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I always had a soft spot for the Microbee - Printable Version

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I always had a soft spot for the Microbee - elpiggio - 06-11-2019

I was brought up on the VIC-20 and Amstrad CPC, but my Cousin offered me a 64K CIAB with Disk Drive. It was well worth the $150 I spent on it.

Prior to that my Dad got me into the first Computer Classes. There was high demand but he spoke to the Teacher and managed to wrangle me a spot. Thus began my life-long career in (and fascination with) computing. It was a room full of Microbees. In those days you'd spend a couple of hours in class typing in a program but forgot to bring a cassette tape.

In the 1990's a lovely gentleman by the name of Peter Marshall sent me two Premium 128K Microbees in good condition. I got in touch with Microbee Technology back then and they sent me a 256TC Technical Manual and some other books. The allure of the Microbee was that you could hack about with the Hardware as well as the Software! One of my Premiums was soon fully specced out with all the possible options (extra Video / Attribute / Colour RAM, Flashing Attribute Mod, 512K RAM, SN76489a, Dual 8530 SCC Chips, Real Time Clock, etc. etc.) A nice EGA Monitor completed the setup - and some extra Floppy Drives, although I never actually owned a proper Twin-Floppy Enclosure.

I made a WAV Player in Z80 Machine Code and was also working on a SCSI Controller using 8255 PIO chips, but it never really got anywhere.

I had other Microbees including a Dynamic RAM Model with Battery Backup. Also a "Big Board" for the Microbee. Unfortunately I lost interest in Microbee to some degree due to the lack of flexibility with the graphics. I tried converting a static image (loading screen for the SimFarm game, actually) but the limitations on colour pixels meant it wasn't really possible. I was tempted away by the Big Box Amigas (Amiga 2000 and later 4000).

I always had a soft spot for the Microbee though, and never really left it. I built a Premium+ in 2013, which is a fantastic piece of kit. I think about CP/M and Microbees often and always hoped to do something genuinely interesting and astounding in CP/M. One day, perhaps. The Microbee is literally one of the most important things in my life. It is my special interest.


RE: I always had a soft spot for the Microbee - ChickenMan - 11-11-2019

Hi elpiggio, great to see you here. Do you still have the code for your WAV Player, would love to have a play with that Smile


RE: I always had a soft spot for the Microbee - elpiggio - 13-11-2019

(11-11-2019, 10:06 AM)ChickenMan Wrote: Hi elpiggio, great to see you here.  Do you still have the code for your WAV Player, would love to have a play with that Smile

Yeah, the code is on the MSPP Repository along with some sample WAV files Smile


RE: I always had a soft spot for the Microbee - ChickenMan - 13-11-2019

Arr yes, sorry of course. I just checked and I do have it plus your Bondwell Speech program. I havent put them in the Repository here yet, but will be shortly, still much to sort out Smile Thanks Smile


RE: I always had a soft spot for the Microbee - elpiggio - 13-11-2019

(13-11-2019, 12:29 PM)ChickenMan Wrote: Arr yes, sorry of course.  I just checked and I do have it plus your Bondwell Speech program.  I havent put them in the Repository here yet, but will be shortly, still much to sort out Smile  Thanks Smile

I'd like to build a better quality 8-bit DAC, if there is such a thing. Perhaps Microbee Technology might put out a kit someday Smile


RE: I always had a soft spot for the Microbee - someone - 20-11-2019

(13-11-2019, 04:24 PM)elpiggio Wrote: I'd like to build a better quality 8-bit DAC.

Hi elpiggio

Welcome aboard!

Someone says to get great quality sounds out a of microbee using devices from that era you can use the AM6070 DAC (DAC-76) as used in the famous Linn Drum.

Unfortunately these are now hard and expensive to get.  (Just like the SID chips for for the Commodore 64).

Like the microbee the Linn Drum uses a Z80. It just uses its Z80 to drives lots of AM6070s with EPROM stored sound samples.

An alternative to get great sounds out of a microbee from that era is to use a microbee MIDI interface.

There are at least two versions - one uses the SCC on a DRAM motherboard and the other uses a Roland MPU401.

The SCC method is the most economic and easiest way.

All one needs to do is hook up a suitable optocoupler (e.g. 6N138), a TTL open collector buffer(e.g. 7407), a diode, a few resistors and two DIN sockets.

Just configure the SCC for 31,250bps, hook up a MIDI instrument or more and away you go!

To play sound samples of your choice the cheapest way is to use an AKAI MPX8 or MPX16.

This allows the microbee to play a bunch of SDCard stored .WAV samples.

(The MPX16 has a built in microphone making it easy to record .WAV samples without needing a PC.)


Good Luck!


RE: I always had a soft spot for the Microbee - ChickenMan - 23-12-2019

Elpiggio, I must mention that your WAV playing program is now in the Repository in the Microbee\Software\Applications\Music_speech repository together with Bondwell Speech, Musicraft & PSGM programs.  Lots of WAV examples included as well Smile


RE: I always had a soft spot for the Microbee - elpiggio - 23-12-2019

That's great !!!

Thanks guys, I want to set up my own Microbee Sound Studio now Tongue

But I only have PP+ Maybe it's MIDI capable via its hi-speed serial port?

Or can I add an SCC ?

I got some sample DAC chips from Texas Instruments which I will experiment with sometime.

-elpiggio