Author Topic: The VIC-20 Saga - (Story Complete)  (Read 2625 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline BlueNalgene

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 739
  • Location: Oklahoma, USA
The VIC-20 Saga - (Story Complete)
« on: Mon, 20 October 2014, 19:10:21 »
This is the Saga of the Vic-20, an ongoing project I have been using to teach myself the ins and outs of circuit design and implementation.  The current status is unfinished, and the story up to now consists of several parts.  I might be just a tad dramatic, so the post(s) will be a cross between silliness and actual design.  And since this is a longer story, the parts will be published as I have time.

Edit: Direct Link to Chapters
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Part I - The Rise of Vic

      On the second day of the eighth month in the year of twenty fourteen, I accompanied friends to a hangout day.  We had lived together for 4+ years during college (for the ones of the group that went to college), but we had all gone different ways after graduation and dissolution of the house.  I had gone to chemical industry then graduate school, Droopy was headed to California to finish his doctorate, Samwise was in the middle ofjust passed the bar exam, Jim Jim the Dog Faced Boy owns his own retro video game store, Bradje was off doing coke and hookers or whatever oil execs do, Nanners had gone full dyke, and JC was last seen in San Francisco wearing a dress and brokering homoerotic art and animal skeletons. 
     The few of us currently in the state descended upon Jim Jim's store to hangout for the afternoon. We said it was a party, but really it was just us sitting inside and trying to sell Sega Genesis games to kids that only know Sonic as the fast blue thing in Super Smash Brothers.  There is a long-standing arrangement of trust and sharing amongst the group, so if any of us want to borrow or work with something from the store, we are welcome to take it.  I discovered a pile of old Commodore 64s and Vic-20's in the back room.  Jim Jim informed me that this pile didn't work, but he kept them as parts for when someone wanted their working one repaired or modified.  Me, being the PC gamer of the bunch, came up with the excellent and original idea to try turning one into a USB or PS/2 keyboard, so he sent one home with me to test.  If I could make a converter that worked well, he would convert his massive back stock of mostly unwanted keyboards into something that would appeal to his key demographic.
     Thus I acquired the Vic-20.

     I cleaned it up a bit with some methanol and elbow grease.  Everything seems to be in good condition, and it was fun taking it apart.




I took the board out, since I've never seen one of these single board computers before, so here are some pics (I have taken the removable microchips off).





All was well, so I decided to start figuring out how to make it into a keyboard.



When I was working on this project, I found a nice sized spider living in my desk at work.  Naturally, captured her and contemplated what nefarious scheme I should use on her.  Surely that isn't related to the next step in the tale. :rolleyes:







Be sure to stay tuned for the next exciting chapter:

Part II: Designing a Circuit without Knowing what the Flying **** I'm Doing.
« Last Edit: Fri, 31 October 2014, 15:14:29 by BlueNalgene »

Offline bazemk1979

  • Posts: 1625
Re: The VIC-20 Saga -
« Reply #1 on: Mon, 20 October 2014, 22:52:47 »




Be sure to stay tuned for the next exciting chapter:

Part II: Designing a Circuit without Knowing what the Flying **** I'm Doing.



now that's MF sexy quote

Quote from: IvanIvanovich on Wed, 08 January 2014, 18:02:50

When you bottom out dong cap... is it going balls deep?

Offline Hak Foo

  • Posts: 1246
  • Make America Clicky Again!
Re: The VIC-20 Saga -
« Reply #2 on: Tue, 21 October 2014, 00:01:09 »
I suspect the keyboard matrix is documented... all you'd need to do is set up a Soarer's Controller or one of the similar projects, and configure it appropriately.

http://www.6502.org/users/sjgray/projects/petkeyboard/index.html
Home: Tactile Pro 4 PC
Work: Customizer 104
Spare: Quickfire XT, Greens, Retro DSA

Offline BlueNalgene

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 739
  • Location: Oklahoma, USA
Re: The VIC-20 Saga -
« Reply #3 on: Tue, 21 October 2014, 16:30:37 »
Part II - Designing a Circuit without Knowing what the Flying **** I'm Doing

     Much to my dismay, I discovered that I was not the first one to think of making an old Commodore computer into a PC keyboard.  In fact, there is a board which does slightly more than mine aimed to called the Keyrah
     I guess I'm not the innovator I thought I was.  Oh well.  I needed a project to try out anyway to get some practice before I had to design a board for my Ph.D thesis (I got thrown into the deep end, thanks boss).  I decide to take things one step at a time and try to build something that is known to work.  Rather than just hack something together with breadboard and patch cords, I download the hobbyist version of Eagle and take a crack at making a schematic and board.  I eventually get a feel for the program, which is good since I would be using CAD for designing the PhD board(s).
     All this time I was keeping the spider (Legs McKinzie) in a vial.  I decided that it was inhumane to keep such a critter in a 20mL jar on my desk, so I did what any good scientist would do.  I murdered it to watch it die.  I tossed around a few ideas, and decided to go with nitric acid.  I grabbed some of the concentrated stuff 67% we keep near the hood and poured some in.  The spider was motionless instantaneously.  A quick, clean death.  I kept the vial of dissolving spider on the bench near my desk for a while.  I had to burp it every once in a while, since the reactions would release nitrogen dioxide from solution to gas phase. 
    I found a few interesting projects people have done with the Commodore 64 in the past.  My favorites were along the line of Spaceman Spiff's C64 USB Keyboard with an endgame like the VIC 314.  I also need to look more into Abzman2000's version and the how the source code for the Soarer works on the teensy.    My first step was to attempt to get a working version of Spiff's C64Key.

So I drew a schematic in Eagle


And did a patchwork attempt.



I didn't have the lab's programmer figured out (and my boss was hogging it to himself in the office) so I just worked with the Eagle files to produce a PCB.


I sent off an order to OSH Park in the interim.  Messing with all those tiny wires was a pain in the ass.  I decided to clean up my desk.  Sandwiched between some paper in a giant pile of recyclable stuff, was a huge cockroach.  I was not expecting to discover one of these outdoor flying buggers in late August in a pile of my old class notes.  Safely assured that my pants were not, in fact, soiled, I scooped up the bastard and fetched a new vial.  Misery loves company.  Meet Gregor.







Things are looking up for our protagonist! Will it stay that way? What will happen to the trapped Gregor?

Find out in Part III: A Littany of ****ups and Suffering

Offline dorkvader

  • Posts: 6284
  • Location: Boston area
  • all about the "hack" in "geekhack"
Re: The VIC-20 Saga -
« Reply #4 on: Tue, 21 October 2014, 18:41:02 »
Part II - Designing a Circuit without Knowing what the Flying **** I'm Doing

     Much to my dismay, I discovered that I was not the first one to think of making an old Commodore computer into a PC keyboard.  In fact, there is a board which does slightly more than mine aimed to called the Keyrah
     I guess I'm not the innovator I thought I was.  Oh well.  I needed a project to try out anyway to get some practice before I had to design a board for my Ph.D thesis (I got thrown into the deep end, thanks boss).  I decide to take things one step at a time and try to build something that is known to work.  Rather than just hack something together with breadboard and patch cords, I download the hobbyist version of Eagle and take a crack at making a schematic and board.  I eventually get a feel for the program, which is good since I would be using CAD for designing the PhD board(s).
     All this time I was keeping the spider (Legs McKinzie) in a vial.  I decided that it was inhumane to keep such a critter in a 20mL jar on my desk, so I did what any good scientist would do.  I murdered it to watch it die.  I tossed around a few ideas, and decided to go with nitric acid.  I grabbed some of the concentrated stuff 67% we keep near the hood and poured some in.  The spider was motionless instantaneously.  A quick, clean death.  I kept the vial of dissolving spider on the bench near my desk for a while.  I had to burp it every once in a while, since the reactions would release nitrogen dioxide from solution to gas phase. 
    I found a few interesting projects people have done with the Commodore 64 in the past.  My favorites were along the line of Spaceman Spiff's C64 USB Keyboard with an endgame like the VIC 314.  I also need to look more into Abzman2000's version and the how the source code for the Soarer works on the teensy.    My first step was to attempt to get a working version of Spiff's C64Key.

A similar project is the MeC64

Can't wait to readmore! What will become of poor Gregor?

Offline Neebio

  • Posts: 115
  • Location: Canada
  • Dance Master
Re: The VIC-20 Saga -
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 22 October 2014, 10:19:23 »
Can't wait to readmore! What will become of poor Gregor?

50 chips on murder, dorkvader!
RK9000RE w/ Raindrop & DDR arrow keys
Cherry G80-11900LUMEU-2 w/ Red/Black SA keys

Offline BlueNalgene

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 739
  • Location: Oklahoma, USA
Re: The VIC-20 Saga -
« Reply #6 on: Fri, 24 October 2014, 12:11:40 »
Part III - A Littany of ****ups and Suffering



     My boards came in.  Jump for joy.  I got some of the lovely OSH Park purp in the mail, and did some cursory inspection.



     It looks like most everything returned acceptably.  Oh wait maybe not.  In my brilliance, I forgot to wire the traces to the USB B receptacle.  I hope that's all I messed up.  So, I wired it all up.  Looks nice doesn't it?



Here it is compared to that old perfboard I made. 



You can even check out my ghetto USB wiring.



Now all I have to do is slap some pre-made code in there, and I have a working keyboard that will impress old computational professors when they come visit my lab (it happens).
     Aaahahahaha, if only it was that simple.  Don't forget that I have never done this before.  Every project demands a pint of blood, and this would take a bit.

Obstacle 1:
I did a successful make to the ATmega8, and kept getting
More
Error 43

Windows has stopped this device because it has reported problems. (Code 43)
.  I did a bunch of things trying to get it to work (fuses, linux box, crystal swap, USBlyze, yelling at it) to no avail.  Reluctantly I asked for help on a forum.  Turns out the files were using an old version of V-USB.

Obstacle 2:
Alright, so now I have the new V-USB.  I had to change a few things to get it to make successfully, but I found those changes on my own.  Go me.

FAILURE, Error 43, device descriptor read/64 error 71, etc.

Blargg posted his diff file of what he changed, showing me a few extra things to try.  Ok, easy enough.  I make all the changes he did.

Obstacle 3:
Those changes weren't all good.  Since I'm so green at this, I didn't notice that he moved his USB pins only because he set his hardware up differently.  Clearly I am a drooling windowlicker.

Catharsis:
I decide that Gregor has existed long enough.  He seemed to be drained by the constant exposure to light afforded by the glass vial.  He will face the same fate as Legs McKinzie before him.  I fill the vial with the struggling bug with an aliquot of concentrated nitric acid.  It was interesting to observe that the cockroach continued struggling for ~1s after submersion in the strong acid.  Remember that the spider immediately ceased motion upon contact with the acid.  This suggests that there is truth to the survivability of cockroaches when applied to extremely acidic conditions.  Gregor did die, and his suffering was not long.  I sealed the vial and set it on the lab bench so I could watch his body dissolve into a set of transparent chitinous fibrils bathed in the characteristic orange hue of large quantities of nitrogen dioxide dissolved in the water.

Obstacle 4:
On the advise of the wonderful blargg and my PI (who I was mad at that day for something related to being drunk the night before), I loaded the LED blink script onto the ATmega8.  A minor success.  At least now I know that the programmer wasn't messed up. 
Blargg also suggested that the Zener diodes I had included would cause problems with capacitance.  I replaced them with a set of switching diodes.  No luck.  Same old bull****.

Obstacle 5:
My PI finally had time to look at what I was doing.  He mentioned that the diodes could be completely unnecessary for such a low power application.  I completely removed them and patched over the spot.  No luck.  You guessed it, same old bull****.

Obstacle 6:
Blinking was out of time.  I corrected fuses. Correct blink program.  Partial success! The computer recognizes for a moment that this is, in fact, a keyboard.  But only for a moment.  Failure.

Obstacle 7:
Blargg is out of ideas.

Obstacle 8:
My PI is out of ideas, and he never really gave much of a **** anyway.  He knew this was a practice project and wanted me to get started on the real work.

Obstacle 9:
Life


So the keyboard sat for a few days, untouched.  I had some arduino stuff to work on, and my other work was getting busier.  Nothing else can go wrong....right?

Stay tuned next time for the most current chapter of the tale - Part IV: Gregor's Revenge!

Offline BlueNalgene

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 739
  • Location: Oklahoma, USA
Re: The VIC-20 Saga -
« Reply #7 on: Fri, 31 October 2014, 15:12:35 »
And now, the thrilling semi-conclusion of our story.

Part IV - Gregor's Revenge

So now we are in the middle of August.  Outside, the temperatures were relatively mild for that time of year in Oklahoma.  The highs only breached 100F/38C in the afternoons, and cicadas made incessant noise all day.  Inside the wonderful world of the laboratory, the temperature sat at a comfortable 73F/23C with a stiff breeze from the fume hood and the buzz of the vacuum pumps inside all of the UHV Xray and mass spec equipment.  I saunter into lab around noonish (I'm a night owl) to find a huge mess.  It looked like someone sprayed something tan out of the sink faucet all over the benchtop to my desk.  This is about an 8 foot span.  Within this span of workspace was the C64 keyboard.  It was splattered with this unknown fluid.  The Vic20 was face down, so the keys were unaffected, but the internal circuitry of the keyboard....take a look.







The fluid had seemed to somehow penetrate the board and the plastic parts.  A sparkfun box on the desk took most of the splash, thankfully.

]

The fluid looks more yellow there.  I had no clue what it was.  Surely nothing like that was in the sink recently.  I went to find the lab's requisite dour Russian postdoc that does strange things to see if he had done anything that may have caused the splash.  I turned around to find that the table across from the bench had been sprayed too.



I decided to inspect the spots that had gone over to my desk.  I had a new computer there, and the some of the spray had hit the case.  On the metal case, there was an outline of a dried droplet of the unknown liquid, and a tiny off-white crystal in the center.  I looked at the other spots more closely. Each spot either had yellowed drippings or the single crystal.  I was baffled.  What could cause this?  My equally nerdy labmate came up to investigate.  He commented that the spots all probably radiated from a single location.  We traced them with our eyes to the shelf just above the bench between the sink and my desk.  There was a thick layer of unknown goo in one spot that hadn't been there before.



It is a bit hard to see the thickness of the layer there in that picture, but it is the best I could muster.  The large rust marks on the metal backing also seemed unfamiliar to us.  There had to be something that could cause damage to metal and plastic and organic matter but leave little chunks behind.  Then I saw it.  It was the evidence I needed to make the connection....



"Holy ****! It was Gregor!" I blurted out to my confused labmate.  I reminded him of the cockroach that I caught a week before and submerged in nitric acid.  I had left the glass bottle sealed that whole time.  The nitrogen dioxide that I had burped out of the spider experiment was allowed to build up unchecked.  I burst into maniacal laughter that turned into unrestrained giggles as my labmate guffawed with such gusto he had to hold back tears.  I had to search all around the room to find the glass shards that had been ejected.  There was no hope to clean up the mess.  The tan splash marks were actually burns.  The acid also explains the rust spots on the back wall.  The Vic20 is now permanently scarred by acid. 

If we remember our gen chem courses, we may remember how precipitation works.  If a solution is saturated with solute under pressurized conditions, upon pressure release some of the solute will precipitate out.  Remember how I said there were little off-white crystals in the splashes.  That's right, that was Gregor.  His dissolved chitin and ichor crashed out of solution when freed from the glassy prison.  Little crystals of cockroach are all over the lab area now.  Part of Gregor is infused into the keyboard.  Yeah, my keyboard has the essence of a sacrificed being with a vengeful spirit.  What does yours have? Some spooky skull keycaps? That's cool too I guess.





And thus ends this part of The Vic-20 Saga.  The Vic20 is still unworking and sitting on the benchtop.  If anybody has some tips for how to get the circuit working, that would be cool.  Also, if anybody has the number for a reliable exorcist, that would be nice too.  I still intend to finish this project, but it is on temporary hiatus because grad school.
More
Because I thought grad school would work like this:


But I have found it is more like this:



Offline heedpantsnow

  • * Esteemed Elder
  • Posts: 3692
  • Location: Orlando, FL
  • Old enough to know better
Re: The VIC-20 Saga - (Story Complete)
« Reply #8 on: Fri, 31 October 2014, 15:30:26 »
Good gosh.  It's the Ghost of Gregor.  On halloween no less.
I'm back.

Espresso machine overhaul: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=78261.0

Carbon Fiber keyboard base: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=54825

Offline BlueNalgene

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 739
  • Location: Oklahoma, USA
Re: The VIC-20 Saga - (Story Complete)
« Reply #9 on: Fri, 31 October 2014, 15:44:32 »
Good gosh.  It's the Ghost of Gregor.  On halloween no less.

I maaaay have been timing the release of this part of the story to match Halloween.  Maybe. Just a little.

Offline jbondeson

  • Posts: 470
Re: The VIC-20 Saga - (Story Complete)
« Reply #10 on: Fri, 31 October 2014, 15:47:15 »
I'm now imagining you as Arthur Dent and Gregor as Agrajag...

Have you skinned any bunnies for bags lately?