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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 10:06 am 
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This weekend I had to opportunity to pay a visit to the bimonthly HCC-meeting in Maarsen. Unlike most C-64 related meetings i've been visiting before, this place was rather crammed with C-64 enhusiasts than sceners. Unlike most american user-groups, these guys seems to be focused on new hardware development. Among the guys who frequently visits these events you have people like Ruud Baltissen, Jan Derogee and Gideon Zweijtzer - who alone could do wonders with the C-64 hardware.

The 1541-Ultimate

Gideon Zweijtzer showed me the latest developments of his project, the 1541-Ultimate. I recall reading about it some year ago when I checked out the 1541-III project by Jan Derogee, but I didn't really raise any eyebrows then. Seeing his latest, more or less finished, boards and testing it hands-on was a totally different thing. This is one of the nicer hardware-thingies i've ever got my hands on. The core is a cartridge with an FPGA which is ment to be an emulator or replacement for the 1541, but it doesn't stop there.

What surprised me a little is that it resembles the upcoming Super Snapshot a lot. It features a normal MMC-card slot, a mini-USB slot and a C64 serial port - visually it looks a bit like a pimped-up MMC-64. The cart itself holds an image of an Action Replay and a TFC III within, activating when you turn it on - working just like an ordinary cart. It has three buttons - a reset-button, a freeze button and a button to access the file-system of the MMC. The cart can potentially emulate any C-64 drive - the ram of the board is the limit. Currently it's set to emulate the 1541 - and it does it well. Very well.

I had no problem running normal Dreamload-based demos from the MMC-card. Neither was there a problem running stuff which had Lasse Öörnis loader, Deus Ex Machina (Grahams loader), MMS loader and so on. It didn't manage Krills latest loaders though. Writing to .d64 files within the MMC-card was no problem, and it utilized the Action Replay's fast-load/save routines. To change disk, you just tapped the button in the back of the cart and choose a new disk from the menu - while keeping memory and all registers in the C-64 unaltered.

But what do this mean in practice, then? Well, it's a very portable 1541 for starters. One that is portable enough to bring anywhere. Second, you won't really need a PC to transfer disks anymore. Just connect a normal 1541 as device #9 and start any diskcopy program of your choice. You can even back-up or write disks with the built in copier of the Action Replay.

Gideon is currently working on the "external" option of the cart. This means that you could use the mini-USB as a power-source and running it without having it plugged into the cartridge-port. Running it externally changes the use of the buttons - the reset and freeze buttons are used to swap .d64 images and the middle-button is used to reach and get out of subdirectories. This function is currently in development, though.

The reason Gideon haven't been putting it into production - right now he solders them manually - is that the cost of the cart is about 100 euro with all the components included and that he needed to produce atleast 25 carts to be able to sell it for the same price. Me and TDJ assured him that 25 sceners would buy it without any hesitation for 100 euro.

Would you be interested in a device such as this? 90% of all old games and demos - IRQ or not - are currently running on it, and Gideon's constantly working on improving this percentage. The firmware can either be flashed onto the cart or be running on the fly from the MMC-card, so upgrading it is no problem. The current hardware design seems to be the final one. Let me know, and i'll tell him on the next meeting.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 12:10 pm 
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Yep, I'd buy one, if only just to try it out. C128 compatibility would be a must though (like the RR - launch cart with C= down, go to normal C128 mode without).

I think the freezer cartridge approach is interesting, it certainly solves the "how do I switch d64s?" problem elegantly. I still think I'd prefer a standalone device though, so it's nice to see that he's going that route as well.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 1:32 pm 
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Location: Kungsör, Sweden
I would definately buy one for 100 euro. Although being used to glitching carts makes me a bit scared of having to use buttons on the cart to change disks, but I guess thats nothing a small hardware mod cant fix.
90% is good enough for me, so I'd love to get my hands on one now, rather than wait around for better compability.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 4:55 pm 
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Location: Stockholm
I'd definately buy one! It looks very promising, even though I also would prefer to have a stand-alone device rather than using the "third" button.
Since it emulates the 1541, which similar devices don't, this would easily replace the MMC64 I use today.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 5:17 pm 
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Sign me up for one as well!

@2F: Thanks for the article! Thumbs up! :D


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 7:09 pm 
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I would buy any photos. :)

There sure has been some great projects around lately. :)

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 8:56 pm 
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This sounds like a good product, and if it works the way you told us, 2blomman, then I would buy not one, but 2-3 of them atleast...

-thomas


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 3:58 am 
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Seems to me were on a winner here.
How about a bit more info, pics or web link to product. :)

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 11:49 am 
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I'm another that would buy. At this point I figure I'll buy one of any new device to help spur development. This one though sounds like something I would use regularly.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 4:13 pm 
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I'm definitely interested.

I'd be even more interested in the standalone usage though, as I'd want to use it on my VIC20!


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 9:33 pm 
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Picture


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File comment: Ultimate 1541
ultimate1541-2.jpg [53.5 KiB]
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 11:45 pm 
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Very cool! I'm also interested.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 12:15 am 
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Uhm.. yeah, I'd take one!
But where's the nic? ;-)


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 12:19 am 
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Right! All this cart needs now is flashable rom, embedded NIC and 1024k RAM (for doing single pass 1581 disk copies) and it would be the Ultimate Gold Cart :D


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 12:27 am 
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..and a programable reset + ultimax boot-strap combo thingy to make xdev stuff REAL easy :wink:


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