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Overlay heaven

Odyssey No Comments »

I finally managed to rework and restore the rest of the Magnavox Odyssey overlays. It took more time than I anticipated, but now here they are, in all new shiny vector glory. Enjoy and share.



Cat & Mouse

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Simon says






Chasing dots… the odyssey continues

Odyssey No Comments »

IMG_4771Well, well, well. After one week of getting all the cables and adapters together I finally was ready to hook up the Magnavox Odyssey. Thomas dropped by and together we spent the whole evening to get this ancient hardware to show us something at all on screen. First there was nothing and we tried some other ways, plugs and adapters. We where not sure if we got a connection throughout this flywire setup. Remember: this console only has RF output and that is NTSC, hence you need a tuner that can handle NTSC and than you would need all the plugs and stuff to get it working… that’s what we though, at least. The station search on my trusty Samsung World Wide Video always stuck at one position and turning off the console by ejecting the game cart, showed that we had the right channel. However the image kept scrolling through and a visible vertical shift was there. Dots, hence players, where no where to be seen, only static noise all over. After some fiddling with different cables and wirings, we stuck our head into the service manual and located the J12 spot on the video summer PCB … that is labled „composite video“. Right when I made up my mind to open up the console and take my chances, we noticed the little hole in the bottom marked „horz“. A tiny turn with a screwdriver and the image was stable – still with lots of noise – but no scrolling any more. Yeah! Turning the knobs on the controllers brought up the dots. Oh yeah! Enough for tonight.

Here’s a little video of Thomas and me “playing”. 😉

Last weekend, I sat down and put a standard RCA jack into the adapter that the seller from ebay had luckily sent along. Now I use a normal RF cable, like those used on C64 and other systems of the early eighties. The brackets that were screwed to the switch box were rusty and came of quite easily, so i stripped down the wires and put new ones on. Much better image and yes, you can hook it up to a normal PAL TV… the image is only black and white anyway. No need for further equipment.

et voila... finished alround adapter. ;) much cleaner image now

At the moment, the image is quite okay, but the ball is only going off screen on the left side. Only when player one holds the reset button pressed, it is showing up and vanishes when released. Old consoles seem to be like old ships … when you are done with one repair, the next shows up right away.

A tiny Odyssey … lost cables and traced overlays

Odyssey No Comments »

Collecting old computers and consoles is fun but sometimes it takes ages to get what you want. In case of the very first console that was ever to be released, back in 1972, it was just nothing more than a dream for me. Those machines are so rare in Germany, that it did not make much sense to look even search for them. Over the big pond, in the US, the Odysseys are very common on ebay, with prices mostly above $400. Concidering that there would be a big share for the postage and customs, this was far beyond my reach. This year I turned 40 and at my birthday party, I just told everybody to put some money into the piggy bank, instead of gifts. When the party was over it was enough money in there to go an buy one. Although I was fairly drunk I bought it right away and thanks to my ever supporting colleague –  who must have taken more than 50kg of hardware through the customs for me, by now (BIG thanks, Michael) – it hit my office desk at monday. It took till yesterday, that I finally found the time to take a closer look at my new baby. It seems that everything is there: all the papers, overlays and manuals. Condition varies from mint to some bad. The box has lots of wear and tear, but the stuff inside is in good shape. One of the buttons that hold the battery lit in place, is gone, but it stays firmly closed with the remaining one.

The console was concieved by late Ralph Baer that sadly past away this year. He invented the whole circuitry to bring up dots on the TV screen and move them around via paddle like contollers and that’s what the “games” are. There is only a rudimentary collision detection and all games have a maximum of three dots on screen. No playfield, no colours, no AI. That comes to no surprise when you know that this machine has no processor. The whole logic is done in discrete circuits. However Bear and his colleagues invented and patented even more means of controls and games: a lightgun and a stearing wheel that never got released, though. If you are interested, you should take a look at the Jörgs Interview with him, that he did for Scene World Magazine – actually the last official appearance of Mr. Baer, before he went.

Time to hook it up.

First thing I noticed, after inserting batteries (yes it can be powered with batteries)… there is no power switch. Mhhh.. a look at Angry Video Game Nerd revealed two things: The console powers up, as soon as you insert a cart and no, it does not have any sound. Okay, so setup the old trusty World Wide Video to get the NTSC signal converted to PAL, but hey, the antenna cable? Dubbed “game cord” in the manual that thing was missing. The guy who sold it on ebay did have the cable in the picture and wrote “works!” on the title of the auction – asked him and he said that it was there an most likely went into the package. Damn. Taking a closer look at the plugs reveals that this is something so awkward, and all people I asked never saw somehing like it anywhere else. Must be a proprietary thing from Magnavox. There is a guy at ebay selling modded cables so that you don’t need the switch box anymore, but they cost a fortune. In the end I got back to my colleague who had the cable still in his bag.

Puhhh… first odyssey is over. 😉

This weekend I won’t have the time to toy around with it, as we will attend Macoun and setup our Mac exhibition once more. But what I did start, is converting the overlays to proper vectorgraphics, that can be – if someone finds a printshop that has the material and can print on both sides – reproduced. The first 4 overlays are competed. Haunted House could need some more work on the details, but for now it is good. It is a real zen like work, to trace all those lines and rebuild the graphics, that someone did more than 40 years ago. Preservation work, that I really like to do.

Here they are:






Haunted House



Lights on!

arcade, toys for boys No Comments »

dot_fridgeToday was the electronics day at the “make my fridge cool”-construction site. I got some 12v LEDs from the trashbin and the tube did arrive as well, but I finally I decided not to use it and go for a total LED mod. I stripped the fridge from all the electronics, related to the three fluorescent tubes, hence three converters, clips and brackets and just used the wires that where already in place. Right now everything is working fine, but there are some things that I would do differently next time:

– get 24v LEDs – at least for the marquee
– get real backlit material to print on for the marquee
– think more before doing things two or three times (but I consider this as learning)

Here are some images of todays progress.

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Now have a cool beer… eh.. drink.


Drinks of Tron – now with graphics

arcade, toys for boys No Comments »

dot_fridgeWell, well, well… today the side art for the mini fridge was ready and it looks good, although the plotter seemed to have some trouble with the high gloss laminat that I put on top. It slipped a bit and some milimeters of the boarder got cut off. It’s okay, as the right side is not perfect but accepatble and the left one is facing the cubboard anyway.

For the maquee I took an old Leitz plastic binder that I found lying around. In comparison to the acryl glass this is bit to thin an wobbly but will do the trick for now.

With lots of water and a bit of detergent I put/slid all the graphics in place, let them dry for two hours and removed the remaining bubbles.  Looks great.

The last thing missing is the lighting. I already ordered a fluorescent tube that should go in the marquee and actually wanted to put some LEDs on the inside. While looking for the right spot to mount them, I learned that there were another pair of tubes inside. So good news is that there is some space for it. If I only would have seen this prior to ordering, I would have ordered two more tubes. Now I will go the LED route and probably exchange the one on the marquee as well. The fridge itself is not the best eco-model, so adding light, just for the fun of it, should consume as few power as necesarry.

Enough for today.

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Pimp my fridge…

arcade, toys for boys, workbench No Comments »

IMG_3152… this was the idea. With temperature above 35 degrees celcius, these days, I found my thoughts gravitating more around the task to find some cool drinks than anything else. In search for some cool spot at my working place, I found the basement to be very nice. There I spotted an old, mini-fridge, with a typical, but ugly RedBull Design. The guys from Cue Design – the owners of this little gem – gave me green light to rebrand it. What do you see, when you look at it? I saw a marqee, space for sideart and somehting like a screen, hence door. 😉  So something arcade it should be! Having restored the CPO of the seminal Discs of Tron cab for the “Film und Games – Ein Wechselspiel” exhibition in FFM, the choise was easy. Instead of Discs of Tron, I went for Drinks of Tron.

At first I took the graphics from the vector-lib and fixed them, as good as possible. The path are not drawn very well and so I reworked them along with the ordering an cleaned up some stuff.

Next, I had to get rid of the old RedBull Design. Only stickers… that’s what I thought and indeed, stickers, but with some kind of heavy superglue that became somewhat fluid and sticky as hell, over the years. Took me almost 1,5 hours, tons of paper and industrial clean to get every bit off. I have never seen anything like this before. Anyway, now the fridge is clean, a new fluorescent tube is ordered and I already got the acrylic glass cut for the marquee. However I broke both pieces – I did order one in spare – when trying to bend it in to fit it in the brackets. Looks like I will have to do this again and than use a heat gun, to bent the glas.

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The top of the fridge had a big dent. A few screws and some brute force later, it is not really flat now, but a lot better.

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So for now I got all graphics printed. The side art still needs to be cut and than everything will be applied on monday. Hopefully I find some more flexible material for the marquee, over the weekend.

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I anticipated this project to be done in 2 hours flat. Well, rebuilding the marquee completly in vectors, took me 2 hours alone and the sticky sh*t that held the old sideart in place even took its toll; but as I said above… it is hard to do something reasonable when it is soooo hot.

So, enough for now and did you see what happend to the original manufacturer logo? Belly Halfway….

Gotek Amiga Drive

Amiga No Comments »

IMG_1858Well, well, well, finally I got one of those Gotek USB floppy simulators, that you can get everywhere nowadays. With a little knowledge, software and a flasher/programmer you can even turn it into a nice replacement for the old Amiga drives. I got one that was ready to use with an Amiga from ebay for a few quid. The thing that I did not have on my checklist: It does not fit into an A500 without cutting the case and that is something I can’t stand. There might be millions of A500 out there, but it is still no excuse, to cut down and cripple the case beyond repair.

My first idea was to design a little box, that would snap into the ventilation grill, right above the Amiga logo, but my first 3D printed attempt did not fit quite right and showed impressively how shitty this will look in the end. So, how to get the buttons and the segment display out of the case, without cutting wholes? I settled on a sort of crazy idea of hacking a floppy disk, that would protude out of the floppy slot and would encase the display and the two buttons that are needed to operate the drive. Well, those elements are tripple the hight of a normal 3,5″ floppy and it took me some time till I found a solution to this. Using Forex (gatorboard) from our trash container at work, an excato-knife and some patience, I managed to stack up a thick floppy disk,, that pokes out of the drive and houses the needed controls. Instead of cutting down the original Gotek case, I choose to just make a new board that the PCB can be screwed to and that would just fit into the original drive mount. The two tiny buttons were sourced from an old DVD Player that was in the electro trashbin at work, leaving me with some PCB that is good for mounting. Although the buttons are not that high and rather vanish in the holes you can operate them with the fingernail quite easily – keeps the whole look of the disk clean and nice.

Things to do:
– drilling further wholes and add LEDs
– solder the wires and plugs
– glueing everything together
– pray that this all will withstand traveling to HomeCon and the like 😉

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workbench No Comments »

It’s been a while… almost a year, once again that I wrote something here. Although WordPress is a fine and easy to use system, it is Facebook that gets all my posts. The feedback is more direct and interacting with your peers is in no time. Anyway, Facebook is not good at all, and who knows where this all ends, so here is a little update on the maker side of things.

My Samsung TV went bust. It just didn’t want to start up anymore, just producing some strange noise that sounds like the cathode backlights did not get enough power to go on. Opening the case showed that my assumption was right: Two of the capacitors where about to blow and already leaked. This was a quick fix.

Raising eyebrows for the location and the type of capacitors remain. There were 4 caps with 1000uf and two of them where 20v and the two that blew up, where 10v. Further all caps where placed directly besides a big heatsink, so that the thermal stress on those parts is enormous. Replacing the 10v caps with 16v versions did not just make the TV turn on again, no… it just doubled the speed on switching between channels. This all leads me to the conclusion, that my expensive flatscreen was built to last right till the warranty was over and the parts used where set to make you feel like you have and old lagging TV, getting slower and slower over time, so that you might think about buying a new one, that seemed so much quicker.

Parts: about 1 Euro
Reparitime: about 30 Minutes

Happy nonsense watching.

two bad caps on the left side prolonging the legs of the caps... and placing them besides the fan, away from the heatsink et voila... it works!

Computer Space and much beyond

arcade 1 Comment »

Computer_Space-Early_arcade_games_machinesIt is not a good sign when you have to update your WordPress every time you log on. In this case it was even a two number digit after the last dot, meaning I had not been active here for the last two releases. Well, I have not been lazy at it might look, many things happened. The DRP team has a established a tiny room, dubbed “DRP lab”, where we can tinker around with our retro hardware and prepare our exhibitions. The pricetag for the room was actually too high, so we joined forces with some guys who had the idea of founding a maker space in Offenbach. By now the lab evolved and many people joined on the maker side. We do have 3D printers, and lots of other cool “toys”. Sadly time is still a missing thing and with my daughter Marie now becoming a real person – 13 month and cheeky as hell – most time goes there and this is just the way it should be.

Non the less, I could not hold my mind from coming up with crazy ideas. While I was building the Mini-Pong, I was already thinking about how to do a tiny version of the first video arcade game off all: Computer Space from Nutting Associates, Bushnells and Dabneys first fourray into the video games market. The cabin itself is one of a kind: Early seventies space grace done in glass fiber. The cabinet itself kept me from starting right away, but since we got a 3D printer in our lab… the idea seamed feasible. To this point I got the 3D Model ready for printing. For the entrails I have not quite made up my mind, but I think I will go with an Raspberry PI and an old 5″ CRT TV. The other option is to go with one of those Android TV Sticks, with a Composite out.

So far I got a basic model build and printed. As I tried to keep the polycount low it turns out a little rough around the edges, but a lot of sanding and grinding is required anyway. This was just a test, to see how things show up. I can tell you that this is really a nice feeling to see something completely virtual become a real life object, that you can actually touch and feel.

Now that it is sitting on my desk, I seem to be lucky that a 2.8″ display seems to fit in there. I did not take any measurements and just printed it at the maximum the 3D printer could… so what now. Build this thing correctly, or go with the raw model and use this as a basis. Guess I will go with latter option.

There is no direct emulation of Computer Space so far. As this was the first game of its kind, the whole circuitry was done without any IC, hence discrete logic. There is a simulator for non CPU based games called DICE, but Computer Space is not included so far – it seems that no one has the right schematics for it. So for now I took the long road and am looking into the ColecoVision port that came out recently. My wife was so kind and donated this really expensive pack for my birthday and along with the carts, you get a rom file. So the basic idea is, to cramp a RaspberryPi into my 3D printed cabinet, along with a 2.8″ display, running ColecoVision emulation through advmess… well, quite a task. I for one have not much experience on Linux and already failed badly to get advMess running. Kepp your fingers crossed that I find some time and advice. If someone out there feels like building an SD card image that boots directly into advMess running a Colecorom and basic joypad support, let me know. I would even pay for it. 😉

Herer are some pictures of the progress

P.S.: After updating to WordPress 4 the visual editor goes completely banana… another thing that would need time. This is really the shit about our time. You start to do one thing and end up spending hours to find out about other things that have nothing to do with your initial plan. Hate it!

Mac around the clock

Apple No Comments »

One should think that the hunger for digital toys, computers and gadgets vanish once your kid is born – truth can’t be any further away. 😉 Instead of spending time with my wife, I put myself into the position of making a 30 year Macintosh exhibition. I must admit that I totally underestimated the effort it would take to have a tiny room converted into something for visitors to spent some time in. Partly it is due to me having no clear vision of what I want to achieve, partly because I am dependent on other people to help me with things I am not good at and to some extent it is because of Apple being such a turbulent company with so much to tell about. I literally got lost in all the facts and almost every day I find something new. Today that was something special:

I was well aware of the fact that capacitors tend to leak and get bust after a certain amount of time but I was unaware that they seem to fail always at a point where it really matters. For the exhibition I dug out my Mac SE30, Classic I and Classic two. The first is running, although the 20meg harddrive had some trouble to boot properly. It turned out to be dirt on the drives external (!) light barrier for positioning the head. This was a quick fix. The Classic I had a leaked battery that burned some part of the board and leaking capacitors and those had the Classic II as well. Classic II is back into business after putting the PCB into some warm soap water, cleaning off the leakage. Not a permanent fix, but should last for those couple of days.

The worst part so far was my Mac 128k that I got from USA. I took it to the Homecon in order to prepare it for the show and it went bust. The powersupply ist making a clicking noise and the current seems not to pull up. Right now a colleauge of mine is trying to fix it and I got a Mac Plus from ebay, to have something in my backhand, despite this model was missing in my collection anyway.

The Mac plus arrived a couple of days ago and a quick test showed that it was in working order, dirty as hell, but with a functional disk drive. Further tests showed some strange behaviour: The system seemed to have some sort of short circuit that made the computer turn off and on again. Now I had the time to debug it and what I found was absolutely true to the word itself. On the main board was a tiny grayish thing. A closer look revealed that it was a rotten slater that got stuck between two legs of chip. Removing it, cleaning the board with some isopropyl and putting everything back together made the mac come to life and it is running now, while I write this post. Problem solved and so classic Mac no 3 is ready for the exhibition.

de:buggedMac Plus - running

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