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Working emulators for the Bally Astrocade

emulation astrocade emulators

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#26 hxlnt OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue May 29, 2018 6:43 PM

 

I think that Color Organ works with a piece of hardware-- but I'm not sure how.

 

 

Ah, yes--I went back through some of the documentation I saved and saw that it was meant to be used with an "L&M Software Interface Unit." Maybe a Bally BASIC dupe with a stereo audio in? I wonder if that hardware was ever even created. 

 

I am especially curious about Color Organ. I've never seen video of it. I'll see if I can get it running somehow...



#27 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue May 29, 2018 7:02 PM

I went back through some of the documentation I saved and saw that it was meant to be used with an "L&M Software Interface Unit." Maybe a Bally BASIC dupe with a stereo audio in? I wonder if that hardware was ever even created.


I do think that this hardware was released, but the number sold were VERY low.  There is some very strange Astrocade hardware out there.  For instance, I have hardware that supposedly understands simple commands.  I don't have the software for it though (however, it is available to type it in).
 

I am especially curious about Color Organ. I've never seen video of it. I'll see if I can get it running somehow...


It sounds like you don't have an actual Astrocade?  Is that right?  I could easily record Color Organ (or any program) running on real hardware using my Framemeister if you'd like to see it.  I could make a quick-and-dirty recording and post it to YouTube.

 

Adam



#28 hxlnt OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed May 30, 2018 10:54 AM

Wow, good to know.

 

I do have a mostly-functioning Astrocade, but I wasn't able to load the Color Organ .WAV into Bally BASIC, which I now think is due to the .WAV being non-KCS. I thought the PRG of Color Organ might be more like a cartridge ROM, but it is in fact just the BASIC data, so loading it into my flash cart won't work, either. The third option is to type the hundred or so lines straight into Bally BASIC (assuming the flavors of BASIC are compatible). It's doable, but my controllers are a bit finicky. (I think the controller chip inside my Astrocade is semi-busted, because there is often interference between Player 1 and Player 2 input. Makes two-player games extra... interesting.)

 

Is there another option I'm not thinking of? I would love to see a video of this software, but not at the expense of you typing it in manually. Haha, please, think of your fingertips~!



#29 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed May 30, 2018 12:01 PM

I do have a mostly-functioning Astrocade, but I wasn't able to load the Color Organ .WAV into Bally BASIC


I'll try loading Color Organ today, to at least make sure it works okay. I will try to record the video too, but I probably won't get a chance to upload it to YouTube for a couple of days. Keep in mind that Color Organ is a 300-baud program that came out in 1980; it won't load into the version of Bally BASIC that has the built-in 2000-baud tape interface (this version of BASIC, while technically being called Bally BASIC is usually referred to as "AstroBASIC" to differentiate it from the BASIC without the input jack). All 300-baud programs require the 300-baud tape interface that plugs into joystick port 2 and the light pen port.

Now that I've said you can't load 300-baud programs into "AstroBASIC," I'm going to take that back... sort of. There is a machine language utility program in the "AstroBASIC" manual that allows you to load 300-baud programs via "Astrocade's" built-in interface. The program loads programs into screen RAM and then dumps them out. It doesn't work for any programs that used machine language, but it works for many programs I've tried it with in the last couple of years. If you run the program right after loading it, then it may or may not work, so it is best to save the program right away via the 2000-baud interface in "AstroBASIC."

Appendix F of the BASIC manual has the BASIC listing (it's really a machine language loader program) for this utility that is called 300 Baud to 2000 baud Tape Conversion Program (clever name, right?). It is on pages 104-107 of the "AstroBASIC" manual. Here is a direct link to that program in the manual:

http://www.ballyalle...i).pdf#page=106

The z80 source code for this machine language program, if you're interested, is here:

http://www.ballyalle...Baud_Loader.pdf

Of course, you don't want to actually type this program into BASIC, so you can download it here:

http://www.ballyalle...ersionProgramAB

When the program runs, you get a whole bunch of "garbage" on the screen, but that just means that the program is working correctly. The program is a little tricky to get used to using, but it isn't normally needed. Heck, I think I may be the only one who uses it at all.

If you ever decide to type in an "AstroBASIC" program, or write one yourself, then I wrote a simple overview of how I did it using a PC and some tape utility program. These not-quite-docs are in the archive notes for a video art program called Video:Video. You can read those notes here:

http://www.ballyalle...(2000-Baud).txt
 

With the tape arching tools that are available, a typed-in a Bally BASIC program can only be saved in 300-baud format.

 

I thought the PRG of Color Organ might be more like a cartridge ROM, but it is in fact just the BASIC data, so loading it into my flash cart won't work, either.

 

It's possible to probably make Color Organ into a BASICart, but I've never done that before now. If you have one of the Astrocade multicarts, all of the BASIC programs on there were specially converted to run from cartridge. I only have a vague idea how this is done.
 

The third option is to type the hundred or so lines straight into Bally BASIC (assuming the flavors of BASIC are compatible).


You should never have to type in a previously archived Bally BASIC program. All of the programs that have been archived on BallyAlley.com have been loaded and tested on real hardware. If you're having trouble, then we can work it out.

Both versions of Bally BASIC are mostly compatible. Here is a list of the differences between them:

http://www.ballyalle...differences.txt
 

For the most part, if a program is pure BASIC, then a Bally BASIC program should also run under "AstroBASIC."  Yes, there are exceptions, but these can usually be worked around.

 

my controllers are a bit finicky.

Ah, that's too bad. I guess when you play a two-player version of The Incredible Wizard you always have the "controller excuse" to fall back on when you lose a life.  Since your controllers aren't working right, have you been programming mostly under MAME emulation?  Even with a fully-working Astrocade, using the MAME emulator is the best way to go for machine language programming.
 

Is there another option [to load BASIC programs] I'm not thinking of?


I think that you covered all of the ways to load a BASIC program.

 

Loading and saving Bally BASIC programs that are WAV files via the 300-baud interface is typically  trouble-free. The 300-baud interface is usually able to load programs that are in terrible shape on tape. The "AstroBASIC" interface is much more finicky. It requires the sound to be pretty high. I've noticed that it is usually easier to load programs if the "tape" cable is plugged into the stereos of a PC. I have no trouble loading 300/2000 baud programs using my old iPhone 4 (now used as a dedicated iPod) with a cable plugged directly into the phone's audio jack. I've seen people online who use similar setups with their Astrocade systems.
 

I would love to see a video of this software, but not at the expense of you typing it in manually. Haha, please, think of your fingertips~!


I'm not going to type in Color Organ, don't you worry about that ever happening with a previously archived program.

 

The Astrocade's 24-key keypad "keyboard" isn't too bad once you get used to it. Just be careful not to bleed all over your Astrocade while you're working your way from blisters-that-burst to thick callouses that can handle the steady and rough hand that all Bally BASIC users must have built-up in the late 1970s to early-to-mid 1980s.

Adam



#30 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed May 30, 2018 3:31 PM

I went back through some of the [Color Organ] documentation I saved and saw that it was meant to be used with an "L&M Software Interface Unit." Maybe a Bally BASIC dupe with a stereo audio in?
 
I am especially curious about Color Organ. I've never seen video of it. I'll see if I can get it running somehow...

 
I can confirm that the 300-baud version of Color Organ loads fine into Bally BASIC.  I just made a 13-minute video that shows:

  1. Color Organ loading via the Blue Ram Interface
  2. I selected each of the nine menu selections - These didn't do anything
  3. Halting the program
  4. A listing the BASIC program.

When I listed the program to screen I noticed that the program is looking for input from hand controller port #2.  I ran the program again, and sure enough, if I moved the knob on port #2, then I actually got some movement and color changes on the screen.  When I looked at the video and briefly examined the BASIC program, I noticed that Color Organ also is looking for input from port #4.  I presume that input to port #2 is the right channel and input to port #4 is the left channel.  Or something like that.

 

Although I've never seen the hardware or the instructions for Color Organ, I now presume that the hardware is a small box that plugs into ports 2 and 4.  The volume levels that come into the box are changed to knob values between -128 to 127 (-128 is completely counterclockwise in BASIC and 127 is completely clockwise).  This is just a guess, but it seems simple enough.

 

Here are three screenshots taken from the video (the black borders are because these pictures are stills from the 720p video I made; I did not bother to crop the pictures):

 

This is the program just beginning to load into Bally BASIC.  I'm using my iPhone to play the 300-baud program into my 300-baud interface:

 

Color Organ - Light Show (LM Software)_01.jpg

 

This is the Color Organ menu:

 

Color Organ - Light Show (LM Software)_02.jpg

 

After I figured out that I could turn the knob on hand controller #2, I finally got the program to look interesting.  Here is one of the menu choices with some "sound" (knob) input.  The boxes changed shape and colors while I was moving the knob:

 

Color Organ - Light Show (LM Software)_03.jpg

 

If you're still having issues loading the 300-baud program, then make sure that you're plugging the tape interface into port 3.  If you're looking at the front of the Astrocade, then port 3 is the closest one to the light pen port.  I know, it would make sense for this to be port 4, but it's not.  Here's a picture from the Bally BASIC - Audio Program Tape 1 instructions that shows this clearly:

 

300-Baud Tape Interface (Proper Connection).jpg
 

Here are the full instructions for the tape that came with the 300-baud tape interface (and from which I just extracted the above picture):

 

http://www.ballyalle...tware No 1).pdf

 

If you're still having issue loading the Color Organ than let me know.

 

I'll try to upload a video in the next day or two so that you can see this program in action.  Now that I know the program expects input from two controllers for "sound," I might remake the video.  The program is boring to watch now, but if I move the knobs around to simulate sound, then it might look much more interesting.

 

As an aside, thanks for getting me interested in Color Organ.  This program has been archived on my website for well over a decade and I've never loaded it before today!

 

Adam



#31 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jun 1, 2018 3:05 PM

I wasn't able to load the Color Organ .WAV into Bally BASIC

 

I added an "AstroBASIC" version of the Color Organ/Light Show Demo by L&M Software to BallyAlley.com. This is the September 1980 Bally BASIC version that has been saved in "AstroBASIC's" 2000-baud format. This program was designed to work with the L&M interface unit, which probably plugged into hand controller ports 2 and 4. Moving the knobs on those two controllers has the effect of simulating (to a limited extent) the "stereo" input that the stereo hardware interface would have allowed.

You can download the program here:
 

http://www.ballyalle...LandMSoftwareAB

 

Here is some additional information about L&M Software's 1980 Color Organ/Light Show Demo:


This program was designed to work with the L&M interface Unit. According to the FAQ, "Interface Bally to any stereo amp with audio power 1 watt on up. TV displays in step with your stereo music." Even without it, it still displays various graphical effects (kind of like a screen saver). Another program simply labeled "Light Show Demo." is quite similar, but the menu has a few different effects.

From L&M's Software full-page ad in the Arcadian:

Stereo color organ, light show on your TV, Interface with Bally
Opto-Isolated / All Colors / Brilliant Display
Color Organ/Light Show: Interface Bally to any stereo amplifier with audio power of 1 watt on up. Will not affect stereo quality. TV displays in step with your stereo music. Complete interface unit with cassette demonstration program and instructions. $29.95. Add your own Favorite Art/Graphics, etc.

I examined this program's BASIC code. The program is looking for input from the knobs on the hand controllers in ports #2 and #4. It seems that knob #2 acts as the stereo's right channel and that knob #4 is the left channel. Although I've never seen the hardware or the instructions for Color Organ, I now presume that the hardware is a small box that plugs into ports 2 and 4. The volume levels that come into the box are changed to knob values between -128 to 127 (-128 is completely counterclockwise in BASIC and 127 is completely clockwise). This is just a guess, but it seems simple enough.

Archiving Notes: This is the 300-Baud Bally BASIC version of the program. It has been converted to run in "AstroBASIC" using Jay Fenton's 300 Baud to 2000 Baud Tape Conversion Program (see the "AstroBASIC" user's manual on Pages 104-107). Not one line of code from the 300-Baud version has been changed, which would normally mean that some sound effects no longer work correctly. However, this program doesn't seem to use any sound effects at all.

For additional information , there are more documents available:
 

http://www.ballyalle..._10.pdf#page=19

 

Is anyone up for building the interface for this video art program?

 

Have fun!

Adam



#32 JFD62780 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jun 1, 2018 9:15 PM

...I posted a thread about called "Best Way to Report Missing Vital Features?" about this subject to the MAME Testers website this afternoon.  You can view the post here (but I think that you have to be a member to read it, or, at the very least, to reply to it):
 
http://mametesters.o...iew.php?id=6987


I myself am a Redditor, subbed to r/MAME; the very fact that you got Cuavas to reply as a start, is a SEVERE understatement on my part. In short, I sense a HUGE improvement for Astrocade emulation in the making, so Prosystemsearch oughtta be happy for what he started! :D

Edited by JFD62780, Fri Jun 1, 2018 9:16 PM.


#33 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jun 2, 2018 11:18 AM

the very fact that you got Cuavas to reply as a start, is a SEVERE understatement on my part. In short, I sense a HUGE improvement for Astrocade emulation in the making, so Prosystemsearch oughtta be happy for what he started! :D

 

I was waiting for a follow-up to the message that was left a few days ago.  I am still left wondering if I need to make a separate "ticket" (or whatever it's called when I report missing features) for each missing feature of the Astrocade emulation.  If I don't get an exact answer to how to post properly, then I will first report the lack of 300-baud/2000-baud tape emulation next week.  That's probably the most important place to start.  If some movement begins in that area of the emulation, then I'll start mentioning other missing features in more detail.

 

I had a little scare last night when my Astrocade's colors went wonky; but it seems like it was a false alarm.  One day there will only be Astrocade emulation available; the better it is, then the more it can be enjoyed.

 

Thanks for posting here, JFD62780, as it always good to hear that other people would like to see the Astrocade emulation improved in MAME.

 

Adam



#34 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jun 2, 2018 2:47 PM

Cassette, audio in/out, video-in, and printing are the most overlooked features in emulators. There are few shining examples of those starting to come into play, but by and large it's still the wild-west.

 

Good to see it may be changing for the Astrocade.



#35 youxia OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jun 2, 2018 8:21 PM

 

I was waiting for a follow-up to the message that was left a few days ago.  I am still left wondering if I need to make a separate "ticket" (or whatever it's called when I report missing features) for each missing feature of the Astrocade emulation.  If I don't get an exact answer to how to post properly, then I will first report the lack of 300-baud/2000-baud tape emulation next week.  That's probably the most important place to start.  If some movement begins in that area of the emulation, then I'll start mentioning other missing features in more detail.

 

I saw your post there, it's great. Thought about making an account as well and chiming in, but there's probably no point spamming their (rather serious) board. You can always link to this thread should an issue of "but is there any interest?" arise.







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