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Blue Ram Expansion for Astrocade Hardware Overview

Bally Arcade Astrocade RAM Expansion Blue Ram BASIC Hardware Review Bally BASIC WaveMakers Ken Lill Space Shuttle R2-D2

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#1 ballyalley OFFLINE  



  • 1,752 posts
  • Location:Albuquerque, NM

Posted Fri May 18, 2018 1:57 PM

I have created a video overview of the Blue Ram hardware expansion for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade.  It includes video of the hardware, as well as video of ten examples programs.

You can watch the overview on YouTube, here:

You can watch or download the 3GB, 720p, 10Mbs video on Archive.org, here:


The Blue Ram expansion was created by Perkins Engineering.  It was first released in 1980 as a 4KB RAM expansion for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade.  The Blue Ram was originally meant as a stop-gap upgrade until Bally released the add-under (AKA the ZGRASS) keyboard/upgrade.  When the add-under was never released, the Blue Ram became one of three available RAM upgrades for the Astrocade.

Here is some additional information about the Blue Ram from the "Bally/Astrocade Game Cartridge and Hardware FAQ:"

"The Blue Ram plugs into the 50-pin connector on the back of the Astrocade and expands the programming capabilities of the Astrocade. Available either fully assembled or as a kit, it was originally released in June, 1980 as a 4K unit. Over the next couple of years the memory capacity increased, so several different versions exist (4K, 8K, 16K and a small handful of 32K versions). Several confirmed accessories for this unit were released, including: keyboard, printer interface, modem interface, EPROM burner and BSR controller. The Blue Ram could be switched into a mode that simulated a cartridge; several of the third-party game cartridges were programmed using this unit and either the Machine Language Manager cartridge or the Blue Ram Utility."

This video covers the Blue Ram in detail, including explanations of how the extra hardware, such as the Blue Ram keyboard, plugs into the ZIF socket.  Details of how the three toggle switches (Range, Mode and tape I/O) work are also provided.  Without examples, it's hard to get a clear idea of what the Blue Ram can be used for by a user.  Short videos of ten different pieces of software are shown that require a Blue Ram and are written in either Blue Ram BASIC or machine language (or a combination of both).

The ten videos that are shown after the explanation of the Blue Ram hardware are:

1) Four Blue Ram BASIC (BRB) games by WaveMakers (Mike Peace):

1. Gate Escape
2. Monkey Jump
3. Outpost 19
4. Wack-A-Mole

2) Two other BRB games:

5. Astro Zap, by George Moses
6. Snake Snack, by Ken Lill.

3) Two Perkins Engineering products:

7. Blue Ram BASIC
8. Blue Ram Operating Guide (by Ken Lill)
9. Blue Ram Utility

4) Programs for External Hardware:

10. Plotter Drive Program with Space Shuttle and Robot - By Leroy Flamm

Some of these programs, if used from the UltiMuli Multicart, are also compatible with the Lil' White Ram that was created by Ken Lill and Michael White.

Enjoy the video!


#2 eebuckeye OFFLINE  



  • 1,202 posts

Posted Sat May 19, 2018 11:15 AM

That is so cool! The Astrocade is such a nice system! I have one but get paranoid to use it because it works great and I've heard overheating issues.

#3 ballyalley OFFLINE  



  • Topic Starter
  • 1,752 posts
  • Location:Albuquerque, NM

Posted Sat May 19, 2018 11:39 AM

That is so cool! The Astrocade is such a nice system! I have one but get paranoid to use it because it works great and I've heard overheating issues.


I'm glad that you enjoyed the video.  Your right: the Astrocade sure is nice.  It is too bad that it has kind of lost its place in history.  Luckily, for those willing to try it out, even if just under emulation, there is quite a bit of fun to be discovered there.  I guess that isn't too surprising; many nearly-unknown systems can be fun to play around with for people with the vision to look beyond the years.  I guess what surprises me most about the Astrocade is its timing.  It was announced in September 1977 and shipped in January 1978.  Unlike other computers of its age, the Astrocade has no text mode: it's a purely bit-mapped system.  Very cool!



Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Bally Arcade, Astrocade, RAM Expansion, Blue Ram BASIC, Hardware Review, Bally BASIC, WaveMakers, Ken Lill, Space Shuttle, R2-D2

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