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Comment Chroma Subsampling (Score 1) 286

There's a difference between LCD TVs and LCD monitors: chroma subsampling. If your LCD TV doesn't support 4:4:4 chroma subsampling using it as a PC monitor will yield mediocre results - text and other fine details won't look right even if you're using the panel's native resolution and disabling any "image enhancement" options the TV scaler may provide. This is why a 1080p LCD TV might look like absolute garbage next to a similar 1080p PC monitor when displaying computer graphics even though they take the same input signals, have the same resolution and probably the same type of LCD panel.

Comment Re:Nigeria has had TV since the 1970s (Score 1) 93

Old NTSC TVs can be modified to display PAL signals by tweaking the vertical scan rate, the RF/IF stages and by adding a PAL color decoder board in the right place. Sometimes the external board isn't needed at all, the set's own chassis has the spots to add the missing PAL decoder components, this is especially true of cheap Asian made TVs intended for worldwide export. Countries like Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay had a lot of experience in modifying US NTSC-M or Brazilian PAL-M imported TV sets into their unique PAL-N standard, as in every TV repairman worth his/her salt could perform such a modification. Russia was in a similar situation during the early 90s, old Soviet-era TV sets were SECAM only, and since Russia didn't have an official video game market consoles entering the country were PAL. A decoder board could be installed by your local TV tech if you wanted to play video games in color on your old TV.

Newer CRT TVs with full microprocessor control (two or one-chip designs) are either NTSC/PAL compatible from the get-go or just need a slight software change to get them to display PAL signals. Again, this is especially true of cheap, mass produced designs intended to cover most of the world's TV standards with few to no alterations. Line voltage is also a non-issue nowadays, most switching power supplies are able to take any voltage between 90 and 260V AC, just replace the plug on the end to fit your outlets.

Comment Re:CIC failure vs. PRG failure (Score 3, Interesting) 157

I was able to distinguish between the game not booting and the system reset being held low by the CIC back in the day, apparently no sync is generated during reset or something along those lines because even though you get a black screen you can see it "free-running" and getting torn up horizontally, and newer TVs just blank out the video entirely like an invalid signal. I was even able to hear the difference by 'feeling' if the horizontal oscillator on the TV was free-running or locked. With a successful CIC handshake but bad program execution you get a black screen with proper sync which overrides video blanking on newer TV sets.

Comment Genius G540 (Score 1) 165

I got one of these a few months ago from eBay for about $50. Has supported every ancient & modern chip I've thrown at it so far (even parts not on the device list by using clever substitutions) except for the 27C1024 (16-bit wide 128K EPROM), it even came with two PLCC adapters for free!. The only time it failed it was caused by a flaky USB cable. Software isn't very well translated but it does the job. If you like Engrish, read the manual for a good laugh.

* Great device compatibility (it even takes those crazy ancient 21V parts)
* Software works on Windows 7 x64
* True USB (power + data)
* Good build quality for a Chinese product
* Cheap. If you're on a budget and don't want to mess with parallel port programmers, this is the way to go.

* Software is proprietary and Windows only
* Software is a bit quirky and full of Engrish (eventually you'll get used to it)
* Seems to top up at 1MB for EPROM and 512KB for Flash even though it has more than enough pins

You might also want to take a look at the G840, the successor of the G540. I also second the suggestion of getting a UV eraser. I've made one myself with the internals of a small air purifier and a project box, but you can get cheap ones on eBay that will do the job.

Comment Re:Slashdot (Score 1) 379

Ah, the AMI Color BIOS . I had a 486 motherboard with it and I remember a Pentium-era motherboard which had both a standard text-mode BIOS and the graphical one, user selectable.

If you used the AMI Color BIOS with a pre-VGA adapter it would use text characters to draw the GUI elements and the pointer, much like old DOS programs.

Thanks for the nostalgia trip, by the way.

Comment Re:Sadly, I think Apple might win on this one (Score 1) 656

Optical media needs to die.

It will die when solid-state media like NAND Flash reaches throw-away prices, at least for small capacities. DVD-R discs are so cheap now they're essentially a disposable off-line distribution system.

Until I can buy something like a 10-pack of SD cards for $2, I'll have to keep my optical drives around.

Comment Re:I have seen RAM retention in real life (Score 1) 169

Long ago I had a Macintosh PowerBook 145 which did something similar. If I suddenly powered off the machine and powered it back on a while later, the monochrome LCD would show the contents of the display buffer prior to the shutdown for a split second after the startup chime but before the usual checkerboard pattern, with varying degrees of corruption depending on how long the machine stayed off. It held a recognizable image for a surprisingly long time. I remember reading that this particular laptop uses pseudo-static RAM so I attributed such behavior to that.

I also remember that a friend's beige G3 showed some remnants of old video memory contents as well. It took several seconds to generate a valid video signal from a cold boot, in those intermediate states it would sometimes display "pieces" of whatever was left in VRAM from the previous session. That one had SGRAM for its video chipset if I remember correctly.

"The fundamental principle of science, the definition almost, is this: the sole test of the validity of any idea is experiment." -- Richard P. Feynman