Obliq Museum: Roland Super JX-10 Restoration

In the early 1990’s I was in my first band called Neurotricity.  My band partner had an amazing synthesizer studio and the heart of the studio was the Roland Super JX-10 synthesizer.  We used that synth for both sounds and also central MIDI control for recording into the computer.  I have fond memories of using that synthesizer.

Throughout my synth hunting over the last 20+ years I have kept an eye open for this synth to pick up for my studio.  I had a lead on a beat up one several years back, but the person wanted more than I thought it was worth given its condition as it had been gigged a lot.  Several years ago I found a Roland JX-8P with a PG-800 programmer and I picked that up.  The JX-8P is basically 1/2 of a Roland Super JX-10 and I’ve been enjoying the synth, especially programming it with the PG-800 accessory; it is difficult (but not impossible) to program in the little window and alpha-dial that this vintage of synthesizer provided.  I was content with this JX-8P and figured if I found a JX-10 that would be great; but didn’t think I’d ever run across one so I had the next best thing.

Several months ago I happened upon a Roland Super JX-10 in excellent shape.  The person I bought it from never gigged with it; it was basically a home studio toy that had been put away in a closet for many years while the owner explored other hobbies and interests.  There was one dead key, but otherwise it was fully functional.

In researching what it would take to fix the dead key, I came across several really great websites that explored the Super JX-10; there was one that caught my eye–Fred Vecoven’s site–where he reversed engineered the firmware and rewrote it fixing bugs and added new features.  One of the features was an arpeggiator, and I decided I must upgrade my JX-10!

The video below shows how I fixed the keyboard contact and how I installed the new firmware.  With the PG-800 and the new firmware, this Roland Super JX-10 is a beast of a synthesizer that I can already tell will provide tons of enjoyment in sound design!

Obliq Museum: Galaga Cocktail Lives Again

I grew up in a small town, Johnstown Colorado, along the Front Range in Northern Colorado.  We had one of those classic 2-block downtowns that you see on road trips!  On the far end of the downtown was an arcade.  If you ventured two blocks to the other side of downtown, there was another arcade.

I lived all the way on the other side of town; but every summer day I remember walking downtown and hitting the arcades!  So did many other kids my age and older.  This is the way we spent our summers that I’ll never forget!

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Fast forward about 15-20 years.  I end up with a Galaga cocktail of my own.  Procured from a closed mall arcade in southern Kansas.  Having it via MAME is cool and all, but nothing beats this Galaga!  I have hot-rodded it in the following ways:

  1. Rapid Fire
  2. High Score
  3. Ship Clock Tripler
Here are all the mod chips in my Galaga.  Notice the Z80s...multi-Z80 machine.  Awesome computing power!

Here are all the mod chips in my Galaga. Notice the Z80s…multi-Z80 machine. Awesome computing power!

This machine is amazing.  As fast as you can pound the button, it will fire.  The Clock Tripler makes the joystick control three times faster.  You can dodge enemy bullets and kamakazee with ease.  Challenging Levels are pretty simple to defeat.  The game gets really difficult still, and once in the high-20 level and above it is a showdown (at least with my skill; some could do it on the un-modified machines).

About 4 years ago my Galaga went bezerk (not Bezerker).  It was left on overnight and there was a lightning storm and in the morning it was dead.  Looked at the PSU and it had several components visibly fried.  I bought a Galaga replacement power supply PCB several years ago and it just showed the machine booting and then freezing.  No dice.  So assumed the worst; something on the Motherboard also got fried…

Here is the Galaga after the replacement CPU.  It was frozen; many of the colors were "twitching" so not completely frozen i guess.

Here is the Galaga after the replacement Power Supply board. It was frozen; many of the colors were “twitching” so not completely frozen I guess.

I bought a working PCB set including PSU recently and installed into the machine. Immediately I was playing Galaga again, but just the normal version, which is boring compared to my ultra-hyped out machine.  Knowing that the PSU was rock solid, I then put my original modded motherboard set back in and was playing my hot-rodded Galaga again.  I’ve been waiting for this day for a while.

Here are the Motherboards.  Notice the three connectors.

Here are the Motherboards. Notice the three connectors…very simple to change the PCBs out!  Ensure you note the polarity of these connectors; they are keyed on the PCB but not in the connector themselves so you can put it on backwards.  The power connectors (both) are keyed so no worries there…

Power Supply PCB.  Just two connectors on this one.

Power Supply PCB. Just two connectors on this one.

This is the funnest version of Galaga available that I’ve seen.  I forgot how tired my firing wrist becomes within just a single game.  There is a physical aspect of playing this game; part of the challenge of success over these lethal aliens!

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I now have my Galaga functioning again, which is worthy of me getting off of the computer blogging and playing again.  Cheers!

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