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February 26, 2024


Everything about MSX, and more…

Adam+ The 8-Bit Emulator on Hardware

9 min read
Technology from the 83' tuned up! The Adam+ project brings you back in time where all the fun started! A pure Z80 platform added with modern technologies!
Adam+ The 8-Bit Emulator on Hardware

The Adam+ project is a modern reincarnation of the infamous Coleco Adam computer. With real hardware to run 8-bit emulator software, this device allows you to play your original MSX cartridges with the Adam hardware joysticks and keyboard. The project has just launched and is gaining traction as it is aimed to be an all-round 8-bit game machine supporting many old standards.

Adam+: The 8-Bits Emulator on Hardware

When the company Coleco announced their Coleco Adam computer, back in 1983, the idea was such a revolutionary one that competing manufactures were worried this device would dominate the console market.

The Coleco Adam was a home computer and expansion device for the ColecoVision. It consisted of a base console running on Z80 with a Motorola 6801 support CPU. It used an external keyboard, had 2 game controllers, built-in cassette, digital storage, cartridge slots, and a printer. It shipped with a bunch of software too. Like many home computers of its day, the Adam was intended to use a normal television set as its display. All of that for a price of a Commodore or MSX computer. For that time, such a “super computer” was promising to take over and become a leading standard.

However, it failed to deliver due to increasing costs, manufacturing delays and bugs. World domination just flew out of the window. The Coleco Adam project eventually lead to the fall of Coleco. But just like the MSX system, Coleco’s devices like the Vision and Adam still have a place in the hearts of today’s many a retro enthusiastic, which is exactly what ignited the Adam+ initiative.

Adam Project rebirth: The Adam+ Project

Belgium hardware – and software – maniac Danny Van den Heuvel initiated the recent Adam+ Device Project.

Originally called “ADAm@tion”, it is a piece of hardware promising inter-connectability with many 8-bit retro computers in one single device based on the original Coleco Adam project concept. As Danny grew up with 8-bit machines like Amstrad, MSX, Commodore 64, and Coleco devices, his passion for such machines led to the idea of making a retro game PC console. As a result, the Adam+ Project was born.

The intention to create a universal device that can emulate many different systems with integrated hardware is appealing as it also lets you use original game cartridges and – possibly – some original expansions as well. The solution approached to allow the Adam+ Project to accept different cartridges formats from different systems was a dedicated interchangeable cartridge slot, custom designed exactly to provide support and compatibility to different cartridge formats. As a result, the Adam+ is truly a complete hardware & software emulation system. In terms of MSX, it is currently able to run software for MSX 1, MSX 2, and MSX 2+, which is incredible and wonderful news.

However, as the project progresses, Danny keeps find ways to add more level of compatibility to the final product. Just recently Danny discussed the possibility of adding support to Atari 400, 800, 600 XL, 800XL, 130XE, 5200 to the list of emulated systems, which was very well received by the Atari community.

It is a beautiful thing to see many different platform enthusiasts paying attention and helping bringing to live a common project like Adam+. There is a great interview on Spreaker where Danny talks about the project, how the community can help him learn and add other systems, and the challenges related to some emulator’s license requirements. You can listen it here:

Listen to “Techegy Interviews – Danny Van Den Heuvel. Creator of the Adam+” on Spreaker.

More About the Adam+ Project

Adam+ is a real-life piece of hardware featuring a small form factor metal case design with SD cart slots, original DB9 joystick ports, USB and USB-C ports, connections for a real Adam keyboard and Adamnet. It has ethernet as well as HDMI connections and of course the interchangeable cartridge slots.

This modern piece of technology runs on a small Linux Operating System providing a platform for emulation software. On the front of the enclosure a small oLED display with a thumb-stick is present. All on a powerful single board with an 2.4GHz Intel CPU, UHD graphics cart, 32GB of storage and 4GB of RAM.

This nicely done video beautifully illustrate the vision for the Adam+ Project:

There are very strong and active communities on Facebook around Coleco, where they are now discussing the Adam+ Project. One of those communities is called Coleco Vision Lunatics. There is also the Public Group Coleco Adam which seem to be very excited about the project.

If you like to engage or stay up-to-date with the project, the Facebook groups seem to be a good place to start.

Promo photos and prototype images of the Adam+

Adam+ Project: Simple and elegant without losing its retro taste
A frontal oLED display enriches the project design
Fully integrated with the original Adam keyboard and Coleco joysticks
The proposed cabinet with the custom board installed
Interchangeable Cartridge Module: compatibility with multiple formats
The Adam+ hardware prototype

Hardware Specifications

The hardware specifications of the Adam+ project, which runs Linux in its core, is powerful enough to truly emulate most 8-bit computers.

Mr. Danny Van Den Heuvel, the man behind the Adam+ Project in his project cave.
  • CPU 2.4Ghz QuadCore Intel
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB eMMC
  • Intel UHD Graphics 600
  • 3.5 Jack Stereo Sound output
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • HDMI
  • 1x USB-C
  • 2x USB-A 2.0
  • 3x USB-A 3.0
  • 1x Ethernet RJ45 (1 Gb)
  • 1x RJ11
  • 2x RJ12 (one for ADAM keyboard and the other free ADAMNET port)
  • 1x M.2 Slot
  • 2x DB9
  • 1x Micro SD slot
  • 1x SD slot
  • 1x Future expansion slot.
  • ADAM keyboard
  • ADAM Joystick ports
  • Power connector: 12V – 3A

Technical note: While most people will use HDMI that will pass both audio and video, offering a analog audio output allows people to use a HDMI to DVI adapter for older displays that only have DVI.

Original Source: MSX Resource Center.
Text based on a original post published by Ro.