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Vintage Computers Any vintage computer systems, calculators, video games etc., but with an emphasis on 1980s and earlier equipment.

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Old 2nd Jun 2023, 11:10 pm   #1
Timbucus
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Default A Softy 2 lives

Well thanks to Sirius, AnalogueMan and Phil_G I am now the proud owner of a Softy 2 EPROM programmer.

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I of course tested the voltages on the PSU (14.2v and 39v) these (off load) seemed close enough the the nominal 9v and 30v indicated on the circuit:

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Removing the four plastic rivets allowed an internal inspection:

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and despite some ominous markings on a chip:

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When plugged in and connected to a TV:

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Yay! I will have to break out the little Sony I think or work out how to get composite working ( a quick try on the BNC did not seem to produce anything).

If you look carefully at the photo the previous owner has added a beeper to to some of the pins of the INS RAM I/O which gives audible feedback not sure if that was standard in the firmware or if this is modified - I will pull it tomorrow and dump. So if you want the full audio visual experience behold my first ever YouTube short...

https://youtube.com/shorts/g0Hf3olJcJI?feature=share
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Old 3rd Jun 2023, 9:03 am   #2
SiriusHardware
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

Fantastic that it is at least nominally working and it's also very useful that it came with the circuit diagram, which itself would have been a major find not so long ago - never mind a complete working example. Once again, I'm grateful to Analogueman for taking the not inconsiderable trouble to make this and the other items he had available.

I mentioned I had seen some good photos of one of these elsewhere, if you go off and find them you will see that that particular machine had a little slip of paper with it saying that the 'feel' of the membrane keypad could be improved by adding a beeper for audio feedback, so I think that is going to be an official mod.

Certainly a good idea to read and save the firmware as soon as possible and programme a back up EPROM as it could be dangerously close to the onset of bit-rot due to its age.

We look forward to this getting the full video treatment once you know your way around it.
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Old 3rd Jun 2023, 2:19 pm   #3
AnalogueMan
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

I'm glad to see this stuff is working and finding good homes. I'll watch this thread with interest.
I'm showing my ignorance here, but what's all that stuff on the screen? I was expecting some sort of prompt saying "Welcome to SOFTY, put in your EPROM and press GO to program" or something like that.
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Old 3rd Jun 2023, 2:46 pm   #4
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

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Originally Posted by AnalogueMan View Post
... what's all that stuff on the screen ?
I used one of these a lot, back in the day.

Basically, all it displays is areas of memory as hex digits.

The SOFTY memory can be used in real time as the memory of a target system, so you can see exactly what your code is doing, and edit it on-the-fly. When you are happy with what you see, you can program it into EPROM.

The hardware is designed specifically to display RAM, and is not really suitable for re-programming as a 'computer', although someone might try it !.

The most interesting things about it are the way the video is generated, and the fact that it uses an 8060.

Great tool at the time, but it wasn't mine. Lost access to it when I changed companies.
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Old 3rd Jun 2023, 4:50 pm   #5
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

If you've not already found them, there was a "Softy 1" thread 9th Jun 2020 which eventually (Page 5) had some Softy 2 pics. A 'beep' board is fitted to one of the machines.
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Old 3rd Jun 2023, 6:26 pm   #6
Timbucus
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

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Originally Posted by circuitryboy View Post
If you've not already found them, there was a "Softy 1" thread 9th Jun 2020 which eventually (Page 5) had some Softy 2 pics. A 'beep' board is fitted to one of the machines.
Yes although I had forgotten how much we all went through on that and the previous OneWatt Softy2 thread - couldn't find the photo of the one with the beep board but worth knowing it was a common mod.

I don't think the documents were ever finally scanned though so here for your perusal is a zip with the two circuit diagrams.

Softy2circuits.zip

You may also all like the scan from the inside of the colour manual cover which has a nice clear display of the screen and a lovely photo of the original Softy1 Kit and its PSU...

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I have dumped the EPROM but not blown a new one for testing as yet.

The print on the manual is very poor - so I will try to enhance before I post - looks like they just photocopied them and stapled them in the nice card colour covers. It does cover Softy2 inline so was the correct manual.

I think the Composite is original as it is mentioned in the adverts - it is not working as looking at it now I can see it has come unsoldered - right where is my iron.
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Old 3rd Jun 2023, 7:27 pm   #7
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

Is there any chance you could photograph the PCB, building a replica SOFTY 2 has been on my wish list for several years but they're as rare as hen's teeth.

I have my replica SOFTY 1 and real S3 and S4 so need to fill the gap !

Chris
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Old 3rd Jun 2023, 7:59 pm   #8
SiriusHardware
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

Not until you've finished the MK14E
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Old 3rd Jun 2023, 8:53 pm   #9
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Old 3rd Jun 2023, 11:06 pm   #10
SiriusHardware
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

Oh, come on, just kidding...
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Old 3rd Jun 2023, 11:35 pm   #11
SiriusHardware
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

I know it's early days, but it would be a good idea to attach the firmware file in a .zip to a post here so that it can be scattered around for safety. I'm guessing that the original firmware and the backup file are currently in the same room and no more than several feet apart...
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Old 4th Jun 2023, 10:56 am   #12
Timbucus
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

Quote:
Originally Posted by SiriusHardware View Post
I know it's early days, but it would be a good idea to attach the firmware file in a .zip to a post here so that it can be scattered around for safety. I'm guessing that the original firmware and the backup file are currently in the same room and no more than several feet apart...
No its mine - all mine - you can't have it [manic laughter]

Softy2TGFW.BIN.zip
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Old 4th Jun 2023, 11:01 am   #13
Timbucus
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

On a similar note here is the RAW scan of the manual (and the other files posted) just in case anything happens...

Has to be a google drive link sorry as it is too big for the forum...

https://drive.google.com/drive/folde...in?usp=sharing
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Old 4th Jun 2023, 11:26 am   #14
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

Thanks Tim, I've grabbed it. It's always good to have hard to come by information like this stashed in a few different places for safety.

That image of the top side of the unbuilt PCB would I'm be very useful to Chris Oddy, I imagine, if it's possible to see where individual tracks are going from and to. In due course it might be possible to get a high quality 1:1 scan of the underside of the PCB to assist with track routing on that side and exact relative placement of the ICs.

I would think the most difficult aspect of making a Softy 2 replica would be replication of the membrane keypad - even if it works better than any of the contemporary Sinclair keypads I think that for the sake of sanity it would be better to replace that with tact switches on a replica.

Did you manage to get the composite output working, then, Tim?
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Old 4th Jun 2023, 11:31 am   #15
Timbucus
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

Quote:
Originally Posted by SiriusHardware View Post
Thanks Tim, I've grabbed it. It's always good to have hard to come by information like this stashed in a few different places for safety.

That image of the top side of the unbuilt PCB would I'm be very useful to Chris Oddy, I imagine, if it's possible to see where individual tracks are going from and to. In due course it might be possible to get a high quality 1:1 scan of the underside of the PCB to assist with track routing on that side and exact relative placement of the ICs.

I would think the most difficult aspect of making a Softy 2 replica would be replication of the membrane keypad - even if it works better than any of the contemporary Sinclair keypads I think that for the sake of sanity it would be better to replace that with tact switches on a replica.

Did you manage to get the composite output working, then, Tim?
I have some tasks on the Next I have to complete today but, I will do my best to capture the PCB (top and bottom) as best I can in hi-res photos soon - I need to be careful removing he clips as they are very brittle.

Yes the composite was just the main lead snapped off - the TV I have though has no adjustment for picture position so I am losing the edges and the top line totally - I do have a CCTV monitor which does have those adjustments but, it has a BNC connector (as does the Softy2) and I can only find one BNC-RCA adapter and no BNC-BNC cables anywhere !!!

Here is the picture on the TV though - brightness at max - this TV does struggle with old signals like ZX81.

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Old 4th Jun 2023, 11:47 am   #16
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

I imagine you will find BNC-BNC male cables easy enough to get hold of but if not let me know, I have quite a few lying around here.

Those two-piece case fixing plastic 'rivets' are still available I believe, so if you are unlucky enough to break one all is not necessarily lost. I would be more afraid of breaking the casing which is obviously irreplaceable.
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Old 4th Jun 2023, 1:55 pm   #17
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

That's great thanks Tim. SiriusHardware - don't worry I won't be picking this up just yet ! The MK14E has been hold whilst I prepared for the Bletchley Econet Party and then dealing with sorting issues after it but nearly there then I'll be back on the MK14E in between the garden that is.

Chris
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Old 5th Jun 2023, 1:02 pm   #18
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

No worries - we are all looking forward to seeing the 'E' eventually but we realise it isn't your day job.

Tim - that chip you noticed with the triple X marking - I do believe that may be a 74S287 PROM (there is one shown in the circuit) - that is another one you will need to read and save a backup of and have a working copy made because we don't know how much longer those BPROMs will be available for.

To read it (only) you should be able to make an adaptor which will rearrange the pins to make it 'look' like a 2716 as far as your EPROM reader is concerned, or you could use one of the Arduino or Raspberry Pi PROM readers which are lying around in past threads.
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Old 5th Jun 2023, 2:30 pm   #19
Phil__G
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Default Re: A Softy 2 lives

I bet Tim feels like a bloke whos been given the job of restoring the Mona Lisa...

No pressure Tim, its only unique...
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Old 5th Jun 2023, 3:53 pm   #20
SiriusHardware
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Oh, He knows....
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