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Hi-Res Bally Arcade/Astrocade Correspondence

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#1 ballyalley OFFLINE  



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Posted Thu Jul 7, 2016 2:30 PM

I have added correspondence from 1985 and 1986 between Michael Matte, Don Gladden (who edited volume 6 of the Arcadian) and Bob Fabris.  Michael wrote the documentation on how to upgrade the Bally Arcade to hi-res mode.  His letters primarily deal with this matter, but he also drops some wonderful tid-bits, such as that he made a BalCheck II for his hi-res unit.  He also upgraded the Machine Language Manager cartridge so that it could take advantage of hi-res mode.


Michael's Astrocade High-Resolution Upgrade documentation is available here:




I have added the correspondence to this upgrade area.  I've also revamped the entire area.  I added details about what is in the documentation "packages" that Michael wrote (I'll explain that in more detail in another post that I'll make soon).


Some of the letters were typed and some were handwritten by the authors.  I have used a combination of retyping, OCR and voice-to-text (using Dragon) to make the letters into text files (and searchable pdfs, in the case of the typed letters).  Rather than linking to the letters, I'm going going to include them in-full here:


1) Letter to Don Gladden from Michael Matte (June 7 and 8, 1985)


June 7, 1985


Dear Don:

I personally would like to have the option of programming on a high resolution screen. I have interfaced Texas Instrument's TMS9918A video display processor with my Astrocade computer, the chip having a high resolution mode, but I would prefer to program on a high resolution screen mapped by Bally's custom address and data chips because Bally's high resolution map (320 x 204 pixels) is easier to work with. Recently I have attempted to get my Astrocade computer to operate in the high resolution mode. I was aware that Datamax Inc. manufactured the Datamax UV-1 computer (16K ROM, 16K Screen RAM, and 32K User RAM) which utilized Bally's 3 custom address, data and I/O chips. In July of 1984, per my request, Datamax sent me copies, for a price, of electronic schematics and PC board layouts, but to my surprise, the copies were for their upgraded UV-1R (32K ROM, 256 Multipage Screen RAM, and 32K User RAM) computer.

With the aid of these schematics I came up with a scheme allowing my Astrocade computer to operate in the low or high resolution mode. Unfortunately, there's a "bug" in my scheme. I can display the high resolution map, write to it or read from it, and perform all the magic functions on it, but I get these glitches on the screen, occasionally, which appear and disappear. I used 0.1uf bypass capacitors judiciously for the four 16k banks of Screen RAM (I used type MK4116N-4 chips) and all other chips. I think the problem is somewhere in the timing.

Datamax's CPU board layout, where the Bally custom address and data chips are located, doesn't quite agree with its CPU board schematic, i.e., some resistors and capacitors appear on the CPU board layout but NOT on the CPU schematic. Datamax's scheme for the microcycler is almost identical to Bally/Astrocade's microcycler. Datamax added a chip to their microcycler which doesn't look like it's wired correctly (a drafting error?) and I haven't been able to figure out the reason for that additional chip due to lack of appropriate information on the Bally custom address and data chips. True, the Dave Nutting Associates manual provides information on the 3 custom chips, but offers no help as to how one would wire the required four 4K banks of screen RAM (and microcycler?) to get the high resolution map. What I would like to do is get my hands on copies of Datamax's UV-1 computer back in 1981 when it was a simpler system having only 16K ROM, 16K Screen RAM, and 32K User RAM.

I said all of this hoping the Arcadian might be able to help me out. How many other Bally/Astrocade computer users would be interested in expanding their system to provide an optional Bally high resolution map? Could you possibly print the following ad in the Arcadian? [I couldn't find the ad that Michael refers to to in the Fabris Collection, unless Michael is referring to the entire second part of his letter, dated the next day.]


June 8, 1985

Dear Don:

I would like to provide for each new issue of the Arcadian an article on machine language programming for the Bally/ Astrocade computer. Hopefully the article would generate interest in some users to explore this powerful language. Perhaps programs with complex graphics might be created as a result of this interest.

With regard to submitting my articles to you, I have no idea as to how the Arcadian produces some of its articles with such small print. The only printer I have is an electrical typewriter. I could submit my articles to you using a double column on a 7" x 9.5" space giving you room for a border line, the Arcadian logo and so on. Would I be allowed to fill 3 pages (sides)? I have a lot of information to share, information that I haven't seen in the Arcadian (Vol. 4-6). Please give me some input regarding article submittals.

I realize you don't know what my background in machine language programming is. My articles will stress examples. Let my examples establish my credibility. I can show how to create fast non-blinking graphics.

This paragraph is for the Arcadian's information (for whatever its worth) that we users might pool our resources and continue support of the Bally/Astrocade computer. I haven't submitted any written material to the Arcadian previously because I have been working on projects for use with my Astrocade computer, projects such as:

1. A substitution for the Bally/Astrocade AC power transformer

2. Adding (or replacing RF modulator with) a composite video output and audio output for improved picture and sound

3. Interfacing Texas Instrument's TMS9918A video display processor

4. Adding 32K dynamic RAM addressed 8000-FFFFH and

5. Adding switchable 12K static RAM addressed 5000-7FFFH along with a video-cade copier connector.

I plan to build an eprom programmer that can be used with the Bally/Astrocade computer so that 2K, 4K and 8K EPROMS can be "burned", I also plan to develop a troubleshooting procedure and troubleshooting/check program for a Bally/Astrocade motherboard and hopefully any memory add-on. Incidentally, substitutions or equivalent replacements for any electrical/electronic component in the Bally/Astrocade computer will continue to be easily available, with the exception of the 3 custom chips and perhaps the +10V voltage regulator LM342P-10 (component #VR2). Most probably, the 3 custom chips will eventually be unavailable. The +10V voltage regulator is not used often and may eventually be unavailable. Jameco Electronics (415-592-8097), for example, is clearing out their stock of the IM342P-10 (it is listed in their flyer #127). For those who have committed themselves to the use of their Bally/Astrocade computer (I know I have), my advice is to take advantage of ABC Hobbycraft's sale on Astrocade units for $34.95 and motherboards for $5.00 so you have some back up parts while they are still cheap and available.

Michael C. Matte

2) Letter to Bob Fabris By Michael Matte (December 21, 1985)

Dear Robert:

Thanks for responding to my 8 June and 7 June letters sent to Don Gladden, whom I have not received a response from.

I have a lot of information that I would like to share with the ARCADIAN. However, I question some of the information that I have as to whether or not you can publish it due to possible infringements on copyrights or perhaps patents. What I will do is send my own creations (tutorials, upgrades, whatever) to Don Gladden and to you I will send any questionable material indicating the source(s) of info for you to do with as you desire. It is my desire that support of the Astrocade home computer will continue.

Right now I have doubts that the ARCADIAN will continue publishing issues. Upon receipt of the next issue (Dec. ’85?), I will send an article to Don detailing a power transformer substitution for the Astrocade computer. After receipt of each future issue of the ARCADIAN, I will send to Don a tutorial on programming the Astrocade computer in machine language. I have already written several tutorials on this subject just waiting to be submitted to the ARCADIAN. Further material on other subjects will be sent to Don or yourself, of course at my discretion.

You asked me if I was aware of the Balchek program. Did you know that there exists a Balchek II? Yes, there is! Balchek II is an improved version of Balchek enabling its user to also check a RAM add-on. I have gone through the disassembled listing of Balcheck, have made some changes and deleted some of the useless routines to allow room to check a RAM add-on. Yes, Balchek II does exist, although not quite finished yet. I have a copy of it on tape. Wish you could see it.

There is something else I wish you could see. That is, the Astrocade home computer running with a high resolution map (320x204 pixels). What a difference! I have resolved the high resolution glitch problem described in my June '85 letter I sent to Don. I am currently writing an 8K byte software package to be eventually burned on an EPROM. The package will contain an improved 2K byte high resolution version of Bit Fiddler’s MLM, 2K bytes for 33 high resolution subroutines (similar to the onboard subroutines) and 4K bytes devoted to extended high resolution graphic subroutines. My Astrocade computer can now operate with a low or high resolution map. Unfortunately, modifications were required on the motherboard to get the on-board custom address and data chips to operate in the high resolution mode. I can't see any way of getting the on-board custom chips to operate in high resolution without making some modifications to the motherboard. You mentioned John Perkin's efforts.

What did he do? Perhaps a second set of custom chips and associated circuitry could be utilized as an add-on, but where would one get the custom chips from? Or perhaps the circuitry could be provided as an add-on and then the 3 on-board chips removed from their sockets and placed in their respective add-on sockets? It would be nice to come up with a simple means of providing any Astrocade user, how few there may be, the option of high resolution graphics, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Any comments?

Michael C. Matte

3) Letter to Michael Matte by Bob Fabris (December 26, 1985) - Draft

12/26 [1985]

Dear Michael [Matte],

Your most interesting letter just arrived and I thought I'd best get back right away.  Primarily because there is no point in sending anything to Don Gladden.  He's not involved with Arcadian production any longer.

We'll certainly keep the Arcadian going for two more issues (I trust you received the December issue by now).  Whether to go after issues 3 and 4 depends on reader response and material to print.  It does seem like we have a somewhat dedicated kernel of Arcadian enthusiasts.

Balcheck II?  Now that's a big surprise!  Is Dick Belton aware of your efforts?  I'm sure he would find it very interesting.

And a high-rise machine too!  Motherboard changes are acceptable-- I recall John's board had lots of piggyback memory attached-- I'll try to get in touch with him-- I think he is still with?  We have some motherboards here and some spare chips as well.  Actually, the units themselves are getting so cheap that one can build up the extra parts relatively cheaply.

[Bob Fabris]
4) Hi-Res Package Cover Letter (to Bob Fabris) by Michael Matte (July 3, 1986)

July 3, 1986

Dear Robert:

Enclosed are five, what I have labeled as, "packages" for use as you desire.

I've thought about the possibility of production or sales for package 1 upgrade.  It would be great to play with games utilizing high-resolution graphics.  However, I see many complications.  I would be willing to make the necessary modifications to any motherboard and perhaps wire the power supply, but I have really little desire to wire wrap anymore RAM boards or audio/video boards.  Who would have the skills to layout and manufacturer a PC RAM board PC audio/video board?  Since much of the video RAM and composite video electronics was taken from the Datamax UV-1R computer, wouldn't permission be required from Datamax to market the RAM board and audio/video board?

What common means should be used to program the Astrocade high-resolution graphics: ZGRASS and/or a machine/assembly language monitor or BASIC?  I can't see how I could market any Hi-Res MLM [Machine Language Manager cartridge] if it utilizes portions of Bit Fiddlers' MLM, an Astrocade BASIC PC board, Astrocade BASIC routines for the audio interface (>=8000H constraint deleted) and routines almost identical to the Astrocade onboard subroutines?  DataMax utilized, at one time, 16K bytes ROM (including ZGRASS) for their UV-1 computer.  Perhaps this could be utilized into the upgrade.  However, the DataMax UV-1 computer required the use of a computer terminal.

What common means of saving data should be used?  Would an external keyboard be required?  Obviously, to get the most out of the high-resolution graphics, a common means of programming in that mode is required.  A group effort is indeed required to get the job done and maybe some input from potential users.  So tell me, is there a next step?  I need help on this one.  Who has the desire to invest in such a project?  Would there be enough interest to make the project feasible?

Recently, I read a Viper sales brochure claiming that their 8K/24K switch allowed any cartridges in the cassette slot to be copied out to Viper RAM.  This puzzled me.  Do you have any idea how this copy feature was accomplished?  I can see how the Z80 could read data from a cartridge and by electronic trickery, the same data would be written to RAM.  But this would require the user to utilize every aspect of the cartridge, so every byte of the cartridge would be read by the Z80. The 8K/24K switch in packages 1, 4 and 5 only allows the user to develop software addressed 2000-3FFFH with the intent that the software would eventually be realized in cartridge form.  That is, machine code can be entered/loaded into 6000-7FFFH and then switched to the respective locations in 2000-3FFFH.

Please explain your reference to Dick Belton, i.e. is he troubleshooting RAM add-ons?  What's his address?

As usual, please mail the enclosed postcard, so I know you received the enclosed material.

Michael C. Matte

P.S. In case you're wondering, I spent much time developing the upgrade and Hi-Res MLM for my own use.  I also had the hope that more experienced people might take the upgrade and somehow market it and that I might act as an advisor or maybe even a partner.


The hi-res Astrocade upgrade is very intriguing to me, and I figured who wouldn't want to read more about it from these letters.  Does this get anyone interested in upgrading their systems?



#2 ballyalley OFFLINE  



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Posted Thu Jul 7, 2016 2:43 PM

I have added details about the documentation that Michael Matte wrote about each part of his five "packages" in today's revamp of the Astrocade High-Resolution Upgrade area on BallyAlley.com.  Michael's documentation is handwritten, so I re-typed and used Dragon voice-to-text to create the descriptions, which (in most cases) are just slightly edited quotes of Michael's own descriptions of his "packages."

Hi-Res Package 1 - Astrocade System Upgrade

"Package 1" of the Astrocade System Upgrade (low or high resolution graphics, user RAM, composite color video output and audio output) contains fifteen pages of schematics and layouts. Here is what is included in Astrocade Hi-Res Package 1:
  1. Contents
  2. Modified Motherboard Schematic
  3. Modified Motherboard Layout
  4. Power Supply Schematic/Regulator Board Layout
  5. Ram Board 50-Pin Contact Expand Interface Schematic
  6. Ram Board User Ram Decoder Schematic
  7. Ram Board User Ram Schematic
  8. Ram Board Video Ram Interface Schematics (Two)
  9. Ram Board Video Ram Schematic
  10. Ram Board Layout
  11. Ram Board Optional 16K Rom Decoder Schematic
  12. Ram Board Spares
  13. Audio/Video Board Schematic
  14. Audio/Video Board Layout
Drawing Comments
  1. RAM Board Video RAM Schematic - Type 4116 dynamic RAM is used in lieu of type 4027, since it is generally cheaper and easier to obtain.
  2. Ram Board Layout - Close To Actual Size
  3. Ram Board Optional 16K Rom Decoder Schematic - Scheme Is Untested
  4. Audio/Video Board Layout - Type LM377 audio amplifier chip is probably discontinued. Other audio amplifiers can be substituted. Radio Shack, for example, has several audio amplifier chips.
  5. Audio/Video Board Layout - Close To Actual Size

Hi-Res Package 2 - Low/High Resolution Modification Procedure

Nineteen pages describing what and how to modify the Astrocade motherboard, plus how to wire the RAM board, which contains video and user RAM.

It is assumed the user of this procedure has a copy of the Bally Service Manual PA-1. Beginning experimenters in digital electronics should not attempt this upgrade. Several unused gate inputs are shown wired to +5V via a 10K current limiting resistor allowing TTL chips to be occasionally substituted in lieu of LS TTL chips. If only LS TTL chips will be utilized, then wire the unused inputs directly to +5V (no resistor). Numbers following procedure statements indicate reference should be made to the note numbers, which are listed following the procedure.

Two low resolution demos and a high resolution demo, for testing purposes, are available on cassette tape. Mail the request for the demos along with $7.00, to cover the cost of the tape, postage and packaging.

Hi-Res Package 3 - Copies of some Datamax UV-R1 Schematics

These schematics were used to come up with the Astrocade system upgrade package 1. Comparison of the schematics will show the similarities of the Astrocade upgrade with the Datamax UV-1R. For a complete set of Datamax UV-1R schematics and layouts (excluding power supply) contact DataMax Inc. I paid $30 for one set of prints (21 drawings). The notes on the attached Datamax schematics were added by myself, way back when I was for studying the schematics.

Hi-Res Package 4 - 44K Byte Dynamic RAM Add-On

This one-page instruction sheet uses three schematics in "Package 1 Astrocade System Upgrade" to make some deletions for this upgrade.

Add-on requires only +5V power supply. Refer to power supply schematic in Package 1. This add-on is recommended only for use with separate composite video and audio outputs between monitor/TV.

Hi-Res Package 5 - 12K Byte Static RAM Add-On

Static RAM does not require any refreshing or special timing circuitry. Data will remain intact as long as +5V is supplied to the board and the write protect switch is on. This feature allows the board to be disconnected from one computer and connected to a second computer or allow cartridge swapping without running loops. In either case, the data in Static RAM will remain intact (unchanged).

The Balcheck II display is optional and is used by Balcheck II software (not available at this time) to aid in troubleshooting the motherboard or static RAM. The videocade connector allows a videocade to be copied to tape. A videocade PC board, removed from its cartridge, is inserted in the videocade connector. Astrocade BASIC (or Bally BASIC) is then used to copy the contents of 6000-7FFFH to tape.

Incidentally, this add-on can be used with the Package 1 upgrade (connected to 50-pin expand header). This add-on requires only a +5V power supply.


Wouldn't it be great if someone could use this information that Michael Matte create to actually made a hi-res Astrocade?



#3 ballyalley OFFLINE  



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Posted Mon Aug 28, 2017 5:50 PM

Since I posted this hi-res correspondence, I have been in contact with Michael Matte.  He has been working on some projects with his Astrocade that he upgraded from the Bally's standard low-resolution (160x102) to High-Resolution (320x204).  Last week, he took a screenshot of a hi-res demo that he wrote to test the unit.  He describes the picture in detail.  I'll post his comments below this inline picture:


Hi-Res Astrocade  (August 2017)(Michael Matte).jpg


Here are Michael's slightly-edited comments on the picture:

"I was running my hi-res demo and thought I'd take a crack at a screen shot. I think I just lucked out with this shot. It was a hand held shot. Thought I'd send it to you right away since I think it turned out pretty good. Note the wagon on the right side moves much faster than the moving critter on the left side of the fish tank.

"Out of curiosity, I took 2 shots of the Astrocade insides. These 2 shots didn't turn out very good. Plan later to rig a tripod set up, an attempt to keep my camera still for close ups.

"Haven't really done much on my hi-res Astrocade tour project except for mounting an air-flow vent. Oh, I forgot to tell you I plan to buy a higher quality camera, perhaps the Canon Rebel series this December."

After I asked Michael if it was okay if I shared the picture with the group, he responded:

"Sure. Post away. As a reminder, the wagon on the right moves up and down, the 7 fish move at random and the critter left of the tank bounces around. Fifteen static graphics are written in 15 magic combinations. The elapsed time counter below the tank displays even in hours. The counter to the right counts up every time the wagon hits an upper or lower limit. The critter also has a limits counter below it. The wagon moves much faster than the critter who is in no hurry to go anywhere.

"This demo was written back in the 80's to test the high-res screen map on my modified Bally/Astrocade. The lucky handheld screen shot was taken on a 20" Toshiba TV. The video display is composite not RF modulated. You've seen these graphics before but not in high-res. This is the first time anyone has seen a screen shot on my high-res Astrocade. I am honored to present this posting to you."

Thanks, Michael, for sharing this unique picture!

Pretty cool, right?!?


#4 ballyalley OFFLINE  



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Posted Wed Aug 30, 2017 2:04 PM

On August 29th, Michael wrote me another email about his hi-res Astrocade.  With his permission, I'm posting most of that email here:

"Thanks for posting the photo. It's nice to see someone acknowledging my work. Look forward to the reaction when I submit my pictorial tour [of the interior of my hi-res Astrocade]. If I can't get some good close-ups with the camera I have now, I'll just send some preliminary photos that turned out OK and submit the tour when I get a better camera. I'll also include screen shots of hi-res MLM and the low-res menu/games running on a hi-res map. It looks like I'm beginning to reap the fruit of my labor thanks to you. It definitely was a challenge and has required a lot of time, effort and frustration, but to me it was worth it. When that day comes and I see The Incredible Wizard running in hi-res, I will surely boast, rejoice and eat of the fruit.

"[The] Hi-res MLM [Machine Language Manager cartridge] is now on EEPROM. I'm amazed the program saved on tape back in the 80's is still intact. I loaded the tape into user RAM at 6000H and copied it to an EEPROM at 8000H and in about 80 seconds hi-res MLM resides on an EEPROM for the first time. It now sits in my switchable 28 pin compatible socket at 6000H. With a flip of a min-toggle, it resides at 2000H. I played around with it the other day. I forgot how cool this upgrade is. With the audio feedback every time you press a key plus my remote keypad, I was writing bytes into user RAM at 8000H really fast. You don't even need to watch the screen to confirm the correct byte was written. Really nice! This one feature will save a lot of time compared to low-res MLM. Hi-res MLM is not quite finished though. It needs some final touches before I can release it to the Bally Alley. Also, it needs full documentation which does not exist as of today.

"Again, thanks for motivating and helping me."

#5 ballyalley OFFLINE  



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Posted Tue Sep 5, 2017 5:42 PM

On Sunday, September 3, 2017, Michael Matte sent me an email with the subject line "Hi-Res Astrocade Tour."  The email also contained four pictures.  He gave me permission to post one of the pictures and most of the email.  Here is what Michael wrote:

"My tour [of the inside of my Hi-Res Astrocade upgrade] project is on hold. I made the changes, mentioned in a previous email, to my hi-res Astrocade. I took some photos today and the close shots are unsatisfactory to me. For some reason when you close in on a shot, the left side of the photo is out of focus. My camera may not be designed for real close-ups. So, I'm going to wait until I get that better camera [that I mentioned to you previously].

"Of the 14 shots I took only one turned out good in my opinion. Attached to this email is that photo plus 3 not so good screen shots I included because I know you are curious."


Here is the picture of Michael's Astrocade setup.  It may look like Michael has the rare Viper 1 RAM expansion unit, but he doesn't.  That Viper 1 box is "just" an empty case that he got in the 1980s.  He built his RAM expansion inside of it.  As you can see, he created his own full-stroke keyboard for his unit, and he has an external 24-key keypad too.


Hi-Res Astrocade 002.JPG


That's a pretty nice setup, right?


Michael's email continues:


"If you want me to send you a few of the hi-res Astrocade interior shots out of curiosity I will but please don't post them. I should be able to get sharp focus close-ups with a higher quality camera I would think.

"I bought a tripod a Best Buy, Sunpak's Ultra 7000TM, 70 inch, 2 in 1 tripod. It doubles as a monopod. Nice tripod at $60.

"Touched up the gold trim with Krylon's 18 KT gold leaf pen available at the Hobby Lobby. Look's like it's being discontinued at Michael's. It indeed is a good match for the Astrocade gold trim, but I don't think it stands up to finger prints when applied to the lettering on the reset button. Perhaps the lettering needs several coats.

"Bought some contact cleaner at True Value hardware and sprayed my dirty 'pot.' Motion is now really smooth. Thanks for the tip.

"I eventually plan to submit an addendum to my hi-res packages 1 and 2 you have archived. Not that anyone might ever attempt such an upgrade like this besides myself, but you never know. I have some additional info that really should be attached to the hi-res upgrade on the Bally Alley."

I'm looked forward to when Michael is able to take pictures of his screen that are to his satisfaction.  The few pictures that he sent to me are quite intriguing.


#6 ballyalley OFFLINE  



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Posted Sun Sep 24, 2017 1:47 PM

On September 12, 2017 Michael Matte gave me another update on his hi-res Astrocade project.  He gave me permission to post what he wrote to AtariAge and the BallyAlley Yahoo group.  Here are his Hi-Res ideas from the beginning of September:


Subject: Re: Next Project

Just wanted to let you know what I'll be working on next. I've decided to devote my time to my new hi-res static RAM scheme. I need to know ASAP, because I'm really excited about the possibility, whether or not this scheme will work. I also don't want to put this project off too long for fear some of the components might become unavailable in the near future. I'm just going to breadboard one 4K bank in low-res to test my idea. If it works, I'll gradually expand the breadboard one 4K bank at a time running in low-res. When the 4th bank is running in low-res, I'll add the additional chips for a hi-res test. Even if this idea works, I will not build a 2nd hi-res Astrocade until The Incredible Wizard is converted to hi-res, but I will order extra components.

This project shouldn't take too long. I already have a 2nd modified motherboard that was finished back in the 80's and was tested in 2011. This particular motherboard utilizes a 28 pin wire wrap IC socket not a 24 pin socket like my 1st hi-res Astrocade motherboard. That means all the necessary hi-res signals are wired to this 28 pin socket. No 50 pin expansion connection is required. I feel this is a better idea. I will test (substitute) this 2nd modified motherboard using my hi-res Astrocade. My +5V power supply for this project is already tested. I have a 2nd very small audio/composite video driver that will be mounted on top of my back up RF modulator and then tested. The quick breadboard hookup shouldn't take to long and like I said I'm just wiring one static screen RAM chip. If I can't get this one chip to run in low-res then I'm done, the project is over. But, I have a feeling it will run if the timing is right. I'm also assuming a static RAM chip can handle video data transfers. I'm guessing it can.

If this new scheme works, it will greatly simplify the required hi-res RAM set up and who knows, its simplicity might tempt some technically minded individual to build a hi-res Astrocade once hi-res MLM and some hi-res demos/games are archived on the Bally Alley. The chip count for this new hi-res static screen RAM scheme is now 9 chips (on paper) as opposed to 32 chips with the original design.




When I asked Michael if I could post his email to me, he responded with:

I'm surprised you want to post my email with an idea that might not work. But, feel free to post it. I do have a good feeling about this project. I will be jumping with joy should I power up that 1st 4K bank and see the low-res menu appear on my TV. That would be so cool. Last night, it occurred to me that the optional multi-page interface that I have in mind also has a provision to extend screen RAM an additional 128K bytes. Wow! So, this project scheme would allow a future expansion option totaling 256K bytes for graphics multi-paging and/or user RAM. As I mentioned, I'll let you know even if my scheme doesn't work.


It's fun following Michael's progress!


#7 ballyalley OFFLINE  



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Posted Tue Oct 24, 2017 4:48 PM

I have added Hi-Res Textured 10 Color Test Pattern by Michael Matte/MCM Design.  He wrote this in 2017.  This is handwritten Z80 machine language source code.  You can download it here:


I'd love to see someone take this program and get it running under the MAME emulator.  Is anyone up to this challenge?

I typed some of Michael's notes from his source code:

"This program is an upgraded hi-res version of Bit Fiddler's Standard Color Generator listed in the Machine Language Manager's User Manual on page 7-4. This output a very cool graphic pattern on a 20" RF TV using composite video output. The routine is self-supporting and uses no outside CALLs.

"Have fun mixing up colors and hi-res texture. You can change the surrounding border. You can also change the vertical bar color/textures in the pixel set. You can display solid colors or textures colors. Note that even though 8 colors were specified, the texturing effect in routine yields 2 additional colors. So, the routine displays ten colors total.

"Wish you could see this hi-res test pattern on my 20" Toshiba using my hi-res Astrocade with composite video signal output. it is so cool. Here's hoping you can share this experience on the MAME emulator."

It's so cool that Michael not only made a hi-res Astrocade, but he writes programs for it!  Again, it would great to see this program in action under MAME emulation.


#8 ballyalley OFFLINE  



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Posted Tue Jan 30, 2018 9:12 PM

Here are three updates with Michael's hi-res Astrocade project.  I've edited Michael's emails to me a little bit for length, but nothing important has been omitted.


Sent: Friday, December 1, 2017

Still working on my hi-res static RAM project. Having problems with this project. Now, I am bread boarding one bank of dynamic RAM, as an interface test, in an attempt to help isolate the problem. I think what I probably might need to resolve the issue is a 2 channel oscilloscope so I can visually see what's going with the RAM signal lines, if that is visually possible. But, I don't really want to spend several hundred dollars for a scope. So, for now, I'm just going to keep experimenting until I run out of ideas. My idea should work. I did get one chip of static RAM to run, but not perfectly. Something is not quite right and I haven't found the problem yet. I'm not one to give up. However, if I'm forced to drop my hi-res static RAM project, I'm going to experiment with a 4 page hi-res RAM scheme using 4116 DRAM. I'm well stocked with the 4116 chip and figure 4 page video capability is plenty for games involving entering different scenes, mazes, rooms, etc. The Datamax UV-1R schematic that I have shows you how to multi-page with 4116 or larger DRAM. Since I have the chips, breadboards and my second "modified for hi-res" motherboard, I might as well experiment with this 4 page 4116 DRAM scheme. I've also took a look at the schematic for Seawolf II, versions B and C. The screen RAM interfacing for these two versions do differ from the Datamax UV-1R version. Examining these 3 versions provides insight into the best way to hi-res interface with the Bally/Astrocade whether one desires multi-paging or not with screen RAM. By the way, it is my opinion that four banks of screen RAM are absolutely necessary for hi-res interfacing with the custom address and data chips because in the hi-res mode 4 bytes at a time are scanned for the video display and serially transmitted to the custom data chip via its two inputs serial 0 and 1. The Bally Alley posting "A Description of the Bally Professional Arcade Video Hardware and Associated Coin-Operated Hardware" goes into depth for low and hi-res application.


Sent: Wednesday, December 20, 2017
I made some progress on my current project. I bread boarded on two 2X6 inch strips a near copy of the Bally/Astrocade motherboard RAM timing interface and connected it to my static RAM scheme. That's the simplest low-res set up. This set up was tested and ran perfectly. There were no weird glitches moving about as previously mentioned. Now, I will slowly add components, a more complex set up, until I get the appropriate timing interface, required for the hi-res 4 Screen RAM banks, working perfectly, without actually wiring all 4 banks. Once the timing interface is working perfectly with one bank, it's just a matter of adding the other 3 banks, then the hi-res serial video scan chips to get the hi-res map working. The hard part is to get that timing interface working right. The timing interface will be similar to the Datamax UV-1, which uses CAS0 thru CAS3 to select each bank, which is what I need. Seawolf II, for example, utilized RAS0 thru RAS3 to select each bank, which I can't use because it's the CAS signal line that really is used to enable (chip select) each static RAM chip.



Sent: Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Attached is a photo of my 2nd modified hi-res motherboard connected to a breadboard which enables the motherboard to run on just one screen static RAM chip. Perhaps the first time a Bally/Astrocade motherboard has done so.  Attached is also a top view of my 2nd modified for hi-res motherboard.






I tested this set up with several videocade cartridges and it runs perfectly. The top 3 chips labeled U14, U22 and U21 are a near copy of the timing interface between the custom address/data chips and screen RAM. The U12 logic gate was changed to a 3 input nand gate (used in my U14 chip)  and U23 (DM81LS95) is not necessary for static RAM. Bottom left is a 32K byte static RAM chip. With additional chips, you could actually set up this chip as an 8 multi-pager (32K bytes of screen RAM). The bottom center chip 74LS32 is used to combine the RAS/CAS signals for the static RAM chip select. This chip may not be necessary after I expand my static RAM scheme for four hi-res banks, similar to the Datamax UV-1. The two bottom right chips 7475 or 74LS75 latch the row address to the static RAM address inputs A0 thru A5. The address bus MA0 thru MA5 is also directly wired to the static RAM inputs A6 thru A11. I will eventually substitute one 74F373 for these two chips. If all goes well, my hi-res static RAM project will reduce the hi-res screen RAM chip count from 32 chips to 10 possibly 9 chips with the potential for a multi-page expansion option (8 hi-res pages, 128K bytes or even 16 pages, 256K bytes). I used 2.2K pull-up resistors just like the Bally/Astrocade motherboard. Four banks are required in hi-res because the custom data chip scans and inputs serially from screen RAM for the video display when in the hi-res mode.

MCM Design


I love those photos, as they make this hi-res Astrocade project seem more real!  Way to go, Michael!


#9 ballyalley OFFLINE  



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Posted Mon Feb 5, 2018 12:29 PM

Here is another update on the hi-res project from Michael:
Date: Sunday, February 4, 2018 10:02 PM
Subject: Project Update

I've decided to postpone my hi-res static RAM project until I get my logic analyzer. I've been having problems getting the 2nd static RAM bank (chip) operating. Static RAM is different from DRAM in that it has a shared data read/write bus. I've been "following suit" using four 74LS253 chips for the data read bus just like the normal hi-res DRAM data read bus and I added a tri-state 74F244 chip for the data write bus. One 74F244 chip would be required for each static RAM bank .  I've tried several variations of this scheme to see if I could resolve the problem, with no luck. The down side of using quick connect breadboard strips is that the chips are spread out more and the wire lengths longer. Could there be a problem with wire line degradation, I don't know? I can't remember, when I developed my hi-res Astrocade back in the 80's, if I had problems bread boarding all 4 hi-res RAM banks. I've already spent a lot of time on this project. All these failures have forced me to re-think my hi-res static RAM scheme and I'm happy to say I've come up with a new idea. This idea, I believe, has a better chance for success, plus, it is simpler than what I've been trying to breadboard. I'm dropping the 74LS253 and 74F244 scheme and replacing it with the bi-directional 74LS245, one for each static RAM chip. Each 74LS245 chip will be selected (decoded) similar to the 74LS253 using the Z80 A0 and A1 address lines, but, an inverter chip (74LS04) plus an "OR" chip (74LS32) will be required for the decoding. The DATEN line will select the direction of data transmission for the Z80 hi-res read or write. This new revised scheme looks really promising and it is so simple.
Right now I'm working on a failed motherboard. A few weeks ago I purchased a nonworking Astrocade from EBay. I've purchased a few Astrocades from EBay primarily for the 3 custom chips. On this Astrocade, the console, plastic cover and 2 hand controls are nearly brand new. The motherboard is immaculate. The downside is the motherboard has a shorted component somewhere. Ouch! I have reason to believe the short is in the power supply (I'm hoping) and not down line. I was not paying attention and the black power transformer primary winding overheated and died. I'm bringing back my fused power XFMR substitution (The Arcadian, 1986, p. 92-93 and 91). I wired a crude, but working, XFMR substitute for this failed motherboard. Needless to say, the primary winding fuse blows when I turn on the motherboard. I have ideas on how to isolate the short even if it is down line and also check the +12v, +10V and +5V supplies for a short. The -5V supply was working up until I zapped the black power XFMR. I also found out Jameco has 2 power transformers that may be well suited for a XFMR substitution.
Part no. 2231152, has two secondary windings, 6.3vac@1.0A with parallel output, $8.95
              102593, has two secondary windings, 12vac@0.5A with individual outputs, $3.95
              69404, fast acting fuse, 250mA, can be wired on primary side using a fuse holder.
This will be yet another future project, to build and test these two Jameco XFMRS. I will also mount along side the XFMR substitute, a very small 120vac socket with a 250mA fuse, to plug in and hopefully help protect a Bally black XFMR from overheating. I will also attach a 2X6" quick connect breadboard strip so major motherboard power supply components can be de-soldered and easily wired/tested using the XFMR substitute, which will not be enclosed. My black Bally XFMR in my hi-res Astrocade is plugged into one of those tiny fused 120vac sockets. I think I bought a few of those sockets in the 80's from Jameco. Didn't see them in Jameco's new 2018 catalog. Too bad.


This is the logic analyzer that Michael ordered:


If you're interested in this hardware, it can be ordered here:




I love hearing about Michael's Astrocade hardware updates!  Also, I like that he had made himself an alternative power supply for his broken Astrocade.  That's great news.



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