Jump to content

Photo

[AQUARIUS] Dusting off the old Aquarius ...

mattel aquarius homebrew

172 replies to this topic

#1 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

jaybird3rd

    Quadrunner

  • 9,283 posts
  • "Excuse me, sir? I have a question ..."
  • Location:806.4616.0110

Posted Sun Mar 31, 2013 5:42 PM

This is an update I've been waiting to write for quite a long time, and I thought it best to put it in its own thread, so here goes ...

After finishing my work on the Aquaricart in late 2011, I was forced to put my classic computing and gaming projects waaay on the back burner through most of 2012 because of some very stressful and time-consuming responsibilities at work. It couldn't be helped at the time, but I was profoundly annoyed at having to set these projects aside for so long. So, at the beginning of this year, I lightened my workload and resolved to create enough free time to regain my momentum and to get those projects back on track.

Here is the first practical result of those efforts ... a prototype of the latest revision of my SuperCart cartridge board, which I've been working on since early February:

supercart_rev2_proto.jpg

This represents the solution to one of the most vexing problems I've had since I started publishing Aquarius software on cartridge: the lack of a plentiful and consistent supply of affordable cartridge shells. The solution came about thanks to Joe "intvnut" Zbiciak, and the new Intellivision shells he has designed. Shown in the picture is a "limited edition" version of these new shells; it cannot be used with the Intellivision, but it works very well with the Aquarius, and with other systems whose cartridges are of a similar size but "upside-down" relative to the Intellivision's.

Because these shells are "upside-down", and are a different shape than the original Aquarius shells, I had to flip my SuperCart design "upside-down" and re-shape it for the new shells. It took some doing, but I finally have the new design finished to my liking, and the prototypes are functioning perfectly. I'll be sending it off for manufacturing soon.

Here's how a fully assembled cartridge looks inside the Mini Expander (the label would face the front), next to an original Aquarius cartridge shell for reference:

supercart_rev2_proto_expander.jpg

It's not a perfect cosmetic match for the originals, obviously, but it's still very attractive, and it even fits nicely into the Aquarius console itself. It almost looks like the Aquarius cartridges that Activision might have produced, if they had actually supported the Aquarius. But most importantly, it finally solves the problem of scarcity, for me and for any other Aquarius homebrew developers who might wish to use them. (Its more conventional shape may even allow us to produce boxes for our games, when the time comes.)

This new SuperCart board is functionally identical to the originals, so all the technical information that I posted in my original thread is still applicable. I'll probably be changing some of it a bit to make room for some other interesting features I have in mind, but ... that's for the next revision!

#2 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

jaybird3rd

    Quadrunner

  • Topic Starter
  • 9,283 posts
  • "Excuse me, sir? I have a question ..."
  • Location:806.4616.0110

Posted Sun Mar 31, 2013 5:42 PM

... but, of course, a new cartridge isn't much good without new software, so I've also begun preliminary work on my first homebrew game:

solitaire_cover.jpg

In thinking about the types of games that the Aquarius would be best suited for, I decided that my first few titles would be in the puzzle and strategy categories. The Aquarius has a workable set of playing card graphics in its character ROM, but surprisingly, nobody seems to have created any card games for the Aquarius (outside of a few simple BASIC implementations). Given the ongoing popularity of Windows Solitaire, it seems that solitaire card games are a perennial favorite, so I'll be starting with a collection of them for the Aquarius. (This may not be everyone's cup of tea, I know, but don't worry; it's only the first of four or five Aquarius game ideas that I have in mind.)

I hope to have this finished before the end of this summer. Since this year also marks the 30th anniversary of the Aquarius, I've got a few other fun ideas in the works as well. More to come!

#3 barnieg OFFLINE  

barnieg

    Moonsweeper

  • 408 posts
  • Location:Rugby, England

Posted Sun Mar 31, 2013 6:12 PM

Fantastic work on this, I think I'm sold on using 32K instead of 16k now - using a fixed 8k region. Especially if I want to cram in Music and Sound effects: Again point to Bob's stuff heres splattr which only used character cells and colour attributes but with Sound from a chip which I believe is near identical to the one in the miniexpander?
https://www.youtube....h?v=OJx_TLRabqk

Do you plan on doing another run of the Aquaricart using this new design?

Edited by barnieg, Sun Mar 31, 2013 6:13 PM.


#4 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

jaybird3rd

    Quadrunner

  • Topic Starter
  • 9,283 posts
  • "Excuse me, sir? I have a question ..."
  • Location:806.4616.0110

Posted Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:53 PM

Fantastic work on this, I think I'm sold on using 32K instead of 16k now - using a fixed 8k region. Especially if I want to cram in Music and Sound effects: Again point to Bob's stuff heres splattr which only used character cells and colour attributes but with Sound from a chip which I believe is near identical to the one in the miniexpander?
https://www.youtube....h?v=OJx_TLRabqk

Yes, the ZX Spectrum uses the AY-3-8910 sound and I/O chip, which is the same one used in the Aquarius Mini Expander (and in the Vectrex, and in the MSX computers, and in arcade coin-ops, and in many other machines as well). I'm very interested in exploring AY music, so I've looked into some of the composition tools, and many of them seem to be designed with the Speccy machines in mind. I'm sure it wouldn't be difficult to use them for Aquarius music also.

Do you plan on doing another run of the Aquaricart using this new design?

Certainly, if there's still any interest in it. I've always built Aquaricarts on demand, rather than building them in fixed runs. I never really stopped offering them, but the demand seems to have tapered off. I've just about run out of my original Aquarius cartridge donors, so after the new ones are available in bulk, I'll switch to the new cartridges, again building them on demand.

#5 pimpmaul69 OFFLINE  

pimpmaul69

    River Patroller

  • 4,870 posts
  • INTV Brotherhood Technician
  • Location:Colorado

Posted Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:59 PM

Yes, the ZX Spectrum uses the AY-3-8910 sound and I/O chip, which is the same one used in the Aquarius Mini Expander (and in the Vectrex, and in the MSX computers, and in arcade coin-ops, and in many other machines as well). I'm very interested in exploring AY music, so I've looked into some of the composition tools, and many of them seem to be designed with the Speccy machines in mind. I'm sure it wouldn't be difficult to use them for Aquarius music also.


Certainly, if there's still any interest in it. I've always built Aquaricarts on demand, rather than building them in fixed runs. I never really stopped offering them, but the demand seems to have tapered off. I've just about run out of my original Aquarius cartridge donors, and it will be a month before the new ones are available in bulk, so if anyone is still on the fence about getting an Aquaricart (and wants one in an original shell), they've got about another month to get one! After that, I'll switch to the new cartridges, again building them on demand.

i have a few donor carts if you need them. 2 if i have to make a ramcart or three if i have to get a 4k cart that i can modify

#6 cmart604 OFFLINE  

cmart604

    Intellivision Hoarder

  • 12,491 posts
  • Running out of things to buy.
  • Location:Vancouver

Posted Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:26 PM

Awesome news Jay! Excited to see the new box design to go along with the cart! :)

#7 Intymike OFFLINE  

Intymike

    River Patroller

  • 3,446 posts
  • Location:Rhine Valley

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 12:50 AM

Cool news!

#8 river9999uk OFFLINE  

river9999uk

    Chopper Commander

  • 138 posts
  • Location:Devon, England

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 10:29 AM

I'd love to see a sequel to Utopia ! ;)

#9 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

jaybird3rd

    Quadrunner

  • Topic Starter
  • 9,283 posts
  • "Excuse me, sir? I have a question ..."
  • Location:806.4616.0110

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 11:26 AM

I'd love to see a sequel to Utopia ! ;)

Hmmm ...

evilspock.jpg

"I shall consider it!"

#10 Chuck D. Head OFFLINE  

Chuck D. Head

    River Patroller

  • 3,514 posts
  • Facilitator of the Infinite
  • Location:Woodland, WA

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 12:29 PM

Jay, maybe I am crazy (cause I cant find it), but I could swear you had mentioned the possibility of making a cart with your board that was a combo of a game program and a ram expansion. Maybe I was delirious on cold medicine at some point?

#11 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

jaybird3rd

    Quadrunner

  • Topic Starter
  • 9,283 posts
  • "Excuse me, sir? I have a question ..."
  • Location:806.4616.0110

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 12:42 PM

Jay, maybe I am crazy (cause I cant find it), but I could swear you had mentioned the possibility of making a cart with your board that was a combo of a game program and a ram expansion. Maybe I was delirious on cold medicine at some point?

Yes, I pulled a few extra signals from the cartridge port that can be used for adding onboard RAM. I haven't made use of them yet, though, because I didn't want to create conflicts with other RAM upgrades later on. I'm thinking of offering a few "collector's edition" Aquaricarts with 32K of built-in RAM.

#12 Shinju OFFLINE  

Shinju

    Moonsweeper

  • 338 posts
  • Location:USA, Washington State, Seattle

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 12:45 PM

Definatly in for one of thses as soon as I get back from my Mexico vacation on the 13th!

Possible to put down a deposit on one?

#13 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

jaybird3rd

    Quadrunner

  • Topic Starter
  • 9,283 posts
  • "Excuse me, sir? I have a question ..."
  • Location:806.4616.0110

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 12:48 PM

Definatly in for one of thses as soon as I get back from my Mexico vacation on the 13th!

Possible to put down a deposit on one?

Thanks! I'm reluctant to take anyone's money ahead of having a product to offer, but I'm sure there will be plenty available when the time comes for anyone who's interested.

#14 vprette OFFLINE  

vprette

    Stargunner

  • 1,586 posts

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 12:50 PM

I'd love to see a sequel to Utopia ! ;)


maybe in 2014

#15 Chuck D. Head OFFLINE  

Chuck D. Head

    River Patroller

  • 3,514 posts
  • Facilitator of the Infinite
  • Location:Woodland, WA

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 12:55 PM

Yes, I pulled a few extra signals from the cartridge port that can be used for adding onboard RAM. I haven't made use of them yet, though, because I didn't want to create conflicts with other RAM upgrades later on. I'm thinking of offering a few "collector's edition" Aquaricarts with 32K of built-in RAM.


Ok, I am totally in on that one if you pull the trigger. So, if that cart lived in the Mini-expander and I put a new Jaybird3rd or Barnieg homebrew in the other slot would there be a "hold x key down to boot to x" situation? (haven't ever tried to put two carts in at once to see what would happen)

#16 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

jaybird3rd

    Quadrunner

  • Topic Starter
  • 9,283 posts
  • "Excuse me, sir? I have a question ..."
  • Location:806.4616.0110

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 1:19 PM

Ok, I am totally in on that one if you pull the trigger. So, if that cart lived in the Mini-expander and I put a new Jaybird3rd or Barnieg homebrew in the other slot would there be a "hold x key down to boot to x" situation? (haven't ever tried to put two carts in at once to see what would happen)

The Mini Expander was designed so that the program and memory cartridges would only work in their respective slots; it can't detect two program cartridges and allow you to choose one or the other. My cartridges will work in either slot, but I suspect that neither would work if you were to try two of them at once (they would conflict).

#17 Chuck D. Head OFFLINE  

Chuck D. Head

    River Patroller

  • 3,514 posts
  • Facilitator of the Infinite
  • Location:Woodland, WA

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 2:53 PM

The Mini Expander was designed so that the program and memory cartridges would only work in their respective slots; it can't detect two program cartridges and allow you to choose one or the other. My cartridges will work in either slot, but I suspect that neither would work if you were to try two of them at once (they would conflict).

OK, I forgot the slots were designated. Which I guess is fine, if I am thinking correctly that the only original games using 16/32K were cassette games? Then the "enhanced" Aquaricart would function as a ram cart in the memory slot and provide ram for the bigger cassette games, or as a game cart in the program slot. Would it make sense then that an "Aquaricart 2" with cassette games would incorporate the ram expansion?

#18 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

jaybird3rd

    Quadrunner

  • Topic Starter
  • 9,283 posts
  • "Excuse me, sir? I have a question ..."
  • Location:806.4616.0110

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 3:30 PM

OK, I forgot the slots were designated. Which I guess is fine, if I am thinking correctly that the only original games using 16/32K were cassette games? Then the "enhanced" Aquaricart would function as a ram cart in the memory slot and provide ram for the bigger cassette games, or as a game cart in the program slot. Would it make sense then that an "Aquaricart 2" with cassette games would incorporate the ram expansion?

The Aquaricart would actually function the same in both slots. To play cassette games which require the extra memory, you would simply select Extended BASIC from the Aquaricart and then load the cassette games from BASIC as usual.

As for the "Aquaricart 2", I've been debating the best approach. I'd rather not have to put RAM in every cartridge (to keep costs down and to avoid future conflicts), and I don't want to require any additional RAM modules because so few people have them. Instead, I'm going to try modifying the games to run entirely from the cartridge space, so they'll no longer require any extra RAM at all. It will take some experimentation, though, and might not work for all of them.

#19 Games For Your Intellivision OFFLINE  

Games For Your Intellivision

    River Patroller

  • 2,311 posts

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 3:39 PM

I don't know what kind of numbers you could sell, but our gatefold box fits those carts perfectly.

Obviously, if you only use 100 they can be pretty expensive, but might be something to consider.

#20 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

jaybird3rd

    Quadrunner

  • Topic Starter
  • 9,283 posts
  • "Excuse me, sir? I have a question ..."
  • Location:806.4616.0110

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 3:45 PM

I don't know what kind of numbers you could sell, but our gatefold box fits those carts perfectly.

Obviously, if you only use 100 they can be pretty expensive, but might be something to consider.

Thank you! That's very generous of you. 100 is probably pretty close to the size of the present Aquarius audience, unfortunately, but it's certainly something I'll be looking into.

#21 Games For Your Intellivision OFFLINE  

Games For Your Intellivision

    River Patroller

  • 2,311 posts

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 4:47 PM

One option is to create a generic Aquarius Gatefold, and then put a sticker with the name of the product on the spine and on the front.

That way, you can take 500-1000 of them, and release multiple titles in attractive boxes.

#22 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

jaybird3rd

    Quadrunner

  • Topic Starter
  • 9,283 posts
  • "Excuse me, sir? I have a question ..."
  • Location:806.4616.0110

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 10:34 PM

One option is to create a generic Aquarius Gatefold, and then put a sticker with the name of the product on the spine and on the front.

That way, you can take 500-1000 of them, and release multiple titles in attractive boxes.

I like that idea! It's somewhat similar to TI's approach to packaging for the 99/4A: generic boxes, with cutouts in the front to allow the manual inside to also serve as the front cover. A generic gatefold would make it possible to economically create as many or as few boxes for a given title as needed, and even one-offs. I'll have to take some time this summer to work out my ideas for the package design!

#23 Rev OFFLINE  

Rev

    IntellivisionRevolution

  • 16,506 posts
  • Location:NC

Posted Mon Apr 1, 2013 10:39 PM

Man, Jay, you may make me buy an Aquarius!

I wish I never sold it now!

#24 cmart604 OFFLINE  

cmart604

    Intellivision Hoarder

  • 12,491 posts
  • Running out of things to buy.
  • Location:Vancouver

Posted Tue Apr 2, 2013 12:08 AM

Man, Jay, you may make me buy an Aquarius!

I wish I never sold it now!


I'm pretty sure I have an extra one for you, I just need to test it

#25 pimpmaul69 OFFLINE  

pimpmaul69

    River Patroller

  • 4,870 posts
  • INTV Brotherhood Technician
  • Location:Colorado

Posted Tue Apr 2, 2013 12:23 AM

I'm pretty sure I have an extra one for you, I just need to test it

do u have extra cassette recorder with cable for sale by chance? or even just cassette cable if that is all u have extra of?





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: mattel, aquarius, homebrew

0 user(s) are browsing this forum

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users