to do the same thing, but with more points of contact to lock into the plastic. It also has the advantage of holding the

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Intellivision Consoles can be quite frustrating! - Black Screen of Death...

Seems to be lately that I'm getting in more and more Intellivision consoles that all arrive with the same similar condition. Basically what most might call a black screen when powering on the console but it is more like a dark grey screen with a few lines along the bottom of the screen of even lighter grey. Pressing the reset button does produce a full black screen that will flicker and come back to the same dark grey screen or sometimes it might do something different like an all fuscia colored

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A New Challenger Approaches! - A7800 BackBit Pro Adapter has arrived at the ITC!

Received my BBPro 7800 adapter today and we have some really good things and some not so good that I'm hoping can be worked out in time. - First the good, is that the menu of course is easy to navigate working in the same manner - This might be the fastest loading flash cart for the 7800 with the exception of the older Mateos cart - Plays the many of the original released games without issues including both Commando and BallBlazer with properly balanced and proper sounding Pokey audio! Ni

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We all make mistakes... Keep better track of the screws!

Won't got into too many details on this other than to state up front, that I try to be as transparent as possible with the work and services I provide. As a consequence of this, mistakes can and will happen. It is just a matter of when. One such big mistake happen to me this week while installing a very expensive DCDigital setup into a clients Dreamcast. I actually had the main installation done and was ready to test. However, in order for a DC to boot up, it requires that the cooling fan and GD

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Get those Game Gears Recapped!!!

I know...I know... you hear it everywhere that everything in excess of so many years needs new capacitors and that will fix everything. Well, that isn't always the case as there are many electronics that date from much longer than 40 years ago whose caps while not perhaps quite within their original spec, are still working and doing their job. However, in the 90s there was an issue where most capacitor manufactures essentially had to start over with the formulas they had been using and as a resu

Atari 5200 BackBit PRO 4-port Soft Reset notes and modification

The BackBit Pro multi-system flash cartridge is quite amazing in all the systems it supports and the Atari 5200 is one of the newest systems to recently be added over the past few months. One cool thing that the BBPro cart has for the 5200 side of things that other similar devices do not have, is the ability to reset the console and go back to the game folder browser without having to power cycle the console. This feature works out of the box on the 2-port model 5200s by having a selector switch

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The Ivory Tower 5200 got some TLC

I originally did most of the work on this 5200 about 8 years ago. It was also one of the first projects I did and to be honest, the wiring work inside wasn't that great. For some time I had wanted to redo it all similar to how I redid my 7800 about a year ago but just never got around to it. Well, now that I have a new BackBit Pro flash cartridge and it was designed to allow resets back to the game menu, I felt it was time to perform a small modification to allow this function of my BackBit Pro

5200 with very odd keypad / fire button issues

I've done a video on something similar to this but here is a rundown on what I was encountering: A 5200 sent in for services had a note stating that top fire button wouldn't work on the console. This is an issue I've run into before and in fact have created a video on it. It can be due to the controller having a broken trace of course on the flex circuit inside it. But... it can also very well be due to a faulty 4052 MUX chip inside the console located at U13 or A13 depending on the age of

Not all consoles are stock that I work on...

As part of a large project I've been working on for over a month now, one of the situations I encounter is when a console is sent in for services that has already had another tech's hands inside it. In most cases, it might be simple repairs like replacing an IC chip or some capacitors. But now and again, I get a console sent to me that I don't always know what to expect. In those cases, there can be undesired surprises waiting for me. Here is a 2600 that I would like to show as an example of wha

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A 7800 that would only play 7800 games...?

I'm not going to provide a ton of pics on this one because it just isn't needed. But I had been fighting with a 7800 that I've been servicing for a total of just over 12 hours in trying to figure out why it would only play 7800 games? If you put in a 2600 game, it would only give a black screen and not much else. If I put in my Plus+ cart, I could barely make out the plus cart logo on the screen as it would flicker all over. This told me that the 7800 was in fact switching over to 2600

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Quick update on the ITC

Just wanted to give those that might be curious, an idea on part of what my project has been lately that has taken up much of my time as of late. These photos show 13 different 2600s that I recently serviced and installed UAVs into along with all the needed AV jacks installed as required by the client. An no...these do NOT have two sets of audio outputs. The red/white on the left rear next to the 4-pin s-video mini din, is actually separate chroma/luma connections. This is handy for co

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Installing a UAV into a heavy sixer

The process to install the UAV into a heavy or light sixer is pretty well known and documented. In summary you basically set the jumpers on the UAV for the 2600 setup and then solder a socket ontop of the 4050 IC chip and header pins into the UAV and plug it into the socket. Job done...  However, there is a caveat to this method that doesn't become apparently until you find yourself moving consoles around a lot. And when I mean moving the consoles, I mean as in them being packed up, stacked

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Gamebox Systems GBHD consolizer kit:- Playing Gameboy - Gameboy Advance games on a big screen!

I bought this kit a few months back as a pre-order and had to wait since I wanted a different colored shell. But the kit allows you to use a donor GBA mainboard from a standard GBA and essentially turn it into a small console to play your games on a modern big screen display using an SNES controller. Here are thoughts on this: The small ribbon cable that has to be soldered to the GBA CPU is tricky and requires a lot of patience to get soldered into place. The pitch of the soldering is quite

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