Gate Array

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Gate Array

Also designated as Video gate Array (VGA, not to be confused with IBM PC compatible graphic card spec).

Introduction

The gate array is a specially designed chip exclusively for use in the Amstrad CPC and was designed by Amstrad plc.

In the CPC+ system, the functions of the Gate-Array are integrated into a single ASIC. When the ASIC is "locked", the extra features are not available and the ASIC operates the same as the Gate-Array in the CPC allowing programs written for the CPC to work on the Plus without modification. The ASIC must be "un-locked" to access the new features.

In the KC Compact system, the functions of the Gate-Array are "emulated" in TTL chips, CIO, and its color translation EPROM.

In the "cost-down" version of the CPC6128, the functions of the Gate-Array are integrated into a ASIC.

The Gate Array is described here is the one found in a standard CPC.

What does it do?

The Gate Array is responsible for the display (colour palette, resolution, horizontal and vertical sync), interrupt generation and memory arrangement.

Controlling the Gate Array

The gate array is controlled by I/O. The gate array is selected when bit 15 of the I/O port address is set to "0" and bit 14 of the I/O port address is set to "1". The values of the other bits are ignored. However, to avoid conflict with other devices in the system, these bits should be set to "1".

The recommended I/O port address is &7Fxx.

The function to be performed is selected by writing data to the Gate-Array, bit 7 and 6 of the data define the function selected (see table below). It is not possible to read from the Gate-Array.

Data Bit 7 Data Bit 6 Function
0 0 Select pen
0 1 Select colour for selected pen
1 0 Select screen mode, ROM configuration and interrupt control
1 1 RAM Memory Management (note 1)
Note

This function is not available in the Gate-Array, but is performed by a device at the same I/O port address location. In the CPC464, CPC664 and KC compact, this function is performed in a memory-expansion (e.g. Dk'Tronics 64K RAM Expansion), if this expansion is not present then the function is not available. In the CPC6128, this function is performed by a PAL located on the main PCB, or a memory-expansion. In the 464+ and 6128+ this function is performed by the ASIC or a memory expansion. Please read the document on RAM management for more information.

Register 0 - Palette Index (Pen selection)

When bit 7 and bit 6 are set to "0", the remaining bits determine which pen is to have its colour changed. When bit 4 is set to "0", bits 3 to 0 define which pen is to be selected. When bit 4 is set to "1", the value contained in bits 3-0 is ignored and the border is selected.

The pen remains selected until another is chosen.

Each mode has a fixed number of pens. Mode 0 has 16 pens, mode 1 has 4 pens and mode 2 has 2 pens.

Summary

Bit Value Function
7 0 Gate Array function "Pen Selection"
6 0
5 - not used
4 1 Select border
3 x Ignored
2 x
1 x
0 x


Bit Value Function
7 0 Gate Array function "Pen Selection"
6 0
5 - not used
4 0 Select pen
3 x Pen number
2 x
1 x
0 x

Register 1 - Palette Data (Colour selection)

Once the pen has been selected its colour can then be changed. Bits 4 to 0 specify the hardware colour number from the hardware colour palette.

Even though there is provision for 32 colours, only 27 are possible. The remaining colours are duplicates of those already in the colour palette.

Summary

Bit Value Function
7 0 Gate Array function "Colour selection"
6 1
5 - not used
4 x Colour number x
3 x
2 x
1 x
0 x

Register 2 - Select screen mode and ROM configuration

This is a general purpose register responsible for the screen mode and the ROM configuration.

Screen mode selection

The function of bits 1 and 0 is to define the screen mode. The settings for bits 1 and 0 and the corresponding screen mode are given in the table below.

Bit 1 Bit 0 Screen mode
0 0 Mode 0, 160x200 resolution, 16 colours
0 1 Mode 1, 320x200 resolution, 4 colours
1 0 Mode 2, 640x200 resolution, 2 colours
1 1 Mode 3, 160x200 resolution, 4 colours (undocumented)
  • Mode 3 is not official. From the combinations possible, we can see that 4 modes can be defined, although the Amstrad only has 3. Mode 3 is similar to mode 0, because it has the same resolution, but it is limited to only 4 colours. Mode 3 is not supported by the KC Compact (which outputs black in Mode 3).

Mode changing is synchronised with HSYNC. If the mode is changed, it will take effect from the next HSYNC.

ROM configuration selection

Bit 2 is used to enable or disable the lower ROM area. The lower ROM area occupies memory addresses &0000-&3fff and is used to access the operating system ROM. When the lower ROM area is is enabled, reading from &0000-&3FFF will return data in the ROM. When a value is written to &0000-&3FFF, it will be written to the RAM underneath the RAM. When it is disabled, data read from &0000-&3FFF will return the data in the RAM.

Similarly, bit 3 controls enabling or disabling of the upper ROM area. The upper ROM area occupies memory addressess &C000-&FFFF and is BASIC or any expansion ROMs which may be plugged into a ROM board/box. See the document on upper rom selection for more details. When the upper ROM area enabled, reading from &c000-&ffff, will return data in the ROM. When data is written to &c000-&FFFF, it will be written to the RAM at the same address as the ROM. When the upper ROM area is disabled, and data is read from &c000-&ffff it will be the data in the RAM.

Bit 4 controls the interrupt generation. It can be used to delay interrupts. See the document on interrupt generation for more information.

Summary

Bit Value Function
7 1 Gate Array function
6 0
5 - not used
4 x Interrupt generation control
3 x 1=Upper ROM area disable, 0=Upper ROM area enable
2 x 1=Lower ROM area disable, 0=Lower ROM area enable
1 x Screen Mode slection
0 x

Register 3 - RAM Banking

This register exists only in CPCs with 128K RAM (like the CPC 6128, or CPCs with Standard Memory Expansions). Note: In the CPC 6128, the register is a separate PAL that assists the Gate Array chip.

Bit Value Function
7 1 Gate Array function 3
6 1
5 b 64K bank number (0..7); always 0 on an unexpanded CPC6128, 0-7 on Standard Memory Expansions
4 b
3 b
2 x RAM Config (0..7)
1 x
0 x


The 3bit RAM Config value is used to access the second 64K of the total 128K RAM that is built into the CPC 6128 or the additional 64K-512K of standard memory expansions. These contain up to eight 64K ram banks, which are selected with bit 3-5. A standard CPC 6128 only contains bank 0. Normally the register is set to 0, so that only the first 64K RAM are used (identical to the CPC 464 and 664 models). The register can be used to select between the following eight predefined configurations only:

 -Address-     0      1      2      3      4      5      6      7
 0000-3FFF   RAM_0  RAM_0  RAM_4  RAM_0  RAM_0  RAM_0  RAM_0  RAM_0
 4000-7FFF   RAM_1  RAM_1  RAM_5  RAM_3  RAM_4  RAM_5  RAM_6  RAM_7
 8000-BFFF   RAM_2  RAM_2  RAM_6  RAM_2  RAM_2  RAM_2  RAM_2  RAM_2
 C000-FFFF   RAM_3  RAM_7  RAM_7  RAM_7  RAM_3  RAM_3  RAM_3  RAM_3

The Video RAM is always located in the first 64K, VRAM is in no way affected by this register.

Programming the Gate Array - Examples

Defining the colours,
Setting pen 0 to Bright White.

LD BC,7F00 ;Gate Array port
LD A,%00000000+0 ;Pen number (and Gate Array function)
OUT (C),A ;Send pen number
LD A,%01000000+11 ;Pen colour (and Gate Array function)
OUT (C),A ;Send it
RET

Setting the mode and ROM configuration, 
Mode 2, upper and lower ROM disabled.

LD BC,7F00 ;Gate array port
LD A,%10000000+%00001110 ;Mode and ROM selection (and Gate Array function)
OUT (C),A ;Send it
RET

Misc

The hardware colour number is different to the colour range used by the firmware, so a conversion chart is provided for the corresponding firmware/hardware colour values and the corresponding colour name.

Note

The firmware keeps track of the colours it is using. Every VSYNC (assuming interrupts are enabled) the firmware sets the colours. This enables the user to have flashing colours. If the user selects a new colour using the gate array, the new colour will flash temporarily and then return to its original colour. This is due to the firmware resetting the colour. When using the firmware, use its routines to select the colour, and the colour will remain.

Example: [For whatever reason, this example does NOT refer to the above firmware stuff]

ld bc,7f00+1 ;Gate array function (set pen)
;and pen number
out (c),c
ld bc,7f00 ;41 
;Gate array function (set colour)
;and colour number
out (c),c
ret

Palette R,G,B definitions

There are 27 colours which are generated from red, green and blue mixed in different quantities. There are 3 levels of red, 3 levels of green and 3 levels of blue, and these can be thought of as off/no colour, half-on/half-colour, and on/full-colour.

To display a CPC image you will need to use a analogue monitor with a composite sync.

Palette sorted by Hardware Color Numbers

Hardware Number Firmware Number Colour Name R % G % B % Colour
0 (40h) 13 White 50 50 50
1 (41h) (13) White 50 50 50
2 (42h) 19 Sea Green 0 100 50
3 (43h) 25 Pastel Yellow 100 100 50
4 (44h) 1 Blue 0 0 50
5 (45h) 7 Purple 100 0 50
6 (46h) 10 Cyan 0 50 50
7 (47h) 16 Pink 100 50 50
8 (48h) (7) Purple 100 0 50
9 (49h) (25) Pastel Yellow 100 100 50
10 (4Ah) 24 Bright Yellow 100 100 0
11 (4Bh) 26 Bright White 100 100 100
12 (4Ch) 6 Bright Red 100 0 0
13 (4Dh) 8 Bright Magenta 100 0 100
14 (4Eh) 15 Orange 100 50 0
15 (4Fh) 17 Pastel Magenta 100 50 100
16 (50h) (1) Blue 0 0 50
17 (51h) (19) Sea Green 0 100 50
18 (52h) 18 Bright Green 0 100 0
19 (53h) 20 Bright Cyan 0 100 100
20 (54h) 0 Black 0 0 0
21 (55h) 2 Bright Blue 0 0 100
22 (56h) 9 Green 0 50 0
23 (57h) 11 Sky Blue 0 50 100
24 (58h) 4 Magenta 50 0 50
25 (59h) 22 Pastel Green 50 100 50
26 (5Ah) 21 Lime 50 100 0
27 (5Bh) 23 Pastel Cyan 50 100 100
28 (5Ch) 3 Red 50 0 0
29 (5Dh) 5 Mauve 50 0 100
30 (5Eh) 12 Yellow 50 50 0
31 (5Fh) 14 Pastel Blue 50 50 100

Palette sorted by Firmware Color Numbers

Firmware Number Hardware Number Colour Name R % G % B % Colour
0 54h Black 0 0 0
1 44h (or 50h) Blue 0 0 50
2 55h Bright Blue 0 0 100
3 5Ch Red 50 0 0
4 58h Magenta 50 0 50
5 5Dh Mauve 50 0 100
6 4Ch Bright Red 100 0 0
7 45h (or 48h) Purple 100 0 50
8 4Dh Bright Magenta 100 0 100
9 56h Green 0 50 0
10 46h Cyan 0 50 50
11 57h Sky Blue 0 50 100
12 5Eh Yellow 50 50 0
13 40h (or 41h) White 50 50 50
14 5Fh Pastel Blue 50 50 100
15 4Eh Orange 100 50 0
16 47h Pink 100 50 50
17 4Fh Pastel Magenta 100 50 100
18 52h Bright Green 0 100 0
19 42h (or 51h) Sea Green 0 100 50
20 53h Bright Cyan 0 100 100
21 5Ah Lime 50 100 0
22 59h Pastel Green 50 100 50
23 5Bh Pastel Cyan 50 100 100
24 4Ah Bright Yellow 100 100 0
25 43h (or 49h) Pastel Yellow 100 100 50
26 4Bh Bright White 100 100 100

Intensities

The 0%, 50%, and 100% values in the above tables are "should-be" values. However, the real hardware doesn't exactly match that intensities. The actual intensities depend on the luminance mixing (R,G,B tied together via resistors), on chipset (classic CPC, or newer ASIC ones), and on the load applied by external hardware (Monitor, or TV set).

To calculate the colour value

Red

0% => do not add anything

50% => add 3

100% => add 6

Green

0% => do not add anything

50% => add 9

100% => add 18

Blue

0% => do not add anything

50% => add 1

100% => add 2

Green Screen Colours

On a green screen (where all colours are shades of green), the colours (in the software/firmware colours), are in order of increasing intensity. Black is very dark, and white is bright green, and colour 13 is a medium green. (Thanks to Mark Rison for this information)

Pictures

See also

  • Video modes : for other informations on colours and pixels.
  • CRTC : the other video stuff.
  • ASIC : for Plus users