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[AQUARIUS] Mattel Aquarius Multi-Cart


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#226 nathanallan OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:26 PM

You got a +1 from me, I like pink. Any cart or even the Aquarius cover would be a good thing. And PINK would make it better.

#227 Chuck D. Head OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 17, 2010 3:42 PM

Oh heck, for another $12, I'm sure I can spring for a Nightstalker. Will you be shipping the board loose with the sealed cart and we do the deed ourselves? It would be cool to get the box and inserts anyway. Since I will have all the games, I probably won't go out of my way buying any in-box carts, so at least I would have one box to display with the Aq. Morgan

#228 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 17, 2010 3:46 PM

Oh heck, for another $12, I'm sure I can spring for a Nightstalker. Will you be shipping the board loose with the sealed cart and we do the deed ourselves? It would be cool to get the box and inserts anyway. Since I will have all the games, I probably won't go out of my way buying any in-box carts, so at least I would have one box to display with the Aq. Morgan

The cartridges will be fully assembled: I'll open the cart, install the new board, affix the labels, and send it to you packaged in the original box with all the original materials (along with an Aquaricart manual). I'll leave the shrinkwrap intact as much as possible; I'll slit it open just enough to get the cartridge out.

Or, if you prefer, I can also leave the box sealed so the new owners can open and assemble their cartridges themselves.

For those who choose to buy a loose board and manual instead, I'll include the labels so they can affix them to one of their own cartridges.

#229 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 17, 2010 8:31 PM

By the way ... I mentioned earlier that the new SuperCart I board design is an "artifact" of the Aquaricart project that will also be useful for future projects. Here is another one:

screenbuilder.png

This is the Aquarius Screen Builder, a simple "drawing" tool that I created in Java to automate the process of creating the manual pages and other static screens for the Aquaricart. It allows you to pick and place characters onto the screen directly from the original Aquarius character palette, import text from a text file, and chain multiple screens (or "workspaces") together. Colors can be applied as "points" (individual cells of color) or as horizontal or vertical "vectors" (multiple contiguous color cells). You can save the workspaces as raw data, or as a "slideshow cartridge" ROM that can be used inside an emulator or on the real hardware.

The screens are doubly-linked data structures, which makes it possible to step backwards or forwards through the screens using a simple previewer; the program calculates the size of each screen and sets up the pointers between them using an automatic "pagination" function. The list of screens can span multiple banks inside a bankswitched cartridge, a feature that is especially useful for the electronic manuals inside the Aquaricart, several of which will be larger than 16K.

This is a part of the project that I've spent a lot of time on over the last two weeks in particular. It's primarily of interest to programmers, I suppose, but I couldn't resist talking about it here because it will make it very easy for anyone to create fancy Aquarius screens of all kinds. I've got lots of bug-fixing and cleaning up to do, but eventually I'll make this available to the public, along with some other development tools I've created for my own use.

#230 psquare75 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:48 PM

That looks like an MS Paint using aquarius tiles. Neat! Some nice artwork for future games could be visualized with that.

#231 MattelAquarius OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 18, 2010 3:10 AM

It's primarily of interest to programmers, I suppose, but I couldn't resist talking about it here because it will make it very easy for anyone to create fancy Aquarius screens of all kinds. I've got lots of bug-fixing and cleaning up to do, but eventually I'll make this available to the public, along with some other development tools I've created for my own use.



Another great idea. I can't wait to play around with this.

There is a simple program bundled with the emulator that works somewhat similarly, but is not nearly as functional (no color, for starters).

This is something I've wanted to do forever. ;) Build Zelda-like screens for a mult-screen adventure, try my hand at making AD&D worthy monsters, etc.

Not knowing how the interface works, would a button to swap bg/fg colors be handy for using the negative image of a character? Creative use of the negatives seems to be a must for "fancy" Aquarius graphics. ;)

Thanks for the preview, Jay!

#232 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 18, 2010 3:19 AM

Not knowing how the interface works, would a button to swap bg/fg colors be handy for using the negative image of a character? Creative use of the negatives seems to be a must for "fancy" Aquarius graphics. ;)

Already done! In "Point" mode, which allows you to place individual characters (or colors) anywhere on the screen, just right-click on the screen character you want to invert, and it swaps the foreground and background colors. I've used this feature a lot myself.

The version that I release will include the functionality of the simple character editor that I developed for the SuperFont project, so in addition to working with the original Aquarius characters, you'll also be able to create your own character sets. Just double-click the characters in the palette to change them, and then place them in the workspace to see how well they fit together. I'm even considering adding an animation feature for creating walk cycles and other animation effects.

Of course, you won't be able to see any of the custom characters on the real hardware until the SuperFont upgrade is actually built, but ... one step at a time! :)

#233 MattelAquarius OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 18, 2010 3:37 AM

Not knowing how the interface works, would a button to swap bg/fg colors be handy for using the negative image of a character? Creative use of the negatives seems to be a must for "fancy" Aquarius graphics. ;)

Already done! In "Point" mode, which allows you to place individual characters (or colors) anywhere on the screen, just right-click on the screen character you want to invert, and it swaps the foreground and background colors. I've used this feature a lot myself.

The version that I release will include the functionality of the simple character editor that I developed for the SuperFont project, so in addition to working with the original Aquarius characters, you'll also be able to create your own character sets. Just double-click the characters in the palette to change them, and then place them in the workspace to see how well they fit together. I'm even considering adding an animation feature for creating walk cycles and other animation effects.

Of course, you won't be able to see any of the custom characters on the real hardware until the SuperFont upgrade is actually built, but ... one step at a time! :)


In a word, giddy. ;)

#234 coyo5050 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 18, 2010 10:12 PM

Still amazed at how this project has grown. Awesome work!

#235 yuppicide OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 18, 2010 10:19 PM

Looks awesome so far. I loved the Aquarius. I think I probably paid under $30 for everything at a flea market. I loved the Dungeons & Dragons game.

#236 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:13 PM

Thank you very much!

This isn't exactly on-topic, but I decided to de-clutter my collection a bit, so I went ahead and listed some Aquarius items for sale: a few games, and a 32K RAM cartridge. I put them on eBay just to clear them out as quickly as possible, but I'll offer a 10% discount to any AtariAge member who gets them.

#237 the-topdog OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Nov 19, 2010 9:34 AM

Thank you very much!

This isn't exactly on-topic, but I decided to de-clutter my collection a bit, so I went ahead and listed some Aquarius items for sale: a few games, and a 32K RAM cartridge. I put them on eBay just to clear them out as quickly as possible, but I'll offer a 10% discount to any AtariAge member who gets them.


Dang! I wish I had one of Jay's 32k cartridges... *blink blink blink* oh wait... I DO :lust: :D

#238 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:12 AM

Dang! I wish I had one of Jay's 32k cartridges... *blink blink blink* oh wait... I DO :lust: :D

At some point, after this project is finished, I'll document the upgrade procedure so that other people can try it with their 4K modules, if they'd like.


I was checking into making reproduction shells when I started working on reproduction overlays, but the cost of the injection molds was staggering. The molds would run around $1.5-2 thousand, but then each shell would be like $0.10 each.

Believe it or not, that's actually fairly low, at least compared to the $8K to $12K that I was expecting. That's the ballpark range I usually hear for Atari cartridge shells, but Aquarius shells are smaller and simpler in several ways, so perhaps the molds for them would be cheaper to make.

If it would really be something like $2K, that might actually be affordable, if some of my other projects (like this one) are profitable enough. I'd like to look into that more.

#239 the-topdog OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:01 AM

Believe it or not, that's actually fairly low, at least compared to the $8K to $12K that I was expecting. That's the ballpark range I usually hear for Atari cartridge shells, but Aquarius shells are smaller and simpler in several ways, so perhaps the molds for them would be cheaper to make.

If it would really be something like $2K, that might actually be affordable, if some of my other projects (like this one) are profitable enough. I'd like to look into that more.


The pricing I was getting was for aluminum prototyping molds not for steel molds. They say the aluminum molds are only good for 500-1000 pieces and they cool faster than steel so the chance of deformation is a little greater, but that can be offset by sloping the walls a bit to compensate. It is all over my head but it sounded perfect to me since we only needed 250-500 shells or by making a larger mold you could make 4 pieces (2 complete shells for 1-1/2 times the price) and double the number you can make before the mold starts breaking down so (between 1000-2000 shells). The price was way out of my budget.

If a bunch of us pool our funds, we could probably do it if we feel it is something that is viable. I can send an actual shell to the companies to get solid quotes instead of their rough estimates they were giving me off of simple dimensioned drawings I was providing them.

I'm sure if we make modifications like omitting the decorative ridges and providing a smooth surface instead could save money in the design phase and provide a large surface for bigger labels.

Edited by the-topdog, Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:10 AM.


#240 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:57 AM

I'm sure if we make modifications like omitting the decorative ridges and providing a smooth surface instead could save money in the design phase and provide a large surface for bigger labels.

Thanks for the clarification on the molds. We'd probably only need new shells in very limited quantities, so all other things being equal, I think a cheaper aluminum mold would do the job for us.

If I were to design a new Aquarius cartridge shell, I'd go back to the original screw-based design:

shell.jpg
shell_board.jpg

These are the best fit for my boards and provide the most free space inside, and they also seem to be more durable than the later plastic push-pin variety. The later shells added an extra support post and other stuff to the interior, but since my boards are full-height, they don't require it.

shell_front.jpg

I think it would be nice to keep the decorative ridges on the front of the shell, though I suppose we could stand to lose them if it would make the mold any cheaper. I'd also like to come as close to the surface texture of the originals as possible, but again, this is also something we can change for cost.

Whether we keep the ridges or not, I would definitely double the height of the label cavity, making it 1" tall instead of 0.5" tall. In addition to giving us more space for more interesting label designs, that would make it the perfect size for these pre-cut, off-the-shelf Avery labels, which would also make them easier to print. For the same reason, I would also change the size of the top label cavity to the nearest available off-the-shelf label size.

#241 Mike Karate OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 23, 2010 3:17 PM

Exciting news on all of this development. Can't wait to have one of these to play with. Any idea when ordering will start?

#242 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 23, 2010 3:29 PM

Exciting news on all of this development. Can't wait to have one of these to play with. Any idea when ordering will start?

I'm afraid I got sidetracked again last week; one of my clients had a Thanksgiving sales event this past weekend, and getting ready for that and doing all the tech support myself has kept me too busy.

I'm still hoping to finish the programming and the content conversion this month, but it's looking now like it might spill over into December. I appreciate everyone's patience, and I'm working hard to have it finished and shipping well before the Christmas holidays.

#243 psquare75 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Nov 26, 2010 8:31 AM

Wow. When a person does a Google image search for "Mattel Aquarius Multicart" Guess what comes up in the first ROW?

Posted Image


Posted Image
:D

#244 the-topdog OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Nov 26, 2010 5:34 PM

In anticipation of the multi-cart release next month, I have listed a ton of Aquarius stuff in the marketplace If you need a system or any accessories before then!

#245 swlovinist OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:06 PM

In anticipation of the multi-cart release next month, I have listed a ton of Aquarius stuff in the marketplace If you need a system or any accessories before then!


pm sent

#246 BSA Starfire OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Dec 9, 2010 6:25 AM

Wow I've been absent from the site(& the Internet) for a year or more now and now I'm back look what I find!! It's astonising to see all the incredible interest and work on Aquarius during my absence, amazing.
First I'd like to say thank you to Jaybird and all the others for the work & research they have put into the projects for this much maligned machine, I truly never thought that anything like this would happen, well done!
I will most certainly be purchasing a Aquaricart when they are available :)
One question, were seperate PAL & NTSC versions of the games released? I'm assuming your cart is running on NTSC machines as you are in the USA. I do have some US/NTSC carts that run happily on my UK/PAL machine so I assume I'll have no problems with the Aquaricart.
I truly hope this will be the catalyst for homebrew development in the future, despite the limited hardware I feel much more can be acieved with the little Aquarius.
I may be able to help with the cart shell issues also, a good friend and neighbour runs a design house locally with manufacturing capacity(they designed and built the case for Dr Stephen Hawkins computer among many other things). I will show him a cart and see if it may be viable.

All the best,
Chris

#247 the-topdog OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Dec 9, 2010 8:55 AM

I may be able to help with the cart shell issues also, a good friend and neighbour runs a design house locally with manufacturing capacity(they designed and built the case for Dr Stephen Hawkins computer among many other things). I will show him a cart and see if it may be viable.


Wow! That would be awesome!

#248 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Dec 10, 2010 11:53 AM

Wow I've been absent from the site(& the Internet) for a year or more now and now I'm back look what I find!! It's astonising to see all the incredible interest and work on Aquarius during my absence, amazing.
First I'd like to say thank you to Jaybird and all the others for the work & research they have put into the projects for this much maligned machine, I truly never thought that anything like this would happen, well done!
I will most certainly be purchasing a Aquaricart when they are available :)
One question, were seperate PAL & NTSC versions of the games released? I'm assuming your cart is running on NTSC machines as you are in the USA. I do have some US/NTSC carts that run happily on my UK/PAL machine so I assume I'll have no problems with the Aquaricart.
I truly hope this will be the catalyst for homebrew development in the future, despite the limited hardware I feel much more can be acieved with the little Aquarius.
I may be able to help with the cart shell issues also, a good friend and neighbour runs a design house locally with manufacturing capacity(they designed and built the case for Dr Stephen Hawkins computer among many other things). I will show him a cart and see if it may be viable.

All the best,
Chris

Thank you for the kind words! It's been a fun project to do, and I'm very much looking forward to having it finished and in Aquarius owners' hands.

I'm still working on gathering and formatting the extra content (I added some new background information to the Aquarius Chess trivia file just this morning, in fact). Transcribing all of the material from the manuals and other sources, breaking it up evenly and logically into screen-sized pages, and trying to reproduce the artwork in the manuals and within the games themselves is proving to be a more time-consuming process than I expected, but I think the end result is really going to look great. I sent my latest prototype to the-topdog earlier this week, so hopefully he'll share some of his impressions once he's had a chance to try it.

As far as I know, the software is the same for PAL and NTSC systems. I am indeed doing all my work on NTSC hardware, but the Aquaricart should work equally well with PAL systems (although I'd love to hear from anyone who discovers otherwise). I'm excited to hear that you might be able to help with the cartridge shells; as I mentioned earlier, the screw-based shell variety is the best for our purposes, so if new shells are to be made, that should be the starting point. If you don't have any samples of that type of shell handy, let me know and I'll gladly send you one.

#249 BSA Starfire OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 13, 2010 5:25 AM

Wow I've been absent from the site(& the Internet) for a year or more now and now I'm back look what I find!! It's astonising to see all the incredible interest and work on Aquarius during my absence, amazing.
First I'd like to say thank you to Jaybird and all the others for the work & research they have put into the projects for this much maligned machine, I truly never thought that anything like this would happen, well done!
I will most certainly be purchasing a Aquaricart when they are available :)
One question, were seperate PAL & NTSC versions of the games released? I'm assuming your cart is running on NTSC machines as you are in the USA. I do have some US/NTSC carts that run happily on my UK/PAL machine so I assume I'll have no problems with the Aquaricart.
I truly hope this will be the catalyst for homebrew development in the future, despite the limited hardware I feel much more can be acieved with the little Aquarius.
I may be able to help with the cart shell issues also, a good friend and neighbour runs a design house locally with manufacturing capacity(they designed and built the case for Dr Stephen Hawkins computer among many other things). I will show him a cart and see if it may be viable.

All the best,
Chris

Thank you for the kind words! It's been a fun project to do, and I'm very much looking forward to having it finished and in Aquarius owners' hands.

I'm still working on gathering and formatting the extra content (I added some new background information to the Aquarius Chess trivia file just this morning, in fact). Transcribing all of the material from the manuals and other sources, breaking it up evenly and logically into screen-sized pages, and trying to reproduce the artwork in the manuals and within the games themselves is proving to be a more time-consuming process than I expected, but I think the end result is really going to look great. I sent my latest prototype to the-topdog earlier this week, so hopefully he'll share some of his impressions once he's had a chance to try it.

As far as I know, the software is the same for PAL and NTSC systems. I am indeed doing all my work on NTSC hardware, but the Aquaricart should work equally well with PAL systems (although I'd love to hear from anyone who discovers otherwise). I'm excited to hear that you might be able to help with the cartridge shells; as I mentioned earlier, the screw-based shell variety is the best for our purposes, so if new shells are to be made, that should be the starting point. If you don't have any samples of that type of shell handy, let me know and I'll gladly send you one.

Hi Jay,
I have given a screw fit cart to my friend this morning(caught him on the way to work wile I was scraping ice off my car!). As soon as I have some solid info I PM you the results.
Thanks again for all your hard work:)
Best,
Chris

#250 swlovinist OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 13, 2010 8:39 AM

I appreciate all the updates, and it is VERY exciting to see so much dedication and effort going into a product. Between this project and the Atari 7800 expansion module news, I visit this site on a very regular basis. I cant wait to check out the final product!




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