Atari 800 EPROM cartridge hack


[Chris Osborn] had an old Atari 800 collecting dust and decided to pull it out and get to work. The problem is that it’s seen some rough storage conditions over the years including what appears to be moisture damage. He’s read about a cartridge called SALT II which can run automatic diagnostics. Getting your hands on that original hardware can be almost impossible, but if he had a flashable cartridge he could just download an image. So he bought the cheapest cartridge he could find and modified it to use an EPROM.

When he cracked open his new purchase he was greeted with the what you see on the left. It’s a PCB with the edge connector and two 24-pin sockets. These are designed to take 4k ROMs. He dropped in an EPROM of the same size but the pin-out doesn’t match what the board layout had in mind. After following the traces he found that it is pretty much an exact match for an Intel 2764 chip. The one problem being that the chip has 28-pins, four too many for the footprint. The interesting thing is that the larger footprint (compared to the 2732) uses all the same pins, simply adding to the top and moving the power pins. A small amount of jumper wire soldering and [Chris] is in business.

2708 EPROM dumper

[Andrea “Mancausoft” Milazzo] has been restoring old equipment which often contain EPROM chips. He thought he was all set with an EPROM reader which easily dumped the data from 2716 chips and a few others. But he found that the hardware was unable to read 2708 and 2704 chips. His solution was to build a PIC-based EPROM dumper.

You may remember from some of our recent features that these chips are something of a ticking clock. They store program code and other information vital to the functioning of old hardware. Since they’re erased with UV light, years of exposure to ambient light can zap some of the data.

The specs needed to read a chip of this type are rather rudimentary. There are ten address pins and eight data pins. [Andrea] also needed a way to get data from the microcontroller to a computer for backup. He uses two more pins for this purpose, bringing the I/O count to 20. He went with  PIC 18F4610 and built the rest of the reader around it.

Taking a dump from some old hardware

NYC Resistor shows you how to have some fun with electronics from the junk bin. Their post called The Joy of Dumping encourages you to look around for older memory chips and see what they’ve been hiding away for all these years.

The targets of their hunt are EPROM chips. Note the single ‘E’. These are Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory chips, and predate EEPROM which adds “Electrically” to the beginning of the acronym.  You used to use a UV light source to erase the older types of memory. In fact we’ve seen some EPROM erasers as projects from time to time. These shouldn’t be too hard to find as they were prevalent as cheap storage back in the 1980’s.

If the quartz window on the top of the chips has been shielded from ambient UV light, you should still be able to read them and it’s as easy as hooking up your Arduino. Is it useful? Not really, but it still can be neat to interface with what might otherwise never make its way back out of the junk box.

NES multi-cartridge

Here’s a mutlicartridge hack for the original NES that [Callan Brown] put together. He spent some time snooping around the signals on the circuit board seen above until he found the trace that maps the reset signal from the game console. This will be used to cycle through the various games stored on the cart’s memory chip. The ROM images that will be stored on this cartridge are concatenated, then burned to the EPROM. Since the donor cartridge (and the ROMs which were chosen) use memory managment, the hardware can be tricked into reading the ROM from a specific point in the EPROM.

The switching itself is handled by a 74HC161 binary counter chip. The reset signal from the on-board security chip acts as a clock trigger for the counter. Some clever wiring allows the output of the counter to select the starting address for the EPROM. Each time you press the reset button it increments the counter, thereby selecting a different ROM to load. See [Callan] demonstrate the finished hack in the video after the break.

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Xerox Phaser drum unit hacked, lives to print another day

Faced with a printer that would stop printing for no apparent reason, Finnish pirate and hacker [Janne] decided he had had enough. After doing a bit of research, he disassembled the drum assembly and replaced some components. The end result? Supposedly ‘broken’ printers started working again.

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Creating NES cartridge clones from ROM dumps

Sometimes emulators just don’t cut it when you want to play a vintage game. Like it or not, some people enjoy the nostalgia of playing old games on the actual hardware for which it was designed.

[Callan] wrote in to share a method he has been using to make some of his own NES game cartridges from ROM dumps in order to play them on an honest to goodness NES console.

He starts out with a 190 in 1 game cartridge, where he found a neat Famicom game never released in the US. He decided he would patch the ROM he found on the multicart in order to have an English menu, and then create his very own cartridge from the image. He discusses how to identify which EPROM chips you will need in order to construct your cartridge, as well as some helpful ways of finding a donor cart that has a similar enough board to house your components.

[Callan] also provides a quick walkthrough of erasing and burning your new EPROM chips, before discussing some post-soldering troubleshooting steps you might need to take before your game will work properly.

While we can’t comment on the legality of these game clones, we still think it’s pretty awesome.

Be sure to check out his site for a far more in-depth discussion of the process if this is something that interests you.

Old school LED light show


Building LED arrays that can display all sorts of different patterns is pretty easy these days. Hook up an Arduino, do some charlieplexing, and off you go. When [Viktor] was younger he didn’t have all those fancy schmancy microcontrollers and circuit simulation software you kids have these days. In fact, last we heard, he had to walk to school uphill both ways – in the snow.

That didn’t stop him from building this gem of a project back in 1987. His LED chaser/light show does not use any microcontrollers at all, rather it relies on an EPROM to store predefined display programs. A series of switches are installed on the front of the flasher, allowing him to easily switch between the programs, and a pot is mounted to the front of the device to control the speed of the LEDs.

His light show is pretty slick, even for a project built over 20 years ago. Sometimes you just can’t beat a good, old-school hack.

Continue reading for a video demonstration of [Viktor’s] programmable light show.

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