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Atari Trak-Balls


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Why did Atari release two different looking Trak-Ball Controllers in 1983, both saying for Atari Computers and Atari Video Computer System (VCS). The one with the white roller says Pro-Line on the top left corner.

Was the Pro-Line version only released in USA and the CX80 in Europe (multi-language on back of box)?

 

normal_trak_balls.jpg

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The designer of this hardware may answer as he's posted here in the past.

The CX22 Pro-Line was first released and labeled Atari 2600 Trak-Ball with the bottom part dark like the top and outputs joystick only.

Then it released with the white bottom, it added a switch for Joystick mode / Trak-Ball mode, dropped 2600 labeling as it can be used on Atari 8-but computers also.

 

The bottom pictured CX80 Trak-Ball matched the 8-bit Atari XL computer design. Its button design works much better than the CX22. It still retains the JS/TB modes selected by a switch.

 

Only a late version of 8-bit Atari Missile Command used the real Trak-Ball mode output, ending up built in to the XEGS 8-bit computer game combo console released in 1986.

 

Today real Trak-Ball control has been added to Atari 7800 Centipede, with awesome options like 2-player at the same time!

On the Atari 2600, real Trak-Ball output has been added to around 10 existing games, making them control just like an arcade trackball game.

See the following thread for the developments and news about upcoming PAL or NTSC carts:

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/243453-atari-2600-trak-ball-games/?p=3338227

Edited by iesposta
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Only a late version of 8-bit Atari Missile Command used the real Trak-Ball mode output, ending up built in to the XEGS 8-bit computer game combo console released in 1986.

 

 

Correction: ALL versions of A8 Missile Command can use the Trak-Ball natively, even the standard brown metal cartridge. Press CTRL-T before you press START and you'll see. In addition, Synapse Software's SLIME! can also use Trak-Ball mode and the same trick applies: press CTRL-T before you start a game. But other than those two titles, no other vintage titles do.

 

There are a couple different Centipede hack/rewrites, however, and I think a Millipede hack as well - search the 8-bit forum for details. Of course, for the 5200, Centipede, Missile Command and a number of others (Galaxian, anyone? :) ) have supported Trak-Ball control since the beginning.

 

ALSO: Here is a link to the 2600 games that have been rewritten in recent years with CX22/CX80 Trak-Ball support.

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The designer of this hardware may answer as he's posted here in the past.

The CX22 Pro-Line was first released and labeled Atari 2600 Trak-Ball with the bottom part dark like the top and outputs joystick only.

Then it released with the white bottom, it added a switch for Joystick mode / Trak-Ball mode, dropped 2600 labeling as it can be used on Atari 8-but computers also.

 

The bottom pictured CX80 Trak-Ball matched the 8-bit Atari XL computer design. Its button design works much better than the CX22. It still retains the JS/TB modes selected by a switch.

 

Only a late version of 8-bit Atari Missile Command used the real Trak-Ball mode output, ending up built in to the XEGS 8-bit computer game combo console released in 1986.

 

Today real Trak-Ball control has been added to Atari 7800 Centipede, with awesome options like 2-player at the same time!

On the Atari 2600, real Trak-Ball output has been added to around 10 existing games, making them control just like an arcade trackball game.

See the following thread for the developments and news about upcoming PAL or NTSC carts:

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/243453-atari-2600-trak-ball-games/?p=3338227

 

 

 

Correction: ALL versions of A8 Missile Command can use the Trak-Ball natively, even the standard brown metal cartridge. Press CTRL-T before you press START and you'll see. In addition, Synapse Software's SLIME! can also use Trak-Ball mode and the same trick applies: press CTRL-T before you start a game. But other than those two titles, no other vintage titles do.

 

There are a couple different Centipede hack/rewrites, however, and I think a Millipede hack as well - search the 8-bit forum for details. Of course, for the 5200, Centipede, Missile Command and a number of others (Galaxian, anyone? :) ) have supported Trak-Ball control since the beginning.

 

ALSO: Here is a link to the 2600 games that have been rewritten in recent years with CX22/CX80 Trak-Ball support.

 

IIRC, the ST computer was introduced in 1985 and the XEGS in 1987. It seems impossible a cart could be released before 1985 that could support the ST mouse, which had not been sold yet, unless it was some kind of internal or promotional convention cart. I looked and couldn't find a record of an XL/ XE cart release of missile command, only the 400/800 variety. A standard release of MC for XL with ST mouse support would have to be after 1985. Missile command+ was released in 2005, which does support ST mouse and CX22/80 trackball.

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IIRC, the ST computer was introduced in 1985 and the XEGS in 1987. It seems impossible a cart could be released before 1985 that could support the ST mouse, which had not been sold yet, unless it was some kind of internal or promotional convention cart. I looked and couldn't find a record of an XL/ XE cart release of missile command, only the 400/800 variety. A standard release of MC for XL with ST mouse support would have to be after 1985. Missile command+ was released in 2005, which does support ST mouse and CX22/80 trackball.

I don't know that it happened, but the programmer could have included support for standard quadrature encoded control signals. That wasn't invented with the ST mouse. It's very likely to be the protocol used in the arcade game. So, purely theoretically, it isn't impossible for it to happen particularly if the programmer had arcade programming knowledge.

 

The protocol used by the CX22/CX80 (direction+clock) is not exclusive or proprietary to that generation of trackball either. I haven't found any material the dates its creation to a particular period of time, but it's found in industrial applications.

 

I'm curious now to see if MC built in to the XEGS will support the "ST Mouse". Supporting both protocols would mean some sort of automatic detection scheme. Having said that, hooking up the ST Mouse to something expecting the CX22 style protocol could still result in cursor movement, erratic and virtually uncontrollable though it would be.

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IIRC, the ST computer was introduced in 1985 and the XEGS in 1987. It seems impossible a cart could be released before 1985 that could support the ST mouse, which had not been sold yet, unless it was some kind of internal or promotional convention cart. I looked and couldn't find a record of an XL/ XE cart release of missile command, only the 400/800 variety. A standard release of MC for XL with ST mouse support would have to be after 1985. Missile command+ was released in 2005, which does support ST mouse and CX22/80 trackball.

Read the thread I linked; yes, it’s long. It’s worth it. In there you will hear from the guys who have written all the wonderful TB hacks and rewrites and every tidbit of 35+ years’ accumulated knowledge of the Gray code output of every Atari TB and the ST Mouse. Standard 400/800 Missile Command works great with the CX22 and most CX80’s. As I recall, it was determined that later versions of the CX80’s were at some point modified so that their output would be ST Mouse-compatible. But again, bog-standard A8 Missile Command carts will work fine with a CX22 in Trak-Ball mode - just press CTRL-T before START.

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I don't know that it happened, but the programmer could have included support for standard quadrature encoded control signals. That wasn't invented with the ST mouse. It's very likely to be the protocol used in the arcade game. So, purely theoretically, it isn't impossible for it to happen, particularly if the programmer had arcade programming knowledge.

 

The protocol used by the CX22/CX80 (direction+clock) is not exclusive or proprietary to their generation of trackball either. I haven't found any material the dates its creation to a particular period of time, but it's found in industrial applications.

 

I'm really curious now to see if MC built in to the XEGS will support the "ST Mouse". Supporting both protocols would mean some sort of automatic detection scheme. Having said that, hooking up the ST Mouse to something expecting the CX22 style protocol could still result in cursor movement, erratic and virtually uncontrollable though it would be.

 

The XEGS built-in missile command supports both ST mouse and CX22/80 trackballs in TBAL mode. For programs designed for the CX22/80, using the ST mouse or Atari mouse will result in erractic movement and a constant pull in one direction, unless it is co-compatiable, like XEGS MC.

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So I can only find VCS Millipede European version with the Trak-Ball sign for usage, but no mention of said controller in the instruction booklet.

 

millipede_siver_pal_cart_3.jpg

 

Yet that's Trak-Ball in joystick mode.

Only the game hacks linked to above have real mouse-like control, which, in the Millipede case, was always said impossible because it is already pushing the VCS limits and no ram was left.

The coding geniuses found ways to save some cycles and ram and even a few tricks and made it work.

 

Atari was still trying to sell the Trak-Ball hardware that does work with games of this type and crosshairs, but in Joystick mode the player can only move as fast as the joystick direction. Real Trak-Ball mode the player moves as fast, medium, or slow as the ball is moved.

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The designer of this hardware may answer as he's posted here in the past.

The CX22 Pro-Line was first released and labeled Atari 2600 Trak-Ball with the bottom part dark like the top and outputs joystick only.

Then it released with the white bottom, it added a switch for Joystick mode / Trak-Ball mode, dropped 2600 labeling as it can be used on Atari 8-but computers also.

 

The bottom pictured CX80 Trak-Ball matched the 8-bit Atari XL computer design. Its button design works much better than the CX22. It still retains the JS/TB modes selected by a switch.

 

Only a late version of 8-bit Atari Missile Command used the real Trak-Ball mode output, ending up built in to the XEGS 8-bit computer game combo console released in 1986.

 

Today real Trak-Ball control has been added to Atari 7800 Centipede, with awesome options like 2-player at the same time!

On the Atari 2600, real Trak-Ball output has been added to around 10 existing games, making them control just like an arcade trackball game.

See the following thread for the developments and news about upcoming PAL or NTSC carts:

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/243453-atari-2600-trak-ball-games/?p=3338227

 

 

*You can add the toggle switch to the early "2600" branded CX22s to get native Trak-Ball mode out of them, supposedly.

 

*The CX80 was designed by Atari Inc's Home Computer Division based upon Dan Kramer's CX22. They wanted their own Trak-Ball to match the XL cases better. Personally, I like the fire buttons better on it than the CX22 [sorry Dan!].

 

*Slime has native Trak-Ball mode for A8. There's a tape and disk version, and maybe even a cartridge too. A ROM has been ported to the 5200 by Playsoft.

 

*Back at Atari Inc's Consumer Engineering Division, Dan and others were building custom Trak-Ball controllers and had a special version of Missile Command programmed [3-Base Missile Command] that was more arcade accurate and feature 3 fire button action. They achieved this by using the Paddle Lines to support the extra 2 fire buttons. The game rocks. It also cheats like a mofo. Arcade USA modded a CX22 to add 3 arcade style fire buttons so he can play this version of the game whenever it's finally released, if ever.

 

*The 5200 has a ton of games - including Galaxian - that natively support the CX53 - also designed by Dan Kramer - Trak-Ball controller. As Dr. Venkman later posted, they have been back-ported to A8 over the years by the likes of Glen the 5200 Man and others. On a side note, since the standard CX52 analog joystick is technically a "paddle", you can mod them into actual paddles and play various 5200 games with them. IMHO, it greatly enhances 5200 Kaboom, Space Invaders, Galaxian, and Pole Position, amongst others. You can also use the Trak-Ball on Pole Position. Dan's intent was to design an actual Steering Wheel controller for the 5200 based upon the arcade Pole Position set up, not to mention a Yoke controller based upon Atari's arcade yoke controller from Star Wars and Fire Fox, but unfortunately, Warner ordered Atari Inc to scrap the 5200 and move onto the 7800. You can also play Tempest with the Trak-Ball. And a year ago, Dan wired up the arcade Tempest spinner to a CX53 and we were playing 5200 Tempest with the arcade controls. That was dope!

 

*Dan Kramer is very active in the Facebook Trak-Ball, 5200, and 7800 groups. He rarely visits AtariAge. Facebook is easier for him to post from his phone.

 

*GCC went behind Dan Kramer's back and created their own "7800 Trak-Ball" based upon the CX22 but it was never released. The commercial release of 7800 Centipede is natively coded for it since GCC did that and created the 7800 in the first place. AtariAge's 7800 Centipede-TB adds code to support the CX22 and CX80 for native Trak-Ball mode and it kicks serious a$$. Please buy it if you have a 7800.

 

*It's conceivable someone could actually build a retrofit kit PCB for the CX22 that would in fact be a true GCC "7800 Trak-Ball" controller. You'd have to mod the controller to add the 2nd fire button though. But then there might be an incentive to hack 7800 Crack'ed to support Trak-Balls.

 

*I'd love to see all light gun games on the 2600, 7800, and A8 patched to support Trak-Balls. That would certainly allow them to be played if you have your systems connected to an LCD TV.

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I'm curious now to see if MC built in to the XEGS will support the "ST Mouse". Supporting both protocols would mean some sort of automatic detection scheme. Having said that, hooking up the ST Mouse to something expecting the CX22 style protocol could still result in cursor movement, erratic and virtually uncontrollable though it would be.

Nope, no automatic detection whatsoever, just a happy accident. The XEGS version of Missile Command differs from the original 1981 release only in the routine that detects pressing the 0..9 keys (in the 1981 version the routine was compatible only with the Atari 400/800 OS, so it had to be modified to work on the XEGS). Everything else is identical in both versions, including the Trak-Ball support. It just so happened that the Trak-Ball routine in MC luckily turned out compatible with the ST Mouse designed a few years later.

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Nope, no automatic detection whatsoever, just a happy accident. The XEGS version of Missile Command differs from the original 1981 release only in the routine that detects pressing the 0..9 keys (in the 1981 version the routine was compatible only with the Atari 400/800 OS, so it had to be modified to work on the XEGS). Everything else is identical in both versions, including the Trak-Ball support. It just so happened that the Trak-Ball routine in MC luckily turned out compatible with the ST Mouse designed a few years later.

Interesting. It would be rather surprising to find out that no intentional action was taken originally to support both protocols. There's a significant difference in how the two bits per axis are interpreted into direction and motion. In one protocol, the relative phase angles between the two bits is interpreted into direction and motion and the other protocol directly sees direction on one bit and motion on the other (I think of it as a partially decoded form of the former). It would be quite the happy accident for code to just handle both methods. Though, I'm not saying it didn't happen that way because I clearly don't know.

 

By 0-9 keys, I assume we're talking about keyboard input, not controller port input as I don't think a single controller port could easily support a full keypad and a trackball at the same time.

 

Maybe one of these days I'll look at the source code if available or a disassembly to see what's what. Do you happen to know specifics about the code?

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Interesting. It would be rather surprising to find out that no intentional action was taken originally to support both protocols.

What's surprising here. MC was released full 3 years before the company that would design the ST line got involved with Atari, Inc. "Happy accident" is the only logical conclusion.

 

By 0-9 keys, I assume we're talking about keyboard input

Yes, keyboard input, for selection of starting level.

 

Maybe one of these days I'll look at the source code if available or a disassembly to see what's what. Do you happen to know specifics about the code?

Here's the disassembly:

 

The code at $B243 is called every few scanlines, multiple times per frame. Its
purpose is to interpret the state of PORTA and increase or decrease the values
at $EC and/or $ED. $EC is amount of horizontal motion, $ED is amount of veritcal
motion. These two values are then used at the end of frame to determine amount
of cursor motion per frame.

B243: AD 00 D3  LDA $D300   ;PORTA
B246: AA        TAX
B247: 45 EB     EOR $EB     ;$EB holds previous PORTA state
B249: 25 EB     AND $EB     ;now bits of Acc are 1 only if they changed from 1 to 0
B24B: 86 EB     STX $EB     ;store current PORTA state
B24D: 4A        LSR
B24E: 4A        LSR         ;bit 1 (X Motion) in C
B24F: 90 0C     BCC YTEST2  ;did it NOT change from 1 to 0?
B251: A8        TAY         ;it changed, X motion detected
B252: 8A        TXA
B253: 4A        LSR         ;bit 0 of PORTA (X Direction) in C
B254: 90 04     BCC XDEC    ;move left?
B256: E6 EC     INC $EC     ;no, move right
B258: B0 02     BCS YTEST1  ;go to vert. movement
XDEC:
B25A: C6 EC     DEC $EC     ;move left
YTEST1:
B25C: 98        TYA         ;Acc contains PORTA LSR-ed twice
YTEST2:
B25D: 4A        LSR
B25E: 4A        LSR         ;bit 3 (Y Motion) in C
B25F: 90 0C     BCC EXIT    ;did it NOT change from 1 to 0?
B261: 8A        TXA         ;it changed, Y motion detected
B262: 29 04     AND #$04    ;get bit 2 of PORTA
B264: F0 05     BEQ YDEC    ;move up?
B266: E6 ED     INC $ED     ;no, move down
B268: 4C 6D B2  JMP EXIT    ;end
YDEC:
B26B: C6 ED     DEC $ED     ;move up
EXIT:
B26D: 4C CE B2  JMP $B2CE
Edited by Kr0tki
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What's surprising here. MC was released full 3 years before the company that would design the ST line got involved with Atari, Inc. "Happy accident" is the only logical conclusion.

 

Yes, keyboard input, for selection of starting level.

 

Here's the disassembly:

 

The code at $B243 is called every few scanlines, multiple times per frame. Its
purpose is to interpret the state of PORTA and increase or decrease the values
at $EC and/or $ED. $EC is amount of horizontal motion, $ED is amount of veritcal
motion. These two values are then used at the end of frame to determine amount
of cursor motion per frame.

B243: AD 00 D3  LDA $D300   ;PORTA
[...]
EXIT:
B26D: 4C CE B2  JMP $B2CE

 

Very interesting means of decoding the signals. Thanks. I'm fairly certain that I'd never have come up with that scheme.

 

So far, I've played a little bit with running Gray code through it. In analyzing only a single bit for motion and detecting motion only with a bit change from 0 to 1, that would mean it could detect only one motion event per cycle, rather than the maximum possible four motion events per cycle. That would also mean that it would have the same resolution for both protocols. One could see that as a downside if trying to wring out maximum resolution of movement, but it works favorably here.

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*Back at Atari Inc's Consumer Engineering Division, Dan and others were building custom Trak-Ball controllers and had a special version of Missile Command programmed [3-Base Missile Command] that was more arcade accurate and feature 3 fire button action. They achieved this by using the Paddle Lines to support the extra 2 fire buttons. The game rocks. It also cheats like a mofo. Arcade USA modded a CX22 to add 3 arcade style fire buttons so he can play this version of the game whenever it's finally released, if ever.

 

I made a hack of Missile Command+ to support 3 button mouse using the paddle lines. It will detect the paddle inputs and switch to three button mode automatically, otherwise it defaults to single button. I haven't posted it yet because I haven't had time to modify my cx80 for three buttons so I can test in hardware. I ordered buttons so it's just a matter of finding time to mod it. Works in emulation.

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I made a hack of Missile Command+ to support 3 button mouse using the paddle lines. It will detect the paddle inputs and switch to three button mode automatically, otherwise it defaults to single button. I haven't posted it yet because I haven't had time to modify my cx80 for three buttons so I can test in hardware. I ordered buttons so it's just a matter of finding time to mod it. Works in emulation.

Which platform is that hack for?

 

I have discussed this a couple of times here and there in the context of enhancing an add-on I built for the 5200 trackball that lets it hook up to the 2600 as a trackball (also tested and proven on XEGS) but I hadn't seen a hacked version of Missile Command to tinker with.

 

I don't want to hack holes in my CX-53 so I had thought it might be cool to make a "sidecar" type of enclosure to hang the extra button on the outside of the controller, next to the built in two buttons, or maybe put three arcade buttons in a separate enclosure to keep the buttons consistent. One should be able to do an external set of buttons that just plugs in between the controller and the console.

 

Let us know how it works out.

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Why did Atari release two different looking Trak-Ball Controllers in 1983, both saying for Atari Computers and Atari Video Computer System (VCS). The one with the white roller says Pro-Line on the top left corner.

Was the Pro-Line version only released in USA and the CX80 in Europe (multi-language on back of box)?

 

normal_trak_balls.jpg

FWIW there are actually two versions of the first Trak-Ball. One looks as shown on the box, and there's another variant that actually says "Atari 2600 Proline" instead.

 

(Possibly same box, though, not sure on that.)

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I made a hack of Missile Command+ to support 3 button mouse using the paddle lines. It will detect the paddle inputs and switch to three button mode automatically, otherwise it defaults to single button. I haven't posted it yet because I haven't had time to modify my cx80 for three buttons so I can test in hardware. I ordered buttons so it's just a matter of finding time to mod it. Works in emulation.

I have a couple switchable 3 button ST/Amiga trackballs and mice. I dont know if the middle button goes to pin 5 in ST mode or not. I suppose I can check it on a paddle game if I can find of one that uses the pin 5 fire. I dont know if it works on the 7800 as fire1 or not. I always think in retrospect I should write all these things I try down as I can never remember them weeks or months later.

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