Reverse Engineering Unobtanium

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If you listen to [Bil Herd] and the rest of the Commodore crew, you’ll quickly realize the folks behind Commodore were about 20 years ahead of their time, with their own chip foundries and vertical integration that would make the modern-day Apple jealous. One of the cool chips that came out of the MOS foundry was the 6500/1 – used in the keyboard controller of the Amiga and the 1520 printer/plotter. Basically a microcontroller with a 6502 core, the 6500/1 has seen a lot of talk when it comes to dumping the contents of the ROM, and thus all the code on the Amiga’s keyboard controller and the font for the 1520 plotter – there were ideas on how to get the contents of the ROM, but no one tried building a circuit.

[Jim Brain] looked over the discussions and recently gave it a try. He was completely successful, dumping the ROM of a 6500/1, and allowing for the preservation and analysis of the 1520 plotter, analysis of other devices controlled by a 6500/1, and the possibility of the creation of a drop-in replacement for the unobtanium 6500/1.

The datasheet for the 6500/1 has a few lines describing the test mode, where applying +10 VDC to the /RES line forces the machine to make memory fetches from the external pins. The only problem was, no body knew how to make this work. Ideas were thrown around, but it wasn’t until [Jim Brain] pulled an ATMega32 off the top of his parts bin did anyone create a working circuit.

The code for the AVR puts the 6500/1 into it’s test mode, loads a single memory location from ROM, stores the data in PORTA, where the AVR reads it and prints it out over a serial connection to a computer. Repeat for every location in the 6500/1 ROM, and you have a firmware dump. This is probably the first time this code has been seen in 20 years.

Now the race is on to create a drop-in replacement of what is basically a 6502-based microcontroller. That probably won’t be used for much outside of the classic and retro scene, but at least it would be a fun device to play around with.

Hackaday 68k: So You Want A Kit?

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It’s yet another update to the Hackaday 68k, the wire-wrapped backplane computer that will eventually be serving up our retro site.

This is also a demo of Hackaday Projects, our new, fancy online documentation tool for all your adventures in making and tinkering. Did you know we’re having a contest on Hackaday Projects? Make something sci-fi, and you’re in the running for some really good prizes. There’s soldering stations, o-scopes, and a lot of other prizes being thrown at the winners. It’s awesome. First one to build a working Mr. Fusion wins.

In this update, I’m going to go over the beginnings of the video board, why Hammond enclosures are awesome and terrible at the same time, and some thoughts on turning this into a kit or product of some type. Click that, ‘Read more…’ link.

 

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Hackaday 68k: Gluing Architecture Buffer Maps

68000It’s time for more blatant advertising for Hackaday Projects, the best project hosting site on the Internet. Did we tell you it’s collaborative? That you and your friends can work on projects together? Want more encouragement to join? How about a contest with prizes that include oscilloscopes, FPGA dev boards, soldering and rework stations, Beaglebones and Raspberries and Spark Cores? Oh my!

Oh. We’re also developing a retrocomputer to show off the features of Hackaday Projects. This is the latest update, showing off the architecture of the entire system, the memory map, and the logic glue and buffers. The plan for this project is to have it host another awesome Hackaday site, our retro version, a small off-shoot of the main Hackaday site that’s specifically designed to be loaded by computers built before 1993. There haven’t been many retro successes in the Hackaday tip line recently, so if you manage to get a vintage computer to pull the retro site up, snap a pic and send it in.

For those of you wanting to catch up on the Hackaday 68k project, here’s the Hackaday Projects page, and here’s all the front page updates. Click that ‘Read more…’ link for the update.

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Hackaday 68k: Blinking An LED

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Time for another update for the Hackaday 68k, the 16-bit retrocomputer developed on Hackaday to show off both our love for vintage hardware and our new project hosting site. There’s still invites to be had, people. Get ‘em while they’re hot.

This post is going to cover exactly how complex a simple 68000 system is. The answer is, “not very.” A simple 68k system is at least as simple to design than some other homebrew systems we’ve seen around here. Yes, a 16-bit data bus means there’s more wires going everywhere, but like she said, just because it’s bigger doesn’t mean it’s harder.

There is some progress to report on the construction of the Hackaday 68k. The processor has been verified as working with a blinking LED. It’s the ‘Hello World’ of computer design, and it’s at least as complex as blinking a LED with an Arduino.

You’re gonna want to click that ‘Read more’ link.

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Hackaday 68k: Enclosure, Backplane, And Power

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It’s about time for an update for Hackaday’s latest project – a modern retrocomputer based on the Motorola 68000 CPU. In this update, we’ll be taking a look at the enclosure, the backplane itself, and how we’re going to power this thing.

This is only an update to the project; you can check out the current status over on Hackaday Projects. It’s Hackaday’s new collaborative project hosting site where you (and your friends) can design, build, or document anything you have in mind. Request an invite for the alpha release of Hackaday Projects and you can give this project a skull! Seriously, this project is only the third ‘most skulled’ one on Hackaday Projects.

Now that the completely transparent pitch for Hackaday Projects is over with, we can get on to the update for the Hackaday 68k. Click that ‘Read More…’ link.

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RasPi Powered ADM-3A Dumb Terminal

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[Andrew Curtin] tipped us off to another excellent resurrected vintage one piece ADM-3A dumb terminal. [Andrew] not only resurrected this sexy machine by breathing life into her once more after 37 years but he also got it connected online to retro.hackaday.com for those coveted retro Super Nerd bonus points.

As with other ADM-3A terminals we have seen on Hackaday, the terminal screen can be interfaced over an RS-232 serial connector to a laptop, however, [Andrew] didn’t have a laptop to sacrifice so he utilized the now popular laptop stand-in RasPi. It’s a clever form factor solution which makes it appear more like a standalone computer for the first time in its life.

To make the hack work he needed a serial adapter to link the ADM-3A terminal to the Ras-PI so he constructed one for himself. It’s another clever solution but he didn’t share much information on this build. Maybe he’ll comment below or elaborate on his site with more details on the construction and utilization of the adapter board from the Ras-PI so others could easily repeat this fun hack.

Hackaday Retro Edition: Retro Roundup

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We’ve rebooted the Hackaday Retro Edition and again we’re getting a few submissions for retro successes – old computers that somehow managed to load our crappy, pure-HTML, no-javascript edition.


Inspired by the Palm Lifedrive in the previous retro roundup, [Bobby] dug out his Palm TX and loaded up the retro edition with the Blazer browser. Given this device has WiFi and a browser, it’s not much, but [Bobby] did run in to a bit of a problem: Palm never released WPA2 for personal use, and this device’s WPA abilities are buried away in a server somewhere. Interesting that a device that’s relatively young could run into problems so easily.

How about another Palm? [nezb]‘s first smartphone, back in 2003, was a Treo 600. He dug it out, got it activated (no WiFi), and was able to load the retro edition. Even the Palm-optimized edition of Slashdot works!

How about some Xenix action? [Lorenzo] had an Olivetti 386 box with 4MB of RAM with Xenix – Microsoft Unix – as the operating system. The connection was over Ethernet using a thinnet card. Here’s a video of it booting.

[Eugenio] sent in a twofer. The first is a Thinkpad 600, a neat little laptop that would make for a great portable DOS gaming rig. It’s running Mandrake Linux 9, his very first Linux. Next up is the venerable Mac SE/30 with a Kinetics Etherport network card. It’s using a telnet client to talk to a Debian box.

Here’s one that was cool enough for its own post: [Hudson] over at NYC Resistor salvaged an old Mac SE with a BeagleBone Black connected to the CRT. This effectively turns the SE into a modern (if low powered) ARM Linux box. Emulators are always an option, though, as is loading our retro edition in xterm.

Links to the pics below, and you’re always welcome to dust off your old boxxen, fire it up, and load up the retro edition. It’s new and improved! Every half hour or so, five classic hacks from the first 10,000 Hackaday posts are converted to pure HTML. Take a pic and send it in.

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