In the “another project that has been long in gestation” category comes a niche offering for those with Commodore SuperPET machines and a desire to run the OS/9 operating system. OS/9, a multi-tasking, multiuser, realtime OS with UNIX-like qualities, was popular in the 1980′s and ran on machines with the Motorola 6809. In addition to the small TRS80 Color Computer, the SuperPET includes a 6809, but the standard memory map of the SuperPET does not lend itself to OS/9 operation. That is where this little board comes in. Installation does not affect normal SuperPET operation, but extends it with OS/9 compatibility.
The SuperPET, a variant of the Commodore 8032 that included additional boards designed by the University of Waterloo, did not sell well, as far as I can tell, and limited (though not ultra-rare) numbers exist. Still, for those lucky enough to own one, OS/9 can truly turn the SP9000 (another name for the SuperPET) into the MicroMainFrame (another name for the SuperPET).
The project has been gestating since 2008 in some fashion. Late that year, TPUG member Golan Klinger asked if I could reproduce the SuperPET MMU board, which TPUG members created in 1985. for a possible club fundraising activity. I dutifully created a new layout of the design, and awaited next steps. Around the same time, Mike Naberezny (of 6502.org fame) started discussing the board, and we eventually compared notes. Over time, it became evident that TPUG was not going to pursue offering the unit for sale, and Mike performed a significant amount of legwork obtaining permission to replicate the software from Radisys (who purchased the OS/9 rights) and permission from TPUG leadership to offer the PCB. Thus, the majority of credit for this offering goes to Mike, who has a web site devoted to this impressive little board. I’ll put one in due time, but it won’t provide any more detail than Mike’s. I should also give a shout out to Steve Gray, who helped with information and PCB scans.
Currently, due to the low volumes, the unit will be available in kit form only for approximately $30.00. Thus, break out your soldering iron and a weekend of time to add this capability to your SuperPET!
Sometimes, a product gets lost on the way to final production. Our QuadPortIEC 4 port IEC bus hub is one such product. After announcing the design here and showing off completed boards here, we focused our attention on the recently introduced ZoomFloppy and then the EasyFlash 3. Finally, we sent the boards off for assembly, but still felt a bare board with wires would simply not work as a product. Finally, about a year or so ago, Commodore enthusiast Jim Peters in Iowa requested some bare PCBs and assembled units for personal use, which we supplied. He took it upon himself to machine finished cases for the units, with fabulous results. Thus, we hired him to supply finished cases for the remaining stock, and now can offer them in the store.
The design has not changed; QuadPortIEC is nothing more than a “dumb” IEC hub. ATN switches on the front for each port allow “silencing” of each bus segment, but that’s the only functionality exposed.
Still, we are glad to finally put the units in the store, where they will sell for USD$30.00. Since the units fill out a small flat rate box, we may need to adjust shipping charges for buyers.
The wait is almost over for VIC Expansion enthusiasts. After a significant delay, X-Pander 3 VIC units are nearing the end of assembly. As the photo shows, only the IO2/IO3 SWAP jumpers are left to assemble. We hope to add this to the store by the end of the week.
Given the width of VIC-20 cartridges, the finished units will have the switches located underneath the board, but will otherwise look identical.
As the picture suggests, the unit shares the same basic layout and operation as the X-Pander 64, but adds additional switches to control BLK and RAM lines.
We’ve added some additional items in the store for both hobbyists and users:
We now have 3′ (36″, nearly 1meter) IEEE 488 cables in stock. They are heavy duty shielded cables with “passthrough” IEEE connectors on each end
We also now stock 6′ (~2M) DB15-F to DB15-F cables that can be used for parallel drive access with products like ZoomFloppy.
It’s taken a while, but EasyFlash 3 units are nearing completion. All SMT components are installed, and the LED, switches, and jumper pins are all that remain. I am hoping the assembly house can ship this week so I can deliver units starting next week.
I’ve asked that the first 100 units be shipped before the second 100 are completed.
Since many people have ordered cases, it looks like I have some holes to drill before shipping
It’s taken longer than anticipated, but EasyFlash 3 production is finally underway. The first 200 boards are in production, with delivery scheduled for late March. The storefront is open for pre-orders, with pricing set at:
- EF3 without enclosure: $59.99
- EF3 with enclosure: $64.99
I delayed production slightly to lengthen the prototype PCB so that switches could be placed at the rear of the cartridge, and the delay allowed the design to incorporate last minute design enhancements. However, I will admit I treaded lightly on this production, as it’s a reasonably complex unit and RETRO Innovations is not the principal designer.
I realize late March is still significantly far in the future. If you want a unit now, please check out Retro Donald’s storefront, which has uncased units in stock.
By popular demand, we’re now offering both kit and assembled versions of our C=Key Commodore Keyboard Dual Mode Interface. This unit supports using a PS/2 keyboard to a VIC-20,C64,C64C,C128,C128D,C128DCR, or SX64 machine in one configuration. It can also interface keyboards for those same machines to a PS/2-based PC (or USB PC via a PS/2 to USB adapter). We’ve held off for years in offering this product, because PS/2 keyboards are getting scarce and we are redesigning the unit to work with USB keyboards. That said, numerous enthusiasts convinced us there is enough interest to offer the product in the store. Unlike our other offerings, we’re still considering this a “project” rather than a complete product offering. If you are a tinkerer who doesn’t mind getting his/her hands dirty with microcontrollers, this might be of interest. However, if you’re a fan of plug and play and easy upgrades, we encourage you to wait until a USB version is available.
In hardware design, as with any endeavor, one strives to minimize errors. However, as with anything, some errors are more important to prevent or eliminate than others. When dealing with microcontroller-based projects, I concentrate on the printed circuit board and components. Software errors can be fixed after production, but once the hardware and PCB are produced, there are few opportunities for change.
Still, even with doublechecking the design and prototyping, an error crops up every so often. When that happens, I can’t bear to pitch the boards immediately, so I usually stuff them somewhere in the shop. You never know, they might have some use at some point.
I recently ran a tiny PCB with “gold immersion” plating, with black soldermask. Though it contained an error, the board proved visually striking. I showed them to my daughter, who enjoys pretty items, the smaller the better. She loves adding castoffs and “trash” items to her collection, and was understandably impressed by the “baby” circuit board. I told her she might find a use for them, at some point.
Less than a day later, she and her mother had determined the tiny PCBs might make unique jewelry items. After purchasing some earring hoops from a local shop, she and I created hoop earrings from the small circuit boards. We then created small storage cards for the jewelry, setting a price for the product, and dreaming up a name for her “business”. We informed her that once she meets expenses (the boards are free, since I’ve written them off as useless, but the hoops were purchased), the remaining sales income will be hers. I offered to promote them at the upcoming “World of Commodore” show and then list them in the online store for sale.
If you or someone you care for wants a unique single or set of earrings from “The Belle Rings”, look for them in the store shortly and enjoy!
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.
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!