I decided to get to work on a project that is long over due – my Vector Mame machine.
Years ago I had purchased a Space Duel cabinet with some of the beginnings already laid out to convert it into a multi-vector game. I had found a PC and loaded up all the software, spent some hours configuring it. But then had some frame rate and sound issues.
Circumstances changed a bit with priorities and the machine ended up sitting in my garage for a couple of years waiting patiently for me to get back to it. But, Jeremy and I bought the house downtown and in the process of moving – the PC that was driving the system disappeared.
So, I was left with the cabinet and monitor, and the ZVG board – but no PC with a parallel port and a SoundBlaster card.
You see the difficulty is – this system requires true DOS mode to function – and only a select handful of sound cards work in DOS mode. This along with needing a working parallel port, and a serial port – it has been a while since I’ve wanted to really face this challenge again.
Fortunately my friend Alex had an old pc which I’ve re-purposed from running Windows XP to powering my game.
I don’t recall where I have my old DOS 6.22 disks any longer – so I thought I’d try Freedos and see if I could get it to work. The installation was so quick and painless I was shocked. Then was surprised yet again when I set to start configuring things and all my old DOS command line skills proved to be intact. I might not remember anyone’s phone numbers but I can still remember that a sound card needs an address, an IRQ, and a DMA and how to set them.
I unfortunately don’t have a SoundBlaster – but I could get all the primary setting configured outside of that and ensure that the ZVG driver board, the monitor, and the controls still work.
Spent probably and hour and a half on the reformatting, copying, configuring each component and then connected this PC to the machine. Ran a few utilities to ensure that I had my brightness and screen scaling set correctly – and gave it a go.
I breathed a sigh of relief when my test pattern showed up correctly. I fiddled with the focus a bit and was ready for phase 2 – starting DVMame (Dos Vector Mame). I started the program and was happily greeted with the menu system I had choosen, but I wasn’t able to select things as I’d hoped. I mashed buttons and wondered if I had lost continuity or a wire had come loose some how during the move and the years of sitting.
I opened the control panel and traced the wires – they all were connected. Finally after another hour and a half of poking, looking on the internet, poking, reading more, mashing buttons, and so on I found the keystroke combination that would allow be to enter the configuration settings for the control panel.
I had 2 buttons that weren’t registering correctly – so I restored the components to factory settings then rebooted the system. The buttons registered the keys they should – and I was ready to give Mame a go again!
All the stars aligned and the menu came up – and NOW all the buttons worked as they
should and I was able to start some games sans-sound. HOORAY for progress.
I found 2 older sound cards – I thought I’d give them a shot. So I got a Diamond Monster II card and found the DOS mode drivers from a Windows98 setup archive. Copied them to CD (I’ve gone though 6 or so tonight ferrying new bits of data to the new/old game control PC – and each one has to be finalized so I can’t just add more data to a previous one — annoying).
I make sure I have the IRQ/DMA settings unique to the sound card, have my set BLASTER= correct in my autoexec.bat along with my SET ZVG to the system LPT1 IRQ/DMA port settings – and booted up. It took a few minutes to get things working right as this card is looking for a not included .ini file that I had to generate by hand from the cryptic error messages I was being given.
But finally everything re-booted and came up error free. Crossing my toes (as my fingers were busy) I decided that I’d give it a go and fired up my menu so I could select a game. Things seemed good – I had no speakers attached yet, but if the drivers loaded, and the game runs – that is my next step.
I select a game – press the start button, and the screen goes HaYWiRe and promptly blanks out.
Stop the emulator, power everything down. Reboot, try to bring up the menu – and dead.
I remove the sound card driver – reboot. Start the game system – it has not had a spontaneous Lazarus encounter and the proverbial stone has not rolled away. The monitor on the arcade game is still dead and not responding.
I find the configuration application for the ZVG card – and start it. I want to know if my card is dead or if the problem is something else. Once the utility starts I see all the values are completely wrong. I press the key to reload factory defaults and the monitor buzzes slightly – and comes back to life. I re-configure the settings, and my test pattern is back to what it was – This time I make sure to save these as a backup in case I need them later.
I run the game menu system again -without sound support and all the games come to life and are all playable – just like if Marcel Marceau had been the contributing sound man.
So, I’m back to where I was hours ago – FreeDOS works generally. I don’t know if the driver conflation was a result of it not being actual windows, or the if the sound card itself is doing more behind the scenes than I want.
I guess my next step is to find the most basic Sound Blaster PCI 512 type card that I can, and see if that resolves the problems – or if it is the operating system perhaps. I don’t want to re-re-rebuild the system, but I have all the software laying about here and there now. I might go for Windows95 install if i can find find some media as DOS 6.22 can be a real pain to install off CD directly.
(And in the midst of all this flailing I’ve found that the motherboard tends to freak out every 3rd or 4th boot – it displays messages like “New processor detected”, or a case open intrusion alert. I’m thinking the CMOS battery is going/has gone out and needs to be replaced. I have another motherboard that might work – so I’ll give that a go in a day or two. I’ve had all the drama I can deal with for one night.)
p.s. if you have a real old basic CreativeLabs Soundblaster you want to donate let me know I think I have $5 left somewhere…