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Retrobright Experiment

I finally got around to trying the Retrobright technique to remove yellowing. You need UV light, so doing this in Norway is a bit tricky because the weather is quite unpredictable and we do not have a lot of sun. Also, the Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) needed is expensive and only comes in maximum 6% solution. I have an old computer mouse which was very yellowed and a perfect candidate for this experiment due to its small size.

There are several different methods and recipes to use for Retrobrighting, but I chose the plastic wrap method and using only H2O2 and corn starch. I put the 6% H2O2 into a cup and gradually added corn starch until I thought the mixture was thick enough. Afterwards I poured the mixture on the plastic wrap, put the yellow part of the mouse on the mixture and wrapped it together.

It was supposed to be a sunny day so I put the wrapped mouse outside at 08:30 in the morning, and then retrieved it at 18:30 in the evening, so it got around 10 hours of sunlight in total. All in all I was quite satisfied with the result.

Here is a picture showing the before and after and the different stages, you may notice the small bubbles appearing which is a sign the process is working.

Retrobright steps of Brother Mouse

Topic: Repair, by Kjetil @ 19/06-2021, Article Link

Gould 1604 Oscilloscope Repair

I have gotten hold of a Gould DRO 1604 oscilloscope from 1989. It would power on, but the display was severely distorted and looked like this:

Gould 1604 Before

I cracked open the case and first of all removed a leaking battery, which is not related to the display problem, but important to fix as soon as possible:

Gould 1604 Battery

Luckily there is a service manual available for this particular oscilloscope, which helps a lot in giving troubleshooting tips and places to measure. I first discovered that pin 4 of U803 (the Y DAC chip) had -3.3V but the service manual said it should be either -2.8V or -4.2V, depending on the "dot joining" state. This led me to Q811 (a MOSFET controlling the "dot join") which had a strange voltage of -3.41V on it's gate, where it should have been either 0V or -5V. According to the circuit diagram the gate of Q811 is pulled by a resistor connected to the -12V power rail.

I measured the -12V rail, and this was only around -11V which is too low. This rail is controlled by a LM377T linear regulator, which is adjusted by a set of resistors and capacitors. I checked the three associated resistors R1, R2 and R16 and they all had the correct values. However, the two capacitors C15 and C16 had correct capacitance but horrible ESR value of 23 and 33 ohms.

Here are the two bad capacitors, with blue casing:

Gould 1604 Old Capacitors

Which i promptly replaced with new ones:

Gould 1604 New Capacitors

This fixed the -12V power rail, which now measures around actual -12 volts, and the display is now working:

Gould 1604 After

Topic: Repair, by Kjetil @ 04/12-2020, Article Link

Amitech Amiga Mouse Repair

I have an Amiga mouse that behaved so poorly that it was unusable. The symptom was that movement was barely detected, if at all at some times. After digging around on the Internet I found that one possible cause is the IR emitter and IR photo-transistors that are used to generate the quadrature encoder pulses.

I ordered replacements from my local dealer, specifically:
* OP 750A - IR phototransistor 850 nm 30 V Side Looking, Optek

IR phototransistors

* IRL 81A - IR emitter 860nm 100mA 1.3V THT, Osram Opto Semiconductors

IR emitters

And soldered on these replacements:

Amitech mouse replacements

This is indeed what was causing the problems and the mouse is now working again:

Amitech Denmark Logo

Topic: Repair, by Kjetil @ 03/10-2020, Article Link

Amiga 500 Capacitor Replacement

I recently replaced all the electrolytic capacitors on my Commodore Amiga 500. This was originally for troubleshooting and diagnostics purposes, but sometimes it is a good idea anyway because electrolytic capacitors are prone to drying up and become worse over time. I understand that this varies a lot between manufacturers and production batches, so it's not always the case. As for the Amiga 500, there seems to be some dispute.

Anyway, in this process I had to come up with a easy way to track the work while soldering. So I made this "map" with all the capacitors and their values. It might be helpful to others later:

Amiga 500 Capacitor Locations

Note that this is a Amiga 500 revision 5 board, so others might be different.

Topic: Repair, by Kjetil @ 01/05-2020, Article Link

NCR System 3330 Dallas RTC Mod

The Dallas DS12887 RTC inside my NCR System 3330 PC had died a long time ago. Unfortunately, this made the machine unbootable from the hard drive, since it would forget the hard drive settings on each restart. Instead of finding a replacement, like for the Commodore PC 30-III, I opted for the external battery modification instead. I got this working with just two regular AA 1.5V alkaline batteries, a huge success!

The initial error on every startup was as follows:

NCR Battery Power Lost

Fortunately, the Dallas RTC is a in a socket on this machine, easily extracted:

NCR Dallas RTC Extracted

To perform the mod, two sections of the case needs to be opened, which I did with a Dremel tool:

NCR Dallas RTC Dremeled

Afterwards, it's possible to solder on leads for a new battery:

NCR Dallas RTC with new battery leads

I installed a new 2xAA battery holder inside the case, connected to the RTC:

NCR Dallas RTC external battery

The machine is now working again, settings can be saved to CMOS and booting from hard drive is possible:

NCR Powered On

Topic: Repair, by Kjetil @ 14/03-2020, Article Link

Commodore PC 30-III Repair

The Commodore PC 30-III is a AT-class 286 clone PC running at 12MHz with 1MB of RAM. My first and initial problem was the battery failure upon booting:

Commodore PC 30-III Battery Failure

For some reason, It was not possible to get past this error and continue booting anyway, so a replacement was needed. I got hold of a Glitch Works GW-12887-1 which can replace the original Dallas 1287 RTC in this machine:

Commodore PC 30-III Dallas DS1287 RTC

This is unfortunately soldered directly to the motherboard. But I cut a socket and soldered that one on instead:

Commodore PC 30-III U201 Socket Replacement

In which the replacement fits nicely:

Commodore PC 30-III GW-12887-1

This got the machine booting properly. But after a while of playing around with Compact Flash disk replacements, magic smoke suddenly appeared. Which became my second problem. I located the source; a burned ceramic capacitor:

Commodore PC 30-III Burned Ceramic Capacitor

From what I could find out online, these capacitors can fail if cracks appear in them, and moisture gets in over time. So that's most likely what happened to this 30 year old component. I got a replacement and removed the bad one, which disintegrated almost by itself:

Commodore PC 30-III Capacitor Replacement

The brand new ceramic capacitor in place:

Commodore PC 30-III New Capacitor

The machine is now up and running again:

Commodore PC 30-III Front

Topic: Repair, by Kjetil @ 08/12-2019, Article Link

Commodore 1541-II Floppy Drive Repair

I was able to repair my Commodore 1541-II floppy drive, which is typically used together with the Commodore 64.

The first problem was that I do not have the original (external) power supply, but fortunately it uses fairly standard +5V and +12V voltages, which are also used by most PC hardware. So I made an adapter from a 4-pin molex to a 4-pin DIN connector:

Commodore 1541-II Power Adapter

The pinout of the DIN connector can be found here among other places.

When powering up the drive for the first time, it would keep the drive motor running constantly, which is apparently a known problem. Some other people online said this could be caused by a faulty PSU or bad ROM chip...

When I attempted to continue troubleshooting the next day, the situation had worsened. Now the power LED on the drive would flash a little on power on and slowly fade away. Symptoms of a short circuit or something perhaps...

With no idea on what to do about this, I decided to try to replace the electrolytic capacitors, which people often do on restoration/repair projects.

There are only three of them on the main board, all 10uF and 25V, located here:

Commodore 1541-II Capacitor Locations

Old and new replacements:

Commodore 1541-II Capacitor Replacement

To my surprise, this actually worked, and the drive is now working:

Commodore 1541-II Working

I have a theory: Two of those capacitors I changed are between the incoming 12V/5V and ground, acting as "decouping/bypass" to filter out noise. If there happened to be a short circuit or weakened resistance in the capacitors, that would explain parts of the symptoms at least.

Topic: Repair, by Kjetil @ 26/10-2019, Article Link