I’m glad to announce the successful reverse engineering of Sega’s System 16 cpu security modules. This development will enable collectors worldwide preserving hardware unmodified, and stop the general discarding of Hitachi FD modules.
The project is right now involving external testers so expect further details and full disclosure over the coming weeks.
David Zweben published a project writeup showing how he built a Neopixel clock powered by an Arduino Pro Mini clone and a real time clock module:
After building my first Neopixel Clock, I decided I needed one for myself. There was no way I was going to solder 90 lengths of wire onto 180 tiny pads again, though, so I knew I needed to design a custom PCB. This necessitated a redesign of the entire clock, focused around making it as easy as possible to assemble.
A quick lookup on the ESD protection evolution of ICs in this app note from ON Semiconductor. Link here (PDF)
The stunning progress in integrated circuit capability over the last 40 years is most succinctly expressed by Moore’s Law; “Every 2 years the number of transistors that can be economically manufactured in an integrated circuit will double”. The secret to this success has been the shrinking of integrated circuit feature sizes in all three dimensions. To maintain circuit reliability with the smaller dimensions the operating voltage of integrated circuits has been steadily declining. This trend will continue in the future, as documented in the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors. As the working voltage for integrated circuits decreases the voltage at which circuit damage can occur also decreases.
The move to smaller geometries has also prompted fundamental changes in IC technologies that have had an adverse effect on the intrinsic ability of the technologies to survive ESD stress. A prime example is the evolution of nMOS transistors in CMOS technologies.
Different TVS configuration usage app note from ON Semiconductor. Link here (PDF)
Transient Voltage Suppression (TVS) protection is important because EMI and ESD can disturb the operation of the system, produce permanent damage or cause latent damage that will eventually cause a failure. Avalanche TVS diodes and diode arrays are available in a number of different circuit configurations to protect electronic circuits from surge voltages. This document will analyze the attributes and trade-offs of different circuit configurations created with avalanche TVS and diode array protection devices.
I remember reading dhole’s Emulating a GameBoy Cartridge with an STM32F4 some time ago thinking that it had a lot of applications with respect to old computers. In that article a STM32F4 microcontroller ‘pretends to be a ROM chip for a gameboy’. At the start of a bus cycle, an interrupt is triggered in the STM32F4, it then reads the address bus of the gameboy’s 6502, checks the gameboy’s read/write line(s) and pulls data from its internal Flash and presents it onto the data bus long enough for the gameboy to read it, then tristates the databus. There are no wait states. It does this all within the 1000ns of the 1MHz Gameboy CPU clock. For all intensive purposes the gameboy thinks it has a real rom chip attached.
Scott W Harden writes , “The FT232 USB-to-serial converter is one of the most commonly-used methods of adding USB functionality to small projects, but recently I found that these chips are capable of sending more than just serial signals. With some creative programming, individual output pins can be big-banged to emulate a clock, data, and chip select line to control SPI devices.
This post shares some of the techniques I use to bit-bang SPI with FTDI devices, and some of perks (and quirks) of using FTDI chips to bit-bang data from a USB port. ”
Another application note from Texas Instruments about ambient light sensors and how to effectively use them. Link here (PDF)
Generally, when someone thinks of trying to design a system with an ambient light sensor there are four main concerns or problems that need to be addressed. The most important features of an ambient light sensor are spectral response, power, size, and range of lux measurement.
CAN system isolation app note from Texas Instruments, Link here (PDF)
With the increase in the usage of signal isolation in many industrial and automotive applications, the need for isolated power has also increased. The benefits of isolation are lost if the power supplies on either side of the isolation barrier are simply shorted. At the same time, if the isolated power sub-systems are not designed carefully, it affects the overall system performance like temperature rise due to poor power transfer efficiency, data corruption due to emissions, and so on. To simplify the design process of isolated CAN sub-systems, this document provides various options (discrete and integrated) to isolate CAN signals and power.
I have been following a series of podcasts from ‘Chatting with the Designers’ CWTD.ORG that cover building simple Arduino based test equipment. I decided that this would make a nice way to get into development with the ESP32. The CWTD ‘Test Gadget’ is basically an Arduino Nano with a 2 line LCD display, and a breadboard area where small modules can be plugged in to make different types of instruments. My version will use the ESP32 and the TFT display. I am also replacing their rotary encoder with a joystick for the user interface device. I am bringing all the pins from the ESP32 module out to two pairs of female headers, that should allow me to plug in two small modules at the same time.