Saturday, September 30, 2006

Pimp My CoCo: Microprocessor Report :P

Okay, the HD63B09EP (or "right tricky bastard," as I like to call it) is nearly impossible to get hold of. So, until a source is found, thought I'd hunt for alternatives. Apparently Hitachi built 68B09EPs as well. If you're looking, you might try that part number as well.

Why is this so tricky? Well, Brian (Random_Rodder) could probably explain better, but the deal is that most of these chips are handled by chip dealers. These folks buy, sell, and trade microprocessors in a rather volitile up and down market. To order from these folks, you have to order in bulk. And buying 20 to 50 chips or so at $30.00 a pop, is probably out of most CoCoist's budgets. Even I'm not that crazy. Well, okay if I had the money... ahem...

Having some spare and backup MC68B09EP chips laying about, though, is handy. Particularly if you're going to be mod'ing your CoCo and intend to socket that chip. (I'll get into the other chips needed some other time.)

One problem in searching for these things is that not all suppliers list them the same way. And google is practically worthless for shopping for electronics parts. You'll see it listed as HD63B09EP, 6309, 63B09, 63B09EP, etc. And you have to try them all to get a hit. And most of the time, even if you punch it in precisely, well, it's not indexed, so no luck. I killed Yahoo Site search on the CoCo Hut for precisely this reason. It wouldn't update and it kept holding on to old crap. Anyhoo... try entering MC68B09E into Jameco's site. Doesn't work, even though they sell the chip. Sigh.

Okay, so...

First, hitting eBay works, and in general hit the whole and proper name for the chip. For exemple, searching for MC68B09EP, use the whole thing. EBay has a pretty good matching system, but it is on full words, not partials. So, 68B won't find anything useful most of the time. Common ones I hit are: MC68B09EP, MC68B09E, MC68B09, and then again without the MC in front. Same pattern for the HD68B09EP.

Oh, just in case and to be thorough: MC is Motorola, HD is Hitachi. I don't why. :)

Jameco has MC68B09Es on sale and in stock. The price is more than reasonable, although I have scored several recently on eBay for about $1.99 a piece. Still, can't go wrong with Jameco. Highly reliable in my book.

Radio Shack and Frys were no help at all. (So no link for you guys! ha!)

One seller on eBay has been selling MC and HD 68B09EP's for $9.50 each.

The "E" and "EP" parts, from what I've read so far (and I could be completely wrong), are identical, except that the "EP" has a lower power consumption. Thus I would expect it to run cooler. But from the looks of it, they take the same inputs and give the same outputs. TIFWIW, I'm mostly guessing. As soon as the Es I've ordered arrive, I'll pop one in the CoCo and see what happens. :)

So, is hunting the Hitachi 6309 worth it? Not having tried it yet, and somewhat perturbed about how difficult they are to get, my answer at this point is a definate yes and no. :) And I reserve the right to change my mind on this at any time.

Worth it: If you're like me, you like to tinker and adding "MORE POWER!" (grunt, grunt) is pretty much a compulsion if it's possible to do so. You'll do this even if there is no real reason, or sane reason for that matter, just because you can. If you also enjoy hunting obscure parts (or anything else), the thrill of an auction, the dealing to get what you want, then go for it. It a challanging excercise no matter how you approach it, from aquisition of the actual chip to installing it into the machine. Indeed, I'm not sure I can even do it. But it's fun trying. :)

Not Worth It: On the other hand... If you want to make you CoCo better and make it do more, this isn't it the way. There's VERY little that actually uses the 6309. NitrOS-9, couple of games, maybe a utility or two. Not really anything you can't get with the 6809. The installation process IS as hard as the experts say it is. It IS frought with peril. And if you're not a hardcore electronics hobbyist or professional, you WILL wreck the board. Seriously. Takes some heavy skills to get that 6809 out and socket it.

What we could probably use a bit more off the shelf availability is a memory upgrade. Or add a Speech/Sound Pak. Or pick up one of the RGB-to-VGA or S-Video adapters. Add a PC powersupply and run some fans. Add mass storage (again, more ready made off the shelf solutions would be nice). If you're hardware developing, sound and graphics are great ways to go. Some memory and storage options, a new disk controller, a multipak solution, would be great things to really ramp up the CoCo community. If you're upgrading, these are things that will make your CoCo experience that much more enjoyable.

So thus far, IMHO, FWIW and all those other four letters, upgrading your microprocessor is not a necessary upgrade, nor is it going to be worthwhile for most people. The good ol' MC68B09EP is tried, true and does the job nicely. If you're inclined, go for it. If you're looking for something new to do with your CoCo, you'll have better luck focusing elsewhere.

More on my "Excellent Detroy the Board Adventure" soon. I DID get that !@#$!%!@ing 6809 out. Ha! Got most of the solder pads, too. But I got the chip. Victory is mine! Sorta. :P

Angel's Luck,

1 comment:

brizaos9 said...

Hi Captcpu,

Just recieved a HD6309 chip from Roy, I'll get Bob D to solder in a socket for me, I'm not that game to attempt it, leave it too the experts I guess.
Going to be fun, seeing what the speed increase is like.