Jump to content

Photo

RCA Studio II GOLD MINE! An interview with the Studio 2 Production Manager!

RCA Studio II Interview

1244 replies to this topic

#26 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

BassGuitari

    Launch Edition

  • 6,035 posts
  • Remember how bright the future used to look?
  • Location:Milwaukee, WI

Posted Sun Mar 3, 2013 5:51 PM

Here are some screenshots of just a few games that run on the RCA Cosmac VIP (presumably in CHIP-8):

http://www.old-compu....asp?c=543&st=1

The Studio II should be able to run these exactly. Interestingly, it looks like there was some cross-platform work being done with some of the games; apart from some minor sprite changes, "UFO" on the Cosmac looks identical to "Space War - Vertical Intercept" on the Studio II. Studio II's "Tennis" turns up on the Cosmac as "Pong." Couldn't tell you if the Studio II or Cosmac versions came first...maybe they were concurrent?

chip8.com has some great information, too.

#27 TLD1985 ONLINE  

TLD1985

    Chopper Commander

  • 240 posts

Posted Sun Mar 3, 2013 6:11 PM

fauxscot... what REALLY needs to be done for RCA Studio II preservation is dumping of the missing games (especially the foreign clones which are even more obscure than the US games)

I've posted this in a previous Studio II topic, but I'll post it here too.

If you are able to get it done, I'm sure there are members on the forum who can donate carts for dumping or find others who can.



Games marked in red have NOT been dumped.

RCA Studio II (USA)

  • TV Arcade I: Space War
  • TV Arcade II: Fun with Numbers
  • TV Arcade III: Tennis/Squash
  • TV Arcade IV: Baseball
  • TV Arcade Series: Speedway/Tag
  • TV Arcade Series: Gunfighter/Moonship Battle
  • TV School House I
  • TV School House II: Math Fun
  • TV Casino I: Blackjack
  • TV Mystic Series: Biorhythm
Academy Apollo 80 (UK)
Hanimex MPT-02 Jeu TV programmable (France)
Soundic MPT-02 Victory (Australia)
Sheen 1200 Micro Computer (Australia)
Conic M-1200 Colour (?)
Mustang 9016 Telespiel Computer (Germany)
  • Grand Pack (Blackjack and Bowling)
  • Bingo
  • Concentration Match
  • Star Wars
  • Math Fun (School House II)
  • Pinball
  • Biorythm
  • Tennis/Squash
  • Fun with Numbers
  • Computer Quiz (School House I)
  • Baseball
  • Speedway/Tag
  • Spacewar Intercept
  • Gun Fight/Moon ship
Toshiba Visicom COM-100 Japan
  • Arithmetic drill (Math Fun & Fun with Numbers)
  • Sports fan (Baseball & Sumo Wrestling)
  • Gambler I (Blackjack)
  • Gambler II (Slot Machine and Dice)
  • Space Command (Space War)
  • Inspiration (Bagua and Biorhythm)
- Japan is the only country which had it's own unique set of games. It is a mixture of the original games and some new ones.
- The Japanese games to not appear to be swappable with the European/American consoles, but I am basing this on emulation

*Arithmetic drill - is 'Math Fun' and 'Fun with Numbers'. So two Studio II games in one. It also includes Japanese characters.
*Sports fan - is 'Basball' and 'Sumo Wrestling'
*Gambler I - is 'Blackjack'.
*Gambler II - is 'Dice' and 'Slot Machine'. This is possibly 'Bingo' in Eur/Aus, but I have not seen the European Bingo so I can not tell.
*Space Command - is 'Space War'.
*Inspiration - is 'Biorythm' and 'Bagua'.


Edited by TLD1985, Sun Mar 3, 2013 6:20 PM.


#28 Atari2008 OFFLINE  

Atari2008

    Dragonstomper

  • 704 posts
  • Location:New York

Posted Sun Mar 3, 2013 10:16 PM

Here are some screenshots of just a few games that run on the RCA Cosmac VIP (presumably in CHIP- 8):

http://www.old-compu....asp?c=543&st=1

The Studio II should be able to run these exactly. Interestingly, it looks like there was some cross-platform work being done with some of the games; apart from some minor sprite changes, "UFO" on the Cosmac looks identical to "Space War - Vertical Intercept" on the Studio II. Studio II's "Tennis" turns up on the Cosmac as "Pong." Couldn't tell you if the Studio II or Cosmac versions came first...maybe they were concurrent?

chip8.com has some great information, too.


Thank you for this post, I have no knowledge of the RCA Cosmac VIP so it's nice to see what some of the games look like and what's potentially possible with the RCA Studio II!! These games look doable and fun! I like the Blinky (Pac-Man clone) and the Invaders interpretation of Space Invaders looks like a great way to get around the system's limitation. I'd love to see these games on the Studio II. This is exciting!!!

#29 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

BassGuitari

    Launch Edition

  • 6,035 posts
  • Remember how bright the future used to look?
  • Location:Milwaukee, WI

Posted Sun Mar 3, 2013 11:53 PM

Thank you for this post, I have no knowledge of the RCA Cosmac VIP so it's nice to see what some of the games look like and what's potentially possible with the RCA Studio II!! These games look doable and fun! I like the Blinky (Pac-Man clone) and the Invaders interpretation of Space Invaders looks like a great way to get around the system's limitation. I'd love to see these games on the Studio II. This is exciting!!!


I agree. The Breakout game looks oddly appealing, like it could actually be kinda good in the same way Squash on the Studio II, on its hardest difficulty settings, was more fun than it had any right to be. The graphics are simple and primitive, but clean and effective. It's clearly Breakout, but it knows its limits and doesn't try too hard.

A cool thing about the Cosmac is that it apparently (according to Wikipedia) included program lists for 20 games, which you had to enter yourself with that crazy little hex keyboard. That was in 1977. 20 games.

Whenever I read about homebrew on the Studio II, my thought is always CHIP-8. There's a wealth of games there practically begging to be ported to the Studio II; "porting" 1802-based CHIP-8 games to the Studio II is probably about as drastic as porting an Atari 400 game to the Atari 800. :P But I also understand that CHIP-8 is a programming language and that its games run in a CHIP-8 virtual machine; does that mean CHIP-8 would need to be loaded into a Studio II before the Studio II could run CHIP-8 games?

#30 Atari2008 OFFLINE  

Atari2008

    Dragonstomper

  • 704 posts
  • Location:New York

Posted Mon Mar 4, 2013 5:21 PM

I agree. The Breakout game looks oddly appealing, like it could actually be kinda good in the same way Squash on the Studio II, on its hardest difficulty settings, was more fun than it had any right to be. The graphics are simple and primitive, but clean and effective. It's clearly Breakout, but it knows its limits and doesn't try too hard.


You know I thought I was the only person in the world that finds Squash so oddly appealing. You're right, it's way more fun than it had any right to be. I think just like the Breakout game for the COSMAC VIP, Squash was the perfect type of game for the limited Studio II hardware. I'm hoping that Chip-8 games could be ported somewhat easily to the Studio II, it would be great to see its modest library expanded with some fun titles.

If you scroll down to the middle of this page, you'll see a screenshot of the Space Invaders homebrew which I've played on an emulator and is actually loads of fun, I'm hoping if a Multi-Cart is made, that it will be included on there. There's also a port of the Atari 2600 Combat as well as an improved Pong:

http://www.robsons.o...dio2/screen.htm

It's nice to see the RCA S2 finally getting some love. :)

#31 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

BassGuitari

    Launch Edition

  • 6,035 posts
  • Remember how bright the future used to look?
  • Location:Milwaukee, WI

Posted Mon Mar 4, 2013 5:55 PM

If you scroll down to the middle of this page, you'll see a screenshot of the Space Invaders homebrew which I've played on an emulator and is actually loads of fun, I'm hoping if a Multi-Cart is made, that it will be included on there. There's also a port of the Atari 2600 Combat as well as an improved Pong:

http://www.robsons.o...dio2/screen.htm

It's nice to see the RCA S2 finally getting some love. :)


I've played Space Invaders and Combat in emulation. I thought Space Invaders was the better game, if only because its control scheme lends itself to a keypad than Combat does. Both were written over 12 years ago, though...it's been pretty dry since. Although, there was supposedly a homebrew game called "Rocket" written by Lee Romanow in 2010, but can't find any screens or video or anything.

#32 Atari2008 OFFLINE  

Atari2008

    Dragonstomper

  • 704 posts
  • Location:New York

Posted Mon Mar 4, 2013 8:05 PM

You're right it has been pretty dry since, and none have been released on cart. I played Rocket, it's very similar to one player Space War where you fly a rocket into a ufo, not very groundbreaking. Just bigger sprites than Space War. It's in the Emma O2 emulator. I noticed it also has the RCA VIP COSMAC if you want to play those games as well.

#33 fauxscot OFFLINE  

fauxscot

    Space Invader

  • 35 posts

Posted Wed Mar 6, 2013 5:59 AM

fauxscot, thank you for your time, this is very informative and interesting! I'm curious as to why RCA designed the Studio II the way they did - black & white instead of color and built-in keypads instead of joysticks. Why did RCA go with this design? Also, you mentioned that the systems piled up in the warehouse, was the system commercially viable anywhere? I remember an old thread where someone posted an article from a store in Texas, claiming the Studio II was a big hit among its customers.



Hey moonsweeper... sorry I overlooked your question. I can only surmise why RCA made the choices they did. Honestly, I never heard anything from the engineer I worked with, a guy named Walt S., but since leaving that job, I have designed a lot of stuff and have been through the process a bunch.

Basically, a product design is an optimization problem. You have to draw a line around certain set of features and specs. Those are called design constraints. The area inside those constraints is called 'solution space', by some. Examples are the unit has to weigh X kg and has certain maximum dimensions. It has to cost $d or less. It has to have no zinc. (just an example). It has to be done by Friday. Each constraint sets up a huge pile of competing and interlocking decisions and getting just the right mix makes the difference not between success and failure, but between "hit the target" and "missed the target". Perfect products fail in the marketplace all the time. Imperfect products thrive for similar reasons. The main constraints in a product are if it meets a need (or eliminates a problem) and it is presented to buyers when they can buy it at a price they can afford and if the competing uses for their money are weaker.

Studio 2 met a lot of design constraints imposed by the marketing department. RCA was used to making a lot of different products. They had an established way of coming up with stuff to sell. I'm not privy as to what made them choose what they did, but remember, back then processors were expensive. RAM and masked ROMs were, too. Tooling plastic molds was really expensive. There were no/few success and failure stories to use for guidance. Engineers are good at solving problems, but very, very few are worth a damn when it comes to identifying markets. We suck for the most part in human factors and emo issues. A crying kid with a hurt knee needs a hug and a lot of engineers seek drying agents, dessicants and evaporating supplies for tears, if I might lump me and my brethren into a grossly inappropriate stereotype.

Color takes three bits per pixel. It takes a 3.58 MHz color burst oscillator and video chips capable of modulating the color info. Games have to move more data and make more decisions. Languages have to be more complex. More parts equals more failures/lower yields/decrease reliability. Monochrome is faster to market, even if it's not to sell.

In that era, Pong was popular. I think it suggested to RCA that the consumer would buy anything. More than that, RCA had a corporate culture that honestly did have some social aspects and they let societal factors influence corporate policy. Hence, the keypads..... Let's make this about education and interaction instead of just play! Bad choice, it appears. Texas Instruments would later make history with LED watches... (I worked there, too.) They essentially said to the consumer.. "No, you don't want chocolate, you want vanilla and here's why."

Tandy/Radio Shack was a Texas company, to answer your last question. That's probably why the game sold well down there. I have other theories, but that's the simple explanation.

Sorry to be so long winded. Gotta run!

#34 Tempest ONLINE  

Tempest

    Monochrome Martinet

  • 26,710 posts
  • Location:Accardi-By-The-Sea

Posted Wed Mar 6, 2013 8:45 AM

Of course all of this happens AFTER I sell my system...

#35 y-bot OFFLINE  

y-bot

    Dragonstomper

  • 790 posts

Posted Wed Mar 6, 2013 10:56 AM

Of course all of this happens AFTER I sell my system...


It went to a good home.

#36 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 5,963 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Central New Jersey, USA

Posted Wed Mar 6, 2013 11:36 AM

Great info, thanks! He obviously mis-remembered Magnavox for Fairchild, but still a very interesting and important account. I have two of the systems myself, but one of them doesn't work quite right. Definitely an interesting system, but an amazing case of being outclassed by a system that came out just a bit earlier (the Fairchild VES, later Channel F).

#37 Blazing Lazers OFFLINE  

Blazing Lazers

    Stargunner

  • Topic Starter
  • 1,252 posts

Posted Wed Mar 6, 2013 12:29 PM

Of course all of this happens AFTER I sell my system...


Well, now is the time to be buying Studio IIs- they're surprisingly cheap on Ebay right now, even for complete and boxed units with games.

#38 mckafka99 OFFLINE  

mckafka99

    Stargunner

  • 1,036 posts

Posted Wed Mar 6, 2013 1:13 PM

Well, now is the time to be buying Studio IIs- they're surprisingly cheap on Ebay right now, even for complete and boxed units with games.


Problem I have found is that most are untested and lack the switch box. I am so far .5 for 2 in trying to get a fully working console. I did get a working switch box with one though, so that has been a plus.

#39 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

BassGuitari

    Launch Edition

  • 6,035 posts
  • Remember how bright the future used to look?
  • Location:Milwaukee, WI

Posted Wed Mar 6, 2013 2:12 PM

I got mine last summer for $50. I didn't have the box, but it came with six CIB games and the proprietary switchbox. And the seller turned out to be local, so I just picked it up and didn't pay shipping. A few weeks later I sourced a system manual for something like three dollars shipped.

Unfortunately none of the games were Gunfighter/Moonship Battle, Speedway/Tag, or Bingo (yeah right!), but it was still a pretty sweet deal. :-D
  • jhd likes this

#40 fauxscot OFFLINE  

fauxscot

    Space Invader

  • 35 posts

Posted Wed Mar 6, 2013 6:20 PM

Great info, thanks! He obviously mis-remembered Magnavox for Fairchild, but still a very interesting and important account. I have two of the systems myself, but one of them doesn't work quite right. Definitely an interesting system, but an amazing case of being outclassed by a system that came out just a bit earlier (the Fairchild VES, later Channel F).


bill, you are right. i misremembered! It was 37 years ago, more or less, and I also misremebered the number of RAM chips/ROM chips. I never really followed the competition much back then.

#41 fauxscot OFFLINE  

fauxscot

    Space Invader

  • 35 posts

Posted Wed Mar 6, 2013 6:24 PM

Problem I have found is that most are untested and lack the switch box. I am so far .5 for 2 in trying to get a fully working console. I did get a working switch box with one though, so that has been a plus.


interesting that there is an issue with the RF switches. It's really a simple matter to pick off the RF signal and detect it and make it into a simple compositive video waveform, so i think i'll be able to make a video mod recipe for this group and post it. the video signal is a also present before the RF modulator in the console and could be picked up there, too. likewise, adding a different power brick or moving the standard brick to the console would be pretty easy.

#42 evg2000 ONLINE  

evg2000

    Stargunner

  • 1,286 posts
  • Location:N. Cal

Posted Wed Mar 6, 2013 7:35 PM

so i think i'll be able to make a video mod recipe for this group and post it.

warming up my soldering iron!

#43 Blazing Lazers OFFLINE  

Blazing Lazers

    Stargunner

  • Topic Starter
  • 1,252 posts

Posted Wed Mar 6, 2013 9:50 PM

Problem I have found is that most are untested and lack the switch box. I am so far .5 for 2 in trying to get a fully working console. I did get a working switch box with one though, so that has been a plus.


I've never seen a better time to be buying Studio II stuff for a long while, especially on Ebay. There's some good deals to be had right now.

#44 mckafka99 OFFLINE  

mckafka99

    Stargunner

  • 1,036 posts

Posted Thu Mar 7, 2013 6:40 AM

I've never seen a better time to be buying Studio II stuff for a long while, especially on Ebay. There's some good deals to be had right now.


We'll see, they say 3rd time is a charm.

#45 fauxscot OFFLINE  

fauxscot

    Space Invader

  • 35 posts

Posted Thu Mar 7, 2013 7:54 AM

fauxscot... what REALLY needs to be done for RCA Studio II preservation is dumping of the missing games (especially the foreign clones which are even more obscure than the US games)

I've posted this in a previous Studio II topic, but I'll post it here too.

If you are able to get it done, I'm sure there are members on the forum who can donate carts for dumping or find others who can.



Games marked in red have NOT been dumped.


Dumping will be easy, I think. I have a lot of edge connectors (22/44) and some small micros that could do that without a studio 2. the carts, of course, are a requirement. right now, i'm planning to do two repairs that will get me re-familiarized with this thing and allow me to set up a test bed, so before long, perhaps we can coordinate doing dumps. Any idea of copyright status on this stuff? I presume it's just abandoned IP?

#46 TLD1985 ONLINE  

TLD1985

    Chopper Commander

  • 240 posts

Posted Thu Mar 7, 2013 8:02 AM

Dumping will be easy, I think. I have a lot of edge connectors (22/44) and some small micros that could do that without a studio 2. the carts, of course, are a requirement. right now, i'm planning to do two repairs that will get me re-familiarized with this thing and allow me to set up a test bed, so before long, perhaps we can coordinate doing dumps. Any idea of copyright status on this stuff? I presume it's just abandoned IP?


Well legally the copyright would be owned by someone... although they probably don't even know they have the copyright on it. Practically yes completely abandoned... no one would give a damn...

#47 Gemintronic OFFLINE  

Gemintronic

    Jason S. - Lead Developer & CEO

  • 8,854 posts

Posted Thu Mar 7, 2013 8:02 AM

If Mickey Mouse is any indication of copyright law all the RCA Studio IIs will be broken pieces of plastic before it reaches public domain. I'd favor recreating it with off the shelf Arduino parts. You can get an Arduino Uno and 2 keypads for cheap. It has black and white TV out support with just a modified RCA cable and a few parts.

#48 fauxscot OFFLINE  

fauxscot

    Space Invader

  • 35 posts

Posted Thu Mar 7, 2013 8:18 AM

Well legally the copyright would be owned by someone... although they probably don't even know they have the copyright on it. Practically yes completely abandoned... no one would give a damn...


I presume as much, too. DMCA stinks! One great thing about Tektronix is that they PD their docs once the units go obsolete. Pretty cool really. But I think you're right, the entire S2 thing only exists in this thinly populated and highly motivated group of enthusiasts. If I wre the designer or author, I'd be flattered someone remembered.

#49 TLD1985 ONLINE  

TLD1985

    Chopper Commander

  • 240 posts

Posted Thu Mar 7, 2013 8:30 AM

Posted Image

MPT-02 versions of: 'Concentration Match', 'Pinball' and 'Grand Pack'

#50 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

BassGuitari

    Launch Edition

  • 6,035 posts
  • Remember how bright the future used to look?
  • Location:Milwaukee, WI

Posted Thu Mar 7, 2013 12:10 PM

I wouldn't be too concerned about copyright in this case. Whoever owns the IP to these games wouldn't be likely to take any action beyond a hollow C&D letter (and even that would be extraordinarily surprising, frankly), since any legal action they could take would cost more than whatever they could get out of a lawsuit. There's no money to be made there for them.

And that's assuming they A) even know they own the IP, as stated above, B) they actually know what the IP is that they own, and C) they get hot-and-bothered enough about a half-dozen vintage computer enthusiasts reproducing and sharing -read: exchanging monies, however small the amount- their software/designs for a nearly 40-year-old game system no one has ever heard of. That's a lot of assumptions, each less likely than the last.

For a Studio II multicart/repro/dump/whatever project to be shut down by the current IP owner, it would have to be the perfect storm of "OH, COME ON!"

Edited by BassGuitari, Thu Mar 7, 2013 12:11 PM.





0 user(s) are browsing this forum

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users