Pokey Status Update #78234

It has been difficult to contact me lately via e-mail, so I would like this post to help respond to many of the questions I receive. I am in the process of testing built modules and writing the manual.

What does it do?

Short answer: Pokey.synth takes an old Atari computer soundchip and adds voltage control to the sounds.

The POKEY chip was used in 8-bit Atari computers, some arcades, and some Atari 7800 games. It is like an Atari 2600 soundchip on steroids, with better pitch control and more channels. Pokey.synth uses a POKEY chip to make a 2-voice synthesizer with separate voltage controllable pitch, volume, and distortion waveform for each voice. There is also an audio input for simple bit-crushing-style effects. Detailed information will be available in the manual coming shortly.

How much is a module?

Short answer: $400 + shipping

Each module includes a tested and working Atari POKEY chip. It turns out that authenticity is a little expensive.

How much is a kit?

Short answer: kits are not available

It would cost more for me to kit the SMT components than it does to pay for factory assembly. My preference is to put time into service and new designs instead of making kits. I feel that is more beneficial to everyone in the long run.

Did you get my e-mail/pm?

Short answer: Most likely yes

After my blog post in mid-December, the first 25 spots on the waiting list filled up. I received a slew of requests via e-mails to this blog, e-mails to Analog Bytes, Muffwiggler PMs, and telepathic projections. I really appreciate all the enthusiasm, but I also want to be fair and add people to the waiting list in the order they contacted me. I apologize for the back-log. It takes time to decode the order of messages coming in the different formats, so I chose to sacrifice communication to finish the product.  My focus is on getting modules tested and packed, after which I will get back to correspondence. I also plan to create a mailing list for information, updates, and future waiting lists.

Can you ship to Japan/Greece/[insert non-US country here]?

Short answer: no, I cannot at this time.

I know a little about US laws but am still learning about the laws of other countries. For example, in many countries it is not legal to sell electronics that contain lead (unless they meet special exemptions). Here in the US, we are incredibly pro-lead. It is commonly found in children’s toys, from which it is extracted and concentrated into a purer form for recreational use*. Wealthy Americans often have gold jewelry lead-plated, because otherwise they risk looking cheap*. Using lead in electronics is a perfectly reasonable thing to do by US standards. Coincidentally, the solder in this first round of Pokey modules contains lead.

Why is the module not RoHS-compliant?

Short answer: it was too expensive for this first run. Later runs will be RoHS compliant.

Selling to many countries in Europe requires meeting a set of material restrictions (known as the Reduction of Hazardous Substances Directive).  Meeting the requirements means that solder used cannot contain lead. Sadly, the RoHS alternatives to leaded solder require a higher temperature to melt. That leads to two problems. First, the higher temperatures require a more expensive process than leaded soldering. Second, more expensive printed circuit board material is required to withstand the increase in temperature during soldering. SMT components are baked on, not soldered by hand, so the PCBs are put into an oven. PCBs expand as they are heated, so a specialized material is required in order to avoid over-expansion at higher temperatures. Otherwise, circuit board connections can become damaged during SMT assembly.

Here is a picture of modules that passed initial testing, but are awaiting final testing and knobs:

So... close...

So... close...

*: This is not actually true

One Response to “Pokey Status Update #78234”

  1. infradead says:

    Very funny update. Loved the part about lead.