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Intellivision development, back in the day


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On 11/29/2016 at 10:59 AM, intvnut said:

The 6502 does seem to have a performance edge over the CP-1610 at the same clock rate for general purpose code because its instruction cycles are just so lean

In comparing the microprocessors of the day it is more useful to compare memory cycle times and instruction times than clock rates. For example, if you look at their respective instruction times, you'll see that a 2 MHz 8080 effectively runs at the same speed as a 1 MHz 6800 or 6502 despite its higher clock rate—among other things the faster clock was used to pipeline nibbles through the ALU so as to use that portion of the silicon more effectively, but it was of no help whatsoever in moving data in and out of the chip. Similarly, although the CP-1600's designed clock rate was 5 MHz (CP1600 Microprocessor User Manual, May 1975, Section 1.0), the resulting instruction and memory cycle times were about the same as those of a 2 MHz 8080 or a 1 MHz 6800 or 6502. Providing a faster clock for a given process doesn't make the transistors switch any faster, doesn't decrease the read/write times of the on-board registers and doesn't change the propagation time through the ALU. What it does do is give the designer more clock phases with which to be clever. As a relevant example, the fact that the Keyboard Component was clocked at 3.58 MHz provided many clock phases with which to implement the dual port memory system, even though the 6502 was only clocked at 895 kHz.

 

You can't fault the CP-1600 for Maine and Harrower's decision to design a chip set that called for the CPU to be clocked as slowly as it was. The fully compatible STIC 1A could easily have allowed the clock rate of the CP-1600 to be doubled, but didn't because there was no point: it was a pure cost-reduction effort required to be 100% backwards compatible. STIC 1B, which extended the STIC 1A architecture, did allow the CP-1600 to be clocked at double speed.

 

WJI

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On 6/5/2017 at 6:18 AM, mr_me said:

I always wondered what was "modified" in the Keyboard Components development systems aka black whales.

There were blue whales, but the only black ones were in Keith Robinson's imagination. The blue whales used for development needed a ROM cartridge and a Rockwell 6551 ACIA cartridge. For large cartridges, or if you were unclear about relocating code, you could add a T-card populated with RAM. A bank-switching "T-card" allowed emulation of paged ROM. A Master Component jumper was required if you wanted breakpoints.

 

WJI

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20 hours ago, Walter Ives said:

(For those unfamiliar with the work of Jan Łukasiewicz, you don't "pull" something off a stack, you "pop" it off. Using the term "pull" in this context is like squeaking chalk on a chalkboard. It marks the microprocessor as having been designed by an unsophisticated rube from [insert name of your favorite backward village here] and robs it of credibility.)

 

AMEN!

 

20 hours ago, Walter Ives said:

Programmers, on the other hand, especially programmers of more capable machines, don't give a rat's a** about the details of the implementation but feel that the addressing mode is naturally associated with the argument rather than the operation.


HALLELUJAH!!!

 

The first time I saw a sample of APh code in Your Friend The Exec and noticed the addressing mode indicator on the arguments, I thought, why isn't as1600 doing that? (Just like I thought, PULR??? Really?!  Who pulls from the stack??)

 

It just seems so much more intuitive.

 

I guess @intvnut was basing the syntax on GI's data sheets.

 

 

20 hours ago, Walter Ives said:

The CP-1610 used exactly the same die as the CP-1600. The ONLY physical difference was that it was packaged in plastic.

 

WJI


You have made this point several times in the past few days, so I suppose it's a notable distinction.

 

However, for those of us who do not really know much of anything about hardware and electronics, would you (or someone else) mind explaining he implications of this difference?

 

Does it improve or impair heat dissipation or something like that?  Or is it merely that plastic is cheaper than ceramic?


Inquiring (and ignorant) minds want to know ....

 

    dZ.

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  • 2 months later...
On 2/12/2023 at 8:12 AM, Walter Ives said:

you'll see that a 2 MHz 8080 effectively runs at the same speed as a 1 MHz 6800 or 6502 despite its higher clock rate—among other things the faster clock was used to pipeline nibbles through the ALU so as to use that portion of the silicon more effectively, but it was of no help whatsoever in moving data in and out of the chip.

    Ooops. Meant Z80, not 8080.

 

    WJI

image.png

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On 2/13/2023 at 4:55 AM, DZ-Jay said:

 

On 2/12/2023 at 8:13 AM, Walter Ives said:

The CP-1610 used exactly the same die as the CP-1600. The ONLY physical difference was that it was packaged in plastic.

 

WJI


You have made this point several times in the past few days, so I suppose it's a notable distinction.

    I'm just stamping out burning ducks. I respond to comments in threads and don't particularly keep track of what I've written from one thread to the next. This site appears high in google search results for Intellivision and is taken as somewhat of an authority: my comments as much if not more for people who stumble onto the site while googling as for current members of the forum.

 

    WJI

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On 2/13/2023 at 4:55 AM, DZ-Jay said:

 

On 2/12/2023 at 8:13 AM, Walter Ives said:

The CP-1610 used exactly the same die as the CP-1600. The ONLY physical difference was that it was packaged in plastic.

 

WJI


You have made this point several times in the past few days, so I suppose it's a notable distinction.

 

However, for those of us who do not really know much of anything about hardware and electronics, would you (or someone else) mind explaining he implications of this difference?

 

Does it improve or impair heat dissipation or something like that?  Or is it merely that plastic is cheaper than ceramic?

    The CP1600 was developed under contract with Honeywell's Process Control Division to enable Honeywell to build what were in essence low-cost PDP-11s. To Honeywell in 1975, which needed a moderate volume of parts with an easy-to-program instruction set, each device was worth a hundred dollars (this is ballpark, I don't know the actual price. Also, it dropped over the years.). Selling the same part into the consumer electronics market presented GI with a problem: how to keep selling the part to Honeywell for a respectable price while selling the same part to Unisonic and Mattel for three. The solution: change the part number and the published spec for maximum clock rate. Presto! Changeo! Sparks fly like electricity! Problem solved. Note that the data sheet is silent on the question of plastic vs. ceramic packaging and that the specified operating currents for the CP1610 are precisely the same as those specified for a 5MHz CP-1600. Running the part slower reduced the required operating current and thus the amount of heat that had to be dissipated, but the individuals who actually typed in the altered specification apparently weren't sophisticated enough to know that.

    It was GI, not Mattel, that designed the Master Component circuit board, including the RF shields and heat sinks. GI was contractually responsible for providing chipsets that worked in that operating environment. The earliest chipsets it delivered were packaged in a ceramic package that conducted heat a little better. After considerable experimentation it settled on plastic packages with attached heat sinks because that was the cheaper solution.

    Most vendors supplying a part in a different package just change a letter appended to the part number, as in 74LS00N vs. 74LS00J. Had GI done that here it would have destroyed the illusion. Several members of this forum, relying on GI's smoke and shiny mirrors, have suggested that the CP1610 was somehow fundamentally different from the CP1600. For example, the post to which I was responding stated, "Now, if we were to look at the original CP-1600 (of which the CP-1610 is a detuned variant), it ran at 2x the clock rate." I wanted to make it clear that there was no process tweaking to "detune" the part and that the ONLY difference was the packaging; the two parts used exactly the same die.

 

    WJI

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On 11/26/2016 at 7:38 AM, mr_me said:

We know that in 1977, prior to APh involvement, Mattel was developing for the Intellivision in preparation for January CES. Don't know who that programmer was but I'm guessing they used a GI development system and assembler, likely on a GI cp1600 based computer.

Not sure what happened to the image associated with my previous response. Let's try again:

 

    APh's involvement began in December, 1975. You have undoubtedly read elsewhere that APh brought the GI chipset to Chang's attention. It was APh personnel who prepared the Winter CES demo in the secret windowless room at Mattel headquarters in 1977. GI had supplied a TTL emulator built into a chassis similar in size to the one shown in this EE Times article and mounted in a mini-rack.

image.png.37a0753ef9d5e503a469e8c1c594c3bf.png

    The APh engineer sent to survey the situation found a setup that had been unpacked but was otherwise "doornail dead." He plugged it in and spent a couple of days preparing a minimal development environment by hooking up a Teletype model ASR-33 to it, writing and hand-assembling a minimal version of APh's debugger and writing and hand-assembling a minimal interrupt driven program to establish that the system could display background and objects and that the hand-controllers could be read. After that was in place, APh dispatched two programmers to the same room to write and hand-assemble the rudimentary demonstration program shown at CES.

 

    WJI

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On 6/5/2017 at 6:18 AM, mr_me said:

APh, where Kimo Yap and Tom Loughry worked, had hard disks, they seemed to get the bleeding edge technology. In those days hard disks might have been removable platters.

    I'm not sure what happened to the image in my previous reply. Let's try again:

    image.thumb.png.2c13e1b6c7dbed4da30f49f3875cd992.png

    Disk cartridge not included.

 

    WJI

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1 hour ago, Walter Ives said:

    I'm just stamping out burning ducks. I respond to comments in threads and don't particularly keep track of what I've written from one thread to the next. This site appears high in google search results for Intellivision and is taken as somewhat of an authority: my comments as much if not more for people who stumble onto the site while googling as for current members of the forum.

 

    WJI


That is fair and appreciated.

 

1 hour ago, Walter Ives said:

    The CP1600 was developed under contract with Honeywell's Process Control Division to enable Honeywell to build what were in essence low-cost PDP-11s. To Honeywell in 1975, which needed a moderate volume of parts with an easy-to-program instruction set, each device was worth a hundred dollars (this is ballpark, I don't know the actual price. Also, it dropped over the years.). Selling the same part into the consumer electronics market presented GI with a problem: how to keep selling the part to Honeywell for a respectable price while selling the same part to Unisonic and Mattel for three. The solution: change the part number and the published spec for maximum clock rate. Presto! Changeo! Sparks fly like electricity! Problem solved. Note that the data sheet is silent on the question of plastic vs. ceramic packaging and that the specified operating currents for the CP1610 are precisely the same as those specified for a 5MHz CP-1600. Running the part slower reduced the required operating current and thus the amount of heat that had to be dissipated, but the individuals who actually typed in the altered specification apparently weren't sophisticated enough to know that.

    It was GI, not Mattel, that designed the Master Component circuit board, including the RF shields and heat sinks. GI was contractually responsible for providing chipsets that worked in that operating environment. The earliest chipsets it delivered were packaged in a ceramic package that conducted heat a little better. After considerable experimentation it settled on plastic packages with attached heat sinks because that was the cheaper solution.

    Most vendors supplying a part in a different package just change a letter appended to the part number, as in 74LS00N vs. 74LS00J. Had GI done that here it would have destroyed the illusion. Several members of this forum, relying on GI's smoke and shiny mirrors, have suggested that the CP1610 was somehow fundamentally different from the CP1600. For example, the post to which I was responding stated, "Now, if we were to look at the original CP-1600 (of which the CP-1610 is a detuned variant), it ran at 2x the clock rate." I wanted to make it clear that there was no process tweaking to "detune" the part and that the ONLY difference was the packaging; the two parts used exactly the same die.

 

    WJI


I understand now.  Thanks for the context.  It is a rather interesting historical note.

 

   dZ.

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4 hours ago, Walter Ives said:

Not sure what happened to the image associated with my previous response. Let's try again:

 

    APh's involvement began in December, 1975. You have undoubtedly read elsewhere that APh brought the GI chipset to Chang's attention. It was APh personnel who prepared the Winter CES demo in the secret windowless room at Mattel headquarters in 1977. GI had supplied a TTL emulator built into a chassis similar in size to the one shown in this EE Times article and mounted in a mini-rack.

image.png.37a0753ef9d5e503a469e8c1c594c3bf.png

    The APh engineer sent to survey the situation found a setup that had been unpacked but was otherwise "doornail dead." He plugged it in and spent a couple of days preparing a minimal development environment by hooking up a Teletype model ASR-33 to it, writing and hand-assembling a minimal version of APh's debugger and writing and hand-assembling a minimal interrupt driven program to establish that the system could display background and objects and that the hand-controllers could be read. After that was in place, APh dispatched two programmers to the same room to write and hand-assemble the rudimentary demonstration program shown at CES.

 

    WJI

Dave Rolfe spoke of being sent to Mattel in late 1977 to program a demo for CES.  He mentioned someone at Mattel previously attempting it but was unable.  GI had assemblers and cross-assemblers, did they not provide Mattel some sort of development system to go along with that asr-33?

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  • 1 month later...
On 4/25/2023 at 7:51 AM, mr_me said:

Dave Rolfe spoke of being sent to Mattel in late 1977 to program a demo for CES.  He mentioned someone at Mattel previously attempting it but was unable.

Mattel didn't receive the emulator from GI until December of 1977, and the demo (including the fragile emulator!) had to be in Chicago by January 3 for CES, Christmas notwithstanding. In order to make that happen, Chang arranged for APh to program the demo the month before the emulator arrived.

 

The program that was attempted by a Mattel programmer and later taken over by APh was NFL Football. The Mattel programmer didn't start work on that project until shortly after the students started, about July of 1978, when the EXEC was more-or-less stable.

 

WJI

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On 4/25/2023 at 7:51 AM, mr_me said:

GI had assemblers and cross-assemblers, did they not provide Mattel some sort of development system to go along with that asr-33?

Nope. It didn't even provide the ASR-33. All the system had was an Addmaster 601 paper tape reader and a ROM loader that could use that reader to load a program from paper tape and begin executing it.

 

WJI

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  • 3 months later...

Here's the latest update of the Intellivision development tools description:

 

intellivisionDevelopmentBackInTheDay-20230801.pdf

 

The main additions are:

  • A new section 5.5 on the development tools and processes used by Roklan / Coleco / Parker Bros (p43)
  • Additional information on SOUNDT, Bill Goodrich's sound development tool (page 21)
  • A summary of the differences between v2.0 of Rick Koenig's debugger (page 23) and the version embedded in World Championship Baseball
  • A brief piece in Section 4.8.2 on the various versions of Killer Bees and their uses (page 39)

Get it while it's hot!

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19 hours ago, decle said:

Here's the latest update of the Intellivision development tools description:

 

intellivisionDevelopmentBackInTheDay-20230801.pdf 4.81 MB · 4 downloads

 

The main additions are:

  • A new section 5.5 on the development tools and processes used by Roklan / Coleco / Parker Bros (p43)
  • Additional information on SOUNDT, Bill Goodrich's sound development tool (page 21)
  • A summary of the differences between v2.0 of Rick Koenig's debugger (page 23) and the version embedded in World Championship Baseball
  • A brief piece in Section 4.8.2 on the various versions of Killer Bees and their uses (page 39)

Get it while it's hot!

Thanks for keeping it updated, it's amazing.  A couple of questions.

 

They had CP/M for 8088/86 computers by that time.  The CompuPro 8/16 systems supported both 8-bit and 16-bit processors.  Could Roklan have made a cross-assembler on an 8-bit computer, would that work?

 

And what is the Nuvatec cross-assembler syntax INTV was using, is that not the GI assembly format?

 

edit:

By the way, the guy from Roklan in the interview said he has all their games source code on floppies or hard disk, plus the original computers to run them.

Edited by mr_me
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  • 8 months later...
On 11/27/2016 at 3:54 PM, mr_me said:

But Mattel's Engineering "Design and Development" department (eg. Richard Chang, Dave Chandler, Dave James, Rick Timmins to name a few) did initially attempt to program NFL Football according to the interviews. It sounds like that might have been done prior to 1978 and that source code was given to APh to "fix", now I understand it was likely not even compatible with the assembler APh was using. Unfortunately, we haven't heard from that group except through the papaintellivision.com documents.

The whole Intellivision product line sprang from Richard Chang's group, one of several groups in Mattel Toy's Preliminary Design department. APh was in on the development of Mattel's video game offering from the very beginning (Jan 1976) and did the very first Intellivision programming in 1977. Rick Timmins was seconded to APh to write Football in the summer of 1978; while there he was treated as any other programmer and used APh's development stations and assembler. Mattel's management had no concept of what it took to write a game and torpedoed Timmins by repeatedly giving him other time-consuming tasks. Timmins' code was not "fixed"—APh rewrote Football from scratch. Mattel employee Brian Dougherty, also from Preliminary Design, similarly started Space Spartans under APh tutelage using the APh development tools. When Dougherty bolted to Imagic, Mike Minkoff (also of Chang's group) inherited responsibility for it. When Baum was hired he eventually formed a new group parallel to Chang's. Minkoff was transferred to Baum's group and given newly-hired programmers Bill Fisher and Steve Roney to finish the job. John Sohl also originally reported to Chang, was seconded to APh for training and wrote Astrosmash while there. Same with Minkoff (Snafu, Bowling) and Rick Levine (Bowling).

 

WJI

 

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On 11/27/2016 at 3:54 PM, mr_me said:

The Mattel "Design and Development" group did produce one released Intellivision game, Melody Blaster.

All of the initial Intellivision games, through at least Astrosmash, Snafu and Boxing, were produced under the auspices of the Preliminary Design/Design and Development departments, under the direction of Richard Chang. This includes Astrosmash, Snafu and Boxing. When Baum was hired he reported to Chang until the applications programming was split off to be its own group, but Chang retained responsibility for developing new hardware and its associated firmware. Since Melody Blaster was developed in parallel with the ECS kernel and the music keyboard, it made no sense to assign it to Baum. Any further applications that used the music keyboard would have been developed in Baum's group.

 

WJI

 

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On 11/27/2016 at 12:07 PM, intvnut said:

I guess I never figured out how to turn the chirps off (or if I did, I forgot). 🙂 I'm sure individual programs turned them off, much like individual games turned off the "keyclicks" sounds the EXEC makes for keypad and DISC.

Damn tootin'. The unpublished text editor, among others, not only allowed the user to turn them on and off but also repurposed some keys. Ain't software wonderful.

 

WJI

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Posted (edited)
On 11/27/2016 at 3:54 PM, mr_me said:

I bet that separate repeat button came from some other system.

Good news! You win your bet.

 

David Chandler had previously worked for an aerospace company, where his claim to fame was directing proposal writing teams. That required creating bookshelves full of documents. It was the standard of the time that typists produce perfect copy, without erasures, so if they made a mistake they retyped the entire page. The standard typewriter then in use was the IBM Selectric.

 

Chandler approached his management with the idea of creating a very rudimentary word processing system that could store the character stream created when typing a page onto a cassette tape. If the system detected backspacing and overtyping it would remove the overtyped character from the text stream. The cassette tape could be played back to create as many clean copies of the page as needed. The company (Autonetics) gave Chandler some funding to pursue the idea. He personally designed the modifications to a Selectric to detect keystrokes and be electrically driven; an associate designed the electronics needed to interface those signals to the tape drive. When Autonetics cancelled the project Chandler and his associate persuaded the company to cede them the rights, and they formed their own company to develop it further.

 

Chandler's company had bitten off more than it could chew and the principals were forced to take on a contract to develop a table-top tank video game in order to eat. They took on that particular project because they hoped it would give them the experience they needed to incorporate a microprocessor and a video screen to their editing system.

 

On 1/30/2024 at 5:48 PM, Rod said:

Thank you for bringing this document to our attention. For those who didn't follow the link, p20 was a full page picture featuring Chandler. The one-line caption, hidden at the bottom of the next page, reads, "Pauline Sly listens to Dr. David Chandler describe Tank Squadron." Unfortunately, the article, entitled "Applying the F8 Microcomputer Family to Games," starting on p45, was written by Mostek Semiconductor rather than Chandler and was more about promoting the F8 than describing the gameplay of the game.

Chandler.thumb.jpg.ef1d1696e137bf5d9ce9dec6643352a7.jpg


Although the company went under shortly after that photo was taken, Chandler never lost the dream. According to Johnson, he didn't accept the job offer at Mattel because he wanted to develop a video game system, he was actually somewhat dismissive of video games and questioned their long-term viability. He accepted it because Mattel's Rochlis wanted to develop a "Keyboard Component" and he was hoping to steer that project into becoming a home version of his editing system.

 

That's the background, now to your bet. The keys on the Keyboard Component don't auto-repeat because Chandler was stuck in a Selectric emulation mindset and, except for a few "typamatic" keys (space, backspace, underscore and return), the keys on Selectrics didn't auto-repeat. The keys on the Keyboard Component default to making a sound when depressed because Selectrics, like all typewriters, make a sound when their keys were depressed and Chandler wanted 60 word-per-minute touch typists whose eyes were glued to their source material to have audible feedback verifying each key action.

 

Chandler was crushed and embittered by Mattel's cancellation of the Keyboard Component.

 

WJI

 

Edited by Walter Ives
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