Modern solutions for old computers & consoles
4 NICESposted by Iain Metcalf
from Durham United Kingdom
in Retro Computing Features
on January 10, 2017
Much like my Dreamcast mod that replaced the battery backup button cell with 2 AAA rechargeables there are many things you can buy or do to your old kit to keep it alive and kicking and running today. Some stuff is doing composite out on an old console for better image quality, others replace internal disc drives for modern SD cards and there are a few that completely change the machine.
So, I had been looking into getting a ram expansion for my Amstrad CPC464. For those not familiar with the older computers specifically Amstrad, it was the brainchild of Sir Alan Sugar who had previous success with record players and hi fi systems during the 70s and early 80s. He seen how well Commodore were doing and also the other British company Sinclair, so he decided he wanted a piece of that market so along came the CPC range of computers. These machines came with their own screen so the kids wouldn't be taking up space in front of the often only TV in the house.
CPC literally means Colour Personal Computer, the 464 has a built in tape deck for loading cassettes and saving work from spreadsheets and other office apps for school work (yeah right, gimme games mam!!!) and sports 64k ram (much like the loved Commodore 64), the 6128 machine came with the oblong 3" IBM compatible discs and sports a whopping 128k ram which was a lot for the time!
Not forgetting that games on tape were a lot cheaper than discs.
So for those 464 users they would have to buy a ram pack, usually a DK Tronics 64k or an extravagant 256k was also available, these things weren't cheap back in the day for kids or parents, nowadays they occasionally appear on eBay but the pricing can go quite high, it depends on how many people are really wanting one.
So after looking about the net and battering my head against a wall I found the X Mem, so I contacted the guy that makes them in France and explained what I was wanting it for, essentially giving my tape based system 128k ram. After a few emails I knew it was compatible with my system (main CPU has to be made by Zilog not ST Micro Electronics, easy to swap as the guy sells replacements for around €5). So after around 6 weeks wait the X-Mem arrived, after messing for an entire morning I couldn't get it to load a tape. It turns out that he programmed the wrong rom file, the one he had done had removed tape support, so yesterday I received a replacement chip with the stock 6128 rom.
So now when I turn the machine on it believes it is a 6128 machine saying 128k ram at the top and Basic 1.1 and it loads tapes!!
Reason for showing Adams Family in the pic is that it is a 128k only game, it states on the box end 6128 and 6128+ only. If you try to load it on a 64k machine the screen goes blank when it finishes loading.
Other benefits include single loads on a lot of games, on 64k when playing The Untouchables for example it loads each level in when you complete the previous one. A few games also have no music on 64k, games like Shinobi for example are completely silent but with the extra ram has music and sound effects, going back to The Untouchables it only has sound effects on 64k and music on 128k.
So all in all a great purchase for anyone wanting to upgrade their Amstrad CPC464
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