Jump to content
IGNORED

Astrocart: Magical, reflashable 512KB homebrew cart


hxlnt
 Share

Recommended Posts

 

It was Steven J Tucker who designed the 256K (later upgraded to 512K) Astrocade bank-switch flashcart The board was just a plain PCB and was never sold. When Michael (who was working with Steven) sent me one of these for testing, I provided my own cartridge shell and hacked-it-up (quite literally using a hack saw!) so that the PCB would fit in it. One side of the PCB plugged into the Astrocade and the other side plugged into the Atari Max Flash cartridge programmer. This cartridge worked great, but it never went into production, nor was it ever available for sale. Here are some pictures of that board:

 

attachicon.gif256K_Astrocade_Flash_Cart_01.jpg

attachicon.gif256K_Astrocade_Flash_Cart_02.jpg

attachicon.gif256K_Astrocade_Flash_Cart_03.jpg

attachicon.gifFlashCart PCB Card Orientation.jpg

 

The Atari versions of this flashcart are still available for sale here:

 

https://atarimax.com/

 

I look forward to trying out this new Astrocade flashcart; it looks very useful. If I had one, then it would allow me to test hacks of Astrocade games so much easier on real hardware. Gone will be the days of EPROM burning!

 

Adam

my own personal opinion: I would have tried a 90 degree connector on the Bally end so that the plug could have come out of the top, kinda like the UltiMulti switch. mIt doesn't have to be an edge connector, it could be pins.

Ken

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Working on bally board. 32k memory expansion, sd cart reader (can dump/clone and load bally carts to sd card) , composite output, ballcheck diagnostic emulation. Connects to the 50 pin expansion connector on the back of bally. Will post more info later.

 

patrick

 

Patrick-

 

I am of course both impressed and incredibly interested. Having attempted my own project, for an Astrocade bankswitched cart, which while successful never went beyond the prototype stage, I know how much work gets put into these things.

 

I was lucky enough to have a great group of people who provided input, insight and ideas, as well as one amazing wizard who made it all happen (classics).

 

While it was a success, we only touched on its potential. If we had moved forward I would have tried my best to tie it in with a memory expansion as well, giving the Astrocade access to both 64k of memory and 512k for games.

 

Are you the same person who created the "Astrocart" for hxlnt? Also, you might want to request the admins to move this to its own thread, or create a new one and link to this for reference.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The heat sinks are removeable with 3m heat sink tape. the unit does not get hot, it stays relatively cool. the reason for heatsinks is precaution as we have unit running for 12 hours at a time running memory timing tests. The cover is removed to allow for all the necessary probes, obviously this will be a plug and play board when finished. The only external connection will be a 9v wall adapter as bally has no power on the 50 pin connector. With this board anything is possible, serial interface, printer, keyboard, etc. Just program the fpga for your options. This has been a careful and thought out project. It is not a kluge kit. All memory and timing on bally and board is analyzed thoroughly.

You can not do what this board does on the cassette port. The cassette port does not have the necessary control lines to take control of the z80 which is necessary to achieve desired functionality. The SD port kind of does away with the need for rom and bank switches. You will be able to load and save roms, user written programs to SD on the fly. This board talks directly to the Z80. You could even do a processor accelerator although that is not in the plans as you are still limited by the speed of the custom chips.

Another future project if time permits is a new replacement motherboard using only custom chips, z80 and 16k video ram.. All other logic will be handled by CPLD logic.

@ Kenzre - Yeah it may be overkill, but I only want one expansion board that can do everything I need it to do. This way I do not have to plug in multiple accessories, memory expanders, carts, etc. If someone just wants a multicart, you have a very nice one, I own several. This is much more than a flash or multicart.

 

Patrick

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The heat sinks are removeable with 3m heat sink tape. the unit does not get hot, it stays relatively cool. the reason for heatsinks is precaution as we have unit running for 12 hours at a time running memory timing tests. The cover is removed to allow for all the necessary probes, obviously this will be a plug and play board when finished. The only external connection will be a 9v wall adapter as bally has no power on the 50 pin connector. With this board anything is possible, serial interface, printer, keyboard, etc. Just program the fpga for your options. This has been a careful and thought out project. It is not a kluge kit. All memory and timing on bally and board is analyzed thoroughly.

You can not do what this board does on the cassette port. The cassette port does not have the necessary control lines to take control of the z80 which is necessary to achieve desired functionality. The SD port kind of does away with the need for rom and bank switches. You will be able to load and save roms, user written programs to SD on the fly. This board talks directly to the Z80. You could even do a processor accelerator although that is not in the plans as you are still limited by the speed of the custom chips.

Another future project if time permits is a new replacement motherboard using only custom chips, z80 and 16k video ram.. All other logic will be handled by CPLD logic.

@ Kenzre - Yeah it may be overkill, but I only want one expansion board that can do everything I need it to do. This way I do not have to plug in multiple accessories, memory expanders, carts, etc. If someone just wants a multicart, you have a very nice one, I own several. This is much more than a flash or multicart.

 

Patrick

 

Patrick-

 

If I understand you correctly, game size would only be limited to what the programmer codes? So in effect we could have games exceeding the current 8K ROM limitation?

 

Excuse my ignorance if I am way off on this - I've always been a collector by nature, and not a hardware wizard, on the Astrocade.

 

If the admin wants to move my post to its own thread might be better as this is not really a multicart. Just thought I would post some info on project, dis not want to highjack thread. thanks

 

patrick

 

We have so few posts on the Astrocade, did not want yours to get lost. Besides, this is a huge deal, especially to us Astrocadians! (Astrocaders? Astros? No wait, thats a ball team...)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I see a LOT of over-kill with heat sinks. If the ADDRESS and I/O chips aer getting hot enough to apply thos heat sinks, there is something wrong with your unit, as well as the HS on the OSCILLATOR. When one of the address or I/O chips fail and you have to remove them to check, How will you know which one is which? Plugging them into the wrong socket can be dangerous because the power supplies are on different pins..

What type of Hantek unit is that? I have never seen it before.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Memory is still limited as to hardware mapping, say 32k, but think of it like having huge disk or hard drive for storage. It is possible to program banks of memory, but that would be later if anyone actually used more than 32k I guess. I do not see the need at this point for more physical memory.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah it may be overkill, but I only want one expansion board that can do everything I need it to do. This way I do not have to plug in multiple accessories, memory expanders, carts, etc. If someone just wants a multicart, you have a very nice one, I own several. This is much more than a flash or multicart.

 

Awesome. Can RGB out be added using a mini din 8-pin port (like Sega Genesis and other RGB out mods)? Then we can plug it into our OSSCs, Framemeister xRGB minis, or other devices for modern TV fun. Pretty please?!?!?!? :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Awesome. Can RGB out be added using a mini din 8-pin port (like Sega Genesis and other RGB out mods)? Then we can plug it into our OSSCs, Framemeister xRGB minis, or other devices for modern TV fun. Pretty please?!?!?!? :)

There is no access to rgb on 50 pin so not at this time. Composite looks good though.

 

Patrick

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Can RGB out be added using a mini din 8-pin port [...]? Then we can plug it into our OSSCs, Framemeister xRGB minis, or other devices for modern TV fun.

 

I hook up my Astrocade to my Framemeister with plain RF (via an RF-to-composite demodulator) and it looks as good as using a regular CRT. The Astrocade has a pretty nice RF signal already; I bet the jump to composite looks great. If you're interested to know the exact (probably overly complicated) setup that I use to get my Astrocade recorded for videos, then check out the credits at the end of my latest videos. I list all of the software and hardware that I use to create each video.

 

As an aside, I can not get a good signal into my Framemeister with the Astrocade s-video upgrade. I think the slight ghosting that occurs with the s-video signal that comes out of the upgrades Astrocade must "confuse" the Framemeister.

 

Adam

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This thread should really get split - it's getting really confusing

I agree that this thread should be split. I've asked around over the last couple of days how to do this, but have not got any answers yet. I didn't want to bother Albert with this little "issue," but I finally asked him about it last night. If I'm able to split this thread, then I'll do so at the beginning of the week.

 

Adam

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 years later...
On 12/21/2021 at 10:45 AM, Sonaru said:

Any update on a flashcart type device? It qould be nice to select the game with an onscreen menu instead of using dip switches. It would also open up the possibility of saving high scores. 

 

I'm not aware of any new multicart on the horizon for the Astrocade.  There aren't any flashcarts available for it either, but I sure wish that there was one.  As for a menu system on a multicart, I don't think one of those will be coming soon either.  I guess that this reflects the small size of the Astrocade community.

 

Adam

Link to comment
Share on other sites

17 minutes ago, ballyalley said:

 

I'm not aware of any new multicart on the horizon for the Astrocade.  There aren't any flashcarts available for it either, but I sure wish that there was one.  As for a menu system on a multicart, I don't think one of those will be coming soon either.  I guess that this reflects the small size of the Astrocade community.

 

Adam

The Atari Jaguar has a massive community even thought it probably sold less than the Bally Arcade. Maybe it's because it's just too obscure at this point. Hopefully more people will become interested in developing homebrew for these systems. 

 

The problem with loading games by tape (even with the expansion white ram) is that the games are more limited because they are restricted by the Basic limitations (according to what I can see from videos online of extended ram games). The homebrew Crazy Climber is an excellent game that shows off what the Bally is capable of. Is it possible to have the base hardware take advantage of the extended white ram cart without requiring it to run the limited Bally basic program?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Sonaru said:

The Atari Jaguar has a massive community even thought it probably sold less than the Bally Arcade. Maybe it's because it's just too obscure at this point.

 

I think it's easier to find working Jaguar units than Astrocade systems.  I have one, but I've never delved into the Jaguar homebrew community other than to burn some freely distributable homebrew games on CD-ROM.

 

2 hours ago, Sonaru said:

Is it possible to have the base hardware take advantage of the extended white ram cart without requiring it to run the limited Bally basic program?

 

It is possible to load an 8K program from "tape" (a WAV file) into the Lil' White RAM and then play it as a cartridge.  In this fashion, you can take advantage of the Astrocade's full-hardware potential; one isn't limited to BASIC.  Also, ViperSoft BASIC offers more colors and features than AstroBASIC and the Lil' White Ram opens up the world of Extended BASIC that would otherwise be unavailable.

 

For most people, as Michael said in a post earlier today, using BASIC is a gimmick, but I've never viewed the extended library of programs for the Astrocade as gimmicks at all.  If you're looking for fast arcade-like games, than BASIC can't really give you games in that category, but BASIC allows other types of games and video art that don't exist on any other videogame consoles.  This is because it would have been too expensive to distribute programs of such limited appeal on expensive cartridges.

 

Adam

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

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

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

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

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

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