Introducing project Hermes

Project Hermes is the codename for an expansion card for the venerable, Amiga CD32 games console, spurned from discussions on the EAB web-forum http://eab.abime.net/showthread.php?t=72361.

The aim is for this blog to be used to track developments and get feedback from fellow users. This wordpress site will also be used to try out the format and will detail non-amiga projects too. My main website, http://www.ianstedman.co.uk, is still active.

The design aim is to produce a couple of prototype expansion boards that allow the CD32 to function as a a fully fledged computer, akin to the Paravision SX-1 or DCE SX32/Pro expansions from the 1990’s.  The idea is to provide an affordable, modern alternative to these units. The author owns a DCE SX-32 Pro unit, which with hard drive cost £600 back in 1997! A new expansion board will cost considerably less than this.

Specification

8 MB SRAM
Parallel ATA (IDE)  port + Compact flash connector.
Floppy port, capable of accepting Amiga or PC floppy drives and floppy emulators.
Real time clock?
Clockport connector to allow for I/O expansions.
Enable/disable logic + switch, for those old games.

Expected cost, around £120.

The question will inevitably be asked, why no accelerator?
KIS (Keep it Simple).

A CPU upgrade will add extra cost and break compatibility with some games, the CD32 after all is a games console. Yes some games would benefit from a faster CPU but the FPGA accelerator technologies, freely available, in the author’s opinion are not ready for use without adding significant risk to the project.

Why is SRAM used not a SIMM socket?

Stability. Even a slow 70ns SRAM, will operate with zero wait states on a 14 MHz MC68EC020 (71ns)bus that takes 3 clock cycles to do anything. Whilst a SIMM slot would be much cheaper to add than SRAM, £1 compared to around £20 for 8 MB of SRAM, age of devices and support are primary concerns. SIMMS are obsolete technology, you can easily buy them from ebay and some old computer shops. Their reliability and speed grades are unknown. Size and speed detection can be troublesome. By supplying a ready-built system with RAM, you do not have the worry about finding suitable parts, this reduces the support costs.

What’s next?

Future posts will provide a few diagrams of the unit and progress to date. The FPGA/CPLD logic is in development, more on this in a future posting. It is anticipated that the first PCBs will be designed May 2014, building of prototypes will commence around this date.

Crowd-funding is being considered for this project.

Ian

Advertisements

28 thoughts on “Introducing project Hermes

  1. … but the most important question of them all remains unanswered. Why no Ethernet? Why should my Amiga CD32 be a second class citizen in my home network? 😦

    1. The current design is based on the Keep It Simple (KIS) approach. Create something that will work but has some expansion possibilities. The main aim is an add-on for a games console. How many Amiga games support TCP/IP?

      Ethernet is a challenge as I would need to find a chipset supported by existing drivers. As most existing drivers support 10mbit devices, which are old or obsolete, it is a headache I want to avoid at this time.

      I am open to suggestions and do read the emails but I have had to fix the feature set to allow the design to progress.

      1. Sorry for the late reply. Although I’m more of a software developer than a hardware expert, I do realize that it’s a lot more easy to ask for something for a certain feature than it is to actually implement it.

        There are in fact a few games that support TCP/IP (Commodore’s own multitasking and system friendly “Robosports” being one of them!), but that’s not really what I had in mind. I’d like all of my systems to be part of the same network, not excluding my Commodore 128. Having a CD32 beneath the TV, connected being able to pull data off the NAS seems like a worthy position for a console that deserves a lot better than most have given it credit for!

        That being said, I noticed that you are toying with the idea of giving the Hermes a clockport! If realized, will it be able to host an Ethernet controller?

  2. Pingback: Proyecto Hermes |
  3. Any chance of a stripped down basic version that only offers RAM?
    Or even more just the bare SIMM socket to which to one EDO or FPM module?

    I’d love just to have a RAM expansion to see how AB3D runs on my CD32, the stock version barely even moves.

  4. HEY.Great Idea !
    What about super cheap version with 8mb ram only & raspbery piA+ as a floppy emulator+ RGB video port ? I`ve got promodule and it`s very unreliable on a conection between boards,and floppy makes noises all the time. Also I haven`t found sense in using fpu (882@33mhz).System and games mostly don`t use it .Maybe a weel patched rom will solve it ? For me RAM is the most needed,second is ofcourse cf-ide,third – better headphones amplifier! With your mixing circuit. I can`t find datasheet for this sony chip on board.ANY help guys?
    ALL best IAN
    Marek

  5. Hi, I am interested in this, when are you taking orders? I would be happy to pre-order one if the final project is likely to be ready within the next 6 months…

  6. Any updates?

    I ask again just in case.
    Any chance to release a mem only version?

    I am pretty sure you can whip up a working board very quickly and maybe price it around say 60/70 Euro, excluding the double edge connector and PCB.

    I ask because this is the second project that is well in it’s second year and it’s not sure if it will ever completes all the features, all of them are very good feature, don’t get me wrong and challenging as well, just all the delays to due life events are spreading so long.

    I am an egoist and I really would like to buy just a mem expansion for the CD32, I will buy gladly whatever comes next (CFCard/SD support etc….) but for right now just 4MB or 8MB would be golden so I can finally play AB3D as it was meant to be.

    Is there any other game that would benefit from just FastRAM on the CD32?

  7. Just found out about this today after looking for something other than the €3000 SX32 on eBay at the moment, and am wondering if this will actually be a thing. I’m a pretty big tech noob, but will more RAM improve stuff like the wider FOV mode in Liberation so the screen doesn’t tear when you turn? I’ve heard that more RAM’ll improve the frame rate in Alien Breed 3D though, so I thought it’d improve Liberation too. But anyway, I’d love one of these!

    1. Since the project developer clearly stated he or she is totally uninterested giving the CD32 Internet/Ethernet/Wifi-connectivity, this project has already missed it’s goal. It’s 2016, and the Amiga CD32 deserves to be a member of our home networks. A hardware developer who doesn’t share this ambition isn’t someone I would trust with my money.

      1. Hi,

        Any suggestions of currently available Ethernet or WiFi interfaces that are supported by Amiga OS 3.1?
        I deliberately kept the design simple as this is an add on for a games console from the 1990s, as such few games supported network connectivity, at best they supported a serial port, so what benefit would there be for an existing game?

        My 50 MHz 68030 SX32 Pro was slow surfing the Internet, via serial/modem back in 1999. Local/CDROM pages were bearable but without a CPU upgrade, the CD32 is not ideally suited for the modern web.

      2. I already stated I would have been more than happy with just FastRAM support (and the off switch) as all I want to do is finally play AB3D at a decent speed.
        The rest is literally on the side for me, so told if it really is going to cost £120 I will have to carefully weight if the extra money I’ll spend for feature I have no way to use is worth anyway or not.
        [maybe I’ll find use for the HDD port or the CF connector not sure how much that added to the overall cost though]

      3. Is parallel port a possibility? That way user could use plipbox for ethernet. It’s not that fast but usable, and certainly better option than a serial port.

    2. Project Hermes is not dead, it just took best part of 2015 off so I could concentrate on other issues.
      The prototype design is complete, just making some final checks before I release a prototype PCB. When there is more to report, I will make a new blog post.

  8. Hey Ian, good to see you are around.
    I’ve had a not so hot year, so, I hope you are well.

    Are you spending any time on the CD32 Project Hermes work lately?

    Cheers,
    John Willaford.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s