Sunday, 22 November 2020

Toaplan 'GXL-02' reproduction

 The 'GXL-02' is a custom chip (in DIP42 package) found on most Toaplan arcade PCBs but you'll never encounter it with this part name but instead diffrently marked.Here's an overview:

"FDA MN53007T0A" on Hell Fire, Out Zone, Fire Shark :

‘TOAPLAN-02 M70H005" on Truxton/Tatsujin :

‘T.T-2’ on Twin Cobra/Kyuukyoku Tiger :

‘WT2’ on Wardner/Pyros :

 ‘L-02’ on Sky Shark/Hi Sho Zame :


 ‘12.02’ on Rally Bike/Dash Yarou :

But, despite different labels, the silkscreening under the chip says always 'GXL-02' .

Unlike the 'GXL-01' (already reproduced by me  Toaplan 'GXL-01' reproduction ) that generates backgrounds, the' GXL-02' handles sprites acting like a big counter.As usual, for my reproduction I took into account some bootlegs in order to study how the functions of this custom chip had been reversed by bootlegers.Unfortunately none of them was a complete TTLs implementtion of original chip but they gave me for sure hints on how the chip worked.

After some time spent adapting the designs from different bootlegs replacement boards I was able achieve a TTL prototype working for all games, here's testing on an Hell Fire PCB  :

The next step was pretty easy since I had a valid design in my hands so I engineered a proper board that was as much compact as possible without the use of modern programmable logics (CPLD or FPGA) but simple surface mounted TTL gates.The result was pretty good :

 The replacement worked fine on all PCBs I could try :

Hell Fire .

Out Zone :


Rally Bike :


Wardner/Pyros :

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Rainbow Islands (original and Extra version) double repair log

Some days ago I received for repair a couple of Rainbow Islands PCBs, they were the original and Extra version.The game needs no introduction, it's the Taito masterpiece (released in 1987) that built a generation for video games.

The Extra version PCB was the first one I troubleshooted :

The board played absolutely fine but the sound was faint and corrupted :

Inspecting the board I noticed an electrolytic capacitor was installed in series between one output of the 'TL074' OP-AMP and the input of the potentiometer :

This was clearly a poor attempt to workaround the fault, the board indeed became totally mute if I removed this kludge.Using my audio probe I figured out the sound was correctly generated by the analog output of the 'YM3012' DAC:

But then it got worse before reaching the main amplfier.In the middle there are two OP-AMPs (a quad 'TL074' and a dual 'uPC4556') responsible of pre-amplifying and mixing the signals :

The 'TL074' is a well known to be an unreliable part, I have encountered tons of bad ones in all these years of repairs so I went straight to remove and replace it :

This improved things a little, now I could hear clear sound but it was still faint also at highest volume sting.So the other OP-AMP was most likely faulty too :

Removed and replaced with an equivalent part:

This brought back a lound and clear sound and fixed board completely :


The Rainbow Islands original version PCB was in good shape :

But it booted to an 'OBJECT RAM ERROR" message :

The object/sprite RAMs are four 2K x 8-bit devices (addressed by the near PGA sprite generator 'PC090' which process their data)

Probing the RAMs with a scope revealed unhealthy data signals on the one @IC50, here is below a comparison with a good signal where you can see the correct data transaction on the left snaphot :

I pulled the chip, it failed the out of circuit testing :

Fitted a socket and a good RAM chip :

Board booted into game and it was fully playable with no other issue.

End of (double) repair job.

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Super Space Invaders '91 repair log

Recently I found in a lot of untested/faulty PCBs I bought an interesting and unusual  Super Space Invaders '91 (also known as Majestic Twelve: The Space Invaders Part IV).Game has been released by Taito in 1990, it's basically an enhanced version of the classic Space Invaders game and runs on F2 hardware :

When I powered the board up it surprisingly booted into game but graphics was glitched  :

I was under impression the garbage floating over the screen was actually sprites leftovers and I was right because it changed its pattern when I shorted pins of the Toshiba TC51832 pseudo-static RAMs (pin to pin compatible with 62256) which are part of the sprites circuit along with a couple of QFP custom ASICs that generates address to the RAMs and process their data :

The first suspects were these TC51832 pseudo-static RAMs because I often encountered bad ones during my repairs.So I went to probe them with my scope and I found a couple of them @IC29 and IC33 with unhealthy data signals.You can see in below picture a comparison with an good signal on the left, the data transaction appears to be complete and valid compared to the bad one on the right :

 So I removed the two RAM chips, they both failed the out-of-circuit testing :

 I installed sockets and spares: :

Board 100% fixed!

Another successful repair and a good game added to my collection.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Big Bang - Power Shooting repair log

Received for repair a Big Bang PCB (also known as Thunder Dragon ), a vertically scrolling shoot'em up released from NMK in 1993.The board was actually a factory conversion from Macross II :

It played absolutely fine but sound was missing at all:

A background buzzing noise suggested that analog circuit was doing its job hence the fault was located in the digital section.Most of its components (Z80/EPROM, YM2203 and samples MASK ROMs) were already socketed :

They were all good except the Z80 CPU which I tested as bad in another board.I swapped a good one but this didn't restore sound.So I fired up my Fluke 9010A troubleshooter and hooked up the Z80 POD to the board :

According to MAME sound memory map the RAM lies from 0xc000 to 0xdfff of Z80 address space :

map(0x8000, 0xbfff).bankr("audiobank"); /* banked ROM */
map(0xa000, 0xa000).nopr(); /* IRQ ack? watchdog? */
map(0xc000, 0xdfff).ram();
map(0xe001, 0xe001).w(FUNC(nmk16_state::macross2_sound_bank_w));
map(0xf000, 0xf000).r(m_soundlatch, FUNC(generic_latch_8_device::read)).w("soundlatch2", FUNC(generic_latch_8_device::write)); /* from 68000 */
map(0x0000, 0x7fff).rom();

I launched a RAM test at this specific offset, it failed meaning the chip was likely bad :



 I removed the RAM chip and one pin remained attached to the board :

I  installed a socket and new RAM :

Sound was restored but playing some games I noticed an entire music track was not correct because samples were played wrongly or randomly :

The audio samples (stored in two 16Mbit MASK ROMs) are played by two OKI MSM6295 ADPCM IC :

"Listening" with an audio probe to the analog output of them I was able to figure out which one was playing wrong samples.I promtly removed it with hot air : 

Then soldered in a spare :


It did the trick,  music was fully restored and board 100% working again.Another repair successfully accomplished.

Monday, 24 August 2020

DC2N5-LC : a 'low-cost' powerful Commodore Datassette emulator ...and much more!

Code name : 'DC2N5-LC':

It's the last version (the fifth) of a standalone device designed by Luigi Di Fraia whose purpose is to make digital backups of Commodore tapes. It can also be used as a replacement for the Commodore Datassette 'CN2' allowing you to playback tape image files.The suffix 'LC' stands for 'low-cost' but don't get fool by it because it has nothing to envy to the other commercial devices.It features a connector for the datassette port , a slot for a microSD card, where tape image files can be stored, and a cardedge connector, where a Datassette can be connected, to allow tape content imaging.

As said, it can playback .TAP files (V0, V1 and V2 supported) but what makes this device so special is the .IDX file support that allows you to playback multiload/multiside games & programs (a counter and counter reset buttom have been implemented as well).For a complete overview of its features you can visit the site of the developer :

DC2N version 5 Low Cost

This is really a must for every Commodore nostalgic so, please, support the amazing work made by Luigi Di Fraia and grab a unit! (as I happily did...)

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Time Soldiers repair log and 'ALPHA-INPUT84/87' reproduction

Bought on eBay from the States a Time Soldiers PCB which arrived to me some days ago (by the way, thanks to 'coolmod' for his mediation and forwarding) :


The missing chip was actually one of four program ROMs:

I programmed a blank EPROM and finally powered the board up.All I got was a partially dimmed screen in which I could recognize the power-on TEST which probaby failed since the board kept resetting:

As usually I do, I started my troubleshooting with a visual inspection.Board was in very good shape but flipping it I noticed scratches on solder side, some quite deep :

A couple of traces looked really severed under the microscope and my multimeter in continuity test confirmed it :


Patching the broken traces fixed board completely :


The repair was pretty easy, just a quick fix hence it gave me time to look for something on the board to reproduce.The long custom SIL marked 'ALPHA-INPUT84' was a good candidate :

This custom IC handles inputs and Time Soldiers, being a rotary joystick game, uses four of them (two for 8-way joysticks of both players and the other two the 12-way rotary joysticks).Later Alpha-Denshi games like Gold Medalist use a part marked 'ALPHA-INPUT87' that externally is identical but with slight internal differences :
The two parts are not interchangeable but I was able to merge both designs in a single reproduction part: :

Testing on PCB was successful on Time Soldiers PCB, all directions of both players worked with 8-way joystick (could not test rotary because I don't have them)


Another PCB and custom IC preserved!

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Fire Shark repair log

Got for repair a Fire Shark PCB, a vertically scrolling shooter arcade video game developed and originally published by Toaplan in 1990 (known in Japan as Same! Same! Same)

I powered up the board for the first time and it booted into game.I could coin up and play, sound was present too but screen was filled by garbage (mostly letters and numbers)


I noticed that, when I put my fingers on some pins of the 'BCU-2' custom ASIC, the screen was cleaned up from garbage although background graphics were totally absent.This custom IC is, indeed, the tilemaps generator in QFP160 package :

Looking at pinout of the 'BCU-2' found on Out Zone schematics (which runs on similar hardware) I figured out the pins I was touching where a bus that exchanges data with the near 6264 RAMs (8k x 8bit devices) 

Probing with a scope the data pins of the RAMs revealed weak signals :

This lead me to think that the 'BCU-2' was really faulty so I decided to replace it with a spare taken from a donor board.The chip came off quite easily using my hot air station :


The spare was soldered in :

Area was cleaned by flux residuals and chip was inspected with a microscope for possible bridges.All was good and ready for the test.I powered up the board again and graphics were fully restored :

I played some games with no futher issue so I could declare the board 100% working.Another sucessful repair accomplished.