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My complete SGI Ultra64 dev set + manual scans + dev software

Discussion in 'Nintendo Game Development' started by Jax184, Mar 28, 2013.

  1. Jax184

    Jax184 Active Member

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    Hello Youtubes!

    Err, that's not right.

    Hello Assemblergames!

    Several years ago I was kindly given a complete and functional SGI/Nintendo Ultra64 dev machine, and I noticed right away that the internet was a little short of information on it. At least, consistent, factual information. So I thought I'd post what I know about mine here. And because it's complete I can go beyond pictures. I also have scans of the entire dev manual and a dump of the software install tape. Can someone confirm if I'm permitted to post those things here?

    In the mean time, here's the story.

    Back in August of 2008 I was browsing Craigslist here in Vancouver for old weird computer stuff when something very unusual caught my eye. The ad was titled "FREE - Nintendo 64 development system." The internet said there was two different types of N64 dev kit, one in an SGI and one stand-alone. In either case I was interested. I sent the owner an email saying how happy I'd be to pick it up, and as soon as he confirmed it was still available I hurried as fast as I could toward Commercial drive to get it.

    What I found when I got there exceeded my wildest expectations. It was a complete SGI Indy-based Ultra64 machine. It had the SGI monitor, keyboard, mouse, IRIX discs, even the mousepad. But it also had all the Nintendo parts. The thick dev manuals, the controller and breakout board, and the software to run it all.

    The owner was an ex-developer, having worked for a now defunct games company. When the company was winding down he had called Nintendo to ask if they wanted their old dev machine back. Being a first gen N64 dev machine at a time when the Gamecube was already out, they told him to keep it. And that's what he did. He packed it up and took it home with him. There it sat in his closet for the next ~6 years until the missus insisted it go.

    He told me all about how he used that very machine to make games. He said that when they first got their machine, it had a very hand-made dev card in it, which was later replaced by the more professional one that's now in it. He also said that in both cases, the cards ran so hot that the computer would regularly crash. And so included in the package was a 120mm AC fan from Radio Shack which they'd bought and the cereal box shroud they'd made to draw heat out of the computer.

    And he really was willing to give it away for free. So I thanked him profusely, and together a friend and I lugged the whole kit back to my house.

    [​IMG]

    Here's a photo of its first run on my desk alongside my PC. It's running one of the included tech demos, and the output of the 64 is routed back into the SGI's video capture card so that it can be displayed on-screen.


    [​IMG]

    Here we see the Tandy/Raisin-Bran joint cooling solution.

    [​IMG]

    This is the inside of the machine. It's a somewhat middle spec Indy, with a 175MHz R4400 CPU, but only 32 megs of RAM. The original Seagate Barracuda hard drive has been replaced at one point by a 9 gig IBM. It's running IRIX 6.2. Both expansion slots are taken up by the dev board.


    [​IMG]

    Here is the rev 2 Ultra 64 development board. Or should I say, DEVELOPMNET. The two chips on the right of the heatsinked CPU are the RAMBUS memory, while the 8 chips to the left are standard DRAM used as a cartridge emulator. This is where games under development are stored when running on the card. Sadly they only total 16 megabytes (128 megabits) and so this dev kit wasn't usable for the last few N64 games developed. No Majora's Mask here. Also no way to connect the expansion pak.

    [​IMG]
    Backside of the board showing hand modifications, and the pair of GIO32 slot connectors for interfacing with the SGI.

    [​IMG]

    The elusive controller breakout board. According to the manual, the first devkits came with prototype N64 controllers with telephone jack style plugs that could connect straight to the dev board. Later on these were replaced with production-style controllers that interface through the above adapter.

    [​IMG]

    Backside of the adapter.

    [​IMG]

    And even more important, the dev manual. This is over 600 pages of detailed tech info. A friend of mine kindly ran each and every page through his automatic document feeding scanner for me and provided me with a PDF.

    You can download a copy of the entire manual from http://www.jax184.com/projects/ultra64/Nintendo Ultra64 Programming Manual+Addendums.pdf

    This contains the following:
    Nintendo 64 Programming Manual - NU6-06-0030-001G of October 21,1996
    Z-Sort Microcode User's Guide - NUS-06-0164-001A January 9th 1998

    So if it wasn't clear already, this is a very different kit from the later units that resemble production N64s. While those units were basically standard N64 with flash cartridges that needed to be plugged into a PC, this early Ultra64 kit is mounted inside the computer on which the work is performed. It's an all-in-one solution. And the SGI Indy wasn't an arbitrary choice for host machines. SGI worked with Nintendo on the development of the N64, and both the SGI and the N64 use a MIPS CPU. This made software development easier.

    The downside, as mentioned above, is that it can't be expanded the way the later dev kit could. This, combined with the cost of buying an SGI Indy, no doubt lead to the creation of the second devkit. Even so I'm happy to have such a cool unit to play with.

    Is there anything I can do to help fill in the gaps about this rare machine? And does anyone know if it's okay for me to post the dev manual and software?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 28, 2013
    Gilgamesh likes this.
  2. vectrex_rox

    vectrex_rox Enthusiastic Member

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    oh yeah ... that is killer. ! GREAT !
     
  3. NO DOUBT GET LOUD

    NO DOUBT GET LOUD Member

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    That's awesome. I've always loved the look of SGI's boxes. What version of IRIX is it running? (uname -a?)
     
  4. kuze

    kuze Peppy Member

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    Amazing find! Hope you enjoy your new kit. I'm sure there will be some in the community that would love to check out that PDF!
     
  5. kiff

    kiff <B>Site Supporter 2012</B><BR><B>Site Supporter 20

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    That is a thing of beauty!

    I can't see why anyone would object to you posting the scans of the manual; it's not current gen so there should be no come backs.
    It would make some light reading I am sure...
     
  6. Jax184

    Jax184 Active Member

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    Alright, I've updated the post with a link to the manual and some info on the SGI Indy itself. Any thoughts about posting the dev software?
     
  7. cmonkey

    cmonkey Rising Member

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    Thank you so so much for posting the programming manual. It's hugely appreciated by me and I'm sure by a few other Indy/Ultra 64 worshippers. One day I will own one. I already have a fully specced Indy R5K ready for the ever-so-elusive Ultra 64 board to go in. My time on this earth will not be complete until the day I own one of those, the single most treasured thing I want to own. Very jealous right now but very happy for you that you've got such an amazing piece of dev hardware. As regards posting the dev software it shouldn't be a problem, rules here state that you can't post current gen dev tools but the N64 hasn't been current gen for about 12 years now so I'm sure it'll be fine. I'd love to see what's on that tape..... Thank you.
     
  8. Jax184

    Jax184 Active Member

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    Good to see another crazy SGI fan.

    Funny you should mention that. I just tried to start up the dev machine and it panics part way through booting. I've swapped all the parts between my R5K indy and this one, save for the CPU and motherboard. So it's one of those which has died. Looks like I'll be putting the dev board into my R5K as well.

    ...anyone need a Phobos 10/100 card or SCSI interface for an Indy?
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2013
  9. Tricky

    Tricky Robust Member

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    Wow, that's some pretty cool stuff :D Thanks for uploading all of it!
     
  10. AltRN8

    AltRN8 <B>Site Supporter 2013</B><BR><B>Site Supporter 20

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    Oh man I so need a joybus board. I've thought about reverse engineering the signals out of the ultra64 board but never seem to have the time to get o the project.

    Heck one of the prototype controllers is all I need but of course those are rare as well.

    Nice pics and I'm looking forward to the manual PDF upload.
     
  11. ASSEMbler

    ASSEMbler Administrator

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    You were very lucky that day.
     
  12. Jax184

    Jax184 Active Member

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    The link is underneath the picture of the manual.

    I very much was! Still can't believe my good fortune.

    Do you have an opinion about me uploading the rest of the dev software?
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2013
  13. ASSEMbler

    ASSEMbler Administrator

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    It has some custom chips on it sadly.

    Perhaps it's just a converter and you can use direct wired aka prototype controllers? Should be easy to make a controller.
     
  14. olivieryuyu

    olivieryuyu Robust Member

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    omg!!!!!!

    This is a nice stuff!!!

    Is there also the software to be downloaded?

    Thx

    PS: finally the info missing about some parts of the microcodes are unveiled. Not yet all but it is very nice :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2013
  15. Arhiman57

    Arhiman57 Member

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    Congratulation ! I love this type of setup, clearly more sexy than a beige PC....

    I have the same setup, just not the famous joyboard adapter.

    You definitively need some ram on your indy to improve the feeling on 6.2 (very cheap to get 64mb). Mine is running 5.3, with 128meg, it's very fast. I have made the same with a Svideo cable to have get the output of the board directly on the indy with the built in capture software. Too bad we can't outpout directly inside a windows on the sgi, that would be great for quality.

    I love this text error on the name of the board.... I really want to see the revision 1.0 or maybe earlier board if they exist. You have a Nidec powersupply, so the fan is constantly running, it's a good point when you have a charged Indy, compared to the latest fan temp controlled Sony revision.

    Also thanks for the documentation. I really need to properly install all the software on mine, I have basically just intalled the OS2.0K to get the board running.... Can't wait the backup of the tape...
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2013
  16. AltRN8

    AltRN8 <B>Site Supporter 2013</B><BR><B>Site Supporter 20

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    I'm just looking to RE the controller interface. It looks to be that the joybus board jus converts separate send receive lines to the one wire bi-directional protocol used by the final controllers. I'm pretty sure what needs to be one just need to sit down and measure output voltage from ultra64 and do a little bit of design work.

    the custom chip part is for game saves I believe and while that would be awesome it's a secondary concern for me at this point.
     
  17. cmonkey

    cmonkey Rising Member

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    It should be possible to RE the joybus board with a little effort. As you've already said, the BU9850 is the EEPROM save chip which isn't strictly necessary for simple game/demo operation. The other two ICs are probably 74LVC125 quad buffer/line driver and (maybe) 74LVC425 voltage translator. Check this thread at nekochan for higher resolution pictures of it to help you.

    http://forums.nekochan.net/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=16726753
     
  18. Jax184

    Jax184 Active Member

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    If anyone would like higher res pictures of a certain part or some multimeter probing or anything, let me know.


    32MB is how it shipped from Nintendo, so that's how I left it. I have a maxed out R5K indy for other stuff. That is, until yesterday. The motherboard seems to have died in the ultra64 machine, so I moved the dev board over into my R5K. Now I have the best of both worlds.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2013
  19. marshallh

    marshallh N64 Coder

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    Nice find and thanks for scans. The zsort ucode has been available but without documentation.

    Fun fact: the iQue USB interface is hacked onto the libultra rmon/rdb debugging interface that was first used on this board.
     
  20. Jax184

    Jax184 Active Member

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