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jaybird3rd

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Everything posted by jaybird3rd

  1. Thank you so much! I'm so glad that so many people have been enjoying the Aquaricart over the last 10+ years(!). It seems to have helped to generate renewed interest in the Aquarius during that time, and several Aquarius owners have shared wonderful stories about how it has added to their usage and appreciation of their systems, and I couldn't ask for more. I've had to pretty much set aside my retro computing projects these last few years, but I do (still) have a few ideas about "Volume 2." What I'd actually like to do first is complete a "code refresh" of the original Aquaricart. I'm very happy with how it turned out, but several features were added very late in its development, and there are a few little things—most of which have probably gone unnoticed by everyone other than me—that I've always wanted to go back and improve. I thought of doing this in late 2021 for the 10th anniversary, but I'm thinking now of releasing an "Aquaricart Anniversary Edition" in 2023—in time for the 40th anniversary of the Aquarius. The content would be essentially the same (so owners of the original Aquaricart needn't feel they are missing out), but it would include a new label and manual, new menu software, and a new cartridge board. These new additions would also be incorporated into "Volume 2," which would be a collection of the best third-party software originally released on cassette, modified to run entirely from the cartridge (among other possible enhancements). I'll share more details when I finally have time to get back to work on my Aquarius ... hopefully this summer, once school settles down a bit.
  2. Excellent questions both. I don't believe I ever visited the place in person; if I did, I have no memory of it (I would have been very young at the time), and my grandfather is no longer with us to ask about it. In a fast-changing place like north Jersey, I wouldn't be at all surprised if nothing remains of the original location. Too many of the other places that I remember in that area are also gone.
  3. Thank you, and welcome to AtariAge!
  4. I understand that this is a special occasion, but please do not cross-post the same message in multiple forums. (This falls under the category of "spamming" under our community guidelines.) I've moved this to "Gaming Publications and Websites," which is the best place for YouTube posts, and removed the others.
  5. Time to break out the mop, I guess! To those who insist on posting insulting and childish comments—and you know who you are—please stop it for everyone's sake or you'll get kicked out of the thread.
  6. Wow, thank you! I'm very excited to learn about this. I'm looking forward to trying it with my Framemeister!
  7. The most definitive numbers that I have are from the original Technical Specification from Mattel/Radofin: "The video timing and CPU synchronization are generated by a custom gate array PLA-1 (U7). The master clock frequency of PLA-1 is 7.15909 MHz and is divided internally in the PLA to provide the 3.579545 MHz CPU clock. The video scanning rate is one eighth of the master clock frequency." (I'm sure you already have the archival scans of the Technical Specification and System Description documents that have been floating around for a while now, but I'll attach them here just in case.) Aquarius - Technical Specification.pdf Aquarius - System Description.pdf
  8. John Adams on Independence Day, 1776: "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival ... it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."

  9. Certainly! Just about every title in the collection has some sort of trivia; just highlight the title in the menu, and then press "3" on the keyboard or hand controller to view the trivia file.
  10. The chess engines used in both games were licensed from the same developers; Mattel didn't have the expertise in-house to implement a chess game entirely from scratch. Here is a snippet from the Aquarius Chess trivia file in the Aquaricart: "Like the Intellivision's USCF Chess, Aquarius Chess features a computer opponent which was not programmed at Mattel, but was implemented using a chess engine licensed from an outside company. Heuristic Software Corporation was founded by chess player Julio Kaplan, International Master and winner of the 1967 World Junior Chess Championship. At his previous company, Teletape Productions, Kaplan recruited programmer (and fellow chess expert) Craig Barnes in 1980, and together they developed the chess engines which were used in Mattel's Computer Chess handheld and in USCF Chess for the Intellivision. After completing these projects for Mattel, Kaplan left Teletape Productions to start Heuristic Software in 1982, and Barnes joined him as Senior Programmer. Heuristic Software developed the chess engine for Aquarius Chess, along with many other intelligent strategy games and other consumer products (checkers, chess, bridge, calculators, combination games, etc.), before closing its doors in 1995." (The user interface for both games was designed and programmed at Mattel, on the Intellivision by Russ Ludwick and on the Aquarius by Stan Summay.)
  11. Excellent! Hopefully this will make your development cycle easier, since you can now test new SuperCart ROMs without having to burn an EPROM.
  12. Glad it was helpful! And yes, that's exactly how the bank switching works; apologies if that wasn't clear. You can think of it as changing channels or selecting inputs on a TV: the physical buttons that you press are in one location (the control panel), and the selected channel or input appears in another location (the TV screen). In this case, the "control panel" is the $E000 bank, and the "TV screen" is the $C000 bank. (This may seem confusing, but I didn't have much of a choice except to make $E000 the fixed bank. This is the location that the Aquarius checks first for a valid cartridge ROM, so for the boot process to be consistent, it had to be mapped to a ROM bank that would always be the same. I also couldn't continue to use $C000 for bank switch writes, because with the SuperCart II, writable memory will be banked into that space as well as ROM.)
  13. In the code where you are loading the sample data, I notice that you are starting at address $E000: ld hl, $E000 ; (10) Memory Location to ROM Sample ld a, (hl) ; (7) load first sample set into A Is this where you intend to be loading your data from? I was under the impression that your data is in the switchable banks, which start at $C000, while the code is in the fixed bank starting at $E000. Loading from $E000 will cause the bytes of the cartridge header and your assembled code to be treated as if they were sample data, which is probably not what you meant to do. (Remember, the only instances of $C000 that you need to change are the ones where you are writing the bank number to perform the bank switching. If you're referring to location $C000 elsewhere for other purposes, those references should be kept.)
  14. I noticed that, too, and I figured that had to be the reason. (It seems as if the controller issues in this game could be solved with changes to the programming. I don't remember the controls in Miner 2049er being so picky. If nobody else has looked into developing a fix, I might try it myself.)
  15. Thank you! I need to give this a try on my 5200 consoles. I have a four-port loopback board, and I've done the calibration procedure as described in the manual, but BBSB in particular still gives me trouble with the directionals: depending on how they're tweaked, I can move to the left consistently but not to the right, or vice-versa. (I'm using Best Electronics upgraded CX-52 sticks, which appear to be in perfect working order.)
  16. ... after only one night, too! I must have picked a higher level for my burn-in test. A detail that I had forgotten, from the instruction manual: "If you have chosen a high skill level, this 'thinking' may go on for some time (several hours at level 8!). To force the computer to make an early move, press any key while the word THINKING is flashing. This will make the computer take the best move it has found so far." (For anyone who is into chess, it's worth it to look over the Aquarius Chess manual. The game has a respectable number of features and niceties, and from my limited experience, it seems to play a decent game of chess. It's a pity that original copies of the game are nearly impossible to come by.)
  17. I believe that sound effect is just a tone with the pitch rapidly falling from high to low, creating a "zapping" sound as the piece is captured. When a game ends with a checkmate, you'll hear what the Chess instruction manual calls a "much more impressive" sound effect: a simple "hooting" and "whistling" sound, approximating the "crowd noises" that Mattel often used in their Intellivision sports games. Still just one voice! It actually is possible to make some pretty impressive sounds even with the built-in sound channel, provided you can modulate it fast enough. The very first PC that I built with my own money was a 286 also. I bought the parts for it in the same secondhand computer store where I encountered the Aquarius for the first time, around 1989 or 1990. I remember XTree Gold very well. This is a slight aside, but years after it was discontinued, a previous employer of mine was still using it for remote technical support. This was in the dial-up days, when they were still using pcAnywhere to remotely control on-site servers through analog modems. It was such a slow connection that GUI-based file managers were too cumbersome to use, so they wanted a character-based, keyboard-driven file manager for uploading and installing patches and fixes. They'd been using XTree Gold for this purpose since the DOS days, and they kept it around well after Windows 2000 had been released.
  18. (And yes, it is very startling to hear Chess suddenly beep to indicate a move after minutes—or hours!—of absolute silence. At least they were kind enough to add the blinking "THINKING" indicator to let you know that the computer is actually doing something!)
  19. Yes, the Aquarius has one built-in sound channel, and the PSG chip in the Mini Expander adds three more. (Yes, the Mini Expander box says two, but it's actually three.) When you hear chords, that's the PSG. If you remember the IBM PC and compatibles before the availability of sound cards, and the primitive speaker beeps and sound effects that were heard so often in very old DOS games, that's comparable to the Aquarius's sound capabilities without the Mini Expander. Unfortunately, Chess doesn't make use of the Mini Expander at all, either for sound or for hand controller input.
  20. No, Chess only uses the Aquarius's built-in sound channel.
  21. (If you still can't get it working, feel free to post a copy of the image here, whether it's the one that isn't loading at all and/or the last one that loaded but was not switching banks properly.)
  22. Funny story: when I was testing the SuperCart cartridge board used in the Aquaricart, I wanted to put it through a long "burn-in test", and one of the things I did was to boot up Aquarius Chess on an intermediate level (I don't remember which one) and leave it to play itself. I think it ran for about three days before the game ended in a draw. Yes, you can turn off the TV without affecting the computer. The program will continue to run.
  23. Yes. (If the old $C000 target address appears elsewhere in your code, just be sure to change it there, too.) When you tried to change the $C000 target address to $E000? That in itself shouldn't prevent the cartridge image from loading. If the emulator dropped back to BASIC, assuming that the fixed bank is in the correct place in the image, it probably means that the cartridge header failed the OS's validation check. (Or, that the image was somehow not loaded successfully into MAME.)
  24. Yes, the ORG directive simply tells the assembler the starting address of the assembled code. The code at that address is burned to the cartridge ROM on the real hardware, and it is not possible to overwrite it in your program, and MAME should not permit this either. (Even if it did, it would only change the first byte of the header, at address $E000. This would not affect your program anyway, because by the time your program is running, the header has already been validated by the Aquarius OS, and is not used again after that.)
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