Saturday, 7 January 2012

Running a ZX Spectrum in Japan

Getting a Sinclair ZX Spectrum up and running in Japan is not nearly as complicated as it may seem, despite the differences between the UK and Japan in terms of television signals and mains voltage supply.

To Japan I brought two Spectrum 48K machines and a 128K machine as seen on top. I also have a 128K +2 machine. I can use its PSU for all three machines, with original UK/Ireland mains plug attached as shown. I didn't bring my +3 over yet, though it needs an entirely different power supply (as do the +2A and +2B).

The +2's PSU is rated: DC 9V, 2.1A, Centre Negative. The input is AC 220-240V, 50Hz.

Local alternatives to the original PSU are preferable, since you won't need a step-up transformer. I use a generic PSU capable of supplying 2A, which I use to power all three machines (48K, 128K, +2). I bought the PSU from the US (I couldn't find one in Japan surprisingly) so it doesn't need a converter for the pins. You can also make use of the original Sega Mega Drive PSU, or similar, if you are using a 48K Spectrum (the Mega Drive 2 PSU is different, please check the specifications match those above). My two 48K Spectrums draw about 600mA when no peripherals are attached, so a generic PSU of 1A would suffice in this instance. The Mega Drive PSU can supply up to 1.2A so should be fine for a 48K Spectrum with for example a DivIDE attached.

On the right you can see the cheap PAL to NTSC converter I use. It only adds colour to the picture, it doesn't affect the frequency at all. The original Spectrum produces its sound internally, hence the lack of audio input cables seen above. The 128K and +2 machines produce audio through the television, though you may wish to connect directly to a pair of computer speakers.

In order to get a picture on modern televisions, in Japan or anywhere else, you'll need to carry out a simple operation as detailed on Womble's blog. It's really very simple and only takes a few minutes, as long as you have a soldering iron and some wire.

If using the original PSU a step-up transformer is required, they're available in K's Denki and the like. In my case I use such a transformer for the Data Recorder.

Input and Outputs ports

48K: Expansion port
Tape Recorder ports
TV socket

128K: Expansion port
RGB monitor output
TV socket
Tape Recorder ports

+2: Expansion port
MIDI/RS-232 port
External Keypad port
RGB monitor output
TV socket
Sound port

On the 128K and +2 machines I use the RGB output in combination with the audio socket. However, the +2 machine only produces a black and white picture for some reason, so I tend not to use it.

Loading Games

Loading games from cassette is obviously straightforward. I brought my Datacorder from home and I can load from that with no difficulties (except for some reason Joe Blade, this will only load on the +2). The screenshots above show the machine working on a modern television (100Hz).

To save your cassettes, you can also load from iPod using WAV files or iPhone/iPad/iPod touch using TZX files. The output volume from the iPod itself is too low, so I amplify it through standard PC speakers. For loading TZX files, you can use the Speccy Tape utility. This doesn't require amplification but 128K games generally don't load, as least not the ones I've tried.

The monitor shown above is a Sharp CZ-614D (X68000) monitor which has a Vertical Hold Adjustment knob, so it can display the 50Hz signal relatively well though not perfectly. The 100Hz television's picture is a lot better.

A while back I got myself a DivIDE interface and I use that when I can. Some games, especially multiload games, don't work so I load them from tape or WAV. Shown above is R-Type, which loads each level up automatically no problem.

ZX Printer

Having bought this boxed printer nearly ten years ago, I only got to opening it this month. I wrote a little program to test it out and it works as well as can be expected. The PSU shown in the box is not for the printer itself, it's a standard Spectrum PSU

Other Peripherals

Here's a look at some more Spectrum hardware. On the left is the original box, nothing too amazing... The second picture on the top shows the Currah microSpeech, the Multiface and two joystick port add-ons. The next pictures just show them connected. On the bottom you can see a joystick (very poor quality, indeed I've never used a joystick with a Spectrum) and my aforementioned Datacorder, showing the Ear and Mic connections at the back.

Here's an example of the Multiface in action: POKEing Arkanoid for infinite lives.


I also brought over a large number of games. Here are just a few of them:

Japanese Arcade Classics

More Arcade Games and a Hudson Conversion: Stop the Express

    Some of my favourite games in here, also shows the range in box sizes available...

    Popular Games

    Ultimate Play the Game (Rare) Games

    Thursday, 5 January 2012

    Nintendo's Punch-Out!! to JAMMA

    Getting Punch-Out!! to work on a JAMMA setup is not a straightforward job, though it's not too difficult if you're determined.

    The basic obstacles to be overcome are:-
    • Punch-Out!! uses two monitors
    • Like other Nintendo games, the video signals are inverted
    • The board needs an external amplifier for you to hear sound
    Aside from that, the JAMMA adaptor is fairly simple, the power requirements are standard and the controls likewise.

    Here's a shot of the board, showing the edge connector. It's a 56-pin connector, the same size as a JAMMA connector. The board can keep high scores if there are batteries installed (bottom right).

    The pinouts are available from Mike's Arcade, from where I bought two inverter and sound amp boards. You can make your own if you want, but I figured it would be easier for me to buy them already made, since they're not expensive and they come with the output cables.

    Looking at the pinouts, you'll see that the board just requires +5V. The +24V signal is required for the coin counter, but since JAMMA doesn't supply +24V you don't need to worry about it.

    For the video, you have to first connect the PCB side's video out signals to the inverters. If you buy the inverters from Mike's Arcade you don't get these cables with the kit, but they are sold separately on the site. They're standard Nintendo video cables, and I have a few that I bought from sellers on various forums. If you're going to be soldering to an edge connector like I did, you'll only need one cable. Simply cut it in the middle, strip the wires and then solder them to the edge connector as per the pinouts - one half of the cable for each monitor's outputs.

    For the sound, you'll need another two cables not supplied with the kit, again these are standard Nintendo audio cables. I emailed Mike's Arcade and they sold me the cables separately.

    The output (video and speaker) cables and the power cable are supplied with the kit. The manual is available on the site I linked to above, so have a look if you're in any way unsure. The inverter/amp boards require +12V, which is no problem to source from your control box.

    Ok, so here's my complete harness. As you can see, it's a big mess. I didn't cut the wires down so they're far too long but it works ok so I'll leave it for now.

    So from the edge connector you connect the video and sound signals to the inputs on each converter. From there it depends on your own setup. This is how I decided to do it:
    • From one inverter I took the output video signals and wired it to the JAMMA fingerboard, hence the video signal passes through my control box and from there to the monitor
    • From the second inverter I took the second monitor's output video signals and connected them to a DIN plug with the same pinout as the RGB output on my control box. This is exactly the same as what I did with my Ninja Warriors harness
    • For the sound I took the amplified speaker output from each inverter and connected them both to the DIN plug - one to the left channel and the other to the right
    • The sound therefore comes from the monitor that the DIN plug is eventually connected to. Rather than use the monitor's own speakers, I connect external speakers to the monitor through its headphone socket. For most of my games, these speakers are connected to my control box, so it's simply a case of moving the jack from one socket to another.
    Here's a look at the DIN connector I used. As you can see I forgot to cover the wiring with the enclosure before I started soldering. This shows the level of excitement generated by the anticipation of finally being able to play the game.

    And here's the final output on my monitors. For authenticity the monitor on the right should be above the other but I'd have to rebuild my desk/shelving for that.

    Power Up to Super Punch-Out!!
    Super Punch-Out!! was released as an upgrade to Punch-Out!! (it's not an easy swap), so it uses the same pinout, with one addition - that of the "Duck" manoeuvre. To make the player duck on an original machine the player would have to pull on the joystick, almost as if they were trying to pull the joystick out of the control panel. If you have a setup like mine then you can simply use a fourth button (the first three being Left Blow, Right Blow and Knockout Blow). Connect your fourth button to pin 17 on the parts side of the adaptor (pin 18 on the solder side is Right so you'll know you're in the right place).

    Power Up again to Arm Wrestling
    Arm Wrestling also uses the same pinout as the aforementioned games, but again with slightly different controls. The same Duck manoeuvre exists as with Super Punch-Out!!, so that stays the same (called Pull on Arm Wrestling). Left and Right also stay the same, on the same pins (now called Attack and Counter). The addition comes in a Power button, and its pin is pin 17 on the solder side, so it's directly opposite to the Pull button's pin.

    So you can make a harness for all three games without worrying about the inputs:
    • Pin 17 on the solder side is only used on Arm Wrestling
    • Pin 17 on the component side is only used on Arm Wrestling and Super Punch-Out!!
    • Pins 20, 21, 22 and 24 on the solder side are only used on Punch-Out!! and Super Punch-Out!!
    So all of these pins can be connected on one harness and the game will only read what it needs to; none of the inputs exclusive to each game is needed by any other game for another purpose.

    Wednesday, 4 January 2012

    The Ninja Warriors and Darius to JAMMA

    I bought another Ninja Warriors board just before the tsunami hit in March. Fortunately it did get through and I was able to pick it up from the post office. It then stayed in its box until I could get settled again. Over the summer I made a proper JAMMA harness for it - my previous one was a quickly hacked Ben Bero Beh harness with extra wires and crocodile clips all over the place.

    If you've seen either a Ninja Warriors or Darius cabinet (there's a few in Tokyo I've seen), you'll know they're enormous three-screen monsters. So here's a look at how I managed to get a Ninja Warriors board thing working at home.

    First, here's a picture of my setup. This is an old pre-tsunami picture but my current setup is almost exactly the same. The two monitors are X68000 CZ-613D monitors, with RGB and composite inputs. The X68000 can be seen on the far right. The monitors don't have internal speakers, so with PCBs I connect my speakers directly to the AV7000 control box (you can just see the bottom of it by the right-hand speaker) and for other machines (the Spectrum 128, FM Towns Marty, Famicom in the picture and anything else) I connect the speakers to the headphone socket on the monitor. The RGB cables I have I bought from MAK, and at 5250 yen aren't cheap, but definitely worth it as the picture is far superior to ordinary composite. I also have an S-Video cable for when I want to connect my control box to an ordinary television.

    I now have an extra monitor (a CZ-614D) so with three monitors I can now play the Ninja Warriors as it should be. So for the purposes of this guide what's important to remember is that I'm using the RGB input on these monitors.

    Both The Ninja Warriors and Darius use the same harness so if I can ever find a cheap Darius (not likely) I can use it on that too. Or so I believe - if you blow up your expensive Darius board then please don't blame me.

    Here's a picture of the entire PCB. There's another large board not visible on the bottom. The small board on the top right is the sound board.

    The edge connector has 44 pins and is used for player controls and coin inputs.

    On the far left are two power inputs. These have the same pinout as many other Taito games such as Bubble Bobble.

    I bought two nice new power cables from Bob Roberts to save myself any trouble in making my own. The black wires are for Ground, Red supplies +5V, Blue supplies -5V and lastly the Orange are for +12V. Pin 11 (second last orange wire) is not connected, so you don't need to wire that up.

    Here's a look at the video (J) and audio (M) connectors. For video, each monitor requires five pins - Red, Blue, Green, Sync and Ground. Hence fifteen pins on this connector. However, my monitors also required +5V to be connected, so I had to take this from the JAMMA harness. In the photograph below you can see how I wired it up. I used a 16-pin JST connector from an Out Run harness I bought and then connected up the six wires needed for each connector. As I was using the same RGB cables as the AV7000 would use, I wired them up with its pinout. The DIN connectors I bought from

    The pinouts are available from Crazy Kong, but there's a slight problem. In the picture above, the leftmost pin on the video connector (J) is pin 1, which according to the pinouts, is Ground, followed by Sync, Blue, Green and Red in that order. However, the pins are reversed. The pinout starts on the right hand side and continues to the left. So pin 15 is in fact Ground, followed by Sync, Blue, Green and Red (so the order is correct, it's just the pins numbers that need reversing). This was a little confusing, as I couldn't work out why I wasn't getting a video signal. The pinouts are also available in the manual: I found a copy on the Games Database site.

    The wires from the JST connector were quite short, which made it quite awkward to solder.

    This is how I wired up for sound. Counting from the right, pins 5 and 6 are the Right and Left headphone outputs, and pin 7 is Ground. As there's only one Ground, I first wired it to one plug, and then wired from that plug to the other. Obviously from these plugs I can easily connect to my speakers or amplifier. There are other outputs available on these pins, it just happened that this was easiest given how this JST connector was already wired up (another Out Run harness refugee).

    Here's the entire adaptor connected to the board. Once you can get the parts it's not too difficult. Certainly it's easier than something like the Atari System 1 board with its unusual power requirements. If you're using S-Video or SCART then obviously you'll have to work out the connections yourself but it should be straightforward.

    And here are two shots of the centre monitor. I didn't bother connecting the other two monitors but you get the idea.

    Tuesday, 3 January 2012

    Chase H.Q. to JAMMA

    I've decided to write up some of my "adventures" with arcade and other gaming, hopefully some of this will be useful. I'm going to focus on getting unusual hardware to run on a JAMMA setup for the moment, since most of us here in Japan wouldn't have the room for real cabinets.

    Over the last few days during these holidays I've been trying to sort out some of my JAMMA harnesses and figuring out what I need to get to sort out some problems I still have.

    Today I "finished" my Chase H.Q. JAMMA harness. I say "finished" because I have neither the steering wheel nor pedal for it. So instead, for the moment, I'm using an Arkanoid spinner and the buttons on my Sigma 9000TB.

    This side of the board is pretty dirty, the other side is spotless. Anyway, it works ok, so I'll not be washing it any time soon.

    I use this spinner, it's pretty straightforward to connect up, Left, GND, +5V, and Right connections in order as you look at it in this picture.

    There are two boards, and they require +5V, -5V and12V. The main connector has 56 pins (i.e. the same size as JAMMA), and through this you can easily connect the power and controls (wheel, accelerator and gears etc.). The video is separate: a small 5-pin connector is used for this, and the bottom board has its own power connector, which is exactly the same as other mid-80's Taito games such as Bubble Bobble. The accelerator is just a switch: it's either on or off. Because I'm using a button instead of a gear stick, the button has to be held down to keep the car in high gear. This gets sore after a while. Turbo is also just mapped to a button, so that's straightforward. I'm probably going to try connecting up my Speed Racer pedal as it also functions as an on/off switch, I just don't have the right connector to try it out yet. The steering wheel definitely won't work.

    From left to right in this picture below, the pinout on the video connector is: Ground, R, G, B, Sync

    The power connector requires 5V (the red wires) and Ground (the black ones). Unlike other Taito games, 12V is not needed by this lower board. The seller of this Chase H.Q. pcb sent the wiring with it, so I was able to connect it up to a JAMMA card pretty easily.

    For the sound, I used RCA connectors and connect directly to my speakers, thereby bypassing the control box entirely.

    The game works pretty well, it's unfortunate that a wheel such as that used by Out Run can't be employed here, but it's still fun to play.

    Got a nice photograph of my monitor for once...

    I've searched around and haven't found entirely accurate pinouts for the PCB, but go to Antelope Arcade's manual section and download the Electrocoin Chase H.Q. manual. Looking at my harness, all that's missing from their pinouts are the left speaker connections. They're directly across from the right speaker's connections; connect the Speaker- pin to Ground.

    Doing it this way, the Volume 1, 2, and 3 connections wouldn't be needed, and I didn't connect the Centre pin either, though it would be needed if I ever got a real control panel. There is no brake on Chase H.Q., so don't worry about that. Connect the Handle+ pin to Right on the spinner/wheel, and obviously Handle- goes to Left.