Atari Super Breakout restoration
by Grant Searle 2008

I won an old Super Breakout Arcade PCB on eBay. Here is what I did to get it working...

Here are photos of the board showing how it was when I first got it (thanks for the pics Ed)
(Click on each of the pictures to see a detailed view)

Overall, it was complete, but there was a lot of rust on the regulator, and several pins on the chips were rusted.
Some of the chips were in sockets, but most were soldered directly into the board. It was a bit strange that 2 of the program ROMs were soldered, and the other 8 were socketed. Also, it was strange that the "version 04" sockets were present even though the "version 03" PROMS were on the board.

Using the service manual, I determined the minimum power requirements and connections that I would need to power-up the board to test basic functionality. When I did this (I supplied it with 9V, and the board consumed about 2.4A) I discovered the board was totally dead. So, I started to replace chips with spares that I had, working my way initially from the clock generator, then to the horizontal and vertical timing chains. I had to replace 5 out of 8 chips just to get timing signals being generated. It was unusual to have to replace this many, so I suspect something must have happened to the board to cause so many chips to be faulty. When I examined some of the logic outputs of other chips, I discovered there was a major problem with many chips because the output levels of them were no where near correct logic "0" and "1"'s, even though they had the correct voltage at their supply pins.

I could have carried-on replacing chips as I went on testing the circuit but I quickly realised this would take a lot of time, as I would probably have to replace the majority of the chips.

I unplugged the 6502 and tested it in a simple computer circuit that I had built before, but discovered that this IC was dead as well. So, I suspected the RAM may have problems also.

It was then that I decided that I would totally strip the board of ALL chips and rebuild it from scratch. I have a large supply of 74 (or 74LS) chips in my spares drawers and discovered that I had replacements for virtually all of the chips. I also have a supply of spare 6502 CPUs. Luckily, at that time, someone on eBay was selling a lot of 2102 RAM chips very cheaply, so I decided to buy them in case the RAM on the board was in fact faulty (later testing confirmed this to be the case).

I also decided that I wanted the re-built board to be totally socketed, so that I can replace/test chips easily in the future. I had many new sockets in my spares drawers (from other projects that I didn't start, and I tend to buy things like these in bulk), so I didn't need nearly as many as I thought I would.

So, over the next few evenings, using a de-solder pump, patience and a few burnt fingers, I managed to carefully remove all of the chips. I left the 3 ROM sockets on the board, as they were still in good condition.

As I was going to replace the chips with mostly "LS" versions, this would need lower power consumption than the original board, so I removed the 4R regulator bypass resistor. If I didn't then the resistor current may pull the 5V line above this value, damaging all of my new work.

(Click on the picture to see a detailed view)

Here is the board with all of the chips removed...

(Click on the picture to see a detailed view)

Once all chips were removed, I cleaned up all of the holes, and gave the board a good scrub to clean it up. Then came the (easy) task of soldering sockets into all of the vacated areas. Desoldering sometimes causes PCB pads to part from the board, so I had to make a couple of minor track repairs. I also desoldered the regulator, filed-off all of the rust and replaced it back into the board.

Here it is, socketed-up (note the bypass resistor has been removed)....

(Click on the picture to see a detailed view)

Before I plugged in any chips, I powered-up the board to make sure the correct voltages were present on the sockets.

All OK, so I then plugged all the chips in.

On powering up the board (without the RAM, Program ROMs and CPU, but with the clock Phi0 connected to Phi2 temporarily) I was able to see a nice sync output at the edge connector, with the correct timings - phew!

I plugged in the RAM and CPU (still no program ROM yet) and I connected it to a monitor. I got a steady screen of random blocks, as I had suspected. I was hoping for some random characters, not just blocks, but I quickly discovered the character PROMS were also dead.

So, getting it working...
I programmed the character ROM contents onto a 2732, and the program contents onto a 2764. I then plugged them into little plugblock boards and ran trailing wires into the empty sockets.
Extra address lines on the 2732 character EPROM were taken to ground.
I used the three chip select lines on the vacant ROM sockets to decode signals for the A11 and A12 lines on the 2764 program EPROM and the /CS pin on the 2764 was connected to the output of a 3-input OR gate which I connected to the three ROM selects.

I re-checked the supply, powered it up (the board now consumes about 1.5A) and Super Breakout appeared on the monitor !

I was surprised, and pleased, that this worked at this stage. Now I had to provide some extra voltage lines to power the paddle comparator, and connect some controls to the board so that I could try it out properly.

The board normally expects AC for some of the supply lines. However, it then rectifies them on-board. So, instead, I provided it with suitable DC levels, which were then regulated on-board to the required voltages.

Once I was happy that the replacements for the ROMs were working, I needed to design and build little adapters to fit the replacement chips into the original positions...
Here is the adapter for the character ROMs...
(Click on each of the pictures to see a detailed view)

and here is the adapter board for the Program ROM. I wanted this to fit neatly over the three existing ROM sockets...

(Click on each of the pictures to see a detailed view)

The board now appeared to be working, so now I had to connect controls to it to allow me to use it. I put suitable switches and the paddle pot into a small plastic case and wired it to the edge-connector with 14-way ribbon cable.

Here's the hand-held controller that I made...

(Click on the picture to see a detailed view)
Switches across the top are the coin, player 1 and player 2. There are also LEDs for the player 1 and player 2 options.
The rotary switch on the left is the game select (Progressive, Captive or Double). In the middle is the serve switch and LED, and on the right is the paddle pot.

...and here are the connections onto the board...

(Click on the picture to see a detailed view)
The phono connectors are the audio and video to the monitor.

I used a couple of switching ICs to produce +15V and -9V supplies (for the potentiometer comparator), and I used a 555 timer IC in astable mode to produce the "AC" required for the player 1 and 2 lights.
These lights cannot be powered by DC because they are switched using thyristors. If DC was used then they would remain on once activated.

Now, everything is connected and running perfectly...

(Click on the picture to see a detailed view)

The game selection switch allows the player to decide the type of game before the first serve.
Here is Super Breakout ready to start the three variants of the game...

(Click on each of the pictures to see a detailed view)

I'll keep an eye open to see if I can get suitable blank PROMs to replace the 2732 or 2764 EPROMS. If I can get them cheaply then I'll program them and use them in the original positions.

This was a major restoration, but well worth the effort! Now, let's see what my high scores can be...


Click here to see some tips on fault-finding a faulty board.



Some of my other pages

Build your own ZX80 - my page showing you how to build this old micro
   |__ ZX80 to ZX81 conversion - build the NMI generator needed to convert the ZX80 circuit into a ZX81
   |__ ZX80 software - Type in a Space Invaders game into the ZX80

Build your own Jupiter Ace - my page showing you how to build this old micro
Build your own UK101 - my page showing you how to build a greatly simplified version of this old micro
Pong - Pictures of my build of the Atari classic arcade game
My Machines - My collection of classic 80's micros