Sunday 23 August 2020

SD2IEC Power Options

Back in the mists of time, The Future Was 8 bit started by selling SD2IECs. They had one power option, the datasette port.

That was nice and simple, you plugged the IEC connector into the IEC port and the power connector into the datasette port and away you went. "But what if I want to use the datasette port as well?" came the call, so a version was produced. That again was nice and simple, plug in the IEC connector for data, and the userport connector for power.

"But what if I also want to use the userport", "what if I have a C16", "I want to use a disk drive as well", and so on. Various options were created, with different connector, some with multiple connectors etc. Those are being phased out, and replaced with various adapters. In order to best describe the options available, here are some pictures. Find one that looks like the configuration you want and order that. 


Be warned, the following pictures are upside down. They have been taken by a trained professional with adequate safety gear in place to make sure all the electrons do not fall out. Do not try this at home unless you are confident to undertake such a task. 

Also note the word 'TOP' is written in large, friendly letters on the top of the blue connectors, make sure the connector is inserted this way around.

VIC 20 / Commodore 64

The options for the C64 and the VIC20 are essentially the same, as they have the same datasette port and userport on the back. The main difference is the VIC20 should have the essential VIC20 Penultimate+ Cartridge installed.

Whereas the C64 should have an Epyx Fastload Reloaded.

Option 1: Userport Powered

This is a good option if you plan to use a datasette drive at the same time, and have no plans to make use of the userport. If in doubt, I would probably go for this one.

Option 2: Datasette powered.

This is the classic configuration, and a good option to pick if you don't have a datasette drive, or don't plan to use one at the same time as the SD2IEC, or if you have some userport peripherals or may want to use some at some point in the future.

Option 3: Userport Power Adapter

The datasette power adapter allows you to use a datasette powered SD2IEC from the userport. Useful if you can't decide on the above two options, you can insert the adapter if you need to use a datasette drive, but the rest of the time, you can remove the adapter and plug the SD2IEC power cable directly into the datasette edge connector as normal.

Option 4: Userport saver

This option is for the people who want to use both a datasette and some userport peripherals at the same time as the SD2IEC (or just like the LED voltmeter and reset button it provides).

Option 5: Datasette Power Extension

This extends the datasette power cable so that you can use a real 1541 disk drive as well as the SD2IEC, and still have it powered by the computer.

Option 6: Userport Power Adapter

This option is also for use with a real disk drive, but gets it's power from the userport to power a datasette powered SD2IEC.

Commodore plus/4

Option 1: Userport power

The plus/4 still has a userport, but the datasette port is different. So again here, the recommended option is the userport.

Option 2: Userport Power Adapter

You can also use the userport power adapter to connect a normal datasette powered SD2IEC to a plus/4.

Option 3: Userport saver

Or you could use the userport save if you need access to the userport and mini DIN datasette port.

Option 4: Mini DIN Datasette Power Adapter

An alternative for the plus/4 is to use a power adapter from the mini DIN datasette connector to a datasette powered drive. (note these adapters only pass through 5V power, these cannot be used to connect a standard datasette drive to a plus/4).

Commodore 16

The Commodore 16 does not have a userport, so the mini DIN datasette adapter is the only option here.

Commodore SX-64

The SX-64 does not have any type of datasette port, so userport powered is your best option (or using the userport power adapter or userport saver, those options are not shown).

Commodore 128

The datasette port on the C128 is either too far away or has too small a cutout to allow the connector to inserted (depending on the model). So again the Userport powered SD2IEC is recommended (or one of the adapters - a prototype userport save shown, production models are white with a 5V power meter, as shown in previous photos).

Case colours

The range of SD2IEC drives can be seen on The Future Was 8 bit, the only choice you have left to make is which colour SD2IEC do you want, they are all the same inside, but there are various case colours to better match your computers.

Sunday 2 August 2020

Minstrel Updates

This is an old post, preserved for reference.
The products and services mentioned within are no longer available 

Updated versions of the Minstrel 2, 3 and 4th are now available from The Future Was 8 bit.
I have simplified the options down to a single version for each, with optional ZXpand for the Minstrel 2 and 3.
These are now single boards, with the keyboard integrated into the main board. The is a keyboard overlay PCB with keywords as appropriate for the system, and the optional ZXpand board which is soldered onto the edge connector.
Now in fancy new packaging. If we call it a collectors edition, does that mean people will try to buy all of them?

Minstrel 2

This is a kit to create your own ZX80. The design follows closely the original ZX80 schematic, with a few improvements to make it more useful, 16K of RAM, multiple ROM images (4K or 8K versions of BASIC), and a modified composite video output circuit to make up for the shortfalls in the original design.
As with all of these Minstrels, these are self assembly kits, with all modern, still in production, through hole components.
The only surface mount part is the SD card socket on the ZXpand, and this is supplied pre-soldered so you don't need to do that if you want the ZXpand option. This allows you to load programs direct from SD card, and also adds a joystick port which supports ZXpand, INKEY$ and Kempston modes.

Minstrel 3

The Minstrel 3 is ZX81 compatible, it implements the same functionality as the ZX81, but with a different circuit designed with modern 74HC chips, rather than relying on an original ULA.
The updated design includes the NMI slow/fast mode used by lots of ZX81 games, and 32K of RAM with support for many of the high resolution techniques for the ZX81.
There is also a version of the Minstrel ZXpand for the Minstrel 3, again with a pre-soldered SD card socket, for fast SD card loading and the multifunction joystick port.

Minstrel 4th

The Minstrel 4th is a Z80 single board computer, which implements a memory map and display compatible with the Jupiter Ace, so it can run Jupiter Ace software, and you can try out the Forth language.

The Minstrel 4th is 'designed for RC2014' and can be expanded via an RC2014 bus connector, to make use of all sorts of existing expansion cards.

All of those kits are available now from the new 'Tynemouth Software DIY Computer kits' section of The Future Was 8 bit -
Along with the Mini PET of course.

2022 Update: Some of these kits, along with the updated version of the The Mini PET are still available from The Future Was 8 bit.

2023 Update: Minstrel 2, 3 and 4th PCBs, kits and built and tested boards are available via my SellMyRetro store -

See this post for more information -