The 8 Bit Harmonica Blows In From Japan

8bit-harmonica

From [Basami Sentaku] in Japan comes this 8bit harmonica. [Basami] must remember those golden days of playing Famicom (or Nintendo Entertainment System for non-Japanese players). As the systems aged, the contacts would spread. In the case of the NES, this would often mean the infamous blinking red power light. The solution for millions of players was simple. Take the cartridge out, blow on it, say a few incantations, and try again. In retrospect, blowing on the cartridges probably did more harm than good, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. We’d always assumed that the Famicom, being a top loading design, was immune from the issues that plagued the horizontal slot on the NES. Either [Basami] spent some time overseas, or he too took to tooting his own cartridge.

Blowing into cartridges has inspired a few crafty souls to stuff real harmonicas into cartridge cases. [Basami] took a more electronic route. A row of 8 microphones picks up the players breath sound. Each microphone is used to trigger a specific note. The katakana in the video shows the traditional Solfège musical scale: do, re, mi, fa, so, la ti, do. A microcontroller monitors the signal from each microphone and determines which one is being triggered. The actual sound is created by a Yamaha YMZ294. The ‘294 is an 18 pin variant of the venerable General Instrument AY-3-8910, a chip long associated with video game music and sound effects. While we’re not convinced that the rendition of Super Mario Bros’ water theme played in the video wasn’t pre-recorded, we are reasonably sure that the hardware is capable of doing everything the video shows.

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Hacking your NES/Famicom console for better video and audio

famicom_playchoice_ppu_mod

[Dominic] wrote in to share a pretty neat Famicom console mod that improves both the video and audio output of the system. While some of you may be familiar with the PlayChoice 10, we’re guessing that many of you are not. The PlayChoice 10 was an arcade-style machine that allowed you to play up to 10 different NES games. The system’s hardware was quite similar to the Famicom/NES consoles, but the graphics and sound performance was superior to either console.

[Dominic] decided to tweak his Famicom system, and ended up replacing its native Picture Processing Unit (PPU) with one from a PlayChoice 10. This allows the console to output RGB video natively, resulting in a crisper picture with brighter coloring. He didn’t stop there however. His Famicom system also sports an upgraded audio circuit that boasts psuedo-stereo sound as well as increased bass response and better overall audio clarity.

The console looks nearly stock, and performs quite well according to [Dominic]. Be sure to check out the video comparison embedded below to see how the modifications improved his system’s performance.

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Printing from a Famicom clone computer

This is an 8-bit computer and Famicom clone that [133MHz] bought for $2. It plays Nintendo games and using an 80-in-1 cartridge it has a rudimentary operating system and set of applications. Seeing a standard DB25 port on the back [133MHz] wondered if he could make the system talk to a printer. His first step was to investigate the electronics inside to find that the connector has a couple of chips that map to the data bus of the CPU and use the same control lines as the cartridge. That means it can be setup to do just about anything in software. After a bit of coding he’s got it printing to a dot-matrix. See for yourself after the break.

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