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XEGS: Blue Screen of Death? Fixable?


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Hello there everyone! I recently decided to get into 8-bit computing for the first time and purchased a lovely condition complete in box XEGS set with keyboard, joystick, and light gun that a fellow AtariAge member had been keeping in storage for a long time.

 

jaSWwYq.jpg

 

 

 

I was enjoying it very much for the first two hours or so of ownership, playing Pac-Man and Missile Command, when all of a sudden something very odd happened. I went to start a new game of Missile Command (being played from a cartridge, which I know is rather redundant since the XEGS has Missile Command built in) and nothing happened when I pressed the start button. When that didn't work I tried the Reset button, and what I was met with was this:

 

avcZDt2.jpg

 

 

 

A loud beep followed by a blank blue screen with no "READY" prompt and a solid non-flashing cursor. None of the buttons other than Power and Reset would do anything, and putting in a different cartridge or powering the system down then turning it on again just brought me to the same blank blue screen. Connecting the keyboard made no difference either, the system would not boot into BASIC with no cartridge inserted and the keyboard plugged in. Just that same loud beep followed by a blank blue screen, and none of the keyboard keys did anything. Attempting to boot the system into self-diagnostic mode by powering it on while holding down Option had no effect either and just took me to the blue screen.

 

At this point I'm rather certain that the seller will not take a return, since the system did work properly when I received it, but for all the money I spent on it I'd sure like to get more than 2 hours of use out of the thing; so I was wondering if anyone here might know what's wrong and how to fix it? I am fairly handy with a soldering iron and have no problem desoldering parts and soldering in new ones if need be, though I don't own a multimeter so testing continuity is not something I'm capable of doing at the moment. Worst case scenario I can always go out and buy a multimeter and learn how to use it if necessary though, since it would be a heck of a lot cheaper than trying to buy a new XEGS and hope that one doesn't die on me too.

 

In any case, my first foray into 8-bit computing isn't going terribly well and I could sure use some advice on how to fix this XEGS. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!

Edited by Jin
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If you hold option while powering on, do you get the self test? See if memory test checks out?

 

The loud beep on poweron my be engaging the cassete boot - usually when holding select on poweron. You can confirm this If you can press return once after this..

 

Edit: reread you already tried for selftest! I'm wondering if somehow the machine is thinking your select key is held down,.

Edited by Nezgar
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I don't own an XEGS but generally troubleshooting on the A8 platform is the same no matter the machine. And in my opinion, they're all worth saving and repairing. :)

​The good news is the blue screen with the white cursor means the machine is TRYING to boot and almost getting there. The screen display means the ANTIC and GTIA chips inside are almost certainly fine. If you hold START while booting, do you hear a cassette loading tone?

 

Do you have a Star Raiders cart to try? It's seen by the system as a diagnostic cart so if it boots, chances are the OS ROM has gone bad. You might also have a bad RAM chip, which will prevent booting. What kind of power supply are you using? If you're using an Ingot (see the photo with red circle/slash below*) get a multimeter and check it before using it again. These are known to fail "hot" and take out chips with them as they fail, usually RAM chips but sometimes others as well.

 

post-30400-0-33316100-1508370350_thumb.jpg

 

(*) Photo from B&C Computervisions ('myatari' on eBay). I've added the circle/slash to indicate the Ingot model.

 

 

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Thanks for the quick replies guys! I first checked the power supply and it appears to be safe since it's one of these and doesn't feel unusually warm after leaving it on for a while:

 

P86iFSC.jpg

 

 

Next I tried powering on the XEGS while holding down Start but that yielded no change, nor did powering it on normally and pressing Return right after the beep. Sadly I do not have a copy of Star Raiders to try out. As requested I have made a short mp3 audio recording of the beep that occurs on startup and attached it at the bottom of this post. Thanks again for helping me troubleshoot this guys! :)

XEGS Power On.mp3

Edited by Jin
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As requested I have made a short mp3 audio recording of the beep that occurs on startup and attached it at the bottom of this post. Thanks again for helping me troubleshoot this guys! :)

 

Good news on the power supply. That's the model I use most of the time with my most-used 800XL. :)

 

That tone is the cassette boot tone - for some reason it's trying to boot from cassette. Could be as simple as the Start button mechanism getting stuck.

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Good news on the power supply. That's the model I use most of the time with my most-used 800XL. :)

 

That tone is the cassette boot tone - for some reason it's trying to boot from cassette. Could be as simple as the Start button mechanism getting stuck.

 

That is good news! I'll get out my handy dandy screwdriver, open up the case, and see if there's any mechanical issues with the Start button or other system buttons then report back.

 

On a side note, is there any real danger of static discharge damaging components from using an A-8 computer on the carpet? I've always used my 2600 and 7800 systems on the carpet and never had any trouble, but it was something that had crossed my mind.

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That is good news! I'll get out my handy dandy screwdriver, open up the case, and see if there's any mechanical issues with the Start button or other system buttons then report back.

 

On a side note, is there any real danger of static discharge damaging components from using an A-8 computer on the carpet? I've always used my 2600 and 7800 systems on the carpet and never had any trouble, but it was something that had crossed my mind.

 

There's always some degree of risk of static, especially as the weather cools down and people use heat more. I work on my machines in my concrete-floor garage usually, and make sure to ground myself before doing anything on the machine but that's the extent of my precautions.

 

Stuck Start button, or bad GTIA chip, as that reads the CONSOL switches (Start, Select, Option).

 

Yeah, a GTIA going bad is a risk. I've had one die on me before, as well as two of its smaller, related cousins TIA (used in the 2600 and 7800). Good news is GTIAs are still plentiful and cheap if that's the problem.

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Success! After opening the case and examining the mechanical switches for the console buttons it quickly became apparent that the Start button switch was stuck down. A little poking and prodding of the switch top liberated it and the system is now starting up and loading games normally.

 

Now the only thing I'm wondering is what to lubricate the Start button switch with to keep it from getting stuck down again? I've got DeoxIT D5, both light and heavy pure silicone oils made especially for lubricating plastic parts, silicone grease, and the usual WD-40 and assortment of petroleum oils. My gut says DeoxIT since I get the feeling that there may be silicone membrane contacts under the plastic switches that silicone oil could degrade, but I'm certainly open to advice from those more knowledgeable than myself about maintaining these computers. :)

Edited by Jin
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This guy here described the same issue as you blue screen solid cursor not blinking and never reported back that he got it fixed here at

 

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/219536-trouble-shooting-an-atari-800-powers-up-to-blank-blue-screen/

 

I'm gonna link this post on his post in case they ever come back to it, maybe similar issue with their switch as well.

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I have a couple of XEGS machines, and I've noticed that some of the plastic pastel buttons get stuck from time to time. Although I haven't tried it yet, I was going to use a bit of 600 grit sandpaper and take off any burrs around the plastic edges of the button, giving it a slight bevel. Other than that, also thought about using some of that silicone based Super Lube grease, just a light film in the case bores where the buttons slide in.

 

- Michael

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Uh oh, looks like I spoke too soon. Now that the system seemed to be working again I went to play a game of Missile Command and discovered that none of the console buttons are responding at all. Start, Select, Option, and Reset are all non-functioning at this point.

 

The system is booting up cartridge games properly and will boot to BASIC as normal if the keyboard is plugged in and no cartridge inserted, but those console buttons aren't working at all. I did disassemble the system again so I could try pushing the console button switches directly (thinking that the physical buttons on the case might have been misaligned) but that didn't make any difference.

 

Any ideas what could be going on now?

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I had two switches go on an XEGS but in my case it was the actual switches. I order some from Best and it was an easy solder job. However if all the switches suddenly go at once it is most likely the GTIA. I assume all the buttons worked before your start button became stuck so I'm wondering what happened to suddenly kill all the console switches? Was it the poking and prodding you did on the start button? Did you work on carpet and perhaps cause some static discharge into the console?

 

On the subject of putting consoles on carpet I wouldn't do it. Static and vintage consoles aren't a good combo in general especially if you're shuffling around the room in socks.

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There's always some degree of risk of static, especially as the weather cools down and people use heat more. I work on my machines in my concrete-floor garage usually, and make sure to ground myself before doing anything on the machine but that's the extent of my precautions.

 

 

 

 

A8's are almost all TTL technology chips AFAIK. TTL is not very risky with static. All MOS technology _IS_ however.

 

I've handled dozens of TTL only arcade PCBs without any particular precautions.....but I wouldn't rub them on a carpet either ;)

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As mentioned it could be the GTIA going bad since it reads the console switches. The bad part is in XEGS units theyre generally not socketed or it would be a quick and cheap eBay fix.

If the GTIA was going bad would the system still be able to load and run games properly minus the console switch functions? I ask because my XEGS will still load and run games just fine. I did play a bit of Pac-Man last night since it could be started with the joystick button rather than the Start switch and didn't have any issues with running the game.

 

My experience is that the solder work of the console key-switches is not very good. If you are brave you could try to fire up the atari with bare PCB... you could try to push slightly on the switches...

I tried that last night as well, stripping the system down to just the PCB and powering it on. The Reset switch did start working at that point and continued to work fine once I put the system back together, but the Start, Option, and Select switches are still non-functional.

 

I had two switches go on an XEGS but in my case it was the actual switches. I order some from Best and it was an easy solder job. However if all the switches suddenly go at once it is most likely the GTIA. I assume all the buttons worked before your start button became stuck so I'm wondering what happened to suddenly kill all the console switches? Was it the poking and prodding you did on the start button? Did you work on carpet and perhaps cause some static discharge into the console?

 

Personally I'm wondering if it was applying a small amount of Deoxit D5 on a q-tip to each switch as soon as I got the Start switch unstuck that killed them. I figured as long as I had the system apart I'd lube the switches before I put it back together, then once it was back together and I went to test it out none of the switches worked. When I checked it again a few hours later the Reset switch started working again (it didn't work when I first put it back together) but the Start, Select, and Option switches are still not working.

Edited by Jin
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Yeah, Deoxit wouldn't have caused a problem like that, but physically touching the switches might have, especially if the solder joints on the board are marginal or you used too much force. That said, I generally don't use Deoxit on anything I need to wipe or rub down to get clean - I typically just spray it on well, tap or gently wipe off the excess and let it air dry.

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10 ? Peek(53279)

20 G.10

Run

The resulting numbers should change as start, select, option are pressed.

Should be 15 if no key pressed.

I'm not sure exactly what it means but the resulting number is 7. It changes to 5 if Select is held, Start and Option do nothing. Reset goes back to BASIC.

Edited by Jin
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Kyle meant: should read 7 if no key is pressed. Your result means that select works but start and option seem to fail.

Ahh, gotcha. It's quite odd because Select did not work last night when I tested it, nor did Reset for a while. Reset suddenly started working late last night and Select started working today. I stripped the computer down to the bare PCB again and checked the console switches out and they all seem very securely soldered in place. No wobble to any of them and the connections all look good.

 

Edit: Further weirdness! After wiggling the physical switch back and forth a bit the Option switch started working again, so now the only console switch that doesn't work is Start. It's looking like whatever happened is probably a mechanical issue with the switches rather than a problem with any chips.

Edited by Jin
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