Atari ST restoration

Atari-STHere at The Hackshed, we have several “retro” computers. A few of the machines we own are Atari STs. While looking at a couple of them the other day, I found one has a key missing (it was like that when we got it) and another had a faulty floppy drive. There was only one thing I could do…… perform a restoration.

Go and grab yourself a drink and get comfy….. this is a long one……

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Why we do what we do

Strange title isn’t it. I’ll explain what I mean…


A few days ago, my significant other handed me a cheap, nasty computer mouse and a cheap, nasty USB sparkly, colour changing, desk ornament thing and asked me to fix them. Of course I said “yes”, I daren’t say otherwise. She wanted the desk ornament fixing because it’s “pretty” and the mouse because it’s pink and covered in little plastic gems… Oh, and it’s “pretty”

While I was working on these items, it occurred to me that even though they were very cheap and could be replaced for a few pounds, I was actually enjoying myself.

I happened to have a dead mouse in my junk box so I opened it up, un-soldered one of the buttons and swapped the dead button with it. Problem solved.

The USB ornament thing was next.

When you plug it in to a USB port, it’s supposed to light up and change colour. It didn’t.

ornamentWhen I opened it up, I found a small PCB with a chip under a blob of epoxy, 3 LEDs and some resistors. After checking that it had power, I decided that the chip was probably faulty and there was nothing I could do… oh, but there was.

I have a few colour changing LEDs in my stock drawer. They have two pins like a normal LED but they have a tiny little chip inside the case. All you need to do is add power and it cycles through different colours on it’s own.

For the sake of 2 minutes work, I soldered the LED to one of the existing resistors and it worked perfectly.

Within 10 minutes, I’d fixed two worthless items (monetary wise) but had made my significant other very happy. Can you put a value on that?

It got me thinking to all the times I’ve built something, fixed something or really done anything and someone says “But why?” “What’s the point?” etc

Well, because I enjoy it, that’s why.  I love nothing more than coming into the hackshed and just tinkering for the sake of tinkering. Call me a sad geek, I really don’t care.

To sum it all up, the next time someone asks “Why?” Just reply with “Because I can”

There really doesn’t need to be a reason to do anything. Just have fun.

Building a 4bit / 8bit computer in CPLD

8_Bit_Computer_by_Ben_AndersonSomething we’ve been working towards is building a homebrew CPU from scratch in CPLD. If you’ve seen any of our “Getting Started with CPLDs” guide, you might have noticed that we’re working towards completing the ALU before we can start adding proper CPU features to it. This article is less about the CPLD side of things (we’ll continue with the guides) and more about the rest of what we’ve been doing.

Building things on breadboards is fine but I often find that I either need to pinch something from the design, I knock wires out of place or there’s some other reason that it gets destroyed. In order to get round this, I’ve started building a modular control panel for my ongoing project. I’ve named it…. The Carlputer… ahem.

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Product Review – Altera MAX V CPLD Development Board

max5-dev-kitThe guys over at Altera have been extremely generous and sent us a MAX V CPLD development kit as well as another item we’ll be writing about very soon. Let’s have a look at the board and some of it’s features.

As the name suggests, it’s based around the popular Altera MAX V CPLD chip, more specifically, it’s the 5M570ZF256C5N. The chip contains 570 logic elements, 440 macrocells and has 159 User IO pins. More information about the Max V family can he found here.

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Quick Hack – Connect a C64 joystick to a PC

atarijoystickI’ve been trying to work on some CPLD stuff and have hit a brick wall. I’m annoyed. I need to have a break from the logic stuff so I’m finally going to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I’m going to connect an old 9-pin joystick up to my PC so I can play some old Commodore 64 games.

This isn’t going to be a particularly elegant solution and I do have plans for a much better method in future but for now, this will suffice and will let me play some old games quickly. I’m also writing this guide as I go along so please excuse the present tense.

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Product Review – Arachnid Labs Circuit Pattern Trading Cards

IMAG0282I’ll start off by saying, No, this isn’t a card game similar to top trumps. It’s not even a game at all.

Let’s start at the beginning……

Nick over at Arachnid Labs designed a series of playing cards with a little electronic circuit and description printed onto each one. His original idea was to include one with every item ordered from his product range as a fun little gift. The cards were such a hit that he was soon inundated with requests from customers wanting to buy the full set. Nick did the only thing he could…. he obliged and had more sets printed up, designed a nice looking box for them and sold them as a product in their own right. Great news for the rest of us!

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Getting started with CPLDs – Part 8

cpldjIn this article, we’re going to re-use the hardware from the 4-bit binary adder but convert it into a 4-bit binary subtractor instead.

It’s a very simple modification to the schematic design. We simply invert the B inputs and leave the A inputs as they are. Instead of adding A and B, this configuration will subtract B from A.

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Getting started with CPLDs – Index

cpldjHere you will find links to all the articles that make up our CPLD for beginners guide.

We’d love to hear your feedback about this guide. If we’ve got something wrong or if there’s anything specific you’d like us to cover, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Part 1 – Installing the Altera Quartus II software
Part 2 – Entering your first design
Part 3 – Lighting an LED
Part 4 – Adding a button
Part 5 – Making a half-adder
Part 6 – Making a full-adder
Part 7 – Making a 4-bit binary adder
Part 8 – Making a 4-bit binary subtractor




Getting Started with CPLDs – Part 7

cpldjIn part 6, we built a 1-bit full adder. In this part we’re going to expand upon that and build a complete 4-bit binary adder. I have made the assumption that you already know about the binary number system but in case you don’t, have a look here and do some searching to learn about it.

Back? Great, let’s get on with it. Grab your CPLD development board, a breadboard and the usual handful of LED, switches and resistors. We will need switches for this guide instead of buttons.

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