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Found 13 results

  1. Over the next few months I'm going to be uploading to YouTube video art programs created on the Astrocade. I'll post all of the links to them in this thread; this is the first of them. I have uploaded a ten minute video of the Viper Test Pattern by Alternative Engineering. This is a video art program for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade that was released in 1981. It requires a RAM Expansion and an extended BASIC, such as Vipersoft BASIC or Blue Ram BASIC. I captured this video using my Framemeister setup, which is quite extensive and complicated. I plan to document it sometime in the next few months. For now, just know that this video was captured from an Astrocade with RF out. This video is one of about 60 video art programs that I've recorded over the last few weeks. The other video art programs were all written in Bally BASIC or "AstroBASIC." The extra colors of this Viper Test Pattern are neat to those who know the limitations of the original Astrocade BASIC cartridges. That's why I chose to upload this one to YouTube first. According to The BASIC Express newsletter, "The program puts up a gorgeous ever-changing complex pattern on the screen. You would swear that 32 different colors are on screen at the same time." This is a neat program that uses some of the features of extended BASIC (such as the CIRCLE command) and the additional colors that are not available without using machine language from Bally BASIC or "AstroBASIC." This video art program was released on a cassette tape with Viper 1 RAM Expansion. It also appeared in July/August 1981 The BASIC Express newsletter (Vol. 3, Pages 26-27) and the December 1981 Arcadian newsletter (Vol. 4, Page 19). As I said, over the next few months I'll be uploading additional video art to YouTube. For now, enjoy one of the precious few videos that shows-off extended BASIC on the Astrocade. Adam
  2. Notes from a 2019 Interview with Jamie Fenton By Adam Trionfo May 3, 2019 I've been listening on and off to "They Create Worlds," a podcast devoted to the history of videogames, for a couple of years now. On April 23, 2019, Kevin Bunch sent me a private message via Atari Age. He said that Alex Smith, one of the two hosts of the podcast, did an interview with Jamie Fenton. Jamie was heavily involved with the creation of the Bally Arcade and programmed Bally BASIC, "Astro BASIC," and the extended BASICs, as well as various other software for the system. Kevin sent me an excerpt of the interview. I asked Alex if I could share this information and on May 2 he gave me the okay. I want to make it clear that Alex Smith and Jamie Fenton are the original source of this information. I am passing along the information as it was given to me via Kevin Bunch. You can listen to the "They Create Worlds" podcast here: http://podcast.theycreateworlds.com/ Alex is writing a book on the history of videogames. I mentioned to him that I didn't expect much coverage of the astrocade. His response surprised me. He said, "While you are correct that the Astrocade will not get a great deal of coverage in my book (though more than you might think as I have 600 pages to tell the story of 1971-81 and try to give everything of note at least some attention), preserving and spreading the history of all facets of the industry is a personal passion of mine." He also said, "I certainly admire your work, which has been invaluable to my own research." It's great that perhaps a little bit of the work that has gone into the archiving of the astrocade by me and others is being disseminated to a wider audience. Kevin told me that Alex spoke to Jamie Fenton specifically about Astrocade software, BASIC, and possibly ZGRASS. I guess he spoke with her a couple of weeks ago, possibly in early April, about the hardware side of things. Kevin went on to say: "Oh, Alex tells me this is actually for the book they're working on, not the podcast (though that could happen at some point). Said in total they have 2 hours of conversations about the Astrocade for this. If there's anything you'd want to share, I suggest reaching out to him at some point - I'm sure he could accommodate to some degree without undermining their manuscript I imagine (or at least give you an idea when the book might come along)! This is just scratching the surface of what they talked about. "That said, he passed along the following items to me, which you might find interesting: "The BASIC cartridge actually was originally created due to laziness. Management wanted a demo program for the system, Fenton didn't want to write one, so she decided to write a BASIC version instead. That was finished so fast that she ended up having to write the demo program anyway. Additionally, the Bally BASIC version that was sold was actually version 2.0 - the first version didn't have any command shortcuts. The usage of video memory and the ability to send calls to the hardware for specific graphical uses are why she considered it to be a fairly successful project. "As for the add-under, Fenton told Smith that she was interested in ZGRASS because it reminded her of BASIC - simple to use but with better graphical abilities. But towards the end of the process she soured on the language, feeling it was too slow. The final version of the add-under actually used Forth, not ZGRASS, which was later adapted to Terse for writing arcade games. Which makes me wonder if the unit that the NVM [National Videogame Museum] may have bought actually has ZGRASS, or if it has Forth." My response to this information from Kevin was that "I am glad that Alex is able to do an interview, or a couple of them, with Jamie. When I spoke to her in 2001, she would not allow me to record conversation. "I can't think of anything in particular that I can add to Alex's book for the astrocade. I presume, since he will be covering so much in the book, that the astrocade will be all but a footnote. I do hope, at least, that he brings up that the astrocade was the least expensive computer upon its release to be able to run BASIC. I guess that is debatable, depending on what you consider a 'computer.' [...] "I have heard that the BASIC cartridge was created as a stop-gap measure while Z-GRASS was in development hell. It was a quickie conversion from Tiny BASIC. Although the language has Tiny BASIC at its roots, at the time, Jay added many of the graphical features which allow programmers to create games in less than 2K of RAM. "I'm not sure what you mean by Bally BASIC was the second version of language. What are the 'command shortcuts' that you mention? Do you mean the graphic commands like LINE? Certainly, the CALL command is what eventually allowed programmers to access the onboard ROM subroutines. That was a hidden command that was only let out of the bag by Jay himself via the Hacker's Manual that was available to/through the newsletters. "I consider Jay's hack of allowing screen RAM to store a program to be extremely clever. Many people seem to misunderstand how this 'trick' works. "I can understand why J soured on Z-GRASS, but I would consider it a success, as many of the students at the University of Chicago seem to have loved the language. In the examples of its usage on YouTube, the language does seem slow. However, in comparison to BASIC, it seems about the same speed. Plus, it has access to much more memory and many more commands. "I do seem to have a faint memory that the add-under was going to use Forth in some way. The add-under, as designed by Bally, seems to have been pretty much scrapped in favor of the version that Alternative Engineering was creating and was sold to the National Videogame Museum a few years back. That version of the Z-GRASS add-under certainly was supposed to have Z-GRASS in the ROM. Now, whether or not the NVM has even tried to boot the system is something I do not know right now. Have you ever been able to get in touch with them about this hardware?" Kevin responded: "I'm actually not familiar enough with using the BASIC cart to know what Fenton means by command shortcuts; my initial thought is the keypad shortcuts. I did note the uploads you made to archive.org when you made them, so he should be aware of them (I also sent him my raw notes of the Defanti interview I did). "You know it's funny, I spoke with John Hardie at the NVM the other day about a couple other research questions I had and completely forgot to ask about the ZGRASS add-under! Supposedly he wants to try and make VCF East in a couple weeks - if he does, I'll check in with him there. Otherwise I'll just call back about it. I maintain that if the add-under works and does have ZGRASS in its rom, it would absolutely be worth dumping and trying to build an emulator for." These few tidbits of information are enough to whet my appetite for more and I hope that at some point the interview with Jamie that was conducted by Alex is made public. Perhaps after Alex Smith's book is published that will be a possibility. I'm glad that Kevin told me about this interview with Jamie Fenton that was conducted by Alex Smith. Special thanks to the three of them for their work with the astrocade and videogames in general. Fenton's work, in particular, is still used by me on a weekly basis whenever I use my astrocade. Long live the astrocade; long live Bally BASIC! Adam Trionfo
  3. It's Halloween... so I figured it was time to upload a few videos for this super-scary holiday. Here's the first one... Halloween Graphics with Flying Witch Demo By David Ibach and Steve Walters ARCADIAN 3, no. 12 (Oct. 05, 1981): 126-127. (BASIC Listing) ARCADIAN 4, no. 1 (Nov. 10, 1981): 3. (Loading Method Explanation) General Video Assembler Package (Flying Witch Sample) You can watch this video on YouTube, here: You can watch or download this video from Archive.org, here: https://archive.org/details/HalloweenGraphicsFlyingWitchDemoDaveIbachSteveWaltersBallyAstrocade Unlike most of my other videos, this program, to get it out in a timely fashion, doesn't have any background or an overview. It doesn't even have opening and closing credits. Maybe I'll make an overview of this program later. This program is for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade, a video game/computer system released by Bally in 1978. Halloween Graphics, written in Bally BASIC, and Flying Witch Demo, written in machine language, are two separate programs running together. Halloween Graphics is called "BOO" in the Arcadian. It runs with "AstroBASIC" and no expansion RAM. It draws a pumpkin, a haunted house, a skull and a witch. It runs for about two minutes and then repeats. The flying witch demo requires at least 4K of expansion RAM. A witch flies around a blank screen. When these two programs are combined, as in this video, then a witch flies around a haunted house. The program runs twice in this video. Enjoy this holiday program. Oh, and what's the deal with the pumpkin being yellow and not orange...? Adam
  4. On March 26, 2018, I posted the following message to the BallyAlley Yahoo group: Is anyone interested in having a programming contest for the Astrocade? My ideas: 1) Program in machine language or BASIC 2) Short programs for a start 3) Program of any kind (game, demo, music, video art, etc). 4) Prize? I've no idea. Does anyone want to give this a go? Adam ----------------- David Dibbern responded with: My skills were fair back in The day, but I would be interested in a retro port contest. A contest to make any retro arcade game that was not already done for the Bally, ported over . I would even pay pal $10 for starting a prize fund for this. We could get some cool retro games that we wanted to see ported but didn’t ever make it to the Astrocade Thanks- Dave ----------------- Thomas Burtell said: This would be very interesting! Programming has changed so much over the years and we all have gotten better. I'm focusing on other stuff right now, but I'd definitely like to see this Bally-battle. It's like what they do on StackExchange with "Code Golf". You have to write the tightest code with the minimal of resources. ... back to lurking. ----------------- Is anyone here on AtariAge interested in a programming contest for the Astrocade, either in BASIC or machine language? Adam
  5. I just posted this to the BallyAlley Yahoo groups, but I've decided to post this here too. I'm going to continue to post any updates about screenshots that I've added to BallyAlley.com here. Over the last two days, I've added 30 screenshots of "AstroBASIC" games to the Arcadian A-H program download section. It's actually be pretty fun loading some of these BASIC programs, some of which I don't think I've actually played before. It's nice that any "AstroBASIC" game loads in 20 seconds. I've recently been using the Timex/Sinclair and a few games take 10 minutes to load (that's not much fun!). You can see the screenshots of the BASIC programs here: http://www.ballyalley.com/program_downloads/2000_baud_programs/arcadian/programs_a-h/programs_a-h.html I took many more screenshots of these programs (most of which are games). However, I'll probably not add these other full-size screenshots to BallyAlley.com anytime soon. Even though the quality is higher, I have no easy method to add these to the website. The screenshots that I've added so far are just thumbnails, but they will give anyone a much better idea of what to expect before trying a program. I used/played most of the 30 programs while taking these pictures. Here are ten that are worth noting: 1) 2-Letter Music Maker, by Ken Lill - Neat utility that allows you to manipulate AstroBASIC's sound registers via a sort-of graphical user interface. Very neat-- but you do need to understand how the registers work-- else you'll just get easy-to-create screech-like sound effects. 2) 4D2, by Rusty Blommaert and Dale Smith - Colorful and just plain weird. If you've never tried this one out, then give it a go. I think the art demo is a non-random 20-minute loop. If you're wondering why it is called 4D2, it's pronounced "42." The name was inspired by Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series of books. 3) Alien 2000, by Henry Sopko - There are some neat graphics in this program. 4) aMAZEd in SPACE, by Aquila and Richard Houser - This is a neat little maze game where you control a spaceship with inertia. More fun than it looks, and there are many options different sizes of mazes. I'd love a machine language update of this game released on cart. 5) Bagels, by Carl Morimoto - I finally read and understood the rules for this game. This one reminds me of Mastermind. I tried it a few times, but never solved it. I got close though! 6) Bally Christmas Card, by Ed Grobe (Edge Software) - This program very slowly draws a Christmas tree with shimmering lights. This is a pretty good use of colors for an "AstroBASIC" program... or maybe it uses machine language...? 7) Baseball, by Dave Martin - This Baseball game is really more than you should be able to do in BASIC. It is quite a neat idea on how to hit the ball; it's sort of random and sort of not. I'm going to have to try playing this two-player-only game against someone sometime, and that's say a lot, as I never play sports games. 8 ) Blackjack, by Dick Harris - I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the graphics for this one. Plus, it plays quite fast. Impressive! 9) Black Hole, by Ron Picardi - I tried and tried to orbit the black hole, but I could never do it, not even on the "easy" level. I think I remember Paul Thacker saying once that he had problems with this too. However, Ron wrote to the Arcadian and said that the game is meant to be hard. Yeah-- he's right; it's certainly quite difficult! 10) Bots, by Ron McCoy / Bots II, by Ron McCoy and Steve Walters - Bots game inspired the arcade game, Berzerk. Well, not the Astrocade version of the game, but the version in (I think) one of the Creative Computing's book of games. I guess there are some changes between these two "AstroBASIC" versions of the game, but I can't tell what they are, as they both seem to play the same; the changes must be subtle. I took screenshots of many other BASIC programs, too, but these are the programs that interested me the most! Next week I'll add some more screenshots. Adam
  6. This is an expanded post about the General Video Assembler for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade. A just posted a much shorter version of this to the Bally Alley Yahoo Group. I was going to make a "quick" video review of the Centipede clone, Sneaky Snake. This is the main game cartridge that we're currently playing in the Astrocade High Score Club. It's a 4K game. I wanted to give some background for the game, so I looked into how it was programmed. It was created entirely using an Astrocade with expansion RAM: the source code was created and assembled using the General Video Assembler, a program that was available on tape. Even the Sneak Snake EPROMs were burned using an Astrocade . This intrigued me, so I skimmed the General Video Assembler manual... and then spent some time updating the Dave Ibach area on BallyAlley.com. Silly, Adam, now I probably won't have time to make a video for Sneaky Snake to get bonus points in the Astrocade HSC. Ah, well... You can read the updated description of the General Video Assembler here: http://www.ballyalley.com/tape_manuals/dave_ibach/dave_ibach.html#GeneralVideoAssemblerDocs This is an extended version of what's in the above link (minus the link to the manual): General Video Assembler. By General Video (Steve Walter and Dave Ibach). Arcadian 4, no. 12 (Oct. 07, 1982): 123. (First Advertisement) Arcadian 5, no. 4 (Feb. 18, 1983): 57. (Review) Requires: "AstroBASIC" and a minimum of 4K add-On RAM expansion. This machine language assembler cost $35. Here is an overview of it from an ad in the October 1982 Arcadian: Speak to your Astrocade in its native language! Uses standard Z80 mnemonics Has complete editing facilities Prints extensive error messages Provides symbolic access to BASIC's variables Create object programs of unlimited size Requires Astrovision BASIC with taping facility and 4K (minimum) of add-on memory switchable between 6K and 2K address ranges (like Blue Ram) The tape that this assembler was released on looks like this: Side 1: Side 2: The General Video Assembler is made-up of four programs: Collector, Pass I, Pass II and Text Editor. Also included are two sample programs: Flying Witch, and Logo. The software can be downloaded here: http://www.ballyalley.com/program_downloads/ram_expansion_required/programs_a-h/programs_a-h.html#GeneralVideoAssemblerXB This assembler actually required a keypad overlay that looked like this: This 16-page manual is quite extensive. Here is the complete first page from the manual. It gives the user an indication of what the program can do on the Astrocade. Provided in this manual is a comprehensive description of the General Video Assembler for the Z80-based Astrocade. The General Video Assembler includes an editor for preparation of the source program, Pass I and Pass II which translate Z8O source statements into hexadecimal, and the Collector for joining together multiple segments. An assembler is different from [an interpreter]. Your Astrocade BASIC is [an interpreter]. It can execute a BASIC program directly by a RUN command, translating each BASIC statement before executing it. Consequently a BASIC [interpreter] is very convenient, but also very slow in execution since every statement must be translated before execution. With an assembler, the source program cannot simply be RUN. It must first be assembled. This is a one-time process, converting source statements to hexadecimal, and is completely finished by the time the object program is CALLed. A change in the source program requires a new assembly. Since no translation goes on during execution, the speed is greatly increased. It is not the purpose of this manual to teach Z8O machine coding. If you have experience with other assembler languages and understand hexadecimal, and need only a familiarity with the processor architecture and instructions, then you can get by with the Z80 Instruction Handbook by Nat Wadsworth (SCELBI Publications, 1978, about $6). Otherwise, get a more comprehensive textbook, like Programming the Z80 by Rodney Zaks (Sybex, 1980, about $12). Hardware Required An Astrocade game computer, Astrocade BASIC with taping facilities and add-on memory is required. The add-on memory must be at least 4K (hex) in size and it must be switch able from the 2K (hex) to the 6K (hex) address ranges (like the Blue RAM or Viper). Since there is no floppy disk capability, all intermediate files must be recorded on tape. Thus tape handling can be excessive at times, in spite of operational streamlining. This is true in particular of multi-segment programs. To facilitate this, the user is strongly urged to install an I/O switch for switching between input and output taping. Steve Walters explained how to do this in Arcadian 4, no. 2 (Dec. 07, 1981): 16. It's hard for me to believe that a Z80 assembler exists for the Astrocade; that's just crazy to me. According to the Paul's interview with Dave Ibach, about 100 copies of the program were sold; more than I would expect in the little Astrocade community. The full interview with Dave Ibach is here: http://www.ballyalley.com/ballyalley/interviews/interview_with_david_ibach.txt Has anyone here used this assembler besides Paul? I haven't used it, but revisiting the documentation makes me want to try it out. Maybe I'll make a video of me using the General Video Assembler; now that would bore some folks to death! Adam
  7. I have added a 38-minute video of Ken Lill's Blue Ram Operating Guide to YouTube. The first eight minutes of the video are an overview of the "Guide," while the rest of the video is the tutorial that Ken wrote. You can watch it on YouTube here: If you're interested in downloading a higher-quality video (2.43GB, 720p, 10Mbs, MP4) to watch on your TV or computer, then you can get that at archive.org, here: https://archive.org/details/BlueRamOperatingGuidebyKenLill The Blue Ram Operating Guide by Ken Lill is a Blue Ram BASIC tutorial written for the Bally Arcade/ Astrocade in 1984. The Blue Ram Operating Guide loads using the Perkins Engineering Blue Ram RAM expansion for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade. The "Guide" is an interactive tutorial which starts out explaining the operation of the Blue Ram hardware-- how to connect it to the Astrocade, what the switches do, and more. This includes some images and animations. The later sections are mostly text explaining the new commands in Blue Ram BASIC. The Blue Ram Operating Guide requires 16K of expansion RAM and is used from four cassette tape loads (actually, each load is three separate loads). When the load is done, it tells the user to turn off the tape (i.e. stop playing the archived file). It also tells the user when to turn the tape back on again. Then the program automatically senses when the new load is started. It then asks the user to wait for the load and then goes through its explanation again. It took Ken Lill over three months to create the tape that shows almost all of the features of the Blue Ram BASIC 1.1 in "real time." The tutorial actually shows on the screen what each feature does and how to use it, rather than the user needing to go through the manual and look up how the new Blue Ram BASIC commands work. The video is split into three main parts: 0:00 - Narration and overview of Blue Ram Operating Guide 7:40 - Blue Ram Operating Guide (video of all four parts of the tutorial) 37:21 - End Credits If you're curious about the extra features of Blue Ram BASIC 1.1, then you will enjoy this tutorial for Astrocade users. This video makes a great follow-up to the overview that I made of the Blue Ram hardware last week. If you missed that video, then you can read about it in this post: http://atariage.com/forums/topic/278894-blue-ram-expansion-for-astrocade-hardware-overview/ The Blue Ram hardware is a mystery to many Astrocade fans. Hopefully this video helps to shed some light on this otherwise niche area of the Astrocade that few have seen before now. Adam
  8. I have finally managed to get my Hauppauge! HD PVR (model 1212) to work correctly so that I could capture video from my Astrocade. As a test, I captured the Bally BASIC Demo cartridge in action. This is what the cartridge looks like: The three-minute video of the cartridge running is on YouTube, here: On real hardware, if you were to run the Bally BASIC Demo cart again, then it would be a little different because the video art sections of the demo are random. Neat, right? Here's what Mike White wrote about this cartridge in the Bally-Astrocade Game Cartridge and Hardware FAQ: Bally BASIC Demo By Bally Mfg. Corp. Functional Series 8K cart 1978. This cartridge has a small (about 6") chain attached to the top-front. This cartridge was made in limited quantities and only distributed to dealers, as was also done with the Dealer Demo cartridge. This 8K cartridge (a rarity in the old days) is very hard to find, but has appeared on eBay. The first 4K is a "crippled" version of Bally BASIC that doesn't have access to the keypad or hand controllers- except #3: all the inputs are disabled. The remaining 4K of the cartridge is a program written in BASIC! This was in 1978, EIGHT YEARS before Basicarts appeared! This cartridge may have sometimes been accompanied by a 300 Baud Demo Interface. This cartridge might be #6003 (it fits there), but there is no proof of this part number assignment. (Arcadian 1, no. 6 (May. 4, 1979): 39-46.) Back in 2001, Mike White sent me a print-out of the BASIC program that is contained on the Bally BASIC Demo cartridge: http://www.ballyalley.com/type-in_programs/basic/bally_basic_demo_cart.pdf For those that are curious, I captured this video from an Astrocade equipped only with RF-out. The RF-out was fed into my Ambery "Professional RF Coax To Composite Video Audio Demodulator TV Tuner For NTSC System" (model RFDM2). I highly recommend this clever device. You can buy it here: http://www.ambery.com/prrfcotocovi1.html I plugged the composite output of the Amberly demodulator into the Hauppauge! HD PVR model 1212 and captured the video as 720x480 at 30fps using Hauppauge! Capture. I then trimmed the M2TS video to its current length using the freely distributable Videopad by NCH. I exported the video (as an mp4) from Videopad, in the process trimming some of the overscan area that was originally captured. The final exported video is 640x480, and it looks pretty good considering that the video is plain RF and not true composite or S-Video. As for this BASIC demonstration that someone may have seen running in stores in 1978/79, it only shows the most rudimentary features of BASIC. Realistically, what more could you expect in 1978? Now that I've been able to capture video, maybe I'll learn how to make a video review. That's something that I've wanted to try doing for quite a few years. I've always wanted to review Bally BASIC with the tape interface and also review "AstroBASIC." Maybe I'll do that over the next few months. Adam
  9. I've created this thread to contain all of my future Astrocade video overviews and reviews. Let's get started! Today, I made an overview video of Bally Artillery, a game for the Astrocade. I was browsing random issues of Creative Computing on archive.org on June 7, 2018 when I came across a game that I had never heard of before: Bally Artillery by John W. Rhodes. This game isn't to be confused with Artillery Duel by John Perkins. Both have the same idea, but they are completely different programs. Even though this game was published in August 1982, the author seems to imply in his write-up that it was written in late 1978 or early 1979, shortly after he got his Bally Arcade. You can view the Bally Artillery article with the type-in program, here: http://www.ballyalley.com/type-in_programs/basic/basic.html#BallyArtilleryBASICTypeIn Here are the authors notes from the Bally Artillery article: "In December of 1978 I was ready to buy my first computer system, but my requirements were not easy to meet. I wanted something that could handle arcade-quality games, had high- resolution graphics capability, color display, and Basic in PROM. "I was not satisfied with anything my local dealers had to show (no one I visited had a Compucolor. the Apple dealers were showing low-resolution only, and the Atari was only a rumor), but on the basis of the (somewhat premature) advertising for the keyboard/expansion unit. I decided to buy a Bally Professional Arcade. I could use Tiny Basic for a while, and turn it into a "real" machine in just a few short months. "It was just a few short months later that the local dealers began to show Compucolors and high-resolution Apples, and it seemed that the Bally expansion unit was more of a rumor than the Atari 800. I would visit the showrooms, see those beautiful full-size keyboards, watch people work in "real" Basic and be as green as the color monitors. "I particularly liked the artillery game that Compucolor called 'Shoot...' This game generates a random terrain display and wind factor and positions two artillery emplacements on the screen so that two opponents can take turns trying to obliterate each other. Eventually I resolved that I either had to buy a Compucolor or program this game on my Bally. I chose the latter. "This turned out to be quite a challenge with less than 2K of memory and integer-only Tiny Basic. But the Bally Basic is quite sound for game programming and easy to work with. The greatest difficulty was finding an integer sine routine, but after searching the magazines I found a routine to adapt to my purpose. I started out using a full ballistic equation, but soon found by experimentation that I could use an approximation. This eliminated an integer square-root routine and added speed in the bargain. "I spent approximately two months writing, debugging, and fine-tuning the program, but it was worth the effort. "A few months later I did buy the Compucolor and have been using it ever since. I'm well satisfied with it and use it for a variety of tasks. But my wife and I still enjoy the Bally for its games, especially the artillery game." The article also includes notes and an explanation of how the program works. I'm not sure how I overlooked it before now. Bally Artillery appeared in a major publication. How has it remained under the radar all of this time? Thanks to Lance Squire for typing in Bally Artillery last week. Since he put in the effort, I was able to give the game a try today. I made a video of the game that includes gameplay footage, an overview, and a BASIC listing. You can watch my video on YouTube, here: You can download the original 595MB MP4 video from archive.org: https://archive.org/details/BallyArtillerybyJohnRhodesforAstrocade When Lance get the kinks worked out in Artillery Duel and it's error-free, then I'll added this "AstroBASIC" game to BallyAlley.com. Enjoy! Adam
  10. Season 2, Round 10 of the Astrocade High Score Club will last about two weeks. This round ends on Sunday, September 3, 2017 at 10pm MST. The main game is a prototype cartridge called Bowling. The BASIC bonus game is called Ten Pins by Esoterica. Bowling Bowling is a prototype game that first became available for purchase in 1985 or 1986 as a 4KB cartridge. Bowling, which was to be released by Astrocade Inc. in about 1982, was supposed to be part of the Sports Series. It would have been cartridge #3006. The programmer(s) of this game are unknown. Here is the cartridge's main menu: Here are three screenshots from Bowling: Here is what the Bally/Astrocade Game Cartridge and Hardware FAQ (version 1.82) says about this game: "This cartridge, though never finished, is playable; it contains two games: "Regulation" and "Flash." It was created by Astrocade, Inc., but was never released. New Image released it in cartridge format in 1985 (between forty and fifty were made). Mike White owns the original prototype (the only one known to exist)." The Bowling cartridge ROM image (called "bowling.bin") is part of this archive: http://www.ballyalley.com/emulation/cart_images/ROMs/astrocade_rom_collection.zip The prototype, Bowling, is a one-of-a-kind cartridge. Copies of it were made in the mid-80s until (probably) the early 2000s, therefore, it's possible, though not probable, to get your hands on an actual cartridge. If you don't have it, then it is included on, I think, every multicart that has been released for the Astrocade over the years. Bowling does require the knob, but it doesn't require precise control with it, so it should run okay using the MAME Astrocade emulator with proper setup. I suggest using an X-Box 360 controller for the knob, as this work well. In about 1981 or 1982, Astrocade, Inc. published a 34-page color game catalog of the cartridges available for the Bally Astrocade. The catalog was called "The Professional Arcade: More Games... More Fun... and More to Come..." Among the 28 cartridges showcased in the catalog, five were never released: Bowling, Creative Crayon, Conan the Barbarian, Music Maker, and Soccer. The catalog listing for Bowling looked like this: Here is the game description for Bowling from this catalog: "It's like actually being at the alley. The game has all of the action and sounds of the real thing. Direct your ball with as much hook as you want. Make strikes, spares-- but watch out for splits and gutter balls! Keeps score according to official rules. Try your hand at a perfect game! Can be played alone or by up to 4 players." In June of 1982, Bally released a press release for Bowling that looked like this: The pdf of the press release is here: http://www.ballyalley.com/documentation/press/Bowling_[Press_Release_06-06-1982].pdf I've OCRed the press release for Bowling. It says: "For Release June 6, 1982 --- "Astrocade unveils bowling video game cartridge at CES "CHICAGO-Astrocade, Inc. (formerly Astrovision, Inc.) unveiled its BOWLING video game cartridge at the Consumer Electronics Show here today. "BOWLING makes you feel like you're actually in a bowling alley. You can aim, control hooks, and watch the exciting pin action as the ball hits the pins with a bang. BOWLING keeps a running score on strikes, spares, and pins. "With a game variation called "flash bowling," you can also rack up bonus points by rolling over a moving dot, as in the popular commercial bowling machines. "BOWLING can be played only on the Astrocade home video game. It will be available this Fall at Astrocade dealers, priced at $29.95." Of course, since Bowling wasn't released, there is no official box. That didn't stop an enterprising go-getter with quite some artistic talent to create an "official" box for Bowling over on Hyperspin-fe.com. Thanks to "Avar" in the AtariAge forums, and member of the HyperSpin dev team, for sharing this picture with me (note, he didn't create it; I don't know who did). This is what the Bowling box may have looked like had it been released in 1982: I don't have a picture of the Bowling cartridge copy that was released by Michael White starting in the mid-80s. The cartridge's label was probably based on this screenshot that Michael printed to his printer (that was hooked-up to his Astrocade). I think that this label was probably originally printed in color: There is no manual for Bowling. Michael White did write some basic instructions for both versions of Bowling included on the cartridge ("regular" and "Flash"), I retyped these simple instructions back in 2001. Here they are: BOWLING Cartridge 1. Insert cartridge and press [RESET] 2. Choose #1 or #2 (from keypad or hand controller#1) 3. Set difficulty level (from keypad or hand controller#1) 4. Input number of players (1 to 4) Moving the joystick up or down positions the ball. Moving the joystick left or right aims the ball by moving the sight marker. The ball will roll straight towards (and over) it. Turning the knob puts a left hook on the ball (green marker below). The hook increases as the marker moves to the right. Sorry, there is no left hook for you left-handers. Pulling the trigger rolls the ball. Players use individual hand controls. FLASHING BOWLING works the same as FLASH-O-MATIC that can be seen on the coin-op "Shuffle-Alleys" found in bars and taverns. The "Flasher" gives strike and spare awards by its location. When the ball touches a pin the flash stops strobing. It does not resume on the second throw either (no DUAL FLASH). The highest scores are given by "freezing" the flasher at "dead center." The center of the alley gives 700 for a strike and 350 for a spare. If you can get any kind of score out of the upper three difficulties you are truly ready to BOWL FOR DOLLARS!! Even with Michael's directions, I'm not exactly how to keep track of this game's score, or even how close the prototype Bowling cartridge is to being complete. Here is a 30-second YouTube video (posted by "FunCade 64") that shows the basic gameplay of Bowling: Gameplay Options Bowling Options: Difficulty level: Intermediate Bowling (Scoring): Regular Bowling (Scoring) Up to eight points will be awarded for playing "Regular Bowling." We're playing for the highest score. A perfect game should be 300 points. Flash Bowling (Scoring) I don't understand "Flash Bowling," nor have I played the mechanical versions of this game (although, I think I have seen them before). For this reason, "Flash Bowling" is being treated as sort of a bonus game. If you play "Flash Bowling," then you get one point. If you play it correctly (however that gets done), then you'll earn two points. It's okay if one person explains how to play "Flash Bowling" and then we all pile on and play it correctly. Scoring Exception Since Bowling is a prototype, it may be that all functions of the game don't work properly (which may just add to the fun-- whoopee!). If we discover some issues with this game, or if it's just not fun, then I may change the scoring to make this round more enjoyable. Ten Pins This round's BASIC bonus game is a rather nice-looking, first-perspective bowling game called Ten Pins. The "AstroBASIC" version of Ten Pins was released by Esoterica on Tape 5 with Garbersville in 1982. Ten Pins is "an exciting game of bowling complete with hook ball, gutter balls, AMF style pinsetter and every spare situation found in real bowling." Here are a few pictures of Ten Pins: For this round's bonus game, I had originally picked Bowl by Edge Software. After trying it, I realized it is a two-player-only game. I needed to choose another game, so special thanks to Paul for recommending his favorite Astrocade BASIC pinball game, Ten Pins. The cassette tape that contains Ten Pins looks like this: The Box for Ten Pins looks like this: The instructions for Ten Pins are here: http://www.ballyalley.com/tape_manuals/esoterica/Ten%20Pins%20&%20Garbersville%20(instructions)(b&w)(300%20dpi).pdf I'm not pleased with how the instructions for Ten Pins are laid out, so I OCRed them, reformatted and simplified them: Ten Pins Instructions Ten Pins from Esoterica is a realistic, fun game of bowling complete with strikes, spares, hooks, and even gutter balls, for 1 to 4 players. To load the game, type: INPUT; RUN To begin: After the game load, you will see N: Now, input the number of players directly from key pad. Line the ball up by moving the joystick to the right or left. To throw a fast ball move the joystick forward, to throw a slow ball pull the joystick back. After the ball has been released you can hook the ball by moving the joystick to the right or left---Once for a moderate hook, twice for a sharp one. DO NOT HOOK THE BALL TOO SOON! The computer will keep accurate score for all players. Some practice may be required before scores over 200 are achieved. You can download the "AstroBASIC," 2000-baud version of Ten Pins here: http://www.ballyalley.com/program_downloads/2000_baud_programs/esoterica_ltd/ten_pins_[esoterica_ltd].zip Ten Pins is just one of many BASIC bowling games released on the Astrocade system. Not only are there plenty of bowling games for the Astorcade, but there are BASIC programs written to keep track of your really bowling league scores. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, at least by Astrocade standards, the world seemed crazy for bowling! The world of the Astrocade wasn't the only corner of the computer world that loved bowling. In about 1984, on my Commodore 64, I used to play a bowling game written in BASIC. It was given to me on a disk by a neighbor and, to me, was called "Bowling." I thought that I would try to find it today. To my surprise, I found it rather quickly. The game is actually called Bowling Champ by Joseph Ganci. It appeared in the December 1983 issue of Compute's Gazette. I had no idea that this was a type-in magazine listing! Bowling Champ looks very similar to the Astrocade game Bowl by Edge Software (the game we almost played this round). Here is a screenshot of the C64 game that I just made: Compute! Publications had pretty high standards. I just found the issue that Bowling Champ first appeared in. Check out this cool artwork that accompanied the game when it was published: There is nothing like this artwork in the Astrocade newsletters; that's too bad. In comparison to this simple Commodore 64 game, Ten Pins seems a little more sophisticated, but I guess I won't know for sure until I play it during this round. Bonus Points There are many bonus points available this round for both games. Bowling - Video Review - (1 Point) - Although I found examples of gameplay footage for this cartridge, I couldn't find any reviews. Anyone who makes a video review of Bowling will get a bonus point. Bowling - Multiplayer Game - (1 Point) - If you play a game with more than one person, than you'll get a bonus point.[/i] Bowling - Perfect Game - (1 Point) - If anyone manages a perfect game (300 points), then you'll get a bonus point. This seems really hard, but there may be a trick to it that makes it easy to do.[/i] Bowling - Documenting Bogs - (1 Point) - Since this game is a prototype, there may be some bugs in it. If anyone find any problems, and documents them, then you'll earn one bonus point. Just in case there are dozens of bugs, you can only earn one bonus point no matter how matter bugs are found. Ten Pins - Playing Ten Pins - (1 Point) - Yes, just for loading this game and giving it a quick in AstroBASIC will earn one point. Ten Pins - Highest Score - (1 Point) - The maximum points that can be earned are, of course, 300. Unlike bowling, there is no additional bonus for a perfect game of Ten Pins. Ten Pins - Video Review - (1 Point) - Anyone who makes a video review of Ten Pins will get a bonus point. Summary For such a late game in the Astrocade's history (1982), Bowling looks like it could have been released in 1978. Maybe Astrocade, Inc. didn't publish Bowling because it looked rather poor for the time. Or maybe its just not finished. I'm curious if anyone can figure-out a way to get the most out of this game. For instance, is it possible that "Flash Bowling" is more fun than the regular version of this game? I was pretty shocked to see Ten Pins when it first loaded; it looks really good for a BASIC game. I'm surprised that this wasn't released under a title such as "Bowling 3D" to capitalize on the game's first-person-like effect. Ten Pins has two separate loads, so I suspect that it may be using some machine language graphic routines, but I'm not sure. This round my strain us; I'm not sure I'm prepared to play one bowling game, let along two of them. However, this competition may make this round more fun than I expect. Please post scores early, as this will give us some scores to play against. I'll be gone for some key days during this round, including the weekend that this round ends. If it seems that it is taking me a little while to wrap-up Round 10 once it's over, you can be sure that I'll get to it when I can at the beginning of the next week. Adam
  11. I have received many questions over the past fifteen years on how to use Bally BASIC and "AstroBASIC." In this thread, which I may pin if it becomes popular, I am creating a place where people can ask questions about Bally BASIC, "AstroBASIC," Blue Ram BASIC and Vipersoft BASIC, the four different BASIC languages available for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade game console/computer that was released in 1978. To get this thread started, I've created a video overview of "AstroBASIC," by far, the most common BASIC available for the Bally Arcade system. This 4KB cartridge, which includes a built-in tape interface, was released by Astrovision Inc in 1981. "AstroBASIC" is part #6004 of the Functional Series. You can view the video here: This video includes: An overview of "AstroBASIC" and the over 100-page "AstroBASIC" manual Explains how to type in BASIC commands and keywords using the Bally BASIC overlay for the 24-key keypad Shows examples of loading "AstroBASIC" programs via 2000-baud interface Shows an example of loading and listing a BASIC program (Chicago Loop by Mike Peace) from the BASIC manual The "Bally/Astrocade Game Cartridge and Hardware FAQ" says this about this "AstroBASIC:" "This updated version of the Bally BASIC cartridge is notably set apart from the original because it has a built-in 2000 baud interface that connects to a standard cassette recorder; there are also some additional commands added for the programmer. It's visually different from the original release as well. This cartridge was packaged with some Astrocade consoles (these consoles were designated as Arcade Plus). Astrocade, Inc. manufactured the later releases of this. Written by Jay Fenton." I would appreciate any feedback that you may have about this video. For instance, do you find it helpful? What would you like to see next if I decide to cover one or more of the various Astrocade versions of BASIC in more detail? I hope that you enjoy the video and find it useful. Please post any questions or comments that you have on this subject here. Adam
  12. 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: https://archive.org/details/BlueRamHardwareExpansionbyPerkinsEngineeringVideoOverview 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! Adam
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