Hello from New Zealand

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GregZone
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Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2021 8:10 am

Hello from New Zealand

Post by GregZone » Wed Jun 30, 2021 5:42 am

Hello from New Zealand.

I’m a long time computer, microprocessor, digital electronics enthusiast, having started out as a teenager in the late 70’s / early 80’s, when I spent most of my spare time playing with this amazing new digital electronics thing called the Microprocessor!

I was amazed at how a typical complex digital electronics logic design, involving many many TTL chips, could be replaced with a CPU and a few support chips, with some hex machine code capable of performing perhaps 500,000 operations in a second! Wow! :shock:

I eventually made various homebrew systems, mostly focussed on the MC6800 and my favourite 8-bit CPU of all time, the MC6809. Back then, these designs were built using WireWrap, generally on EuroCard matrix PCB’s with DIN41612 bus connectors.
Also, these systems were hand machine-coded (on paper.. no fancy Assemblers back then), and a homebrew EPROM programmer circuit was required to get the code into your design (with a seemingly insane process of debugging… by modern standards). :roll:

After building various of my own designs, and others designs, I then moved on to pre-built computers, like the System 80 (TRS-80 clone), and the Commodore 64 (which was my introduction to 6502 machine code).

But before I put you all to sleep, I should mention my connection with the CreatiVision. I was employed by Dick Smith Electronics New Zealand. We sold the Dick Smith Wizzard labeled version, circa 1983. I ended up in IT, initially creating, and then looking after all the subsequent Dick Smith NZ internal computer systems. 8-)

In New Zealand the Wizzard was only able to be imported as a “Computer System” (with the bundled keyboard & BASIC cartridge), as NZ import restrictions, at the time, did not allow the import of TV Game Consoles.
In addition, NZ had a 50% Import Duty and a further 40% Sales Tax on all computer equipment, which made all computer systems very expensive to buy for New Zealanders.

Unfortunately I never owned a Wizzard back then, as all my hard earned pay went into a System 80 around that time.
However, I do fondly remember playing the likes of Crazy Chicky and Sonic Invaders, when the first Wizzard’s landed in New Zealand.
Highly memorable, because at that time, Colour TV Game Consoles were pretty much an unheard of thing to New Zealanders.

I found the CreativEmu website when a Wizzard came up for sale recently, which brought all of the memories flooding back.
Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to buy it. But, some follow-up research reminded me that the Wizzard was based on 6502 and TMS9929. This was a VDP I had played around with on my own Microprocessor designs in the early days (possibly inspired by the Wizzard at the time). Also, the MC6821 PIA being the fundamental IO chip I used on my Motorola 6800 & 6809 boards. So, this recollection lead me to digging around in my old parts storage to find what I had to play around with again.

I do have too many maker projects on the go already, but I do hope to explore this further, and hopefully find the technical information on the Forum, that I would otherwise be trying to determine from scratch. Never a great use of time to be re-inventing too many wheels! ;)

Looking through my own Dick Smith NZ archive, I found the Wizzard advertised in the Dick Smith NZ 1983/84 Catalogue, and I sent a scan of the page to Luca. Luca asked if I could possibly scan the complete catalogue… So, I’ve now diligently spent the last few hours (literally) scanning the full 72 page catalogue and uploading it to the Internet Archive.

Being a perfectionist, I (of course) had to find my most pristine condition copy of the catalogue (I have a few), and then after being unhappy with the first 15 or so pages scanned, I decided to remove the binding staples so I could perfectly scan each page flat on my flatbed scanner, at 300dpi.

I’m very happy with the end result, given that in the interests of historic preservation, you really do want to do the best job you can!

For those interested, here is the link:
Dick Smith NZ Enthusiasts Catalogue 1983/84

Luca, you’ll find the Wizzard page is much better quality than the page I scanned and sent to you earlier.

For amusement, the inside back cover features a photo of all the 8 staff of DSE NZ at the time, including myself. I’m the young, but tall, teenager on the right hand side, holding a System 80 (with a Votrax Speech Synthesizer on top), and proudly showing my NZ flag!

If you lasted to the end of this introduction, then top marks! I hope you enjoy taking a look at the 1983/84 Dick Smith NZ Catalogue.

Now to find some time to browse the forum…
Last edited by GregZone on Wed Jun 30, 2021 6:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Scouter3d
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Re: Hello from New Zealand

Post by Scouter3d » Wed Jun 30, 2021 7:12 am

Welcome GregZone!

very nice scan of the catalog!

The schematic for the Creativision is available, i was thinking about building a replica CV for some time... maybe you will build one :0)

Daydreaming mode on:
Replica CV with selectable BIOS (CV, Laser2001, Salora Manager) 32K RAM, PS/2 keyboard, F18a Video, SD card interface... :0)
Daydreaming mode off :0)

Cheers from Austria, TOM:0)
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GregZone
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Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2021 8:10 am

Re: Hello from New Zealand

Post by GregZone » Wed Jun 30, 2021 7:54 am

Scouter3d wrote:
Wed Jun 30, 2021 7:12 am
Welcome GregZone! very nice scan of the catalog!
Thanks Tom.
Scouter3d wrote:
Wed Jun 30, 2021 7:12 am
The schematic for the Creativision is available, i was thinking about building a replica CV for some time... maybe you will build one :0)
Yes, I burried myself in the 4 pages of schematics on my first visit. I always find a schematic the quickest way to get an overview.
Scouter3d wrote:
Wed Jun 30, 2021 7:12 am
Daydreaming mode on:
Replica CV with selectable BIOS (CV, Laser2001, Salora Manager) 32K RAM, PS/2 keyboard, F18a Video, SD card interface... :0)
Daydreaming mode off :0)
I hadn't seen the F18a. But I see it's an FPGA video implementation. I'd probably be more interested in a more retro, original ASIC, based project. Possibly even sticking with all through-hole / DIP etc, in the interests of ease of assembly for anyone (although perhaps some SMD would be acceptable). 8-)

My initial (more simplistic) musings were...

An interesting project to put together an updated variation of the circuit. eg. replacing the 8x triple-supply 4116 DRAM with a single 5v SRAM with some DA demux (which I see is a solved challenge), and adding a modern “clean” component video output for the TMS9929 (which I also see is a solved problem), and perhaps then also updating the CPU to the 6502 cycle accurate 65C816 (just for the fun of it).

No doubt this may well require some code tweaks, depending on if any of the 6502’s undocumented instructions had been utilised (which would conflict with a modern WDC 65Cxx).

To progress this pondering, my next question is whether anyone has disassembled, analyzed and documented the BIOS ROM?
This would be my logical starting point for investigating a modernised retro CPU re-think.

Time is my major challenge... but, hey, from daydreams successful projects often arise (eventually) ;)
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cheshirenoir
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Re: Hello from New Zealand

Post by cheshirenoir » Wed Jun 30, 2021 8:24 am

Welcome GregStone.
Your plans sound a lot more exciting than mine :-)

Cheers!

Chesh
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MADrigal
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Re: Hello from New Zealand

Post by MADrigal » Wed Jun 30, 2021 11:40 am

Greg it is such a pleasure to have you here! Wish you enjoy all the forum and this great community has to offer :)
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