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Would this be terribly difficult to develop?


bluejay

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To describe it in a simple manner, a Harmony Cart that's compatible with all home computers and game consoles.

 

Let me explain how this might work. There would be two parts of this device. The main part that houses the processor, ROM, and all the main components. It would also have a small connector with a bunch of pins. Then, the second part would be the bridge between the small connector on the main part of the device and the cartridge port of the console/computer. There would be many different versions for each computer and console. Maybe it could be connected via a ribbon cable for convenience. There would be various different programs that could be loaded onto this device to emulate a cartridge for the countless consoles and computers. Some will be easy enough; just a ROM cartridge connected to the cartridge connector. Others will be more complicated, stuff that comes with extra hardware like Pitfall II, or the lockout chip of the NES. A cartridge image of some sort would be loaded onto it via an SD card, and depending on what system it's emulating in what setting, it would send data into the console/computer via the bridge. I suppose speed might be a problem. Can a small, cheap microprocessor handle this load fast enough? Is this even possible at all? Then there's the price. I have no clue how complicated this device would be but I don't think it's gonna be very cheap. But given how versatile it could be (I mean, it has the potential to wipe out every other SD card adapter gadget) maybe it could appeal to those people with unlimited money that want an all-in-one solution. What do you think?

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Actually, I've just now come up with something a bit different. I found a gadget called an EPROM EMULATOR off the web, which proves it's certainly possible to build one. However, instead of having to disassemble a cartridge, pull out the ROM chip, and insert the EPROM EMULATOR, there could be a cartridge with ribbon cable connectors hooked up to the socket where the ROM chip would normally go, and the device would do what a regular EPROM emulator does. So the cartridge would contain all the other shit the cartridge needs(e.g. the lockout chip) except for the EPROM. I mean, maybe it's not as sleek as the previous idea, but it would certainly be easier to design. Maybe I'll start off with this until I can figure out how to handle everything in software.

 

Come to think of it, that's an awful idea. Every cartridge has a different design, NES onwards. That'd mean there'd have to be about 72 trillion different cartridge designs for each game. Maybe I can come up with a hybrid between the two that's both simple and easy to implement.

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2 minutes ago, bluejay said:

Actually, I've just now come up with something a bit different. I found a gadget called an EPROM EMULATOR off the web, which proves it's certainly possible to build one. However, instead of having to disassemble a cartridge, pull out the ROM chip, and insert the EPROM EMULATOR, there could be a cartridge with ribbon cable connectors hooked up to the socket where the ROM chip would normally go, and the device would do what a regular EPROM emulator does. So the cartridge would contain all the other shit the cartridge needs(e.g. the lockout chip) except for the EPROM. I mean, maybe it's not as sleek as the previous idea, but it would certainly be easier to design. Maybe I'll start off with this until I can figure out how to handle everything in software.

 

Come to think of it, that's an awful idea. Every cartridge has a different design, NES onwards. That'd mean there'd have to be about 72 trillion different cartridge designs for each game. Maybe I can come up with a hybrid between the two that's both simple and easy to implement.

 

These are exactly how we developed on NES back in about 1987, give or take. The form was two boards which each fit into an IBM slot, and a ribbon cable going directly to the cartridge plugged into the NES where the ROMs would otherwise have been. One board per ROM.

 

 

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Just now, Andrew Davie said:

These are exactly how we developed on NES back in about 1987, give or take. The form was two boards which each fit into an IBM slot, and a ribbon cable going directly to the cartridge plugged into the NES where the ROMs would otherwise have been. One board per ROM.

So it's definitely possible with modern hardware if a mid-late 80s IBM PC compatible did it. Except mine would have to be much more complicated to include emulation for all components other than the ROM chip. I'll eventually have it figured out.

 

Also I'm not entirely sure whether your signature is blank. To me it seems to say 

Quote

This signature intentionally left blank.

Doesn't seem very blank to me.

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It's definitely possible. I started on a design for something like this a few years ago. It was a module with a microcontroller with an edge connector, USB and SD slot, and the module could be plugged into a number of various adapters to different consoles.

 

Ultimately the idea was abandoned for a number of reasons. The main reason being that hardware is very easy to design (I had the hardware designed in a few hours), but everything else was far from easy.

 

The killers of the idea were:

 

1. Designing custom plastics to contain the module and the various adapters to fit in various consoles

2. Needing to write the menu code and firmware for every console it would work on

 

The end result was that, to me, it makes more sense to just design a new board for the console you wanted to create one for, that fits into an available cart shell. Designing hardware and PCBs is very easy compared to creating the firmware and menu code, even for just one console.

 

I couldn't imagine creating a firmware version and menu code for many consoles when doing it for just one is hard enough.

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@batari I've figured that might be the case too. However I have an idea how the plastic casing should work. There'd be a neat external box that houses the main unit with the processor and stuff, and the cartridge part that would look like a regular cartridge for each console except with a connector on it to connect to the master unit. I'll have to come up with a way to somehow make this look elegant but for now I have bigger problems to deal with.

 

The biggest problem is I don't know how to program, well, anything. I know some rudimentary BASIC but even my BASIC skills isn't good enough to make anything useful. I know a bit of 6502 assembly as well but it's not relevant here. These firmware things are programmed in C language right? I'll have to learn that. I don't imagine it will be easy in any way, but once I got that bit sorted I can work on the firmware for fun as long as I want. I got tons of time. I guess I'll have to learn how every target console works but again, one thing at a time. But let's assume I overcame all the hurdles and had the thing made. Then we have a relatively expensive yet all in one solution to any game collection. Just a dozen or so different adapter cartridges, each sold separately so people can buy whatever they need. I can keep making new ones every once in a while.

 

Again, I don't get me wrong; don't imagine any of this will be remotely easy, but imagine how convenient the retro gaming world would be once it's done. I'll take a look at the firmware of flashcarts already available and see how they work.

 

But now that I think about it, it's utterly useless when you have stuff like the everdrive available for just about any mainstream cartridge console. It'd be much less bulky and confusing to have everything build into a regular sized cartridge, and the only appeal, perhaps, would be its price compared to buying multiple flashcarts.

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