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X Pander-3 VIC Released to Production

by on Nov.19, 2011, under Hardware Design, Storefront

XPander-VIC

XPander-VIC

The X Pander-3 VIC brings the ultimate in cartridge port expansion options to the Commodore VIC-20.  The unit features 3 independently switched vertical ports and a companion horizontal port.  Power, both I/O select lines, and all BLK and RAM select lines can be individually switched on or off, while the I/O select lines can be swapped on the second and third/fourth expansion slot.  Units should be available for sale starting mid-January.

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PS/2 Encoder Units Shipping!

by on Nov.12, 2011, under Hardware Design, Storefront

Fully Assembled PS/2 Encoder with IDC Connector

Fully Assembled PS/2 Encoder with IDC Connector

Both complete and kit-based PS/2 Encoder units are now shipping in the RETRO Innovations store.  We made some last minute firmware enhancements, and are shipping with an upgraded microcontroller, the Atmel ATMEGA168 (16kB of FLASH ROM, the current firmware needs only ~4kB).

The web site will shortly be updated with pinouts and configuration notes.  Stay tuned!

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New Connector in Stock!

by on Nov.02, 2011, under Storefront

12/24 .156" Edge Connectors

12/24 .156" Edge Connectors

Looking for 12/24 .156″ edge connectors for your Commodore user port project or a IEEE interface that will connect to the PET/CBM computer IEEE port? RETRO Innovations has sourced 2,000 units with pins that can be installed in a PCB or soldered to the edge of a PCB.  These connectors do not have the mounting ears, to allow maximum flexibility for fit.  They are in the store for purchase now!

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23XX Adapter In Limited Production

by on Oct.25, 2011, under Hardware Design, Storefront

23XX Adapter PCB

23XX Adapter PCB

Assuming it’s not obvious, let me assure readers that not all design ideas are original. In fact, RETRO Innovations welcomes customer-inspired products.  Let me relate the story of one such idea.

The initial 2364 adapter design was trivial and joins the myriad of similar designs available online.  Though it was an original design effort, I did check the design with existing online  versions.  Still, there is nothing particularly innovative about it.

The design, though, does assume the 2364 pinout is invariant, which turns out to not be correct.  Not only can the 2364 appear in 28 pin variants, but even the 24 pin variant found on Commodore machines can occur in two different configurations.  The more common variant sports a active low “select” line, while another version flips that to active high.

A customer discovered this alternate variant after purchasing an adapter.  Ever the resourceful one, he wired an inverter onto the select line for correct operation but suggested a new product variant for other custmers.

Initially, I took the idea and implemented it by making the “select” line configurable.  It’s a common trick to use an XOR gate to invert the state of a data line.  Still, the resulting design felt lacking.

Along the way, another customer suggested a 2332 Adapter, which uses the same 24 pin footprint as the 2364, but can arrive in 4 configurations (2 select lines).  Datasheets for the 2332 also showed the 2316, which supports 8 configurations via 3 select lines.  Since these are less common ROMs, they don’t get much attention in the retro market.  Nonetheless, I determined that a bit of rework would allow one adapter to support any variant of 2316 or 2332, and any 24 pin 2364 variant.  As the revised 2364 design required a TTL IC for signal inversion (74HCT86 XOR gate), rework required finding a TTL IC that could optionally invert and combine up to 3 select lines.

As the picture suggests, the 74HCT138 supports the required function, and it often costs less than the ’86, making it a perfect choice.  The cost, of course, if the need to “configure” the unit for a specific use.  Solder pads must be connected according to a truth table to support a particular device.  Yet, the adapter can be a time saver for those who need to quick swap out a dodgy 2316/32/64 with a known good EPROM with correct code.

Though this unit can be configured to support the common case (and can be soldered up without the TTL IC in this configuration), the regular 2364 Adapter supports the majority of common uses, so we’ll still offer the original design alongside this one.

 

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uIEC/SD 3.2 vs uIEC/SD 3.1

by on Aug.23, 2011, under Hardware Design, Storefront

uIEC/SD 3.2 versus 3.1

uIEC/SD 3.2 versus 3.1

Even though there’s not much to tell, some folks asked about the differences in the new v3.2 uIEC/SD design.  A picture is worth its weight in gold here, but I’ll also point out some less apparent details.

  • Due to the new SD socket footprint, I was able to push the edge of the socket further from the edge of the board.  This should help with implementations sitting behind thick plastic cases.
  • Two small half moons (on the top left and bottom right) should allow the unit to be mounted in a Hammond 1551RBK enclosure.
  • Although not populated on the PCB, there are pads for a Dallas DS1307 (or compatible) RTC with battery backup.  The battery pins are shown on the right of the new PCB, while you can make out the watch crystal footprint below them on the right side.
  • The LEDs have been pushed further outside the PCB.  Truly, the assembly house went overboard on the first batch, but they should stick out to the edge of the SD socket.

Nothing else, I am afraid.  I tried to add device jumpers to the design, but ran out of space and time to route the pads.  The rest remains the sames, including:

  • Pinout.  v3.2 shares the same pinout as v3.1 and v3.0
  • Mounting location.  The mounting holes are in exactly the same place.  Though the SD socket has mover 1/8″ further out, the PCB will fit in exactly the same place as previous designs.
  • Same uC.  The Atmel ATMEGA1281 is still in use, as is the 74LVC06  serial bus driver

 

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uIEC/SD v3.2 Shipping

by on Aug.03, 2011, under Hardware Design, Storefront

uIEC/SD Daughtercard v3

uIEC/SD Daughtercard v3

As of tonight, the last of the uIEC/SD pre-orders have finally shipped.  In fact, for the first time since early May, we are caught up on order fulfillment.  Now, I can relate some features of the new uIEC/SD daughtercard option:

  • Two (2) IEC connectors.  No need to ensure the uIEC is the last item on the bus
  • 3 uIEC/SD connectors (one populated by default).  One is designed to point backwards from the daughtercard (for a horizontal setup), while the other two are vertical.  (This means users can reposition the unit for ease of use, or can utilize more than 1 uIEC on the same daughtercard)
  • Integrated power plug.  No more pigtail wire to break.
  • RESET button on board.
  • Selectable uIEC/SD RESET operation.  Removing the on-board jumper will prevent computer resets from affecting uIEC/SD unit.

    uIEC/SD Daughtercard v3 (side view)

    uIEC/SD Daughtercard v3 (side view)

 

Of course, the original Daughtercard remains available for those who prefer a minimal approach.  The original daughtercard works best for C128D/DCR users, while the new unit works best for other machines.

The new unit will be available as an option in the store shortly.

 

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IEEE-488 Connector Price Reduction

by on Jul.23, 2011, under Storefront

IEEE-488 Connector

IEEE-488 Connector

I wanted to quickly note that the new IEEE-488 Connectors have arrived and are now available in the store.  I’ve also reduced the price on the units to reflect the more economical source.

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New Shipping Software

by on Jul.06, 2011, under Storefront

Since RETRO Innovations opened for business, I’vetaken advantage of solutions like USPS.COM and the USPS integration in Paypal to print shipping labels in the office.  When shipping volume rarely hit 5 parcels a week, typing addresses into the USPS.COM website, and filling out customs information on either solution was bearable, though annoying.  However, as sales volumes increased, I found I dreaded fulfilling non-Paypal and foreign orders.  The former has no integration with the post office, so addresses required manual entry.  The latter required a customs form, which was a manual process as well.

This week, after filling 30 or so overseas orders, I’d finally had enough.  It was time to find a better solution.  Luckily, my shopping cart vendor (BigCommerce) now offers integration with a Shipping Manager called ShipWorks.  So, I downloaded a trial and started evaluating the solution.  Color me impressed.  Arguably, I did not do a comprehensive vendor selection, but I’m not sure I need to evaluate any other solutions.  ShipWorks offers Fedex, UPS, and USPS shipping, pulls shipping addresses from the actual order (no more wrong shipments because the customer used Paypal and has an outdated address in that system while putting the current address in the order), updates the order when shipping labales are printed, tracks the shipments (if possible), offers all of the post office postage types (first class, parcel post, etc), and automatically handles customs forms.   The list of features goes on far beyond those, but the above are my pain points.

After playing with the solution for a few days, I determined that it will print the shipping label from one printer tray (which holds self stick labels) and can also print a packing slip from another tray (which contains regular paper).  This may alleviate shipping delays to Germany, as I previously did not send invoices.

In an instant, order fulfillment went from dread to delight.  Stuffing orders used to take the least time, now it far exceeds postage printing duration.  I’m not overly wild about the tiered pricing, nor that the solution requires an additional monthly subscription to Endicia or Stamps.com for postage purchase.  However, in light of the time saved, it’s a cost I can bear far easier than the time wasted in manually handling postage labels.

I hope customers see the value as well, both in more professional presentation (invoices, logos, etc.), and swifter delivery.  If I can determine how, I plan to enable multiple shipping providers.  Some overseas customers lament the slow pace of USPS Priority Mail and encourage offering a more expensive, but more timely shipping service.  I hope to provide that soon.

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IEEE-488 Connector Supplies

by on May.25, 2011, under Hardware Design, Storefront

IEEE-488 24 pin Centronics Connector

IEEE-488 24 pin Centronics Connector

As some may know, IEEE-488 is no longer a preferred global interface standard.  I would even go so far as to state it was niche even in its heyday.  HP used it as the “Hewlett Packard Interface Bus”, and it was also known as the “General Purpose Interface Bus” (GPIB), as I recall.  Still, more names do not increase a standard’s usage.

Now, 30+ years later, it’s becoming quite difficult to find economical sources for IEEE-488 parts. I surmised cables would be expensive, given the number of wires in IEEE-488 cables and the pass through connectors present on many of them. However, I was surprised at the expense for the Centronics 24 pin connector used in the standard. Though 36 pin Centronics (parallel port) connectors are nominal in price, I initially found but a single source offering the 24 pin connectors.  Of course, that source offers them for $9.00 a piece.

Recently, I’ve found a more economical source, one that can supply not only the connector, but also the special studs that the standard requires.  Though the minimum order is 1000 units, I feel there’s enough demand to justify a bulk purchase.  The ZoomFloppy hardware supports the connector already, and future devices should support IEEE-488 as well.  Thus, I’ve ordered 1000 connectors, and will add them to the store at the reduced price one they arrive.

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Brisk ZoomFloppy Shipments

by on Mar.23, 2011, under Storefront

ZoomFloppy Shipments

ZoomFloppy Shipments

A new personal best!  58 units shipped in one day.   Mainly, the large number is the result of backorders finally shipping, but it’s nice to see so many units on their way to enthusiasts for hours of disk access enjoyment.

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