Jump to content
IGNORED

RCA Studio II GOLD MINE! An interview with the Studio 2 Production Manager!


Recommended Posts

 

Is the red box divider for your copy of Bingo original to it, or has it been with the copy since at least when you found it back in 2000 at the Circle 40 Flea Market? I know this seems like the most trivial thing to ask about but it does matches the color-coded divider from the only confirmed big-box release, TV Schoolhouse 1. The current theory is that Bingo never got beyond a few sales samples, and the only other known copy has a Casino Series blue divider. There may be some significance to it.

 

It came with the red divider. But I hadn't even noticed the color myself until you asked. I doubt there was any mix-up at the flea market since its the only box of mine that size.

 

 

 

Did the person/persons you bought the Bingo copy and some of your other games from say anything at all about it? That they used to work for RCA, perhaps? How old were they?

 

My recollection was that the guy wasn't real knowledgeable at all about the carts, meaning he didn't seem to know what they were. He wasn't running a table or space at an outdoor flea market. This was a large one-story structure, like maybe an old produce sorting or canning facility (the area grows a lot of produce) and he was in charge of the whole thing. I did haggle him down a bit, so maybe it was all his stuff. He was a 50-ish jersey type of guy. He didn't come across as the technical type.

 

And I didn't ask any questions about where the carts came from. I try to never seem too interested in the merchandise when I'm about to bargain.

 

I also remember seeing an over-priced Ms. Pacman machine that day. I also passed on some Tomy Tutor stuff at the same flea market—what a shame. The Tutor might have been a different visit though.

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You guys are incredible in documenting this device. I only found out about the new arcade stuff recently but kudos to everyone who's been involved with it so far.

 

My biggest question though is if you've found any documentation substantiating a 1975 test for the prototype. Going back through the thread there are some strong hints, but I didn't see any documents directly from 1975. I recall seeing a paper that I used to be able to order from my library which was a test report of the arcade games in 1975, but that appears to have disappeared.

 

I am working on boosting some of this research, you can PM for details.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You guys are incredible in documenting this device. I only found out about the new arcade stuff recently but kudos to everyone who's been involved with it so far.

 

My biggest question though is if you've found any documentation substantiating a 1975 test for the prototype. Going back through the thread there are some strong hints, but I didn't see any documents directly from 1975. I recall seeing a paper that I used to be able to order from my library which was a test report of the arcade games in 1975, but that appears to have disappeared.

 

I am working on boosting some of this research, you can PM for details.

Nothing I've scanned from Hagley personally, but they do have a few documents discussing building prototypes, and another noting that public response to the location test was pretty lukewarm. There's also a photo that has been scanned that shows a couple units on location next to commercially produced arcade units. No documents I've seen at Hagley seem to list where the machines were tested or the precise dates.

 

I haven't checked it to confirm, but a friend did tell me that Ralph Baer mentioned seeing the arcade games RCA did in the book he wrote some years ago. Which, assuming that checks out, does lend further credence to a public test or showing that at the least he was aware of.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I haven't checked it to confirm, but a friend did tell me that Ralph Baer mentioned seeing the arcade games RCA did in the book he wrote some years ago. Which, assuming that checks out, does lend further credence to a public test or showing that at the least he was aware of.

I had a look at the book and it's a bit confusing. He reports that "RCA also in videogame business now with RCA Studio II, same licensing problem!" in a record he dates from March 1975. I think he's probably collapsing in the arcade game with his later understanding of what the console became, because I'm fairly certain it was nowhere near having that name at this time. It would be useful to see his actual notes, but the guy who has them is not much for sharing.

 

Thanks for having a look though. If anything definitive is found I would love to see it. I'll roll right now with the assumption that it was on test in the first half of 1975.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The first person who clued me in to the existence of the arcade games was the head of the entire Swannanoa plant (fauxscot's boss) who saw them on location during a business trip to NJ in 1975. Based on what he related to me, I'm 98% certain that the mall in question was the Cherry Hill Mall in NJ, and would have been at whatever arcade was around there at the time. I've been looking through old mall information mentions to try and find more that might yield further images or stories. What none of the presently available information can confirm is if that was the only testing location, and I have to assume that there could easily have been others. Even if everything original is lost, the machines could still be recreated thanks to the photographs and ROMs we have.

 

So anyway, yes, there absolutely were location tests done back in the day. The Fredtronic and Fredotronic units were played by at least some random members of the public who happened to pass by. The only real questions left are for how long, and in how many places.

Edited by Blazing Lazers
  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry about the delay in getting the flip book scans up. My summer nights have just been crazy. Plus, I hadn't fired up my oversized Microtek scanner in a couple of years.

As for the images, a faint red horizontal line appears in each, its a product of the scanner.

What you can’t see from the scans is that the flip book pages are quite heavy, I'd say really thick and durable card stock.

Hope you enjoy the images.

 

post-63255-0-84013000-1530481425_thumb.jpg

 

post-63255-0-95976800-1530481613_thumb.jpg

 

post-63255-0-10585800-1530481678_thumb.jpg

 

post-63255-0-52864700-1530481719_thumb.jpg

 

post-63255-0-50211400-1530481758_thumb.jpg

 

post-63255-0-63140900-1530481804_thumb.jpg

 

post-63255-0-85095700-1530481838_thumb.jpg

 

post-63255-0-61605300-1530481883_thumb.jpg

  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A couple updates on my end: I've written up an article for the upcoming Digital Press fanzine that basically summarizes everything known about the RCA arcade games and their development history. Assuming you're not a subscriber, it'll be available at both Digital Press stores in New Jersey, the National Videogame Museum in Frisco Texas, and most likely at Sean Kelly's store in Chicago. I also will likely post up the text after the newsletter goes out.

 

What makes this particularly fun is that I've been corresponding with Joyce Weisbecker for some RCA history projects I'm working on, and she was able to provide some extra context both for her father's development process (which covers the FRED units, the Cosmac ELF, the VIP, Microtutor, etc) and on the arcade games themselves. As far as the arcade games themselves go, I'm happy to communicate one particular finding at the moment from Joyce: at least one location test was held at the Cave arcade, located at the Bucks County Mall in Feasterville, PA. When her father learned that the machines were on location out there, the family got out a map and drove up together to see them in action. She adds that if there had been another test in New Jersey they would have known about it, so it seems likely that was the only one in the area. More to come later!

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a look for the mall in the coin-op trades, though unfortunately there's nothing there. The only possible existing coin-op connection with Bucks County is that two small video arcade game manufacturers operated there: PMC Electronics and Electromotion.

 

Did you show Joyce the photo to see if she could confirm that was the location?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't know if she's seen the photo or not, but she said based on discussions from the Tom's Hardware forum and from this post, the layout of the mall + the existence of an arcade in the 70s (primarily focused on pinball) matches her memory. https://mallsofamerica.blogspot.com/2006/12/bucks-county-mall-christmas-shopping.html. For what it's worth the photo was part of the Joe Weisbecker collection - odds are he's the one who took it. I'm not sure what you mean by coin-op connection, though - I never suggested that Bucks County Mall was manufacturing games or anything, just that they had an arcade at one point in time.

Edited by ubersaurus
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry, didn't meant to confuse. What I meant to say is that if RCA was testing their arcade machine, presumably the plan was to go into mass production on it. Therefore, there are only a few local companies they could possibly be hoping to impress since it wasn't in Chicago or anything. It's just speculation, but a reasonable thought that they would have partnered up with a manufacturer if it proved to be a huge hit.

 

In another bit of dating info, Weekly Television Digest with Consumer Electronics (an electronics trade publication that covers a lot of early video game stuff) has a report in May of 1975 that RCA was planning a home gaming system. They specifically said gaming, not a computer. Later issues say they planned to put it out in Fall of 1976, but we all know how that turned out.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is a blurb from Interface Age March 1979 in their new products section about someone offering an RCA Studio II Programming cartridge. I've seen these before, have at least one from the modern era, but not sure whether the code is the same for all of them.

 

post-800-0-38595000-1530738049_thumb.jpg

 

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, either that one or the Hobby Module for the 1292 APVS. However Wikipedia makes a reference to 1977 which can't be the case if the consoles themselves weren't launched until 1978.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1292_Advanced_Programmable_Video_System

 

The APF Imagination Machine according to Wikipedia was released "late 1979", and I can't think of another console based computer of the time. The VideoBrain uses a F8 CPU but doesn't have much else in common with the Channel F, and all the others seem to have been products of the early 80's.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Basic cart for Astrocade was 78 too, if I remember right? Certainly the most full featured of such carts since it could save to tape.

 

I actually remember seeing a whole article in Hagley about those programming carts for the Studio II from 1978 - how to build them, what you could do with them. It sounded pretty simple to make with parts from radio shack.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I got the impression the Bally didn't get BASIC until 1983 or thereabouts, or perhaps it was when it was repackaged as a computer.

 

All this programming talk makes me wonder where I put my initial attempts at making a Studio II game some 10-15 years ago. I got as far as plotting a repetitive pattern over the screen, which is not much but then I didn't try very hard.

 

Edit: Oh, I found it. Actually it was as far back in time as September 2002 when I still was running Windows 98SE. That likely is why my old copy of TASM as well as some early debug stage emulators by Paul Robson won't execute any longer, though I managed to get it running in Emma 02.

 

post-5454-0-07337000-1530774968.gif

 

Only 14 bytes of binary code, but as a ST2 file it needs to be 1280 bytes.

test_ac1-2.zip

 

I'm almost tempted to get back to this.

Edited by carlsson
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry, didn't meant to confuse. What I meant to say is that if RCA was testing their arcade machine, presumably the plan was to go into mass production on it. Therefore, there are only a few local companies they could possibly be hoping to impress since it wasn't in Chicago or anything. It's just speculation, but a reasonable thought that they would have partnered up with a manufacturer if it proved to be a huge hit.

 

In another bit of dating info, Weekly Television Digest with Consumer Electronics (an electronics trade publication that covers a lot of early video game stuff) has a report in May of 1975 that RCA was planning a home gaming system. They specifically said gaming, not a computer. Later issues say they planned to put it out in Fall of 1976, but we all know how that turned out.

 

It's possible, but keep in mind RCA had a pretty wide swath of production capabilities at the time - circuit boards, CMOS chips, televisions, etc. were all things they made in-house. I think the location test was more for gauging public reaction to their games rather than trying to get interest from manufacturers - at least, that's how I read the paperwork at Hagley. They could have been trying for both on some level.

 

Man I've wanted to look over Weekly Television Digest something fierce, but the closest library with archives that go back to the 70s is only open during the same times I'm at work. I don't suppose you know anywhere online that has them scanned?

 

Regarding Bally BASIC, according to the Arcadians newsletter, the first version of it was on store shelves about October 10, 1978: http://www.ballyalley.com/newsletters/arcadian/arcadians_vol_0.html

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

It's possible, but keep in mind RCA had a pretty wide swath of production capabilities at the time - circuit boards, CMOS chips, televisions, etc. were all things they made in-house. I think the location test was more for gauging public reaction to their games rather than trying to get interest from manufacturers - at least, that's how I read the paperwork at Hagley. They could have been trying for both on some level.

 

A coin-op manufacturing operation though is an entirely separate ordeal. If they were going to enter that field, they were probably going to need a partner. Sander's Associates also built a few prototype games you can find in Baer's book, but they never went through with it, so I assume it was largely the same situation.

 

 

 

Man I've wanted to look over Weekly Television Digest something fierce, but the closest library with archives that go back to the 70s is only open during the same times I'm at work. I don't suppose you know anywhere online that has them scanned?

The relevant issues are ones that only our collection of researchers have currently. DM me with what you'll be researching.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok, this is not exactly 6502 (or even Z80) programming but somehow I've got this far, to display a static logo. I understand most of the work needs to be done through the registers, so a good thing there are several of them.

 

post-5454-0-36932200-1530879524.gif

 

I'm using the DOS port of Telemark Assembler (TASM) version 3.2 which is the last one available. Then I'm using part of Paul Robson's build environment to create a ST2 file. However in order to make it run on modern Python I had to make a number of changes to the script, which I'm including here in case anyone is interested. If Paul stops by, perhaps he wants a look and see which changes I've made. I don't really understand any more Python than I understand 1802 machine code, so it was a process of trial and error before I got it to generate a correct ST2 file.

 

test_ac3.zip

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a minor update (which I thought I'd already posted): I made two visits to the Copyright Office Reading Room on Washington to personally view everything related to the Studio II, including various microfilm records. All 10 games, plus the 5 built-in games, were indeed Copyrighted by RCA. Oddly, Biorhythm did not get Copyrighted until 1981. Bingo, Concentration/Match, Pinball, and Star Wars were never Copyrighted at all by RCA. There's also no record of any application for those "final four". Yet more circumstantial evidence that they were never actually retailed anywhere in the US, and that the indication of Copyright on the Bingo boxes are just there as they would be on any final product pre-production sales sample.

 

I also obtained (from the microfilm records of the original applications) the name of the lawyer working for RCA who filed for the Copyrights, and it turns out that he is still alive and practicing. I'll be contacting him to find out if he might still remember anything about this, and possibly even if he recalls hearing anything about Bingo, Pinball, etc being cancelled.

 

The employees of the Reading Room, should anyone else ever need their assistance with any research and records retrievals, are wonderfully helpful people who greatly assisted me in locating exactly what I was looking for in their section.

 

What I was not able to obtain, and this is where the Copyright system really needs some reform, was the ability to "inspect" the original copies and/or printouts that were required to be deposited in order to receive Copyright. I was directed out of the Reading Room to another Office to inquire about seeing the actual deposited items, where I was informed that in order to arrange an inspection of the deposited items a $200 fee (good for up to 6 items) must be paid in advance. Surprisingly, they do accept cash. They will then take up to 8-10 weeks to search for the requested deposited item if it is still available. They apparently house almost all deposited items in vast, offsite warehouses. Should anything turn up an appointment must be made to view the items in person under fairly strict conditions.

 

It would really help if there were photographs included with the online listings so that researchers could at least have some idea of what exactly was deposited, as many videogame listings are described as cassettes, film reels, printouts, booklets, art, cartridges, source code, "American versions", and many other descriptors. I took the opportunity to search records for other things beyond the Studio II, such as various US Neo Geo games (which amazingly, were deposited), various rarer Atari games, and what may be various Arcadia 2001 rarities in US format and packaging that could exist nowhere else.

 

The Copyright Office might well have the most extensive videogame collection in the US, and mint copies of some truly rare and expensive games, but it'll be a huge hassle to even see them.

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a minor update (which I thought I'd already posted): I made two visits to the Copyright Office Reading Room on Washington to personally view everything related to the Studio II, including various microfilm records. All 10 games, plus the 5 built-in games, were indeed Copyrighted by RCA. Oddly, Biorhythm did not get Copyrighted until 1981. Bingo, Concentration/Match, Pinball, and Star Wars were never Copyrighted at all by RCA. There's also no record of any application for those "final four". Yet more circumstantial evidence that they were never actually retailed anywhere in the US, and that the indication of Copyright on the Bingo boxes are just there as they would be on any final product pre-production sales sample.

 

I also obtained (from the microfilm records of the original applications) the name of the lawyer working for RCA who filed for the Copyrights, and it turns out that he is still alive and practicing. I'll be contacting him to find out if he might still remember anything about this, and possibly even if he recalls hearing anything about Bingo, Pinball, etc being cancelled.

 

The employees of the Reading Room, should anyone else ever need their assistance with any research and records retrievals, are wonderfully helpful people who greatly assisted me in locating exactly what I was looking for in their section.

 

What I was not able to obtain, and this is where the Copyright system really needs some reform, was the ability to "inspect" the original copies and/or printouts that were required to be deposited in order to receive Copyright. I was directed out of the Reading Room to another Office to inquire about seeing the actual deposited items, where I was informed that in order to arrange an inspection of the deposited items a $200 fee (good for up to 6 items) must be paid in advance. Surprisingly, they do accept cash. They will then take up to 8-10 weeks to search for the requested deposited item if it is still available. They apparently house almost all deposited items in vast, offsite warehouses. Should anything turn up an appointment must be made to view the items in person under fairly strict conditions.

 

It would really help if there were photographs included with the online listings so that researchers could at least have some idea of what exactly was deposited, as many videogame listings are described as cassettes, film reels, printouts, booklets, art, cartridges, source code, "American versions", and many other descriptors. I took the opportunity to search records for other things beyond the Studio II, such as various US Neo Geo games (which amazingly, were deposited), various rarer Atari games, and what may be various Arcadia 2001 rarities in US format and packaging that could exist nowhere else.

 

The Copyright Office might well have the most extensive videogame collection in the US, and mint copies of some truly rare and expensive games, but it'll be a huge hassle to even see them.

 

A further thought that came to mind, and which I was hoping would be the case, though still had to personally verify and be absolutely sure of: thank God RCA didn't actually Copyright the 4 "foreign" exclusives. In particular, Star Wars. Just imagine what sort of legal uproars would happen if it had turned out that they had a/the Copyright to make Star Wars videogames, which by themselves are a Billion-dollar thing nowadays. It's a good thing that the very concept of licensed games didn't even exist in the Summer of '77 when the game was created and RCA had plans to sell it. They also didn't Trademark any of it, fortunately.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On the other hand, has LucasArts ever sued Apple Computer for their unlicensed Starwars game which even says © 1978 on the cassette? Or perhaps the two have settled outside court. I mean if there was a big fish for George Lucas to catch, Apple seemed far more likely than RCA or even less, the 3rd party manufacturers to whom RCA seem to have offered the Studio III and the new games.

 

applecassette1.jpg

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...