A warning about the "improved ACI" PCB confusion (or scams)

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A warning about the "improved ACI" PCB confusion (or scams)

Hi fans -

 

it has been brought to my attention that some sellers on Ebay (and possibly elsewhere) advertise "improved" ACI PCBs for sale.

 

Here is my WARNING to you:

 

Do not confuse these "improved" ACI PCBs with the "Gen1" or "Gen2" improved ACI PCBs which I developed and which came with my Apple-1 IC kits (now sold out).

 

Instead, all these "improved" ACI PCBs advertised on Ebay I found (after I got alerted) are just based on the "Russian" Gerbers which were  improved  by the American Logan Greer, and released to the public. These improvements by Logan are cosmetic in nature and bring the "looks" of these PCBs closer to the originals. For instance, among other things, Logan substituted the small round IC pads against larger oval IC pads. Which indeed looks nicer and more "original". But none of these improvements by Logan changed the ACI circuit, which I did for the "Gen1" and "Gen2" improved ACI PCBs I developed and have written about in this thread:

 

https://www.applefritter.com/content/uncle-bernies-improved-apple-1-cassette-interface

 

For those who don't want to read that thread, here is a short summary:

 

My Gen1 improvements fixed the "volume indicator LED" circuit,  added a synchronizer for the read data, and gave the ACI the capability to use 512x4 PROMs in lieu of the 256x4 PROMs of the original ACI. I added an "extended format page" which gives the ACI the capability to write and read Apple II cassette recordings and also do autoload and autostart recordings for the Apple-1, including checksum checks. Out of respect for Woz, I did not change his original ACI code to accomplish that. The "extended formatting" page is just an add-on you get when you start the ACI firmware at $C500 and not at $C100. If you start at $C100, you still get the unmodified ACI firmware as written by Woz. I made a Gen1 improved PCB based on the Russian Gerbers by Misha Mdesk, which he placed in the public domain (at that time Logan's cosmetic improvements did not exist yet).

 

These Gen1 improvements worked OK  as long as a good quality cassette  recorder was used, or, if AIFF or WAV files were played to the ACI via a sound card of a PC or notebook (or iPod, etc.). But it still had the fundamentally flawed TAPE IN circuit of the original ACI.

 

My Gen 2 improvements kept all the Gen1 improvements as they were and changed the TAPE IN circuit for a much, much better one which is in par (readback reliability wise) with the Apple II cassette interface (but does not need any negative supply voltage, so these Gen2 improved ACI cards also work in the Briel Replica-1). My improved TAPE IN circuit adds a few SMDs hidden under the DIL-8 socket of the LM311, and re-uses the exising leaded, vintage-looking resistors (but the circuit is much different). So the "looks" are preserved, compared to the original ACI.

 

My Gen2 improved PCB incorporating all my circuit improvements was based on the proprietary Gerbers of Mike "Newton" who also sells his "Newton" Apple-1 motherboards. His Ebay seller name is "newton-computer". The deal we cut allowed me to produce the Gen2 improved ACI PCBs and put them into my kits. After that, the rights reverted to him. He got the leftover PCBs from me and is preparing to make them available for sale, but the last communications we had revolved over his difficulty finding 512x4 PROM blanks for an acceptable price (some IC brokers now want up  to and over $70 each, and two are needed for the ACI).

 

So please be patient, the solution is in the works ! Don't get deceived by "improved" ACI PCBs which are based on Logan's Gerbers, but do not include my mods.  You can easily identify the "impostors" by not having the SMD circuitry between the LM311 pads. Here is a photo how the "real McCoy" looks:

 

 

This is the newest (and last) revision of the layout, optimized for the LM4040 shunt regulator, which you can only get from Mike. You can see a lot of tiny SMD "footprints" between the pads of the DIL-8 place on the left hand side of the PCB. This is part of the improved TAPE IN circuit I developed. The solder blobs you can see are part of the trick how you can hand solder these tiny "bird feed" components in.

 

If you can't see the "footprints" and traces for the extra SMD components on any ACI PCB, it does not have my "Gen2 improvements", period.

 

If you don't need my Gen2 improvements for the ACI, these other so-called "improved" ACI PCBs are probably OK for you, but you won't get a functional volume indicator LED, no extended format page, and the poor readback reliability of the original TAPE IN circuit.

 

So please, don't get confused about what is offered by these sellers and what you will get. Note that I don't claim they are doing this deceiving advertisement with the intent to defraud, it just so happens that in the context of Apple-1 ACI PCBs, the word "improved" may mean two different PCBs with different circuits. But I got enough angry email from people who thought that they were scammed. So be warned, and know what you buy, and from whom you buy.

 

- Uncle Bernie

 

 

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Hi Uncle Bernie!

You've got it all mixed up again, Uncle Bernie. Logan didn't improve the look of ACI, just the main board. And he did a great job! When young people like him are so passionate about the hobby, I am optimistic about the future of the Apple-1 scene.

 

 

A couple of years ago, I and Mischa Mdesk to slightly update the design of his ACI, added the SCC logo, enlarged the contact pads and tweaked the font. All of these can be downloaded from here from Applefritter for self-order. I thought about modifying the board a bit more to replace the 2 rare bipolar PROMs with cheaper and more readily available EPROM 2716s, but after some thought I didn't do it yet.

 

 

There is also a guy from Canada who is working on improving the look of the ACI. He sells his creations as "improved ACI" at moonlighting prices. That's who you were talking about.

 

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In post #3, macintosh_nik

In post #3, macintosh_nik wrote:

 

"A couple of years ago, I and Mischa Mdesk to slightly update the design of his ACI, added the SCC logo, enlarged the contact pads and tweaked the font."

 

Uncle Bernie answers:

 

So it was  y o u  who made the cosmetic improvements to the "open source" Gerbers of the ACI coming from Misha, and not Logan ?

Oh, what a mixup, I stand corrected. Nice work, BTW ! Your version of the ACI really looks very close to the originals.

 

But the issue with the confusion about what is just a  cosmetically   "improved"  ACI PCB and what is the "Gen2 improved" ACI PCB with all my circuit mods to make it work reliably had to be brought to the light of day. And for this, my post #1 tells everything prospective buyers must know.

 

- Uncle Bernie

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Hi Uncle Bernie!

Thank you! Who is interested can take files for self-order of these boards

 nttps://www.applefritter.com/content/renewed-aci-board-design

 

As you rightly said the changes are only cosmetic. Those who are looking for a more reliable ACI with a working light indication scheme should be patient and wait a bit for "Gen2" boards. I was a beta tester on this project, "Gen1" impressed me a lot, especially the Turbo basic which loads if I remember correctly in 2 seconds. Great job!

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Michael 'Newton' is getting ready to sell genuine Gen2 ACI PCBs

.... and the PROMS, too. His Ebay seller name is 'newton-computer'.

 

Search on Ebay for "Apple Computer A prototype replica" to find him. And make sure to verify the seller name is 'newton-computer'. There are many, many vendors now of Apple-1 related PCBs of various kinds, but only Michael has the "Gen2 improved ACI" PCBs which I developed based on his Gerbers.

 

Just as a sidenote, there are so many Apple-1 PCB sellers now that I wonder where the buyers of these empty PCBs get the ICs needed to complete a build. Maybe this deluge of empty PCBs did cause the "great sucking sound" in which all these rare Apple-1 specific ICs did disappear (I mean the Signetics 2504, 2513, 2519, and the DS0025). My source of 6502 also was sucked dry. So there are definitely a lot of Apple-1 clones in the making.

 

Maybe we will soon have 1000 Apple-1 clones in the world ?

 

- Uncle Bernie

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And here is another crazy example:

Look at this:

 

     https://www.ebay.com/itm/134788235602

 

I wonder which hourly rate this seller assumes for his work ? Like a lawyer, $600 per hour ?

 

OK, granted, it looks like a nice build of good quality, but $349 ???? For an ACI clone ????

 

To me it seems that the Apple-1 clone world gets more and more crazy in terms of prices asked.

 

- Uncle Bernie

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Agreed ...

Agreed Uncle Bernie.  It does look like a nice build, but I think he must have included his hourly wage for assembling.  I wish him luck...

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I have created a post about

I have created a post about the GEN2 ACI boards in the "sales and trade" forum. 

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