Sharp CZ-600DB

I saw an auction for a (nother) Sharp X1 Turbo Z and this monitor – a Sharp CZ-600DB. Usually this stuff goes on Yahoo Auctions with the standard auction format, and it gets bid way expensive and finishes arbitrarily high. But I happened to catch this one with a fixed price – first to buy it gets it. The price was very reasonable for these items. The catch? It was untested. It was a toss of the dice that I couldn’t pass up.

As you can see, it was designed with the same aesthetics as the Sharp X1 Turbo Z. They look very handsome together, although I believe officially this is supposed to be a monitor for the X68000.

So I bought it and it was delivered to me and having these things shipped just makes me so gosh-darned nervous because even when they’re tested working, there’s a chance it will suddenly die from being used again after so long, or there was some internal damage during shipping, or the seller’s testing didn’t uncover some problems. Not even knowing if it’s *supposed* to work makes me all the more anxious! I opened it up and after removing some sticker residue, it looks quite nice.

But when I turned it on it looked pretty bad. Through composite, it had a very faded image and slanted horizontal lines running the whole screen. I switched to digital RGB and it got worse. I could barely discern that the monitor was receiving the signal at all, nearly nothing but those horizontal lines.

And then I left it alone. I let it sit for about an hour. When I came back to it, the picture had cleared up 100%. It was beautiful!

Turning off and right back on had no negative effect. But when I left it off for about an hour, it took about 10 seconds to reach the correct black level. When I finished for the night, I left it unplugged for about 18 hours. Upon plugging it back in, the horizontal lines were back. Nowhere near as strong as the day before, and it cleared up in about one minute. I guess it’s a capacitor problem.

Like my NEC PC-TV455, the CZ-600DB is a tri-sync monitor (15kHz, 24kHz, and 31kHz) and it incorporates a TV tuner. The CZ-600DB lacks a couple of connections that the PC-TV455 has, but it still has some pretty good hookups. It’s also a 15″ screen instead of 14″.

And plenty of controls to get just the right picture.

It came with the original factory stickers in place. I’ll be the first to admit, if it were me and I received this new at the time, I’d probably rip them right off and throw them in the trash. But they’ve been attached for 30 years now, so I think I’m just going to keep it that way!

I don’t know if it will surpass my PC-TV455 as my primary monitor in the long run, but right now I am enjoying looking at this lovely item perched above my own X1 Turbo Z.

Here it is displaying text and DoorDoor over analog RGB, and Haja no Fuuin on my PC-8801mk2 over digital RGB.

Towns OS

I received a large bundle of CD images for use with my FM Towns from my friend while I was visiting the US. I burned an image of Towns OS 2.1 L51, which may be the most recent version compatible with my system. This gave me the opportunity to try out Towns OS more in-depth than I’d been able to before. Not having a hard drive is kind of limiting, but there is still much to do with it.

Unfortunately, my images are kind of blurry. Something about the way my phone and this screen jive together makes getting good shots difficult. I can either take blurry photos or photos with a lot of wavy lines. My other monitors tend to come out better.

Each screen has a brief explanation of what’s going on.

Tennis

So I’m not much of a sports game fan, whether that’s a computer game, watching a game on TV, or the worst, actually playing a sport. But once in a while a sports game comes along and captures my attention for a bit. It has an exciting flow of action, or an interesting challenge, or clever animation.

This game is none of those.

Basically the flow of the game is one of us serves, and regardless of what level of difficulty I set the computer on, he’ll return my hits time and time again for as long as five minutes. I mean, if the whole match lasted five minutes, that would make sense, but we’re talking potentially twenty minutes for a single match assuming I never make a mistake. He never misses, he just eventually hits the net once in a while. When he hits the net, a cute girl in a mini-skirt comes out and fetches the ball. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s supposed to be.

Most of the time, I make a mistake before he does, so I spend a lot of time losing, like this time when I lost all six matches in the set. But I can’t seem to control the direction of the ball, and that’s probably key. I suppose I should look for a manual.

Sometimes I do things besides losing in this game. For example, in this set, I managed to get up to Love-40, and in fact, I got two whole victories. But I always go right back to losing!

RAM/ROM Expander

One cool and useful item that came with my NEC PC-6001 is this RAM/ROM expansion cartridge. It plugs into the side of the 6001 and doubles the memory to 32KB, and it also has two ZIF sockets for ROM expansion.

At this point, I’m not sure what can be done with the ROM expansion but I hope to find out more someday. As for the RAM, many tape games require it, so it seems like something of a must-have expansion for this system.

First major problem

The ugly side of vintage computing is that they are problem-prone. When you figure PCs are designed to be replaced every two to ten years, it’s no surprise that these 25-40 year old machines start developing issues. Nobody would have imagined that these machines would still be in use all these years later.

The problems range from leaky capacitors that can be replaced for a few yen to burned-out custom chips that range from “too much money” to “you may never find a replacement for it.” The Commodore 64 user base is so big that modern replacements for many custom chips have been produced. Other platforms may or may not be so lucky.

This happened to my Sharp x1 Turbo Z, which is so far my favorite Japanese vintage computer and the one I use most. The fault is mine alone, I should have opened it up to check on the battery and capacitors as soon as I got it. Instead, I plugged it in and it worked, and I just blindly plodded forward. Lesson learned.

One night, I noticed the machine stopped loading high density disks. Well… okay. I rarely use them. I will get around to repairing or replacing the part later and just use the double density disks, where most of my games reside. But it escalated quickly, about one hour later it stopped reading all disks.

So now I have to open it, and when I do, I see there is a small amount of leakage from the battery. The battery resides on the same board as the floppy drive controller, so it makes sense quickly enough. I used my very modest soldering skills to remove the battery. There are some areas that might indicate light damage to the traces near the – symbol in the box where the battery used to be.

First step was getting a spare parts machine. These machines are expensive but fortunately there was one available on Yahoo Auctions in terrible condition. Huge areas full of noticeable scratches on the front and top, and rust on the ports on the back. It was a bit of a gamble, though, because there was no way of knowing if that machine’s floppy drive controller worked or not.

I got it for about 20% of the price of my own Sharp X1 Turbo Z. When it arrived, I checked it out and fortunately all that rust was confined to the outside; the inside was very clean. There was no battery leakage on the controller, either. I just put the board from the spare parts machine into my main one, and it all started working again. Temporary relief! I played a victory game of Tetris before going to bed for the night.

Step two was a bit more challenging. I understand some of the principles of basic computer repair, and I had some idea of what needed to be done, but my hands don’t hold steady enough to perform delicate soldering operations.

Fortunately, I have a friend here in Tokyo that is also into vintage computers and is far more skilled in that kind of thing than I am. I explained my situation and he came over and looked at it. He hemmed and hawed, nothing jumped out at him at first, but eventually narrowed it down to a small section that had some corrosion near the battery. He snipped about a half a centimeter of jumper wire and restored the connection on the underside of the PCB (the white strip near the center of the image).

And then it worked! The idea is simple enough but finding the problem, on a system he’d never even seen before, and fixing it so eloquently… that’s straight up magic as far as I’m concerned!