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Astrocart: Magical, reflashable 512KB homebrew cart


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#26 kenzre OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 20, 2018 1:25 PM

 

It was Steven J Tucker who designed the 256K (later upgraded to 512K) Astrocade bank-switch flashcart The board was just a plain PCB and was never sold. When Michael (who was working with Steven) sent me one of these for testing, I provided my own cartridge shell and hacked-it-up (quite literally using a hack saw!) so that the PCB would fit in it. One side of the PCB plugged into the Astrocade and the other side plugged into the Atari Max Flash cartridge programmer.  This cartridge worked great, but it never went into production, nor was it ever available for sale.  Here are some pictures of that board:

 

attachicon.gif256K_Astrocade_Flash_Cart_01.jpg

attachicon.gif256K_Astrocade_Flash_Cart_02.jpg

attachicon.gif256K_Astrocade_Flash_Cart_03.jpg

attachicon.gifFlashCart PCB Card Orientation.jpg

 

The Atari versions of this flashcart are still available for sale here:

 

https://atarimax.com/

 

I look forward to trying out this new Astrocade flashcart; it looks very useful.  If I had one, then it would allow me to test hacks of Astrocade games so much easier on real hardware.  Gone will be the days of EPROM burning!

 

Adam

my own personal opinion: I would have tried a 90 degree connector on the Bally end so that the plug could have come out of the top, kinda like the UltiMulti switch. mIt doesn't have to be an edge connector, it could be pins.

Ken



#27 128Kgames ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 20, 2018 1:43 PM

Working on bally board. 32k memory expansion, sd cart reader (can dump/clone and load bally carts to sd card) , composite output, ballcheck diagnostic emulation. Connects to the 50 pin expansion connector on the back of bally.  Will post more info later. 

 

patrick

 

Patrick-

 

I am of course both impressed and incredibly interested.  Having attempted my own project, for an Astrocade bankswitched cart, which while successful never went beyond the prototype stage, I know how much work gets put into these things. 

 

I was lucky enough to have a great group of people who provided input, insight and ideas, as well as one amazing wizard who made it all happen (classics). 

 

While it was a success, we only touched on its potential.  If we had moved forward I would have tried my best to tie it in with a memory expansion as well, giving the Astrocade access to both 64k of memory and 512k for games. 

 

Are you the same person who created the "Astrocart" for hxlnt?  Also, you might want to request the admins to move this to its own thread, or create a new one and link to this for reference. 



#28 amiga92570 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 20, 2018 1:57 PM

The heat sinks are removeable with 3m heat sink tape. the unit does not get hot, it stays relatively cool. the reason for heatsinks is precaution as we have unit running for 12 hours at a time running memory timing tests. The cover is removed to allow for all the necessary probes, obviously this will be a plug and play board when finished. The only external connection will be a 9v wall adapter as bally has no power on the 50 pin connector. With this board anything is possible, serial interface, printer, keyboard, etc. Just program the fpga for your options. This has been a careful and thought out project. It is not a kluge kit. All memory and timing on bally and board is analyzed thoroughly. 

You can not do what this board does on the cassette port. The cassette port does not have the necessary control lines to take control of the z80 which is necessary to achieve desired functionality. The SD port kind of does away with the need for rom and bank switches. You will be able to load and save roms, user written programs to SD on the fly. This board talks directly to the Z80. You could even do a processor accelerator although that is not in the plans as you are still limited by the speed of the custom chips.

Another future project if time permits is a new replacement motherboard using only custom chips, z80 and 16k video ram.. All other logic will be handled by CPLD logic. 

@ Kenzre - Yeah it may be overkill, but I only want one expansion board that can do everything I need it to do. This way I do not have to plug in multiple accessories, memory expanders, carts, etc. If someone just wants a multicart, you have a very nice one, I own several. This is much more than a flash or multicart.

 

Patrick



#29 amiga92570 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:01 PM

If the admin wants to move my post to its own thread might be better as this is not really a multicart. Just thought I would post some info on project, dis not want to highjack thread. thanks

 

patrick



#30 amiga92570 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:05 PM

@ kenzre - not set on any connector yet, the board has 50 pin connector cable at the moment but this is still portotype. I appreciate your suggestions

 

patrick



#31 128Kgames ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:16 PM

The heat sinks are removeable with 3m heat sink tape. the unit does not get hot, it stays relatively cool. the reason for heatsinks is precaution as we have unit running for 12 hours at a time running memory timing tests. The cover is removed to allow for all the necessary probes, obviously this will be a plug and play board when finished. The only external connection will be a 9v wall adapter as bally has no power on the 50 pin connector. With this board anything is possible, serial interface, printer, keyboard, etc. Just program the fpga for your options. This has been a careful and thought out project. It is not a kluge kit. All memory and timing on bally and board is analyzed thoroughly. 

You can not do what this board does on the cassette port. The cassette port does not have the necessary control lines to take control of the z80 which is necessary to achieve desired functionality. The SD port kind of does away with the need for rom and bank switches. You will be able to load and save roms, user written programs to SD on the fly. This board talks directly to the Z80. You could even do a processor accelerator although that is not in the plans as you are still limited by the speed of the custom chips.

Another future project if time permits is a new replacement motherboard using only custom chips, z80 and 16k video ram.. All other logic will be handled by CPLD logic. 

@ Kenzre - Yeah it may be overkill, but I only want one expansion board that can do everything I need it to do. This way I do not have to plug in multiple accessories, memory expanders, carts, etc. If someone just wants a multicart, you have a very nice one, I own several. This is much more than a flash or multicart.

 

Patrick

 

Patrick-

 

If I understand you correctly, game size would only be limited to what the programmer codes?  So in effect we could have games exceeding the current 8K ROM limitation?

 

Excuse my ignorance if I am way off on this - I've always been a collector by nature, and not a hardware wizard, on the Astrocade. 

 

If the admin wants to move my post to its own thread might be better as this is not really a multicart. Just thought I would post some info on project, dis not want to highjack thread. thanks

 

patrick

 

We have so few posts on the Astrocade, did not want yours to get lost.  Besides, this is a huge deal, especially to us Astrocadians!  (Astrocaders?  Astros? No wait, thats a ball team...)



#32 amiga92570 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:52 PM

I see a LOT of over-kill with heat sinks. If the ADDRESS and I/O chips aer getting hot enough to apply thos heat sinks, there is something wrong with your unit, as well as the HS on the OSCILLATOR. When one of the address or I/O chips fail and you have to remove them to check, How will you know which one is which? Plugging them into the wrong socket can be dangerous because the power supplies are on different pins..
What type of Hantek unit is that? I have never seen it before.



#33 amiga92570 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:53 PM

4032l analyzer. https://amzn.to/2mfNKNn



#34 amiga92570 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 20, 2018 4:05 PM

Memory is still limited as to hardware mapping, say 32k, but think of it like having huge disk or hard drive for storage. It is possible to program banks of memory, but that would be later if anyone actually used more than 32k I guess. I do not see the need at this point for more physical memory.

#35 KylJoy OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 20, 2018 4:55 PM

Yeah it may be overkill, but I only want one expansion board that can do everything I need it to do. This way I do not have to plug in multiple accessories, memory expanders, carts, etc. If someone just wants a multicart, you have a very nice one, I own several. This is much more than a flash or multicart.

 

Awesome.  Can RGB out be added using a mini din 8-pin port (like Sega Genesis and other RGB out mods)?  Then we can plug it into our OSSCs, Framemeister xRGB minis, or other devices for modern TV fun.  Pretty please?!?!?!?  :)



#36 amiga92570 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jun 20, 2018 6:26 PM

 
Awesome.  Can RGB out be added using a mini din 8-pin port (like Sega Genesis and other RGB out mods)?  Then we can plug it into our OSSCs, Framemeister xRGB minis, or other devices for modern TV fun.  Pretty please?!?!?!?  :)


There is no access to rgb on 50 pin so not at this time. Composite looks good though.

Patrick

#37 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jun 21, 2018 8:31 AM

 

Can RGB out be added using a mini din 8-pin port [...]?  Then we can plug it into our OSSCs, Framemeister xRGB minis, or other devices for modern TV fun.

 

I hook up my Astrocade to my Framemeister with plain RF (via an RF-to-composite demodulator) and it looks as good as using a regular CRT.  The Astrocade has a pretty nice RF signal already; I bet the jump to composite looks great.  If you're interested to know the exact (probably overly complicated) setup that I use to get my Astrocade recorded for videos, then check out the credits at the end of my latest videos.  I list all of the software and hardware that I use to create each video.

 

As an aside, I can not get a good signal into my Framemeister with the Astrocade s-video upgrade.  I think the slight ghosting that occurs with the s-video signal that comes out of the upgrades Astrocade must "confuse" the Framemeister.

 

Adam



#38 hxlnt OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jun 21, 2018 11:51 AM

You might want to get in touch with Michael DeSalvo on ballyalleycom to see what he and someone else did for a 256K cart. It might help you.


Sorry, to help with what? Not sure I understand.

#39 ubersaurus OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:02 PM

This thread should really get split - it's getting really confusing to have an unrelated project in the middle of a thread for someone else's flash cart.

#40 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:22 AM

This thread should really get split - it's getting really confusing


I agree that this thread should be split. I've asked around over the last couple of days how to do this, but have not got any answers yet. I didn't want to bother Albert with this little "issue," but I finally asked him about it last night. If I'm able to split this thread, then I'll do so at the beginning of the week.

Adam




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