10 Years of retrostuff.org

10 years ago, I started this blog retrostuff.org to record what I was tinkering with in my spare time. It was initially meant to be some sort of diary and also include everything that I bought related to retro- and game consoles (see category New Arrival), but that turned out to be way too much work, so I focused on technical articles. Over the years, I had so many projects that not everything could be properly documented and put in an article. The backlog is huge and I’m always trying to review and improve old articles as well.

For the 10th anniversary, I took a trip down memory lane and selected one or more articles that were important to me. Be it because they are about a favourite device or an important discovery or milestone in research.

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Philips 22ER9021 and TecnoPlus TP520 CD-i Gamepads

Last year, I asked myself whether or not all Philips 22ER9021 CD-i Gamepads are the same and answered with probably. Since then, I have had a look at some more gamepads of different production dates, including an unbranded 22ER9021 and a TecnoPlus TP520 CD-i Control Pad. Let’s revisit and elaborate on what has been discovered last year:

  • The production number on the label contains the year and calendar week (example: 1A 00 9447). This applies to almost all Philips CD-i players and accessories. So far, only the white mice for the professional players didn’t follow the year code.
    A full production number has 8 or 9 digits and an additional 5-6-digit serial number at the end. But most accessories are only labelled with simple 8-digit production numbers and that’s why you find so many accessories with the very same data on the labels.
  • Inside, all 22ER9021 gamepads have the same PCB with these markings:
    This is still the case after checking some more, even uncommon variants. Also, they all have the same Philips PCA84C122AT/071 8-bit microcontroller for remote control transmitters.
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Atari Portfolio PC Card Drive HPC-301

The PC Card Drive HPC-301 is still the only way to read and write Atari Portfolio memory (Bee) cards on a PC. Make that an old PC with an ISA slot for the interface card and DOS. The driver can be found here and here. In the PofoWiki (German), there’s more information about its usage and what needs to be considered when you have Windows 9x. For me, the DOS mode worked fine and I had less trouble accessing the card reader after loading the driver without parameters, e.g. DEVICE=C:\CD.SYS.

There seems to be another way to access the card drive: A software called Portfolio RAM-Card Reader by Digital Data Deicke (now Pentagon GmbH) is mentioned in the Atari-Home.DE forums here and here. It is reported to work even under Windows XP via Direct I/O.

Today, we’re only going to have a look at the hardware. Just look at this massive cable with 37-pin D-sub connectors that connects the card drive with the interface card:

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CD-MIDI on Amiga CD³² – MIDI Out + Keyboard Adapter

While the Amiga CD³² can play CD-MIDI discs, it lacks a MIDI out port to hand over the data to a MIDI playback device. I’m going to build an adapter with a keyboard pass-through for its AUX port.

CD-MIDI (or CD+MIDI) is an extension of the Red Book Audio CD that allows MIDI data to be stored in the subcode channels, just like CD+G and CD-Text does it with graphics and text data. Only very few devices are known to be able to make use of that information: CD³², CDTV and WonderMega. Even though the Green Book describes a MIDI extension, the Philips CD-i is not among these devices, and so far, no CD-i hardware or software that made use of MIDI has surfaced.

Compact Disc Digital Audio +Graphics +MIDI
Compact Disc Digital Audio +Graphics +MIDI
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ELV EA 8000 Energy Analyzer Kit

When looking for an affordable and reasonably accurate device to measure the (standby) power consumption of old power supplies, I came across the ELV EA 8000 Energy Analyzer. It’s being sold as complete device or as a kit; I went for the kit to spend some time with it and have a better look inside.

It has two power measuring ranges (40 and 3680 VA), several measuring functions (e.g., active / reactive / complex power, power factor, costs), storage space for 10 devices and up to three different electricity tariffs. Before buying, I was already aware that it has some flaws, but more about that after the assembly.

ELV EA 8000 Energy Analyzer Kit
ELV EA 8000 Energy Analyzer Kit
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Philips CD-i RC6 Remote Control Hack

A quick and dirty hack to save a broken Philips CD-i RC6 remote control with a Sega Mega Drive controller.

Most CD-i players come with or are compatible with the 22ER9055 CD-i Commander, an RC6 remote control with a pressure-sensitive thumbpad. There are three known versions of the CD-i Commander:

  • RV 7701 – standard remote for most CD-i Players.
  • RV 7704 – with additional stand-by button for CDI660 and 670.
  • RV 7706 – with additional controls for CDI740.

When buying a used remote control, your first action should be to check the battery compartment for obvious leaking damage and also take it apart to find hidden damage. You never know if there were accidents in the past and previous owners just cleaned out the battery compartment without looking further into it.

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Bandai Playdia Quick Interactive System

The Bandai Playdia Quick Interactive System (Q.I.S) was a short-lived console (1994-1996) that was released in Japan only with an unusual library.

In 2009, one year before I had my first Pippin, I bought two Playdia consoles with a few titles. One Playdia was sitting in the corner of my room all these years, almost unnoticeable because it is so compact and small. Recently, it caught my attention again and I was wondering why I never wrote an article about it. Well, here it is: I disassembled it, took photos and played many titles to find something interesting.

All titles start with the Q.I.S logo which is (most of the time) followed by a jumping Bandai logo.

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