Posted on Leave a comment

Convert Diptrace gerber file extensions for Itead Studio

XF551s

 

While waiting for the new boards to arrive I got to playing with an idea I’d had for awhile.  I use the board house Itead Studio and I’d recently changed from using Eagle to Diptrace for my PCB design software.  Well Itead requires a specific file extension for each gerber file.  I was getting tired of manually changing the extension on the gerber files Diptrace creates and occasionally getting the wrong extension on the right file.  Horrors!!

So I decided to dust off my Visual Basic programing skills and create a little program that would do that for me.  Along the way I added the ability to change the filename to a custom filename and added the abiltiy to zip all the files up ready to be sent to Itead.  It will do both 2 layer and 4 layer boards.   I have tested it on Windows 7 64bit.  But it should work on Windows XP 32bit on up.  It does require Microsoft .Net Framework 4.5 installed.  Sorry……

Here’s the link for .Net Framework 4.5.  Download the setup file and install.  You will need to be connected to the internet.  Then go ahead and download my program Diptrace2Itead and unzip.  Run the setup.exe.

It’s a simple little program.  No documentation to speak of.  It sticks the zip file in the project directory by default.  I’m sure someone will discover a bug.  🙂  I may upgrade features later,  but for right now it does what I need and I don’t need anything else for it to do.

Posted on Leave a comment

XF551 update:

XF551s

 

Well here it is nearly Christmas.  I have a modern power supply test board coming in hopefully by the end of the week.  Put together and tested ok should be a big step towards the final board.  The board itself appears to be approaching the size of the original, as I have added things.  I wonder how that happened…..:)

A big question remains.  I am considering going to a four layer board, but my current board house prices for four layer boards  is literally five times more expensive for a small batch. (50 count)  So I may have to stay with 2 layer.  It might not do much to reduce the size anyway.  I am working with non SMD parts for the most part.  It would be nice to go SMD, but I see no realistic way I can do that much SMD soldering.  My eyesight just will not allow it.  I’ve toyed with the idea of having my board house do the SMD assembly, but the additional costs could push the total cost of the board beyond that sweet spot that most Atarians will pay.  Kinda defeats the purpose.

Anyway,  I have a couple more projects in development too.  Those boards should come in this week too.  Stay tuned for more info.

Happy Holidays everyone!

 

Posted on Leave a comment

A few days in

 

A few days in now to this great experiment.  I’ve had some customers and a major meltdown in the shipping module due to an ill considered update.  But every thing seems to functioning now.  I’m still not very sure the shipping module is doing what it should the way I want it to, but it’s what I have right now.

 

Major snow and ice storm occuring now.  Here’s hoping everyone in it’s path is safe and warm.

Posted on 1 Comment

Reimaged Atari XF551 Floppy Drive Board (Part 1)

XF551s

[dropcap]X[/dropcap]F551 was Atari’s attempt to use the more standard 5 1/4 disk drive with it’s 8bit computer line.  It was released as the company faced certain failure and suffered from Tramel’s cost cutting mentality.  The single sided near perfboard quality main board is much maligned for it’s frequent power and SIO connector failures.  I never owned a XF551 Floppy Drive back in the day.  I lusted after it, but never quite could afford it.  And then life intervened and I moved on.  Fast forward some twenty years. I finally have the means and the knowledge to own and fix some of the short commings of that floppy drive board.

I started this project a little over a year ago as a summer project.  After some success with the GTIA-PAL adapter board and the MMU adapter board for Candle’s Ultimate 1MB, I was feeling my oats so to speak.  I thought I would stretch myself.  And I thought I would have some fun even if I didn’t succeed.  As you can tell, it’s turned into something more than a summer project.  Along the way I stretched myself way out of shape.  🙂  But it has been very fun.
[hr] [quote style=”boxed” float=”left”]

Legacy Atari 3rd party hardware boards…  These products, while technically may not be abandoned by their respective makers, are not being supported or manufactured and have not in twenty years or more.  I wanted to keep alive as much of the original experience of owning them as possible by reproducing the physical boards.  This website is a direct result of that.

[/quote]Okay, let’s start at the beginning.  In the beginning I wanted to fix the obvious flaws mentioned above.  I also at first did not want to include internal power supply circuitry.  There was much disscusion in the thread I started on AtariAge on the advantages/disadvantages of that.  It seemed split evenly and I was without enough information to recreate the original power supply circuit.  I later ordered a copy of the preliminary XF551 schematic from Best Electronics and found most of the information there.  But not all.  Key parts were not labeled with values and a close inspection of the board parts yielded no more info.  So finally I decided to forego internal power supply.  Then it became a question on how to get both 5V and 12V to the drive and chips inside.

That’s where I got stuck for months.  I tried different schemes.  Had multiple proto boards made and had them fail miseribly.  Each cycle took almost a month for the redesign, board manufacture and receipt, assembly and testing.  I could only work on it parttime as I have a full time job.  Guss Assmman provided immeasurable help, even going so far as sending his own working board and testing one of my proto boards.   I kept finding mistakes I had made, some assumptions I should have known better than to make.  Okay I was learning…….   but it was begining not to be fun anymore.

Family emergencies didn’t help, at one point stopping work cold for several months.  That work stoppage and a decision to put the project on hold for awhile allowed me to gain some distance and allowed my subconcious to work in the background.  In the meantime I directed my attention to other ideas that had been bubbling on the side.

Okay here we are nearly a year and a half later after starting this project.  From the knowledge and additional experience gained by smaller projects I think I can resume and complete this now.  I continued to research anything and everything about the XF551 in the meantime.  During my research I came across Igor Gramblicka’s website http://blog.3b2.sk/igi/ .  He has created/designed some fantastic mods for the XF551.  He has graceously given permission to allow me to incorporate some of them into my project.

So here is what I want to try to do:

[hr]

Choice of:   Original XF551 PS or Modern XF551 PS

Includes:

  • Jumper Selection of Intel 8040 or 8050 CPU
  • Jumper Selection of 2in1 OS
  • Jumper Selection of Density Sensor
  • Board will be populated except for Eprom (it is socketed on the original board) for as long as supplies last

Planned Expansion Kit:Front Panel Controls/LED

  • Drive LED Display
  • Drive Select Switch
  • Reset Switch
  • OS Selector Switch

 

Posted on 1 Comment

Hello world!

profile_img1_atari

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]elcome to Bits of the Past.

I hope to provide some entertainment to those interested in the once and forever Atari 8 bit computers.  I also hope to keep alive some of the old school mods that were originally designed but have been abandoned by their creators.  Copyright laws were created to encourage invention and to protect those inventors by providing the ability to profit from their designs.  If the creators abandon those designs or fail to maintain production, then the most they should expect is attribution which I will freely give.  I am not making a profit, I have no intention to make a profit.

Now I do have a few original boards of my own and those I would like to make a little money on.  We’ll see.

This will be a work in progress for a few weeks while all the bugs are squashed and I apologize before hand if the site blows up while you are trying to order.  I will confirm all orders before shipping so your valid email address is extremely important.  Especially for those who live over the big pond.