Category Archives: nostalgia

What seemed like a silly idea

Throughout University, we had these Engineering Design courses, where we would go through a defined process to design something.

In my second year, my team submitted “A System for Maintaining Driver Alertness <link to pdf>“.

A System for Maintaining Driver Alertness
A System for Maintaining Driver Alertness

I’m not sure where we got the idea, and the solution we proposed was gimmicky, even at the time, but the exercise was more about design process – my team did fine. Imagine my surprise, when I was browsing for something else recently on AliExpress (and on Amazon), that some company builds and sells a device similar to our proposed design.

Commercial Driver Alertness Device
Commercial Driver Alertness Device – As Seen on Amazon

As automakers have added lane following systems and basic autopilots to their cars over the last ten years, they’ve also invested in systems that ensure drivers remain alert to supervise these systems and are ready to take over. Tesla’s systems have sensors to ensure hands remain on the steering wheel, Cadillac’s Supercruise has a camera that ensures the driver’s eyes are focused on the road ahead. What seemed like a silly idea is now a little industry…

Building SIO2Arduino to enable an Atari 800XL to use SD Cards

Last winter, I built an SIO2Arduino circuit – it is an adapter, that enables the Atari to use disk images loaded on to a regular SD card.

My build of the SIO2Arduino SD Card Adapter
My build of the SIO2Arduino SD Card Adapter

To the Atari, the SD card works just like a floppy drive.  It’s was built following the instructions found here:
http://whizzosoftware.com/sio2arduino/

With a program called SDRIVE, I can select a disk image on the SD card, and then load it:

Selecting an Atari image on the SD card using the SDRIVE program
Selecting an Atari image on the SD card using the SDRIVE program

I never did get the adapter working perfectly – I can load certain disk images, such as ballblazer, but not others, like Karateka.  I think it would take a lot more investigation, and perhaps digging into code, to figure out how to fix this issue.

ballblazer running on Atari from SD Card
ballblazer running on Atari from SD Card

Until I get a suitable TV, this is likely as far as I’m taking this particular project.

Playing around with an Atari 800XL

My “RetroPie” days of emulating old games on the Raspberry Pi are over – from now on, I can play the real thing.

I was given a friend’s old family computer, an Atari 800XL in 2011.  They still had all the parts, except the custom molded cable that connects the floppy drive to the unit.

Receiving an Atari 800XL in 2011Receiving an Atari 800XL in 2011

5 years to the month, I finally got around to ordering a cable from a company in California that still has pretty much everything Atari ever made in stock: http://www.best-electronics-ca.com/

I picked up a Donkey Kong cartridge (pictured) along with my cable order (the available, never released Bruce Lee prototype cartridges exceeded my budget).

As I don’t have a TV, I connected it to a PC with a Hauppage TV card.  As I don’t have the correct cables, I only get a black and white picture (I don’t have a composite cable, and the brightness and colour signals are split).  Also, Donkey Kong is unplayable with this setup, as the TV card adds a significant lag (eg: Mario jumps half a second after you jump).

Donkey Kong on an Atari 800XL
Donkey Kong on an Atari 800XL

In another post, I’ll write up how I hacked up one of the floppy cables and built an Atari floppy emulator with an Arduino, so that I can download Atari software from the Internet and load it off an SD card:

Old Video Games

Does anyone recognize this?

Wico Boss Joystick
Wico Boss Joystick

 

Whenever someone asks me if I play video games, I like to say that I stopped playing video games when they started taking up more than 2 floppy disks.  I think I was only a very casual gamer, and as games got bigger, one had to put more time and effort in to them to get more enjoyment out of them.

In any case, there are many emulators out there that allow one to play video games from all of the early game systems.  I had been using a Logitech game pad to play them, which, of course works great.  But when I saw this Wico Boss for sale at a thrift store a number of years ago, I just had to pick it up.  This particular joystick has an Atari style interface/connector, and will not plug into a modern PC.  One can build custom interfaces – there are many designs published on the Internet.  I built a parallel port adapter some time ago, and it worked great in Windows using the PPJoy driver.

I decided I wanted a USB interface such that the Boss would just appear like a regular joystick to a PC.  My initial plan was to gut a USB game pad, and use it to put together my own interface.  In the end, I decided to just pick up a pre-made Atari to USB adapter from raphnet.net.

Atari to USB Adapter from Raphnet
Atari to USB Adapter from Raphnet

I’ve been playing with it for a few days now – it’s a great way to re-visit games like Dig Dug.  While digging around for background on this and other joysticks, I came across the history of Wico.