80-Bus News


November–December 1982, Volume 1, Issue 4

Page 29 of 51

Chronology, time and dates and a review of the Gemini GM822

D. R. Hunt

As was mentioned in the last issue of 80BUS News, the series ‘Kiddies Guide to Assembler Programming’ had found its inevitable end as the topics to be covered were becoming too long and complex to be dealt with in a single issue. However, as the urge to write in a, hopefully, understandable manner is no less diminished, the search for other topics has continued. In this article the intention is to cover the Gemini GM822 real time clock kit from both the construction and the software point of view.

Of late a number of real time clocks have appeared for the Nascom and Gemini, five at the last count, ranging in price from about £25.00 to £50.00, with one at £125.00. The later is the Gemini GM816 I/O card which also contains a CTC, three PIOs and fairly comprehensive expansion capability as well, which explains the otherwise highish price. Of the cheaper clocks, these are small cards measuring up to three inches square and are intended to be piggy backed onto the host board with double sided sticky tape, or to be mounted separately as convenient. Four of the five clocks feature the National Semiconductor MM58174A chip, the fifth I have not seen, but from the price, it would be reasonable to assume the same chip. All incorporate battery backup. The clocks are provided in either built or kit form with the necessary software and documentation to build, connect and run them.

The Gemini GM822 is the only version I have had experience with, and this part of the article will be confined to a review of that item. The Gemini GM822 is supplied in kit form at £29.50 + VAT, a middle of the road price when compared with its competitors.

The kit comprises the documentation and the component parts. The documentation is extensive, covering the constructional details, a detailed description of the circuit employed, some three pages on the workings of the MM58174 itself which is considerably more understandable than the National Semiconductor data sheet for the chip (not supplied), and a simple software listing in both assembler and HEX dump for either the Nascom or Gemini machines. The routines are simple and well explained. Because they are short, however, the routines are unforgiving of input errors, but form a sound basis for more elaborate routines which may be written.

The components were all there as per the parts list, although a connecting lead to the PIO plug was not provided. The printed circuit board is a little disappointing, and not up to the usual Gemini standard. The pcb is glass fibre and is quite small, about 4cm by 6cm, the tracking is single sided only. Unfortunately the board is not coated in the usual Gemini green solder resist and it is only too easy to bridge pins of the IC sockets or the 26 way IDS connecting plug during assembly. Extra care during assembly and inspection needs to be taken. The only other problem encountered during assembly was with the tantalum bead capacitor. The documentation blithely warns about ensuring that the component is connected with the correct polarity, but as the type supplied was of the colour coded variety with no polarity markings, this could present a problem for those who do not know the correct connection. For those who do not know the correct connection, the positive lead is on the right when holding the capacitor leads down with the coloured spot facing you. No other problems were encountered during assembly.

Two clocks were ultimately constructed, the first one at home and the second at work a few days later. So, to the first clock, constructed and tested at home. The software was typed in from the HEX listings provided, and checked. The port base address, 04H for Nascom, or 0B4H for Gemini was changed throughout to 1CH to suit a spare port on my Nascom I/O card, and to remain consistent with some already existing software which had been acquired from others who already had the clock working. The clock was connected with a 6″ ribbon cable folded ‘Z’ shaped and flattened to shorten-it to about 2″ and the clock stuck down on top of

Page 29 of 51