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Hi-Res Bally Arcade/Astrocade Correspondence

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Here are the latest hi-res updates from Michael Matte:




From: Michael Matte
Sent: Saturday, May 16, 2020 7:47 PM
To: Adam Trionfo
Cc: Lance Squire
Subject: Hi-Res Fish Demo Update
I finished creating my 5 fish types to my satisfaction. They look great. There are 11 fish moving around the screen now.


I would like to add 1 small goldfish lingering along the sea bottom. This particular fish would display 2 new additional colors.


The hr:min:sec elapsed time counter will be added. I would like to detail the sea bottom including some starfish. Some time ago, I drew out on graph paper, a 24 H x 320 W pixel sea bottom, which I would like to detail in this demo.


I have 918 bytes left to work with. I hope that's enough memory to include everything. If not, the sea bottom will be more simplistic.


This 8KB hi-res demo project is winding down. Soon, I'll be able to see the finished demo.






Nice job, Michael!




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  • 3 weeks later...

Here are the latest hi-res updates from Michael Matte:




From: Michael Matte

Sent: Tuesday, June 2, 2020 5:16 PM

To: Adam Trionfo

Cc: Lance Squire

Subject: Hi-Res Multi-Pager Demo Update


The following has been added to my hi-res Fish Demo:


A hr/min/sec elapsed timer at the bottom of the screen.


An auto restart (jump) to 2000H when the Fish Demo reaches 2:00 minutes.


An optional nonstop Fish Demo mode, which is enabled when any key on the keypad is pressed.


And "up" arrow is displayed, just to the right of the elapsed timer, when the nonstop mode is enabled.


Additional Comments


The cycle time from start to finish, executing the multi-pager demo, moving a critter to erase static graphics in all 8 pages plus the 2:00 minute fish demo, is about 9 minutes.


The elapsed time utilizes custom hi-res 7 x 9 pixel digits. A custom display time write subroutine was created to write the time digits (and colons) using an expanded plop with NO shifter byte cleared at the end of each digit line written. This may be the reason why the timer counts up with NO graphics flickering. Nice.


All that's left to do now on this project is detail the sea bottom. One sea bottom fish will be added, possibly moving along the sea bottom dips and inclines, instead of just moving within a narrow long move zone, IF there are still ROM bytes available for that task.


I'm hoping to finish this 8KB project in 2 to 3 weeks.







When Michael is done with his project, I think he is going to make a video of it using a DVD recorder.  He'll send the DVD to me and then I'll make the video available on YouTube and Archive.org.



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Here are the latest hi-res updates from Michael Matte:




From: Michael Matte

Sent: Wednesday, June 10, 2020 1:29 AM

To: Adam Trionfo

Cc: Lance Squire

Subject: Hi-Res Multi-Pager Test Demo


Hi Adam. As mentioned to you a few days ago, this last week I decided to make a big push to finish my MP Test Demo. Well, I finished the programming late Tuesday evening and it runs really great.


This demo has a lot of hi-res graphics. My initial desired demo description emailed to you long ago has been completely realized. I must say, that if MCM Design's hi-res "Pixel Stringer" doesn't entice some Astrocade enthusiasts to desire a modified for hi-res Astrocade, this MP Test Demo should likely stir up a hi-res interest and possibly some envy.


I have some related project cleanup tasks to work on it yet. Then I will email you my announcement detailing this 8KB all hi-res package.


In case you're wondering, my next project will be to record that hi-res DVD mentioned to you previously.


Thanks to Andy Guevara for creating The MLM, which played a major role in the related machine language development tests for MCM Design's hi-res DRAM and SRAM Astrocades.







I can't wait to see Michael's videos.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Today, June 25, 2020, Michael Matte sent me ten pictures of a demo that he has put together for his Hi-Res Astrocade.  I've selected two of them to share here.  I'll share the rest of them, along with documentation, later next week.


Here are brief descriptions of the pictures.  You'll see that both screens take advantage of the resolution of the hi-res unit, which is 4x higher than the consumer version of the Astrocade (160x102 pixels vs. 302x204 pixels).


1) Gunfight - This is Michael's modified version of Gunfight. Notice the added details of the fighters.


Here is screenshot of the standard version Gunfight in normal (consumer mode) as captured in MAME:




Here is screenshot of Gunfight in hi-res (commercial mode) as captured in from Michael's television using his camera:




2) Gold Fish Demo - The picture REALLY shows the differences that an Astrocade upgraded to hi-res mode can show.  There are more fish and they look more like, you know, FISH!


Here is screenshot of the standard version Gold Fish Demo in normal (consumer mode) as captured in MAME:




Here is screenshot of the heavily modified version of Gold Fish demo in hi-res (commercial mode) as captured in from Michael's television using his camera:




Nice one, Michael!  When I have more time, I'll share the full details of everything that Michael sent to me.



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  • 2 weeks later...

This is Michael Matte's newest hi-res Astrocade update, from June 2020 is called:


MCM Design Hi-Res Static Ram Announcement


I'm posting the text from his document in-full here, or you can download it as a RTF (Rich Text Format) document and with all the screenshots in one zipped archive from BallyAlley.com, here:




Sometime this summer, Michael plans to send me a photocopy of Z80 source code for the demo (which is hand-written and hand-assembled).  He also plans to make a DVD for me with the demo running, which I'll rip into an MP4 and then upload to YouTube and Archive.org.




MCM Design is pleased to announce the completion of its 8KB hi-res Multi-Pager Test Demo package. In September 2019, MCM Design announced a design breakthrough with a new modified for hi-res Astrocade prototype. The prototype's hi-res screen RAM operates using only 4 static RAM (SRAM) chips, instead of the normal 32 DRAM chips. This breakthrough announcement is posted on the Bally Alley website.




Scroll down to "MCM Design Hi-Res Static Ram Announcement".


Each SRAM chip stores 32KB, providing a 4 chip total of 128KB of screen RAM. A variation of the Datamax UV-1R multi-pager was added to the new prototype allowing user selectable access of up to 8 pages of 16KB hi-res screen RAM, mapping 320 x 204 pixels per page.


The hi-res map is described in the Nutting Manual system description, pages 85 and 87. This manual is archived on the Bally Alley website.


The multi-pager includes a provision for an additional 8 pages (128KB) of screen RAM.


The 8KB Multi-Pager Test Demo package is detailed below.




The 8KB Test Demo resides as a cartridge ROM program at 2000-3FFFH.

All necessary hi-res routines reside within the test demo program package.

No user RAM above 8000H is required to run the package.

A standard low-res ROM (or custom 8KB ROM at 0000-1FFFH) is required only to jump to the test demo at 2000H.


A normal system reset executes in sequence the following:


1. Multi-pager 8 page flip test

2. A program which moves a critter around all 8 pages to erase each page's static graphics

3. Hi-res 7 color Fish Demo


This 3 part sequence can repeat nonstop.


An optional 4th program is executable by holding down any key in the right-most keypad column, while pressing the system reset button. This program allows a viewer to move a critter, using a hand controller at the #1 controller input, around within 3 connecting scenes (pages). The 3 scenes have simplified static graphics.


The hi-res Fish Demo can be run independently on a modified hi-res Astrocade with NO multi-pager by holding down any key in the left-most keypad column, while pressing the system reset button. The hi-res screen map must be compatible as described in the Nutting Manual mentioned above.


The vertical blanking line is dropped to the very bottom of the screen RAM area in all 8 pages so the viewer can observe a 98 byte program copied into page 7 plus observe the stack area being worked by the Z80 CPU in all 8 pages.


202 lines of the available 204 horizontal screen lines are utilized for screen graphics in all 8 pages.


Multi-Pager 8 Page Flip Test


The multi-pager's operation is tested to see if all 8 pages of graphics can be written to perfectly by visually watching for graphic errors while the pages are flipped automatically. All 8 pages are written with static graphics as indicated below.


Page                      Hi-Res Graphics Written


   0                           text introduction

                                with 17 lines of custom 7 x 9 pixel text characters


   1                           fill narrow vertical stripes on a split screen


   2                           end view of aquarium plus 15 magic write variations


   3                           fill narrow horizontal stripes on a split screen


   4                           10 color textured graphics pattern


   5                           fill narrow vertical plus horizontal stripes on a split screen


   6                           multi-pager title page

                                with custom enlarged text characters


   7                          custom hi-res screen shot variation of the game Gunfight


While the text intro is being displayed, the remaining 7 pages are written with static graphics as described above. The viewer is given nearly 60 seconds to read the 3 paragraph intro. There is an option to skip the intro by holding down any key on the keypad, which reduces the read delay time to about 5 seconds. Seven pages must be written first before the flip to page 1 will occur automatically.


There are 5 passes of page flipping. Each pass flips through the 8 pages faster. The 5th pass flips about 3 pages per second. An audio flip sound is output during each page flip. The multi-pager handles (selects) the page to flip by a simple output to the custom port 74H. After the 5 passes are completed, the next program in sequence is executed.


Move Critter Within All 8 Pages


A 98 byte program is copied from the ROM cartridge program package to page 7 beginning at address 7F20H. This program in page 7 is then executed to move a critter around the screen in all 8 pages, to erase all or most of the static graphics. The program in page 7 utilizes subroutines within the test demo package.


This test program was created to see if the multi-pager could function perfectly, loading a machine language program into a specific page, then execute that program moving a graphic pattern around in all 8 pages. Special attention was necessary to point the Z80 CPU to a specific page, for any screen RAM writes or reads, by using the multi-pager's custom output port 75H. This attention included pointing to a specific page to work any Z80 stack areas, variables, flags and data blocks within a page's scratchpad area.


The critter's initial appearance location in each page is randomized to appear anywhere along the screen's X axis or Y axis.


After the critter is finished with the last page 7, the hi-res Fish Demo is then executed.


Hi-Res Fish Demo


Twelve fish using 5 fish types swim around the screen. One fish likes to linger along the sea bottom.


The initial locations of 11 fish are randomized. The fish lingering along the sea bottom likes to appear near the center top of the sea bottom.


A  ML routine was created to flop left a fish pattern facing right within the same pattern frame by adjusting the pattern frame's X coordinate. In this demo, bit 7 within a magic register value is used as a flag for a custom request to adjust the X coordinate for a flop. Bit 6 is the flag that actually requests a magic flop. Bit 7 in the magic register output port is not utilized by the Astrocade's magic hardware to request any specific magic function, so this bit is available for a programmer to flag the execution of a custom ML routine related to a magic function.


Two screen interrupt routines are used to provide 7 different colors. One of the screen interrupt routines also updates a hr:min:sec elapsed time clock (up to 9:59:59).


The elapsed time utilizes custom hi-res 7 x 9 pixel digits. A custom display time write subroutine was created to write the time digits (and colons) using an expanded plop with NO shifter byte cleared at the end of each digit line written. This may be the reason why the timer counts up with NO graphics flickering.


When the elapsed time reaches 2:00 minutes, the fish demo will execute a restart (jump) to 2000H to start over again the execution of the multi-pager test demo. This restart cycle will repeat nonstop.


The fish demo will run nonstop if any key on the keypad is pressed before the 2:00 minute restart time expires. An up arrow will be displayed to the right of the elapsed timer to indicate the fish demo nonstop mode was enabled. The fish demo runs in page 0.


This fish demo utilizes an expanded version of Andy Guevara's clever programming technique to move multiple fish around a screen using only one vector block in the RAM scratchpad. MCM Design expanded the same technique to include multiple types of fish.




Cycle Time


The cycle time from start to finish, executing the multi-pager flip test, moving a critter to erase static graphics in all 8 pages plus the 2:00 minute fish demo, is about 9 minutes. This cycle time includes the text intro 60 second read delay.




Final Note


Out of curiosity, MCM Design ran the Multi-Pager Test Demo on its original modified hi-res Astrocade, which utilizes the 32 chip DRAM scheme and has no multi-pager.


You can view a portion of the Multi-Pager Test Demo on a modified hi-res Astrocade having NO multi-pager. You will briefly see the normal text intro followed quickly by 7 variations of the remaining 7 page writes, ending with the Gunfight screenshot.


If you press a key or wait out the 60 second read delay, you will see the Gunfight screenshot going thru multiple color changes and you will hear the flip page sound with each change. The changes along with the flip sound will also speed up. Then the program will crash, sometimes forcing a system reset to occur. You do however get a really long look at the hi-res Gunfight screenshot going through multiple color changes, which is a pretty cool graphics variation. This screenshot has the best graphics of the 8 pages displayed normally.


So, whether or not a hi-res Astrocade has a multi-pager, you still get to see some pretty cool hi-res graphics with this 8KB hi-res package.




End Of MCM Design Announcement

June 2020




Here are additional screenshots for the demo (I'm reposting the two that I posted previously so everything is in one place).







I can't wait to see the source code for this demo and also to see it in actions.


This sounds like great fun, Michael!




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  • 5 months later...

I added the hand-written Z80 source code and documentation for MCM Design's "Hi-Res Multi-Page Test Demo - 8K Package" from December 2020.  This is a 171-page, 88MB pdf document:




This program is a standard Astrocade 8K cartridge that runs on a modified Low/High-Res Astrocade with eight 16KB pages of SRAM (Static RAM) for a total of 128KB Screen RAM at a 320x204 pixel resolution each page. All necessary hi-res routines reside within the test demo program package. No user RAM above 8000H is required to run the package. A standard low-res ROM (or custom 8KB ROM at 0000-1FFFH) is required only to jump to the test demo at 2000H. This 8KB package runs in hi-res only.


This 8KB package is self-containing. All necessary Hi-Res routines are included within the package. Lo-Res or custom ROM at 0000-1FFFh is required only to jump to 2000h. No user RAM 8000 -FFFFh is required. Hi-Res Screen RAM is addressed 4000-7FFFh. Magic RAM 0000-3FFFh. Refer to Nutting Manual for System Description


Michael also sent me the 8K file, which runs as a cartridge, as a "tape" (WAV file).  I think I've successfully converted it to a plain 8K binary file, but I have no way to confirm it since the Astrocade emulator doesn't support hi-res mode in the same scheme that Michael uses on his system.  I'll add that 8K ROM to the BallyAlley.com website when I get it confirmed.


If you're into Z80 machine language programming, or have an interest in source-code that is got an artistic flair, then take a look at Michael's project; he's been working on it for the last couple of years.



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Michael has sent me some additional information about a project that he is working on to help troubleshoot ailing Astrocades.






From: Michael Matte

Sent: Saturday, October 3, 2020 3:05 AM

To: Adam Trionfo

Subject: New Troubleshooting Motherboard Program?


New Idea To Test If Z80 Is Operating

MCM Design


Z80 Check, which is part of MCM Design's BalcheckHR 32KB multi-cart package, is a ML program that utilizes an upgraded Balcheck dual display to visibly show that the Z80 is operating and executing ML instructions. This program runs at address 0000H, the same address as the motherboard ROM chip. Z80 Check is an optional program which is helpful to diagnose an Astrocade motherboard which powers on with a black screen.


The BalcheckHR board can be set up to run Z80 Check, which then attempts to disable the ROM chip by bringing the motherboard SYSEN line to a logic 0. The SYSEN line is input to ROM decoding chips to disable the ROM chip.


The new idea is to provide an optional Z80 testing program called Z80 Halt. This is a very short ML program. It uses only 3 Z80 instructions. This program, like Z80 Check, also resides at 0000H. Here's the program.


NOP             no operation

DI                 set up Z80 for a halt

HALT           halt the Z80


What this program does is halt the Z80. That's all it does. When the Z80 is halted, it will just execute NOPs (no operations), nonstop.


When a working Z80 is initially powered on with +5V, it's HALT (active low) line, pin 18, will be at a logic 1. When the Z80 executes a HALT instruction, pin 18 will become active low (a logic 0).


So, by placing a voltmeter at pin 18, you can visually and easily determine if this 3 byte Z80 Halt program executed. The voltmeter will read near 0 volts at the Z80 pin 18, if the program executed. This is assuming the troubleshooter, prior to executing Z80 Halt, has confirmed that the Z80 is working well enough to power on with

pin 18 at logic 1.


My Z80 manual does not indicate if the Z80 will continue attempting to fetch instructions from memory when the Z80 is halted. I plan to hook up my LA and run a test to see if the memory address lines A0 thru A2 continue to increment while the MREQ and RD lines are active low. If these lines increment when the Z80 is halted, then the Z80 is trying to fetch instruction bytes from memory. In this case, when the Z80 is halted, the Z80 will ignore any bytes fetched and will just keep executing NOPs.


I plan to test this new idea in the next few days. Note that when powering on the motherboard and executing the Z80 Halt program, the TV screen will power on black because no screen initiating instructions are executed by the Z80. Depending on what I see using my LA when the Z80 is halted, the LA used along with the Z80 Halt program may provide additional info to help determine why a failing Z80 is having difficulty executing instructions.


I will also create another optional Z80 test program called Z80 ScrnHalt, residing at 0000H, which will set up the TV screen to simply display colors, then halt the Z80. This program could be executed after Z80 Halt is executed just to see if a TV display with colors will appear. The Z80 ScrnHalt program's intent would be similar to the original SetScreen program but with more simplistic graphics keeping the program byte count down to a minimum in case the Z80 is having some difficulty executing instructions.


The intent of the Z80 Halt program is to see if the Z80 can execute just 3 instructions. With the motherboard failing having issues relating to the operation of the Z80 or ROM chip, this new Z80 Halt along with Z80 Check might help isolate the problem area.







From: Michael Matte

Sent: Mon 12/7/2020 10:03 PM

To: Adam Trionfo

Subject: Re: New Troubleshooting Motherboard Program?


Since there is only room on the 32KB BalcheckHR package EEPROM for one program replacement, I decided to combine the Z80 Halt and Z80 ScrnHalt programs described below into one program still called Z80 Halt. This revised Z80 Halt program is similar to the original SetScreen program but will also attempt to output the 2 letters HL to the BalcheckHR board dual display immediately at power on (or reset). This display output will be another visual indication that the Z80 is trying to execute instructions. I mailed Allen the revised 32KB EEPROM for his BalcheckHR board. The revised EEPROM now has the following four 8KB diagnostic programs which can be multicarted on the board:



Remote ROM

Z80 Check

Z80 Halt


You may post this update if you want to.





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  • 4 weeks later...
On 12/8/2020 at 8:48 PM, ballyalley said:

I added the hand-written Z80 source code and documentation for MCM Design's "Hi-Res Multi-Page Test Demo - 8K Package" from December 2020.  This is a 171-page, 88MB pdf document:


Here are four files for Michael Matte's "Hi-Res Multi-Page Test Demo."  I uploaded his hand-written source code to BallyAlley on December 8, 2020"




For a reminder of what this demo looks like, there are pictures of it running in this post on the hi-res demo thread on AtariAge:




Attached are four more files to go along with Michael's hand-written source code:


1) Hi-Res Multipager Demo (12 04 2020)(Michael Matte)(Remastered).zip - Michael sent me the 8KB cartridge for use on his hi-res Astrocade as a "tape" (a 2000-baud WAV file) .  I remastered it using the Windows version of BallyBin.  You can load this program into your Astrocade from this "tape."  Of course, it won't run properly unless you have upgraded your Astrocade to run in hi-res mode.


Hi-Res Multipager Demo (12 04 2020)(Michael Matte)(Remastered).zip


2) Hi-Res Multipager Demo (12 04 2020)(Michael Matte)(Converted with wBallyBin).bin - I converted the WAV file that Michael sent to me to an 8K binary file.  This is a standard Astrocade cartridge.  I burned it to an 8K 2764A EPROM last week and sent it to Michael.  After he got it over this past weekend, he confirmed that it matches byte-for-byte with his own version of the program on EEPROM.


Hi-Res Multipager Demo (12 04 2020)(Michael Matte)(Converted with wBallyBin).bin


3) HxD (Screenshot)(Hi-Res Multipager Demo Binary Image).png - This is a screenshot from my hex editor (HxD) with Michael's Hi-Res demo loaded on-screen.  In this screenshot, you can see the Hi-Res Demo code from $2000-224F.  I've included this screenshot as an example of what's "inside" the binary image of the cartridge, as I understand that there are plenty of folks reading this post who might not understand what I'm referring to when I say "binary file."




4) wBallyBin (Screenshot)(Hi-Res Multipager Demo Conversion).png - This is a screenshot of the Hi-Res tape-to-binary conversion process.  Technically, the final output file wasn't binary, it was a ASCII file.  I had to finesse the data to put it into pure binary format.  I was glad that my hand-massaged data didn't have any errors and that it matches with Michael's EEPROM of his program as it runs on his hi-res Astrocade.




I need to add all of these files to BallyAlley.com, but I'm unsure what the best way to do that is yet, so I'm posting them here first.


I think I'm going to make a video that will show some of Michael's work.  I can't show his hi-res demo running, but I can show some of his work that went into creating it.  Michael still plans to record his demo in-action onto a video DVD which I'll convert to mp4 and then upload to YouTube.



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I asked Michael what would happen if this Hi-Res Multi-Pager demo was run on a high-res Astrocade emulator, which doesn't exist in any form.  Plus, Michael's hi-res system has page-flipping that wouldn't be supported.  Here is Michael's response:




From: Michael Matte
Sent: Sunday, January 3, 2021 1:30 PM
Subject: Multi-Pager Test Demo Update
If there was a standard 16KB hi-res Bally screen map emulator available to run down loaded hi-res programs, could this Multi-Pager Test Demo run on that emulator? In part, yes. You would not see the eight 16KB pages being flipped as intended, but you would see a color variation of each of the 8 pages quickly written one time on the screen ending with the last hi-res Gunfight screen shot page. Then you would here the flip sound gradually speed up while being treated to a different color variation of the Gunfight page with each flip sound. This particular variation is pretty cool because you get a real long look at this hi-res Gunfight screen shot varying in color. Once the flip sound ends, the demo will NOT progress to the Critter Move/ Erase All 8 Pages program, which requires multi-pager hardware to execute. Instead, the demo will crash or in some rare instances reset back to the beginning of the demo.


You can jump to the hi-res Fish Demo by holding down any key in the left most keypad column while pressing the reset button. The Fish Demo will run as intended on a standard 16KB hi-res screen map. Pressing any key before the elapsed time counter reaches 2 minutes will place the Fish Demo in the nonstop run mode. Not pressing a key before 2 minutes will cause the program to reset back to the Multi-Pager Demo variation described above.


You will not be able to execute the Critter Move Using Joystick program by holding down any key in the right most column while pressing the reset button. This program also requires hi-res multi-pager hardware so you can test the hardware to see if you can move a critter around in 3 connecting scenes (pages) of simplified graphics using a joystick.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Michael sent me and Lance an off-the-cuff idea that he had for a hi-res Astrocade.  With his permission, I'm including his original email and a couple of replies that we had together.




From: Michael Matte

Sent: Saturday, January 9, 2021 6:50 PM

Subject: Build A Hi-Res Astrocade


Build A Hi-Res Astrocade

A MCM Design Note


A great idea for my future Build A Hi-Res Astrocade procedure popped into my head today. I am also going to recommend and include a procedure for building a simple low-res only SRAM board, before building the low/hi-res SRAM board. The low-res only board would be useful as a backup board if an operating issue occurred during the low/hi-res SRAM board building and testing process. One would then be able to determine if the issue was on the motherboard or the low/hi-res SRAM board, by plugging in the working low-res only board. One could bread board or wire wrap this low-res only board. I know this is extra work and cost, but as I said, I will include it as a recommendation.


The low-res only SRAM board can utilize standard or LS TTL chips. The required chips for this board are listed below.

U14, U21 and U22 chips

74373 chip or two 7475 chips

7432 chip

static RAM chip (4KB x 8 bits or greater)


This entire procedure will utilize a step-by-step building block approach emphasizing diagrams, photos and extensive use of an ohmmeter to check wiring connections. The diagrams would have to be scanned for posting.


The options for running short or long machine language, hi-res graphic test programs has not been worked out yet.


Believe this or not, I accidentally found out that as long as the hi-res video display scan circuitry is operating perfectly, a simple hi-res graphic color pattern with very thin (or wide) vertical stripes can be displayed WITHOUT any hi-res screen RAM. Don't believe me? I've seen this. All you have to do is leave the 32 SRAM data lines on the four SRAM chip sockets floating or grounded with jumper wiring to display vertical stripes within the TV screen RAM area. You can also determine what is displayed by floating/grounding the appropriate SRAM data socket pins. A short ML program must also be executed to instruct the data chip to operate in the hi-res mode and set up the normal 4 screen parameters.


To sweeten the challenge of building a hi-res Astrocade after this procedure is posted I am seriously considering making myself available as a consultant or possibly a troubleshooter to help resolve a hi-res Astrocade building issue (within reason) at no charge. I'd like to see some other users out there with low/hi-res Astrocades.


When I built my original DRAM Astrocade a long time ago, I had no backup boards, a frequency counter or a logic analyzer. All I had was some experience in digital logic, a VOM, patience and determination.







From: "Adam Trionfo"

To: Michael Matte

Sent: Sunday January 10 2021 1:13:13PM

Subject: Re: Build A Hi-Res Astrocade




I have several in-depth comments that I want to make about this email, but I'll just make a few for now:


1) First, there's no need to give your time away.  If you want to help people build a hi-res board, then those who are interested will surely pay a reasonable fee.  Plus, I've learned over the years that you can tell when someone is serious about a project.  The old saying, "Put your money where your mouth is" rings true in this case.


2) Your comment about hi-res mode being usable without hi-res mode rings true to me, but for a different reason.  I think that the "256 Color display" program in the AstroBASIC manual is actually displaying in a not-quite-real "hi-res" mode.  Take a look at my video from July 2019:




Also, the programmer of the "Astrocademo Demo" believes that a simulated hi-res mode could be achieved via cycle-counting.  This would mean programming the Astrocade like the Atari 2600, but this does sound plausible to me.  It's too bad that the MAME emulator doesn't support cycle-accurate programming.


One last thing, this email "Build A Hi-Res Astrocade" isn't meant to be shared on AtariAge or Astrocade forum, right?






From: Michael Matte

Sent: Sunday, January 10, 2021 5:22 PM

To: Adam Trionfo

Subject: Re: Build A Hi-Res Astrocade


As you probably observed, I have a tendency to "jump the gun" speaking about things that are far away from the present. I really should stop doing this because it is time consuming for me.


Your point 1) is a good point. That's why my comment included the words "considering" and "(within reason)". My project time is valuable to me. One of Allen's customers was inquiring about a cartridge with the original SetScreen programmed on it. When I quoted a price to Allen my fee to create such a homemade project, I didn't receive a response to my quote. I'm not overly concerned about my help comment. It will be a long time before I even get around to writing this build procedure and finishing hi-res software projects like my Hi-Res MLM and hi-res ROM projects. My hi-res Astrocade idea is for someone with the appropriate building experience, can program in AL or ML and likes the idea of having a hi-res programming option, so the demand if any, is going to be very low.


You may post my Build A Hi-Res Astrocade email if you want.








Michael's always tinkering with his Astrocade.  Has anyone else had any thoughts on upgrading their Bally Arcade game consoles to support hi-res mode?




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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/16/2020 at 12:09 PM, ballyalley said:

I have added five hand-written hi-res Astrocade documents by Michael Matte to a temporary area on ballyalley.com. 


The updated (and now, complete) "High-Res Astrocade Machine Language Subroutines" by MCM Design (Michael Matte), from February/March 2020 and January 2021 are available as a PDF document, here:




The following high-resolution subroutines for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade were created by MCM Design and sent to Adam Trionfo as photocopies and text documents via email in February and March 2020. Adam compiled this collection of subroutines from ten documents in January 2021. It contains Z80 machine language subroutines for use with a modified-for-hi-res Bally Arcade/Astrocade home videogame console.


The contents of this documents are:


  1.     Low and High-Res Comparisons - An Overview for Vector (Motion), Coordinate Limits and Graphic Pattern Data Blocks. Briefly describes the purpose of each Hi-Res ML subroutine.

  2.     Convert High-Res Coordinates to a Magic Address

  3.     Standard Hi-Res Stacked Graphic Pattern Write Subroutines

  4.     Custom High-Res Move (Vector) Subroutine

  5.     Custom Hi-Res Multi-Pager Graphic Pattern Write Subroutine


Each subroutine is extensively commented on, including a note "This subroutine is similar to low-res sub #__" plus you might see a Nutting Manual reference page from where the hi-res sub was created. These ML sub docs are strictly for someone who has access to a modified hi-res Astrocade, is experienced in ML/AL programming and is looking for a custom hi-speed subroutine application.


The doc's intent is to help a hi-res programmer get started with custom programming hi-res graphic patterns and moving patterns around the screen without the need to create this particular hi-res application from scratch.


These ML subroutines, except the custom subroutine example for MCM Design's hi-res multi-pager, function similar to their low-res equivalent. However, these hi-res subs must be called directly. There is no processing UPI (User Programmer Interface). Note, MCM Design's upcoming Hi-Res ROM will include sub's similar to these subs and will utilize a UPI. The ROM UPI and sub's will be well documented.


Perhaps someday in the future, someone with machine/assembly language experience may acquire or build a modified hi-res Astrocade and might find this info useful.





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  • 3 weeks later...

Over the last few days, Michael Matte has sent me and Lance information about his newest idea for his personal hi-res Astrocade.  This isn't a secret: Michael said that I can post about it online.  Michael hopes to create a new add-under for his modified-for-hi-res Astrocade to add some of the hardware functions that are built into the arcade game "Wizard of Wor."  As is common with Michael, he has quite a bit of the details already worked out in his mind already.


Here are Michael's slightly-edited emails to Lance and me.  There are many ideas to absorb here; don't feel overwhelmed by it all.  If you don't understand exactly what Michael is talking about, then just let the general idea wash over you and smile that exciting new hardware is still created for the obscure-- for many people (not us!)-- Astrocade!


I'll continue to post about Michael's project as it moves along, with a few additional  posts that should follow later today.






Subject: WOW Documentation And More

From: Michael Matte

Date: Mon 2/15/2021 3:33 PM


Hi Adam. I just wanted to let you know I have at this time a Wizard of Wor folder containing 21 items.  [My WOW folder is in my Windows 7 desktop.]  This folder is slowly growing over time.


The WOW folder at this time contains:

17 hardware pics

2 documentation pics

zipped speech chip doc pics

WOW ROM coding


I have a particular interest in the WOW pattern transfer board with a pile of documentation related to this board including the applicable CMOS technology utilized. Why? I'll give you a hint. This interest is related to my 3rd and FINAL modified low/hi-res Astrocade version, which I will label as a "Modified Low/Hi-Res Static Screen RAM (SRAM) Astrocade, version 2". This version has been roaming around inside my head the last several weeks. I'm thinking in terms of a 3 board add-under. I'm very excited about this custom, personalized version and coincidentally the word "wow" really describes my excitement. My plans over time are to fully document the building of this version with a build procedure, photos and videos. I will also work a little at a time on my various and many other side projects. I have NOT abandoned my "An In-Depth Look At  ..." series.


I am hoping this week to at least start a recording of a MCM Design intro video - A Tour Of  MCM Design Projects.







Lance wondered, "I'm guessing this would give the Bally/Astrocade the 'blitter' features missing from the video chip?  More like the Amiga Blitter than just the pixel transforms built into the chip?


Michael sent us this more technical response.




Subject: RE: WOW Documentation And More

From: Michael Matte

Date: Tue 2/16/2021 7:28 PM


The following is what a portion of my examination of the WOW transfer board has revealed to me. I spent this time examining the board to see if this board was feasible as an optional add-on for a modified hi-res Astrocade. My conclusion is that yes this board is very feasible as an optional add-on. By the way, this board would not be usable in the low-res mode unless it could be modified to optionally add 40 bytes to a pattern screen line instead of the hi-res 80 bytes per line. Maybe all that would be needed is to add a manual mini toggle to switch from the 80 adder to 40. That would be something to look into.


The pattern transfer board provides 6 pattern bit control (manipulation) modes via its output port 7AH, which are listed below.


Direction (shift left or right 1 bit?)

Expand (double/triple size of pattern?)

Constant (0 = use same size, 1 = expand pattern size?)

Flush (set pattern pixels to a fixed color?)

Flip (turn, rotate 45°? Rotate CW, CCW?)

Flop (similar to magic flop?)


Looking at this functions list, it seems that this board really doesn't offer much more than the Astrocade motherboard custom chip magic functions. What the board really offers is processing speed.  The WOW Parts And Operating Manual provides a board theory of operation, but no details on the above 6 control (manipulation) modes. I will very likely be able to determine how each mode functions by examining the board's schematic and by breadboard experimentation.


Here is a link to the Wizard of Wor manual:




The board operates similar to a ML graphic write subroutine. Five graphic parameters must be output to the boards output ports 78 thru 7EH. The 8 bit pattern height parameter must be the LAST output (port 7EH) to activate the transfer board.


The board tri-states the Z80 off, writes the pattern to RAM, then returns control to the Z80.


The board writes a pattern faster than the Z80 because no Z80 M1 (instruction fetch/RAM row address refresh) cycle is utilized. There are no Z80 M1 cycle delays or Z80 instructions executed when the transfer board is activated. I think the minimum M1 cycle lasts 3 system clock cycles. One system clock cycle is 560ns long. So, the M1 cycle is a substantial delay before any Z80 instruction is even executed.


The board utilizes the Astrocade motherboard system clock and generates its own active low MREQ, RD and WR signal lines writing the pattern via onboard chips (digital electronics) which decode, count up/down, multiplex, tri-state, etc. acting like a ML graphics write subroutine.


It looks like the intent of the board is to write directly to screen RAM, but may be able to write to Magic RAM with possible limitations. The user in the Magic RAM case would also have to output the appropriate magic function to the custom data chip magic register port 0CH.

A system x,y coordinate to non-magic (or magic) address subroutine would also normally be executed by the user prior to outputting the 5 transfer board parameters.


This board has 43 chips on it, but less than a dozen of them are paired off and actually used for pattern byte manipulation/processing.


I plan to break down the schematic into separate parts so it's easier to determine how the board functions to process and write a graphic pattern to screen RAM. This building block approach can be used during the breadboard and testing phase of the project. I will utilize a 555 timer to generate a simple, slow 1 PPS (or higher) visible clock tester along with LEDs, used temporarily to run experimental tests.


I have a PC photo of the board's top, but only a paper print of its bottom. It looks like all the chips are powered by +5V.


Did the WOW transfer board utilize Motorola MC14xxx series chips? Yes, it did.


Surprisingly, Mouser Electronics is well-stocked with CD4xxx, 74HC or 74HCT substitutions. These chips typically cost around $0.60 a chip (less if you purchase 10 packs). For example, Mouser is selling the specialty chip CD4516BE priced at $0.56 (10 at $0.445) having over 1600 in stock. Compare that price with eBay.


I think you now have a general idea of how the WOW pattern transfer board functions.







Michael is looking for a bit of help with two questions concerning Wizard of Wor that relate to his interpretation of the pattern board project.  I'll post these questions in a separate post.  He has also written an official release announcement called "MCM Design's 3rd And Final Hi-Res Astrocade Prototype," which I'll post soon.


I wish Michael the best of luck with his newest project to modify his Astrocade.  Go, Michael, you crazy hi-res idealist, go!



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  • 2 weeks later...

Michael has a new Hi-Res project in the works for his private Astrocade.  He sent me this announcement about two weeks ago:




MCM Design Announcement

By Michael Matte

February 17, 2021


ANNOUNCEMENT - MCM Design's 3rd And Final Hi-Res Astrocade Prototype

Feb 2021



Below is MCM Design's vision for its final low/hi-res static screen RAM (SRAM) Astrocade, a wire wrapped prototype with a 3 board add-under.




The motherboard will be modified to run the low/hi-res static screen RAM add-under Board 1. Connection to Board 1 will be via a 28 pin dual in line (DIL) ribbon cable (RC) socket mounted at the bottom front of the motherboard. No 50 pin motherboard expansion lines will be required to run the screen RAM in Board 1.


Design Note:

The two custom data chip's Serial 0 (pin 11) and Serial 1 (pin 12) lines must be disconnected from ground. The hi-res video scan serial lines will be wired to pins 11 and 12.





Four 32KB static RAM chips utilized, providing

4KB low-res mode, 160 x 102 pixel resolution or

16KB hi-res mode, 320 x 204 pixel resolution

either mode software selectable

possible med-res mode 160 x 204 pixel resolution?


Optional hi-res 16KB  8 page multi-pager, total 128KB of screen RAM

software selectable


Single +5v power operation


28 pin DIL RC socket mounted in front of Board 1 to connect to the motherboard

28 pin DIL RC socket mounted in back of Board 1 to connect to Board 2





A. 32KB user hi-res ROM

B. 32KB user RAM 6000-7FFFH

C. 32KB user RAM 8000-FFFFH


A. 32KB user hi-res ROM, dual-carted with two 16KB banks

ROM will be 32KB EEPROM with internal data protection enabled


Bank 0 addressed 0000-3FFFH

16KB hi-res demos/games


Bank 1 addressed 0000-3FFFH


low-res to hi-res conversion, UPI + subroutines

power up routine

menu at power on?



sentinel at 2000H to indicate this ROM is active

extended graphic subroutines with EUPI

software support for Board 1 multi-pager?

software support for Board 3 pattern transfer board?


Manual switches mounted in front of Board 2

1. DIP (mini toggle?) to disable low-res ROM, enable hi-res ROM

low-res ROM only enabled option allows execution of already existing MCM Design 2000-3FFFH programming along with hi-res programs that include all the necessary (self-contained) hi-res routines

2. mini toggle to disable (turn off) Bank 1 ROM 2000 – 3FFFH

toggle allows use of 8KB hi-res cartridge in cassette connector with access to only hi-res UPI plus subroutines at 0000-1FFFH

3. mini toggle to select Bank 0 or Bank 1


B. 32KB user RAM, multi-carted with four 8KB banks

addressed 6000-7FFFH or 2000-3FFFH via mini toggle

28 pin ZIF socket

compatible with EPROM/EEPROM using jumper reroute socket or optional pre-wired module

switches mounted in front of Board 2 

1. 2000/6000H address mini toggle select switch

2. write protect mini toggle

3. two DIP multi-cart


C. 32KB user RAM addressed 8000-FFFFH

28 pin ZIF socket

compatible with EPROM/EEPROM using jumper reroute socket or optional pre-wired module

write protect mini toggle mounted in front of Board 2


Single +5v power operation


50 pin header socket to connect Board 2 to motherboard via RC

50 pin header socket to connect Board 2 to Board 3 via RC

28 pin DIL socket to connect to Board 1 multi-pager via RC





Similar to WOW pattern transfer board


single +5v power operation


50 pin header socket to connect to Board 2 via RC

50 pin header expand socket to connect to remote BalcheckHR board via RC




A composite video driver and audio driver board with a quick connect replacing the Aztec RF modulator

two RCA phono jacks mounted in back of the A/V board allowing A/V cables to run out the back of the Astrocade console

a ground wire to connect to the motherboard ground




MCM Design managed to purchase on eBay a 3 PC board rack styled support system for only $15 plus shipping. This setup will hold 3 boards in the vertical or horizontal position.


The rack system will be mounted within an open framed stained wood console. Additional supports will be used to position the rack system precisely. MCM Design has access to a table saw, router and miter saw to create the console and supports. The Astrocade will be mounted on top of the wooden console having the same width and length as the Astrocade console.


An 8.5 x 17" Vector board prepunched for wire wrap socket installation will be cut in half to provide precise 8.5" wide WW boards for the 3 board rack system. All 3 add-under boards will be 8.5"square?


The rack set up will have to provide a means to allow the hook up of a frequency counter, logic probe, VOM or logic analyzer so the 3 boards can be troubleshooted with their +5v power on.


A +5v power supply and a fused custom 120vac jack for the Astrocade motherboard power transformer will also be mounted inside the wooden console. A main fused 120vac power on/off switch will be mounted on a side of the wooden console so that the motherboard and all 3 add-under boards can power on simultaneously. The motherboard rear mounted power on/off slide switch will be left in the "on" position for the simultaneous power on.




Modified Astrobasic cartridge with 32KB EEPROM multi-carted for four 8KB programs listed below

1. Astrobasic

2. Upgraded Bit Fiddler's MLM with 2000 baud audio interface subroutines including "An In-Depth Look At ..." series programs and demos?

3. Hi-res MLM with 2000 baud audio interface subroutines including hi-res demos

4. Hi-res Multi-Pager Test Demo

Note: 2 and 3 audio interface subs will be useable from 6000-FFFFH low-res, 8000-FFFFH hi-res


Hi-Res Incredible wizard, Hi-Res Seawolf  plus ? in a 32KB package addressed 8000-FFFFH


Upgraded BalcheckHR board with 32KB diagnostic package


End OF MCM Design Document

Feb 2021



Michael has finished all of his previous hi-res projects and this one looks to be his most ambitious one yet!  Good luck, Michael!



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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/17/2021 at 4:46 PM, ballyalley said:

Michael is looking for a bit of help with two questions concerning Wizard of Wor that relate to his interpretation of the pattern board project.  I'll post these questions in a separate post.  He has also written an official release announcement called "MCM Design's 3rd And Final Hi-Res Astrocade Prototype," which I'll post soon.

I'm curious what his two questions are/were. Perhaps he already solved them?

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I hope you don't mind me posting the questions here for you--I found those 2 q's on your Ballyalley.com discussion group [https://groups.io/g/ballyalley]:



Michael Matte has two needs that would help him with his pattern transfer board (PTB) idea. Can anyone help him with the following two questions that he sent to me via email:

1. A reasonably clear PC photo of the PTB bottom would be beneficial so I could enlarge the photo and confirm that all the CMOS chips are connected to +5v and not +12v.

2. In my previous email to you I mentioned that I had no worded description on how the 6 pattern control modes (bit manipulation options) function. This is the PTB output port 7AH. All I have is what is on page 50 in the WOW Parts And Operating Manual, which lists the 6 control modes, but provides no specifics. Are there any documented details on these 6 modes?

I am determined to eventually build my final hi-res Astrocade with a 3 board add-under. You're right, it will be a challenge and a lot of work.

I hope that someone can help answer Michael's questions.

I know that this discussion group may not be the best place to ask for questions pertaining to the "Wizard of Wor" arcade game. Where is probably the best place to ask questions about the arcade games that use the "Astrocade chipset?"


I would recommend asking for the information on one of the several popular arcade machine forums. I could post the questions for him. I assume that by "PC photo" he means a digital photo.


As far as the documentation of the PTB pattern control modes goes, I doubt that anyone will have that information, as that would have only been for internal Bally usage, but I could ask for that, as well. The best bet, by far, for figuring this out would be to investigate the MAME source for the Bally arcade hardware. I could help with that.


I've been following this project with interest, in bursts of catching up, for the last few years now. I am a software developer, and I am going to port my games to the Astrocade, and would love to make hi-res ports, as well. I've always lamented the missed opportunity of the lack of hi-res support for the Astrocade, as found on the actual original arcade implementation.

Edited by pedalpowered
added beginning part of 1st sentence that i had meant to write later, but should be at start anyway
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The details of the pattern board are in the following source code file:

mame/video/astrocde.cpp at master · mamedev/mame · GitHub


Search for "Pattern board", to find the comment-header for the section that implements it.


Here's just the snippet of the comment that explains the high level of each of the pattern modes:


m_pattern_mode bits:
  d0 = direction (0 = read from src, write to dest, 1 = read from dest, write to src)
  d1 = expand (0 = increment src each pixel, 1 = increment src every other pixel)
  d2 = constant (0 = never increment src, 1 = normal src increment)
  d3 = flush (0 = copy all data, 1 = copy a 0 in place of last byte of each row)
  d4 = dest increment direction (0 = decrement dest on carry, 1 = increment dest on carry)
  d5 = dest direction (0 = increment dest, 1 = decrement dest)


However, the full implementation of the pattern board is in this section, including how each of these modes work.


Not that there's anything useful here to this endeavor, but for context, here's the source code for the driver for the Astrocade arcade platform:

mame/drivers/astrocde.cpp at master · mamedev/mame · GitHub

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2 hours ago, pedalpowered said:

I assume that by "PC photo" he means a digital photo.


Yes, I believe Michael means a digital photo of the Printed Circuit [Board].  I think he is looking for one of higher quality then he currently has found.


Thanks for this information in the MAME source code.  I've pointed Michael to it.


You're a freshly approved member of the Astrocade discussion forum now.  Maybe you can post there about the games that you've written that you want to port to the Astrocade.



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Michael has started his own YouTube channel and made his very first video.  His channel is called "MCMs Astrocades."  You can visit it here:




Michael posted his first video yesterday.  It's called "An Intro Tour Of MCM Design Projects."  Here is its description:


"This is MCMs Astrocades first video, which introduces some of MCM Design's projects relating to the Astrocade home computer/gaming system.


"MCM Design is primarily involved with the modification of the Astrocade, so it can also run in a high graphic resolution mode."



Sometimes there is a thumbnail of his videos.  Let's see what happens here:




Here is a link if that doesn't work:




This twenty minute videos shows the Astrocade projects that Michael has worked on previously.  He shows his hi-res Astrocade, although there is no video shown from it yet (that will be shown in an upcoming video).


In some ways, creating this YouTube channel and making this video was an experiment for Michael.  He has never created any videos or used any video editing tools before now.  I like what he came up with and I look forward to seeing what he can show us in the months to come.


I believe that links to most of the projects that Michael covers in this video are scattered previously in this thread.  If you can't find them, then I can't link to them easily, as they're found on various places on BallyAlley.  Your best bet to find a specific project would be to visit the "What's New" area of the Astrocade website and search for the word "Matte" or "MCM:"




I think that Michael hopes that his work inspires some other people to create projects using their own Astrocade consoles.


It's great to see Michael's hardware "in real life" and I can't wait to see graphics on a hi-res screen in motion.  This is a great start.




Edited by ballyalley
Removed material I pasted twice
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  • 4 weeks later...

On April 6, 2021, Michael Matte uploaded his second hi-res Astrocade video to YouTube.  It's called:


MCM Design's Modified Hi-Res Astrocades Part 1 - DRAM Astrocade Runs Low/Hi-Res Programs


You can view it here:




This is very nice work on Michael's part.  It is a great pleasure to see a hi-res Astrocade working in "real life" and being able to witness a screen with graphics in motion.


Following are two sets of comments from Michael.  The first are the notes on YouTube about this video.  The second remarks were sent to me by Michael when he personally informed me the video was added to YouTube.


Isn't it great to see an Astrocade that has been converted to run in hi-res mode in action?!?






Notes from YouTube Video:


This 5 part series by MCMs Astrocades reveals a mystery hidden from the Astrocade community for a long time. Documentation for both of MCM Design's Astrocades, which have been modified to run in low or high graphic resolution, has been archived on the Bally Alley website. The hi-res capability has also been mentioned, in various ways, on the Astrocade community's discussion group website. However, no one other than MCM Design, has actually seen either of these 2 Astrocades operate in hi-res, until now.


The 5 part series is broken down as follows:


1. DRAM Astrocade Runs Low/Hi-Res Programs

2. SRAM Astrocade Runs Low/Hi-Res Programs

3. The Hi-Res Multipage Test Demo

4. Disassembling the Hi-Res DRAM Astrocade

5. Disassembling the Hi-Res SRAM Astrocade


The standard Astrocade will display a screen area of 160 x 102 pixels. That's 160 pixels wide by 102 lines of pixels high, an area of 160 x 102 = 16,320 pixels. A pixel (picture element) is a very difficult to see tiny square (or rectangle) on the screen that can be set to a specific color by the digital device's programmable hardware. This is how text, photos and graphics on the screen are displayed, by manipulating all those pixels with specific colors.


An Astrocade modified to operate in hi-res will display a screen area of 320 x 204 pixels, totaling 65,280 pixels. That's 4 times as many pixels compared to low-res, allowing more detailed graphics to be displayed on a screen.


This part 1 video hopefully, will convince the viewer that MCM Design's original modified for hi-res DRAM Astrocade flawlessly runs in low or high resolution. The viewer will see the more interesting hi-res graphic programs created by MCM Design. Viewing of each program will be brief because MCMs Astrocades will provide longer views along with commentaries later in upcoming videos. This part 1 video is merely a sneak peek at the hi-res graphic programs.


Need help understanding computer terminology? You can use your browser's search box to ask questions. The browser may answer your question or list related questions, a related YouTube video or a website like Wikipedia to provide you info relating to your question.


You can ask questions like:

What is TV resolution?

What is a pixel?

You can ask about computer terms such as dynamic RAM, static RAM, memory, a byte or an EEPROM.


For more info relating to MCM Design's hi-res Astrocades, browse the Bally Alley website. Here are two links.


For info, see the BallyAlley.com/documentation/hi-res packages page




For photos, see the BallyAlley.com/pics/hi-res Astrocade Matte page




End Of Description

April 2021




Michael ran into quite a few editing issues that he found extremely frustrating while making this video.  Here is what he told me personally about the making of this video:




This video was a very difficult project to complete because of the multiple issues that occurred. My camera was set up to record in standard resolution, 640x480 @ 30fps. I didn't really gain anything visually by recording in full HD. The video parts A, B and C recordings are being edited using Windows Live Movie Maker, which will save the edited recordings as a WMV file in standard resolution with a 4:3 aspect ratio. I'm hoping these videos will generate some interest within the Astrocade community for a low/hi-res Astrocade.


[A person] has emailed me with a conditional desire to design/create professional grade PC boards relating to a modified hi-res Astrocade. I understand that there likely would not be Astrocade users interested in a hi-res multipager or pattern transfer board because of the lack of software support. So, I'm thinking, a single add-under PC board with 16KB screen SRAM, user SRAM and a hi-res ROM (EEPROM, EPROM) would likely be more desirable. I can already think of 5 PC board projects relating to a hi-res Astrocade that are possibilities for interested hi-res Astrocade users. Of course, someone would have to modify the Astrocade motherboard. I guess that would be me who would charge a certain fee to make the required modification.


I'm likely going to start building my final hi-res Astrocade with a 3 board add-under sometime in this coming May. This project will be well documented including videos.


I hope you like this new video. I think it's pretty cool considering it's my first attempt at recording a live TV screen and the fact that I used a poor man's editor.




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On 4/8/2021 at 10:53 AM, ballyalley said:

On April 6, 2021, Michael Matte uploaded his second hi-res Astrocade video to YouTube.  It's called:



I put together feedback for Michael's Hi-Res video:


- Nice narration
- I like the use of the wipes between the segments
- It was a smart move to show that a user doesn't have to turn off the Astrocade system when removing a cartridge and putting in another one.
- It is great to see Michael's EEPROM cartridge in use.


I've broken some of the major parts of the video down.  If this were in the video's comments (which aren't available), then a viewer could simply click a timeframe to skip to that segment.


8:51 - BalCheck Hi-Res Demo
8:51 - BalCheck Hi-Res Demo (Title Screen)
10:21 - BalCheck Hi-Res Demo ("Checkmate" variation)
11:21 - BalCheck Hi-Res Demo (Test Pattern variation)


High-Resolution Graphics Begin:


12:19 - Low-Res Menu running on a high-resolution screen-map with an explanation.
13:50 - Low-Res "Checkmate" running on a high-resolution screen-map with an explanation.  The game only takes up 1/4 of the top of the screen.
14:47 - Low-Res "BalCheck High-Res Demo" running on a high resolution screen map.
15:47 - High-Res Test pattern variation with explanation
17:36 - First Hi-Res Test Demo programmed in the mid-1980s with an explanation
19:52 - High-Resolution Demo running with an explanation
22:14 - The encore presentation: "Pixel Stringer" video art
22:28 - "Pixel Stringer" continues with an explanation of how it works
27:43 - Closing thoughts


This is a fun presentation.  I enjoyed watching it and finally seeing Michael's high resolution upgrade for his home Bally Arcade/Astrocade put through its paces using his own software.



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6 hours ago, ballyalley said:


I put together feedback for Michael's Hi-Res video:


On, Monday, April 12, 2021, at 12:27 PM, Michael added:


Thanks Adam for your comments. I'm still debating with myself whether to turn comments on or not.


Good idea to list a segment breakdown with the video. I plan to include this idea in my up coming videos.  A viewer not familiar with MCM Design's 8KB BalcheckHR programs package might be confused with the package title. To help clarify, the BalcheckHR programs package can run as an 8KB Astrocade cartridge and includes the following programs:


  • Upgraded commercial Balcheck diagnostic programs for the Astrocade motherboard (the main diagnostic utilizes a custom dual 7-segment display plug-in to report testing error sequences)
  • Hi-res (HR) screen RAM diagnostic
  • Low-res SetScreen3 diagnostic
  • Hi-res SetScreenHR diagnostic
  • User RAM add-on diagnostic (intended for MCM hi-res Astrocades with built-in User RAM)
  • Low-res graphic demos
  • Hi-res graphic demos


Adam, if you wish, you may attach this addendum to your comments. Thanks. The Part 2 hi-res SRAM Astrocade video will likely be released near the end of this April.




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  • 3 months later...

I have fallen behind on posting comments from Michael Matte here.  Let me try to catch up a little bit (these have been slightly edited for content):


On June 18, 2021 3:18 PM, Michael wrote:
I dropped off my Datamax drawings package at [...] USPS today. You could see the package as early as this Monday. The USPS tracking number is [...]


Mister hi-res Michael has experienced another hi-res disappointment. You announced the upcoming Bally Alley release of the Datamax UV-1R schematics on the discussion group website and there seems to be, other than yourself, no excitement in this announcement.


[Michael is referring to this thread called "Datamax UV-1R Schematics and Board Layouts Overview" made started on Juen 12, 2021 :]




Because of the lack of hi-res enthusiasm, I will likely continue with my YouTube channel 5 part series and then finish with an in-depth look at the BalcheckHR 32KB diagnostic tools. I am just not motivated to post any other hi-res videos.


[Removed paragraph with personal details.]


I have now no motivation to document any detailed hi-res SRAM builds to be posted on the Bally Alley. Documenting hi-res builds is just too time-consuming for me and I would rather spend the time writing hi-res software. I may simply take a bunch of photos for posting next to the hi-res SRAM Astrocade documentation on your Bally Alley website and perhaps include a very short outline procedure for modifying an Astrocade motherboard for hi-res operation.


I modified my Allen BD1 motherboard for hi-res operation because only 3 chips are NOT in sockets. I made some improvements to this modification. This modification is like a work of artistry. It's cool. My plan is to use this board for my final hi-res Astrocade.
My hi-res SRAM board was stripped-down (chips removed) for low-res operation only. This board is running in low-res now. More tests will be run. There may still be a failure on my 2nd modified for hi-res Astrocade motherboard, other than a bad custom address chip. More tests are required.



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On July 10, 2021 1:12PM, I wrote to Michael:




"I have been working slowly adding the UV-1 documents to BallyAlley over the last couple of weeks.  You can see what I've added, here:




I'm particularly excited to have added those screenshots taken with the UV-1.  It took quite some time to crop and clip those screenshots and make them look okay.


As for blueprints:


On July 2, I bought a used scanner.  It is an Avision FB6080E Flatbed Scanner with Bookedge.  This can scan to the VERY edge of the scanner and has a special curved edge to allow scanning of a book that is still in its binding.  The total cost was about $400 on Ebay, after taxes and shipping costs.


I still need to purchase VueScan (another $100), the scanning software, so that I can use the scanner.  This scanner is about a decade old, but it is a 600dpi, professional grade scanner with a large A3-sized (11.7" x 16.5") bed.  I've heard great things about it from other archivist (specifically, Kay from the Atari Antic podcast gave me the heads-up about this quality scanner).  I have high hopes for it!


I hope that it works when it arrives!  Since this scanner is much larger than my current one, I may try to use this scanner to scan in the UV-1 blueprints in three or four sections.  If that doesn't work, then I'll find a place locally to do it for us.






Michael responded to me on July 10, 2021 2:45 PM




I have been checking the Astrocade group website from time to time to check on your progress with your Datamax project. I have been enjoying your postings and pics. I hope there are other enthusiasts out there who also appreciate and enjoy your postings, hi-res or otherwise. Keep up the good work.


I'm glad I spent the time to photo copy the blueprints in sections and mail you the results. You can then get an idea what to expect when you attempt to digitize the scanned sections. The real challenge will be the Digitizer Board because the schematic is so large. You will likely not have much overlap in the center area of the schematic, even if you scan the blue print in 4 sections. Good luck with your scanner and your scan attempts.


My hi-res SRAM Astrocade is up and running in low and hi-res, but not perfectly. It still has an issue. I modified Allen BD6 for hi-res operation because its nearly 100% in sockets. I think maybe the tolerance level of the custom address and data chips is such that my low/hi-res SRAM wire wrapped board is not quite compatible with this particular modified for hi-res Astrocade motherboard. I still have some test ideas to run. I will likely submit an email later to Ken, you and Lance regarding this surprising and upsetting incompatibility. This has been a real challenge to get this hi-res SRAM board running like it did before the hi-res SRAM Astrocade failed on me. I have not spent much time checking out my 2nd modified for hi-res motherboard, which had the failed custom address chip. I'm not sure if there is another issue with this motherboard. I'm not yet willing to risk losing another address chip on this board because I've seen some suspicious behavior on it. I'll likely check it out later. Allen is shipping me one of his failed motherboards to check out and he is giving me 2 custom address chips, which I can really use.







Losing custom Bally chips; that's terrible news and there's little that we can do about it.




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  • 1 month later...

Michael Matte has sent me plenty of new material over the past couple of months that I need to post here.  For now, I'll get started with a video he posted early this morning.


Michael Matte has added a new video to his "MCMs Astrocades" YouTube channel.  This thirty-minute video is called "MCM Design's Modified Hi-Res Astrocades Part 2 - SRAM Astrocade Runs Low/Hi-Res Programs."  You can view it here:






Michael sent me these comments about his video:


"I was disappointed to see YouTube's playback of my part 2 video looking out of focus at full screen and I only have a 20" monitor. I uploaded my .wmv file of this video to YouTube. I don't understand why YouTube degraded this file so much. I was pleased with the video's presentation. I think it turned out pretty good if you don't mind the repeat of the hi-res programs.


Here is the full description of the video:




The intent of part 1 in this 5 part video series is to show that MCM Design's modified for hi-res DRAM (dynamic RAM) Astrocade runs perfect in the low and high resolution modes.


This part 2 video intends to convince the viewer that MCM Design's newly created and simplified Astrocade, which utilizes static screen RAM (SRAM), also runs perfect in both the low and hi-res modes.


For more info on MCM Design hi-res Astrocades, see the links in the part 1 YouTube video description.




0:00    Intro



1:35     Ms. Candyman

3:47     Muncher

5;15     Galactic Invasion

7:01     Space Fortress

9:08     Solar Conqueror

10:46   Cosmic Raiders



13:03   Low-res Menu/Checkmate on hi-res map

17:11   MLM

20:33   Test Pattern Variation

23:08   Original Test Demo

25:34   Fish Demo

27:52   Pixel Stringer


32:22   Credits


End Of Description

Sept 2021





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Michael Matte posted his newest hi-res Astrocade demo today.  It is called "MCM Design's Modified Hi-Res Astrocades Part 3 - The Hi-Res Multipage Test Demo."  Michael uploaded this video in 720p. You might have to manually select this resolution. Other than Michael, this is the first time anyone has ever seen an Astrocade run with a hi-res screen RAM multi-pager. This multi-pager flips 8 hi-res pages of screen RAM. It is not a multiple ROM to RAM, ROM to RAM flipper.






Here is Michael's full description of the demo (available to read on YouTube).




MCM Design's modified for hi-res SRAM Astrocade has 128KB of static screen RAM for use with an onboard  hi-res 8 page multi-pager. An 8KB program was created to test the multi-pager, then execute a hi-res Fish Demo.


Below is a listing of the 8 pages indicating what graphics appear on each page.


Page     Hi-Res Graphics

   0         text introduction with 17 lines of custom 7 x 9 pixel text


   1         narrow vertical stripes on a split screen


   2         end view of aquarium plus 15 magic write variations


   3         narrow horizontal stripes on a split screen


   4         10 color textured test pattern


   5         narrow vertical plus horizontal stripes on a split screen


   6         title page with custom enlarged text characters


   7         custom screenshot variation of the game Gunfight





The text introduction will be displayed nearly 60 seconds allowing ample time to read the custom hi-res text characters written by an Astrocade computer.


The test demo writes 7 hi-res pages of graphics to pages 2 thru 7 while the page 0 text intro is displayed.


Several passes of the 8 page flipping will execute next. The speed of page flipping will increase with each pass. Each page flip produces an audio output.





After the page flipping, you will see a critter moving around and erasing graphics in all of the 8 pages.


The 98 byte program that is executed to move the critter actually resides in the bottom of page 7. This program calls subroutines within the cassette cartridge ROM.


Audio comments are included during the motion of the critter.





After the critter finishes erasing graphics in the last page, which is the custom Gunfight screenshot, the hi-res Fish Demo is executed for 2 minutes, followed by a loop back to the page 0 intro text.





If no multi-pager hardware is present, the multipage test demo will execute in the following manner.


All of the 8 page graphics will be visible but QUICKLY written ending in the final page Gunfight screenshot.

The screenshot colors will very with each audio output.

The color variation and audio output occurrence will increase over time.

A crash will likely occur at the end of the color/audio output variation or there will be a loop back to the quick 8 page graphics write.






Final Comments


When a page is flipped, there are no issues with any graphic pixels. However, there are 2 what could be described as video display disturbances.


The first occasional disturbance appears as a momentary long, but narrow white streak, typically on the right side of the screen RAM area and seems to be prominent in the page 7 Gunfight screenshot. It has been determined that this disturbance is related to the changing of colors. This disturbance is also seen when the test demo is executed with NO multi-pager hardware (see video clip at 9:39). This explanation was confirmed when the program was revised to use only 1 color table for all 8 pages. When only 1 color table was used, the noted disturbance was not present.


The second occasional disturbance cannot be described with words, but is easily visible. Perhaps this particular disturbance is related to a TV graphics display appearing abnormally fast. Normally, the TV display data in the screen RAM area has to be cleared, then the appropriate graphics has to written to screen RAM. MCM Design also tried running faster chips, but this second disturbance would still occur occasionally.



End Of Description

Sept 2021




Here is my reply to Michael that I sent to him today after I watched his this newest video:


I just watched part 3 of your demo called "MCM Design's Modified Hi-Res Astrocades Part 3 - The Hi-Res Multipage Test Demo."  Here are my comments:


- You did a great job describing the program in the text.


- I like your voice-over explanation; it helped me understand and follow along with your text explanation.


- I watched the movie in 720p, which I changed to manually.  It looks great.


- I like the explosion sound effect that happens between page transitions.  Once the transitions speed-up it really adds atmosphere to the video.


- The last part of the demo, where the creature flips back and forth between the three screens adds plenty of potential for an 8-page, highly detailed, graphic adventure.


- One idea, if you can manage it, would be to create an animation of a full-screen, eight-cell animation.


I'll post this video link to the discussion group and AtariAge today or tomorrow.


Great work!



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