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

RCA Studio II Interview

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#651 stupus OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Dec 12, 2015 3:32 PM

I have noticed that if you try to upload a very large picture or 1 at very high resolution even if it's not over the max file size it breaks the atariage file uploader.
I am guessing that is the problem you are having.
Only way around I know is to reduce the image or host the image outside AA.
:)

#652 toymailman OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 10:24 AM

Tried the 600 dpi setting instead of the 1200 and now it uploads.  Although the registration cards were scanned an uploaded and were scanned at 1200.

 

Visicom_Flyer-1.jpg Visicom_Flyer-2.jpg

 

Also, here are the first two pages of the manual.

Visicom_Manual-00.jpg Visicom_Manual-01.jpg



#653 stupus OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 1:32 PM

Cool, yeah it doesn't seem to be a particular restriction on size or resolution. But a particular combination of the 2, at some point seems to break the upload for some reason.....

#654 SSG OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Dec 15, 2015 9:28 PM

I thought about getting one of these someday. All these memories that people post just make me want to aquire some of these consoles even more. I wish I was around back when there was more consoles on the market and when you actually had to go to your friends house to play together.

#655 ubersaurus OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Dec 18, 2015 1:30 PM

Curious - does anyone have information on when Studio II games came out, or in what order? I assumed they all released in 1977, I'm just curious about what season and such they may have released, and this thread seems like the place that may have that information.



#656 Blazing Lazers OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Dec 18, 2015 11:35 PM

Curious - does anyone have information on when Studio II games came out, or in what order? I assumed they all released in 1977, I'm just curious about what season and such they may have released, and this thread seems like the place that may have that information.

It certainly is, and I've also worked out what I feel to be the exact order that the games were released in:

 

 

Aside from the uncertainties regarding Bingo (I've come to think it wasn't actually released), it's been relatively easy to determine what order the 10 extra games were released in. Going by the back of the system manual, an advertising/ordering insert, and the warranty card that came with an early release boxed system I have, the initial 3 launch titles available were TV Arcade I: Space War, TV Arcade II: Fun With Numbers, and TV Schoolhouse I: Math and Social Studies. The two TV Arcade titles were listed as being available for order at $14.95 each, and TV Schoolhouse I for $19.95, presumably due to its extra dimensions and included materials.

 

Most surprisingly, TV Casino I/TV Casino Series: Blackjack is NOT among the titles mentioned in the manual or original ordering pamphlet. The Warranty/Registration Card, however, does ask of consumers “which of the following additional cartridges, if any, have you purchased: TV School House Series, TV Casino Series, TV Arcade Series, None of the above, other”. Given that mention of the TV Casino Series and its high prevalence, Blackjack must have also been the 4th released title, as it certainly was an early release. Or, the documentation included in the initial systems was printed up before Blackjack was finished. What isn't certain about Blackjack is which box variant preceded the other- the TV Casino I box, which almost all of the cartridge labels and instruction manuals also say, or the TV Casino Series box. It's the only known box variant for the system (lazy variant collectors should love the Studio II) and is quite common, but it just isn't known which was the first and why there was a change. More to follow on this down below.

 

Of note is that the TV Mystic Series isn't mentioned at all- it came along later as the only game in the series.

 

TV Arcade III: Tennis/Squash and TV Arcade IV: Baseball seem to be the 5th and 6th releases, given that they're only slightly less common (strictly anecdotal) than the other early titles, and going by their numbering. For so many to have been made and evidently sold, they had to have been produced early on enough at the Swannanoa plant, per earlier information regarding production methods and numbers. Only 3,000 cartridges a day were made (for about 9 months) and out of that total daily number a specific amount would be allocated to be any particular title.

 

TV Schoolhouse II: Math Fun seems to be the 7th release, and TV Mystic Series: Biorhythm the 8th. Math Fun isn't uncommon, though Biorhythm is somewhat so (though not as rare as some make it out to be). Both are already known to be later releases, possibly because they were also programmed in color in addition to black and white in anticipation of them being forward compatible with the unreleased Studio III. RCA's release of them seems to indicate that they were released at a point where they hadn't yet decided to discontinue the Studio II yet still sometime after the release of the other more common games.

 

Once RCA did decide to cancel the Studio III work and discontinue the Studio II, they seem to have decided to salvage something of their investment on some finished games. Hence, TV Arcade Series: Gunfighter/Moonship Battle and TV Arcade Series: Speedway/Tag became the 9th and 10th releases, respectively. Gunfighter seems slightly more common of the two, and thanks to following newspaper it is known that is was already in stores as far away from the factory as Texas by September 6th, 1977:

 

http://atariage.com/...-1362714993.jpg

 

...which doesn't even mention Speedway/Tag being available. Now, given that Gunfighter has a higher part number than Speedway, it could mean that Speedway was finished first and released last, but who knows. Based on the confirmation of Gunfighter being available in stores at a time when Speedway isn't certain to have been, plus information related by the Swannanoa plant head, fauxscot and Joyce Weisbecker, I assign a slightly earlier release to Gunfighter. Speedway/Tag is also the only title that has NOT been confirmed as even having been manufactured along with all the others mass produced at Swannanoa, though if it was it was in smaller amounts than Gunfighter/Moonship.

 

Additionally, it is worth noting that the Tester I cartridge WAS available for purchase early on via the Service Manual, and enough would have been produced in anticipation of some of them being sold. While not a game, it was also “released” early on enough that it can reasonably considered an official release, though it is not an actual game title. It does have more credibility as a release than Bingo, which has never actually been confirmed as having been available for purchase.

 

Speaking of which, Bingo was likely NOT a game that had a retail release. My own conclusion in the matter is that the definite plans of RCA to release it (Joyce Weisbecker and Andy Modla confirmed as much) gave way to market realities, and in the case of Bingo may have also been due to the extra effort that would have been required to manufacture the title with all of the extra components (markers, etc). Bingo may have been canceled fairly early on too, if the designation of Blackjack was originally TV Casino I, and might have been changed to TV Casino Series once it was decided not to manufacture Bingo. Note that only the outer box was changed, and almost all copies of Blackjack have have TV Casino I instructions and cartridge labels reflecting the original plans of there being an eventual TV Casino II title. Certainly the variant box is common enough that any decision to cancel Bingo had to have been made early enough for so many copies of Blackjack with boxes indicative of the decision to have been manufactured and sold.

 

Given that the one known copy of Bingo ever, along with the only two Demonstration Cartridges (“Dan's” and the one Tom Keiser trashfound) were found in an area within reasonable distance of RCA's Deptford facilities, fauxscot's indication that RCA usually made a small amount of pre-production samples/mock-ups of titles and had only limited cartridge making capabilities around Deptford serves as an explanation of the “rarity” of these two titles. Any surviving such samples likely did so because RCA employees happened to hold on to them. This also opens up the possibility that such a sample was also made for the Pinball title, which was also programmed by Andy Modla and which could have had a limited sample run made. It certainly would have been easier to manufacture than all of the Bingo components. It's a shame “Dan” didn't also happen to encounter that, too...



#657 CatPix OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Dec 19, 2015 6:37 AM

And now onto the games released for the color clones.... :D



#658 ranger_lennier OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Dec 19, 2015 8:59 PM

Thanks for that very detailed writeup about the release history. You mentioned that some carts could have been programmed in color for forward compatibility with the Studio III. I would like to throw out an alternate/additional explanation. It could have been for the European/Australian clones. Whenever we've checked, carts released both in America and internationally had identical ROMs. The systems are all software compatible--try a European-only release in a Studio II emulator and it plays just fine, just in black and white. So, an American release could have been programmed with color in mind so it would look better on the clone systems. Thoughts?



#659 CatPix OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Dec 19, 2015 9:20 PM

IMO... The color clones simply attribute "random" colors out of a limited palette of the games. The Color models give one color to the background, one for the game "white" component, and one for the playfiled background.

 

Possibly they give different colors to moving parts or non moving parts (playfiled elements, scores?).

This method would explain why the Visicom (if I recall right) have differnt colors than European clones; it was either reprogrammed by Visicom, or they used a slightly different palette, probably because PAL and NTSC use a slightly different color space.



#660 Blazing Lazers OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 20, 2015 8:21 PM

Thanks for that very detailed writeup about the release history. You mentioned that some carts could have been programmed in color for forward compatibility with the Studio III. I would like to throw out an alternate/additional explanation. It could have been for the European/Australian clones. Whenever we've checked, carts released both in America and internationally had identical ROMs. The systems are all software compatible--try a European-only release in a Studio II emulator and it plays just fine, just in black and white. So, an American release could have been programmed with color in mind so it would look better on the clone systems. Thoughts?


The only definite answers there would reside in the repositories containing RCA's archives. That trip should occur in the months to come. As it is though, RCA likely had nothing of the European market in mind when developing the games, nor of the eventual clones that are truly Studio II's and III's. EVERYONE I've spoken to from back when had NO IDEA that there even were any foreign clones and games, and it was a surprise for all of them. The clones seem to have only come about after RCA got out of the videogame market altogether.

#661 CatPix OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 20, 2015 8:31 PM

I wouldn't be surprised that someone in Europe, or Hong Kong (if I had to give a name, then Soundic come first, and Hanimex second - lots of many Pong clones and other obscure system clones usually bear a motherboard with a SD-****** type serial number, and that SD probably stand for Soundic. But heh, I have no solid proofs) contacted RCA's headquarters and offered little money to buy their dead platforms, so the engineers that worked on the RCA Studio II never heard of it.

And Whoever took that console in charge probably though that no colors, and not even levels of grays like Pong clones of the era would make it a hard sell, especially if they planned to release all games along it, so they added some colorization logic in it.



#662 Blazing Lazers OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 21, 2015 6:09 AM

I wouldn't be surprised that someone in Europe, or Hong Kong (if I had to give a name, then Soundic come first, and Hanimex second - lots of many Pong clones and other obscure system clones usually bear a motherboard with a SD-****** type serial number, and that SD probably stand for Soundic. But heh, I have no solid proofs) contacted RCA's headquarters and offered little money to buy their dead platforms, so the engineers that worked on the RCA Studio II never heard of it.
And Whoever took that console in charge probably though that no colors, and not even levels of grays like Pong clones of the era would make it a hard sell, especially if they planned to release all games along it, so they added some colorization logic in it.


That is entirely possible, though it still leaves the Japanese games. Would Soundic have done those too, or Toshiba themselves?

#663 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 21, 2015 6:24 AM

CatPix: I've got RCA Biorhythm complete in box, and the made-up screenshot on the box displays the same colours as my Conic M1200 produces on screen, which would contradict with your statement that the clones output random colours. Other clones might handle the colours differently, I don't know.



#664 TLD1985 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 21, 2015 1:47 PM

Yes, the colours in the clone systems are not "random". different colours have been set on purpose altough it may well be (use colour 1,2,3,4,5..)  rather than anything else.

 

The Toshiba has a smaller colour set (3 colours from memory) whilst the euro/aus clones have (8 from memory)

 

 

I still need to video my Academy Apollo 80.. have some free time soon. 

 

 

As Blazing lasers said.. math fun and bioryhthm have "colour" information in them. Plug them into any euro clone and you get them in colour.  Plug the others in and you just get them in  darkblue and white.

 

I do find it interesting that Biorythms box matches the colour output of the game as that means whoever made the box art knew the "game" was in colour and what it looked like.



#665 CatPix OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 21, 2015 2:47 PM

I expressed myself incorrectly. By "random" I mean that the colors displayed aren't coded in game (that is, code say "color 1" ) but the console identify the item displayed (background, score, text, controllable sprite, computer controller sprite, etc...) and the console attribute one color to each of those elements (an attribution that is hard-coded, not random - what I meant by random is that whoever made this picked the color themselves, they didn't choose them in accordance with the game programmers). So of course, all clones having the same origins, they all displays the same color and RCA studio II games works too, as the Euro games are, apparently, the same exact ones.

If the system was never made for color, and color is consistent between games and/or clones, then it has to be a coloring system into the system, and not the games.


Edited by CatPix, Mon Dec 21, 2015 2:49 PM.


#666 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 21, 2015 3:48 PM

The Doodle program on my Conic M1200 has - as previously reported - a foreground palette consisting of 8 colours: red, dark blue, dark pink, dark green, light green/yellow, light blue, white and black. At the same time, it seems to have a background palette that can be either super dark blue or dark(er?) green. I'm willing to think that the unreleased Studio 3 had a similar palette, and the clone manufacturers somehow obtained docs on that in order to not only add colours, but intended colours for the few games that had such information coded in.

 

As can be seen in the video slydc posted before, the Toshiba Visicom only seems to use foreground colours light blue, light green and yellow/brown on some kind of dark teal background, or perhaps it was the video capture card playing havoc with the colours. However, as I noted back then, the built-in (?) bowling game uses all three foreground colours compared to the M1200 which has one solid foreground colour at a time, so it is possible that bowling either is interpreted differently or reprogrammed for the Toshiba.

 

I don't have the car racing game, so I can tell how the colour information would be used, and slydc didn't play the casino game for comparison, but he wrote the following:

 

The Conic uses two TTL's (CD4001 & CD4069) with a PAL Color encoder circuit and the Toshiba uses a lot of transistors. Even an MTP-02 (say...Hanimex) uses a PAL color encoding circuit with five TTL's. Would love to have HD pics of an MPT-02 (Hanimex or Soundic) board (both sides) to see how the color encoder circuit is interconnected.

 

He also mentioned to later on build a cartridge adapter so the Toshiba would be able to take carts from other systems, but I can't recall if progress on that has been reported.



#667 TLD1985 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 21, 2015 4:53 PM

I expressed myself incorrectly. By "random" I mean that the colors displayed aren't coded in game (that is, code say "color 1" ) but the console identify the item displayed (background, score, text, controllable sprite, computer controller sprite, etc...) and the console attribute one color to each of those elements (an attribution that is hard-coded, not random - what I meant by random is that whoever made this picked the color themselves, they didn't choose them in accordance with the game programmers). So of course, all clones having the same origins, they all displays the same color and RCA studio II games works too, as the Euro games are, apparently, the same exact ones.

If the system was never made for color, and color is consistent between games and/or clones, then it has to be a coloring system into the system, and not the games.

 

The order of the colours and their respective notes are:

 

3 - Red  ©

4 - Blue  (D)

5 - Violet  (E)

6 - Green  (F)

7 - Yellow  (G)

8 - Aqua  (A)

9 - White  (B)

0 - Black  ©

 

then background has a darker blue and a darker green

 

out of all the games "PInball" has the most colours on the screen at once. I think it's 5 from memory.



#668 toymailman OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 1, 2016 9:33 AM

Below is the entire Toshiba Visicom instruction manual.  I scanned at 600 dpi and then had to scale it 50%.  Uploaded just fine.

 

Visicom_Manual-00sm.jpg Visicom_Manual-01sm.jpg

Visicom_Manual-02sm.jpg Visicom_Manual-03sm.jpg Visicom_Manual-04sm.jpg

Visicom_Manual-05sm.jpg Visicom_Manual-06sm.jpg

Visicom_Manual-07sm.jpg Visicom_Manual-08sm.jpg Visicom_Manual-09sm.jpg

Visicom_Manual-10sm.jpg Visicom_Manual-11sm.jpg



#669 ranger_lennier OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 3, 2016 11:08 AM

Thanks for the scans. I just wish I read Japanese. :) Would you mind uploading your original scans somewhere? Something like Dropbox or Mega works, but this would actually be a good candidate for archive.org. Just put everything in a zip file and go here:

 

https://archive.org/create/



#670 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 3, 2016 11:15 AM

In unrelated news (but related to the Studio II), I finally got a copy of Gunfighter/Moonship Battle! :-D It's loose but the labels are very clean (for Studio II cartridge labels). It was sneaked in with a lot of CIB commons so I got for pretty cheap, too. :)

Now to track down a box and manual...



#671 Atari2008 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 3, 2016 1:02 PM

In unrelated news (but related to the Studio II), I finally got a copy of Gunfighter/Moonship Battle! :-D It's loose but the labels are very clean (for Studio II cartridge labels). It was sneaked in with a lot of CIB commons so I got for pretty cheap, too. :)

Now to track down a box and manual...

Niiiiice!!! Have you played it yet? I was always intrigued by that game, not just given how rare it is but that it actually appears to be an arcade like game on the Studio II. Have fun!



#672 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 3, 2016 1:44 PM

Niiiiice!!! Have you played it yet? I was always intrigued by that game, not just given how rare it is but that it actually appears to be an arcade like game on the Studio II. Have fun!

I've played it in emulation but I don't have my Studio II out so I haven't fired up the cartridge yet...which I'm oddly excited to do. Gunfighter is the closest thing to a good game the Studio II has! :P



#673 Atari2008 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 3, 2016 1:48 PM

Don't have your Studio II out? I'm surprised it's not permanently set up and ready for action at any given moment. ;-)

I agree, it is the closest to a good Studio II game. I feel that way about Space War too.

#674 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 3, 2016 2:02 PM

Perhaps the Studio II was the role model for WOPR? "The only winning move is not to play"



#675 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 3, 2016 2:51 PM

Don't have your Studio II out? I'm surprised it's not permanently set up and ready for action at any given moment. ;-)

I agree, it is the closest to a good Studio II game. I feel that way about Space War too.

It's funny you say that because earlier this year (okay, *last* year :P) I actually did have it out for a little while, set up on the big CRT in my game room with my PlayStation 2 and Atari XEGS. I actually wish I could set it up in its own little corner somewhere with one of my old b/w CRTs because every once in a while I get an itch to mess around with it, but not enough to bother getting it out and setting it up (hooking up the switchbox is sort of an inconvenience).

Or maybe I should just leave it hooked up and displayed with the big LCD in the living room. :-D






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