What is the Harmony Encore?
Hamony Encore is a new, feature-packed Harmony cartrdge for the Atari 2600. It is fully reverse-compatible with Harmony but offers 512k of ROM or RAM and 1M of EEPROM storage. It was designed with the goal that it will run fully 100% of Atari 2600 games, old and new.
Hamony Encore's hardware is finished and the pre-production versions will have the same capabilities as upcoming production versions, as they will use the same circuit boards and the same chips.
When can I buy Harmony Encore?
On January 18, 2014, a pre-production, standard edition Hamony Encore will be available at the NWCGE swap meet in Portland, Oregon. See http://www.nwcge.org/blog/
for more information about this event. Hamony Encore will not be available anywhere else until around March or April 2014.
Please bear in mind that at the time of this writing, Hamony Encore's firmware is still being completed. If you purchase Hamony Encore at the NWCGE swap meet, even if we aren't able to finish the firmware in time, you will be able to enjoy your cartridge right away as it's fully reverse-compatible with existing Harmony firmware. Although the existing firmware does not support all of Hamony Encore's features, those who purchase at the event will be contacted personally with firmware updates and will be the first to enjoy the features this new cartridge has to offer.
Even with the existing firmware, Hamony Encore supports some games right now due to the custom bankswitching extension. For example, you will be able to play the Boulderdash demo right away and we will show you how.
What about Harmony 2?
The Harmony 2 cartridge, for the Atari 7800, is now known as "the Concerto cartridge."
I know many are anxious for the release of this cartridge, but it is still in development. It's gone through more than a dozen hardware revisions including two ground-up redesigns and currently it's better than I ever imagined. The latest redesign was conceived to be 100% reverse-compatible with Harmony AND Hamony Encore at the hardware and firmware level, so all of the games that work on Harmony and Harmony Encore will work on Concerto. We hope Concerto will be done in time for CGE 2014 (if there is one) or PRGE 2014.
Should I get a Harmony or Harmony Encore?
Harmony's design philosophy was to bring you a versatile, inexpensive flash cartridge for the Atari 2600. It was a design decision to balance cost and compatibility, and as such, Harmony is indeed inexpensive yet supports more than 99% of past and present games.
Hamony Encore was conceived in response to concerns that Harmony could not play 100% of games, such as the BoulderDash demo and some new 64k and up homebrew games, such as Zippy the Porcupine, which is currently in development. Currently, new homebrew boards are being devised to support these larger games, and the Hamony Encore will support games with up to 512k ROM/RAM. Not everyone wishes to wait for the Concerto cartridge or to pay the extra cost to buy it, and not everyone owns an Atari 7800, so Harmony Encore is intended to serve that niche.
How much will Harmony Encore cost?
Although the price of the production version is not yet determined, we will be offering the special, pre-production, standard edition of Hamony Encore exclusively at the NWCGE swap meet for $84.99. We will let you know how far along the firmware is next week, and you are welcome to try out Harmony Encore to determine if you're ready to buy now or wait.
I was thinking about buying a Harmony. Should I wait for Harmony Encore instead?
If you aren't worried about the fewer than 1% of games that Harmony won't play, get a Harmony. If you want your cartridge to support 100% of games, you can wait, or you can buy and enjoy a Harmony now and upgrade later. See the next section below.
Can I upgrade my Harmony to Harmony Encore?
If you bought a Harmony cartridge from http://harmony.atariage.com
during or after November, 2013, your cartridge should support an upgrade to Hamony Encore. This is because these newer Harmony cartridges use the same circuit board as Harmony Encore.
Upgrading requires shipping your cartridge back to me, and I will attach the additional chips and other components needed to turn it into Harmony Encore, and I'll reprogram, test and relabel your cartridge, then ship it back to you.
The fee for the upgrade will be around $25 plus shipping costs. The upgrade service will be available beginning around March or April, 2014.
Can I just buy the parts and upgrade my Harmony myself?
This is not recommended. The chips needed to upgrade are all surface-mount, with one being a fine-pitch surface mount component (0.5 mm pitch) that requires a considerable level of soldering skill. However, if you are convinced that you can do it and have experience with fine-pitch surface mount parts, we are willing to let you know what parts to buy but we cannot be responsible for any damages caused and all warranties are void.
If anyone has questions, please ask!