INMC 80 News

  

June/July/August 1980, Issue 1











Page 26 of 48











Reviews

NASCOM I/O BOARD REVIEW

D. R. Hunt.

The Nascom I/O board was just too late for the last issue, so this review was held over. The I/O board accomodates 3 PIOs, 1 UART and 1 CTC. The PIOs are the MK3881 type as fitted to the Nascom main board, the UART is likewise similar, but has a crystal controlled BAUD rate generator giving speeds from 110 to 9600 BAUD, transmit and receive can only take place at the same speed, unlike the separate transmit/receive arrangement on the Nascom 2. The final chip is the MK3882 “Counter Timer Circuit”, an ingeniously simple chip, more details later. The board is supplied with sockets for all the chips, but only the necessary chips to put the board into action come with the kit. The major I/O devices, their attendant decoders, plugs, leads (and in the case of the UART, the BAUD rate generator, crystal and sundry Rs and Cs) are supplied as ‘add-on’ packs, to be purchased as required. The kit is supplied with documentation and the PIO, UART and CTC technical manuals. The three PIOs talk to the outside world through three 26 way connectors (a la Nascom 2) on the front edge of the pcb. The UART has RS232 and 20mA input/output via a 16 pin dil socket. The CTC input/output and the BAUD rate select are also via 16 pin dil sockets. If I remember correctly, the original published spec. of the I/O board included a modem as well. This seems to have fallen by the wayside.

The Issue 2 boards supplied have a track error which we understand was not spotted until a quantity of pcs had been made, and an errata is included giving the small amount of ‘board surgery’ required. This ‘surgery’ is only required when the UART is brought into play. The errata also covers other small documentation errors, but has not spotted that PIO 1 and PIO 3 are reversed throughout. The documentation rates the ‘INMC FOUR STAR AWARD’ for incomprehensibility, understanding was not helped by the fact that a number of kits escaped with the last three pages of the documentation missing. The circuit diagram however was clear and detailed, and once one realises that the 8131 decoders used are only glorified XOR gates (or comparators), then, what the documentation lacks, the circuit diagram makes up for.

Construction was straight forward and simple, the pcb being of the usual high standard, however, the style of pcb layout was entirely different to the usual style of Nascom pcbs, which made following things through a little more difficult than usual. Nothing wrong here, just different. We understand the pcb was laid out by hand rather than Nascoms’ usual practice of using a drafting computer. The manual gave details of recommended I/O mapping, although perhaps this was uninspired, and not helped by the missing appendix which we presume gave an expanded I/O map. Connecting the decode links was carried out from the drawings in the manual, no explanation was offered as to why things should be linked in the fashion shown. Watch out for the fact that the Nascom internal port decode (IOEXT line) can be set to either ports 0 – 4 or 0 – 8. When used with Nascom 1 the onboard PIO has to be removed, meaning that the lowest decode address may be 4, whereas the PIO in the Nascom 2 can remain in situe, if so, then the lowest decode address should be set to 2. After a visual check, the board was tried.

Then a hidden bug appeared. We’ve mentioned before that the IEI and IEO tines get connected together on a Nascom 2 if you use the little mini-bus that was supplied with the 16K versions or a ‘Vero bus’, and this means that the ‘daisy chain’ interrupt priority function is ‘all screwed up!’. Not a serious problem, but requires thought to


This is an OCR’d version of the scanned page and likely contains recognition errors.











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