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 Post subject: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:16 pm 



Joined: 04 Sep 2010
Posts: 1795
Location: Denmark
I can feel it, 2013 is the year where I am going to depart on another crazy new gaming platform adventure.

My last one was the PC Engine and gathering the necessary knowledge was a fragmented affair. The X68K community seems to be even smaller and thinly spread.

Anywaste, I want to use this thread to get some technical anwsers if possible.

First thing first. One thing the PC Engine and X68K have in common is subpar capacitors it seems. I understand the ones on the power supply are a common weak link. I am however puzzled by people building their own PSU's as a solution. Why not just replace the capacitors on the old PSU, what is keeping people from doing just that?

Also, if anyone has had experience with shipping one of those Twin Tower monstrocities from Japan to North America I would appreciate them posting how much that set them back. In addition, how much did the unit itself set them back?

From research I think I will stick to only the following models:

Super-HD
XVI-HD
68030-HD

Mainly because of SCSI compatibility, minimum 2MB RAM and 5.25 drive.

Any seasoned owners willing to part with some words of caution or wisdom are welcome.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:41 pm 


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People usually build a new one because recapping an old one is difficult, more time consuming, and probably more expensive.

A bunch of knowledgeable folk are on #x68000 on EFnet (IRC).
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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 1:56 am 



Joined: 04 Sep 2010
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I'll have to look into this recapping thing some more. So far replacing the PSU seems like a really elaborate process due to the new hardware having to be modified to support soft on and off.

I read somewhere that simply replacing caps might not be enough.

Also it seems the 68030 model is not compatible with some games, so it is crossed off of the list.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:43 am 


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X68000 hardware is expensive, and not just because of the shipping involved (which is only really a problem if you're too impatient for surface). Expect to pay up to $500 for a decent machine, and expect to have a hell of a time finding one with a mouse and keyboard (some homemade adaptors exist, but expect to program microcontrollers and roll your own PCBs if you want to go that route). You can save money by getting one in "junk" condition (the Japanese equivalent of "as-is" or "untested"), but you may need to do some repairs. You'll likely have to make your own controller and monitor adaptors, so be prepared for that.

I doubt the compatibility problems with the X68030 are all that severe. There's a number of workarounds and game patches floating around too. The big problem with the 030 is cost; you could easily wind up paying close to a grand for one. And as a result, the number of English-speakers that own one can be counted on one hand last I checked. Nobody's done any real compatibility testing, but I'm quite sure that all the games that are worth playing still work.

The power supply problem can be solved with a rebuild. The caps need to be replaced of course, and there's a Japanese rebuild guide somewhere that points out better components that can be used to make the thing more robust. Me and mdl followed it on one machine with fantastic results. I don't remember where the guide is, but I think he might. I'll ask him sometime.

Replacing the PSU with a 1U ATX power supply is also an option, and that procedure currently has much better (English) documentation than rebuilding the original PSU. It will make adding an internal hard drive much harder, though.

The capacitor issue depends entirely on what model you're using. In every machine up to the XVI, only the capacitors in the power supply tend to need attention. In the Compact and 030 models, the opposite is true as the motherboard(s) use surface-mount electrolytic caps from the early-mid 90s, and those always need replacement no matter what.

If you've wrenched on Amigas and old Macs before, know how to use a soldering iron and know how do do basic electronics troubleshooting, you should be OK.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:14 am 


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I think the main draw of a 68030 will be running Geograph Seal at a faster speed than the XVI. Beyond that I don't know of any real gaming use for it over the XVI.

If you can deal with rolling your own floppies, the XVI Compact is a good way to go. They're usually cheaper than other models.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 1:42 pm 



Joined: 04 Sep 2010
Posts: 1795
Location: Denmark
papa_november wrote:
X68000 hardware is expensive, and not just because of the shipping involved (which is only really a problem if you're too impatient for surface). Expect to pay up to $500 for a decent machine, and expect to have a hell of a time finding one with a mouse and keyboard (some homemade adaptors exist, but expect to program microcontrollers and roll your own PCBs if you want to go that route). You can save money by getting one in "junk" condition (the Japanese equivalent of "as-is" or "untested"), but you may need to do some repairs. You'll likely have to make your own controller and monitor adaptors, so be prepared for that.

I doubt the compatibility problems with the X68030 are all that severe. There's a number of workarounds and game patches floating around too. The big problem with the 030 is cost; you could easily wind up paying close to a grand for one. And as a result, the number of English-speakers that own one can be counted on one hand last I checked. Nobody's done any real compatibility testing, but I'm quite sure that all the games that are worth playing still work.

The power supply problem can be solved with a rebuild. The caps need to be replaced of course, and there's a Japanese rebuild guide somewhere that points out better components that can be used to make the thing more robust. Me and mdl followed it on one machine with fantastic results. I don't remember where the guide is, but I think he might. I'll ask him sometime.

Replacing the PSU with a 1U ATX power supply is also an option, and that procedure currently has much better (English) documentation than rebuilding the original PSU. It will make adding an internal hard drive much harder, though.

The capacitor issue depends entirely on what model you're using. In every machine up to the XVI, only the capacitors in the power supply tend to need attention. In the Compact and 030 models, the opposite is true as the motherboard(s) use surface-mount electrolytic caps from the early-mid 90s, and those always need replacement no matter what.

If you've wrenched on Amigas and old Macs before, know how to use a soldering iron and know how do do basic electronics troubleshooting, you should be OK.


As for the Japanese rebuild guide, I believe this is what you are referring to, correct?

Unfortunately when it comes to repairs as sensitive as this I am not comfortable following a machine translated guide. Unless someone translates the guide I am going to stick to just replacing the PSU caps with the same kind and call it a day.

I don't understand why he has a saw on that top picture though. Does his rebuild require cutting the board? Why?

In any regard, I am well acquainted with the junk short cut to Japanese hardware. I have some experience with buying broken PC Engine hardware and fixing them up via trivial cap replacements.

After adding your high cost of the X68030 to the incompatibility problems that model is now definitely out of the question. I'll stick to either the Super or the XVI. I do not want a compact model either due to their built in 3.5 disk drives not being able to read 5.25 game floppies. Besides, I like the aesthetics of the tower models better.

As for the whole hard drive issue. Do I understand right that the models not equipped with an internal drive by default would need some sort of internal SCSI adapter before they can be equipped with a HDD, right?

I imagine those boards must be expensive and rare. I've also read about people using SCSI to IDE adapters combined with a Flash to IDE adapter as an easy way of loading programs and games onto their unit and avoiding the need for buying old noisy SCSI drives.

Am correct in assuming that these SCSI to IDE adapters cost in the order of several hundred?

The keyboard issue is unfortunate. But with a flash drive it should be largely unnecessary. Of course booting directly into games via floppy also renders their need moot I believe.

Joypad modifications is something I'll have to look into and VGA adapters are something I see popping up often on Yahoo auctions, so no need to worry about it I guess.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 2:35 pm 


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Compact models can read floppies, if connected. Not sure of the precise details though.

Models with an internal drive are fairly common.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 4:42 pm 


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Location: Fort Worth, TX
Prepare to hemorrhage money like you never have before (unless you buy arcade PCBs...)

It looks like your technical questions have been accurately addressed above. I own two machines (Super and XVI-compact) and both still have their original power supplies, although they have been refreshed with new capacitors. The XVI can be a gamble if the capacitors on the motherboard have not been replaced, because (as mentioned above) they will leak and cause minor damage to the motherboard.

Your major expenses are with the hardware itself. The large "twin tower" models are very heavy and very expensive to ship. If you are shipping via EMS from Japan, expect to pay around $250 in shipping alone.

Games are relatively cheap, and writing your own software to 5.25" floppies is easy once you have the correct setup. See my video below for details on writing your own disks:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO_Bqr2i33A

Spending the extra money on a compact flash setup is worth every dime. I recently converted my Super to an all CF setup and I could not be happier. I really hate having to deal with 5.25 floppy disks, and this frees me from ever having to use one again. I will keep the original games that I have, but I will launch them from the CF. You need at a MIMINUM 4MB of RAM for a proper CF setup, which means you are going to have to buy a memory expansion board ($$).

There is a guy in Tennessee who goes by "bluebmw" on most forums, and he imports X68000 systems and repairs them, but his waiting list is a mile long the last time I talked to him.

I've owned my Super for 2 years and I absolutely love it. I'll keep an eye on this thread and hopefully I can provide some helpful tips and advice.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:02 pm 



Joined: 04 Sep 2010
Posts: 1795
Location: Denmark
Arcade PCB's are a lot of money for one game, the X68000 costs a lot but you get to enjoy many.

I'll be going with SAL for shipping which should more or less halve the shipping expense at least

I share your sentiments about floppies, they are a terrible piece of technology, I remember 3.5" floppies back in the day were prone to spontaneous failure. I'll be buying original games but aim to get a CF setup going and like you launch them from the HDD to avoid unnecessary wear.

How much did the CF setup set you back by the way? Were the parts hard to come by?

It is shame about CF requiring memory expansion though. I didn't know about that. Why exactly does using CF up the memory requirement? It just replaces and acts like a regular SCSI drive, right?

I hear those memory expansion boards are in high demand so snatching one is sure to be a challenge.

I've run across bluebmw's name during my research. Alas I have developed a taste for messing around with vintage electronics so I want to do the repair's myself. All I need is to amass the funds and get lucky on a Yahoo auction.

Of course buying junk hardware on Yahoo is a gamble. Might get a unit that just needs some capacitors changed or one that is beyond hope. An expensive gamble that.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:16 pm 


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The most compact way to do an internal SCSI-CF solution is the CFAztecMonster.

Don't count the Compact and Pro models out just because they don't look as good; they tend to be cheaper because of that. A few years ago, someone unloaded dozens of Compact machines on YAJ for the equivalent of $50-60 each. Now THAT was the deal of a lifetime.

Also, don't count the Compact models out just because of the 3.5 drives. Most USB floppy drives can write 3-mode disks, while writing 5.25 disks requires a motherboard with 5.25 floppy support. An increasing number of games can be made to run off the hard drive at any rate.


Last edited by papa_november on Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:27 pm 


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The AztecMonster is available on ebay.com as well. It's a nice SCSI to CF interface used in many other applications. I've seen it before in Amiga and Atari setups.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:04 am 


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Fudoh wrote:
The AztecMonster is available on ebay.com as well. It's a nice SCSI to CF interface used in many other applications. I've seen it before in Amiga and Atari setups.


I use a different CF setup in my X68000 XVI-HD but I do use the AztecMonster in an FM Towns, good piece of tech.

For the 68030 CPU, I believe Mahou Daisakusen also takes advantage of it. In my machine, I have the Xellent30 which I can turn on and off as needed. Other things to consider are the different types of MIDI devices you'll need if you want the best playback. SuperDeadite is the most knowledgable on this.
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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:47 am 


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The Pro makes the original twin tower models look like featherweights.

They are seriously heavy.

I shipped one to California a few months ago and it cost nearly $100.

I have always preferred the look of the original X68000. I guess that is why I enjoy the Super. Original X68000 style with the benefits of 2MB default memory and SCSI. The "titanium" paint of the XVI and gold lettering. Having used the compact for a long time, I have found that I rarely miss the 16 MHz mode.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:09 am 


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Hmm, Magic Knight says that Geograph Seal is "perfect" on an XVI.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:44 am 


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I bet it's even better on an 030.

Still, the game is so phenomenally designed that it's perfectly playable even on 10mhz machines.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:18 pm 


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Oh it's much better on the XVI, I'm just not a huge fan of the game.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:44 pm 



Joined: 04 Sep 2010
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Apropos the compact models. I am puzzled as to why Sharp would release a version that cannot read any of the retail games due to lack of a 5.25 drive.

I assume most of the retail software also came on 5.25 floppies. I understand that 5.25 drives were obsolete by early 90's, but still, how did compact owners tackle the software issue?

Did Sharp sell external 5.25 drives? Or were the compacts marketed strictly as for work use only, hence no official game support.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 1:55 pm 


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kamiboy wrote:
Apropos the compact models. I am puzzled as to why Sharp would release a version that cannot read any of the retail games due to lack of a 5.25 drive.

I assume most of the retail software also came on 5.25 floppies. I understand that 5.25 drives were obsolete by early 90's, but still, how did compact owners tackle the software issue?

Did Sharp sell external 5.25 drives? Or were the compacts marketed strictly as for work use only, hence no official game support.


There are external 5.25 drives but hard to come by.
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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:31 pm 


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That and I imagine in some later cases you could send off for 3.5 disk versions of games in the mail, kind of like what was done with some PC software in the West.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:55 pm 



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Well then, any official 3.5 version must be the rarest of the rare.

On another subject, the midi board. Did I understand correctly that there are numerous models available?

Any particular model considered the best one to get?

Man, with way these additions are piling up I think the actual hardware might be the cheapest part of the whole endeavour.

I understand a fully refurbished Super or XVI will prolly set me back about 400 shipped if not more.

Extra memory is prolly going to set me back about 100.

The Flash solution will set me back 150.

I have not seen any midi cards but I think 50-150 is a good estimate of what such a thing will cost after shipping.

Then there are the games which can cost anywhere from 50 to over 200 depending on rarity.

A cool grand as a minimum then. Better start saving.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:03 pm 


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Quote:
On another subject, the midi board. Did I understand correctly that there are numerous models available?

I was under the impression that you can simply connect any GM Module like a Roland SC55 ?


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 7:25 pm 


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Yes, the MT-32 (for example) should connect directly to the computer.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 7:34 pm 



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That a fact? The way people were talking about midi boards I thought it was something like a sound card that you had to install internally. Lot of early PC games supported the MT-32 as well, if I am not mistaking. I'll have to read up on that piece of kit.

By the way. Regarding the standard monitors for the X68000. How large were they? From pictures I would guess around 15".

I wonder if they support mode 13h DOS games. Doubt it though.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 7:51 pm 


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papa_november wrote:
The most compact way to do an internal SCSI-CF solution is the CFAztecMonster.
Don't count the Compact and Pro models out just because they don't look as good; they tend to be cheaper because of that. A few years ago, someone unloaded dozens of Compact machines on YAJ for the equivalent of $50-60 each. Now THAT was the deal of a lifetime.
.


they came cheap because no one was able to duplicates isos in 3.5" floppies.. but it was matter of forecast the future.. i did trust this.. and the miracle came from a korean blogger.. after the huge sale.. funny thing.. himself got one computer of the infamous sale , i recognized the unit !

i remember these auctions. i lost track and came back some months after.. they were still there. i had troubles to find a good proxy reliable coursier but i found one good guy in time. and this time we had to fight to get them, i was quite surprised ! none were sold months ago ! i got 2 from the whole stock (my proxy coursier was overbid for 4 others :| ) . one i offered to my best pal, and the other i kept. they came in europe/France for about 110€/unit ALL.. fees shipped.

__
2mb setup is enough for most games. some know how to overclock the basic x68k, few games profit only (3d ones from memory speechs). it requires skills but it can be done (i knew only one person to do this at the time ago..)

speed is a problem with the.. Fm-towns computers.. some games are so slow in 386sx units.. compared to the 486 cpu..

__
it was alreay harder 5-6 years ago to source : separate keyboard, mouse especially ! .. "Prostitute maker" darker version of Princess maker needs the mouse :mrgreen: . and even scarcer : midi board :idea: .. now that more people search these, i guess it has skyrocketted.. STV should do business about it :roll:

a french living in japan talked me about the superior sound on midi games. .. i tested in emulation and it was already a shock !. i remember having fought against a japanese geek for 2 midi boards (only got one and rusty..), at this time rarest were the occidentals to know such things.. .. it was a so long 10minutes recall battle on YJH.. (and i had found meanwhile a MT-32 in a charity shop, pure luck day :shock: ). but as i was moving away in places, never could reunite all these gems to get that transcendental feeling of a more than complete setup .. i still hope do it 8)

_
one of the compact68k from the auction.. just needed a vga-15 convert i soldered, and the special 3,5" 1,2mb format from windows..)

Image


Last edited by caincan on Tue Jan 29, 2013 8:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 8:08 pm 


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kamiboy wrote:
That a fact? The way people were talking about midi boards I thought it was something like a sound card that you had to install internally. Lot of early PC games supported the MT-32 as well, if I am not mistaking. I'll have to read up on that piece of kit.

By the way. Regarding the standard monitors for the X68000. How large were they? From pictures I would guess around 15".

I wonder if they support mode 13h DOS games. Doubt it though.

They won't support 13H because that's a video mode (320x200, 70Hz) defined in the original IBM specification for the PC (AT I think), whereas the X68000 specification was developed by Sharp / Hudson (not sure of the particulars there).

The monitor I had (although it was never functional - shipping is rough on tubes) seemed about identical to the FM Towns monitor (also non-functional) I had, and I'd estimate both to be around 15" or slightly smaller.

You should be able to use a cable to go from the 21-pin (I think) X68000 pinout to the DE-15 VGA pinout seen on your standard VGA monitor, though (I've finally ordered one - cost way too much but I decided not to wait around). I have read contradictory things about whether you need to worry about voltage being carried on one of the pins, though. I know I won't be using my FM Towns with the cable I've gotten out of an abundance of caution (plus mine works on a TV so I've no need for the PC capability). I'll be testing out the cable on a VGA monitor I don't care about much in case it does have some wiring problem.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:23 pm 



Joined: 04 Sep 2010
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Wait, so these midi boards. Do they exist as internal versions as well? I keep reading people referring to them like there are sound card versions abailable for the 68000. I would prefer such an internal solution if possible.

Is this an internal midi board for an example?

http://page8.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/auction/h172819329

Also, I pretty much figured about lack of 13h support. I thought there was maybe a 1% chance that since Human68k was based on DOS that perhaps it supported that graphic mode, but most likely it just runs in plain old 15khz.

I already have a 13" PVM capable of 15 and 31khz, but where does this strange 24khz signal fit in? Any games use it as default, or can one do without. I am guessing the latter.


Last edited by kamiboy on Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:26 pm 



Joined: 04 Sep 2010
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caincan wrote:
Image


That is a sleek looking controller you have hooked up to that machine. Really matches the styling of the X68000. Where did it come from and what is its name?


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:38 am 


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I spoke with user "cdamm" this evening, and he has expressed interest in importing systems into the US and selling them.

I know he keeps some X68000 games and hardware in stock, but you might want to get in touch with him.


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:42 am 



Joined: 18 Sep 2012
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robivy64 wrote:
I spoke with user "cdamm" this evening, and he has expressed interest in importing systems into the US and selling them.

I know he keeps some X68000 games and hardware in stock, but you might want to get in touch with him.



Yeah thats me. I got a few components and 3 games in house currently.

thanks for the mention, rob!


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 Post subject: Re: X68000 information sponging
PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:44 am 


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kamiboy wrote:
That is a sleek looking controller you have hooked up to that machine. Really matches the styling of the X68000. Where did it come from and what is its name?


Looks like an SMS controller, with an original FM Towns pad to the far left (terrible controller!).

You can easily modify an SMS or Genesis controller to work on the system.


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