Thursday, October 20, 2016

Chess Box Atari HeavySixer on ebay

I wrote about heavy Sixers before, and the even rarer Chess boxes.

Here is a new one on eBay. the console seems fine, but it missed one switch, probably an easy fix.

$99 + shipping at this time.  Not a great deal, but if you need a chess box, they are getting rarer and rarer.

Chess Box Heavy Sixer Atari

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fixing Apple IIs

Since getting my Apple //c in June 1984, I have been a huge fan of this machines, and I regularly browse Craigslist for machines to rescue. I now have 6 machines of various kinds in my garage, maybe it is time to admit that I have an issue.
Over the last 5 years, I managed to locally find a couple of original Apple IIs, great machines, but both were upgraded to Applesoft roms. Back in 1979, I would have done the same, upgrade to a newer firmware, get new features. I do this with my phone, my car, whatever can be upgraded.  But 30 years later I am trying to get things in their original state.
This means re-installing the original Integer roms. For many hardware fanatics, this is fairly easy, but I am not one of them :)  I had both machines open on my workbench swapping roms right and left, but could not get them to work, various errors, no boot. Removing chips from the board with a screwdriver, installing new ones, testing, back to step 1.

Browsing the 
Apple II Enthusiasts group on Facebook, I got in touch with John who lives close by. He agreed to help me, so I went to see him with my machines, and a bunch of roms to try out. This ended up being a great afternoon, I met a great guy, so knowledgeable of both hardware and software.

Opening Apple II and starting the tests

Home made board to test main logic steps

The machine would boot to a garbage screen, but never complete the process. John used his own board that checks every important chip for i/o, voltage.

Removing each chip and single testing them. Found 2 4116 ram chips in the process

Magnifying glass to look at the board and traces

After checking every chip (replacing 2), the machine is still not booting, time to dig deeper. John opened Understanding the Apple II. This book is a collector item, I had one at some point.  It was nice to see the actual value of the book at work, it is not only an expensive collector item, it is also a very useful book.

Image result for Understanding the Apple II book
Understanding the Apple II

Still not booting
Wile John was deep into following flow diagrams, I browsed his amazing colleciton. If I have a problem with 5/6 Apple IIs in my garage, he has 20, at least....

Finally the error was diagnosed, My screwdriver skills cut traces on the board. Not surprising I admit.

This means it is getting better, I learned. And it is finally booting.

My fixed Apple II running Karateka

 Rebuilding it

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Decathlon Activision patch #16

I finally went back to my quest of Activision patches. For whatever reason, I was not able to get my heavy sixer to show on the TV, so I dug out a Coleco with its Atari adapter. Just adding some variety to the challenge,

Decathlon was one of my favorite as a kid, and I am still amazed at the graphics, even at the box, I love that blue. I remember having blister in my palm, and my grandma made a soft cushion for me to put between the stick and my palm.

Colecovision with Atari extension and Decathlon

This one I did it for sure as a kid, but just redid it with 9247 points (8600 needed). The only difficulty is to remember to read the manual to understand how to do the pole vault event. Without it, you will ruin your 3 chancres, and it will get really hard.

Decathlon, 9247 points
In fact this patch was hard just because I had to try 4 carts before finding one that works.

At this point, I think I only have Space Shuttle let to beat in my collection, so I need to find some more games with a patch achievement.
Here is a list to start with from Collector's Corner

GamePatch difficultyGame Rating
FreewayMediumNice game speedy cars, great colors. netter than Frogger 
DragsterMediumWeird game, with 6 seconds gameplay. Super stressful
Laser BlastVery easyBoring and pointless
SkiingMediumScrolling, colors, learning path, awesome game
Pitfall!Very easyClassic, so many screens, animations, colors, it has everything
KaboomHardAwesome, colors, paddle control, in the zone feeling.
Pitfall IIEasyHuge map, so many screens, colors, sound, awesome
Chopper CommandEasySpeed and colors, such a long road from Tank
TennisEasyColorfully boring
MegamaniaEasyLike 8 games in 1, great game
River RaidEasyMy hands.....
Ice HockeyEasyNice sprites.
Oink!HardMy hands.....
BarstormingHardLike a racing game when you go up and down
Ice JinksEasyMeh, looks great
DecathlonEasyFirst try, pole vault is the key, read the manual