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Mattel Aquarius owners - Roll call!


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#51 Jay Silverheels OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 10, 2011 6:31 PM



Here is a portion of the order form that came with my Aquarius. Look at those prices! Pretty ambitious!

Note the disc drive, 32k ram cart, modem. Was the Extended BASIC ever released?


Oh wow! I have not seen that document before... Could you post a high res scan or hi res photos of it? It would be cool to put up on Geek Vintage.


It's the Crimac/New Era Incentives, Inc brochure. It's been posted at the yahoo group, before. I had a few from Crimac, back in the day. I should be able to dig up a scan, if he doesn't have one ready.

#52 Mirage OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 10, 2011 6:35 PM




Here is a portion of the order form that came with my Aquarius. Look at those prices! Pretty ambitious!

Note the disc drive, 32k ram cart, modem. Was the Extended BASIC ever released?


Oh wow! I have not seen that document before... Could you post a high res scan or hi res photos of it? It would be cool to put up on Geek Vintage.


It's the Crimac/New Era Incentives, Inc brochure. It's been posted at the yahoo group, before. I had a few from Crimac, back in the day. I should be able to dig up a scan, if he doesn't have one ready.


I can do it right now, give me a few minutes.

#53 Mirage OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 10, 2011 6:46 PM



Here is a portion of the order form that came with my Aquarius. Look at those prices! Pretty ambitious!

Note the disc drive, 32k ram cart, modem. Was the Extended BASIC ever released?


Oh wow! I have not seen that document before... Could you post a high res scan or hi res photos of it? It would be cool to put up on Geek Vintage.


Here you go!

AquariusInside.jpg

AquariusOutside.jpg

#54 Jay Silverheels OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 10, 2011 7:38 PM

Nice scan.

Thanks!

#55 ozma wars OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 11, 2011 2:07 PM

I have one, only bought to play UTOPIA hoping to find an enhanced version.....
but now interested to buy any item or game or expansion...
if have any pls let me know
I can trade with new sealed games or new Intellivoices

#56 the-topdog OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 11, 2011 3:54 PM

Great scan! Thanks!

#57 rockman_x_2002 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 11, 2011 3:58 PM

I have one. Bought it at a thrift for a buck. I never use it though because I have no attachments, carts, or anything to go with it. Just the main unit itself.

#58 Devin OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 11, 2011 4:45 PM

I bought one on eBay a while back - mainly so I could own the computer with "the worst reputation of all time".

So, I hooked it up - sure it can't be that bad - and I was wrong - it was worst. :-o

But, anyway, it is still a fun little computer. I only have a few cartridges - and I never bought the expansion pack that turns it into an "80's computer". ASCII-art Deadly Discs anyone?! :)

Edited by Devin, Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:01 PM.


#59 Mirage OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:14 PM

I bought one on eBay a while back - mainly so I could own the computer with "the worst reputation of all time".

So, I hooked it up - sure it can't be that bad - and I was wrong - it was worst. :-o

But, anyway, it is still a fun little computer. I only have a few cartridges - and I never bought the expansion pack that turns it into an "80's computer". ASCII-art Deadly Discs anyone?! :)


The Aquarius definitely is limited! I was only peripherally aware of the Aquarius until about a month ago. I knew they existed and a little of the history, but that's about it. I actually was under the assumption that it had the same capabilities as an Intellivision, just with some more computing features. Then I got one from a great guy here (ThumpNugget) and only then really looked at the specs and limitations.

But you know what?

I find it to be a charming system nevertheless. I can't even quite put my finger on it. It just has character and personality. It's different from any other retro-computer I've ever used. I guess that's one of the things I like about collecting and using the old computers -- just experiencing all their different unique personalities.

So now I'm getting everything else for it... the whole package (except printer, that seems pointless). And I'll delve into it just like I have with every other computer I have. It's definitely a welcome addition to my collection. :thumbsup:

#60 Devin OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 3:33 AM

I find it to be a charming system nevertheless. I can't even quite put my finger on it. It just has character and personality. It's different from any other retro-computer I've ever used. I guess that's one of the things I like about collecting and using the old computers -- just experiencing all their different unique personalities.


I agree. In many ways, you can consider it the computer form of "Plan 9 From Outer Space". That movie, in practically every aspect, was a dramatic and epic failure. However, for some reason, Plan 9 is a wondrous gem! The Aquarius is the same way, it is a disaster of computer science, but is just somehow an enjoyable system.

Perhaps it is the design - the eloquent design of the cartridges or the subtle colors... The system is a conundrum - ineptitude wrapped in eloquence!

Anyway, I don't want to anger any Aquarius fans. I think it a great little system *and* a terrible little system!

#61 Jay Silverheels OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 6:14 AM

No offense taken. Aquarius users have needed thick skin all along. ;)

It's good to see others see through its foibles to find the charm in the little blue keyed misfit computer, though.

Good posts, guys.

#62 doctorclu ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 6:36 AM

I would like to see a Aquarius term program in action calling a BBS. That would be epic!!

Can it only use the 300 baud modem or did it have the ability to use regular modems? If so, most computers of the time could handle up to 9600 baud, of course, if the term program could handle it. Most Atari term programs of the 80's were doing good to handle 2400/4800 baud, but if anyone has written one since it could probably handle better than that (calling the case of Bobterm on the Atari which was written in 1990.)

ASCII-Art Tron Deadly Discs
? Really? I would actually like to see that too.

Were all the Intellivision games compatible on the Aquarius?

How technically similar was the Aquarius to a regular Intellivision with a ECS module? (The computer module.)

Are there specs anywhere for the ECS and Aquarius?

Edited by doctorclu, Sat Feb 12, 2011 6:38 AM.


#63 Jay Silverheels OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 8:18 AM

I would like to see a Aquarius term program in action calling a BBS. That would be epic!!

Can it only use the 300 baud modem or did it have the ability to use regular modems? If so, most computers of the time could handle up to 9600 baud, of course, if the term program could handle it. Most Atari term programs of the 80's were doing good to handle 2400/4800 baud, but if anyone has written one since it could probably handle better than that (calling the case of Bobterm on the Atari which was written in 1990.)

ASCII-Art Tron Deadly Discs
? Really? I would actually like to see that too.

Were all the Intellivision games compatible on the Aquarius?

How technically similar was the Aquarius to a regular Intellivision with a ECS module? (The computer module.)

Are there specs anywhere for the ECS and Aquarius?



Calling Aquarius Tron ASCII art was, I believe, playful ribbing. It's one of the Aquarius' weakest titles, but I believe it is mostly due to lack of ambition on the developer's part.

Here it is:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cc7_yLdBPGI


I have videos of most Aquarius software here: www.youtube.com/mattelaquarius

I've attached a screenshot of INTV's Tron converted to Aquarius graphics using chjmartin2's awesome converter. It is rough, but with a little customization to correct conversion artifacts, using Aquarius' running man, etc, and it would look more passable as a port.





Here is the original INTV Tron pic:

Posted Image


The Aquarius software and hardware is completely incompatible with the Intellivision/ECS hardware. The Aquarius is Z80 based. A handful of INTV's core games were ported to the Aquarius.

You should be able to find some good specs on the Aquarius and ECS at www.blueskyrangers.com

Good Aquairus hardware info can be found at one of our forum member's website: http://www.vdsteenoven.com/aquarius/

Attached Thumbnails

  • INTV Tron.jpg


#64 doctorclu ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 8:54 AM

Calling Aquarius Tron ASCII art was, I believe, playful ribbing. It's one of the Aquarius' weakest titles, but I believe it is mostly due to lack of ambition on the developer's part.

Here it is:


Wow that was bad. I think I just threw up a little.

I have videos of most Aquarius software here: www.youtube.com/mattelaquarius


I liked seeing the modem in use. And I thought the way you connected it for the demo was interesting.

http://www.youtube.c.../30/EJa8DjmbcLo

"The Mattel Aquarius computer is shown displaying information received from the StarTTY.com telnet portal. It is direct connected to a PC using HyperTerminal on the PC, and the Aquarius Bell 103 modem (300 baud). The HyperTerminal settings are shown, as well. The information is being bridged from a command prompt Telnet connection to Hyperterminal via a macro made using Macro Magic software. I tried to show the macro in action by showing that the copying/pasting was happening without human intervention. The macro highlights the current telnet screen in the command prompt, then switches to HyperTerminal where it is pasted onto the screen. Hyperterminal immediately transmits the pasted information out to the Aquarius. "

I've attached a screenshot of INTV's Tron converted to Aquarius graphics using chjmartin2's awesome converter. It is rough, but with a little customization to correct conversion artifacts, using Aquarius' running man, etc, and it would look more passable as a port.


A lot better. Is that a working game?

The Aquarius software and hardware is completely incompatible with the Intellivision/ECS hardware. The Aquarius is Z80 based. A handful of INTV's core games were ported to the Aquarius.


Not compatible? My impression of the Aquarius just dropped like 70% after hearing that.

I think after looking at the videos I believe the Aquarius is an insult to any association with the Intellivision. How could Mattel go so wrong? I mean the Intellivision (1978-1979) was brilliant and at least three years ahead of its time. You wouldn't see anything comparible till the 5200 (1982) and Colecovision (1982) came out.

Contrast this to the Aquarius ... (Announced: 1982: Released: June 1983: Discontinued: October 1983:) could have had the Vic-20 (released in 1981) run circles around it. I know my Atari 400/800 (1979-1980) could have. The Aquarius was about three years behind the times.

I mean.. wow... what the hell?!?

Edited by doctorclu, Sat Feb 12, 2011 8:59 AM.


#65 Jay Silverheels OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:00 AM

The Aquarius pic is shown as an attachment to the post.

Yes, the Aquarius story is interesting. You can read it in detail at the Bluesky Rangers' website.

Basically, after the failure of the INTV Keyboard component, Mattel wanted to have a "real" computer to market (no the ECS didn't count). They found an easy answer with Radofin, the British owned Hong Kong manufacturer who was already making their INTVs.

Radofin had already designed three different computers with increasing capabilities and compatible architectures. Mattel bought the rights to them, and started marketing the lowest tier as the Aquarius. They were also bringing the Aquarius II to market, but by then, the market crashed. Mattel paid Radofin to take back the rights and all unsold merchandise. The rest, is history.

#66 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:43 AM

No offense taken. Aquarius users have needed thick skin all along. ;)

It's good to see others see through its foibles to find the charm in the little blue keyed misfit computer, though.

Good posts, guys.

Exactly. The nice thing about discussing a system like the Aquarius is that, unlike more popular systems, you'll never be pressed into arguments such as "the Aquarius is clearly superior to (insert popular competitor here)" or "the Aquarius could have been #1 if only so-and-so had done things differently." I think the Aquarius could have done better in the entry-level market if it had come out earlier, but there's no need to try to "prove" that the system was the best of its kind, because we already know that it isn't. It's simply a question of enjoying it on its own terms and seeing what else we can do with it today. As Mirage said, it does have its own unique charm, and as it happens, there's a lot of untapped potential there.

TRON Deadly Discs is fun to play on the Aquarius, but it pales in comparison to just about every other version. It's really much closer to the 2600 version than the Intellivision version. Many people find Night Stalker to be a similarly disappointing port, but unlike TRON Deadly Discs, Night Stalker made no compromises in the gameplay and actually improved upon the Intellivision original in certain ways. If you want to start with Aquarius gaming, you'd be better off looking at titles like Astrosmash (a faithful port of the Intellivision version), BurgerTime (it looks funky, but the gameplay is all there), AD&D Treasure of Tarmin (which made excellent use of what the Aquarius could do graphically), Snafu and Utopia (two more great Intellivision ports), and even the rare Melody Chase (about the only exclusive the Aquarius ever got from Mattel, and a fun, quirky little game).

Unfortunately, there isn't much else to try after that unless you look at third-party cassette releases (although most of these were very simplistic), but with new bankswitched cartridge boards and with the work that chjmartin2 and others are doing, I think you'll be seeing more Aquarius titles in the future.

#67 doctorclu ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:49 AM

You should be able to find some good specs on the Aquarius and ECS at www.blueskyrangers.com


Tried looking for that site with no luck Is that site still around?

#68 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:52 AM

Tried looking for that site with no luck Is that site still around?

They've changed their website a bit. Here is a link to their Aquarius "overview," and here is an HTML version of their 1983 catalog.

#69 doctorclu ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:53 AM

Exactly. The nice thing about discussing a system like the Aquarius is that, unlike more popular systems, you'll never be pressed into arguments such as "the Aquarius is clearly superior to (insert popular competitor here)" or "the Aquarius could have been #1 if only so-and-so had done things differently." I think the Aquarius could have done better in the entry-level market if it had come out earlier, but there's no need to try to "prove" that the system was the best of its kind, because we already know that it isn't. It's simply a question of enjoying it on its own terms and seeing what else we can do with it today. As Mirage said, it does have its own unique charm, and as it happens, there's a lot of untapped potential there.


A good point. So when someone insults the Aquarius that is just standard issue around here eh?

TRON Deadly Discs is fun to play on the Aquarius, but it pales in comparison to just about every other version. It's really much closer to the 2600 version than the Intellivision version. Many people find Night Stalker to be a similarly disappointing port, but unlike TRON Deadly Discs, Night Stalker made no compromises in the gameplay and actually improved upon the Intellivision original in certain ways. If you want to start with Aquarius gaming, you'd be better off looking at titles like Astrosmash (a faithful port of the Intellivision version), BurgerTime (it looks funky, but the gameplay is all there), AD&D Treasure of Tarmin (which made excellent use of what the Aquarius could do graphically), Snafu and Utopia (two more great Intellivision ports), and even the rare Melody Chase (about the only exclusive the Aquarius ever got from Mattel, and a fun, quirky little game).


The Aquarius updated rendition of Tron Deadly Discs, is that a new working port of the game?

The other games sound interesting at least.

Unfortunately, there isn't much else to try after that unless you look at third-party cassette releases (although most of these were very simplistic), but with new bankswitched cartridge boards and with the work that chjmartin2 and others are doing, I think you'll be seeing more Aquarius titles in the future.


Should be interesting to see. How common are disk drives for the Aquarius, or some way of image loading from another computer (like SIO2PC on the Atari)

#70 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 10:02 AM

A good point. So when someone insults the Aquarius that is just standard issue around here eh?

Well, I wouldn't exactly say that insults are standard issue (I've had to smack around some people who took it too far). Let's just say instead that there's no need to maintain any illusions about the upside potential of the Aquarius.

The Aquarius updated rendition of Tron Deadly Discs, is that a new working port of the game?

Are you referring to Jay Silverheels's screenshot? That was just a static mockup; the version you saw in the YouTube video is the only version of TRON Deadly Discs for the Aquarius.

Should be interesting to see. How common are disk drives for the Aquarius, or some way of image loading from another computer (like SIO2PC on the Atari)

There were several disk drives designed for the Aquarius, but only a few units were produced of each; the Aquarius is essentially a cassette-only system. It also has no built-in I/O except for the cassette interface. There is an RS232-compatible serial printer port, but it is output only (just TX and CTS).

I actually think that the best thing to do with the Aquarius is to skip obsolete floppy drives altogether and to go directly to a flash cartridge, something along the lines of the Cuttle Cart 3 for the Intellivision but with more features. I've got several ideas along these lines, and I'll explore them further once I'm done with the Aquaricart project.

#71 Devin OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 4:01 PM

Calling Aquarius Tron ASCII art was, I believe, playful ribbing. It's one of the Aquarius' weakest titles, but I believe it is mostly due to lack of ambition on the developer's part.


Sadly, I was being dead serious. The Aquarius has no customizable bitmap graphics. Basically, the designers put special "pictures" into the unused Extended ASCII characters. This includes the control characters 0..31 as well as the extended range of 128...255.

This was not uncommon in the era - IBM, Commodore 64, etc... put special graphic in these areas - mainly for the purpose of enhancing the content on the screen. Most systems had lines segments for drawing boxes.

But the Aquarius is designed to use Extended ASCII as the systems only graphics. I've attached an ASCII dump screenshot. You should recognize some of the pictures from Deadly Discs. If the graphic is not in this chart - Aquarius cannot draw it.

Char set - Mattel Aquarius - x2.gif

That being said, look at Dungeons and Dragons for the Aquarius. The demon is hilarious - once you know what you are looking at. The person who coded the demon did a pretty good job.

Edited by Devin, Sat Feb 12, 2011 4:06 PM.


#72 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 4:19 PM

But the Aquarius is designed to use Extended ASCII as the systems only graphics. I've attached an ASCII dump screenshot. You should recognize some of the pictures from Deadly Discs. If the graphic is not in this chart - Aquarius cannot draw it.

True, unfortunately. Other systems (like the Atari 800) had the ability to load an alternate character set into RAM and re-point the display hardware to use that instead of the default ROM-based character set. Unfortunately, doing this on the Aquarius would have required another 2K of onboard RAM that the system didn't have.

Last spring, I was able to dump the Aquarius's character generator ROM, and I wrote a simple graphical tool for creating alternate character sets. I documented my initial experiments in my "SuperFont" thread, and one of my next projects (later this year) will combine a software-reprogrammable character set upgrade with a more modern video output than the built-in RF modulator. This, along with creative use of character and color "flickering" (which others are already experimenting with), will open up many more graphical possibilities on the Aquarius.

#73 Jay Silverheels OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 4:20 PM

Well, yes of course I know the Aquarius doesn't have programmable graphics. Still, the graphics characters used in Tron are a far cry from ASCII art. That's where my allusion to your exaggeration comes in.

#74 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 4:25 PM

Well, yes of course I know the Aquarius doesn't have programmable graphics. Still, the graphics characters used in Tron are a far cry from ASCII art. That's where my allusion to your exaggeration comes in.

That's right. Strictly speaking, the Aquarius's custom character set isn't ASCII--it's a superset of ASCII which includes custom characters--so what you see in the games really isn't "ASCII art" at all; it's character art. The term "ASCII art" implies that the games used nothing but alphanumerics and punctuation marks (since this was about all that was included in the original 7-bit ASCII definitions), but the Mattel artists did a pretty good job within the space they had of choosing general-purpose graphics for the games.

#75 Jay Silverheels OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 12, 2011 4:27 PM

Well, yes of course I know the Aquarius doesn't have programmable graphics. Still, the graphics characters used in Tron are a far cry from ASCII art. That's where my allusion to your exaggeration comes in.

Strictly speaking, the Aquarius's custom character set isn't ASCII, so what you see in the games really isn't "ASCII art" at all; it's character art. "ASCII art" implies that the games used nothing but alphanumerics and punctuation marks, but the Mattel artists did a pretty good job within the space they had of choosing general-purpose graphics for the games.


That's the point I was trying to make. Thanks for completing the thought, Jaybird3rd




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