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Atari 2600 cartridge with WiFi


gartenzwerg
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I'm designing a flash cartridge for the Atari 2600 with WiFi, this is a first prototype for which the PCBs are currently produced (will get them in a few weeks) :

http://www.frank-buss.de/atari2600/index.html

The hardware is not difficult, because basically I did this already with my Kerberos cartridge for the C64 and the Crazy Cartridge prototypes. But the software will be more work, because I plan to integrate flashing over a web interface, and a web browser on the Atari 2600 would be fun, or the ability to download and start cartridge images over the internet.

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I always hoped for wireless flash cart. :thumbsup:

 

BTW: I imagined that Bluetooth would be the best choice here (cheaper). Why did you chose WiFi?

 

The ESP8266 modules are super cheap, about the same as a HC05 or HC06 Bluetooth module and on top of that it is its own microcontroller, with 512MB memory on board. ;)

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The ESP8266 modules are super cheap, about the same as a HC05 or HC06 Bluetooth module and on top of that it is its own microcontroller, with 512MB memory on board. ;)

 

You know what I'm thinking of? Bluetooth Atari Trak-Ball controller.

Edited by Lynxpro
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Wow! That is convenient. Any idea on the projected print run and cost?

 

It is only a prototype, I don't plan to sell it at the moment.

 

Some people already suggested they wanted USB, so I think I'll add an additional FT232 chip for the next version (could be optional). The WiFi module is nice, because it has a programmable microcontroller (80 MHz RISC CPU) and flash (but not 512 MB :) ). First I wanted to add a SD card, too, but I don't need it, because all the programs for the Atari are so small, you can store a lot of them on the 8 MB WiFi module on-board flash, or at least on the external 1 MB flash, which I added just in case there are problems with the on-board flash or programming the integrated microcontroller.

 

Parts cost are less than EUR 40. The most expensive part is the big FPGA (about EUR 10). Could be replaced by a cheap CPLD (less than EUR 3), but it makes development much easier. For example it can store a stub for the menu program which is executed on reset, then it loads a second stage menu from the serial flash in the RAM, all without the microcontroller. With a CPLD there is not enough space to store a program or to implement the load from the serial flash to the RAM, so it would need some tricks, like a NOP slide and meanwhile the microcontroller fills the RAM, then switches to the menu program at the right moment. I could use a big parallel flash chip, but this makes routing more complicated (for my Kerberos board I used a 4 layer board).

 

Another thing which could be optimized are the voltage level translators. There are three 74lvc245 chips (8 bit voltage level translator), which cost EUR 0.50 per chip. With a CPLD with 5V tolerant IO pins (like the one I've used for my Kerberos cartridge, a XC9572) I don't need it. But maybe better to use at least one of the voltage shifters for the data bus, because the output of the CPLD would be only 3.3V.

 

Too bad Xilinx recently discontinued the XC9572. Of course, there are still lots of these chips to buy, but not good for a new project. Is there another cheap CPLD with 5V tolerant input pins, which is still manufactured?

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  • 2 weeks later...

The PCB arrived. First I soldered the 3.3 V voltage regulator, the three voltage level translators and the FPGA, then I wrote a simple VHDL test program which just emulates a 4k ROM, and converted an Atari 2600 ROM to a Lattice memory initialization file (the FPGA is big enough to include the ROM data) with a Python script.

 

I programmed the FPGA with a FT2232H dev kit, which is supported out of the box by the Lattice Diamond programmer. Was a bit tricky to config the FT2232 EEPROM. First I had to change it from "Virtual COM Port" to "D2XX" with the FT_PROG tool from FTDI. Then I had to change the IO pin drive setting from 4 mA to 16 mA because with 4 mA the clock signal looked more like a sine wave on my oscilloscope instead of a square because of the long jumper wires, which caused lots of JTAG programming errors, and I enabled the Schmitt trigger for the inputs. But now it works :) . Game screenshot from my LCD display:

 

game-test.jpg

 

This is the test setup:

 

test-setup.jpg

 

Bottom right is the FT2232H dev board, top left a homebrew S-video converter (I should really mount this somewhere on the mainboard someday).

 

Now I'm waiting for the WiFi module, shipping needs up to a month when I buy something from China on eBay. But meanwhile I have a nice test setup to implement all the different RAM extensions. The FPGA has a few kB internal RAM, but I'll try to use the external 128 kB RAM on my board. Much more fun to have some more RAM, which is required anyway to implement a web browser. Development turnaround time is fast, too: Synthesizing the current design needs about 10 seconds and flashing to the FPGA 24 seconds. And it can be done in-circuit, just with a mouse click (but needs power cycling after programming).

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  • 11 months later...

Any updates on this? I was just thinking of something like this today, and decided to search here to see if it had already been discussed - and voila - this thread!

 

I was thinking of making something purposely more limited like Gameline. I'm imaging a boot screen where you could choose from a limited number of ROMS that would change over time. (Auto-updated over WiFi) For instance, you could play the current games for the High Score Club season, a "Homebrew of the Month", and a "Forgotten Classic".

 

Sort of a community-focused cart - create a synchronized play list so the community would have common experiences to chat about.

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"...the ability to download and start cartridge images over the internet."

 

does this mean that me and someone else in another city/country could fire up Boxing (for example) and beat each other in the virtual face?

 

No, that's not what it means at all. It means you can download and start cartridge images over the internet.

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I'm designing a flash cartridge for the Atari 2600 with WiFi, this is a first prototype for which the PCBs are currently produced (will get them in a few weeks) :

http://www.frank-buss.de/atari2600/index.html

The hardware is not difficult, because basically I did this already with my Kerberos cartridge for the C64 and the Crazy Cartridge prototypes. But the software will be more work, because I plan to integrate flashing over a web interface, and a web browser on the Atari 2600 would be fun, or the ability to download and start cartridge images over the internet.

FYI - the website/link above is not working............

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I'm designing a flash cartridge for the Atari 2600 with WiFi, this is a first prototype for which the PCBs are currently produced (will get them in a few weeks) :

http://www.frank-buss.de/atari2600/index.html

The hardware is not difficult, because basically I did this already with my Kerberos cartridge for the C64 and the Crazy Cartridge prototypes. But the software will be more work, because I plan to integrate flashing over a web interface, and a web browser on the Atari 2600 would be fun, or the ability to download and start cartridge images over the internet.

Count me in.

 

attachicon.gifShut-up-and-take-my-money.jpg

 

This would be awesome. It's one of those things I have thought about myself but could never make myself.

 

Next I need a WiFi broadband adapter for the Dreamcast.

 

You and me both brother! Been looking for a DC Broadband adapter in the wild for years.

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