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September 27, 2022

MSXALL

Everything about MSX, and more…

UniMapper MSX (MSX universal mapper cartridge)

5 min read
The MSX Unimapper is a cartridge platform for MSX computers that separately supports 4 different mappers and allows to launch software and game ROMs up to 512kb on any compatible MSX system. The mappers are emulated by 2 or 3 programmable logic (PLD) GAL22V10 chips. Each mapper requires its own firmware to be programmed into the PLDs. The cartridge platform includes 2 different variants of the same cartridge.
UniMapper MSX (MSX universal mapper cartridge)

ASCII8, ASCII16, Konami, Konami SCC – all these names are well known in the MSX community. These are so-called “mappers” that allow games larger than 64kb to work on our favorite MSX computers. The mapper technology requires additional electronic components to be used on a cartridge board. Those could be custom chips by Konami that incorporate mapper and SCC sound or special ASCII8/16 mapper chips. Those chips are impossible to buy these days. So, if your cartridge has a broken mapper chip, it’s unlikely that you can fix it.

There are several available multimapper cartridge solutions for MSX, and each solution has its pros and cons. However, a commonality among most of the universal solutions is that they either require CPLD or FPGA chips, which are costly and hard to come by these days.

The Unimapper project by RBSC features an easy multimapper solution

Unimapper 3D Printed Cartridge
(https://www.thingiverse.com/groups/rbsc/things)

With one single question in mind (how to make things easy for everyone?), the RBSC Group came out with very good answer! The new member of RBSC – Pyhesty – decided to help the community by building a project based on a very simple and effective solution that he named “Unimapper“. The new design is based on commonly available PLD (programmable logic) chips and uses a simple FlashROM!

The Unimapper project allows the cartridge to be assembled in two different variants: with 2 or 3 PLD chips. By reprogramming those chips, it’s possible to support four different mapper types:

  • Konami
  • Konami SCC
  • ASC8
  • ASC16

The cartridge supports up to 512kb EEPROMs, so it’s even possible to run large games like Metal Gear 2 using it. Moreover, the v3.0 of the cartridge supports Konami SCC mapper, opening the doors for DSK2ROM converted floppy disk images to be put into MSX cartridges, which is something very cool.

Product/Project Availability

Version 3.0 Board

The project has been openly released at the RBSC’s GitHub repository and it is available for everyone to try it: https://github.com/RBSC/Unimapper

The board just needs 3 or 4 commonly available chips, a few resistors and capacitors. The chips are in DIP casing, so even an amateur can assemble this cartridge. Feel free to take a look at the project’s files in the repository.

The project has been released into the RBSC’s repository and is available for everyone to try. The board just needs 3 or 4 commonly available chips, a few resistors and capacitors. The chips are in DIP casing, so even an amateur can assemble this cartridge. Feel free to take a look at the project’s files in the repository.

As usual, RBSC is willing to allow others to produce the Unimapper cartridges commercially. Please, contact the RBSC’s coordinator if you are willing to make a commercial batch. More information can be found in this link: https://rbsc.su/en/licensing/.

This news article is based on a originally post published on The MSX Resource Center.

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