Feb 252016

Another Rainbow Islands PCB to repair.

This one had issues with the sprites which were broken up and seemed to be repeating, looked very much like a stuck bit on the sprite addressing;



All tiles and background graphics were fine, so I knew it was something to do with the sprite circuit.

The first thing I did was to look at the area where the sprite data is read from the two eproms.  The two 74LS244 buffers checked out fine, but one of the 74LS373 Octal Latches had an output pin stuck HI (pin 9);


So I desoldered it;


I confirmed the Octal Latch was bad in an IC Tester.  So I soldered in a socket and replaced with a fresh Octal Latch;


PCB sprites now restored;



Atari Asteroids Deluxe repair log

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Feb 202016

Sometimes lightning does strike twice.

I was recently sent an Asteroids Deluxe PCB which was exhibiting corrupted vectors.

When I got the PCB, I put it on my test rig and was presented with the following in TEST mode;


GAME mode;


The symptoms were pretty much identical to the last Asteroids repair log I posted.  Note however this is an Asteroids Deluxe, however it is pretty much identical hardware to Asteroids except that Asteroids Deluxe has a pure digital sound circuit via a Pokey chip (Asteroids is analogue and no Pokey).

I immediately probed the 74LS42 decoder at E6, which had two outputs stuck HI.


So I desoldered it;


Tested it in my IC tester;


Socketed and replaced it with a fresh decoder;


Fire her up again;


Now working, except that the PCB would sometimes crash or refuse to boot.  I was able to determine that three of the six ROM sockets were worn.  So I replaced all of them for reliability;




Now working 100%.

Jan 282016

I was recently sent an Asteroids PCB which I had previously bought back from the dead, the PCB had developed distorted vectors but still running.

Here is what the TEST screen looked like, the actual diamond shape was perfect but text was oversized and distorted;


The actual GAME mode looked worse;


Check out the giant asteroid!

I knew the problem was in the Vector State Machine (VSM) area, specifically the area which is responsible for handling object vectors, so I looked there first.

It was not long until I found a decoder (LS42) at 7E which seemed to have some pins stuck LO;


I desoldered the decoder;


I tested the decoder in my IC tester;


I then socketed and replaced with a fresh decoder;



Asteroids now fully working;



Space Invaders (Taito) 3-Layer repair log #1

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Dec 102015

I was recently given a Taito 3-Layer Space Invaders boardset by a friend to look over.  The problem was that it was not running, completely dead with a clicking sound coming from speaker (sounds like watchdog barking to me).

I powered up the PCB stack on the bench and checked the status of the 8080 CPU.  I could see right away from probing pin 19 (SYNC) that the clock circuit was not running.

On the ROM board, I could see that the crystal was intact, so I checked the 74S04 (IC1) which I was sure was drives the clock next to the crystal.  I found that most of the pins were floating.  Replaced it and I now have a clock (note to myself, 74HC04 will not work), watchdog no longer barking but still no display.


On further probing, found a bad 74161 counter at location IC6 with pins 11 to 15 stuck HI.  Replaced this and I now have a display, but it appears to be doubled up;


Eventually located the problem to IC28 which is a 74LS83, pins 2, 6 & 9 were stuck LO.  Replacing this restored the display;


Note, I am using the composite input on my Plasma TV, as the PCB is composite only and not RGB.

Space Invaders live to invade another day!

Dec 042015

Another Rainbow Islands PCB to repair.

This, like the previous repair (#7) showed a solid white screen, however, if left alone for about 30 seconds I would get the following displayed;


I found a bad object/sprite 2018 (6116) RAM at location IC50, so this was replaced with a fresh 2018 RAM.

The PCB was now working 100%, and put on the shelf.   That was not the end of it though.

The next day, the PCB was dead again, just showing another solid white screen.  Probing around PCB at the logic, eventually I came back to the object RAM and found that another had failed at location IC51.  This was then replaced, and the PCB sprang back to life but now with issues.  Colours were missing or wrong on the display.

You can just see from my blurry picture that the RAINBOW PROJECT screen is all wrong, no blue background and the colours are missing.  Only the first two letters on each row have a colour (green and grey);


Here, interestingly, the 1UP and 2UP are white, should be green (1UP) and blue (2UP).  Also, the HIGH SCORE and TAITO logo should be red.  The Rainbow Islands logo looks intact, but the colours are solid and not rotating like they should;


The MAP screen has not escaped either, most of the colours are gone;


The actual game has suffered too.  It’s hard to tell, but everything is there and perfectly formed, just missing colour so either appears corrupted or simply missing;


Not even the TEST CARD escaped;


I have already ruled out the TC0070 RGB SIP module as being the cause as the colours are there, just not in the right places.

While I was probing around the board, things got worse, now the sprites have broken up;


Eventually, the PCB stopped running again and I got this message on the display;


Another failed object/sprite 2018 (6116) RAM, this time at location IC50.


So this was replaced and I now got this display;


At first glance I thought it was still the same message, OBJECT RAM ERROR, but then noticed this time it was COLOR RAM ERROR.

So, I replaced the bad colour 2018 (6116) RAM at location IC70 and the PCB was running again, with the sprites now intact again.


At this stage, I was becoming a bit frustrated with the failing RAM, so I bit the bullet and just replaced them all so I can concentrate on the colour problem;



It was a good move because now at least the PCB was running stable.

I was starting to get a bit fed up looking for the colour problem, and Caius very kindly offered me some help.  Infact, he was a massive help and told me exactly where to look for the problem.

With help from Caius, eventually I found that pin 15 of the 74LS157 at IC36 was floating (using my logic probe).  This is the IC’s enable line, and it should have been tied to VCC (through the orange disc 104 capacitor).

It was then I notice the burned/damaged trace going to the orange disc 104 capacitor;


Very odd place to find a damaged trace, certainly not very accessible.  I had no idea how it was damaged until Caius mentioned it has happened to him also.  Like Caius said, I must have accidently fried the trace by short-circuiting it during my in-circuit testing.

I do recall the PC PSU for my Supergun shutting down due to a short when I was probing the PCB.

So, using kynar wire I patched the damaged trace from underneath;


The game’s display was now 100% restored;





Massive thanks to Caius, whom without I would not have solved this and just given up.