Subscribe via RSS

Mixing and matching Xeon Processors?

So I recently came to acquire this beast. It's a beautiful 13-year-old IBM Intellistation Z 6221 with a 3.2ghz Xeon processor. I really dig the IBM styling... it's also ridiculously modular, not even requiring a screwdriver to rearrange drives. Unfortunately, due to its age, it's only 32-bit. In fact, it came with one (supports two) of the fastest and final 32-bit CPUs of the Xeon family.


DSC02569 DSC02570 DSC02571

The first step was to find extra ram to fill the 4 slots. This would only ever max to 8gb, so I needed 4 2gb DDR PC2100 dimms. Not so easy to find any more and prices are going up... either way they were sourced from eBay. I also, now that I think of it, accidentally sold the black floppy drive because a collector wanted it. It's now silver... and doesn't look too bad... but I'm on the hunt to fix that... Or maybe I'll put a zip drive in there...

Next step was to fill the second CPU slot... Thanks to the modular case, no screws were harmed during the dismantling of this product. As you can see below, the naked socket is neatly protected by a plastic shield that plugs into the heat-sink socket. There is, of course, no heat-sink; as there is no CPU in that second slot by default. You could choose this as an option when purchasing the unit.

DSC02125 DSC02126 DSC02130

It turns out that I had another Xeon desktop, in the form of an HP MLxxx. Although this was only a Xeon 2.7ghz, I'd read online that you may well be able to mix CPU speeds? First thing was to remove the CPU from the HP. This turned out to be very easy as its case was also very modular.

DSC02131 DSC02133 DSC02134

Instantly you can see that the heat-sink is different... the IBM used case-mounted fans with passive CPU-mounted heat-sinks, whereas the HP used heat-sink-mounted-fans. I inserted the CPU into the slot on the IBM's motherboard, but the heat-sink shape was different to the bracket mounted on the IBM motherboard. The heat-sink from the HP would not fit in directly!


I quickly tried to remove the bracket from the HP motherboard, with the intent on transplanting it into the IBM. After a lot of effort, it came off (the screws HP used were nearly torqued in!), but then it wouldn't fit in the IBM! It was too wide and long and actually wouldn't fit between the rows of capacitors. So much for industry standards!?

DSC02147 DSC02148 DSC02150


Ok... whatever... I mean how quickly can these things heat up? I'll just hold it in place for a quick test... before I mangle the heatsink to fit. Nope. Turns out the IBM wont even power up with this CPU in the second slot. Is this a fail-safe mechanism because the CPUs aren't matched? Is this CPU a dud? (I hadn't tried it prior...) Dunno.

Make sure the CPUs match!

Off to eBay, I found an identical SL72Y processor in England. It took a few weeks, but it arrived. Again, prior to hacking up the heatsink to fit, I thought I would install the CPU quickly as a test to see if the machine would POST.


Oh wait... it wouldn't just slot in... oh wait... look at those bent pins! I still don't know if it was the beer or the fact that it came off its little foam pad already-bent, but it required about 30 minutes of pain-staking twiddling with a pair of tweezers to get the damn thing in. DO NOT RUSH THIS PROCESS. At one point I thought all was lost as it just wouldn't mount... but after a lot of adjusting it went in.

DSC02556 DSC02564 DSC02566

A bit of hacking was then required to fit the HP heat-sink. I had to hack pieces out of the braces that screw down to the motherboard. I then had to bend a few fins on the actual heat-sink so they wouldn't ground-on or damage the rows of capacitors placed so nice-and-close to the CPUs. And then... it just freakin' worked... and the machine finally loaded Chrome at a proper speed on Linux Mate 18. Now to find a more-appropriate OS to run on this slightly ancient hardware!

Filed under: Retro No Comments

Modding an original PlayStation

I hadn't played one of these since... maybe... 1996 when my neighbour and I got Abe through his quest. I found this unit at an op-shop recently for AUD$40 and couldn't resist.


The first thing to do was a tear-down + clean. Of course, a friend then told me he had a spare modchip for it.. so... why not do a proper job whilst the unit was still open.


In true Sony-style, the units disassemble perfectly easily and are neat and tidy inside.


Once you're down to the motherboard, it's simply a matter of determining where to wire the chip. To do this, you'll need to know which chip you have and which model motherboard. Mine was a Multi-Mode 3 and I installed it onto a PU-23 motherboard. I followed the instructions here.

DSC01586 DSC01590 DSC01593

Flatten the chip so that you can glue it on top of an IC later.

DSC01596 DSC01604 DSC01599

Then just run all the wires with as-little-slack-as-possible. This just means you wont have any issues with wires getting in the way of screws later.


Test when the case is open, test when the case is closed and test again later. When testing, the CD tray mechanism requires the case to be held firmly together so that spacing is correct for laser alignment.


Last time I was in BKK, I purchased a selection of random Japanese games. Pachinko, Abe's A'go go(Odyssey), Myst and Tekken 3. Turns out they all work perfectly.


Abe's A Go Go is actually a random text-replacement version of the english version. The cutscenes are still in english with subtitles.

DSC02464 DSC02466 DSC02467


And then you get a random ticker at the top with instructions for non-english speakers... Anyway... time to go and play the rest.

Filed under: Retro No Comments

Amstrad CPC464 Restoration

I was hoping this would be a plug-and-play, but a machine this old was always going to be a challenge. I received this unit as part of a lot with the other 6128s and have finally received a tape to test on it.


DSC02425 DSC02426 DSC02428

From the outside, the item was a little dusty. That white piece, which looks like a pivot of some sort, fell out when I rotated the unit to see underneath. Never a good sign... Either way, I plugged in the unit and power it up (it happily uses the same RGB and power setup as per the 6128). To my surprise, I got straight to the main BASIC screen! To try my luck further, I loaded my demo tape and typed RUN"...


All good so far... then I noticed that only the left spindle was spinning on the tape player. The right wasn't collecting any of the read tape... I had a hunch where it was going......... yep.


Time to pop it open.


Dusty... OK... I can handle that... what I can't handle is a spring (from somewhere?) magnetised to the speaker. The ad-hoc shotty taping-and-soldering was also a little bit of a surprise.


Regardless, looking at the tape player mechanism I quickly found two dead rubber components. The band to the tape counter had perished...


So had the rubber ring that drives the right spindle. This makes perfect sense and explains why the machine tried to consume my tape.


Finding spares

There's a few options online for spare parts. eBay was my first choice and I have the two main belts on the way from Germany. This'll take a while. I actually really only need the band for the tape counter, but it won't hurt to replace the main drive belt also.

The second part is a concern. It's a tight ring and my initial searching has come up with zero results. Might have to head to the hobby shop today and find a car tyre or o-ring. Meanwhile, did someome say o-ring?

Drive 'wheel'

Not having much luck with o-rings, I went to my local hobby store and bought some Fleischmann HS Scale traction tyres (00544001) (actual picture here). I bought 4 in total and just layered them up on the wheel. I was a little worried about alignment as any friction would cause the tape speed to change.



It has seemed to have worked.. but now the main drive belt is slipping. I'm going to assume it's loose and therefore not getting the required amount of traction. More waiting until the next set of spares arrives!

Drive and Counter belts

The set was ordered from eBay and arrived from the UK in good time. As expected, two belts in a bag. Much stronger and more flexible than the belts they were to replace.


There's one screw underneath to remove and then you just slide the belt over the wheels. Make sure you not twist the belt when installing. It's not 'extremely' tight, so it's pretty easy to install.


Read Errors

Back to testing. The tape drive started operating perfectly, so I attempted to load the cassette once more.


Yosh! We're getting somewhere... but then...

DSC02581 DSC02583 DSC02585

Read Error Codes indicate failures whilst reading from tapes. Sometimes this is a dirty head, other times the head is out of alignment. I wiped down the head with an alcohol swab and then started to attempt alignment. Not really knowing what I was doing, I hooked up the audio to 'listen' to the data and twisted the alignment screw until the audio was loudest and clearest.


After a lot of errors, I seemed to have it stable, so I restarted the machine and tried again. It got all the way to Block 11! Then it just wouldn't continue. I hung around until I could make it say 'abba'.


Was the tape dead? All of a sudden I had a hunch it could be the power supply... so I swapped to an old AT power supply... but it didn't seem to be able to provide enough current...


And then I accidently plugged in 12v...


Take your time when playing with old electronics... I've now received the dreaded Grey Screen of Death and that means any of the internal ICs could be toast. I might muck around and try and swap the socketed ones between the 6128... but otherwise... I might have just lost the battle. $%$#%#$%#%.

There's a lot of good information here on over-voltage. Seems I've cooked the lot.

Chips on the board

I'm putting this here in case I ever feel game enough to do a full board chip replacement.

Chip Purpose Quantity Status
AY-3-8912 Sound 1
AMSTRAD 40009 32K ROM; O/S and BASIC 1
74LS145P BCD-to-Decimal Decoder 1
74HC153P Dual 4-input multiplexer 4 Found, not ordered.
HD46505SP Video PPI 1
D8255AC-5 CRTC 1
74HC273P D FLIP-FLOP 1 Found, not ordered.
Z8400AB1 Z80A 4Mhz CPU 1 Found, not ordered.
74HC32P Quad 2-input OR gate 1
74HC244P Octal buffer/line driver; 3-state 1 Found, not ordered.
74HC373P 8-BIT DRIVER 1 Found, not ordered.
M3764-20RS (Or 4614?) RAM 8 Found, not ordered.
74HCU04 Hex unbuffered inverter 1
AMSTRAD 40010/40007 Gate-Array 1
Filed under: Retro 2 Comments

Barcode Scanner: Cheating in Style.

I picked up a random hand-held barcode scanner from the markets a few months back and it's been sitting on the shelf waiting for a proper reason to exist. Whilst playing a marathon game of Bubble Bobble on the MSX (and losing, we just couldn't beat the boss), I google'd for cheats. They were all enterable via the keyboard on the main screen... but then it occurred to me... A barcode scanner on a PC would be the best way to quickly type in cheats for your game of choice.

The Scanner

This thing is a hand-held model with stand. It's a DataLogic QuickScan QD2100 and the drivers can be found here.


DSC02408 DSC02410 DSC02412

Note that the device will install perfectly well on windows and show up as a HID Compliant Keyboard.

scanner device

Once installed, any barcodes scanned will be input via a virtual keyboard, along with a carriage return! To fix this, I'd assumed we'd install drivers and configure the device via software. It turns out instead that we'll need to directly configure the scanner itself via programming barcodes. Grab the manual here and browse to page 90. Read the instructions that they've mentioned:

  1. Go to page 91 and scan the top programming code.
  2. Scan the Set Global Suffix code
  3. Scroll all the way to page 291 and scan the 0 code twice
  4. Scroll all the way back up and scan the programming code again to exit

Making Barcodes

There's a ton of online sites that'll do this for you. My first hit was Barcodes Inc's online barcode generator. From here, even from the screen, you can zap the codes and test the device. It should all work pretty flawlessly.


I must admit, as soon as this idea came to mind, this was the game that I thought of first. Yes, it's dos-based and this scanner isn't... but that doesn't stop me from using it under DosBox.

GOD Mode

All Guns/Keys/Ammo/Armor

Show location details

Temporary automap

Temporary radiation suit

Temporary light

Temporary invisibility

Temporary invulnerability

Temporary berserk

Change map detail


Walk through walls

All Guns/Ammo/Armor

What's Next?

You could use this to automate processes: Run-through an entire game maybe? Play music? Probably nothing at-all worthwhile... but nonetheless still fun!

Filed under: Retro No Comments

Reveal MusicSTAR MIDI Piano Keyboard

Picked this up at a local tip shop a while ago for cheapcheap and have finally gotten around to checking it out. It's a short MIDI Keyboard from Reveal, model number MKB02. It turns out the company no longer exists; but Creative did try to save them back in the day.

Anyway, the keyboard is really nice. It has the standard IO: Power plug, power switch and MIDI out. On top you'll find buttons to adjust pitch and octaves.


DSC02398 DSC02399 DSC02401

Mine didn't come with an AC adapter, so I purchased the closest 9v 200ma supply I could find.


I was concerned whilst hooking this up as to the polarity of the plug. Usually you get the little symbol somewhere on the unit to dictate where positive is. Every other MIDI device I've seen lately has positive on the outside... but this does seem to be a Japanese thing.

The best way to solve this was to crack the unit open... it's a keyboard nonetheless, so it probably needed an internal clean anyway!

DSC02391 DSC02395 DSC02393

That last photo is of the IO board. The best bit? The power runs in from the DC jack into a friggen bridge rectifier! Why am I so happy/excited about this? It means the polarity doesn't even matter! It more-or-less treats the input as AC and converts it to its own polarity. How good is that!? All devices should do this.


Anyway, the next step was to simply hook it all together into my SC-55. Of course... it just worked perfectly!

Filed under: Retro No Comments

Amstrad CPC6128 – Repairing the internal floppy drive

The internal drives in these machines need their own separate 12v supply. It's really quite a strange setup... as it means the power supply needs a male (positive on the inside) 5v DC jack and a female (positive on the outside) DC socket to get the machine up and running.

It all makes sense once you realise that the power was supplied by the monitor that came with the set. And since you don't want want the user to be able to get the plugs in the wrong order, having them oppositely-sexed means that there's only one-way-round that they can be connected... unless you try to connect the devices to themselves?

Anyway... I built the required power setup in the prevous post. This time around I actually have a set of strangely-sized Amstrad 3" floppies to test!


I bit the bullet and just tried to read the disks as soon as I got them... because, hey, sometimes things just work... Of course, no dice; it was either "no disc present" or "failed to read" each time. What next? Time to pull the thing apart! I really should've taken photos when I first did this as the amount of ... insect (I think?) debris inside the machine was intense. There were quite a few of either ant, moth or some other cocooning insect homes installed around the motherboard and, as expected, right inside the floppy chassis too. These things seemed to like to be near the warmer components.

DSC02079 DSC02080 DSC02083

DSC02084 DSC02085 DSC02088

There was also a very thick and protective layer of dust. The entire machine was pulled apart and 24hours were spent cleaning and drying. Again, I should've taken photos... but I was too scared to move everything on to the workbench. I didn't want a biohazard scene to break out. A lot of soap-suds later and the machine came up much nicer, but still had a pretty mottled outer-case.

Anyway, back to the floppy drive again. The discs weren't reading... so I watched them try to work whilst powered up. The head was happily scanning through the tracks, but the disc wasn't spinning. Turned out to be the age-old totally-trashed-drive-belt trick. Actually, when I first opened the case I should've realised that the 10mm x 5mm shards of black plastic (of which the texture should've been rubber) were chunks of the belt. They were actually so solid that I didn't recognise that they could've ever been elastic or soft!


Yup, those chunks above are the remnants of the belt. What to do? You could go on eBay and find a legit belt... or you could dig in your stationary draw for something like this.


DSC02089 DSC02091 DSC02092

And then, well, just undo all the screws on the underside of the drive, disconnect a cable or two and fit a rubber band. Be careful not to damage the band on sharp edges when you install it as you'll just be creating a weak-spot which'll tear when you least expect it.

Put everything back the way you found it and give it a go. I managed to get past the "no disc found" errors... but I still couldn't list a directory structure. I popped the disc back out and wiped down the head (there's a single-sided head in the drive, but the disks are double and need to be flipped) with alcohol wipes. No luck... but something occurred to me; there was a lot of play in the part of plastic that pushed the disc down onto the head... which meant that it wasn't actually properly being pressed down?


I gently pressed down on the metal plate that the disc actually sits on, just to see if there'd be better contact with the head, of which is under the inserted disc. Damn! It worked! I had no idea how to run LOGO3.COM, but the directory was there, printed in all its glory.

So, not enough downward force once the disc is inserted... how to fix? There happens to be a spring on either side of the 'floating' part of the chassis that the disc is supported on. I assumed that these springs were life-expired and weren't pulling down as hard as they should be. Probably explains why the disc doesn't 'click' in when you insert it either... it goes in and floats around.

DSC02095 DSC02098 DSC02099

Thanks to Jaycar, I purchased a box of springs. Actually, further thanks to Jaycar... they were free... as I received an AUD$25.00 giftcard in the mail for christmas due to my shopping last year!


Finding matchingly-sized springs was easy enough and installing them was pretty straight forward... just use tweezers to hook the inner loop.



From here, the 'click' was intense. Powering it all back up got me the following...


Snap. Just works(tm). Now... how do I even run Logo?


Nope... After a little googlin', turns out that it needs to be run from the CPM operating system... which is on the disk? Or something...


Getting somewhere...


And then... I have no idea how to use logo...

DSC02114 DSC02115 DSC02116

But win! I now have both an internal and external drive!

Filed under: Retro No Comments

Amstrad CPC6128

A friend had one of these a very long time ago and I couldn't resist the urge to snap one up online when an auction came up! I'm really impressed with the size and design of this unit. It's quite heavy and solidly built. The keys have a nice tactile feel to them also.


DSC01624 DSC01626 DSC01627


The CPC6128 produces video through a 6-pin RGB DIN video port, so we'll need to convert that to something more usable. Thank fully I have a SCART to HDMI converter from the MSX. It also has a standard 3.5mm stereo output jack, so that can be fed into the SCART port also.

The internal floppy drive is non-standard. It requires 3" disks, as compared to a PC that uses 3.5". They're also slightly longer than usual disks. Fortunately Amstrad put an edge-connector on the rear for 'Drive B' which is pin-identical to old 5.25" PC disk drive plugs and I happen to have a ribbon cable that'll work.

Anyway.. let's get this thing powered up and running!


The CPC6128 needs 5v @ 2A and 12v @ 0.5A. You'll also need power for an internal PC floppy drive.. so I've used an internal hard disk power supply splitter for my source. This was chosen as I have an external USB-IDE power supply which has the right power requirements for the whole setup.


I found a DC plug and quickly hooked up the 5v line (red wire!) to see if the Amstrad would power up.

DSC01540 DSC01557 DSC01541

Yosh! We have activity (red light illuminated in test above)! The 12v line is actually for the internal floppy drive, of which I don't have disks for, so I'm not too concerned with it. I proceeded and soldered on a floppy power plug, 5v DC plug and 12v DC socket.


After the final changes, the red power light was still illuminating, so it was now time to convert the video output.

Amstrad RGB to SCART

This looked similar to my MSX machine, but there's only 6 pins instead of 8. I followed the instructions here at CPC Wiki and created a cable with a 6-pin DIN on one end and a SCART plug on the other.

DSC01542 DSC01543 DSC01545

Initially, I used the first wiring diagram at CPC Wiki, but this didn't work! I got a quick view of the CPC, but the image wouldn't last. I then tried the Alternative RGB Wiring with LUM to SYNC and SYNC to 16 and we got a picture! I must admit that my SCART to HDMI convertor is noisy!


Note that the picture would blink and the OSD for my TV kept appearing telling me that HDMI 4 was connected. It turns out (as per the instructions on CPC Wiki) that you need to install a 10uf Capacitor across pins 16 and 18 to rectify this.


This was installed and fitted nicely in the plug-housing. Audio was then run through to a 3.5mm jack for the side connector.

Using a PC floppy drive

You'll find all the information you need here to connect a PC 3.5" drive to the CPC. Finding a ribbon cable will be the hardest part... but luckily I've had a few old machines pass through my pile'o'junk lately and there were enough older-style cables spare. I actually swapped a few cables out from older machines for standard newer floppy cables that don't have the edge-connector as the other machines won't ever need them.

We've already got the power plug from above, so all we need to do now is correctly plug the data cable through. It's as simple as pushing the edge connector socket onto the port at the back and then pluging the IDC header plug into the floppy drive. Make sure to get the cable on the right way... if your machine fails to boot at this point, then swap it around.

Final step... add a jumper wire between pins 33 and 34.


I must note that, when idle, the floppy drive's reading light was always illuminated. It also then illuminated the internal drive's busy light also!


I tried a standard 3.5" HD Disk.. but it hated it..


Floppy Disk Images

This was a little trickier. You'll find CPCDiskXP. The latter is a very power piece of disk writing software specifically for the CPC.

I tried initially to get CPCDiskXP to write a DSK file straight to my USB floppy drive, but it failed. It wanted to install a 3rd party 'direct access' driver and this then told me it wouldn't work with USB floppy drives. Fortunately, you can get around this by converting all images to 'usb floppy compatible' images.


Open CPCDiskXP and click the bottom-middle DSK Editor button. From here, choose 'New'.


You'll now be provided with a selection of floppy image formats. Select the USB Compatible radio and then choose a format from the drop-down that'll fit the contents of the disk in question.


Once done, hit Add Files From Another Dsk. Open the relevant disk image and select everything.


You should now see your new image populated with the files from the source disk.


Hit the Write USB Floppy button up top and make sure USB Floppy Drive is selected.


Make sure you have your drive connected and a valid disk inserted. (I didn't, so the next shot is dark and full of errors.)


And now... test!




Other games: Prince of Persia, Stunt Car Racer, TMNT, Chase HQ, Spy vs Spy, Locomotion

Filed under: Retro No Comments

Microtek MDC-1 Parallel Port Camera

This thing just looks cool! Advertised as 'really simple to use' since it only needs your parallel port, it's a true-colour 640x480 webcam for the Windows Millenium era. Well, I say Win ME, but I could be wrong... the drivers I found are for ME though, so it definitely hung around.


It has a lengthy cable with a little bit of 'interesting' at the end. Sure, you have the parallel port.. which we're expecting.. but then you have an 'adapter' that has male PS/2 on one end and a female AT keyboard connector on the rear. Wait... so... If my PC has an AT Keyboard port, I'm screwed because this has male PS/2... BUT I can plug my keyboard in to the back of it? Vice-versa, if I only have PS/2 ports, I then need an AT Keyboard? The only real answer to this is that it came with two converters... Of which I happened to find in my box'o'junk!


So, in my AT case, I converted the AT to PS/2, plugged in the webcam and then plugged in ANOTHER AT to PS/2 to connect my keyboard! Hooked together...


We have power!



Thanks to webarchive, the original page for the camera is here. Unfortunately, the snapshot they've taken doesn't include drivers. Regardless of the list of files here, they all seem to be for their scanners. Fortunately, Driverguide has a Windows Millenium Driver for the MDC-1.

Downloading and installing was simple enough on Windows 98 SE. The software needed a reboot and then I had a program folder with Camera Test in it... sure! Why not?

DSC01534 DSC01535 DSC01536

Nice... it just worked perfectly. Terrible in low-light, but that's to be expected!


For those running open source software, you may be in luck. Is this a Linux Driver? Is this the same one? Maybe this?

Looks like they made sequels: Microtek Eyestar 2? And a USB version also.

Filed under: Retro No Comments

Revolution 3D – Ticket To Ride – AGP Graphics Card

I didn't even know this company existed. I've recently acquired a box'o'crap and there was a really strange-looking AGP graphics card in it.


DSC01472 DSC01477 DSC01484


Turns out it's a Number Nine Visual Technology Ticket To Ride Revolution 3D AGP Graphics Card with 8mb of WRAM? There's more information on it here at the VGA Museum. Vogon's Driver Library has the drivers for it for Windows 9x! (Note that they're always in 7-zip format, so get the Windows 9x version of that here.) Here's Wikipedia's data on Number Nine Visual Technologies.

They actually used Beatles lyrics/song-titles for the names of their chipsets/cards. How very random. The card used the IBM RAMDAC and had WRAM ... of which I'm still trying to understand.

Wait... woah... the wayback machine not only has the original Number Nine Technologies website saved, but you can even download the original HawkEye drivers for this card!


So, crap 3D game performance and 'very good' 2D performance/image quality. The card has a 'VGA Enable' on it, so I assume, like early 3dfx cards, you could have this as a secondary and only use it when the application required it. Which is interesting; if the 3D is crap.. then you'd have a second monitor for crap-ness. Instead they supposedly actually were good enough for their 2D!?

Here's a demo of the 3D performance... browse right to the end to see Unreal. Here's a review of it on Tom's Hardware, pitted against a few other cards of its time. All under Windows 95! Shock, it didn't score good at all for 3D... but for 2D it wiped the field.

VC Collection (Russian) has a review of the card. I was happy to see it not coming last! Then I realised that it was being compared against an S3 Virge DX!


Software was instead pulled from vogons and running setup produced the following...

DSC01420 DSC01421 DSC01422

Wait, what? Setup won't actually install the drivers? It'll just install the control panel? Time to fight through Device Manager...

DSC01425 DSC01426 DSC01427

And, of course, it wouldn't be Windows 98SE without a reboot...


The desktop then rendered beautifully over VGA at 1600x1200.



Screamer ran very nicely... but this isn't a true 3D game. It has it's own engine and just renders as standard 2D.


DSC01454 DSC01455 DSC01457


Quake 2 was a different story. It ran 'OK' at 320x240. 'Sluggish' at 640x480 and 'Useless' at 800x600.


But that was to be expected as this is not a powerful 3D card!

Filed under: Retro No Comments

Wavetables – PRO32AW

Whilst in Thailand I picked up an ISA card with a daughterboard. It was part of a collection of crap from a market where the SIMMs and card were rusting and .. well ... I took a punt!



Turns out the card was an ESS1868, but the daughterboard was an Avance PRO32AW! Talk about lipstick-on-a-pig! I suppose someone wanted the cheapest SB16 experience with a 'better' MIDI quality? It seems this is a clone of a AdMOS Adwave 32, down to just a simple text modification on the PCB. There's a site (Japanese) here that mentions this fact.

The Wavetable module plugs on the header on the sound card and (usually) then disables midi-out on the joystick port.



After a lot of tinkering, I worked out the following. To get a wavetable to work, you need to adjust the IDSP/ADSP jumpers.. where ADSP seems to be the additional DSP card. If you don't have jumpers (The ESS1868 didn't ... and my Vibra 16S/C also didn't), then you'll probably find a new Gameport Joystick detected when Windows loads... unfortunately, this will conflict with your original joystick port.

To correctly install a wavetable under windows, your best option is to entirely delete the soundcard from windows first! Remove everything from device manager (especially the Gameport Joystick!) and then shut the machine down. In this state, the card will be found a-new when windows loads and you shouldn't get resource conflicts. It seems that jumperless sound-cards disable the joystick output when a wavetable is added and then re-route the midi messages to the wavetable. The main confusing part was that the new 'Gameport Joystick' used the exact same addresses and resources as the conflicting port!

After getting it all to work, I managed to pass the audio through my laptop and record the output of each piece of hardware. Here's the source file from Mr Trachtman's Archive.

Here's the basic ESFM Synth:

Here's the Vibra 16 FM Synth:

And then the PRO32AW wavetable:

And then my beautiful Roland Sound Canvas SC-55.

And finally, a friend's Yamaha PSR (Thanks Nathan!)


I found the wavetable sound to be much better than the internal FM synth on the ESS1868. I actually don't mind the wavetable when compared to the SC-55, but was definitely hoping that the SC-55 would come out on top.

I wonder how I replace the soundfonts!?

Filed under: Retro No Comments