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How Do You Dump NES PRG and CHR Chips Without A Cartridge?


Code Monkey
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Member · Posted

You'll need something like a Willem Programmer with read capabilities.

It's either that or using donor boards. If you go that route, you don't necessarily need an Nt Mini (unless you already have one.) A Kazzo, Retrode, or Retro Freak will also work.

Edited by Tulpa
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Member · Posted

Willem Programmers are sold through a number of outlets. KEE Electronics is one.

Kazzo I think is discontinued, but I'm sure used ones are floating around on EBay. Infinite NES Lives has a new device.

StoneAge Gamer has the Retrode. edit: Actually I just remembered the Retrode is only for SNES/Genesis out of the box, so an adapter is needed for NES.

Retro Freaks are available through places like Play-Asia. You'll need an NES-to-Fami adapter, as they only have a 60 pin slot.

Edited by Tulpa
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This one? Their software is a .msi file, why would someone write a proprietary Windows program for an operating system independent piece of hardware? That doesn't make any sense, you're just reading files, why isn't it in an independent language?

http://keeelectronics.com/WillemPro.html

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Member · Posted

A TL866 is a common cheap chinese EPROM programmer that I see a lot of people using. I have one myself, and even though the software for using it can be a little confusing, it's always worked without issues for me. It can read ROMs/EPROMs as well.

It's a nice investment that doesn't require sacrificing too much cash.

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2 hours ago, Code Monkey said:

This one? Their software is a .msi file, why would someone write a proprietary Windows program for an operating system independent piece of hardware? That doesn't make any sense, you're just reading files, why isn't it in an independent language?

http://keeelectronics.com/WillemPro.html

you seem to have a misunderstanding of several things packed into this post but the short of it is you need an executable to interact with the programmer, executables are OS-dependent, and windows is by far the most popular OS. there likely isn't enough of a demand for them to bother with software for other OS.

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1 minute ago, Lincoln said:

you seem to have a misunderstanding of several things packed into this post but the short of it is you need an executable to interact with the programmer, executables are OS-dependent, and windows is by far the most popular OS. there likely isn't enough of a demand for them to bother with software for other OS.

You can execute files in multiple formats using multiple compilers. They could have used Java, Python, C, C++, but they chose .NET which is just a weird choice. I find it really strange since most people that are messing with hardware like this are way more likely to be using a UNIX based operating system.

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Some part of this is going to require low level communication with the device thats not going to be in a standard library and will be hard to write in a portable fashion. Choice of language is mostly irrelevant to this.

Idk how long that software has been around but .net is no worse a choice than any of those other languages now that the core libraries are officially available for Unix environments. In fact I'd say the baked in UI support puts it ahead of c or c++ for development ease. Does python have standard UI libraries? I would decline to buy anything that required a java app to operate.

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Member · Posted
On 1/25/2022 at 7:05 PM, Tanooki said:

Isn't it possible to just use the NT to dump the game, but then copy it to a computer and use some app/program that can dice up the PRG and CHR files separately?  I could have sworn I've seen something that does this in the past.

He's talking about the bare chips, though. Unless he wants to solder and desolder them onto donor boards, he needs a chip reader.

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Member · Posted

Personally, I'd take a game board, remove the ROMs, drop in those chip-bracket things (drawing a blank on what they are called) that allow you to seat/unseat chips with ease and then I'd use the NT Mini on it like it was a standard NES game.

Assuming you have corresponding PRG and CHR chips for each respective games, they should even boot and be playable.  I know there's more to this because, IIRC, not all game boards are created equally but I'm sure someone can tell which is the best game to cannibalize for this type of project.

That would be an OS-agnostic solution.  I use MacOS so I'd be prone to a solution like this myself.

 

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Member · Posted
2 hours ago, RH said:

Personally, I'd take a game board, remove the ROMs, drop in those chip-bracket things (drawing a blank on what they are called) that allow you to seat/unseat chips with ease and then I'd use the NT Mini on it like it was a standard NES game.

Assuming you have corresponding PRG and CHR chips for each respective games, they should even boot and be playable.  I know there's more to this because, IIRC, not all game boards are created equally but I'm sure someone can tell which is the best game to cannibalize for this type of project.

edit: I see what you mean now. But that assumes you have one of each board with the mappers needed for each game. That's a lot of boards to amass, as he has the bare chips. He could potentially be getting a couple dozen boards depending on what he needs. 

I was suggesting something like a Willem Programmer, as it would do exactly what he wants to do (dump bare chips), assuming he finds one with the interface he needs. They won't hook into an NT, though (and you can only read one chip at a time.)

il_794xN.2649518736_c56o.jpg

 

Edited by Tulpa
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Member · Posted
31 minutes ago, Tulpa said:

Do those things come with all the mappers needed? They'd need them for the NT to read them, and I don't know of any that accounts for all the mappers on one board. (Not saying they don't exist, but that would be a pretty sophisticated board, IMO.)

I was suggesting something like a Willem Programmer, as it would do exactly what he wants to do (dump bare chips), assuming he finds one with the interface he needs. They won't hook into an NT, though (and you can only read one chip at a time.)

il_794xN.2649518736_c56o.jpg

 

My arm chair, educated view on this is that many games (especially the early ones) are swapable.  To be clear, if you had a game with likely-working chips but the board was damaged, you'd have to look up which games would work as potential  donors.  This is specifically because of the mapper chips, so in that way, you are correct.  But it's also my general understanding that something like 80-90% of NES games can work with about 2-3 cartridge board variations.

I've never done this because I've not had the need for it.  I did own a copy of a couple of EEPROMs for a game, but I sold them.  I was told this method and it makes sense.  If OP has a proto of a game, the possible easiest way to do what I'm suggesting is to find a copy of the game (and assuming it's cheap enough) using that game as a donor.  However, yes, using something like the Willem Programmer will work but it obviously requires a computer interface.

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Member · Posted
15 minutes ago, RH said:

My arm chair, educated view on this is that many games (especially the early ones) are swapable.  To be clear, if you had a game with likely-working chips but the board was damaged, you'd have to look up which games would work as potential  donors.  This is specifically because of the mapper chips, so in that way, you are correct.  But it's also my general understanding that something like 80-90% of NES games can work with about 2-3 cartridge board variations.

 

I think it's higher than 2-3, but nevertheless, the different mappers might as well make them different boards, even if the basics are the same.

 

15 minutes ago, RH said:

If OP has a proto of a game, the possible easiest way to do what I'm suggesting is to find a copy of the game (and assuming it's cheap enough) using that game as a donor. 

Well, he has bare prototype chips, and may not know which mappers/boards are used. He also apparently had a LOT of them. But yes, assuming he did acquire the proper boards, he could do that as well. But I don't think that many will be using the same board. It really depends on what games we're talking about. That's why I suggested the programmer. It may be OS dependent, but it will read any NES CHR and PRG chip.

Added that if he decided to make repros of them, the programmer can write to EEPROMS.

 

Edited by Tulpa
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On 4/9/2021 at 5:44 PM, Code Monkey said:

I was told it can be done with an Analogue NT Mini but that method looks like it requires the chips to be on a cartridge. How do I dump the bare chips?

The "flashrom" linux utility probably has compatibility with some common ROM programmers.

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On 1/27/2022 at 9:32 AM, Tulpa said:

edit: I see what you mean now. But that assumes you have one of each board with the mappers needed for each game. That's a lot of boards to amass, as he has the bare chips. He could potentially be getting a couple dozen boards depending on what he needs. 

I was suggesting something like a Willem Programmer, as it would do exactly what he wants to do (dump bare chips), assuming he finds one with the interface he needs. They won't hook into an NT, though (and you can only read one chip at a time.)

il_794xN.2649518736_c56o.jpg

 

I like this idea, does it work in Linux?

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Member · Posted
11 hours ago, Code Monkey said:

I like this idea, does it work in Linux?

http://keeelectronics.com/WillemPCB5.html
 

the software is in a .zip here but I’m not sure what executable is inside it. I’m on my phone and am slightly interested in this conversation but not enough to get me on my computer lol

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