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Old 10-21-2007, 05:41 AM
Grant Stockly Grant Stockly is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 447
Default SuperAltair Card Development

Well, I finished the hardware development (in the computer) for the SuperAltair card over a year ago. I had to stop myself and finish the Altair kits first! After thinking about the SOFTWARE development time required, I've decided to scrap the whole thing and start over. The target price is $250-$350 depending on options selected.

Most of the reasons for the change are quality related, not function.

The biggest change is the substitution of the FPGA and -several- AVRs with a 200MHz ARM computer running Linux. Don't even think about mentioning the irony of a 200MHz RISC computer doing the dirty work for a 2MHz 8080. The combined AVRs and FPGA were also about as excessive.

The reason for the major change is to EASILY support USB, file systems, etc. The SBC is inexpensive, and will actually reduce the cost!

  • 64k of SRAM (final size undecided, 64k to 128k to 512k???)
  • Option to disable the first 1k OR 5k so that the original 88-1MCS OR 1MCS and 4MCS MITS card can be used (to increase the amount of vintage cards!)
  • Option to disable the first 32k (for other RAM cards)
  • Option to disable the second 32k ...
  • Power users may program the CPLD to do whatever they want...
Flash Memory:
  • 512k of FLASH (only programmable via software, unless you can toggle at a 6us rate)
  • 56k to 60k is the first 4k in the flash. 60k to 64k is swapped via a page register
POJ: (Power-On-Jump)
  • A special SPLD device senses a reset. It disables the S-100 memory cards and provides a jump instruction to the address specified by DIP switches. For example, the Altair could automatically jump to FF00 when the reset switch is pushed. This feature will allow the ROM Monitor to come up without trying. This feature combined with the one below will give you the experience of the Apple II..."Power on and go"
POR: (Power On Reset)
  • A function of the I/O processor is to reset the Altair on power up. Combined with POJ above the Altair can automatically boot basic, monitor, etc with just a flip of the power switch - like an Apple II
  • Two true 6850 UART chips to guarantee full compatibility
  • RS-232 ONLY (unlike the 2SIO)
  • 1st and 2nd port can be connected to an external serial device
  • 1st port can be connected to an optional I/O processor to provide a standalone VGA+USB keyboard terminal function OR provide a telnet interface TO the Altair (you could open a telnet session the Altair instead of using a serial cable)
  • Option to disable the 2SIO I/O address space (so a real 2SIO can be used)
  • The I/O processor (ARM SBC) is required for this option
  • All 16 disk drives are emulated
  • Source for disk drives can be any USB mass storage device (including a floppy disk)
  • A combination of disk drives and floppy drives may be used. (Any file system available to linux for all you power-users)
  • Full compatibility with all MITS based software (330k disks)
  • Emulated sounds of a real disk drive available if the MP3 option is installed
  • Raw access power users
  • Expanded disk images for CP/M (8MB for CP/M 2.2 and 64MB for CP/M 3.0)
  • The I/O processor (ARM SBC) is required for this option
  • Input provided via USB keyboard (or a PS/2 keyboard with a USB adapter)
  • Output provided via VGA
  • Online viewing of Altair PDF manuals (or any PDF) is available if the SBC is bought with an upgraded RAM option (a mouse would help too)
  • For power users, the terminal is simply a keyboard and monitor attached to a Debian Linux SBC. X-windows applications and other goodies are possible from the Altair.
Ethernet: (Optional)
  • RTL8019AS 10mbit 10Base-T Ethernet controller daughter card. This option does not need to be installed. Based on the discontinued packet whacker
  • 10Base-T with 16k buffer space
  • Option to disable the I/O Address Space used
MP3 Audio Decoder: (Optional)
  • STA013 + CS4334 circuit on a small daughter card to expand the SuperAltair card, this does not need to be installed...but life is short!
  • Used to produce the terminal "Bell" sound, as well as emulated disk sounds (so that the sounds of a vintage disk drive can be simulated)
  • Read Access (to any feature of the board)
  • Write Access ...
  • 0-1023 or 0-5119 RAM Access (usage of vintage cards)
  • RAM Access
  • FLASH Access
  • Ethernet Access -
  • MP3 Access
  • 2SIO Access
  • DISK Access (MMC/SD Flash)
My choices for the ARM SBC are:
  • TS-7200 if you do not require the terminal option. It is $149 + $6 for the connector.
  • TS-7300 if you want the terminal option. It is $210 not including possible memory upgrades necessary for viewing the PDFs
I might have forgotten something, but it would be small. This is a good place to start the discussion. Please provide feedback on the features, desired features, etc.

Now is the time to complain. No money has been committed to the design yet.
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Old 10-21-2007, 05:44 AM
Grant Stockly Grant Stockly is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 447


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Old 10-21-2007, 03:45 PM
TomL_12953 TomL_12953 is offline
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Location: Malone, NY USA
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Question RE: SuperAltair Card Development

How about allowing the upper 8K to be deselected so a PROM card can be used?
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Old 03-02-2008, 04:04 PM
sje sje is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 62
Default 800x600 VGA output

I took a look at the 7300 and noted that the VGA support listed is 800x600. I doubt if there are many modern, off the shelf monitors with a native resolution that small. An 800x600 output will appear in one of two ways on a modern display: scaled up (looks lousy except if on a 1600x1200 monitor), or centered with a dual letterbox border.

Also, most off the shelf monitors are now wide screen with either 8:5 or 16:9 aspect ratios. I think the 4:3 VGA aspect has come and gone.
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