Apple IIGS MP3 Archive - Posted September 2006

I realize this page hasn't been updated in quite awhile. However I would like to share some classic Apple IIGS songs I digitized and encoded in MP3 format back in 1997. These were recorded live off a ROM01 IIGS with FutureSound stereo card, digitized on a PowerBook 5300ce at 44.1 kHz, 16-bit stereo, and encoded into 96kbps CBR MP3s (more than enough quality for the IIGS!)

NEW - Apple IIGS Music Page

Comments, feedback can be sent to my address at the bottom of this page...

Apple IIGS RGB to VGA Project - Adventures in RGB (Winter 2001/2002)

The following is a description of my Apple IIGS to VGA (LCD flat panel display) project (Adventures in RGB).

In the winter of 2001/2002, I got an e-mail out of the blue from Dave Lyons informing me of Rich Dreher's CompactFlash for Apple II project. This served as a wakeup call to spark my interest in modernizing the IIGS. Living in Japan now, old Apple II parts are frequently hard to come by, and when you do find them, they command a huge markup over items on U.S. eBay! However, I was able to procure a ROM03 Apple IIGS system with extra 1MB memory card for 1500 yen (about $14). Amazingly enough, this IIGS seems to have been originally used in a school in the USA - North Bend School District 13. They affixed to it a pleasant serial number - 11011, which I like to think of as binary for 27. (It also reminds me of those two office buildings with equally binary-sounding addresses near the Apple campus at the corner of Sunnyvale Saratoga and Stevens Creek in Cupertino.)

Bringing the IIGS back to my apartment was the first important step. But then I realized I have no IIGS compatible monitor, no floppy drive, no keyboard, and no mouse. I ended up importing a floppy drive from eBay US (I could not get myself to shell out the $50-100 or so that the few vendors were asking for in Tokyo's Akihabara district, although later I discovered a few drives on Yahoo Japan Auctions going for a somewhat more palatable $30 or so each) for $7 or so (not including shipping), buying a keyboard ($2.50), ADB mouse II ($5), and ADB cable (a ridiculous $2.50, but what are you going to do?) locally. Using the composite output with my TV, I thought away I would go...

But then I discovered that I had no way of writing floppies for my beloved little "11011" ROM03. After chatting with Tony Diaz one night, I thought I could solve this problem by ordering a floppy drive module for my Wall Street PowerBook G3. Again I was forced to import from eBay US, as what ended up selling for around $50 (new) there would have cost about 2.5 times that if I bought one in Japan! I happily inserted the drive module into my PowerBook, only to discover that the disks it wrote were unreadable by the IIGS. At first I was using HD 3.5" disks with the HD hole taped shut. Figuring this might be the problem I went through the trouble of procuring some new 3.5" DSDD disks locally. However, they didn't work either. Luckily, in the end my boss gave me his old Macintosh LC 575, which I now use solely for the purpose of making floppy disks for my IIGS. It's a bit bulky for my small Tokyo apartment, but I have given it a loving home.

After about five months of acquiring these parts, finally, at this point I could boot! But months ago, I realized I would not be able to tolerate the TV's display for long. At first, I tried desperately to procure a Second Sight VGA card. If you do a Google search for Second Sight you'll find an interview explaining how it works. Basically, it watches addresses on the IIGS address bus for writes to video memory, and mimics the video writes to its own onboard VGA VRAM. This sounds cool but leads to a variety of problems, including flickery video, and lack of support for all display modes (including IIGS fill-mode, as well as several IIe compatible modes which I forget offhand, which lock up the card--and your whole system--if you run a program which uses one.)

But besides these problems, it is next to impossible to even find one these days. A card sold on eBay for over $300, and I was so desperate I bid and almost bought it. Not even Jawaid Bazyar, who wrote the card's firmware, had any extras any more. I was bummed. I searched on Usenet and the Web for anyone who had gotten the IIGS's display on a VGA monitor, and while several people theorized that an Amiga Scandoubler might work, nobody had successfully accomplished this task.

That's when I stumbled upon a device called the XRGB-2 Upscan Converter, and its newer revision, the XRGB-2plus (English review), by a Japanese company, Micomsoft. Finally, something that would be easier to acquire in Japan than in the US! The XRGB-2 takes RGB 15.7 kHz horizontal composite sync input and outputs regular 31 kHz VGA. (The XRGB-2plus also has a 47 kHz XVGA output mode.) The primary target market for this device is hard-core Japanese gamers who want to view their video game systems on their VGA monitors with the highest possible quality. (Most home video game systems output analog RGB, including DreamCast, PSX, PS2, XBox, GameCube..) The input connector they chose is the Japanese 21-pin analog RGB multi connector (Japanese Wikipedia entry), which is shaped like a SCART connector, but with a different pinout. Most of the sites which document this connector are in Japanese, but GamesX has an OK pinout (it has a few errors, such as the +5V!).

Since the XRGB-2 retails at over $200, I wanted to make sure that my idea would work before buying one. My Sony TV, an old Japanese studio monitor model, also has the same analog RGB connector, so I planned to wire a cable, connect it to my TV, and if that worked, buy the XRGB-2. However, this was a failure. After wiring up a cable that connected the Red, Red Gnd, Blue, Blue Gnd, Grn, Grn Gnd, and sync pins on the Apple IIGS RGB port to the corresponding pins on the Japanese RGB connector, what I produced was a signal that showed up ever so faintly on my TV. If I turned off the lights in the room, I could make out the outlines of the IIGS's display (in black and white, although in perfect sync), enough to select menu items in the Finder. However, it was VERY, VERY dim, and not in color. At this point I was stumped and finally posted on comp.sys.apple2 for advice.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information on the Japanese 21-pin RGB multi connector, and what little documentation there is is in Japanese. I did some extensive research on the Japanese Web and found many web sites of people who had wired their own cables to connect old computers I had never heard of (like FM-77AV, MSX, Mark III, X68000, etc.) Eventually I concluded that the problem was likely one of two things: either the IIGS signal was too weak to drive the 75 ohm load of the analog RGB input, or I needed to connect some of the control pins (such as the vaguely named "AV control", or "Ys" pins) to TTL high. However, the IIGS RGB output does not provide +3V, so I would need a diode and some resistors to pull these pins high, which would definitely make my cable more bulky and complicated. At this point I wanted to try anything to get it working. So I decided to buy the diode, resistors, as well as the XRGB-2plus itself! And to my relief, my cable worked just fine when connected to the XRGB-2plus, which seems not to care about AV control, since it's not a TV!

Now I am just concentrating on improving the image quality. See below for discussion on that.

Pictures

Pictures page.

Picture Quality

One thing I still am working on is fixing the jaggy lines. What I mean by this is that vertical lines are sometimes a bit wobbly, meaning the borders are not always solidly pronounced from frame to frame. Most vertical lines have a tendency to get a bit wavy. It's kind of like the picture at the bottom of AtariLabs' XRGB-2plus Review. The effect is not terrible, but it is a bit irksome. The effect seems worse with the XRGB-2plus.

To see what I'm talking about, look carefully at some of the pictures below, especially the XRGB-2plus up close top left corner of the menu bar, particularly the "l" in "File" and the "I" in "Edit"). Compare it to the XRGB-2 close-up). I might upload a short video clip in the future to illustrate this better.

In the meantime if you want the best image, I recommend getting your hands on (the now discontinued) XRGB-2 (non-plus) model. I also think my cable length may be partially attenuating the signal; I wasn't paying attention to the length until now, when I realized that it must be over 7 feet! I used a very high quality video cable, with separately shielded R, G, B wires, as well as a thoroughly shielded outer layer, but still 7 or 8 feet is a bit excessive (not to mention that it gets in the way since it's too long!) I plan on wiring a shorter cable in the near future.

I also think the quality would be better if I were using a CRT instead of an LCD screen. The makers of the XRGB say they won't certify its operation with LCD displays. I'm hoping that they might make an XRGB-3 with a DVI connector, but maybe this will never happen.

I must admit I am being a perfectionist. It's hard for me to accept anything less than perfect video quality, especially when my LCD screen usually displays such crisp images from my PC video card, in both VGA and DVI input modes. The image quality of the IIGS signal actually is pretty good, even with the XRGB-2plus. However it's definitely better with the XRGB-2, just like the AtariLabs XRGB-2plus review states when it slams the "dot clock" on the plus model.

The XVGA-2/plus is supposed to be preprogrammed for standard NTSC dot clock (and even allows a user adjustable dot clock), but it doesn't quite work perfectly with the IIGS's funky signal. The XRGB-2plus I think is just slightly "off"; this is because the on screen menus themselves aren't perfectly synced (even without any input signal!) However, the XRGB-2's on screen menus looked perfect on the CRT I saw at the store, but on my LCD display, they are 95% as good (just a small bit of waviness).

According to the manual, the XRGB-2/plus digitizes the incoming video signal and then upscans it and reoutputs it to VGA (and also optionally XVGA for the plus). Guess with all these ADC/DAC conversions a bit of noise gets introduced. But it's not that bad, and even nicer with the non-plus model, if you can find one.

In conclusion, the XRGB-2's output is quite crisp, however, I would still say the IIGS monitor is best! (I would say the XRGB-2 is maybe 90-95% as good, and the XRGB-2plus maybe 80-85% as good.) But to me, using a VGA display more than makes up for that 5%! And I have a feeling though that the XRGB-2's output might be even closer to 100% if I were to try it with a real CRT, and not just my LCD (adding yet another ADC phase, as well as making the LCD display an image at its non-native resolution.) But for me, I have neither the means nor the space to acquire an Apple IIGS monitor in Japan, and it wouldn't be nearly as cool as using a modern LCD display. (grin)

Apple IIGS Links

Links

Revision History


Last modified: March 11, 2010 01:32:06 AM JST

Jim Maricondo