The ESP32 SoftCard for the Apple II

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Firmware Update

Firmware Update: 480i for NTSC and 576i for PAL/NTSC-50

 

This is a minor version release adding the 480i and 576i modes to the Mac and PC emulators: Package iconESP32 SoftCard FW v.3.04.zip

 

Version History: (Continued)

 

v3.03

    - Video Player: fixed a crash in PAL when the screen has been shifted all the way to the right using <Ctrl><D>

 

v3.04

    - Mac and PC emulators: added an option for 480i in NTSC and 576i in PAL for Plasma/LCD/LED TVs and monitors.

    - Mac emulators: added a table showing the disk images that will be mounted, similar to the PC emulator.

 

Details:

 

Most of the details were already discussed in post #294 on the previous page. The option to select 480i for NTSC (or 576i for PAL/NTSC-50) was added to the start of the Mac emulator:

 

 

...and the start of the PC emulator:

 

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Looks good!

I gave this a very brief test today, just launching the Mac emulator, and it looks great. No flicker on the LCD for sure, but I didn't have time to do more testing, or hook up the CRT just to see how that goes.

 

But very impressive work!

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Is there a documentation?and

Is there a documentation?

and how to supply power to the card without plugging it to Apple II ?

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wyattwong wrote:Is there a
wyattwong wrote:

Is there a documentation?

and how to supply power to the card without plugging it to Apple II ?

 

You can find the installation instructions here: https://www.applefritter.com/comment/103234#comment-103234

Also some Basic Operation instructions further down: https://www.applefritter.com/comment/103267#comment-103267

 

It can be powered with 5 volts DC from all the places labeled +5V and GND, but why? This card is designed to work with an Apple II while plugged into a slot and cannot do anything on its own, other than produce a short 2kHz beep if you plug in a speaker to SPEAKER OUT, indicating that the card works.

 

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Firmware Update

Firmware Update:  Bug Fixes

 

This is a minor version release fixing a couple of bugs found by Bodhi Bird and myself: Package iconESP32 SoftCard FW v.3.07.zip

 

Version History: (Continued)

 

v3.05

    - NES emulator: fixed a bug that was causing the sound in Super Mario Bros. 3 to glitch on NTSC.

 

v3.06

    - SMS emulator: fixed a major bug introduced in v3.00 that was causing glitching in some games on NTSC.

 

v3.07

    - PC Emulator: fixed a bug that was causing a reduction in performance after exiting something using <Ctrl><Q>.

 

To update, place the BIN file found inside the ZIP archive in the /Firmware directory of the SD card and then run the UPDATE command.

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Thanks for the continued

Thanks for the continued support and fixes. I just updated to 3.07 and although I haven't done much testing with it, it works fine so far.

 

FYI, I think I got my weird mouse controller issues fixed. I was going to desolder and clean that unsocked chip, but when I got it to my soldering station, I took a closer magnified look and saw some weak solder joints on a couple of pins, so I reflowed those, and a few others that looked a little weak.

 

I also removed all of the socketed chips and gave everything a nice alcohol wash, used deoxit in the sockets, and got it all back together. Since doing all of that, the system has been working great. No more strange lockups when using the ESP32. I'm guessing it was probably the weak solder joints since the board was otherwise very clean. No corrosion, and everything else looked fine except for 2 particular soldered pins where it was obvious that the joint had cracked at some point. It may have come that way from the factory for all I know. It worked okay as a mouse, but maybe it was just marginal enough that when the softcard was interacting with it, some extra "noise" or whatever coming from it was enough to trip it up.

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I am glad you managed...

I am glad you managed to isolate the fix the problem.

 

Whenever there is a problem, if I tend to blame the hosting machine it is simply due to my own experience of how resistant to damage the ESP32 SoftCard actually is. I test every single card before shipping and I have made pretty much every mistake you can make: I have mistakenly plugged-in output to output both the video and the audio, I have placed a 74HCT245 in the 74HCT374’s socket and vice-versa, and I have shorted both the video and audio outputs. None of these situations have damaged the card.

 

In fact there is only one card that I ended up damaging and it was while adjusting a running open CRT monitor. I was using the card to run the 240p Test Suite in order to generate a pattern. While I was adjusting one of the high voltage potentiometers inside the CRT monitor, my screwdriver slipped and there was a spark causing the entire Apple II to restart. This ended up burning the output transistor of the video DAC of the ESP32 module. Actually that card still works, but the video DAC can no longer maintain the proper levels, so the picture looks very bad. I still keep it for testing, since no other part of the ESP32 was damaged.

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A cautionary tale indeed, and

A cautionary tale indeed, and the precise reason that only non-conductive, non-magnetic adjustment tools should be used inside display units.

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robespierre wrote:A
robespierre wrote:

A cautionary tale indeed, and the precise reason that only non-conductive, non-magnetic adjustment tools should be used inside display units.

 

I do have some ceramic tools, but in many cases they are not long enough for my hand to clear the high voltage areas of the CRT. This is why often I use very long screwdrivers with long clear plastic handles, as I place my own safety infinitely higher than the safety of any monitor or computer.

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Shrink tube around the shaft

Shrink tube around the shaft would be a good idea. 

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jeffmazur wrote:Shrink tube
jeffmazur wrote:

Shrink tube around the shaft would be a good idea. 

That is a good idea.  Or you could even just wrap it in black electrical tape in a spiral down the shaft.

 

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Project Update: Apple II emulator coming soon...

Coming soon: Apple II emulator for the ESP32 SoftCard for the Apple II.

 

Run all your favorite Apple II games and applications on your Apple II !

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Now that is interesting !!!  

Now that is interesting !!!  :)

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I got a bad feeling about

I got a bad feeling about today's date Hahaha.But I still hope its legit. :)

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PTB wrote:I got a bad feeling
PTB wrote:

I got a bad feeling about today's date Hahaha.But I still hope its legit. :)

 

It may seem like an April Fool's joke, but there are valid reasons you might actually want to do it...  Say you have a ][+ and you want to run something that requires a //e...  or you want to run something that requires a IIgs...  The ESP32 should be able to emulate any model Apple II.  Also it should be able to emulate it faster, and with some work can probably emulate a machine with a Mockingboard for people who don't have one...  So, it would really be something that would actually be quite useful.

 

 

 

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Yep. That would be cool to

Yep. That would be cool to make the II/IIplus more powerful. And potentially bring PAL colour without the need for a pal encoder card.   

Currently I pass through my Pal Encoder card through the ESP32 card for colour.  

 

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Well, this was a lot of fun!

Well, this was a lot of fun! I made a similar post on Facebook’s Apple II Enthusiasts group with the text: "Stop emulating the Apple II on a modern PC. Start emulating it on your Apple II." I even included this picture:

 

 

And although it indeed makes a pretty good April Fools’ Day joke, the Apple II emulator is real, it is based on the AppleWin codebase and it will be released in the upcoming version 4.0 of the firmware. The picture is actually of the emulator running Total Replay. There is a very subtle clue that I didn’t simply take a picture of Total Replay running on the Apple II CPU, but it is easily missed.

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Actually it is pretty awesome

Actually it is pretty awesome for the reasons I stated above.  Your card just keeps getting better and better.

 

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Can it emulate a IIGS?

Can it emulate a IIGS?

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drakepirate wrote:Can it
drakepirate wrote:

Can it emulate a IIGS?

 

 

If it is based on AppleWin code probably not.  At least not yet.  But it may be possible to do using code from KEGS or another IIgs emulator.

 

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softwarejanitor wrote
softwarejanitor wrote:
drakepirate wrote:

Can it emulate a IIGS?

 

 

If it is based on AppleWin code probably not.  At least not yet.  But it may be possible to do using code from KEGS or another IIgs emulator.

 

 

That is correct. What I am aiming for in version 4.0 is just the basics of the Apple II emulator: ability to emulate the original II, II+, IIe and the Enhanced IIe. Also 2 floppies, 2 hard drives, a joystick, a mouse, the speaker and most likely a single Mockingboard, as well as speed control from 50% to 200%. There will be no CP/M SoftCard, no Ethernet card and no debugger. It might be possible to do an Ethernet card and hook it up to the Wi-Fi, but that will be in a minor version later on.

 

As far as the Apple IIgs is concerned, I will most likely tackle it in the next major version after the Apple II emulator. It will be based on GSPlus, which is itself is based on KEGS and it will have the same limitation in 640x200 as the PC emulator has today due to the composite output: no chromatic colors, just 256 shades of grey. Of course in 320x200 it will be in color. I know I was skeptical about it in the past, but a lot of the infrastructure around the graphic modes was added in version 3.0 with the PC emulator, so it doesn't look like too much work at this point.

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Pretty much what I figured,

Pretty much what I figured, and it is all exciting.

 

 

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That does sound cool, and for

That does sound cool, and for one reason in particular: Mockingboard support. I've been meaning to sit down with my Apple IIe and do some Ultima IV gaming but back in the day, I never got to enjoy that sound experience since I was playing on school computers mostly. But I just haven't decided to pull the trigger on getting one, and it seems like all of the Mockingboard compatible cards are no longer being made. The Mega Audio seemed like a real contender but until they offer them up for sale again, I've just been waiting... no real rush, but it's been next on my list for a while now.

 

And playing on my PC with an emulator just wouldn't be the same... playing on an emulator that's on an actual Apple... well heck, I think that's just fine. :) My brain won't be able to tell the difference.

 

PS - I was playing Arkanoid the other day, enjoying the fact that my mouse is working great now. It still seems like maybe the joystick and the mouse like to mess with each other on those games or apps that might support either. The joystick is pretty well centered but it just seemed like the mouse wasn't moving where I wanted, and it's better if I unplug the joystick.

 

So on that note, maybe something that enables/disables the joystick or mouse, maybe by some hotkey or just a command? So a "drifty" joystick isn't going to mess with mouse controls? If not, I guess I can unplug the joystick as needed. I'm not sure if "hot" plugging the joystick is a good idea or not. I've always thought it was bad to do so I shut off the computer first, unplug joystick, start it back up. A little inconvenient, but not the end of the world.

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probably safe to do
MPBApple wrote:

I'm not sure if "hot" plugging the joystick is a good idea or not. I've always thought it was bad to do so I shut off the computer first, unplug joystick, start it back up. A little inconvenient, but not the end of the world.

An Apple II joystick doesn't draw any inrush current when it is connected, so "hot" plug or unplug shouldn't cause any problems. Some peripherals have bypass capacitors, and when they are connected there is a rush of charge which can upset or even damage semiconductors connected to nearby signal wires.

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That is absolutely correct,

That is absolutely correct, it not really possible to damage the Apple II by plugging or unplugging the joystick while it is on.

 

There is however a peculiarity with the ESP32 Soft Card. If you start the Apple II with the joystick unplugged, the card will detect it as soon as you plug it in. However if you start the Apple II with it plugged-in, and then unplug it, the card will still think that it is plugged-in and being held at position 255,255 (the bottom-right corner). This will interfere with everything in the ESP32 SoftCard that supports a joystick. This is because when the joystick in not plugged-in, it is at position 255,255 and this is how the card initially detects its absence. However once detected, the card has no way to tell if the joystick was unplugged or if it's physically being held at the bottom-right position.

 

So simply put: don't unplug it while the Apple II is running, if you already ran the ESP32 SoftCard Interface program while it was plugged-in.

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MPBApple wrote:That does
MPBApple wrote:

That does sound cool, and for one reason in particular: Mockingboard support. I've been meaning to sit down with my Apple IIe and do some Ultima IV gaming but back in the day, I never got to enjoy that sound experience since I was playing on school computers mostly. But I just haven't decided to pull the trigger on getting one, and it seems like all of the Mockingboard compatible cards are no l

 

I've built a bunch of Mockingboard clones recently.  Unfortunately the GI AY-3-8913 sound chips are getting very hard to find.  A lot of what I've ordered (Aliexpress and eBay) has turned out to be defective or fake and had to be returned.  Some people also report that they have trouble finding 6522 chips, but I haven't had problems there.  The SSI-263 speech chip of course is almost completely unobtanium.  Even back in the day those were super expensive and hard to find.  I've been thinking about building an adapter to use AY-3-8910 style sound chips (the 40 pin version) because clones of that chip made by companies like File and Winbond were in production as recently as a few years ago (from what I've read they were used in a lot of slot machines) and are readily available and comparatively inexpensive.  Or perhaps re-laying out a version of the PCB to accomodate the 40 pin chips and possibly eliminate the spots for the speech chips since you basically can't get them anyway.  I have a bunch of the File and Winbond chips that I can try out.

 

All that said...  if an ESP32 can emulate a Mockingboard it opens up possibilities, both on the ESP32 Softcard as well as possibly someone could build a very low cost card that was just a Mockingboard emulator.  If an ESP32 can do it probably a RPi Pico can too, and those are even cheaper.  A card with an RPi Pico, a few logic chips and a couple of sound amplifier circuits and then it is all software.

 

The ESP32 Softcard offers the added advantage of acting as an accellerator although for games that isn't always advantageous.  The ability for a ][+ or clone to emulate a 128k Enhanced //e though...  that opens up a LOT of software, especially with Mockingboard emulation.

 

 

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Pico audio
softwarejanitor wrote:
All that said...  if an ESP32 can emulate a Mockingboard it opens up possibilities, both on the ESP32 Softcard as well as possibly someone could build a very low cost card that was just a Mockingboard emulator.  If an ESP32 can do it probably a RPi Pico can too, and those are even cheaper.  A card with an RPi Pico, a few logic chips and a couple of sound amplifier circuits and then it is all software.

I think that the pico has already been used to emulate the AY chips.  There are the pico-56 kits and the Neo6502 board doing Oric computer emulation.  If the picoW is used, then Bluetooth may be used and eliminate the output hardware.  So the boards are here.

 I really hope this happens.  I want a Mocking board.

 

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Modnarmai wrote
Modnarmai wrote:
softwarejanitor wrote:
All that said...  if an ESP32 can emulate a Mockingboard it opens up possibilities, both on the ESP32 Softcard as well as possibly someone could build a very low cost card that was just a Mockingboard emulator.  If an ESP32 can do it probably a RPi Pico can too, and those are even cheaper.  A card with an RPi Pico, a few

 

 

Bluetooth output is an interesting idea I hadn't even thought of.  If you can do the emulation on a RPi PicoW, then you probably only need 3 74LVC245 besides that and a handful of resistors and caps to emulate a Mockingboard.  It's basically all software then. 

 

I am wondering if both USB mouse and Mockingboard functionality could be shoehorned in on the same card at the same time.  That would be especially spiffy since they both normally reside in Slot 4 anyway.

 

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CVT wrote:There is however a
CVT wrote:

There is however a peculiarity with the ESP32 Soft Card. If you start the Apple II with the joystick unplugged, the card will detect it as soon as you plug it in. However if you start the Apple II with it plugged-in, and then unplug it, the card will still think that it is plugged-in and being held at position 255,255 (the bottom-right corner). This will interfere with everything in the ESP32 SoftCard that supports a joystick. This is because when the joystick in not plugged-in, it is at position 255,255 and this is how the card initially detects its absence. However once detected, the card has no way to tell if the joystick was unplugged or if it's physically being held at the bottom-right position.

 

If you wanted to refine that detection logic, there's a simple artifact of the 558 that can distinguish when there's nothing plugged-in to a particular paddle port:

  • So long as here's any resistance attached to a particular port, the 558 will trigger...eventually.  Even with my joystick incorrectly centered, and the stick pushed to the far corner, it triggers within 3 msec.
  • If a particular joystick/paddle wire is disconnected, then the 558 will not trigger...at least not within a reasonable time.  Test it yourself in the monitor -- your unconnected paddle inputs will be stuck high.  On my Apple //e, for example, $C066 (paddle 2) and $C067 (paddl 3) continually have their high bit set because there's nothing connected to those analog inputs.

Therefore, you can use this simple subroutine to distinguish an unconnected joystick from a high-resistance joystick position.  Call this subroutine with the X register set to the analog input you want to check (0 through 3) and the carry flag will indicate the presence of a joystick/paddle on that port.  (Carry clear if there's a paddle, carry set if unplugged.)

 

For redundancy, here's a text listing of that program:

Paddle Presence Detection Subroutine

0300-   AD 70 C0    LDA   $C070

0303-   A9 80       LDA   #$80

0305-   20 A8 FC    JSR   $FCA8

0308-   A9 80       LDA   #$80

030A-   DD 64 C0    CMP   $C064,X

030D-   60          RTS

 

NB: "JSR $FCA8" calls the monitor's WAIT routine.

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Bluetooth
 
Bluetooth output is an interesting idea I hadn't even thought of.
 
I wish that it was my own idea.  It came from  Oliver Schmidt.
 
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I was just wondering if this

I was just wondering if this ESP32 softcard could actually do some direct emulation of things. It's obviously very useful and cool at emulating other game systems, even DOS, Mac, etc.

 

But beyond that, could it work as a Mockingboard emulator directly? Or other Apple II peripherals? I guess I don't know what it would take to emulate a sound card like that, or whether the ESP32 on this is powerful enough? It seems like it would be... and it already has the sound output available.

 

What other peripherals come to mind for such an idea? Memory expansion cards, etc?

 

I'd be thrilled if it could do the Apple-inside-Apple emulation with Mockingboard support, but if it worked to just emulate the Mockingboard itself, or SAM, etc that would be equally awesome.

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S.Elliott wrote:If you wanted
S.Elliott wrote:
If you wanted to refine that detection logic, there's a simple artifact of the 558 that can distinguish when there's nothing plugged-in to a particular paddle port...

 

 

Wow, thanks! I did not know this was possible. I will integrate this approach next time I am revising the Interface program, so that the card can detect the joystick being unplugged.

 

 

MPBApple wrote:

I was just wondering if this ESP32 softcard could actually do some direct emulation of things. It's obviously very useful and cool at emulating other game systems, even DOS, Mac, etc.

 

But beyond that, could it work as a Mockingboard emulator directly? Or other Apple II peripherals? I guess I don't know what it would take to emulate a sound card like that...

 

Emulating a peripheral card directly is not possible with the current bus interface of the ESP32 SoftCard. Besides the Pico-based open-source projects are doing such a great job at that already. We already have VGA, mouse and SmartPort card. With so many people working on that design around the world, I am pretty sure there will be a Mockingboard card soon.

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jeffmazur wrote:CVT wrote
jeffmazur wrote:
CVT wrote:

jumps straight into Monitor...

The "padding" you are seeing is the variable space which precedes the program. If you want a BRUNable file you need to add a JMP instruction to the beginning of the code to start execution at the correct place (see CVT2.text below).

 

Alternatively, the code I sent was used with the Merlin

 

So in the new version of CVT.txt, the assembly now starts in $2FE0 ? 

 

What is the use of the following commented code then ?

;        ORG   $2000 ; Code starts here

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CVT wrote:Actually this is an
CVT wrote:

Actually this is an amazing idea for one more emulator. It is completely in line with the philosophy of the ESP32 SoftCard of extending the capabilities of the Apple II/II+/IIe, but not repeating them.

 

Check this one, I like it have a good GUI similar to Virtual II. All existing IIGS emulators are too difficult to use in my view.

Clemen's IIGS Emulator

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wyattwong wrote:...So in the
wyattwong wrote:
...
So in the new version of CVT.txt, the assembly now starts in $2FE0 ? 
...

 

 

This is very old pre-release code and it will not work with any of the firmware versions. I am not sure why you are asking about it, but when I added the Apple Mouse II subroutines, I moved the origin address to $5FD0. This new origin address works on all supported Apple II machines. The old origin address had issues with certain configurations.

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ESP32 SoftCard on Tindie

In addition to eBay, the ESP32 SoftCard is also available on Tindie now:

https://www.tindie.com/products/cvt/esp32-softcard-expansion-card-for-the-apple-ii/

 

The price is slightly lower and I get to keep slightly more of the proceeds.

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CVT wrote:In addition to eBay
CVT wrote:

In addition to eBay, the ESP32 SoftCard is also available on Tindie now:

https://www.tindie.com/products/cvt/esp32-softcard-expansion-card-for-the-apple-ii/

 

The price is slightly lower and I get to keep slightly more of the proceeds.

Win-win!

 

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softwarejanitor wrote:Win-win
softwarejanitor wrote:
Win-win!

 

Best way to summarize it in one sentence for sure and I would recommend it to everyone else who also sells Apple II cards, in addition to eBay of course.

 

I was under the misconception that Tindie was more like Adafruit, where you submit the designs and they make and sell it, but my freind from Facebook Jonathan Adar corrected that.

 

He also created a PDF user manual, which I am posting now: PDF iconESP32 SoftCard - Installation and User's Manual.pdf

 

Thanks again, Jonathan!

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Jonathan really deserves some

Jonathan really deserves some credit for producing a nice looking User's Manual.  Most of the information is here on this thread but not presented all in one place and neatly formatted.

 

I'm really looking forward to the upcoming Apple II emulator.  The possibility of future IIgs emulation is also enticing but I am actually thinking a few other 8 bit micro emulators might be more fun for a lot of people.  I have run Commodore 64 and Atari 8 bit emulators on RPi using RetroPie before so I think those two could be done on ESP32 Softcard.  There are a bunch of others I think I mentioned before that I know a lot less about that I'd be interested in looking at like the ZX Spectrum, BBC Atom, BBC Micro, etc.  There are a bunch of others that I haven't seem emulators for like the TRS-80 Coco (and Dragon) but those probably are too much work.

 

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I agree...... That is a great

I agree...... That is a great comprehensive resource and a fair amount of effort to compile.

 

I think Jonathon now has himself a job for life with all the awesome additions CVT keeps adding ;)

 

Great stuff !

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The recent posts on this

The recent posts on this thread have got me back to playing with my ESP32 Softcard again.  I really find running the Mac Classic emulator and then running II in a Mac under that amusing.  Especially since the //e emulated by II in a Mac almost runs at full speed.  The PC emulator also works surprisingly well.  I've been using the board with a composite to HDMI converter and it works OK, albeit it isn't quite as clear as the //e output though an A2VGA card with an HDMI converter.  The 480i modes are way, way better than what the older versions could do, albeit occasionally a little flickery.  Just the nature of NTSC though, so it is what it is.  Definitely very usable.

 

I need to find some of the shareware/freeware CDs that I have from back in the 1990s to give the Mac and PC emulators a workout.

 

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Very nice, great work on the

Very nice, great work on the manual!

I can't recall if I posted it explicitly, but since the card is mentioned in the maunal as a possible boot method, I do have a TJBoltdt image ready to burn to EPROM in my repository for this card that autoboots the ESP32 card:

https://github.com/Alex-Kw/ProDOS-ROM-Drive-Images/blob/main/ESP32_startup_tj_iie.po

 

 

CVT
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softwarejanitor wrote:...I
softwarejanitor wrote:

...

I need to find some of the shareware/freeware CDs that I have from back in the 1990s to give the Mac and PC emulators a workout.

 

To test various DOS games, I have been using sites like retrogames.cz that let you run them in a browser based DOSBox. Using the DevTools's Network tab of either Chrome or Firefox, you can always get the URL of the ZIP file containing the game or application and then download it:

 

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That's a great suggestion but

That's a great suggestion but part of the experience for me will be digging out those old CDs from my collection and trying them out, especially the stuff that may require building from source to get it to work.

 

 

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Inventory Update: Out of stock

I just wanted to let everyone know that as a result of an inrush of orders due to an Action Retro video that came out today, I am out of stock. The next batch is in the final stages of production and will take approximately two weeks from today to arrive.

 

The inventory was already low, because I did not anticipate the extra orders from Tindie. This video is by far the best and most professional one until now and I would like to thank Action Retro for making it. Unfortunately it played a one-two combo on my inventory, which is entirely my fault and I apologize to everyone who wants to buy a card right now, but cannot and has to wait.

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No Apology Necessary

CVT,

Thanks so much for this amazing innovation.  You should not apologize for your product being so successful.  You will have more shortly and a slight shortage sometimes creates anticipation and more demand.

 

PTB
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Agreed. It's well deserved

Agreed. It's well deserved success for an awesome idea that you are still obviously pouring a lot of time and effort into. And it's greatly appreciated. :)

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Video Out

Is it possible for the video out to be routed to a PicoVGA, or am I limited to composite out?  While I have CRT's, they are not getting any do not travel well for shows, etc.

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hertz_donut wrote:Is it
hertz_donut wrote:

Is it possible for the video out to be routed to a PicoVGA, or am I limited to composite out?  While I have CRT's, they are not getting any do not travel well for shows, etc.

 

This is something that might be possible theoretically, but at this point I have not spent any time investigating it and it is not in the immediate update plans.

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Ok.  My card arrived

Ok.  My card arrived yesterday and I'm just starting to play.  I'm also an old Commodore guy with my first Apple (a II+).  The display of choice currently has multiple inputs, so perhaps a composite to HDMI adapter will accomplish the same thing, just no as cleanly.  Thanks for the reponse!  Keep up the great work. 

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