Aug 282016
 

Maybe this isn’t the typical repair log but it has a couple of pictures here showing what can happen.
I was actually given this by a reader of the site and he wanted to donate something by way of thanks. He told me it had some issues playing the cartridsges and suspected the ZIF connector that the NES is infamous for.
As you can see its boxed and in really nice condition.
nex_box
nes

I powered up the console testing the games that came with it.
nex_fault1
cad_fault
smb3_fault
smb_fault

You can see jailbars on most of the pictures. Occasionally the game didnt boot at all and when they did the sound was a low static noise.

Id already ordered a new connector in anticipation.
nes_connector

I did originally attempt to bend the pins on the original connector back but it made no difference and a couple looked too far gone so it went in the bin.
There are countless guides online for taking apart the NES and replacing the connector so I wont really go into it on here.

There goes the warranty!
nex_warranty

With the connector fitted I now get this. Its currently playing through RF so excuse the poor picture.
smb3_fix

I never really had a NES before so being able to play Mario 3 is going to be a treat.
Thank you very much to Kieron for this wonderful donation.

 Posted by at 11:36 am
Aug 262016
 

Today I got an interesting programmer unit.
Its made by a UK company called Lloyd Research and doesnt seem to be active anymore although their website is still up and running.

There is very little about these online, only one website came up in my searches with any kind of information and thats Baddinsbits.

I contacted the owner of this site and he kindly scanned in the manual for this programmer and sent it to me (manual can now be found in the downloads).
I dumped my firmware which seems to be one of the later versions, possibly from 2004.
I also went ahead and dumped the PAL’s from inside. There is one located on the EPROM PCB, two located under the LCD screen and one located next to the RAM. The one next to the RAM was locked which makes sense as I believe RAM upgrades were sold as optional extras. Anyway I managed to glitch this PALCE device and read out its contents. This is from the 8Mbit version.


If anyone has any other files, information or dumps they can give me please get in touch.
Big thanks to Baddin for the manual and the conversation.

 Posted by at 7:37 pm
Aug 252016
 

The hardware of this matches Part II but it has the multigame add-on fitted.
Not worked on a Space Invaders board before and needed to make up a loom so I could properly test.
The owner says the ship is constantly pulling to the left and there is a sound effect playing over and over all the time.

On powering up I did indeed find these problems. Look at the video, the in game play shows me moving the ship to the right but when I release the controls it moves back far left on its own.
You can also hear the constant tone repeating over and over.

First of all I went looking for the control issue.
The schematics are available however they aren’t too great in places. Fortunately they were good enough to save me a lot of time.
Here you can see where the player 1 left comes in. It goes through an inverting buffer and into a 74153 chip at location 5. The output on pin 9 is the one we are concerned with
si-left1-schem

From my logic probe I could see that this output is stuck when it should be active. Testing this out of circuit confirmed it.
This fixed the control issue .
20160825_192615

Now on to the sound fault.
Space Invaders hardware made this quite easy as each sound effect has its own volume control. By turning the pots down I could pinpoint which sound was stuck on and work back from there.
VR7 was the pot associated with this sound and according to the manual this is the sound of the “UFO HIT”.
Looking at the schematics again and working backwards we can see it goes back to buffer chip 7417 at location 18 and before that it comes from a 74174 at location 14.
si-ufohit-schem
si-18schem

The outputs from the 74174 looked good but all the outputs from the 7417 buffer were stuck HIGH.
I removed the chip and once again it failed when testing out of circuit but now I had problem. I dont have any 7417 chips and I no longer have scrap PCB’s lying around.
The sadness was short lived as a quick google search revealed a 74LS07 chip can be used as a replacement and the difference between the two is the 7407 is rated for 30v where the 7417 is rated for 15v.
Anyway, replacing this with a 74LS07 worked and the sounds are all OK.
20160825_192607

The video shows the controls now working and the lack of annoying sound. I did actually test the UFO HIT sound in game and it was working fine.

Job Done.

 Posted by at 8:23 pm
Aug 212016
 

Received this original Nichibutsu Terra Cresta PCB for a repair:

100_8608

Board had severe graphical issues, backgounds were all messed up and moving, sprites absent:

The first thing I noticed after my visual inspection was that both boards were fully populated with Fujitsu TTLs therefore I was pretty sure all the faults were due them.To troubleshoot them I used my HP10529A logic comparator for  TTLs up 16 pin and a logic probe for 20 pin ones.The backgrounds data are stored in two 27256 EPROMs @15F and 17F on CPU board so I went to probe around and I found a 74LS273 @18E with stuck outputs:

74LS273@18E_

This was confirmed also by a logic analyzing of the device:

74LS273@18E_analyzing

Once desoldered the device failed when tested out-of-circuit:

74LS273@18E_failed

I got  improvements, now backgorunds were almost formed but still scrambled and sprites visible although not perfect:

With my HP10529A I found a 74LS157 with floating outputs @17D on CPU board:

74LS157@14D

Chip failed the out-of-circuit test:

74LS157@14D_failed

Backgrounds were now 100% restored but sprites missing lines with some garbage on screen :

At this point I focused on video board since all objects circuitry lies there :

100_8611

Probing around the sprites EPROMs, I found a 74LS367 @1F with bad outputs:

74LS367@1F_

and a 7LS257 @3C (involved in sprites RAM data bus) with stuck outputs, also this failed its test:

74LS257@3C_

Now sprites were perfect but doing some comparison with MAME I realized that characters were totally missing!

Found a 74LS257 @14G with missing input pin 15 (/OE  ) in the area of the character ROM:

74LS257@14G

I traced it back to an output of a 74LS367@20B on CPU board:

74LS367@20BJPG

Logic analyzing confirmed its outputs were floating and chip failed once tested out-of-circuit:

74LS367@20B

Characters were back:

fixed_2

I was archiving this repair when, during my test,  I experienced some sound issues, sometimes audio was distorted:

This board uses an YM3526 OPL IC paired with an YM3014 DAC although chips are marked with Nichibutsu part name (‘TC 148509’ and ‘TC 1409’) :

100_8687

Probing pin 2 (the analog output connected to the OP-AMP) of the ‘TC 1409’ revealed a weak signal:

100_8690

I replaced it with a YM3014 :

TC1409_reworking

This gave good sound back.Board 100% fixed and evil Fujitsu once again defeated.

100_8696

 

 Posted by at 11:26 pm
Aug 132016
 

Lately, I got a total of 4 faulty Night Slashers PCBs from friends to repair. Due to the fact that these boards are mainly populated by SMCs and customs ICs, a custom CPU and no available schematics, making them less handy to diagnose than some older generation boards. I decided to take advantage of having four boards on the bench and recently started working on them.

Among the 4 boards, I had three different board revisions (DE-0395-1, DE-0396-0 and DE-0397-0) only with very minor differences between each.

 

  • FIRST FAULTY BOARD (DE-0397-0 revision)

nslashers1a

Problem #1: The game was running but with major gfx issues. Most of the backgrounds were just plain while sprites seemed fine.

nslashers1b

Piggybacking the 64kb RAMs @ 5E, 6E and 9E successfully restored a lot of the backgrounds but there was still some garbled data, even after replacing them.

nslashers1c

Problem #2: The fourth RAM @ 10E was tested good, as well as the two MASK ROMs @ 8A and 9A where the background data is stored. Touching the contacts around the gfx area with slightly humected fingers revealed a few ones where data seemed missing/corrupted as we could see the garbled pixels slightly changing. These sensible contacts led to a 74F373 @ 12C, a 74LS373 @ 11C and a Data East ASIC number 74. The signals looked healthy on the scope so after desoldering the two suspicious TTLs chips, it was finally the Motorola 74F373 @ 12C that was faulty. Replacing the chip finally led to a perfectly fine looking game.

nslashers1d

Problem #3: FM sounds (synths, generated by an YM2151) were very weak compared to sampled sounds (voices, percussions and other samples, generated by two M6295)
Comparing the audio part with an other board revealed a factory mistake in the row of resistors that connect every sound channel to the amp circuit… They put a 15 kOhm at R17 instead of a 47 kOhm. For a good balanced sound, here are the correct values for them:
-R16, R20 & R21 : 8 kOhm (seen 7,4 kOhm on a DE-0395-1 board revision, difference isn’t perceptible)
-R17 : 47 kOhm (seen 50 kOhm on a DE-0395-1 board revision, difference isn’t perceptible)
-R18 & R19 : 67 kOhm
-R22 & R23 : 10 kOhm

nslashers1e

 

  • SECOND FAULTY BOARD (DE-0397-0 revision)

nslashers2

Problems:
-Game was booting but with some letters staggered.
-Game was crashing along with a vsync issue anytime an ingame screen appeared.

Never had this kind of fault before. The staggered letters could be an issue in the gfx part but the instant crash after an ingame screen was clearly a CPU related issue. Not really easy to diagnose (of course I checked the CPU ROMs and PALs but they were good) so I started focusing on the RAMs, a row of 4 SMC SHARP LH52250. Touching the pins on some of their address lines with humected fingers sometimes changed a few of the staggered letters so I replaced the whole lot of 4 and luckily one of them was the faulty one. Replacing it fixed the letters and crash issues.

ps. I cannot show pictures of the staggered letters as I forgot to take pictures of the screen before replacing the faulty RAMs. To give an example, the name of the character CHRISTOPHER in the player select screen appeared as CHRISTOGHER.

 

  • THIRD FAULTY BOARD (DE-0395-1 revision)

nslashers3

Problem #1: Board was booting on a garbled screen, randomly with a white or pink background.

P1140415

This type of issue is due to a problem in the main CPU section. It is a Data East 156 ARM based encrypted CPU and there is not much information online nor pinouts available so diagnosing it is a bit tricky. First, as it worked with the previous board, I replaced the 4 CPU RAMs, but with no change. Also, clock and reset signals around the CPU looked fine with the scope. Then, while probing the pins on the CPU, the game suddenly launched with minor gfx and sound issues but also with half of the controls not responding. I retraced the non working buttons from the JAMMA connector to the I/O custom chip which is a Data East 104. Everything looked fine on the scope. When I turned the power off and on again, I got the same garbled screen but after a few tries touching the CPU pins with the scope, I could sometimes get the game running again (with the same issues) or sometimes a black screen with a message : “CONFIGURATION MODE ERROR”.

All these missing controls caught my attention so I looked closer at this Data East 104 custom I/O chip.

nslashers3c

It basically makes the link between every button and the CPU. In fact, it is connected to the data bus and is sending information for all the controls to the CPU. If it is faulty then it could possibly send corrupted data to the CPU which may crash it. For example, that could happen in a lot of Taito boards from the late 80’s, early 90’s: if you plug the JAMMA harness upside/down you plug the 12V signal which normally goes to the audio amp to the controls and it directly damages the I/O custom chip which then send bad data to the CPU, leading to a non booting game.

I reflowed this 104 chip but with no changes so I decided to desolder it. I had a spare Fighters History board running on a DE-0395-1 revision board (same board than this revision of Night Slashers) and at the same location there was a very similar chip with its part number scratched off. I naturally guessed it was the same chip so I put it in place of the 104 on the Night Slashers board. No luck… Even worse than before: I could not have the game starting at all, only the message “CONFIGURATION MODE ERROR” at best.

So I contacted Bryan McPhail, author of the MAME DECO 32 driver and he was pretty sure this version of Fighters History used a previous revision of the I/O chip numbered 75, not 104. That would explain not having the game booting even once with it plugged in. So I desoldered it and put in place a 104 chip taken from one of the working Night Slashers boards as I needed to clarify the situation… And that time the game launched directly ! I also got all the controls working perfectly.

Good find, but now I had only one 104 working chip for two Night Slashers boards. Bryan told me every 104 chip could work as a replacement. This chip is present on these games: Caveman Ninja, Wizard Fire, Rohga, Boogie Wings, Diet Go Go, Double Wings, Schmeiser Robo, Pocket Gal DX and Dream Ball. The two last ones being the only ones I could imagine being donor boards…
On the way to get a Pocket Gal DX, will update the post after replacing the chip.

Problem #2: Had a few gfx issues (vertical lines on a few sprites).

nslashers3d

I quickly found something by touching pins on the gfx ROMs. Vertical lines seemed partially flickering and disappearing when touching some of the address lines on the MASK ROM labeled MBH-09. These are 512kb ROMs with MASK pinout so I burned the matching content on a 27C400 EPROM and tried piggybacking it. It resolved the problem so I put a socket and plugged it as replacement.

Problem #3: Had some sounds issues. Some voices/samples were missing and replaced by junk noise. One of the two M6295 voice generating chips @ 12M had previously been badly repaired and a pin was very near to fracture. Tracks #14 & #18 on the board were broken by the previous repairer and replaced by two wires going from the M6295 to the MASK ROM @ 14L. I removed the serviced chip and these two wires. In order to replace the missing tracks, I inserted tiny pieces of wire in the holes below the chip, bended them and soldered them in.

You can see here how they were broken on track #14 and how I fixed them on track #18:

nslashers3ee

And here is how it looks after a new chip in place:

nslashers3f

Part of the voices were back but some junk sounds were still audible. While checking the other M6295 chip @ 13N, I found a signal that seemed strangely inactive on an address line which goes to the MASK ROM @ 15L where these sounds are stored. I piggybacked the ROM with a burnt EPROM of the same content but nothing changed. Suspected the OKI M6295 so I replaced it and that fixed the issue. Everything is fine now.

 

  • FOURTH FAULTY BOARD (DE-0396-0 revision)

nslashers4a

Problem: Had some sounds issues. Some voices could be heard repeatedly at unintended moments. For example Christopher was saying “I take that !” repeatedly and randomly.
Found an I/O line on the M6295 @ 13N (pin #37) with no activity. This goes to the 104 chip but here there was no continuity with were it is supposed to go. There was a bit of corrosion around the M6295 and a closer inspection of the area revealed a broken hole connected to the track of pin #37:

DSC_5715

Only this side of the hole was damaged so I inserted a tiny piece of wire on the other side, bended it here and soldered both sides:

DSC_5718

That worked. No unwanted voices constantly repeating anymore.