First looks at the RGB2HDMI adapter from Piotr Bugaj

Introduction

I recently ordered an RGB2HDMI adapter made by Piotr Bugaj via the SellMyRetro website here. The device cost me 55 GBP + another 5 Euro postage. I was excited to test this alternative method of showing Amstrad content on modern monitors as I’ve been using the following method on my LCD for the last few years.

The hardware is based on a publicly available GitHub project called RGBtoHDMI which was originally designed for the BBC Micro but works on many different systems. The hardware runs on a Raspberry Pi Zero W v 1.1.  You can get details about the RGBtoHDMI project here.

When the device arrived it came with an anti static bag, a receipt, no instructions and a DIN 6 cable to connect from the RGB2HDMI adapter to a CPC 464/6128 . There is also a CPC + cable available for purchase from Piotr but I did not get one.

The original for sale post on SellMyRetro says a 5v power supply is required, but basically any USB-A cable with a mini USB-A connector that is connected to 5v output will do.

What it didn’t mention was that you’ll also need a mini-HDMI cable connector to connect up to your LCD or monitor. The mini-HDMI connector is shown in the red box below.

I ordered a mini-HDMI cable that had a DVI connector on the other end which I could connect to my old Dell LCD. I also sourced a USB-A to USB-A mini cable which I’ll use for powering the device by connecting it to a USB-A powered port.

So what’s in the 3D printed box ?

I carefully removed the device from it’s enclosure to get a close look at what it’s made of, you can see it disassembled here. At the bottom of the photo you see the Raspberry Pi Zero W v 1.1 and there are a further two mini boards that sit on top of it.

Both of the other boards belong to the RGBtoHD project, one is a Three/Four level analog RGB/YUV & composite monochrome interface for RGBtoHD, and the other is the RGBtoHD 12 Bit issue 4 board which contains the switches and leds as well as the Xilinx CPLD.

Strangely, none of the boards are branded with Piotr’s usual ZAXON brand.

After connecting everything up and playing with the device, I determined that the three horizontal switches and LED’s on the device work like so. It would be useful if this information was shared with the device in printed format or better yet, 3D printed on the device.

According to the wiki quick start guide the buttons do as follows:

SW1:
Short press = Call up menu
Long press = toggle scanlines (if available) on/off

SW2:
Short press = Screen capture (File is written to SD card)
Long press = Toggle NTSC artifact colours on/off

SW3:
Short press = Enable (if disabled) or refresh genlock
Long press = Calibrate sampling position

When the menu is on screen:

SW1: Select menu option or enter editing mode for the selected parameter
SW2: Cursor Down or increase selected parameter
SW3: Cursor Up of decrease selected parameter

Pressing SW2 and SW3 together will take a screen capture with the menu on screen

A fourth button SW4 can be used to reset the Pi but only if an additional 2 pin header is fitted on the Pi zero.

Connecting the device

To use the device, connect a 5v mini USB-A power cable to the mini USB-A port on the right side under the 5V LED, and connect your mini HDMI cable to the mini HDMI connector. You can see those cables are connected here along with some explanations of what the ports are.

On the left side of the device, is the micro SD card slot where a 4GB card contains the files needed for the solution. On the right side there’s a 6 pin connection slot for a cable supplied with the device, that cable is either for connecting to a CPC or CPC+ model, depending on what you order.

Once you have connected the device it’s time to turn everything on. I connected up an Amstrad CPC 472. I noticed that the borders normally evident on an Amstrad monitor were not present, in other words the text went right to the edge of the screen. You can see that in the photo below.

After some digging around in the settings, I later found out in the configuration where to change that setting, more about that later.

The colours are bright and cheerful, there is little if no noise on the screen, it really looks great.

Using the On Screen Menu

The power of this device is in that it is flexible, and there are lots of settings that you can play with in the on screen menu (OSD). Pressing the first button brings up the menu, and you can then scroll through the settings or change them, it’s very easy to do so and intuitive.

Note: be careful about what you change as you can screw it up, for example I played around with the resolution and after saving the changes and rebooting the Pi, I got no video.  To solve that I had to eject the 4GB mini SD card, mount it on my PC and copy the contents of the default_config.txt to config.txt. You can see those files below.

Remember the no-border I talked about before ? to change that simply bring up the OSD and navigate to Scaling. Mine was set to Auto (Integer/Sharp).

After pressing the menu button and changing that setting to Interpolate Full/Soft I got the Amstrad border look I wanted.

Don’t forget to Save your configuration by selecting Save Configuration. Followed by Return, it’ll inform you that a reboot is needed.

After changing the setting, it looks like this, which is more accurate in terms of an Amstrad display.

Saving screen captures from the CPC

The RGB2HDMI comes with another great feature and that is the ability to take screen captures from the CPC. Below are some screen captures I took, it’s so easy to do and really show’s the power of your CPC.

It’s simple to activate, just press and hold the middle button in for a few seconds when not in the OSD. Once done, you’ll briefly see a message across the screen telling you where it’s saving the screen capture and it’s file name. Check out these sample screen captures, amazing quality !

Conclusion

The RGB2HDMI device is very nice indeed, it’s tiny, and it’s small size hides it’s power. It’s built on well established hardware using a publicly available GitHub project so development will continue for a long time I’m sure. It’s encased in a nicely 3D printed case and the price is OK, considering what you get. Well done Piotr on making this available for the Amstrad CPC and CPC+ computers. Hopefully he’ll read this and include some of my thoughts in the next version.

well that’s my first look at the RGB2HDMI, what do you think of it ?

cheers

niall

 

Posted in Amstrad, RGB2HDMI | 5 Comments

Video: A closer look at the Amstrad CPC 472

Introduction

In this video I show you the two different versions of Amstrad CPC 472 that were sold in Spain between September and December 1985 and explain which of them is rarest and how you can find one for yourself ! Enjoy.

 

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A closer look at the Amstrad CPC 472 timeline

Introduction

Of all the Amstrad CPC’s, the CPC 472 definitely fascinates me. Amstrad sold the CPC 464 model in Spain as elsewhere in Europe but due to local laws and added tariffs, Amstrad was forced to change how the original CPC 464 was sold in Spain, and therefore their were actually 4 distinct incarnations of the Amstrad CPC 464 sold in Spain, listed below.

  1. CPC 464 with British keyboard and Basic 1.0
  2. CPC 472 with British keyboard and Basic 1.1
  3. CPC 472 with Spanish keyboard and Basic 1.0
  4. CPC 464 with Spanish keyboard and Basic 1.0

So what was the CPC 472 actually ? The CPC 472 versions had an extra 8k RAM which was unused, 64k+8k = 72k. That extra 8k was enough to avoid the 90 Euro tariff (approx 15,000 pesetas).

These CPC’s however were all CPC 464 under the hood in looks, motherboard and more, they did have an additional daughter board soldered on to make it look like the total of 72k was real, but it was fake. This was a 64k computer with different versions of Basic, different boot roms, and different languages on the keyboard.

Below you can see the hack, with the Spanish ROM. This photo is from a late CPC 472 with the ‘ene’ key and Spanish keyboard.

40037   32K ROM; BIOS and BASIC for CPC464 and Late-CPC472-models (Spanish)

Timeline

Based on the info I’ve found so far, I’ve updated an existing Amstrad Wiki timeline with 472 specific information, it’s approximate, so if you have more accurate info let me know.

The gap of possible sales of the CPC 472 would probably have started sometime after August 28th 1985 + 2 weeks if you take into account the amount of time engineers had to create the workaround.

Sales of the CPC 472 would presumably have ended January 1st, 1986 when Spain joined the EEC as therefore the tariff would no longer apply, and therefore no justification for the CPC 472 would exist. So in the timeline below, I am guessing that the CPC 472 was actually offered for Sale some time after August 25th/September 3rd 1985 and up until January 1986.

Note: If anyone has a CPC 472 that was purchased before July 17th 1985 or after December 1985, then please let me know and include a photo of the back plate including the serial number for proof. I will then update this CPC 472 specific timeline.

That said, if there were any unsold stock of 472’s left over after January 1st then we may have seen them sold after this time. This would mean that the timeline for CPC 472 availability would be approximately from August 28th – December 31st 1985.

A closer look

The first 464 sold in Spain had a British keyboard, Basic 1.0 and looked just like a normal CPC 464. Below is a photo of one which I found on the Spanish sales site Wallapop today.

Then on July 17th 1985, a law (or royal decree) was signed into Spanish law declaring that all computers that were imported into Spain had to have an additional tariff (extra customs charge) added. This was probably related to a Spanish company called Eurohard which wanted to sell their 1 million Euro stock of Spanish made Dragon mini computers to the home market.

This tariff added approximately 90 Euros per CPC sold in Spain and would have been the  end of the CPC in that market.

However, August 28th 1985, the law was amended, as companies that imported PC hardware in Spain lobbied the government to add an addendum to make the tariff only applicable for imported computers with less than or equal to 64k of RAM.

This effectively meant that any CPC with more than 64k could be sold without a tariff. This was enough for the Amstrad engineers to come up with a justification for the extra 8k RAM in the CPC 472, even though the actual RAM was unused.

 

Below you can see a CPC 472 with a British keyboard.

Below is a CPC 472 with a Spanish keyboard

And below is a Spanish keyboard CPC 464 (which would have been after the CPC 472 were  produced)

And below is a very late Schneider branded CPC 464 with a Spanish keyboard

The CPC 472 serial number

The serial number on the back of your CPC 472 reveals where and when it was made. Thanks go to the cpcwiki for this info. The serial number used on CPC 472’s should be in the following format:

“123456 Kxx-yy”

  • K is the country of production (K for Korea – South Korea)
  • xx is the plant (31 or 32 are the two codes that typically found).
  • yy is the year and month of leaving the factory. First digit represents the year (4 for 1984, 5 for 1985), second digit represents the month (1 through 9 = January-September, X, Y and Z= October, November and December)
  • Finally, the 6-digit number is the actual serial production sequence number fr that factory and year

Examples:

  • 93132 K32-54 => Korea factory 32 – April 1985 (a 664)
  • 218 167 K32-5X => Korea Factory 31 – October 1985 (a 6128)

Below you can see three CPC 472 genuine serial numbers.

Serial: 247129 K31 – 5X (October 1985)

Serial: 242265 K3- 5- (1985)

Serial: 283097 K31 – 5Z (December 1985 )

Where can I buy one ?

Try ebay.es or es.wallapop.com, keep in mind you’ll probably need to find a friend in Spain to assist you with the purchase if it’s from the Wallapop site. They range in price from 99 Euros up to many hundreds more, depending on condition and what they come with.

Conclusion

If you compare the timeline (and locations) of where CPC 472’s were actually sold to that of the Amstrad CPC 664, I think this device is actually rarer than the coveted CPC 664, and it should get that recognition. My advice ? Buy one now, while you can. I suspect that they will go up in price.

Related reading

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Video: First looks at the Dandanator Mini Dual

Introduction

I blogged about the newly released Dandanator Mini Dual here, take a look at that to find out how to buy one for yourself. And now I’ve released a video showing you my device in all it’s glory, check it out and if you haven’t already please do me a favor, give it a like and subscribe and comment. Thank you !

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First looks at the CPC Dandanator Mini Dual

Introduction

I’ve previously looked at other DanDanator devices here and this is yet another new version from the cool guys at Rancanuo team.

As you can see it’s very colourful and oozing with charm. The cases are lovingly 3d printed, and very good quality.

I got mine in yellow but they come in bright colours as you can see here.

I’ll upload a video soon so you can see how it works and get up close.

Where can I get one ?

I bought a yellow one from the Spanish version of ebay here and it cost 45 Euros (+ shipping which came to 65 Euros). I must admit the red and blue ones are also cool looking 🙂 and even the green one !

How can I load games on it ?

To load your own compilation of games or to load a pre-compiled ROM please see my post here.

How can I use the diagnostic rom ?

The alternate rom (Red button) comes with a default diagnostics program which is nothing fancy. To use the diagnostics rom simply press and hold down the Red button while powering on your cpc, it’ll launch the diags from that rom.

I’d highly recommend you replace it with Noel’s diagnostics which I show you how to do here.

Technical Specs

New selectable SWITCH button, allows one-handed flash change management
Colored push buttons and high quality stickers. When you look at it at first it looks like there are LED’s beside the switch, but there are none, it’s just clever art work. I actually think it would be cool if there was an LED showing which switch position you are in.

SMD technology which reduces the space occupied by the components and allows the inclusion of An additional flash memory to double the capacity (1M vs. 512K of the original version) Flash selectable by switcH

PCB same size as the original version.

Compatible with all CPC 64k and 128K models.

– SMD technology which reduces the space occupied by the components and allows to include
An additional flash memory to double the capacity (1M vs 512K of the source version
– Flash selectable by jumper
– PCB same size as the original version

• Offers 512k of instant access memory for developing advanced multi-level games offering a “console-like” experience.
• Instantly load selected 128k / 48k / ROM Programs / Games via menu on Amstrad CPC
• Games / programs can be changed from the CPC itself without the need for additional hardware via USB.
• Allows you to compress games to fit more on the cartridge.
• Works without jumpers or configuration on any CPC 464, 664, 6128, 464+ and 6128+ with adapter.
• Supports images in SNA, CDT and DSK format (in proof). It does not support multi-load games.
• Allows you to select pokes from a WinApe compatible library or enter them manually.
• You can “freeze” the splash screens at startup for our enjoyment.
• Offers software for creating, managing and transferring game romsets for Windows, MacOS and Linux.
• Supported in RetroVirtualMachine, Arnold and zesarux emulators
• Test Rom by McLeod Ideafix
• Public domain project

The Dandator project creator can be found here:

www.dandare.es

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Video: The saddest Amstrad CPC 464 – part 1

Introduction

This poor Amstrad CPC 464 has clearly not enjoyed the best life, it’s obviously neglected, missing keys, has burn marks, paint stains, cracks, spills and more. Yet against all the odds, it has survived.

This is part 1 of fixing this poor thing up, I want you to help decide what we’ll do with it *within reason*, please watch the video to see what the options are, or if you have other good ideas, please let me know what you think we should do with it.

Huge thanks go to Christopher Dragon (check out his youtube channel here – https://youtu.be/ideOrvUd3nc?t=316 ) for very kindly donating this CPC 464 to me, I’ll make sure it get’s repaired and that we are all happy with the end result, thanks again Christopher !

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Video: Getting custom cartridges on your Amstrad 464 or 6128 Plus

Introduction

In the video below I show you the unboxing of 8 games I got made in Cartridge format and explain where I got them, to read about it check my blog post here.

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Getting custom 3rd party cartridges for your Amstrad plus computer

Introduction

I’ve spent quite a bit of time doing up my Amstrad 464 Plus lately, and I must admit, I am really taking a liking to this hardware. It looks good, feels good and it’s fast to load “Burnin Rubber” using the slide-in cartridge ability.

I have a grand total of 1 cartridge and it is the Burnin’ Rubber that came with my 464 plus. The game announces itself with a great logo and awesome music, but the actual game behind the loading screen is awful.

“Burnin’ Rubber is so dull.

The music however is awesome !”

I mean it, I love the Burnin’ Rubber music, I had my 464 Plus connected to some external speakers and my lcd and I was pumping up the volume, and dare I say it, dancing to it all by myself.

Now I know I can connect my Dandanator Elite + to this and play games but I really wanted to experience some fun using the ‘built in method’ that this computer was sold with, and I don’t mean the tape deck.

The temptation

I was intrigued when I saw a post on facebook about custom cartridges (shown below) being offered for sale, so I decided to investigate.

I contacted the poster Anakintf and asked him if these were for sale, he responded that these particular cartridges were out of stock but he would come back to me with prices for my own ones if I was interested.

The order

I was interested, so he pointed me to the following Spanish website and asked me to pick some games that were listed as GTX 4000 or Plus compatible. I came up with a list of 8 games that I wanted in cartridge format including a recently released game, 77 attempts.

Here is my list.

1. 77 attempts
2. barbarian II
3. Bomb Jack
4. commando
5. donkey kong
6. ikari warriors
7. operation wolf
8. prince of persia

Anakintf took my list and said he would go ahead and create the cartridges, but also asked me if I wanted custom boxes for them too. Remember, these were the games that I wanted including a community released game. I said sure thing !

Naturally it costs more with the boxes but I wanted the ‘full experience’.

One small thing had to be done first and that was to pay in advance, all the games including boxes, stickers, postage from Spain > Sweden cost 123 Euros, not bad at all if you ask me.

I have to say this seller communicated with me in a very professional way, at all times he kept me informed about the progress, included photos of what they looked like and tested each game and then included a video of that process for me to review, 10/10 for this seller, outstanding communication and interaction. After I paid, he sent me the tracking number of the delivery and thanked me for my trust.

“Outstanding communication and interaction”

The photos below, are all from the seller, that is insane and really shows the ‘love’ he has for what he does.

Please encourage him by buying his stuff.

Pre-delivery

Here are some snapshots of the games sent to me. Look at that quality !

And below are all my 8 games in a row ! how cool is that !!

Tomorrow, i’ll post a video showing the unboxing experience, stay tuned !

cheers

niall

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Video: Connecting a 464 Plus to an external LCD

Introduction

In this video I show you what cable you need to connect up your 464 Plus (or 6128 Plus) to an external LCD, the advantage of this is to take up much less space on your desk and also to be able to easily flick between different plus models.

I previously bought another Retro shack cable for the CPC 464, 664, 6128 models which I’ve already blogged about it here, however that cable does NOT work with the 464 or 6128 PLUS models.

The cable in this video was specially made for the PLUS models.

Please note that this cable requires a 5v 2.4a 2.5×5.5 mm power supply (DC), which is not included, you have to source that yourself.

Here’s the PLUS cable I ordered from ebay:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/251970455548

and here’s the 600MA DC power supply from Amazon:

https://www.amazon.se/dp/B002E4YQGY?ref_=pe_24982401_513610551_E_301_dt_1

If you’d prefer, you can purchase a similar one with a higher AMPERAGE rating, however in my testing, this one works just fine.

The speakers used in the video are Edifier brand which comes with its own RCA inputs and cables:

https://www.amazon.se/dp/B01NCTGH9M

 

Here is the video

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Video: Cleaning up a dirty Amstrad 464 plus

Introduction

I got this 464 plus (my first ever plus model) back in May 2021 and while it looked OK in reality it needed a good clean, that became very apparent as soon as I took it apart, loads of dirt, hair, spiders and dirt fell out. I spent the better half of a day taking it apart carefully, and of course videoing the entire process so that you could be part of it and learn how to do it yourself. It was definetly worth doing, not 100% perfect but totally better than it was.

Here’s the video !

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