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decle

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About decle

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  1. Very cool. I wonder if the X-10 controller would be compatible with the ECS too? It seems that the Aquarius tape interface runs at ~600 baud (this is a bit data dependent as spaces are twice as long as marks) based on carrier frequencies of 1667Hz and 833Hz. I think the ECS is similar, but runs its cassette interface at half this speed, ~300 baud, using different carrier frequencies (4800Hz and 2400Hz). It doesn't look good. However, you mentioned in the YouTube comments that the hardware was later released as the Radio Shack Appliance and Light Controller for use with the TRS-80 Color Computer. This is interesting, as the Color Computer uses a different baud rate and set of carrier frequencies for its cassette tape again (1500 baud and 2400Hz / 1200Hz). So perhaps not all is lost? Paging the ECS Guru, @Lathe26
  2. Cheers, Things have been moving on apace. I think we now have a test driver that fires up the debugger and allows you to fiddle with its UI (instructions for the controls can be found towards the bottom of the latest blog post) Rick seems to have done a cracking job in such a short period of time; I believe during an interview with the Intellvisionaries (episode 26) he suggested he wrote the debugger in 2-3 weeks between working on Motocross and Masters of the Universe. The debugger has some cool features that aren't seen in the other Intellivision tools of the period (e.g. disassembling the current opcode) and one that isn't seen in JzIntv (trace to non-EXEC code). There is still quite a bit of work to do understanding how the debugger is put together. You can follow my progress here.
  3. Hey Guys, I thought I might give RetroChallenge a shot this October. Not done it before, should be interesting. Anyway, I think I'm going to take another look at World Championship Baseball. This time to see what we can find out about Rick Koenig's Intellivision debugger. As I find stuff, I'll blog about it here in a suitably RetroChallenge way. Everything should kick off at the beginning of next week, so if you have time, why not follow along at home? Cheers decle
  4. Hi everyone, I have what I hope is an interesting update of the PlayCable technical description to share this evening, which you can download here: playCableTechnicalSummary-20190918.pdf I suspect you will like the story behind this piece of equipment: The big ticket items are: p38 - A more detailed description of Joe Jacobs' and Dennis Clark's Development PlayCable adapter p6 - A summary of the DCX11A DataChannel card p37 - An overview of Jerrold development engineers using hacked PlayCables to play games ripped to audio tapes p19 - Resolution of a potential discrepancy in the understanding of transmission frequencies Enjoy decle
  5. Hi everyone, Just one update today, but it's a really interesting one. On page 26, Section 5.5 has been expanded to include an overview and pictures of the PlayCable based development system put together by Joe Jacobs and Dennis Clark. Here you go: intellivisionDevelopmentBackInTheDay-20190727.pdf And a bit of a teaser: Enjoy! decle
  6. This is great news, I'm looking forward to the results. I'm intrigued to see the complete font and how the real POPlexer handles "Sphinx Of Quartz, Judge My Black Vow". I think it's fair to say that POPlex-a-like does not do the best job I couldn't work out a way to get a full 4x4 tile font to fit into 64 GRAM characters, even if bits of similar glyphs like P and R are reused. It was also necessary to invent a number of glyphs, as they do not appear in cylondr's video: However, a look at the Intellivision catalogue suggested that, of the released Mattel titles, the most complex seemed to be "Blackjack & Poker" with 17 characters, and ignoring spaces, 11 unique letters. So, to keep things simple, POPlex-a-like applies a set of restrictions - a title can have no more than 20 characters, of which no more than 16 can be unique. It will be interesting to see what the real thing does with more complex titles like "Sphinx Of Quartz...", or The Dreadnaught Factor (180 letters long, with 28 unique characters!). It would seem that I spoke too soon about the completeness of POPlex-a-like, pride before a fall and all that. On watching cylondr's video again, the original Poplex-a-like was missing the jingle on starting a game, the "message from Marketing" when the demo cart is not plugged in and the all important "key clicks" when changing games. The following update adds all of these "features" and reduces the delay before kicking off the demo to 10 seconds: poplex-a-like.zip As you can see in this short clip: I think this gets close to what is shown in cylondr's video. The font and sound are probably a bit off, and there are some unknowns, for example whether the game launch jingle plays when starting the demo cartridge, but I think it's a reasonable first second stab. Either way, it's an item off the rather lengthy list of half finished projects. Unfortunately, the PlayCable's menu works in a different way to the POPlex-a-like. Essentially it is more like a game than a hypervisor. Happily it is just software, and with a bit of work it can be transformed... Cheers decle
  7. It's rather more involved than the scripts, but yes it is possible, here you go: pcFrontEnd.zip Enjoy, Cheers decle
  8. Hey all, I'm looking forward to the results of the work started by @Lathe26 to document the POPlexer / Kiosk Component. In the mean time, I've finished off a work-a-like ROM, a POPlex-a-like if you will, that I started back in 2018. So here we go: The POPlex-a-like works as a simple front end for up to 11 games, just like the POPlexer. To play the currently selected game, just hit ENTER. To switch to the next game, tap the disk. Finally, to bring the menu back, just hit RESET on the console. Just like the real POPlexer, the POPlex-a-like will automatically start the ROM in the first slot if there is no input for 30 seconds. Unfortunately, it is not possible to automatically reset the console if a game is left running. You can download the ROM here: poplex-a-like.zip Obviously, I can't distribute the Mattel ROMs, so the version in this zip file has small stub programs that just display the title screen of each game for 30 seconds and then reset the console, restarting the menu. However, I have included shell scripts to package up your game ROMs and generate stub programs for yourself. In putting this together it has become apparent that there are a number of interesting titles within Mattel's pre-1983 catalogue. This is before we get to weirdnesses generated by the ECS and third party titles. It will be interesting to see what the real POPlexer does with: Math Fun and Shark Shark - neither of these have EXEC title strings, the POPlex-a-like just displays them as blank titles, but will play the games. Backgammon - has exactly 10 characters in its name with no breaks. In the video the real POPlexer seems to handle this correctly as a single line title Burgertime! - has an 11 character title with no breaks. In the video the POPlexer seems to treat this is a two line title, but truncates the exclamation point. Lock'N'Chase and Maze-A-Tron - also have titles longer than 10 characters with no spaces. Neither game appears in the video, so with a bit of artistic licence the POPlex-a-like treats the quote and hyphen characters as breaking characters (like spaces), which means that these titles are split onto two lines. It's fascinating how something as simple as writing two lines of fixed pitch text yields so many edge cases. For those that are interested in how the menu system works, it makes use of Mattel style page flipping to change the ROMs with the menu resident at $7000. As always, any comments or corrections let me know. Cheers decle
  9. As some of you may have guessed I've been fiddling with IntyBASIC over the past couple of weeks. In the process, a port of John Hedley's BBC Micro puzzler XOR seems to have started taking shape: You play as a Questor and Magus (represented by shields) with the objective of collecting all the masks within a maze and making your way to the exit. Here is a video of the original: Cheers decle
  10. Hey Jason, Unfortunately, I don't believe it is possible to change the pitch of allophones on the Intellivoice. This is a bit of a shortcoming, as it prevents inflection for questions, and is a barrier to singing. The richer sounding voices on Mattel's games resulted from creating custom speech samples. These are much more complex to work with (as with most things Intellivision, JoeZ is your man) and can't be used in IntyBASIC at this time. I'm not sure if they support pitch shifting, I suspect not. It's a shame, as I think with a little more flexibility, lots of fun could be had with the allophones: daisy.zip It's also kind of weird, because the need for inflection was recognised from the very first speech synthesizers, like the Voder, which dates back to 1939!: Clearly, none of this would have prevented the much needed tie up with Texas Instruments and The Electric Company to create the highbrow Mattel edutainment title, The Electric Company Intelli-Speak & Hell snh.zip Cheers decle
  11. Ever wanted to "play" the Intellivoice using an ECS synth keyboard? Well now you can: I'm not going to claim this is an original idea, because it's absolutely not: But now you can let loose with your allophones without the need to break out your soldering iron. You can find the ROM and IntyBASIC source for this nonsense in this zip file: sns.zip This should be compatible with both the LTO FLASH and JzIntv. Obviously, if you're going down the hardware route, you'll need both an ECS synth and Intellivoice. There is one small thing that might be of use to others, Speak & Synth? includes an IntyBASIC port of JoeZ's ECS synth keyboard scanning code. Enjoy! decle
  12. Will the upstart from Plastics Electronics prevail over the might of Wataggi? Got to love YouTube recommendations I like the way your developer downgrades from an Xerox Alto to an Apple II. And I wonder if the market crashes in '83? For those that are curious, it looks as though City Game Studio can be found on Steam (no affliliation or recommendation implied, I've not played it). Cheers decle
  13. Hey Guys, Thanks for all your thoughts, pointers and examples. It is much appreciated. I hope that I can put together something that will enable the construction of "instruments" as rich as these, whilst still being accessible to musicians and programmers. So it looks as though most of the other AY-3-841x work takes a more "sample" based approach than I have. Instruments seem to be defined as a sequence of volume and pitch variations that are blasted as the PSG. Taking the IntyBASIC implementation as an example, the instruments are defined using 24 volume and optionally 24 pitch samples: Although Oscar describes the first 8 samples as being "attack" and last 16 as "sustain", by my reading of the code it might be better to describe the first 16 samples as being the "setup" and the final 8 as the "loop", to use Arduino terms. The first phase is a one-shot and, if reached, the second is repeated until the note finishes. I've separated the two phases in the plots above. The IntyBASIC implementation is also really useful in highlighting a couple of differences in how sINThY is implemented. The most obvious is that the sINThY "instrument" definition is abstracted into 10 values, rather than 24 or 48 samples. I hoped the result is more intuitive to musicians, but it comes at the cost of some flexibility in what can be generated. So, the obvious question, is this more intuitive route and is the loss of flexibility a price worth paying? Or should I be using the more common sample based approach to define envelopes? Next, if we look at the way in which IntyBASIC handles pitch vibrato we see that the amount of period change is constant with the pitch of the note. This means that vibrato is stronger at high notes than low notes, most clearly heard on the clarinet, for example in the extreme: DATA 60 MUSIC C2X MUSIC S MUSIC - MUSIC C7 MUSIC S MUSIC - MUSIC REPEAT Because sINThY allows greater change in pitch than the native IntyBASIC instruments (up to +/- 2 tones), more work has gone into keeping this change constant across the range of notes played, although I'm still not happy with the results. Am I correct to try to manage the change in pitch in this way? Currently the pitch change is a nasty mathematical adjustment of the period value. This leads to the waveforms being musically asymmetric and not necessarily peaking at chromatic tones. It might be better to calculate nearest periods for all the eighth-tones as we currently do for semi-tones and make the pitch shift of a whole number of these. So a triangle wave of amplitude 8 would start at the note played, go up a full tone then down to a full tone below the note played and return, with each change in frequency being an eighth-tone. What do you think, would this be more "musical" and make more sense to a musician? Finally, we have the handling of volume, somewhere I think the way sINThY is implemented might make things easier. Because sINThY has to handle velocity sensitive input it treats loudness as an attenuation from a loud baseline, rather than volume relative to silence. This makes it easy to apply volume envelopes to the quieter input without them becoming silent early, and therefore, shortening notes. The only downside at the moment seems to be that the "sustain" parameter has the opposite sense to that normally used (being the attenuation from the maximum attack rather than the volume of the sustain phase). As always, your thoughts, opinons and experience would be much appreciated. Cheers decle
  14. Hey guys, For the past six months I've been distracted by other projects and this thread has been neglected. However, recently I have had a chance to put a bit of work into the first stage of sINThY, the software synthesizer for IMDI: This attempts to follow the principles of some of the low end analogue synths such as the Korg Monotron or Volca Keys (before you get your hopes up, I think the lack of a VCF to control the fundamental waveform limits what can be done). If you fancy giving it a go for yourself here is the ROM, along with a keyboard hack file that makes things much easier when using JzIntv: sinthy-20190411.zip As a non-musician, I'd be very interested in feedback from the musos out there. I feel as though I'm struggling to come up with "interesting" modulations. Cheers decle
  15. Hey all, Here we go, bit of a bigger update this time. Within the BSR archive there are a number of technical bulletins covering the period from September 1982 through to October 1983. Once again, Tom and Braxton have kindly scanned these for us. The bulletins seem to have been memos sharing updates from the various infrastructure and support teams with the group as a whole. They cover many aspects of development, including tools for programming M-Network games for the Atari 2600 and Apple II; and also Aquarius work. The cool thing is that, because they're dated, we can put together a bit of a chronology. As a consequence, I've updated the development description again with a load of additional details and references to the specific bulletins that provide supporting evidence: intellivisionDevelopmentBackInTheDay-20190329.pdf The main changes this time are: page 11 - Added references to the use of HP-1000 machines for speech processing purposes page 12 - Inclusion of information about Mattel using Nuvatec tools including assemblers on the VAX page 12 - Addition of a section on Dr Color to the Mattel chapter pages 14-15 - Some details on the Magus architecture, implementation, memory size and tools. Plus the introduction of MEGAS as the more common name pages 15-19 - Updates to the Blue Whale test harness section, including feature evolution and corrections to the architecture page 22 - Section on Mattel's tools and stance on reverse engineering competitors' code Last week I stumbled across this advert for the APh Datawidget from 1980, which I think is rather cool and I've added to page 7 (bonus marks for the first person that can tell us who currently is resident at 285 West Green Street and whether the phone is connected) Unfortunately, if anyone needs a summer job, although it looks as though you might have a few days to prepare, I think in reality you might have missed the opportunity As always, all feedback is most welcome. Cheers decle
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