revolutionika, on Thu Apr 15, 2010 7:39 PM, said:
how is this project coming along?
I'm so sorry to keep everyone waiting; I've found myself very busy with work and other projects lately. I was going to post an update over the weekend, but I think I've postponed it too long already.
Over the last few weeks, I've thought over my options, and I think the best way to proceed will be to design a new cartridge circuit board for the existing Aquarius shells. Because of the scarcity of Aquarius cartridges, I toyed for a while with the idea of using Intellivision shells instead (as I mentioned earlier), but I just wasn't happy with the way it looked. Part of the charm of the Aquarius is the way the cartridges fit so seamlessly into the console, and using Intellivision cartridges would have violated that design philosophy.
So, I'm going to offer the multi-cart as a bare cartridge board, which can be used as-is or installed into one of the buyer's own cartridge shells if desired, just as Chad Schell does with the Cuttle Cart 3. We might be able to provide a limited number of shells (priced at a small premium) for buyers who want a complete cartridge, but that isn't set in stone yet. I'll need another week or two to finish the design, and after that, another two or three weeks to have a prototype manufactured. I'll then be able to give everyone a better idea of what the final board will cost, but I still anticipate being able to stay within my original ~$60 price range. In the process, I'm going to upgrade the design to a 16-in-1 cartridge, large enough to hold almost the entire Aquarius cartridge library. I'm also going to make the board compatible with standard 16K ROM chips, so they can also be used for ordinary cartridges (including, possibly, new Aquarius homebrew games!).
One of the decisions I have to make at this point is what to do with the four bank switches that will be required for a 16-in-1, and how to make them as convenient as possible for users who will be installing the boards inside their own shells. The dilemma is that, if I install the switches directly on the board (the most straightforward solution), they'll be hidden inside the shell and unreachable from the outside without opening the cartridge. On the other hand, mounting the switches in the shell (as I did with my prototypes) would mean designing an additional daughterboard for them, and requiring the user to drill switch holes and make other modifications to the shell. This would also be inconvenient, and more expensive. I'd like to get some feedback from all of you on this issue: I'm leaning toward simply installing the switches on the board, but what would your preference be, and can you think of an alternative that I'm overlooking?
So, that's the current status of the multi-cart project, and I greatly appreciate your patience and your continued interest. In the meantime, I've also been working on another (much simpler) upgrade idea for the Aquarius, which involves a possible remedy for one of the most serious limitations of the system: the lack of reprogrammable graphics. I'm putting the finishing touches on something that Aquarius users should find exciting and fun to experiment with, and I'll be writing more about that shortly.