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[AQUARIUS] Micro-Expander: RAM, ROM, AY-8910 and more!


Bruce Abbott
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On 1/20/2022 at 3:59 PM, theloneraider said:

Also, is there anything that documents the jumper settings for the ROM module please?

Nope; but looking at the schematics these are the settings:

 

JP1: Enables/disables ROM IC A14 line

JP2: Enables/disables ROM IC A15 line

 

That means if you're using a 27C512, you have four possible ROM banks with 16KB each. Add some switches instead the jumpers, flash a 64KB binary file with the 16KB Aquarius USB Basic + 3 more 16KB Roms and you'll also get a nice multicart device ? . If you've flashed a file with four times the basic ROM file, the jumper settings doesn't matter.

 

I've enter USB Basic and tested the following:

 

File creation: save"hello.bas", saves a small basic program succesfully

File listing: dir, list the USB files including my lastly saved file

File loading: After a new, load"hello.bas", the file is loaded back into memory successfully

File running: run"hello.bas", runs the program

 

No problems at all.

 

Is the 27C512 flashed with the correct 64KB file?, if you set jumpers to the end near the edge connector you're grounding them so A14=0 and A15=0, the USB basic must be in the first 16KB of the file, the other 3x16KB blocks aren't being used. If you can enter BASIC and the message displayed said "USB BASIC 1.0", try some more commands. Seems that you've already successfully checked RAM when entering straight into basic...so far so good.

Are the CH376 modules the right ones?, eBay sellers are a lottery, they show a photo with the right module and then, send you the wrong one ?

Seems that you have some problem related to the USB filing system, double-check again the module connections.

 

I must say that I've a first expander purchased already assembled from eBay that has a flaky behaviour, it only reads the USB device from time to time and until now, I haven't been able to find a pattern that explains this. My second expander, built by myself and recently finished works fine, never seen the above problem, this is now my main tests unit. Of course I'm suspecting that the CH376 is bad or extremely nitpicking.

 

Quote

How is that game controller port?

 

The game controller port allows to plug Aquarius handcontrollers, Atari joysticks or both, depending how you wire each DB9 male connector. You can find the details here.

It can also work as a 16 bits of general purpose I/O, Bruce uploaded a video showing a DIY DAC working here

 

 

 

 

Edited by jltursan
Typos
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10 hours ago, Airshack said:

Any sources for complete micro-expander units for sale?

I could build 2-3 more with the parts I have, I still need to further test the one I built to be sure I do not sell shitty stuff. How much is an honest price for one ? Tell me if some of you are interested.

 

I only can test mine on a quite tired machine, video output is very bad and I cannot be 100% sure it is fully functioning. Is there a hardware test/diagnostic cartridge or software for the Aquarius ? What other interesting ROM could I burn in the eprom ?

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6 hours ago, SchLikA said:

I could build 2-3 more with the parts I have, I still need to further test the one I built to be sure I do not sell shitty stuff. How much is an honest price for one ? Tell me if some of you are interested.

 

I only can test mine on a quite tired machine, video output is very bad and I cannot be 100% sure it is fully functioning. Is there a hardware test/diagnostic cartridge or software for the Aquarius ? What other interesting ROM could I burn in the eprom ?

I’ll buy one if you can build it! I’m not sure what a fair price for, I think they sold for about $35 in the past, so I’d probably do $45 or so + shipping.

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7 hours ago, SchLikA said:

I could build 2-3 more with the parts I have, I still need to further test the one I built to be sure I do not sell shitty stuff. How much is an honest price for one ? Tell me if some of you are interested.

I'd love one!!! Would definitely want one with controller ports, which I understand is doable.

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Well, I don't think my CHS 376 is any good :(

 

I got the last few parts and finished assembly of the upper AY board and tried to play some of the PT3 files, but nothing, and although I can see the files, I can't load any basic or ROM files.

 

I am definitely getting some sound out of the AY jack though as I get a beep during power on.

 

I think I'll see about building a ROM with USB basic and 3 ROMs at least to see if that will give me something whilst I figure stuff out.

 

Bloody annoying.

Edited by theloneraider
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Yep, it took me some time to finish mine, I had problems with a bad 62256, bad GALs and finally, shitty USB modules. Right now I'm still waiting for the DB9 cable male connectors to build the joystick adapter.

 

I could build 2-3 more with the parts I have, I still need to further test the one I built to be sure I do not sell shitty stuff. How much is an honest price for one ? Tell me if some of you are interested.



 

I only can test mine on a quite tired machine, video output is very bad and I cannot be 100% sure it is fully functioning. Is there a hardware test/diagnostic cartridge or software for the Aquarius ? What other interesting ROM could I burn in the eprom ?

 

Nice initiative!, there're not too much interesting ROMs for the Aquarius and you can always load a ROM from SD; but maybe it's a good idea to keep a bank with the original "Extended BASIC" just in case USB Basic has compatibility problems with anything (I doubt it). The other two banks, I don't know, Chess?, BurgerTime maybe? ?

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One heads up about the micro expander that I don't think has been documented or mentioned anywhere before.

 

It does not work on S1 ROMs.

 

I realize that's a pretty obscure variant of Aquarius, but it also should be the first point to check if you're getting a garbage screen on boot or otherwise can't run off the USB.

 

Only found this out today when testing one on both S1 and S2 machines. I suspect it may just be a compatibility problem in the USB ROM that might be fixable without hardware alterations, but I don't know enough about the inner workings of that to offer any suggestions.

 

On S1 it'd often show striped garbage screen like this that would then cycle through characters randomly, or just skip right to BASIC as if no cart was inserted.

 

image.thumb.png.c6b2fa9369639b752a77b88a7298fa17.png

Edited by MattPilz
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That sounds strange...I don't have myself a S1 machine; but with the latest AquaLite and emulating the MicroExpander on a S1 ROM, it works flawlessly. If it's just a software compatibility between the ME firmware and the S1 ROM code, it would also happens under emulation in some way...or at least think so.

 

Indeed it's an Aquarius obscure variant and I'm afraid that not too much people would be able to test both pieces of hardware together; but some more reports would be needed...

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On 1/29/2022 at 8:20 PM, MattPilz said:

One heads up about the micro expander that I don't think has been documented or mentioned anywhere before.

 

It does not work on S1 ROMs.

 

I realize that's a pretty obscure variant of Aquarius, but it also should be the first point to check if you're getting a garbage screen on boot or otherwise can't run off the USB.

Wow, really?! You're right, I've never heard of this before. My "daily driver" Aquarius is an S1. Also, my experience has been that S1s are not all that rare, with approximately 1 out of every 4 Aquarius computers that I have come across have been S1s. Glad I haven't shelled out the dough yet on a Micro Expander, yikes...

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As I am relatively new in the Aquarius space, how do I differentiate between an S1 and an S2?

 

Also, is there a basic program I can use to test the AY, as although there is audio coming through (The beep at boot), I can't play back PT3 files from USB right now, I just get silence.

Edited by theloneraider
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3 hours ago, theloneraider said:

As I am relatively new in the Aquarius space, how do I differentiate between an S1 and an S2?

 

Also, is there a basic program I can use to test the AY, as although there is audio coming through (The beep at boot), I can't play back PT3 files from USB right now, I just get silence.

On the boot screen, to the right of the copyright info, it will say "S2" if you have an S2, and no designation if you have an S1. Also, in my experience, the keyboard overlay that came with S1 Aquarius systems does not have "Printed in Hong Kong" written in the bottom right corner. 
 

I know there's a Mini Expander test program on the Aquaricart, and one of the test sequences tests all of the audio channels. I presume that would do the trick if you can find that program?

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S1 ROM boot screen displays: "Copyright (c) 1982 by Microsoft Inc."

S2  "         "      "          "      : "Copyright (c) 1982 by Microsoft Inc. S2"

 

If you can't use the integrated PT3 player you must manually program PSG registers. All the info is here: Programming the AY-3-8910 sound chip

Luckily, USB BASIC has a new OUT command to output data to ports so you can try to use a more straightforward strategy to program the PSG ?

Edited by jltursan
Fixed wrong info :-P
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On 1/27/2022 at 10:37 PM, EdgeOfPortal said:

I’ll buy one if you can build it! I’m not sure what a fair price for, I think they sold for about $35 in the past, so I’d probably do $45 or so + shipping.

At last, I spent a little time debugging the micro_expander I made and it finally works flawlessly. Loads roms and plays pt3 files fine. I added electrician tape between the different "sandwich" levels and got it to work, there probably was a short somewhere.

 

On the pricing side, I came across a post from 2017 linking this sheet : https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1uOPcStu26q4kG-tO-dFrugIbuu7juL4POVsBoPc4r9c/edit?usp=sharing

 

Pricing of the components seemed to be around 45-50USD at that time, it will surely not be better today, and I sincerely doubt about the price of USD35, taking into account that it doesn't include even a minute if the time it took to build nor fraction the tools needed to build these. This is an enthusiasts things, I won't make money on this, but I am not ready to lose some neither. So I guess that at least USD60 + shipping (from Switzerland) would be minimum. The units will be tested and ready to run. Who is in ?

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So I guess that at least USD60 + shipping (from Switzerland) would be minimum. The units will be tested and ready to run. Who is in

 

Maybe a new thread could help your offer to be more visible?. I must say that the assembly could take quite some time and indeed, it must be taken into account without doubt.

 

Now...

 

I've just built a joystick adapter (Atari version, only JOY1 for now) and found the following:

 

1) First of all, it works!. Not all official carts work great with the Atari version; but just testing the new BASIC command JOY, it worked flawlessly.

2) One of my MicroExpander was not working at all, no joystick inputs. First I thought the AY was the culprit and replaced it with no joy ?; but after checking schematics found a bad 74HCT30. Once replaced, it worked as expected!. So if you don't have joystick input, check this IC or the 74HCT02.

3) While looking for an AY replacement, I tried with a YM2149F and at least, it worked fine as PSG. After fixing the real issue, I tested the I/O ports and of course, it also worked fine; so this chip is a suitable replacement.

 

I'll finish the adapter with the second port and then I'll probably add an original handcontrollers adapter. I hate them but they're the offcial ones.

 

Happy! ?

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/6/2022 at 7:04 PM, SchLikA said:

At last, I spent a little time debugging the micro_expander I made and it finally works flawlessly. Loads roms and plays pt3 files fine. I added electrician tape between the different "sandwich" levels and got it to work, there probably was a short somewhere.

 

On the pricing side, I came across a post from 2017 linking this sheet : https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1uOPcStu26q4kG-tO-dFrugIbuu7juL4POVsBoPc4r9c/edit?usp=sharing

 

Pricing of the components seemed to be around 45-50USD at that time, it will surely not be better today, and I sincerely doubt about the price of USD35, taking into account that it doesn't include even a minute if the time it took to build nor fraction the tools needed to build these. This is an enthusiasts things, I won't make money on this, but I am not ready to lose some neither. So I guess that at least USD60 + shipping (from Switzerland) would be minimum. The units will be tested and ready to run. Who is in ?

Hello, I would like to get one. Would you PM to me?

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On 2/6/2022 at 6:04 PM, SchLikA said:

At last, I spent a little time debugging the micro_expander I made and it finally works flawlessly. Loads roms and plays pt3 files fine. I added electrician tape between the different "sandwich" levels and got it to work, there probably was a short somewhere.

 

On the pricing side, I came across a post from 2017 linking this sheet : https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1uOPcStu26q4kG-tO-dFrugIbuu7juL4POVsBoPc4r9c/edit?usp=sharing

 

Pricing of the components seemed to be around 45-50USD at that time, it will surely not be better today, and I sincerely doubt about the price of USD35, taking into account that it doesn't include even a minute if the time it took to build nor fraction the tools needed to build these. This is an enthusiasts things, I won't make money on this, but I am not ready to lose some neither. So I guess that at least USD60 + shipping (from Switzerland) would be minimum. The units will be tested and ready to run. Who is in ?

I'm in! :)

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  • 1 month later...

I'm unable to find the right ch376 module with the right pinout. I found the CH375B module with right pinout. is it suitable anyway or I'm forced to need the Ch376s module? that module is out of stock since a lot of time, what can be found now had the pinout completely different, also the RST pin is missed. Please let me know, I'm getting crazy with this!

 

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