In this video I show you how I fixed a loose power connector and dead LED on a CPC 464, I also explain a brief story about why this one is coloured the way it is.
In this video I show you how I fixed a loose power connector and dead LED on a CPC 464, I also explain a brief story about why this one is coloured the way it is.
If you’ve seen my previous blog post about loading games onto a Dandanator mini, then you are ready to also change the extra rom on the Dandanator and instead, load the new Amstrad Diagnostics from Noel’s retro lab.
I released a video on my new youtube channel here which explains the process from start to finish and goes over the features of the new Amstrad Diagnostics.
Here is the video, enjoy !
Anyone that has been reading my posts or who has seen my videos about the Dandanator Mini from HobbyRetro will know straight away how excited I was about the technology, for such a small device it delivers a whole lot of functionality. It’s a definite ‘must have’ for anyone who cares about Amstrad CPC’s.
Please see my earlier blog posts (and video) about the Dandanator Mini.
Based on my knowledge about the various Dandanator products available for the CPC there are actually at least 4 Dandanator models available to buy from various sources:
If you wonder where the Dandanator name comes from, it’s based on hardware designed by Dan Leon himself.
This blog post is about the Dandanator Elite + primarily so let’s get stuck in.
I was browsing a Spanish Facebook group and came across some screenshots of a new Dandanator device called the Dandanator Elite +, I was intrigued, so I asked where to buy them and ordered one. I ordered mine from a Spanish website called Neotienda. It wasn’t cheap, but there’s a lot included.
First of all here is how it arrived after I removed it from the packaging.
The other cartridge (green) is just one 512k rom.
This Dandanator has 2 slots. The rear slot is marked for DES cartridges. DES cartridges are not compatible with Elite cartridges. The DES (Dandanator Entertainment System) cartridge goes in the rear slot with the Elite cartridge in the front.
Note: To use the rear cartridge you’ll need to order a separate DES compatible cartridge from these guys > https://auamstrad.es/hardware/dandanator-entertainment-system/
The paper warning translates to the following:
The DES cartridges should be inserted with their rear facing towards you.
But what I think it should really say is:
Only insert Elite cartridges front facing in the FIRST slot (marked Elite). The rear slot is only for DES cartridges. DES cartridges should be inserted with their rear facing towards you.
I can tell straight away that this device is stronger and heavier than the Dandanator mini, it feels very solid and well made with a really nicely 3d printed box. You can order your own chosen colour too. I picked the yellow one as I think it’s looks cool !
The front of the device has an edge connector to slide into the back of your CPC, it works with the CPC 464 and 6128 models although I’m not sure about + devices. To connect it to a CPC 664 you’ll need a pass-through cable (or rom box) as physically it’s NOT tall enough on it’s own (the 664 is too tall).
It didn’t come with any specs or info so I emailed the seller and he very kindly pointed me to the Rancanuo team who I guess designed the Dandanator Elite and Elite +.
Here’s what they say about their devices.
Like the other two models we currently market (Dandanator cpc Elite and Dandanator zx Elite) are the same with respect to the technical characteristics of its precursor Dandanator mini, in that it uses practically the same electronic components and has the same functions.
Rancanuo Team has evolved the design to use Gameboy advance sp cartridges instead of having the ROM built in. This make’s it quick to change cartridges and easy to change what you want to play. In principle we have two models, one with 512k on a single chip and one with two chips which are selectable by a jumper, allowing the device to work with twice as much memory.
First we developed the “Dandanator CPC Elite” with a design based on the Dandantor mini but with some improvements, especially regarding the manufacture, because even if the operation is the same, now, having interchangeable and collectible cartridges the user can purchase these cartridges so that they do not have to be continuously rewriting their romsets in the same memories.
This allows you to create your own collections of games in a more showy and professional way.
Technical characteristics common to the three models we have (CPC Elite, CPC Elite + and ZX Elite):
Cpc Elite+ model.
As you can see, with regard to technical characteristics in its (functional) design there are not much differences, but in its assembly and its “vision of the future”.
Here’s an article about the team (in Spanish) Rancanuo Team – Retro Parla
If you want you can follow them @EliteCpcZx
And finally here you have the project released on github Rancanuo/Dandanator-CPCElite- (github.com)
I’ll follow up with a video soon show casing this device in action on one of my CPC’s, stay tuned !
I don’t have any affiliation with any of the sites below, if you do buy from them, do me a favor and tell them ‘Niall from Amstrad-noob’ sent you :-).
I put together a video on youtube showing the different ways you can troubleshoot a failing/failed keyboard membrane and how it’s possible to test and maybe even fix it.
It’s a tricky business that’s for sure but if you want to give it a go then you’ll need some conductive pain, there are two main types, black or silver.
Below are some of the resources I used.
Here is an A4 sized graphical representation of the CPC 664 keyboard, simply save it and print if off to help with marking which of your keys are faulty. Via link.
Below I am testing the conductive paints, links to them below.
I bought my new membranes from SellMyRetro here
and here’s the video link
I got my Dandanator a few weeks ago and already it’s helped me diagnose faulty RAM on one of my CPC 664’s. It came pre-loaded with some games but I’d like to understand how to re-program it with some different games. So that is hopefully what this blog post will be about.
Note: Before you get started make sure you have a decent USB cable, I tried 3 before I found one that worked with the Dandanator.
Before continuing you might want to prepare some downloads.
You might need to do this, it’s worth a try if nothing else works. The driver for the Dandanator device needs a special driver which just won’t install (even if the setup says it does) without disabling driver enforcement first. There is a potential security risk with this so it’s up to you to consider the consequences of that, for example, maybe have a spare old laptop just for doing this activity. If your laptop is reasonably new then you’ll need to disable Secure Boot in the bios before issuing the command below.
(via this site)
bcdedit /set testsigning off
We need to install the CH341SER.EXE driver, you can download it from here. Once downloaded, go ahead and install it on a Windows 10 computer.
Download the ROM set software – http://www.dandare.es/Descargas_CPC/dandanator-cpc-2.3.jar
Head over to here and download (and install) Java 8 SE runtime
Connect the usb cable to your Dandanator and connect the Dandanator to the back of your CPC. Next, plug the usb cable into your Windows 10 computer. Power on the Amstrad CPC.
You should see something like the following show up in the device manager.
And it should be using the correct driver.
Double click on the Dandanator jar file, it should launch the software.
In the Rom programmer, click on File, select preferences and select the new USB com port that shows up in your device manager. If your port doesn’t show up in the drop down menu click the refresh button to the right. Once you’ve selected the correct port, close the preferences. There is no Apply button.
Next, select some cool games and drag and drop them into the empty space.
Clicking on any of the games you have copied over shows a screenshot of the game, and you can see how much of the 512k Rom is used up via the R indicator on the bottom right, the P indicator shows how much Pokes space you’ve filled (I assume).
Press the right most circle under the top left screen, it should flip from the CPC Dandanator mini screen to an EEPROM Writer.
This time it started copying and it was reflected both in the EEPROM Writer on the computer as well as on the CPC.
After all your effort you might want to create a ROM file of your new Dandanator, to do that simply click on Create ROM.
if you want to customize or add a special rom (diagnostic rom) , click on Dandanator CPC tab in preferences and select the Extra Rom option, point it to your downloaded ROM.
Here are some from Noel.
Thanks go to Dan for creating such an amazing product and for answering my emails looking for help !
Dandanator mini manual (Spanish) – http://www.dandare.es/Proyectos_Dandare/Manual_CPCDDTRMini.html
Download the developers manual – CPC Dandanator mini – DevDoc
I bought this CPC 664 from ebay, it looked nice but it was advertised as “for parts or not working”. It came from Cairo in Egypt as was evident from the dust all over the motherboard and inside…
As it was dead on arrival I decided to name it the Egyptian mummy.
I actually received the 664 in January but spent a few weeks researching the problem on Amstrad Wiki forums. The advice I got there was excellent (from Bryce, Noel & others), so I went and ordered some parts from ebay and watched countless videos about replacing RAM on Amstrads’ (hint, start with Noels excellent videos @ noels retro lab).
Note that no matter how many videos you watch about repairing old retro computers, the best way to learn what works for you is to try it yourself, and to learn from your own mistakes. I should know, I learned a few tricks in the hours it took de-soldering the ram on this CPC.
Here are the new parts I ordered in no particular order. All of the parts listed below are by random sellers that have nothing to do with me, I’m just posting the links so you can find something similar yourself.
I already had some other tools, so in case you are interested here they are.
I’ve heard a lot about the Dandanator from various websites so decided to get myself one. This device is designed by a very clever guy called Daniel Leon and is available as an open source project for anyone to make.
After filling in a contact us form at the bottom of a webpage I got an email response from MrByte at hobbyretro.com telling me they had one available, so I bought it. And I’m pleasantly surprised ! It was cheap too, approx 30 Euros not including European shipping (another 6 euros). One of the reasons I was interested was because of the built in RAM test ability.
The device is nicely made (3D printed case) with three buttons. It’s got a 512KB flash access memory on the inside which you can flash with games. The red button resets the CPC.
The device plugs into the back of your CPC lying down, so doesn’t shake about. Once you connect power on the CPC, it’s instantly available.
You have 2 pages of games/stuff to scroll through and you can do that using the cursor keys on the Amstrad keyboard, awesome ! You can see the memory requirements of each game beside it (128 or 64k). I assume the P. is for Computer pokes.
When you find a game you want to run, press the corresponding number on the keyboard and it loads instantaneously. It’s a really cool concept. Fast, cool, awesome, and I really love the fact that it comes preloaded with a selection of very cool games.
I tried the RAM test by pressing R. It was that simple.
I also wanted to test RAM on my CPC 664, which has suspect dead ram, that computer was dead on arrival as you see here.
Pressing R did nothing but that’s probably because my keyboard membrane is faulty, or there is some other issue yet to be discovered. The reset button does reset the 664 so at least something is happening here.
I posted about this on the CPC Wiki and Noel came to my rescue, basically you have to hold down the left black button while powering on the CPC and it’ll run the RAM test. And here’s the result, all RAM chips are duff except one (D3)!
As per Noel, “Lowest one is D0, top one is D7, so if you look at the 664 schematics, you can then figure out which IC exactly has the problem.”
And MrByte himself responded with this info on Facebook “Hi Niall, you can press alternate ROM when turn on CPC. Alternate is left button”
Below is a circuit board diagram of the DanDanator.
So let’s take a look at the schematics for the CPC.
Here’s the one I need for the CPC 664.
and here’s the corresponding motherboard for the CPC 664
Well that’s it for this quick blog post, I hope it gives you some ideas about the Dandanator, I really look forward to learning more about the device. Speaking of which, take a look at the links below for more info about it (in Spanish, use Google Translate in Chrome to translate to your language).
You can see a Dandanator in action in Noel’s video here and he uses it to help determine faulty RAM (or broken traces) in his CPC 6128. Hopefully I won’t have such issues on my CPC 664.
I have 3 CTM 644 monitors in various states, all work but one is missing RED. However they take up so much space in my little retro corner, so I wanted to use an old LCD I had in storage and wanted to connect it up to my Amstrads. Getting it all working took some effort so I’ll describe it here.
The LCD I used was an old Dell 1908FP, I just so happened to have one that was not in use (old tech) and I wanted to see if I could get it working with my Amstrad CPC 6128. You can find one of these old LCD’s here on Amazon (I searched for this link, the seller is nothing to do with me, but as you can see they are quite cheap). The lcd is suprisingly good quality even for it’s age, it can move vertically and rotate on it’s axis 90 degrees to aid with accessing the connectors. I connected a standard VGA cable from the LCD to the back of my HDMI converter box.
You can see the other end of the VGA cable plugged into a VGA to HDMI converter cable here which is in turn, plugged into the HDMI converter box.
I found this converter (again, this is not my store, I actually bought it on WISH) which has multiple in/out connections and my goal was to use a retro-shack Scart Cable TV Lead to connect to this box and then covert it to HDMI/VGA.
As I wanted to move one CTM 644 monitor out of the way, I needed to power the CPC and in this case that meant I needed a 12v line (for FDD) and the 5v line (for the CPC). I settled on this model which was recommended in one of the Amstrad Facebook groups.
The bigger of the two cables is 12V out and the smaller one is 5V.
I actually purchased the SCART cable tv video lead cable over 2 years ago and it was still in its packaging, this came from Retro Computer Shack and their packaging, quality and documentation is excellent, very good product and reasonably priced.
I’m a sucker for these computers, here’s another 664 but this one is sadly dead.
It makes a distinct noise when connected to power (the FDD motor doesn’t stop) so there’s that. If I disconnect the 12v line then i see the red led is on and a blank square in the center of the monitor, according to CPC wiki forums it could be dead ram.
I’ve ordered some replacement ram and ram sockets from ebay, oh and a FDD drive belt, I’ll try and repair this 664 as it looks good (in my opinion). I already have a waiting keyboard membrane also as I’m sure it’s already faulty.
Here are some photos from the original advertisement on ebay. The original ad text is below.
Vintage Amstrad Cpc 664 Personal Computer
for parts or not working, Power on sold as is, No image,There is a crack on the outside, see picture 10. Does not include the Monitor.
This is part 8 of a blog series I’m doing to catalog some of the programs I wrote back in 1988 on the Amstrad CPC 6128, starting with a disc sector editor I wrote called Disced. I’m doing this because I like doing it, it brings back memories of how I started my career with computers back in the 80’s, long before Internet (as we know it today) or mobile phones.
Previous parts (including this one) are listed below.
In part 7 we saw how code was used to draw rectangles to ‘frame’ the output on the screen, to make a very basic user interface (UI) for the user to work with, so let’s continue where we left off.
The next routine we need to decipher starts at line 13 with a call to label 92E6. So let’s see what it does.
Straight away I can see lots of calls to firmware address &BB75 so let’s find out what that does. According to the Soft 968 firmware guide it’s for arranging the text cursor in a specific place before actually ‘writing’ text to screen.
To get a quick idea of what this routine (or function) does in its entirety, I removed the call completely from the machine code by replacing the three bytes with NOP codes (no-operation) and called the code again. The result was this.
So we can be fairly sure that this routine is used to populate text in and around the rectangle frames. I’ve put the call back. Based on this I’ll give this routine a label of Fill_text_in_rectangles.
Next, I decided to add the Amstrad firmware calls used in Disced to the top of the assembly, that way the code will become easier to read. For example call &bb75 will become call txt_set_cursor. I’ll try and convert each firmware call I can find in the assembly to it’s readable label over time.
This looping until A=0 is what I suspected in part 3 here so it’s good to have it confirmed.
So here’s that small routine with some re-labeling and txt to make it more readable.
And back to the original routine we were dealing with, i need to point to the text strings it refers to. I can see the address is actually referring to the Press Control + H for Help or press ESC to Exit message.
Next there are three calls to L939F. To save time figuring out what that routine does I simply hacked the live code and placed a &C9 (RET or return) as the first byte, that tells whatever called it to simply return and continue.
It was quite obvious after doing that, that that routine was for processing text (hex codes) in the left rectangle. In the screenshot below, you can see as it skipped that routine it moved to the next routine which was to print the text in the right most rectangle, but as the first rectangle was never printed, the Ascii text ended up in the wrong place.
After looking through the code some more it’s not only processing the code in the left rectangle, it’s converting whatever it finds into HEX for outputting to screen using 4 RRCA commands (rotate 8 bits to the right, some sort of conversion).
If you look closely it’s also missing the track, sector and page numbers above and they’d be in hexadecimal too, so I think that function is all about converting the text output in the left rectangle to hex and then printing it.
So now the routine is starting to make sense… at least I hope so, there are two last calls I’m not what they do.
So, to find out what those two calls do, I’ll remove them totally and run the program. After doing so I could see it moving forward/back through the tracks and sectors but not updating the code on the screen.
Closer examination showed that the first call was simply setting the starting point (txt cursor) of the text to be printed in the left rectangle, the second call processed all the actual code into hexadecimal and printed it to screen.
So after a lot of testing and looking at the code I’m fairly sure about what this section does, and here it is.
see you in the next part !