Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

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1024MAK
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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by 1024MAK » Thu Jan 17, 2019 2:52 pm

jonb wrote:
Wed Jan 16, 2019 2:03 pm
Incidentally, you should see the total lash-up I have on my desk... this'll make you laugh!

Who said you shouldn't muck about with CRTs outside their cases? :lol:
Nice lash-up 8)

But I think you are missing a vital item. Where is the cup of tea / soft drink? :lol:

Only people scared due to the internet being full of death/doom mongers have a thing about uncased CRT displays... Go back to only ten to fifteen years ago, and most TV shops that carried out repairs would have had many sets running on soak test with most of their cases / covers not fitted :D

No different to having an internal combustion engine running while not housed in a chassis.

Safe as long as you are not stupid or silly enough to put your bits in harms way :mrgreen:

Mark

[PS I may be more than a bit biased, as in my job, a lot of the time we work on live electrical systems].

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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by leenew » Thu Jan 17, 2019 5:21 pm


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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by jonb » Thu Jan 17, 2019 6:12 pm

Good spot, Lee.. I'll think about it (having just bought a 9" B&W monitor)... If it was white or amber I'd snap it up!

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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by jonb » Thu Jan 17, 2019 6:17 pm

Definitely on my way. Decided the breadboarded sync mixer wasn't cutting it, so did some seriously old school electronics on a bit of blobby board:
IMG_5162.jpg
Top view, nothing to see here..
IMG_5163.jpg
But underneath, it looks like a logic board from a 1960s IBM mainframe!

Not sure it works yet.


Edit: No, of course it doesn't. :(
Last edited by jonb on Thu Jan 17, 2019 6:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by jonb » Thu Jan 17, 2019 6:53 pm

Hmm, I think I fixed it but it looks like the GT65 has had it for now.


IMG_5164.jpg
Drat, drat and double drat!
Last edited by jonb on Thu Jan 24, 2019 5:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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MAGIC SMOKE!!!

Post by jonb » Fri Jan 18, 2019 9:50 am

I spoke too soon, obviously.

Not only has the GT65 failed, but the LCD TV behind it just went POP and released some magic smoke.

IMG_5168.PNG
On the underside, we can see that the tiny surface mount semiconductor, Q801 has completely exploded.
IMG_5173.jpg
And the big transistor, Q802, is split in half!

Not having much luck today!
:evil:

It might be worth repairing, if I could find out what Q801 is...
Last edited by jonb on Thu Jan 24, 2019 5:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by jonb » Sun Jan 20, 2019 11:23 am

Some better news. I had another fiddle with the GT65 and it is working again.

GT64 rides again.jpg

Deflection is still bad, though, but for some reason I prefer it to the LCD. I also acquired a small 9" monitor from a well known auction site for the princely sum of £17 but it turns out to be not working well at all. A disappointment (thanks to a vague description that implied it worked) but it may be useful for parts. Or, I may get it working again (pigs may fly, too).
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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by jonb » Tue Jan 22, 2019 4:34 pm

Hitachi 9" monitor repair thread: viewtopic.php?f=45&t=16381

Image generated by the SB II: download/file.php?id=43326&mode=view

Image generated by an Atom: download/file.php?id=43331&mode=view

Bearing this in mind, and the similarity between the images generated by the Hitachi and Amstrad GT65 monitors, I think the Superbrain's video signal is off slightly. I think I need a bit of advice on diagnosis. To recap: it provides separate H and V sync, plus luminance and I am using one of MNark's sync mixers plus my own PCW video mixer to generate composite sync. I can get an image on the GT65 if I fiddle about with the B+ power supply but I think that is luck, and the image is too wide. On the Hitachi monitor, prior to the repair, I could see the image albeit squashed to the top of the tube. A consequence of bad vertical deflection.

I could swap out the CRTC or other ICs that interact with the sync pulses.

I did notice one other thing. If I disconnect H or V or both sync signals from the mixer board it doesn't seem to affect the signal.

I can apply my scope to the H and V sync signals, but what should I look for?
Last edited by jonb on Tue Jan 22, 2019 4:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by 1024MAK » Tue Jan 22, 2019 7:58 pm

At this link there is details of what a 625 line, 15625Hz, 50Hz (in other words, a PAL) video signal should be like. Complete with timing information.

Mark

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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by jonb » Wed Jan 23, 2019 9:56 am

OK. I've double checked the sync mixer and it looks OK.

Here is a scope trace. CSYNC is the mixer output and HSYNC / VSYNC are the inputs.

DS1Z_QuickPrint6.png
Y=CSYNC, C=HSYNC, B=VSYNC

Zooming into the VSYNC:

DS1Z_QuickPrint7.png
Y=CSYNC, C=HSYNC, B=VSYNC

Question - should the HSYNC pulses still be present in CSYNC while VSYNC is low?
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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by jonb » Wed Jan 23, 2019 10:40 am

More traces..

DS1Z_QuickPrint8.png
Y=Composite Video, C=HSYNC, B=VSYNC

The composite video signal doesn't look much like the one on http://martin.hinner.info/vga/pal.html

Let's zoom in..

DS1Z_QuickPrint9.png
Y=Composite Video, C=HSYNC, B=VSYNC

This is the start of a line. I'm a bit surprised that the pixels are not proper square waves but they do result in some display (which can be correctly resolved by the LCD monitor). I cannot see a back porch:


DS1Z_QuickPrint10.png
Y=Composite Video, C=HSYNC, B=VSYNC


..although the line duration looks to be correct (64uS according to the info site).
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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by jonb » Wed Jan 23, 2019 10:58 am

Ah...

IMG_5196.jpg

After some adjustment (of the video mixer trimmer and H-HOLD) I seem to have a picture. Deflection is still way out though (too wide, too tall). Let's see what adjustments this monitor can make. Probably not enough, like the GT65 - I think the Superbrain's video output is to blame.

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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by jonb » Wed Jan 23, 2019 11:31 am

IMG_5197.jpg

This is about as good as it gets. In order to shrink the image I had to adjust the B+ voltage (should be 12v, probably nothing like that now) as it has the side effect of zooming the picture (and changing the brightness). I've also adjusted V-height and Linearity, and H-width as far as it will go. Despite the picture, the image is not particularly bright or clear. upping the contrast or brightness results in blooming that blurs the image (and there is no focus adjustment).

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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by jonb » Thu Jan 24, 2019 12:45 pm

Another minor update.

In order to get access to the SB II's serial ports, it's necessary to build a stand in for the "Intermediate Board", which is a small daughter card that provides the main and aux serial ports, as well as a place to mount the SB II CRT's brightness control. It connects to the 50 way IDC plug at the top of the main board (JP1), so I had to fish out the proper connectors. I built the thing out of prototyping board and point to point wiring and used an ATX DB9 connector. Only the Main port is implemented at the moment. After the usual faffing about with null modem adaptors and the like (not needed here as it turned out) and grounding the /RTS line on the main USART, I was able to use a USB-Serial adaptor to transfer files to/from my PC with Kermit.

So now the "lash up" looks quite a bit better:

SB Lashup II LabelledJPG.JPG

Next steps will be to build a case for it in plywood, then see if the GT65 parts can be made to show a better image. I'll probably do the case in two parts; a base to hold the boards and PSU with a removable shelf for the monitor and HxC to sit on; then once I find a 12" monitor or get the GT65 working I'll build out the top part of the case that actually encloses it. I'm planning on making it look like a real Superbrain II (that is probably a bit too ambitious!) and I'll be on the lookout for a pair of full height floppy drives as well. I've got some BBC 1/2 height drives but they're only single sided so will not be able to read the QD spec floppies.

I have to say, this SB II main board project has been tremendous fun so far!
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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by jonb » Tue Jan 29, 2019 12:16 pm

GT65 is kind of working now, thanks to some very helpful guys over at CPCWiki.

To reduce the width, it turned out that a reduction in one of the high voltage capacitors feeding the LOPT was necessary (wise? We will see!). Full details, if you're interested, here: http://www.cpcwiki.eu/forum/amstrad-cpc ... djustment/.

So now I can proceed to the "woodworking" phase, because of course it needs a nice box to sit in.
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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by mister35mm » Thu Mar 21, 2019 4:25 pm

I have always wanted a Superbrain, or something similar.

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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by jonb » Thu Mar 21, 2019 4:45 pm

There is nothing similar. It's my favourite CP/M machine.

But you might consider:
  • A TRS-80 Model II (with 8" floppy drive) and Lifeboat, Aton or Pickes & Trout CP/M (I have one)
  • A TRS-80 Model IV with CP/M
  • A TRS-80 Model IVP (portable), again with CP/M
  • Northstar Advantage
  • Kaypro 2 (but has 9" screen)
  • Philips P2000C (this has a built in SASI interface) (also 9" screen) (I have one)
The problem is they are quite rare and thus, valuable - to the right buyer.

All of these machines are supported by cheap-ish IDE implementations of one sort or another. For instance, I've just finished implementing uIDE drivers for the Superbrain. You can boot and run the whole thing without accessing the floppy drives. (uIDE is my own universal IDE interface for Z80 machines).

But if you really want a cheap CP/M fix, go for an Amstrad PCW. Or even better, build one yourself in a cheap FPGA board : http://searle.hostei.com/grant/Multicom ... gaCPM.html

Then make it go like hot snot off a shovel: https://www.retrobrewcomputers.org/doku ... jonb:start

CP/M at 50Mhz!! Whoosh!

Then make it look cool: viewtopic.php?f=41&t=12954&p=222030#p221457

:D
Last edited by jonb on Thu Mar 21, 2019 4:57 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by jonb » Tue Aug 06, 2019 3:29 pm

So, after acquiring a lovely little amber monitor from a well known auction site for not much money, we have this:
IMG_5648.jpg


Close up.
IMG_5649.jpg
Mmmm lovely amber goodness...

I think there are still some adjustments needed (especially to the focus) but overall I'm pretty chuffed. I could probably do the uIDE drivers for it now (if I wasn't busy with the uRTC project)..

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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by SteveH » Tue Aug 06, 2019 8:01 pm

You teasing us all Jon? What's this about a uRTC project?

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Re: Superbrain #3 : The Superbrain II board

Post by jonb » Wed Aug 07, 2019 7:47 am

Hi Steve

IMG_5643.jpg
uRTC - Universal RTC for Z80 computers.

IMG_5644.jpg
Fits onto the Z80 bus used by uIDE and attaches as shown using stand offs.

Like uIDE it is programmable for the base I/O address, but the RTC chip needs 8 of them as it has 8 registers. I am using the Superbrain 1 to develop the utility suite as my Amstrad PCW serial interface has packed in so I cannot transfer test code to it. There is a discussion over on the CPCWiki forums if you're interested : http://www.cpcwiki.eu/forum/nc100-nc200 ... ad-pcw-rtc.

(The machine featured in this thread is a Superbrain II which already has a battery backed RTC on-board.)
Last edited by jonb on Wed Aug 07, 2019 7:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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