Five new opensource AppleII cards coming soon, but we need your help

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Five new opensource AppleII cards coming soon, but we need your help

We (at Garrett’s Workshop) were a little surprised at how many people were interested in our GW4201-series RAM expansion for IIgs, so we figured we would design some new cards for the rest of the Apple II family:

 

GW4203 “RAM2E” - 2MB RamWorks-compatible RAM expansion for Apple IIe Auxillary Slot

GW4204 “GR8RAM” - 8MB “Slinky”/RamFactor-compatible RAM card

GW4205 “Time Machine” - 1MB battery-backed RAM with NoSlotClock-compatible clock

GW4206 “Mouserial” - PS/2-based mouse card, also has USB serial port

GW4207 “Library Card” - ESP32-based WiFi and Bluetooth interface

 

There are also a few accessory-type items:

GW4290 - DMA/IRQ jumper card

GW4102 - ADB-to-PS/2 adapter

GW4190 - 4 MB 30-pin DRAM SIMM

GW28R8128 - Flash replacement for TC531000 28-pin DIP 128k x 8 ROM chip found in Mac SE, Apple IIgs

 

As well, around a week or two ago, we released our revised, lower-profile GW4201B 4MB RAM expansion for IIgs (replacing the older GW4201A, which replaced the even older GW4201C). We have been calling this one "RAM4GS" but evidently some other card is called that, so... maybe I have to refrain from using the nickname. The new card is designed for automatic assembly in our factory which my friend/business partner Garrett Fellers and I have personally built and run. A newer revision of this same board (same GW4201B designation) is coming soon with ~50mA lower power consumption:

 

With the exception of RAM2E and some of the accessories, these boards all require software to be useful. Regarding Mouserial and Library Card, not only do these need Apple II ROM software, but they also contain microcontrollers that must run their own software, so they have even more complexity. Rather than having proprietary nonfree software or, in the case of the ROM software on the cards, copying Apple’s or AE’s ROMs, I figured we could try to collectively do the requisite software development.

 

For these products with software, we will release the schematics, bill-of-materials, board layout source, PLD firmware, and the software which we have written so far under some kind of permissive, open-source license, probably GPL. We will also try our best to sell the cards for what we feel are reasonable prices. RAM2E will be priced at $30 USD, and GR8RAM, Mouserial, and Library Card will be $40. Time Machine will be priced at $50, as the 1MB SRAM and the vintage DS1215 clock chip account a lot of the cost when acquired from the most reputable sources. We will be trying some cheaper vendors for the clock chip and seeing if their parts are indeed genuine. I have developed a pretty good eye for fake chips. If we can reduce our costs by $5 or $10 on the Time Machine, that will be reflected in a lower selling price for the card, which we think is a little too expensive at $50. All prices include tax and shipping to the 48 contiguous United States. We haven't priced the accessories yet but they will be inexpensive.

 

We are hoping that in exchange for our open-source contributions that some skilled members of the community will contribute their time, knowledge, and ideas to these cards. We do try to make money selling the products, but we think it’s a fair amount considering the investment in our assembly line, etc. And of course, we have designed the products to be pretty much best-in-class but sell for something like half the price of similar solutions. We want to move a bit quicker and develop some more interesting products. I have accelerator designs for Apple II and Macintosh in mind and there are also some similar products for Macintosh, Commodore, and Nintendo that have been on the back-burner for a while which I want to get out there to those communities. These current products’ hardware designs could all be revised with improvements or new features. My hope is that with some help from the community, we can move faster and all have cooler products for our vintage machines.

 

Anyway, the hardware designs are all done and I am pretty confident that the hardware I have designed can support the intended functionality. Other than Library Card (which has a lot of potential but I don't really know what to do with it in terms of software), I know exactly how to implement the requisite software, it's just a matter of time. So hopefully some others can assist and the cards can become usable sooner. I’m gonna have boards made for all of these products simultaneously, but I need to focus on them just one or two at a time.

 

Source will be coming soon on GitHub for the cards, maybe one-at-a-time as I go through them and get the software usable (hopefully with some help from others), or maybe I will just post the files all at once. We will also be offering the cards for sale once we receive the boards from the board manufacturer in China, but we don’t want to formally put them up for sale yet as they don’t have software to make them work (RAM2E and most of the accessories aside). So you’ll have to contact me if you want a card at this time. Free hardware will of course be provided for top contributors.

 

What does everyone think? It makes me uncomfortable to ask for help with these projects knowing that my friend and I are going to profit off of the sale of the cards, but on the other hand, we want to make sure that people can readily buy the cards, rather than them being a sort of abstract thing that you have to know how to build yourself in order to obtain. To do that we have to make a little money. So I hope this strikes everyone as fair.

 

Now, if indeed the current proposal is seen as fair enough, which products merit attention first?

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Interested!

I would be interested in a few of those cards.

I can help with assembly.  Let me know through PM.

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I'm interested.  I've been

I'm interested.  I've been out of pocket for the past week on vacation.  I will follow up once I've gotten decompressed.

 

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Macnoyd,

Macnoyd,

PM sent. We do have the whole automated factory going now though. The assembly line has a solder paste stencil printer, a LitePlacer pick-and-place machine capable of loose part pickup of these largeish SMD 1.27mm pitch chips, and then a 3-stage conveyor belt reflow oven. Three stages wasn't quite enough so we have been doing 30-second presoak on a hot plate set to 100C. That has been producing quite good results with very few defects.

Back in January when I announced the 4MB RAM card for IIgs, you mentioned that you wanted to buy it as an unassembled kit. I was trying to offer a kit but there was one big problem. The DRAM chips have proven to be incredibly ESD-sensitive when not mounted on a board. Once on the boards, we have abused them plenty with no ill consequences. We have tried to take fair ESD precautions during production, but we did make one mistake which demonstrated to us the sensitivity of the DRAM chips. Late one night, my friend and I were re-working a batch of IIgs RAM boards early in our production of the card. I removed some DRAM chips from the tray in which they were stored and pushed them across a wooden table (not ESD-safe)  to my friend. He removed the chips and soldered them on the boards. More than half of the 10-15 boards we reworked at that time failed testing afterwards. We traced the failure to the DRAM chips themselves. We improved our ESD precautions and have not had a single failure traceable to the DRAM since. The chips are all from the same lot and seller. So we were hesitant to sell the RAM card as a kit given that we had broken the DRAMs so easily. They don't stand up to nearly as much abuse as a 74xx chip or GAL or ATMega or something. Once on the board, the chips are much more resiliant, and we have not heard of a RAM card of ours that was working but then failed after being handled. But the bare DRAMs have proven quite delicate.

 

Softwarejanitor,

Looking forward to hearing from you about which cards you are most interested in, any other ideas, etc.

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I just bought your GW4201B

I just bought your GW4201B card on ebay a few days ago. I bought a ROM1 GS a few weeks back as a test machine for the development of the hard drive emulator I'm working on. Only to discover GS/OS requires 1MB of RAM and with my current memory card I only have 384k. I was considering making my own 4MB card until I saw the price of yours and decided making one for myself wasn't worth the effort.

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Great stuff so far!  GW4207

Great stuff so far!  GW4207 is first on my list of desirability followed by GW28R8128 (assuming custom ROM images can be loaded). 

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David_M,

David_M,

Thank you for your purchase! We are happy to be making a capable and affordable product.

 

lpp71,

Yes, you can reprogram the flash chip on the GW28R8128 but you have to desolder it, socket it in the right programming adapter and burn it, and then re-solder the chip back on the adapter board. Or you can somehow define a custom pinout in your ROM programmer program, and then jumper the R/W signal to your ROM programmer's ZIF socket. Sorry if it strikes you as a little hard. I planned to sell these with IIgs ROM01 and Mac SE images already burned on them. I've got an SE with a SWIM floppy chip but no SWIM ROMs, and a IIgs ROM00 system which has been upgraded to ROM01, but its ROM is broken. Hence why I did the GW28R8128, to fix those two computers of mine and help others solve the same kinds of problems.

 

As for the Library Card, like I said, I have no idea what to do with it. From a technical perspective, the work is done to allow software in the Apple II to talk to software in the ESP32. What to do after that is beyond me. So the Library Card is a bit of a more distant goal. The other cards have clearer objectives. Even Mouserial, which is the next most complicated, is pretty simple compared to the huge open-endedness of what's possible with the Library Card. So that will take a while to get figured out to the point that it's useful to a typical user. Right now, I see it more as a development board.

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I'd be happy to help with

I'd be happy to help with Mouserial and the PS/2-ADB converter, as I wanted to do something similar for quite some time.

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Where can I find out more

Where can I find out more about the GW4205 “Time Machine” ?   Is that an Apple IIe combo memory and No-Slot clock?   If so, where can I get one? 

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I have finished the GR8RAM

I have finished the GR8RAM and Time Machine and these cards should be released soon!

Both are working great on my IIgs systems. Now I will be reaching out to some skilled individuals in the Apple II community to test the cards on the IIe and II/II+. In particular, the II and II+ have slightly less forgiving timing than the IIe, so I am looking in particular for testers with a II or II+.

 

As promised, the complete design files for GR8RAM and Time Machine have been released under a BSD-type license:

https://github.com/ZaneKaminski/GR8RAM

https://github.com/ZaneKaminski/TimeMachine

 

Nighthawk70 wrote:

Where can I find out more about the GW4205 “Time Machine” ?   Is that an Apple IIe combo memory and No-Slot clock?   If so, where can I get one? 

Oops, sorry for neglecting the thread for a month. The Time Machine is compatible with the "Slinky" and RamFactor RAM cards, and yes, it has the NoSlotClock's clock chip as well. I noticed you live in Pickerington. I live in Dublin and attend college at OSU. Since you're so close, would you like to meet up and I can give you some cards to try out?

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Zane,

Zane,

 

I have several ][+ and a Tiawan/Hong Kong made ][+ clone as well as a Laser 128.

 

 

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softwarejanitor wrote:Zane,I

softwarejanitor wrote:

Zane,

I have several ][+ and a Tiawan/Hong Kong made ][+ clone as well as a Laser 128.

 

Wow, interesting. I will put you on the list to try one out once I solve some current issues. In particular, there is an apparent incompatibiltiy between the CFFA3000 and the Time Machine and GR8RAM. Once I get that resolved, I will reach out to a few more testers and then release the cards once I'm confident they work well.

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I have a IIgs as well, and 3

I have a IIgs as well, and 3 Platinum //e and an older rev B //e.  And an Apple ///.

 

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Zane Kaminski wrote:Wow,

Zane Kaminski wrote:

Wow, interesting. I will put you on the list to try one out once I solve some current issues. In particular, there is an apparent incompatibiltiy between the CFFA3000 and the Time Machine and GR8RAM. Once I get that resolved, I will reach out to a few more testers and then release the cards once I'm confident they work well.

 

If you are still looking for testers, I have the following machines available for testing:

  • Apple II+
  • Apple II+ Clone (motherboard says made in Japan)
  • Apple //e
  • Apple //e Clone (Redstone)
  • 2 * ROM01 Apple IIgs
  • 2 * Rom03 Apple IIgs

 

Mass storage devices I use:

  • CFFA v2
  • CFFA3000
  • High Speed SCSI
  • KbooHK WDrive

 

Other cards of note worth testing against that I have available:

  • FastCHIP //e
  • VidHD
  • Plamens Apple II VGA Scaler
  • TranswarpGS
  • ZipGSX
  • Softcard CP/M and Applicard CP/M cards

 

Just send me a PM if you need another tester.

 

Cheers,

Mike

 

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What I really need is a

What I really need is a CFFA3000. I don't want to send out any more cards to test until I understand the nature of the incompatibility between the cards. Unfortunately the CFFA3000 is currently out of production. Rich, the creator of the CFFA, says that in another week he will know if he has any "refurbished" cards he can sell me. So until I get the CFFA or otherwise figure out why they aren't working together, I don't wanna send out any more test units.

Polymorph and softwarejanitor, your collections of cards and machines are very interesting. I will put you two near the top of my list of testers, but like I said, I've probably got to get a CFFA3000 before I can send out any more cards.

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I have a CFFA3000 as well as

I have a CFFA3000 as well as a FloppyEmu and a LIRON card that I can use with that.  I've got a bunch of other interesting cards.  For accellerators I've got a FastChip //e, a Transwarp and a Titan Accellerator //e.  I've also got an ALS Z80 card, SmartTERM and Videx VideoTERM cards for ][+, Echo speech card, and other stuff like that.

 

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