X68000 Progress Journal

Started by Pinwizkid, August 02, 2015, 02:44:07 PM

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Hi all,

My name is Brendan and I recently acquired my first X68000 computer! A friend of mine recommended that I keep some kind of journal as to my progress in gathering/assembling all of the necessary pieces to create a nice X68000 setup, so I figured why not do it on this forum which already features a treasure trove of information about this obscure beast?

First and foremost I want to thank some of the members here, particularly Hyperneogeo who sold me a refurbished X68000 Super HD which I'll be building around, Superdeadite for his informative posts and excellent youtube channel, and to Eidis & Caius for creating and maintaining the Hard Drive image that I plan on installing once my necessary parts arrive. Also thanks to all the other members here who contribute on a regular basis as well as anyone who had a hand in creating the X68000 wiki on gamesx. Really great stuff guys!

I think the goal of this journal will be to help others understand the challenges, cost, and technical obstacles in creating an X68000 setup, as well as to help me gather information and parts as I hit various roadblocks, as I'm sure I will.

Part 1: Why did I buy this thing?

My first love in all-things-gaming-related was Pinball. I am a big fan of the Williams system 11 pinball machines that came out in the late 80's and have been fortunate enough to stay active in the pinball hobby for the last 15 years through buying, fixing, and selling pinball machines.

Now, what is the link between pinball and the X68000? Well, things get a little nerdy there... I also happen to be a huge fan of vintage electronic music, especially FM synthesis music and any music found in games. As it would happen, the sound chip inside the X68000 (the Yamaha YM2151) is the exact same chip Williams used in all of their pinball machines from 1986 to 1993. This chip was also used in many, many arcade games in the 80's and 90's, and many scaled up or scaled down variations of the chip made their way into a lot of consoles, computers, sound cards, and arcade PCBs. I grew so interested in these FM chips and this style of music that I actually started composing my own chiptunes using Adlib Tracker 2 back when I was in a high school (I've since moved onto to using Renoise and the VOPM VST plugin, a software emulation of the YM2151 that anyone can freely download and compose their own OPM synth music with).

While looking into the YM2151, the X68000 computer of course managed to surface during a Wikipedia marathon. I didn't immediately say to myself "oh man, I have to have one of these," but instead listened to some music from X68000 games, and naturally really enjoyed it. This was probably 6 or 7 years ago while still in college, so I really didn't have the time or resources to seriously think about buying one of these.

It wasn't until recently when a friend of mine frantically made me watch his new favorite Game Sack video: The X68000 episode. It probably didn't help that I'm a shoot em' up fan AND a 16 bit console fan... That sort of planted the seed of "Well, maybe if I stumble into one..." This was a safe mindset to have as the odds of "stumbling" into an X68000 on Long Island was pretty much absolute 0. Unfortunately for my wallet, the internet managed to ruin said safety about year later when the first-ever for-sale post for an X68000 popped up on KLOV:

$400 for a fully working X68000 Super HD with a brand new power supply, a button battery installed for the SRAM, with a SCSI hard drive cable ready to go. I figured the price was more than reasonable considering the work that had been done, and the fact that it was already stateside was a deal maker. I did a full 10 minutes of research and quickly saw that the Super HD was one of the more desirable models to own (though not quite as desirable as the XVI with its fancy 16mhz switch). I said, "Eh screw it. Let's dive in."

Of course, it wasn't until after I sent the Paypal payment that I started to realize that... "Oh damn, there's a lot of sh*t I need to buy for this friggin' thing." Followed closely by... "oh damn, there's a lot of sh*t I need to MAKE for this thing." Slight panic attack, but then it arrived, and it was glorious:

Fast forward another week and I've already gotten a bunch of parts I needed with more are in transit, but I'll save that for part 2!



Wow, it's in really nice shape! Congrats, and welcome to the forum


Quote from: famiac on August 09, 2015, 10:13:03 PM
Wow, it's in really nice shape! Congrats, and welcome to the forum

Thank you for the welcome! I've enjoyed your posts on this board quite a bit famiac :) And now for a progress update...

Part 2: The X stands for Expensive.

After about a day's worth of research, I quickly understood there were a ton of peripherals I was going to have to either make or buy in order to get anywhere with the X68000. Then, of course, I also started to find "optional" items that I thought would be cool to acquire down the road as well. The cost of all of these items (none of which include ANY games or software) started to seem a little daunting, so I had to set some realistic short term goals for my set up:

1) Get the X68000 to show pixels on a screen.
2) Forget about buying $100+ games and use the Aztec Monster CF drive with Eidis' HDD image instead.
3) Worry about the tri-sync monitor fiasco later on (this will undoubtedly be another topic).

This lead me to create an X68000 shopping list to help me keep track of what I needed to get, (and to keep tabs on what was in transit to me and what was already in my possession).

Here's the shopping list with some rough price estimates to give you an idea of how much this thing costs (feel free to mention any items I should add to the list for a basic setup):

-X68000 Tower $200 - $600
-X68000 Keyboard $100 - $200*
-X68000 Mouse $30 - $60* (you actually don't NEED this, but the cost isn't too bad, and some games/apps require it).
-Aztec Monster CF Card Drive $125**
-Kingston 4GB CF Card $10
-Roland MA-8 Speakers $60 (Any speakers will do. I'm an audiophile, so I sprang for some slightly more expensive ones.)
-Hardware for Video Harness $10
-Crappy old CRT monitor with VGA input (I found one for free. This will get upgraded later).

*You can build an adapter to use a regular keyboard and mouse if you are comfortable creating a homemade module from a schematic. I'm pretty decent at soldering, but this was a bit out of my league, so I very painfully paid $150 for a keyboard from Japan! :\

Keyboard adapter schematic
Mouse adapter schematic

**As far as my knowledge goes, the Aztec Monster CF drive requires a system with at least 2MB of ram. Even though I'm new at this, I'd recommend anyone who is interested in an X68000 to get a tower with at least 2MB of ram, as a majority of the library won't play with the 1MB found on the earlier models. You can only get the Aztec Monster from Japan, but I got mine within 6 days of purchasing it on ebay.

Here's a list of items that I intend to build as I'm trying to limit the amount of things I'd otherwise have to import from Japan:

-X68000 to VGA Video Harness
-Sega Genesis Controller Adapter

These 2 items, as far as I know, are just re-routings of the pins on each connector and don't require any special "converter boxes" to be built like the keyboard and mouse do.

Even though one of the main reasons I wanted an X68000 was for the onboard FM synth music, I also really enjoy the Roland MT-32 soundtracks that many games have. As a "stretch goal," I put together this list for the MT-32 setup:

-Roland MT-32 Module $50 to $100 (these are easy to find as this was released in the US.)
-X68000 MIDI Interface card (CZ-6BM1A or SX-68M II) $100 to $200
-Standard MIDI to Mini DIN 5 Pin Adapter (this often comes included with the interface card, but sometimes not.)
-Behringer Eurorack MX 602A $25 (A great, cheap, space saving mixing board for hooking up a MIDI module and the X68000 audio out simultaneously. I happen to have one one of these tucked away in a drawer, so it will hopefully be put to good use soon!)

With the exception of the MIDI gear and the mouse, I have everything I need to start assembling my harnesses and to (hopefully) get the X68000 up and running! It hasn't been the cheapest endeavor, but it's definitely fun so far :)



Sooner or later you will want more RAM then 2mbs, but it's enough to get started on.

If you are a fan of MIDI I'd recommend saving your money and get a CM-64 instead, as quite a few games support the extra features.  Unless you want an MT-32 for other uses, it's kind of pointless to buy one for the X68K alone.

Monitor wise, it really depends on where you live in the world.  I have tried various setups over the years, and in the end I feel the best option is a tri-sync CRT arcade monitor.  An expensive upgrade, but the ideal solution as a long term goal.


The CM-64 would be a nice upgrade one day. The modules seem tougher to find than the MT-32, but I'll keep my eyes out.

About the RAM expansions... I'm having a little trouble figuring out which ram expansions boards are compatible with the Super HD. Basically I'd like to upgrade to 4MB in the not-so-distant future (or 6MB if there are 4MB expansion cards that will work with the Super HD). Which models should I be looking for?


EDIT: Found them. Looks like the PIO-6834-2/4M-1, SH-6BE-2/4M-1, AICZ6BE2/AICZ6BE4, CZ-6BE4, and XSIMM10 are compatible with the Super HD.


just get an XSIMM10 and be done with it :D


Quote from: Opethian on August 12, 2015, 12:27:50 AM
just get an XSIMM10 and be done with it :D

Agreed! What's the story with the size limitation issue? Can the XSIMM10 and MIDI interface be installed simultaneously or does the RAM get in the way of the other slot? I'm reading about this issue on:



You have two IO slots so you can use both an XSIMM10 (or another RAM expansion) and a MIDI interface no problem.

Any of the IO slot type ram upgrades will work on your Super HD.  They come in various sizes ranging from 2mb to 10mb.  2mb and 4mb are pretty common.  There are some that are 8mb that are a little harder to find and then there is the XSIMM10 which is 10mb.  You are limited to 12mb total system RAM so if you get an XSIMM10 then you're basically maxed out.


Part 3: We Get Signal.

Time to build a VGA to X68000 video harness! This was a pretty fun mini-project, but does require specific hardware and soldering. I used a regular VGA cable and a DB15 Male D-Sub Solder Type Connector (plus housing).

I started by hacking off the end of the VGA cable and was greeted with this.

There are a handful of X68000/VGA pinout diagrams online, but I ended up making my own and then cross checking it with the pinout on gamesx.com. Using the continuity test on a DMM is super useful here to help figure out which wire is connected to which pin on the VGA cable (I'm not sure if all VGA cables have the exact same color wires, so to anyone else doing this, double check yours before using my notes!)

The top glass of my Galaxian cocktail is already beat to sh*t, so sometimes I use it as a workbench...

Now the soldering starts. A C-clamp comes in handy to hold the connector at a 45 degree angle while soldering.

Had to remember to put shrink tubing on each wire BEFORE soldering it... I forgot a few times :/

Note that not every wire from the original VGA cable gets connected. I also noticed that all of my grounds are connected (the cable was like that originally)... I'm hoping this is normal. If anyone can chime in on that, I'd appreciate it.

Here's the finished the X68000 video cable end with housing.


Next up is mounting/installing the Aztec Monster plus modding a controller. Thanks to all who have helped me out by answering my questions in this and other threads :)



I haven't forgotten about this journal - last week was huge as I finally got the X68000 to run! Now I have to back track a little to get all the progress down...

Part 4: Taming the Aztec Monster

The Aztec Monster is a new-school device that allows you to use a CF card as the hard drive for an X68000. The device is small enough to fit internally into an X68000, but one somewhat unexpected issue I ran into was actually how to mount the drive inside the tower. I couldn't really find any pictures of anyone's Aztec Monster mounted inside the tower, nor could I find a hard drive mount that would really fit (but perhaps someone will chime in with a less "home brew" solution than mine).

I found a small piece of plastic about the size of a 3.5 floppy disk at a hardware store that looked like it might actually be the perfect size to mount the Aztec Monster, while having enough overhang to reach the original hard drive mounting screw holes inside the X68000 tower.

Also, it looked like the holes on this plastic lined up rather nicely with the ones inside the tower. All I needed to do was drill some extra holes to attach the Aztec Monster to.

To add some space in between the plastic and the PCB, I used the little stand off squares that came with the Aztec Monster. It fit real nicely on this piece of plastic!

The final step was simply to screw it into the mounting holes, attached the power cable and SCSI cable. Done!

emerald danjon

Cool Stuff!,
i have my SCSI HDD on External Port,i want an internal Cable like yours :),


Excellent solution on the hard drive mount.  If your system doesnt have the stock hard drive mounting plate then a homebrew solution like that is necessary.