Just soldering on

Since things have been a little quiet after finishing Battle Eagle (partly because I “burnt out” a little and didn’t fancy much more than a little tinkering with code for a few days) I decided to spend the weekend tinkering with hardware projects; this is, as anybody who knows me, probably not a brilliant idea because, although I consider myself to be a reasonably competent software bunny after the decades of practise, hardware has never really been something I could do. But part of me wanted to learn and took the rest to Maplins to buy a reasonably cheap soldering iron and some parts a couple of months back, so eventually I had to sit down and try something.

And yesterday saw me dismantling a breadbin C64 that recently shared a coach journey back from my parents’ place and going at some of the less sensitive innards with the soldering iron to desolder the shift lock key to strip and clean the keyboard, resolder it after the cleaning work had been done and replace the case’s missing power LED with a rather bright white one. Things went pretty much to plan… well okay, I melted a hole in the underside of the shift lock mechanism but this was a first go and it wasn’t damaged as such! Here’s how the machine looks after surgery:

With that success under my belt, Sunday was put aside to see if the GBS-8220 VGA upscaler purchased for my Spectrum +2 would work on the Amstrad CPC464 as well, but instead I spent the entire morning and some of the afternoon completely engrossed in the book I read from cover to cover! It’s Behind You – The Making Of A Computer Game was written by Bob Pape and documents the time he spent developing R-Type on the Spectrum; the book covers some of the technical details of the game’s code (which are fascinating for the technically minded) as well as detailing the sometimes ludicrous company politics going on in the background. The book title above is a link to Bob Pape’s website and the book itself is a free download.

Fun with VGA

Today I got a couple of cables through the post; one was a short IEC serial cable for my 1541 Ultimate 2 (which is lovely and saves me having to burn my fingers trying to make one) and the other to connect the C64 used with said cartridge to S-VHS; the intention was to use a cheap and relatively cheerful VGA upscaler I got a few weeks back to run the C64’s output to a VGA monitor because they’re a lot more portable than the CRT tellies I’m currently borrowing or occasionally lugging along when taking machines to events like Play.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work as hoped and the upscaler seems extremely unhappy about anything it’s fed from the C64, throwing out a vertically stretched image with the colour almost totally washed out. This is pretty disappointing because the chances are that the Spectrum or Atari 8-bit will react in the same way so other options need to be considered… like actually spending some money sourcing a couple of 4:3 ratio LCD televisions.

On the plus side, the upscaler at least seems a bit more cheerful when connected to the Amiga 600 through composite video (although I’m not entirely happy with it, it certainly isn’t 50FPS and the edges on static graphics “move” quite a lot) whilst the new S-VHS cable works like a dream when connected to the video projector and I’ve just spent a good thirty minutes sat on the floor in our front room whilst playing Scout on one of the walls!