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Astrocades are Weird

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#1 boxpressed OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 2, 2012 4:57 PM

Is there a more fickle classic system? I owned three non-functional or flaky units before getting two in a row that actually worked. Then one of the two dies after sitting dormant for a few months. The other one dies after a few hours of play. Both of them come back to life after two more dormant months. I fully expect them to die again before too long. What causes this kind of weird, Lazurus-like behavior?

Even after having removed the RF shields, I don't know if I've ever been as nervous playing a videogame as I am playing the Astrocade. I do admit it's worth it, however. There's nothing like The Incredible Wizard on any any other platform. And I just got my UltiMulti, so I'd better stock up on Astrocades if I want to use it for a while.

#2 Austin ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 2, 2012 5:00 PM

Aren't these things notorious for overheating?

#3 TMOSteel OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 2, 2012 5:02 PM

Is there a more fickle classic system? I owned three non-functional or flaky units before getting two in a row that actually worked. Then one of the two dies after sitting dormant for a few months. The other one dies after a few hours of play. Both of them come back to life after two more dormant months. I fully expect them to die again before too long. What causes this kind of weird, Lazurus-like behavior?

Even after having removed the RF shields, I don't know if I've ever been as nervous playing a videogame as I am playing the Astrocade. I do admit it's worth it, however. There's nothing like The Incredible Wizard on any any other platform. And I just got my UltiMulti, so I'd better stock up on Astrocades if I want to use it for a while.


...and now you know why I own 12!

#4 boxpressed OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 2, 2012 5:05 PM

Aren't these things notorious for overheating?


Yes, so there's a chance that any Astrocade you buy is already fried or on its way to being fried. That's why you need to remove the RF shield as soon as you get one. I think that Astrocades just weren't built to last, especially compared to its durable contemporaries, the 2600 and Odyssey 2. The Intellivision is also pretty durable.

#5 akator OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 2, 2012 5:05 PM

I must have been lucky, because the only Astrocade I ever owned never gave me problems. It didn't survive shipment to the next owner, though, even though I packed it very well...

I love the controllers the most out of any classic system and wish there was some modern USB equivalent.

#6 Darrin9999 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 2, 2012 5:08 PM

Is there a more fickle classic system? I owned three non-functional or flaky units before getting two in a row that actually worked. Then one of the two dies after sitting dormant for a few months. The other one dies after a few hours of play. Both of them come back to life after two more dormant months. I fully expect them to die again before too long. What causes this kind of weird, Lazurus-like behavior?

Even after having removed the RF shields, I don't know if I've ever been as nervous playing a videogame as I am playing the Astrocade. I do admit it's worth it, however. There's nothing like The Incredible Wizard on any any other platform. And I just got my UltiMulti, so I'd better stock up on Astrocades if I want to use it for a while.


Where did you get the UltiMulti?

#7 boxpressed OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 2, 2012 5:10 PM

...and now you know why I own 12!


I know. I've almost pulled the trigger on a bunch of them lately. This could get out of hand.

#8 boxpressed OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 2, 2012 5:14 PM

Where did you get the UltiMulti?


I emailed Ken Lill, and he had one for sale. He may have more. He also has a Lil' White RAM for sale too.

#9 Lentzquest OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 2, 2012 6:04 PM

Reminds me of my front-loader Sega CD. It tells me when I've been playing too long by freezing and refusing to reset in any way. A few hours downtime, and it's ready for more play.

#10 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 2, 2012 8:49 PM

I would approach the whole "remove RF shielding immediately!" thing with caution. I've had three units that ran perfectly...until I removed the RF shielding.

If you're fortunate enough to own a working Astrocade, I say leave it the f@&# alone. Don't take it apart, don't monkey around with it. And take the obvious overheating precautions (don't place system on carpet, turn off if picture gets fuzzy, etc).

In any event, they are inordinately failure prone. It's ridiculous how flaky they are. It's such a damn shame too because it's such a cool and unique system, I'm still tempted to get another one, but I've been burned on these too many times, and $100-150+ is a spendy roll of the dice. The Astrocade is a system I unfortunately may have to write off, and accept emulation as the way to play it (with one of those Astrocade controller adapters!).

#11 bennybingo OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 2, 2012 10:32 PM

Is there any way to fix one that is fried??? I have one that works, and another that was DOA. I would love to fix the dead console, and have it as a backup...any suggestions?

#12 theloon ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 2, 2012 10:37 PM

Yeah. I just bought (unknowngly) a dead Astrocade for less than $30. It had at least 6 or so games including BASIC. It was fun reading the manual for BASIC. At least I got to feel the joysticks for myself and decide that it isn't something I'd want to collect.

#13 swlovinist OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 3, 2012 8:33 AM

Owner of 6 units here, 3 working. My white Astrocade is going strong :). My Bally Home Library Computer...not so much

#14 boxpressed OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 3, 2012 8:42 AM

Is there any way to fix one that is fried??? I have one that works, and another that was DOA. I would love to fix the dead console, and have it as a backup...any suggestions?


Well, there are lots of more knowledgeable Astrocade owners on AA (and even more on the ballyalley Yahoo group), but from what I've read, the problem could be any number of things: bad power supply, fried custom ICs, unsocketed ICs, bad RAM, etc. There's an official Service Manual (attached below) that may help and is worth having in any event. I have a DOA Astrocade that just arrived (outputs a grey screen), and I did only three things, in this order (none of them worked):

1. swapped out the power supply with a known good one,
2. swapped out the RF modulator with a known good one,
3. removed the RF shield to check for ICs that may have come loose from their sockets

I'm not handy with soldering or a multimeter, so that's as far as I can go. If I obtain another bad Astrocade, I may try swapping the socketed ICs around to see if a fried one is the culprit.

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#15 bennybingo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 3, 2012 9:04 AM


Is there any way to fix one that is fried??? I have one that works, and another that was DOA. I would love to fix the dead console, and have it as a backup...any suggestions?


Well, there are lots of more knowledgeable Astrocade owners on AA (and even more on the ballyalley Yahoo group), but from what I've read, the problem could be any number of things: bad power supply, fried custom ICs, unsocketed ICs, bad RAM, etc. There's an official Service Manual (attached below) that may help and is worth having in any event. I have a DOA Astrocade that just arrived (outputs a grey screen), and I did only three things, in this order (none of them worked):

1. swapped out the power supply with a known good one,
2. swapped out the RF modulator with a known good one,
3. removed the RF shield to check for ICs that may have come loose from their sockets

I'm not handy with soldering or a multimeter, so that's as far as I can go. If I obtain another bad Astrocade, I may try swapping the socketed ICs around to see if a fried one is the culprit.


Thanks! I will look into all of the above and report back...

#16 Tr3vor OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 3, 2012 10:30 AM

something about this thread is making me think "casemod". put a fan in there :P.

I think I wanna get an astrocade sometime, i've seen videos of it and it looks like it has a ton of fun games. also, Its the only console I know of that has a port of Space Zap!.

#17 TMOSteel OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 3, 2012 10:54 AM

something about this thread is making me think "casemod". put a fan in there :P.

I think I wanna get an astrocade sometime, i've seen videos of it and it looks like it has a ton of fun games. also, Its the only console I know of that has a port of Space Zap!.


I've thought of that, and its been discussed before, but honestly, there really isn't anywhere for the air to go. Unless you want to actually start cutting holes on a vintage game system to vent the fan.

Much better to just pull the RF shield, clean the thermal paste off the affected chip (easiest way is to pull the chip and spray it with carb cleaner, then rinse it off with water and let it dry) and re-seat it, check the other socketed chips, and follow the "heat warning" instructions (see BassGuitari's post # 10 above).

If you really wanted to you could use some copper heat sinks on the chips that get hot, this has also been tossed around and actually done by some, I believe.

#18 boxpressed OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 3, 2012 11:23 AM

Here's my casemod. It's the only way that I will play the Astrocade anymore! (It's not that big a hassle. The top part of the case simply drops down on top of the bottom part, so it's easy to put back on when I'm not playing.)

Attached Thumbnails

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Edited by boxpressed, Fri Aug 3, 2012 11:24 AM.


#19 TMOSteel OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 3, 2012 11:55 AM

Here's my casemod. It's the only way that I will play the Astrocade anymore! (It's not that big a hassle. The top part of the case simply drops down on top of the bottom part, so it's easy to put back on when I'm not playing.)


Dude, that is classic!

#20 fiddlepaddle OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 4, 2012 12:08 PM

I've been just setting mine on top of a laptop cooler (a thin platform with a fan that sucks the air out of the vents in the bottom of the Astrocade). It's stayed plenty cool that way. I originally took the sheilding out, but had to put it back because without it the video output was getting interference (wavy lines). I started to install a fan but decided I didn't want to cut a hole in the case. It's been fine for maybe a couple of years, though I don't play it for more than an hour of two at a time.

#21 boxpressed OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 4, 2012 12:34 PM

I used to use a laptop cooler as well but then just went for the topless look shown above. I do notice that the RF signal is pretty poor compared to my 7800 (satisfactory) and 5200 (outstanding, almost composite quality). I guess the lack of a shield may have something to do with that. It's a trade off that I can live with.

This conversation has led me to begin a new article for my blog, "Buying and Selling an Astrocade." Please continue to share stories and advice. I was reading some old Arcadian newsletters from 1979 and even then the Arcadian noted that "most" Astrocade owners had experienced "intermittent failure, garbage on the screen, keypad or controller malfunction, etc." I don't feel so bad that 33 years later, things are about the same.

#22 Draugr OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 17, 2012 5:16 PM

I've been trying to get an Astrocade for a long time, but seeing all these issues that you've all been talking about, I may steer clear of this system. Its a shame because I only saw and played one for an hour or so at a friends house in 1980 or 81. Loved Galaxian and Incredible Wizard blew me a way back then. I had the 2600 and Coleco, but really wished I had a chacne with the Astrocade. :(

BTW how are the controllers? Do they hold up? If so is there a way to use them on a modern PC with emulation? I have a few adapters for Atari 2600 type joysticks (Stella Adapter), and two modded Intellivision cntrollers that are now USB capable. If worse comes to wore and I never find an Astrocade that works I may be happy to use emulation if I can at least use the original controllers. :)

Edited by Draugr, Fri Aug 17, 2012 5:18 PM.


#23 Draugr OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 17, 2012 5:18 PM

Is there an A/V mod for the Astrocade so it works on Composite or S-Video TVs or monitors?

#24 frank_c OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:53 PM

I shoulda took the Astrocade with me when I moved out of my parent's palce in '89....dammit.

#25 TMOSteel OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 18, 2012 10:37 AM

Is there an A/V mod for the Astrocade so it works on Composite or S-Video TVs or monitors?


There was, 8bitdomain made/sold them, they were great. I wish I had bought more. I'm always on the lookout for another one; I'd like to have some people take a look at it to see if it can be duplicated.

Some pics:

http://www.ballyalle...salvo_pics.html

Edited by TMOSteel, Sat Aug 18, 2012 11:27 AM.






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