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[C128 Tower]

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Welcome to my C128 "Tower" project page - Version 2
[Second version of Tower]

This page is intended to more or less document the building of my second C128 tower. The image shown on the right is what it looked like when complete. Click that image, or any image on this page for the associated full-sized photo (where available). Many of the photos are low-resolution (having been taken with an older webcam), and will be displayed without the Javascript viewer, as they're just too small. For the high-resolution images, you'll need to enable Javascript and allow pop-ups for this page. Scroll down for the details on how this tower was made.

I can say one thing for sure: this second tower was a HEAVY sucker. I eventually sold it to Al Anger, and then bought it back after realizing that I just can't get away from Commodore stuff. It's in my blood I guess. :-) After you've read this page, you may wish to head over to the page for Version 3.

Saturday April 16, 2005
[Back of new panel] I replaced the cardboard front panel with a much nicer one made from plastic scavenged from a broken computer. I made a couple of errors on it, which explains the two little bits missing from the edges. The only thing I could think of to actually attach everything to the back of the panel with, was a product called "QuickSteel", an automotive epoxy-based putty that usually dries rock-hard in an hour.
[Back of new panel, closeup] The CMD HD LED board is held on with five metal stand-off's, which themselves are attached with the epoxy putty.
[New panel connector] On the back of the panel, I fashioned a makeshift cable/connector setup, so that the panel may be unplugged from the computer using just two plugs (the second being that CMD HD LED-board connector). Yes, it is what it looks like, a 28-pin IC socket, which mates to a similar socket on the panel.
Not shown in these pictures, I took time to finally permanently fix the power problem I had been having with my FD-2000. Turned out to be a bad power connector, so I just took the connector out and soldered the wires directly. It looked horrible, but it was necessary and I was out of options.
Friday September 27, 2001
[Revised Front Panel] After running into some minor problems with the second version of the control panel (space limitations mostly), I revised it. I've re-done the CMD HD panel - now it has a standard CMD-HD LED board behind it, courtesy Maurice Randall. I moved the six other status LED's to the left of it (the LED board was in the way), and re-positioned my switches.

Sunday, September 16, 2001

Not much has been done to the tower since just before the expo. It was at that point that I finished up most of the computer (just the little things here and there really, nothing fantastic).

[Another Version of the Front Panel] I had a temporary front panel in place, made out of an old piece of cardboard.. It was just something to get the tower together enough to make it to the Sept. 8 2001 SWRAP Expo. I've since replaced it with a much better looking panel, also made of cardboard. This time I took a lot of care in making it, measuing it out really nice on the back side, etc. It's still only temporary, but it'll do for now.
[Close-up view of the Control Panel] This is what it looks like close up. The six switches are, left to right, top to bottom: Super CPU Enable, 1571-DEnable, RAMLink Enable, Turbo Enable, 1571-D Device Number, and Motherboard JiffyDOS Enable. The CMD HD front panel is only for display, nothing on it actually works yet, except those six LED's in the upper right corner. They are, top to bottom, left to right: Turbo, 1571-D Activity, FD2000 Error, RAMLink Access, RAMLink Activity, and RAMLink Error.
[Closeup of RamLink/SCPU Soldered Connection] In order to get rid of the bad connections once and for all between the RAMLink and Super CPU I hacked the expansion connector a little and soldered the two devices together, thus eliminating a major source of crashes and lost data.
Maurice Randall has offered his services in making a new front panel out of steel, and at the time this project was being worked on, I had intended to take him up on that. I still would like to add some Audio controls and replace the six switches with long-life momentary pushbuttons, but that will hopefully be done on the next iteration of the tower, and it will require a little intelligence between the switches and the circuits they used to control. Update: Feb. 22, 2009 - I'm not planning on using a metal panel anymore - after changing the layout, I realized that normal plastic case knockout panels will do fine.
Wednesday and Thursday, August 29-30, 2001

HP designed this case so that it requires a special bezel kit in order to mount standard 5 1/4" devices in it. After much searching, I found no good leads, and gave up looking for this bezel kit.

[Front View of Drive Bays] Since I couldn't get a real bezel kit, I had to come up with a workaround. I used several metal plumbers' straps, along with some leftover steel straps from a previous job, and they seemed to work well.
[Closeup of Front Drive Mounts] If you've ever worked with rack-mounted computers, you'll know they slide in and screw in from the front. Using some metal straps, I employed the same method to mount the 1571 and CD-ROM drives.
[FD control board and CMD SCSI host adaptor] The CMD SCSI adapter board is an odd size, and doesn't fit precisely either in a 3 1/2" or a 5 1/4" drive bay, and nevermind fitting it into this tower case without modiciations. I ended up using more metal straps to create long leg-like brackets for it. The FD controller also received similar brackets.
[Side View of Drive Bays] I installed a few more metal straps, to take care of the back of the drives as well.
[Side View of Drive Bays] That curly piece of metal acts as a heat sink for the FD-2000's voltage regulator. Originally, the FD-2000's metal case itself was the heat sink. Without this, the drive acts weird and tends to flake out with lots of head stepper activity.
[RS232 Port] Originally, the only way I could think of to mount the RS232 port was to insert it through one of the case's card openings on the back, and solder it in place, as shown on the left. On June 22, 2002, I replaced that RS232 port with a proper 9-pin port fastened to a standard slot panel. I also covered all of the other openings with replacement knockouts as well, replacing the old masking tape.

Tuesday August 28, 2001

I finally got the mental drive to work on a few things, notably the RAMLink power supply and 9VAC transformers, backup battery, and the SuperCPU/RAMLink mounting brackets and such, and it turned out to be easier than I expected.

[RAMLink Backup Battery] I mounted the RAMLink's backup battery with two metal straps I found at the hardware store. It's right behind the drive bays against the right side of the case. Notice that one of the straps goes right over the negative terminal of the battery - that's OK, that terminal is grounded by the RAMLink anyway.
[9VAC and 9VDC Transformers] I decided ahead of time that I didn't want to hack into the tower's power supply, but I had to find a way to provide both 12VAC for the C128's AC lines, and an always-on 12VDC supply for the RAMLink. I opted to use a transformer and a relay for the 12VAC side, triggered by the system 12VDC line, and a separate 12VDC power supply connected to it's own mains input plug, on the back of the tower.
[One of the Spacers on the SCPU] To keep the SuperCPU's RAMCard from working loose, I decided to bolt it firmly to the SuperCPU. After adding a few washers to act as shims, the spacing was just about right.
[The Other Spacer and Mount on the SCPU] On the bottom of the SuperCPU I put a second spacer/standoff, and attached this one to a bracket (not pictured) that was bolted to the bottom of the case. The corner adjacent to these two (also not pictured) is bolted to the metal banding shown in the picture to the lower left.
[Back (bottom) of RAMLink] The uppermost edge of the RAMLink and the Super CPU were supported by a metal plumbers' strap that ran the length of the case. One corner of the RAMLink opposite the metal strap is fastened to the bottom of the case with a small bracket. That little standoff that sticks out from the RAMLink near the lower-left of the image, the one with nothing attached, received a heat sink and another, longer mounting bracket.
[Entire Metal Strap] By itself, that plumbers' strap was flimsy, but in combination with the other mounts used here, it was stable enough to keep things together.

Thursday August 23, 2001

More work done to the tower today, if it isn't obvious :)

[Bottom showing caster wheels] I took David's advice and added caster wheels to the tower. I had hoped that this would eliminate some of the work of moving this big monster around. Even though they were rated at 50 pounds each, those four caster wheels still failed to support the tower (at "only" 64 pounds), and eventually broke.
[More ports added] IEC Serial, Audio, 40-Column video, and two modem/phone ports. The Modem ports were hot-glued in place behind two holes originally intended for a PC's PS/2 keyboard and mouse. The IEC serial and video ports are actually inserted through holes cut into the back, and bolted into place.
[The 33.6K Cardinal modem] I decided the best place to put the modem was up on top of the tower. Nothing else needs this space, and it's also a convenient place to wind the cords up and hot-glue them down. Update - June 22, 2002: David and I needed a new modem to get us back online after our move to Scranton, PA, so I took the modem out of the tower and put it into service.
[User Port] I replaced the flat ribbon cable on the User Port with a more colorful UTP flat cable. While testing the MP3 project I discovered just how noisy the old cable was. Update - June 22, 2002: I retired the User Port extension a while ago, replacing it with a dedicated printer port. Future projects will be put on the expansion port instead.

Monday August 20, 2001

A few additions to the tower. Mounted the Motherboard and some of the ports.

[The motherboard, mounted] This is the motherboard mounted in the case. Five 3/16" stand-off's support it above the original mounting panel. Unlike the last iteration of the tower, I decided to leave the mounting panel intact in this one. Most of the wires and cables aren't hooked to anything yet.
[Keyboard, Joystick, RGBI ports, inside] These are the four most important ports on the machine of course - Keyboard, Joysticks, and 80-column video.
[Super CPU] The Super CPU and RamLink (not pictured) were mounted on their side in this iteration of the tower.
[Closeup of the SuperCPU end of the Cable] This is the close up view of the SCPU-to-Motherboard cable end. Note how each signal wire has a ground wire attached to a common ground connection. In the next iteration of the tower, I'll use a proper header connector at both ends of the cable.

The C128-DCR motherboard fit into the tower just fine, with about 0.75" of clearance around all four edges. To try to reduce the mess, two cables were hidden behind the board. Due to lack of clearance, I had to turn the SuperCPU and RAMLink on their sides to fit them in.

Friday August 17, 2001

I've finally got a chance to get started with the new C128 Tower. So far, just some pictures of the new case.

[Front of the new Tower case] Front of the new tower case. This is actually a Hewlett Packard Netserver LH Pro case, with one power supply, three additional fans, and power distribution electronics.
[back of the new Tower case] This, of course, is the back of the tower. This case was definitely designed to keep the components inside cool. This particular photo was snapped long after the tower was originally completed. You'll notice the newer 9-pin RS232 port also, mentioned in one of the later entries.
[Three-Quarters view, inside front-right] This is the inside of the tower, right half.
[Three-Quarters view, inside front-right] That power supply is rated at 45 Amps at 5 volts, 33A at 3.3v, and 12A at 12v. Has a nice huge fan too :-).
[Left inside of tower case] This is the left half, where the motherboard mounts at. There's certainly plenty of space available to mount the various components in my setup.