Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Like riding a bicycle?

It's been a long time between posts, for several reasons. Babies, closing the office... resulting in not having the time nor the inclination to tackle engineering-related extra-curricular activities, especially those requiring significant effort!

So... an update? Unfortunately not related to NGPACE, but my first foray back into FPGA development for quite some time. I haven't been working with FPGA's at all in the last few years until very recently, and now I've been contracted to work on a design incorporating a rather nice FPGA (in fact the exact same device I am using for the NGPACE motherboard) that we are bringing up right now; a design that is perfect for retro video game emulation! ;)

I discovered only a few days ago that a colleague involved in the project at work owns a Tempest cabinet! That got me curious and after some research I re-discovered that Jeroen Domburg, a.k.a. Sprite, implemented Black Widow in an FPGA sometime around 2012, (very similar hardware to Tempest) although he interfaced that to a vector monitor.

Turns out that Tempest, unlike Black Widow, uses the Atari Mathbox hardware, which I don't have the time to implement right now. Rather, I thought I'd get Black Widow up and running on our new board, just for kicks. I used the same crude rasterising/decay technique that I did for Asteroids several years ago, although I added colour! It gives surprisingly good results, more than adequate for a proof-of-concept demonstration.

Maybe now I'm on a roll I'll be able to get back to NGPACE...