Apple IIe/IIGS/III+ FPGA Platform with the works

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Apple IIe/IIGS/III+ FPGA Platform with the works
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Hi Everyone,

Ive been busy experimenting with a few concepts on how best I could delve back into the good ol days of the Apple II. I grew up with Apple's and their clones, the IIe, the III and the IIGS. As most of us who had been introduced to the Apple II Designs may know, it dosent take long to develop a significant admiration for Woz's brilliant work. So whilst during my own work, developing the Nanoboard2 for Altium, I designed this little add on Apple II slot adaptor PCB to allow me to put together a proposal platform to develop any 8/16 bit Apple system using an FPGA as the hardware.

The NB2 has only just been released, so this is the first chance I have had to assemble the "Slots" board and see if it all works. I still have a lot of code to do, so its far from being up and running just at the moment, but all the resources are there to make a pretty spekkie blast from the past Apple system of choice.

I thought Id introduce what I have been up to to you guy's to get a bit of feedback on how the concept is received, and maybe to see if there would be anyone that would interested in helping develop a functional Apple system in VHDL. I know this has been done, but not with real Apple slots, not to a point where you can use a classic Apple in exactly the same way as how they're meant to be used. ie, floppy disks and cards, joystick etc.

I am happy to share the schematics and source PCB's files (actually, I have quite a few spare PB10 "Slot" PCB's), and the Nanoboard comes with all its schematics and source docco's too, which you can download.

As a bit of a run down, the NB2 is basically a big FPGA that allows the developer to "plug-in" their choice of FPGA, which is then connected to 3 seperate 50 pin IO connectors. These connectors allow altium peripheral boards (PB's) to plug up to the FPGA. One of these PB's is known as PB10, which is the Apple II's slots (only includes 6 of the slots, but wired as they are in an Apple IIe with 5v<->3v translators), another is PB02, which is an SD card, IDE drives (3.5"/2.5"&1.8" and a compact flash slot. And the third board is PB03, which provides ethernet, USB2 and IrDA. There are other standard peripherals such as a QVGA LCD, DRAM, SRAM, FLASH, PS2, DIPSW, KBD+MOUSE, RS232 port etc that reside on the main Nanoboard. Pretty much everything, which also includes a VGA interface.

Ive attached a few pictures to give a better idea.

Anyway, if anyone has any opinions or idea's, it would be great to hear them.

rgds,
steve.

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How much is the NB2 developme

How much is the NB2 development system? Have you targeted an FPGA vendor and device?

I actually program in verilog but have messed around with VHDL a little.

Mike

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Re: Apple IIe/IIGS/III+ FPGA Platform with the works

Ive been busy experimenting with a few concepts on how best I could delve back into the good ol days of the Apple II. I grew up with Apple's and their clones, the IIe, the III and the IIGS.

You mentioned the III a couple of times now... was that an accident, or are you really implementing something with Apple III capabilities?

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An NB2 Apple2

The NB2 system is $US2-3k, and you really need Altium designer to use it. Its a bit exe, but dare I say it, I think its a perfect platform for such a project :). Anyway, more info can be found at;

http://www.altium.com/Products/NanoBoard/DesktopNanoBoard/

and here is a photo with the Apple II card slot board (PB10)

http://www.altium.com/AltiumInnovationStation/overview.html

From an FPGA point of view, the NB2 is vendor independant. In the Photo I have a Virtex 4 FPGA, somewhat overkill for an Apple II series, but ample room to grow. You can choose any FPGA from the daughter board line up. So far there are 5 of them available but really, any of them will do the job. The Nanoboard host will load a hardware bit stream into the FPGA for you, allowing it to build a unique hardware platform at the press of a button.

As for the Apple III (or should I say the III Plus), I really liked this machine from a design point of view. The Aluminium case, the use of ASIC's and bus bars, even the dual speed arrow key's, just small design features which was typical of Apple. Id be inclined to say it is one of the rarest of Apples offerings, and Id really love to preserve this machine with its software on some form of FPGA platform. But, I never ever found its schematics.

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Interesting

Steve

After reading your description I went up to Altium and reviewed their equipment. I was interested in knowing several things:
1. If an FPGA could be used in place of an existing 6502, 65C02, or 65816?
2. If what I read on the Altium web site is correct, could you design an Apple II type motherboard around an FPGA and after the design is complete, have a print-out and possibly build the PCB?
3. Is that what you are eventually going to try to do?
4. Would it be CFFA and USB capable?
5. Would it fit into a IIe or IIgs case and be able to use the same power supply?

Whew! I think that's enough questions. lol
Thanks,
Steven (gsmcten)

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Some details on the NB2 FPGA Apple

Hi Steven,
Ill go through and answer these;

1. If an FPGA could be used in place of an existing 6502, 65C02, or 65816?

Yes. An FPGA is capable of performing the functions of a typical CPU. Using the very logic that creates the functionality of a hard processor in the first place, an FPGA can have this logic defined and programmed inside it. In fact, there is enough room to copy hundreds of 6502's in the logic fabric of a sized FPGA (XC2V8000 for example), however, using that logic for the rest of the system is typical. These "copied and pasted CPU's" are known as "softcores", and are identical copies of typical CPU's, which behave in exactly the same way as their typical tangible "40 pin" counter parts, except a lot faster in some instances. Most processors are now available as softcores, including the 68000, MIPS4000 and x86's. The first processors to be written for FPGA's were the easy 8 bit CPU's, such as the Z80, 6502, 6809 and 6309.

2. If what I read on the Altium web site is correct, could you design an Apple II type motherboard around an FPGA and after the design is complete, have a print-out and possibly build the PCB?

Yep, thats correct. But rather than build a new hardware platform, I find it easier just to use the Nanoboard, as its all built and ready to go with all the peripherals I need for an Apple. I added the slots, as that was the only thing I needed to interface to the hardware history of the II, which was one of the reasons why the II was so popular.

3. Is that what you are eventually going to try to do?
Yes, I am already doing it. I just havent had the chance to finish it as yet, and was thinking of seeing if any others were happy to get involved and help out, as im a bit strapped for time.

4. Would it be CFFA and USB capable?
Yes, a CFFA card is already built in (known as PB02). USB is already there too (PB03). Just need a bit of code to connect them up.

5. Would it fit into a IIe or IIgs case and be able to use the same power supply?

For a custom board, yes, (it only needs 5V) but, I like to have it all open and exposed, as I like the technical look with easy access to the apple slots.

Anyway, I hope this answers a few things. By the way, I finally found the Apple III schematics! Ill start studying them and see if it possible to capture this machine in VHDL too.

Please note, although I design these products for Altium, this particular project (re the apple), is all done in my own time and not connected to my work.

best regards,
Steve

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Some more about these slots

Hi,

I have an update. The responses I have received have been really interesting. Its cool to discover that there is quite a few people out there who are interested in reviving the II in this way. With so much old software, and so much cool hardware to plug in, I actually think this could happen. I think it just needs to be a public domain style effort though.

Anyway, I have been asked a lot about the slots board (PB10). I have attached a 3D view of the board from Altium Designer to help explain how they emulate identically what the old Apple II/IIe/III used to have inside it's case. I have also included a .PDF of the schematic. I tried to attach the AD6.9 source documents, but they were too large. If you would like a copy of the linked source schematic and the PCB layout in Altium Designer 6.9, simply go to the link and you'll find it there.

In conjunction with the Nanoboard II schematics (which you can download for free from Altium.com, or I can send them to you), these documents make up the whole dynamic Apple IIx platform. If anyone has any questions, I'm happy to try and answer them.

It would be nice to have a public domain Apple II that can use any of the brilliant hardware and/or software that we can find hidden away from all those years ago.

best regards,
Steve.

Source files, references and pictures are located at:

http://members.optuszoo.com.au/srkh/

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www.applelogic.org

Hi Everyone,

With a bit of luck and a whole lot of talent, the applelogic website is now up and running at www.applelogic.org complete with a few new Apple II's to play with. There is still a lot of bugs in the site, and I am yet to put up the projects, but will do once they are all cleaned up, ready to be downloaded. I am sure a lot of info on the site will need updating in the up and coming weeks, so if you have any feed back it would be very much welcomed.

A massive thanks to all those that helped out. Hopefully it will create a life of its own and immortilised our favorite Apples in the heart of low cost FPGA's for everyone one play with.

best regards,
Steve

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Very nice work!

Very nice work!

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Re: Apple IIe/IIGS/III+ FPGA Platform with the works

Do you need any help on this? I've been looking for some big project to work on, and seeing as I absolutely love Apple IIGS i'd love to help in any way I can. I dont know much about hardware development on altera/xilinx *but* i learn things quickly.

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