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RPi Conversions


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I've been taking some classic computers and converting them to Raspberry Pi emulators. Before you freak out, you should know that all of these conversions are not destructive to the original hardware and are completely reversible. These conversions use the original cases and keyboards, but everything else gets removed and set aside -- or you could obviously do this on a non-functioning computer.


I own "real" hardware of all these conversions, but do like the emulated versions as the RPi adds more memory, speed, SD card storage, wifi modem, USB, HDMI, and more, very cheaply compared to adding these things to real hardware. Plus I love using a modern HDMI monitor and USB joypads to play games. Obviously there are some compatibility issues -- but for the most part, everything works well.


Anyway, I've been designing and printing 3D brackets to make most of this stuff work. I use panel mount cables to run the RPi's ports to the case ports, and various USB adapters to make the keyboards and DB9 ports work. If you're interested, I've already done an Amiga 500 and Commodore 64, and am now working on an Atari 130XE running atari800 (about half done). After that, I have an Atari 520ST I'll be doing with Hatari. All the 3D parts are posted to Thingiverse for free if you want to do this yourself. The software is all free, you just have to configure and compile all the bits and bobs for the RPi.


If you're interested in doing this or have ideas, let me know!

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My latest RPi conversion is the venerable Atari 130XE. I love the Atari 8-bit line of computers. My first computer was an Atari 800XL and I have many great memories of playing the Great American Cross Country Road Race, Stealth, and Eastern Front 1941 on my XL. While I was thinking of doing an 800XL conversion, I just happened to have a spare mint condition 130XE. The motherboard has been removed and safely stored away, and like all of my RPi conversions, it is 100% non-destructive and reversible so I can replace the motherboard at any time.

I love original hardware, but emulation does have many fantastic features. Running the atari800 emulator on a Raspberry Pi 3, I can have a kick-ass expanded XL/XE with extra RAM, HDMI output (PAL or NTSC), and floppy, cartridge, and hard disk file support. For software, I started with Raspbian Stretch Lite and compiled atari800 3.1.0 for SDL1. A little bit of configuration later, the RPi is set to quiet boot directly into atari800. Sure it takes a few seconds longer than a real XL/XE, but once it's up and running, changing games is wicked fast.
For hardware, I'm using a Raspberry Pi 3(B), a 16GB micro SD card, PowerBlock RPi power on/off board, and Tynemouth Software (TS) keyboard and DB9 joystick to USB adapters. The original 130XE keyboard plugs into the TS keyboard adapter, which plugs into the RPi via USB. For "legacy" controller support, the TS DB9 joystick adapter provides 2 DB9 ports and again connects to the RPi via USB and looks like 2 HID compatible controller devices.
I used the PowerBlock and TS adapters because, for the most part, they just work plus they provide a clean build. The proprietor of TS also provides great customer support.
For mounting everything, I have custom designed 3 3D printed mounts to mount the (1) RPi, (2) power switch and micro USB power plug, and (3) the TS DB9 adapter and HDMI port. The TS keyboard adapter is fixed to the bottom of the keyboard with double-sided tape and plastic stand-offs (provided by TS when purchased).
If you'd like to build one and need help, let me know! I'm happy to help with the 3D mounts or the Raspbian/atari800 build.
A few things to note:
  1. I was having trouble getting BOTH USB adapters to work with the Pi. Often, only 1 or the other USB adapter will work meaning I have either keyboard or joysticks, but not both. I think it may be a power issue since switching AC adapters seems to help. I've also added max_usb_current=1 to the /boot/config.txt to increase the power from 600mA to 1A on the USB. Make sure you are using a 3A PSU! So far, so good -- no more problems.
  2. Without the motherboard, the keyboard is not flush with the top case, so I placed 2 pieces of double-back tape at the top left and right corners on the back of the keyboard to give it a 1/4" lift.
  3. The TS keyboard adapter uses the following keys by default for the XE function keys: Help (F1), Start (F2), Select (F3), Option (F4), and Reset (F5). The atari800 is fine with this mostly, with the exception of Start and Option. It uses F4 and F2, respectively -- which is basically transposed from the TS adapter. Doh! I can't find a way to remap keys in atari800, so I used a Debian keymap file and do a "sudo loadkeys /home/pi/keymap.txt" at boot. Problem solved! The keycap.txt file contains:
keycode 62 = F2
keycode 60 = F4
3D Mounts
Parts List




Edited by mattsoft
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