Fascination: LOCKDOWN!

The NEW and improved Logic Boards were designed, and a tentative plan was made to manufacture them, transfer the parts over, and snap-in new CPLDs, but before this could happen, there were a few hurdles to overcome.  First, find new CPLDs to replace the failed ones.  That was fairly easy.  Even though the manufacturer, XILINX, had stopped producing them in 2011, they could still be found on eBay for $15-25.  Second, and the MOST important, how do I clone the program from the GOOD boards to the blank CPLDs on the NEW boards?

CPLDs are loaded with instructions and rules via a JTAG Programmer.  Okay, next task – find a programmer.  That was easy… eBay!  $30 later, I had one.  Now, what to DO with it?  Reading and writing the device requires software from XILINX.  Luckily, they still provided the Development Environment, free of charge, on their website- a 6GB download.  GOT it!  Uh oh!  The Development Environment is free, but requires a license.  I created an account and requested one.  I was fully expecting them to demand hundreds of dollars for it, but amazingly enough, it was FREE for hobbyists!  So NOW we were ready to go!

Saturday, February 21, I popped-in on PNatB and connected my JTAG Programmer to one of the functioning boards.  Lights!  Camera!  Action?  FAIL!  Up popped an error message that said the CPLD was “Read Protected” and that the game software was essentially locked-down and could not be copied OFF of the chip.  DAMN!  Just in case, how about connecting it to the OTHER working board?  Same error… “Read Protected.”  And with that, the plan of cloning the software from a working old CPLD onto new blank ones got tossed into the trash.

There WAS one possible alternative along this path – to write a NEW game program and load THAT one onto the brand new boards.  Two things put the kibosh on this idea.  First, I’d have to learn the programming language and write it.  Second, and probably most important, doing THAT would mean loading the new program onto technology that is KNOWN to fail and is no longer made.  In other words, I COULD learn and load the new CPLDs, but eventually THOSE new ones would also fail and we’d be right back in the same predicament.  A new solution would have to do.  And by new, I mean OLD… a newly created version of what worked in the past.  Relay Logic.

next… New Life from Old Roots

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