Discussion:
STB-80 80 Columns card
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Jorge
2017-09-15 22:10:43 UTC
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Hi,

I would like to see one of these STB-80 cards, any idea where can I find one? Or pictures of it? Or a manual?

All I can find is this:

https://archive.org/stream/1983-stb-products-catalog/1983-stb-products-catalog_djvu.txt

"The STB-80 is a single-slot 80-column video
card with a number of popular text and graphics
function capabilities for your APPLE II. "

Thanks,
--
Jorge.
Ralf Kiefer
2017-09-16 09:41:31 UTC
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Post by Jorge
I would like to see one of these STB-80 cards, any idea where can I find
one? Or pictures of it? Or a manual?
https://archive.org/stream/1983-stb-products-catalog/...
There is also a PDF of the small catalogue from STB with a picture.

This 80 column card seems to be just another videx clone with a 2kB SRAM
(6116) instead of four 2114 SRAMs and with one EPROM as character
generator instead of two as seen on many other cards.

Probably there is a more luxurious firmware.

- Ralf
Jorge
2017-09-16 10:36:38 UTC
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Post by Ralf Kiefer
Post by Jorge
I would like to see one of these STB-80 cards, any idea where can I find
one? Or pictures of it? Or a manual?
https://archive.org/stream/1983-stb-products-catalog/...
There is also a PDF of the small catalogue from STB with a picture.
This 80 column card seems to be just another videx clone with a 2kB SRAM
(6116) instead of four 2114 SRAMs and with one EPROM as character
generator instead of two as seen on many other cards.
Probably there is a more luxurious firmware.
I'm curious because of this:

"2. STB-80 Driver:

The STB-80 was one of the best 80-column cards on the market. STB Systems no longer makes it though, because they have opted for the IBM marketplace. I have one, and so do many of you, so I wrote a driver for it."

http://www.txbobsc.com/scsc/scassembler/SCMacroAssembler20.html#drivers

Every other 80 columns card I've tried is slower than the Videx. Some very much slower, even pitiful. Apple's own 80 columns, as in the IIe and IIc, that's the worst of all !
--
Jorge
Ralf Kiefer
2017-09-16 11:10:14 UTC
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The base of all videx clones are two hardware decisions:
- 6845 CRT controller
- 2kB SRAM as screen buffer, start address $CC00 [1]

Variations exist:
- number of alternate character sets
- local relais to switch from 40 column to 80 and back

The real difference makes the firmware. Try to get the STB-80 firmware,
burn an EPROM and try this firmware with your videx clone. There is a
real chance of success, IMHO.
Post by Jorge
Apple's own 80 columns, as in the IIe and IIc, that's the worst of all !
There are advantages and disadvantanges:
+ Just a single connector for the monitor, no flicker when switching
between different video modes
+ The programmer always knows the dependency between address in memory
and screen location
- Scrolling is very slow
- The other functions are also slow especially with the first firmware
of the IIe (that's what I used until getting the enhanced ROMs)
- Waste of main memory

The last point inspired me to use a videx clone in the IIe running my
own UCSD BIOS: I got more usable memory for the pascal programs.

- Ralf

[1] I'm not sure if every videx clone uses this address, but I think
there is no other choice.
Jorge
2017-09-18 06:36:01 UTC
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Post by Ralf Kiefer
- 6845 CRT controller
- 2kB SRAM as screen buffer, start address $CC00 [1]
- number of alternate character sets
- local relais to switch from 40 column to 80 and back
The real difference makes the firmware. Try to get the STB-80 firmware,
burn an EPROM and try this firmware with your videx clone. There is a
real chance of success, IMHO.
Post by Jorge
Apple's own 80 columns, as in the IIe and IIc, that's the worst of all !
+ Just a single connector for the monitor, no flicker when switching
between different video modes
+ The programmer always knows the dependency between address in memory
and screen location
- Scrolling is very slow
- The other functions are also slow especially with the first firmware
of the IIe (that's what I used until getting the enhanced ROMs)
- Waste of main memory
The last point inspired me to use a videx clone in the IIe running my
own UCSD BIOS: I got more usable memory for the pascal programs.
In the IIes, too often, when something goes wrong, you end up with the hardware set to 80 columns display but driven in 40 columns mode, one character in every other column, lol, no wonder, the IIe memory map is such a mess full of traps. In that crazy design you never how what's going to happen next after you hit reset. RE-SET. Perhaps they forgot the meaning of RE-SET? In 1983 a BBC Micro was much better than that. And faster. And its BASIC let you embed assembly. And, and...

Back then I used to work in a II in which I had put 2 videx and 3 green phosphor monitors. If I did not plug in more videx-es it was only because they weren't exactly cheap. That was so cool! Nobody had ever seen before a computer like mine, with three displays running at once!

And my II also had more RAM than a IIe, and more useful than that of a IIe, thanks to Saturn Systems. The RAM disks made orca/m/DOS33 compile in the blink of an eye.

I am curious as to why would Bob Sander-Cederlof prefer an STB-80 over a Videx. Being who he was there must be a good reason.
--
Jorge.
Ralf Kiefer
2017-09-18 09:25:57 UTC
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Post by Jorge
In the IIes, too often, when something goes wrong, you end up with the
hardware set to 80 columns display but driven in 40 columns mode, one
character in every other column, lol, no wonder, the IIe memory map is
such a mess full of traps.
Estimated 99% of time my IIe was running UCSD, and I do not agree in
that behavior.
Post by Jorge
In that crazy design you never how what's going to happen next after you
hit reset.
It's not the design of the hardware, it's the design of DOS and probably
ProDOS, IMHO.
Post by Jorge
Back then I used to work in a II in which I had put 2 videx and 3 green
phosphor monitors.
Especially when writing and debugging my own BIOS I often used two
screens, too :-) The internal IIe screen was used for debugging purpose
means special outputs, and the Videx card was the object of testing the
new driver.
Post by Jorge
And my II also had more RAM than a IIe, and more useful than that of a
IIe, thanks to Saturn Systems. The RAM disks made orca/m/DOS33 compile in
the blink of an eye.
The AE RamFactor is the fasted RAM disk, IMHO. I also used the RamWorks
[1] in the AUX slot and some RAM cards similiar to the RamFactor but
slower. This one was a german brand (OHO), AFAIK.


Cheers, Ralf


[1] A RamWorks compatible from Taiwan:
Loading Image...
Steve Nickolas
2017-09-18 09:32:16 UTC
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Post by Ralf Kiefer
Especially when writing and debugging my own BIOS I often used two
screens, too :-) The internal IIe screen was used for debugging purpose
means special outputs, and the Videx card was the object of testing the
new driver.
When working on code for the EZCGI using MAME, I had the standard Apple
display and the output for the TMS9918 side-by-side. It was really
helpful; I could poke around the VDP from FPBASIC.

Still trying to find out enough about the V9938 to use it as an 80-column
card. XD

-uso.
Ralf Kiefer
2017-09-18 10:38:15 UTC
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Post by Steve Nickolas
When working on code for the EZCGI using MAME, I had the standard Apple
display and the output for the TMS9918 side-by-side. It was really
helpful; I could poke around the VDP from FPBASIC.
Advantages and disadvantages ... :-)

I don't like graphic controller which use a separate address space for
video memory. This slows down the access i.e. copying a lot of bytes
from CPU space to video space.

The idea behind the videx card was ideal in the world of Apple II. The
cpu has full access to the video memory and the priority over the video
scanner which is switched off to avoid flickering during cpu access.

In 1987 the Mac SE and in the Mac II Toby's frame buffer (Nubus card)
used VRAMs (dual ported RAM including shift registers). A better
solution, but invented years after the Applebus Videx card was
introduced.

- Ralf
Jorge
2017-09-18 10:55:50 UTC
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Post by Ralf Kiefer
The idea behind the videx card was ideal in the world of Apple II. The
cpu has full access to the video memory and the priority over the video
scanner which is switched off to avoid flickering during cpu access.
No flicker??? How come? Mine paints a black stripe of a char width whenever I access cc00, as if it were a TRaSh-80... :-)

Even worse, if you plug in more than one, all of them can flicker at once under certain circumstances, even if disabled. I don't remember the details exactly.

Even so Videx was the best I've ever seen. Unless Sander-Cederlof was right, I don't know, I've never seen an STB-80.

I would like to see the "dirty cheap video" card (ALS). Somebody beat me to it the other day in ebay... grrrr.
--
Jorge.
Ralf Kiefer
2017-09-18 11:16:27 UTC
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Post by Jorge
Even so Videx was the best I've ever seen. Unless Sander-Cederlof was
right, I don't know, I've never seen an STB-80.
There are no real Videx cards here, just some compatible. They use
different crystals between 16MHz and 18MHz. And there are some cards
with a 74LS245, some with a 74LS373, see the orignal Videx schematics:
U5A or U5B. I don't know the idea behind this. Probably eliminating
flickering?

- Ralf
Jorge
2017-09-18 12:09:01 UTC
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Post by Ralf Kiefer
There are no real Videx cards here, just some compatible. They use
different crystals between 16MHz and 18MHz. And there are some cards
U5A or U5B. I don't know the idea behind this. Probably eliminating
flickering?
Hi Ralf,

Mine all have 74LS245s... Could you please try this:

PR#3
CALL -151
2000:8D 00 CC 4C 00 20
2000L 2000G

?

And see if there are lots of black tiny traces (one char width) all over the place?

Cheers,
--
Jorge.
Jorge
2017-09-18 12:11:17 UTC
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Post by Jorge
PR#3
CALL -151
2000:8D 00 CC 4C 00 20
2000L 2000G
If I do that with the zipchip on the image is almost unreadable :-)
--
Jorge.
Ralf Kiefer
2017-09-18 18:54:55 UTC
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Actually not, sorry. There is no running Apple II available (but some
other old computers, that's another story :-) ). Later this year ...

There is already a list of several things which I want to test and
document. One thing is the test of the different 80 column cards.
Post by Jorge
And see if there are lots of black tiny traces (one char width) all over the place?
I used my 80 column card with my accelerator board, which means a very
fast output i.e. with the whole UCSD stuff or with my terminal program
running at 57600Baud without handshake and without losing any character
or terminal command. No flickering. The reason is probably that my
monitor is the Apple ///.

Your test loop is not very representative for real operation, IMHO. This
loop inhibits the video scanner from access to video RAM very often,
every 7 usec or at 143kHz. The frequency of the video scanner reading
the video RAM is nearly the same (80 * 24 * 60Hz * 1,3).

- Ralf
Jorge
2017-09-19 15:39:23 UTC
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The reason is probably that my monitor is the Apple ///.
Yes ! That has a long persistence CRT.
Your test loop is not very representative for real operation, IMHO. This
loop inhibits the video scanner from access to video RAM very often,
every 7 usec or at 143kHz. The frequency of the video scanner reading
the video RAM is nearly the same (80 * 24 * 60Hz * 1,3).
And another Yes! The idea was to show the interferences... as many as possible.

Cheers,
--
Jorge.
Jorge
2017-09-18 10:18:39 UTC
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I don't think AE did even exist in 1982!
Jorge
2017-09-18 10:39:46 UTC
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Post by Jorge
I don't think AE did even exist in 1982!
And I got my first Videx in 1980... it costed more than $400. Sheesh, that hurt !
Ralf Kiefer
2017-09-18 10:48:14 UTC
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Post by Jorge
I don't think AE did even exist in 1982!
I dont't know when AE started their business. Even the wiki doesn't know
this :-(

In 1982 the 64kb RAMs were expensive. 256kb RAMs weren't available.
Which one was the first RAM card beside the 16kB language card? Saturn
with several banks organized like the language card?

- Ralf
Jorge
2017-09-18 11:02:00 UTC
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Post by Ralf Kiefer
In 1982 the 64kb RAMs were expensive. 256kb RAMs weren't available.
Which one was the first RAM card beside the 16kB language card? Saturn
with several banks organized like the language card?
Yes, the Saturn Systems 64/128kb were among the first as far as I know. And, at least here in Spain, you could buy a bare pcb and build your own as a kit. A clone, chinese or taiwanese pcb, for sure :-) Or perhaps it came from Bielefeld, Deutschland Deutschland über alles, who knows?
--
Jorge.
Michael J. Mahon
2017-09-18 15:49:57 UTC
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Post by Jorge
Post by Ralf Kiefer
In 1982 the 64kb RAMs were expensive. 256kb RAMs weren't available.
Which one was the first RAM card beside the 16kB language card? Saturn
with several banks organized like the language card?
Yes, the Saturn Systems 64/128kb were among the first as far as I know.
And, at least here in Spain, you could buy a bare pcb and build your own
as a kit. A clone, chinese or taiwanese pcb, for sure :-) Or perhaps it
came from Bielefeld, Deutschland Deutschland über alles, who knows?
That's exactly what I did (and many others).

The Hong Kong/Taiwanese PCBs were plentiful for popular cards. I built my
own Videx clone, Language Card clone, Saturn 128K clone, and Z80 SoftCard
clone--each for less than $100.

That freed up funds for uncloned cards, like the SpeedDemon, the
Mockingboard, and a Graphitti. ;-)
--
-michael - NadaNet 3.1 and AppleCrate II: http://michaeljmahon.com
Jorge
2017-09-18 16:18:18 UTC
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Post by Michael J. Mahon
Post by Jorge
Yes, the Saturn Systems 64/128kb were among the first as far as I know.
And, at least here in Spain, you could buy a bare pcb and build your own
as a kit. A clone, chinese or taiwanese pcb, for sure :-) Or perhaps it
came from Bielefeld, Deutschland Deutschland über alles, who knows?
That's exactly what I did (and many others).
The Hong Kong/Taiwanese PCBs were plentiful for popular cards. I built my
own Videx clone, Language Card clone, Saturn 128K clone, and Z80 SoftCard
clone--each for less than $100.
That freed up funds for uncloned cards, like the SpeedDemon, the
Mockingboard, and a Graphitti. ;-)
I still have one :-)

Loading Image...

What the hell was a "Graphitti" ?
--
Jorge.
Michael J. Mahon
2017-09-18 16:50:46 UTC
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Post by Jorge
Post by Michael J. Mahon
Post by Jorge
Yes, the Saturn Systems 64/128kb were among the first as far as I know.
And, at least here in Spain, you could buy a bare pcb and build your own
as a kit. A clone, chinese or taiwanese pcb, for sure :-) Or perhaps it
came from Bielefeld, Deutschland Deutschland über alles, who knows?
That's exactly what I did (and many others).
The Hong Kong/Taiwanese PCBs were plentiful for popular cards. I built my
own Videx clone, Language Card clone, Saturn 128K clone, and Z80 SoftCard
clone--each for less than $100.
That freed up funds for uncloned cards, like the SpeedDemon, the
Mockingboard, and a Graphitti. ;-)
I still have one :-)
https://i.imgur.com/xo07j7u.jpg
What the hell was a "Graphitti" ?
It was a short parallel printer card that had hi-res screen dump routines
in ROM.
--
-michael - NadaNet 3.1 and AppleCrate II: http://michaeljmahon.com
Jorge
2017-09-18 17:42:39 UTC
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Post by Michael J. Mahon
Post by Jorge
What the hell was a "Graphitti" ?
It was a short parallel printer card that had hi-res screen dump routines
in ROM.
Lucky you! I had to deal with this https://imgur.com/a/oWJNG and write the dump code myself :-(
--
Jorge.
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