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[Aquarius] graphics upgrade possibilities


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Although I think there is still a lot of mileage in the standard limited graphics, there is the question of what would be a logical graphic upgrade if the Aquarius had continued. There's obviously the option of a solution based on allowing modification of the rom character set.

 

The other thought I have had is using a parallax propeller or a microcontroller on a expansion card. Include video out on the card it itself and at its most basic replicate existing graphics.

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Although I think there is still a lot of mileage in the standard limited graphics, there is the question of what would be a logical graphic upgrade if the Aquarius had continued. There's obviously the option of a solution based on allowing modification of the rom character set.

 

The above was intended for the Aquarius II/III but in which way exactly has never become clear. Schematics were mentioned in the Aquarius FAQ, but not been confirmed yet.

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/208660-has-anybody-ever-see-these-aquarius-schematics/?hl=%2Bschematics&do=findComment&comment=2736341

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I'm working on Robotwon again finally, I think jaybird3rd has a few things planned.

 

 

Keeping it simple is definitely a good idea, I may do a minigame first as Robotwon is quite ambitious :-))

Personally I think the Aquarius scene needs to walk before it can run ;). Are there any upcoming Aquarius homebrews? Its not a scene I actively follow (apart from the odd bits that appear here).

Edited by barnieg
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I'm working on Robotwon again finally, I think jaybird3rd has a few things planned.

I'm looking forward to seeing the first one through the gate :lol:.

 

Keeping it simple is definitely a good idea, I may do a minigame first as Robotwon is quite ambitious :-))

Yep! A mini game would be a good start. Are you going to do that in BASIC or go straight to machine code?

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It's hard to say what the Aquarius would have done about upgraded graphics, had it continued. The option of reprogrammable characters was a feature that was said to be included in the Aquarius II, but personally, I think this was just a rumor. The few Aquarius II machines in existence don't have that capability, either in the hardware or in the software. The Aquarius II has acquired a certain mystique because of its rarity, but it isn't really that much of an upgrade: if you take an original Aquarius, connect a fancier keyboard, drop in an Extended BASIC ROM, and make the power cord removable, you've pretty much got an Aquarius II.

 

Given the Aquarius's architecture, it is actually easier to drop in a new graphics chip than it is to make the existing character set reprogrammable, so perhaps Radofin would have added a dedicated display controller (such as the TMS9918, which was in existence at that time), while keeping the original character generator for text modes. As ROM space became cheaper, perhaps they would also have added more (read-only) character sets for international code pages or business-oriented graphics.

 

The simplest upgrade path would be to add composite or RGB outputs to replace the built-in RF. Bruce Abbott has already designed both of these, and I'd be glad to design a simple upgrade board based on Bruce's design (with his permission, of course) if there is enough demand for it. But that would only provide cleaner and more convenient video output; it wouldn't add any graphical capabilities that a stock Aquarius doesn't have.

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Personally I think the Aquarius scene needs to walk before it can run ;). Are there any upcoming Aquarius homebrews? Its not a scene I actively follow (apart from the odd bits that appear here).

Absolutely agree. I've got all kinds of ideas for the Aquarius, but I recently decided to re-shuffle my priorities to place new software and new development tools first.

 

I have done a few simple machine-code games, just for my own edification (nothing that I intend to release), and I've finally decided on what my first "official" Aquarius game will be. It's a game that will involve 3D-perspective graphics, which should be fun to try with the Aquarius character set. I'll even try to include support for LTO's 3D glasses.

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It's most likely to be Basic with some elements of machine code.

 

 

 

I'm looking forward to seeing the first one through the gate :lol:.


Yep! A mini game would be a good start. Are you going to do that in BASIC or go straight to machine code?

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Yes my thoughts as well. I wonder if it would be possible to load a Rom binary into memory from a tape loader?

 

I seem to recall you can do that on the Vic 20 if you have enough RAM

 

You are also aiming for a tape game I understood, otherwise BLBasic should probably be your choice if using BASIC.

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Yes my thoughts as well. I wonder if it would be possible to load a Rom binary into memory from a tape loader?

Certainly. In the "Virtual Aquarius" archive (available here), you'll find several cassette images for games that were implemented in machine language. These cassette images come in two files: the first is a BASIC program which acts as a bootloader, copying the binary data into RAM from the second file (an "*.A" file, for a binary array) and then running it. On an original cassette, these would have been two tracks on the same tape.

 

The advantage of cartridge software, of course, is that there are no load times and no need to run the program from RAM, which is better for unexpanded Aquarius systems since RAM is so scarce.

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In some respects its a balance between adding more Ram and using a cheaper/slower medium such as tape and the costs of producing a cart.

 

When I got my first Aquarius many years ago I got it with Tron Deadly Discs and it was great to just plug and play and actually I didn’t really miss having controller because of the Keyboard Overlay. The Problem at the time was cost of new games or Buy a 16K Ram expansion + Tape Player

 

As an Entry level Computer the Aquarius was fine including the price. It was when adding up the cost of expansion that it became apparent that it wasn’t cost effective. Not long afterwards My Parents got us a Commodore 64 and Tape deck.

 

We did have International Soccer on Cartridge and having rented an Atari 2600 occasionally did appreciate the instant loading :)

 

On a mini-production run of an Aquarius homebrew cart would the approximate cost be? Would there be a difference in cost of using a smaller Eprom?

 

 

I do wonder whether it would be more cost effective to have a compilation cart rather than a single game

 

 

 

Certainly. In the "Virtual Aquarius" archive (available here), you'll find several cassette images for games that were implemented in machine language. These cassette images come in two files: the first is a BASIC program which acts as a bootloader, copying the binary data into RAM from the second file (an "*.A" file, for a binary array) and then running it.

 

The advantage of cartridge software, of course, is that there are no load times and no need to run the program from RAM, which is better for unexpanded Aquarius systems since RAM is so scarce.

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In some respects its a balance between adding more Ram and using a cheaper/slower medium such as tape and the costs of producing a cart.

 

When I got my first Aquarius many years ago I got it with Tron Deadly Discs and it was great to just plug and play and actually I didn’t really miss having controller because of the Keyboard Overlay. The Problem at the time was cost of new games or Buy a 16K Ram expansion + Tape Player

 

As an Entry level Computer the Aquarius was fine including the price. It was when adding up the cost of expansion that it became apparent that it wasn’t cost effective. Not long afterwards My Parents got us a Commodore 64 and Tape deck.

Yes. I think the Aquarius missed its ideal window by about two years. If it had been available in mid-1981, it would have made a much stronger impression as a competitive entry-level computer, especially at its initial price point. It certainly would have been a more attractive option than the Sinclair ZX81. But by 1983, much better systems were available from Commodore and Atari, and TI was also aggressively cutting prices on the 99/4A, so the Aquarius didn't stand out. Once you include the cost of upgrading the Aquarius to (roughly) the amount of RAM that other computers had, plus the Mini Expander, any price advantage it might have enjoyed earlier was gone.

 

We did have International Soccer on Cartridge and having rented an Atari 2600 occasionally did appreciate the instant loading :)

 

On a mini-production run of an Aquarius homebrew cart would the approximate cost be? Would there be a difference in cost of using a smaller Eprom?

 

I do wonder whether it would be more cost effective to have a compilation cart rather than a single game

I have everything on hand to build fairly inexpensive Aquarius cartridges, from the boards to the EPROM and logic chips to the plastic shells. The only item that would need to be made specially for each title is the label. I've had my own labels professionally printed so far, but I'm sure I could make something work for smaller runs now that I have a color laser printer in house. But for now, basing the price on small-run cartridges without labels, a basic 8K/16K program cartridge would cost about $10 each to put together. Larger cartridges (from 32K up to 1M) would start at about $12 each, both because the EPROMs get more expensive as they get larger and because extra logic is needed in the cartridge to support the bankswitching.

 

The EPROM cost depends on where you buy them, how many you buy at once, and whether you buy new or used. A used 32K ROM (a 27C256) would probably cost about $1.25 each, and a new 1MB ROM (a 27C801) about $6.00 each, with the other sizes falling somewhere inbetween.

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