Cat-644 Ser No. 3

A project log for Cat-644

An 8-bit computer based around an AVR ATMega-644 and junk-box SRAM.

Mark Sherman 11/24/2016 at 21:120 Comments

Kevin made me a second board with a few improvements. Counting my original prototype, this is the 3rd copy of this computer.

The 3.3V regulator has an extra pad that can now accept both styles of regulators: 78xx series AND 1117 series LDOs. The too-close traces were moved. And row of header pins were added for all the (only 3) unused PORTA lines. Now every pin out of the microprocessor is easily accessible. Some pins, like the data and address lines are not explicitly brought out of the board, but just about every pin goes through a via at some point, so there are many places to cleanly solder a wire and grab a signal. (Clean... as opposed to tacking-on jumpers on the bottoms of all the ICs: putting a wire throgh a hole is much more sturdy.)

I tin-plated my board, and I chose to use machined sockets, gold plated in the ones the local shop had in stock. My 20-pin sockets for the 74xxx logic chips have integrated bypass capacitors, so I left most of the bypass capacitor spaces blank.

I discovered the the .1uf capacitor I originally had on the VSYNC VGA line is not necessary, at least with my current monitor, on this board.

I am also making another change in the name of code optimization: I am switching the HSYNC and VSYNC signals. I don't need to change the board, just how the connector is wired up. (If someone discovers the .1uF vsync capacitor is necessary, one will have to be tacked-on somewhere, but you could do this in the wire harness itself if you wanted to.)

Why am I switching these signals? The video interrupt is generated by Timer#1, and it has two channels, A and B. The timer is set to free-run to Channel A's value and reset to 0 when it reaches 636 (the number of clock cycles it takes between lines of video). When it resets, it also calls the video interrupt code.

In my original version of the code the interrupt 'manually' pulled hsync low, first thing after the C interrupt 'header' code. After a while, I noticed that by chance Channel A's output pin happens to be the HSYNC line, so instead, I have it set up to pull sync low when the counter resets. Now when the interrupt starts, HSYNC had already been low for a few clocks. But now I want to push the HSYNC signal further into the past: I want the hsync to have been low for almost it's full duration before the interrupt even starts. First thing, I want the interrupt to pull hsync high, and then start outputting video as soon as possible. To do this, I need to use Channel B.

Channel B can be set to pull the pins up and down at different time values than the reset value which Channel A is using. (I can't switch channel A and channel B behavior, as only channel A has the hardware to reset the counter and fire the interrupt: Channel B can only poke an IO pin on and off.)

Channel B happens, by chance, to be the line I am using for VSYNC. So if I swap HSYNC and SYNC lines, I can now program the AVR's timer hardware to pull HSYNC low or high at a different part of the cycle than the start interrupt code.

I have already swapped these pins on my connectors, and verified that the newly placed hsync pulse has horizontally shifted my display. Today is Thanksgiving, so I will probably stop for the day, but maybe this weekend I can finish the revised VGA driver.