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RCA Studio II GOLD MINE! An interview with the Studio 2 Production Manager!

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Seeing Paul's amazing homebrews games gave me the idea to unpack my good old RCA Studio II and make a

first attemps to do a mod: Audio/Video output (like a Jakk TV Plug & Play).

 

First attemps is a succes...but the video output is a bit dark, i'll boost the signal in my second attemp.

So finally NO MORE %&%&? RF SWITCH BOX!!!! :-D

 

If anyone wanna do this simple A/V mod, check out the PDF file from "ekeefe" which he done the

schematics all by himself. The Video output is already in the schematic but for the audio output, just

take the source on pin 3 of the LM555.

 

And as for the power supply, just cut the RF cable and plug a 9VDC/300ma power supply and voila!

You'll have a RCA Studio II with A/V output.

 

Check these pics:

 

DSCN1680.JPG

 

DSCN1681.JPGDSCN1682.JPGDSCN1683.JPG

 

 

--- Sly DC ---

Edited by slydc
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Thanks for all the info. As a Studio II owner, it was interesting to read about the system. Way back in '78 or '79, I wanted an Atari 2600 for Christmas, but my parents said it was too expensive and I ended up getting a Studio II that year (which were being closed out at Radio Shack for like $50 or so, including the handful of carts available for it). The Studio II was definitely lame compared to the Atari, but I do recall really liking the bowling game, and also the "pattern drawing" thing. The following summer I packed the unit back into it's box and it got put away in a closet.....I still have it and hooked it up one day 3-4 years ago....still works fine. Oh, and I finally did get the Atari I wanted a year later! :)

 

One thing I always wondered....why did they call it the Studio II? Was there actually a Studio I?

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On Wiki ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RCA_Studio_II ) just before the contents, here's what someone wrote:

 

There was a prototype, called simply RCA Studio. It was a test system comprising a box with exposed circuit boards. RCA executives, including then CFO Ray Easter, were lent the prototype to try at home and give feed back. The "Studio II" was the end product and first commercially available.

 

If we could find "Ray Easter" and ask him, now we would now for sure if a RCA Studio 1 really existed. But another prototype that Joseph A. Weisbecker did worked on

was the RCA Studio III. This one had color but eventually was never released in the USA due to poor sales of the S2. At least the Studio III did came out but only in Japan (Toshiba Visicom) and all the clones released in Europe/Australia.

 

Here's a picture of a prototype i have on my HD for 12 years now:

 

console2.jpg

 

This picture comes from a Creative Computing magazine between 1977 to 1980 that someone i known

did scan this but never told me which number of the magazine it comes from (does somebody knows ?)

 

Looking at the cartridge, it looks like a Conic or Sheen cartridge or maybe an MPT-02 one. This picture may

be a prototype of an European clone or maybe the Studio III ? Until someone can find the picture and

article in question, this is left unanswered...

 

---Sly DC ---

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Thanks for all the info. As a Studio II owner, it was interesting to read about the system. Way back in '78 or '79, I wanted an Atari 2600 for Christmas, but my parents said it was too expensive and I ended up getting a Studio II that year (which were being closed out at Radio Shack for like $50 or so, including the handful of carts available for it). The Studio II was definitely lame compared to the Atari, but I do recall really liking the bowling game, and also the "pattern drawing" thing. The following summer I packed the unit back into it's box and it got put away in a closet.....I still have it and hooked it up one day 3-4 years ago....still works fine. Oh, and I finally did get the Atari I wanted a year later! :)

 

One thing I always wondered....why did they call it the Studio II? Was there actually a Studio I?

The traditional story is that it was called the Studio II out of reference to the RCA Studio that made music records, and that this would've been their second Studio. Personally though, I'm not sure of that, though there may have been prior hardware that the Studio II was based off of. Hold that thought, I'll say for now...

 

On Wiki ( http://en.wikipedia....i/RCA_Studio_II ) just before the contents, here's what someone wrote:

 

There was a prototype, called simply RCA Studio. It was a test system comprising a box with exposed circuit boards. RCA executives, including then CFO Ray Easter, were lent the prototype to try at home and give feed back. The "Studio II" was the end product and first commercially available.

 

If we could find "Ray Easter" and ask him, now we would now for sure if a RCA Studio 1 really existed. But another prototype that Joseph A. Weisbecker did worked on

was the RCA Studio III. This one had color but eventually was never released in the USA due to poor sales of the S2. At least the Studio III did came out but only in Japan (Toshiba Visicom) and all the clones released in Europe/Australia.

 

Here's a picture of a prototype i have on my HD for 12 years now:

 

console2.jpg

 

This picture comes from a Creative Computing magazine between 1977 to 1980 that someone i known

did scan this but never told me which number of the magazine it comes from (does somebody knows ?)

 

Looking at the cartridge, it looks like a Conic or Sheen cartridge or maybe an MPT-02 one. This picture may

be a prototype of an European clone or maybe the Studio III ? Until someone can find the picture and

article in question, this is left unanswered...

 

---Sly DC ---

 

Holy f#ckamoly! I love the new information that has turned up over the course of this thread! :)

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stil working on the multi-card. i've got a 32k ram board made that i'm debugging. contains the system roms, both game roms and the 512 bytes of ram, plus 30K more, give or take. two chips, and they work but not perfectly yet. the idea is sound, and it's just that I have all these battery-backed 32k SRAM modules that has me playing with this. once it works, of course, it works. also cures any S2 that has bad rams or roms. the rams cost $10 a pop and they are available, but i don't have a bag of them like i do the DS1644's.

 

kinda cute. more later. i've been quiet, but not lazy. moving along about as fast as i can push it.

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console2.jpg

 

Finally discovered about this mysterious game system after 12 years! The picture was taken from the

Creative Computer Sept/Oct.1978 issue (page 39) and is called the "Victory-3" by Accurate Electronics

Industry Ltd. (aka Conic) which was showned at the 1978 CES (June 11-14 in Chicago, IL).

 

This prototype did indeed had color and the sound comes out the tv (and not from the system itself like

the RCA Studio II). Just another note about the sound, same goes to all European clone. The sounds comes

from the CDP1864 and not from a LM555 like in the Studio II.

 

The "Victory-3" name was inspired from two different names actually: the "Victory" part was reused for the Soundic

Victory game system and the "3" comes from the Studio III (the Studio II color prototype). So this picture would be

a prototype of the Studio III in a way but the Victory-3 was a PAL system (not NTSC).

 

To achive exactly a Studio III (3), you would need a Studio II (2) and mod it with a CDP1862 plus a VP-595 Simple Sound

board and also a extra 1k RAM for the Color (VRAM), which this would make a NTSC version of an European clone.

 

What is weird is that history was repeated with the the Magnavox Odyssey 3 prototype, which finally became the Philips

Videopac+ (G7400 and other clones) in Europe.

 

---Sly DC ---

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Update to Studio 2 homebrew - probably the last for a while - Berzerk.

 

:-o You're amazing Paul with what you can make this system do; and in such little time.

 

Ever thought of writing up a "How to Program the Studio II" book?

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To achive exactly a Studio III (3), you would need a Studio II (2) and mod it with a CDP1862 plus a VP-595 Simple Sound

board and also a extra 1k RAM for the Color (VRAM), which this would make a NTSC version of an European clone.

Thanks for sharing this. Now I'm looking forward to the multi-cart and the possibility to mod my system to have...

  • power mod
  • video mod
  • Studio III mod

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Any update on turning an Arduino Uno into a Studio II? The Arduinos and Keypads can be had cheap. The TV out cable can be made. I'd love a full revivial of this system!

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I think it would be easier to just buy a foreign model for a real "Studio III"

 

I think they are quite hard to find and all but the Visicom one are PAL output. I'd love to find a Toshiba Visicom.

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So I was working on a few busted units and got 3 of 4 to work. #4 is now the multi-card development platform.

 

After getting one of the units fixed, i boxed it back up in the box it arrived in, duct taped it and headed off to the post office, since i live where there is no UPS store. Decided to ship it first class, as I am a cheap bastard.It cost me EXACTLY $18.02 to mail it. Whack, huh?

 

Anyway, concerning the multi-card. I'm planning to make it universal, but step one is to make it work in basic form. I'm off of it for today, but will work some more over the weekend, I hope. My current card has 32k of memory, more than enough to store all the games, I think. More than enough to support an operating system or monitor, too, except the 1802 does not have a hardware UART for serial IO. It's expensive in software terms, too, and the processor is slow as hell. But in terms of raw memory, the 32K I have installed is a lot of memory, considering that the original has 2.5K, of which 512 bytes is RAM. I have a lot of 32k chips, too, so there is a premium for me to get this approach to work. yesterday morning, when I stopped for the day, I could read and write all locations, and the software was installed but did not work. Today, I can no longer read reliably, but can still write to page 0 with no issues. Not sure why.

 

The 1802 is unusual in that it has a muxed address buss that latches the high order byte first. I have a pile of 87C257 latched EPROMS that latch the low byte first, and is IS POSSIBLE to re-map the contents to make that work, but non-trivial and i think, poor form, so I'm opting for a HC573 or 574 octal latch / octal D-flip flop (either should work), and the DS1644 as a combination program store and RAM. I don't have any spare 1622 SRAMs laying around, and needed to put in some RAM to fix the S2 I am using, so this kills a lot of birds with a single shot. When it works, that is. If it works!

 

If not, on to plan B.

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So I was working on a few busted units and got 3 of 4 to work. #4 is now the multi-card development platform.

 

After getting one of the units fixed, i boxed it back up in the box it arrived in, duct taped it and headed off to the post office, since i live where there is no UPS store. Decided to ship it first class, as I am a cheap bastard.It cost me EXACTLY $18.02 to mail it. Whack, huh?

 

Anyway, concerning the multi-card. I'm planning to make it universal, but step one is to make it work in basic form. I'm off of it for today, but will work some more over the weekend, I hope. My current card has 32k of memory, more than enough to store all the games, I think. More than enough to support an operating system or monitor, too, except the 1802 does not have a hardware UART for serial IO. It's expensive in software terms, too, and the processor is slow as hell. But in terms of raw memory, the 32K I have installed is a lot of memory, considering that the original has 2.5K, of which 512 bytes is RAM. I have a lot of 32k chips, too, so there is a premium for me to get this approach to work. yesterday morning, when I stopped for the day, I could read and write all locations, and the software was installed but did not work. Today, I can no longer read reliably, but can still write to page 0 with no issues. Not sure why.

 

The 1802 is unusual in that it has a muxed address buss that latches the high order byte first. I have a pile of 87C257 latched EPROMS that latch the low byte first, and is IS POSSIBLE to re-map the contents to make that work, but non-trivial and i think, poor form, so I'm opting for a HC573 or 574 octal latch / octal D-flip flop (either should work), and the DS1644 as a combination program store and RAM. I don't have any spare 1622 SRAMs laying around, and needed to put in some RAM to fix the S2 I am using, so this kills a lot of birds with a single shot. When it works, that is. If it works!

 

If not, on to plan B.

 

Hi fauxscot,

 

I just wanted to thank you for reviving the RCA Studio II and for your work repairing people's units as well as designing the Multi-Cart. You have renewed interest in this under-appreciated console and opened up a whole new world of possibilities for it. It's quite exciting! I finally got my hands on a boxed working unit with a few games...my first RCA Studio II! I'm impressed by this machine that you built way back in 1976. :)

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Update to Studio 2 homebrew - probably the last for a while - Berzerk.

 

http://www.robsons.org.uk/homebrew.zip

 

Though I will update them to have porting notes in case anyone wants to port them to Elf, Cosmac VIP etc. which is not difficult.

 

berzerk.png

 

Paul,

 

These homebrews are simply amazing. You are quite talented to port these classic games to the RCA S2 and so quickly!!! I've been having a ball playing all these games I wish I could play on the RCA S2 but never thought possible...until now. ;-) I'm looking forward to the Multi-Cart and playing these games on the hardware. Just wanted to say thank you...your efforts are greatly appreciated. I'm enjoying my first RCA S2!

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Question about the test cart, not that I have one. It says to use the test cart you need to use the special 9v 500ma PS, instead of the 9v 250ma normal supply. Anyone know why that is? Any chance that a multicart might stress the PS or cause any issues that might require a higher amperage PS?

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That depends on if you're making a new RCA II icon_smile.gif I'd buy it!

 

However, I think an off-the-shelf Arduino with keypads and improvised TV out cable could do an RCA II just fine. It's just a matter of writing an interpreter for RCA II games.

 

I noticed this old post while trying to find something. I've got this working - it was an outgrowth of my VIP project - basically the same thing with a different keyboard and memory map :)

 

Though it doesn't emulate the RCA2 interpreter, in emulates the 1802, and generates the display at the same time, which says something about how slow the Studio 2 is :)

 

It's an Uno or other 328 based Arduino (the Leonardo's don't work), a couple of resistors, a piezo buzzer and a pair of 3x4 keypads - the video is a heavily modified version of TVout

 

I'll dig it out and upload it.

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It's high time I gave an extra special thank you to the awesome work that Fauxscot has been doing. In addition to all of the great info given here and the work on the hopefully forth coming multi cart for the SII, he has rescued 2 of my units from the graveyard of consoles for me. Earlier in this thread I talked about all the bad luck I had getting these off ebay. I bought 3 in a row - all lemons. However thanks to Fauxscot's great work, all the money I spent on them has not gone to waste; I now have 2 perfectly working consoles and hopefully that 3rd unit (which has been donated permanently to all causes SII) is proving of some worth as development on the multicart continues. So, again, I cant say thanks enough for the awesome work Fauxscot! After ~36 years of waiting (I first saw the SII in a TV guide ad), I am finally able to use an SII.

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It's high time I gave an extra special thank you to the awesome work that Fauxscot has been doing. In addition to all of the great info given here and the work on the hopefully forth coming multi cart for the SII, he has rescued 2 of my units from the graveyard of consoles for me. Earlier in this thread I talked about all the bad luck I had getting these off ebay. I bought 3 in a row - all lemons. However thanks to Fauxscot's great work, all the money I spent on them has not gone to waste; I now have 2 perfectly working consoles and hopefully that 3rd unit (which has been donated permanently to all causes SII) is proving of some worth as development on the multicart continues. So, again, I cant say thanks enough for the awesome work Fauxscot! After ~36 years of waiting (I first saw the SII in a TV guide ad), I am finally able to use an SII.

 

Agreed!!!!! Fauxscot has resurrected the RCA S2 36 years later and it's quite the exciting time to be an S2 owner. This is actually my first S2 console thanks to all the interest Fauxscot has generated. Looking forward to the coming developments, but yes thank you for all of your work on this system.

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Wow, amazing thread!

 

I am looking for one Euro clone for long, and this thread only make me more wlling to find one!

 

So it's the console that is PAL or NTSC not the cartridges? That's the way it is for Intellivision anyway.

No games are "PAL" or "NTSC".

You can program game so they can detect the processor and works accordingly (some Megadrive PAL games does that and run at the same speed than their US and Japanese counterpart) or to not work at all.

 

On older systems, game need to be tweaked sometime because of the different video chip used. A good example being the Atari 2600 that have 128 colors on NTSC versions and 108 colors only on PAL version, those colors being lost because of the need to add more lines on the screen.

 

The games themselves doesn't have any analog video processing that would tell the system "put out PAL color".

 

The video is on digital format until it reach a digital to analog chip or series of chips (usually, the video is divided in component format, either in YUV format or RGB, then into composite) and this is where your system will output PAL or NTSC. Or SECAM, also. Or you can tell the composite to go away and use YUV or RGB.

 

I think at the time, engineers didn't even though about their games going overseas, so there was no need to include a regional lock system.

Edited by CatPix

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I don't think the number of colors on the Atari 2600 has something to do with the number of video lines. It rather has to do with the fact that color is encoded differently in PAL than it is in NTSC, and I guess the Atari engineers tried to find a solution for both ways that requires as low a component cost as justifiable. Therefore, if you look at the palettes, you will see that the Atari 2600 has got different palettes in PAL and NTSC. It still accomodates to the video system, but the software has to accomodate as well... a PAL cartridge inserted into a US 2600 will still output a 50 Hz frame rate, which will usually roll the screen. And the colors will correspond to the NTSC palette. Thus, PAL versions of Atari 2600 cartridges are usually different in some places from NTSC versions because they adapt the colors (to show roughly the same colors as the US counterparts) and the number of lines put out per screen. By this, technically the 2600 cartridges are still divided in a PAL region and a NTSC region.

 

On other systems, software is technically compatible, but there might still be problems with the different framerate when the game contains multiple threads, part of which are tied to the TV framerate and part to the CPU speed. You can see this on TI-99 games like PARSEC where the enemies fly slightly different patterns when using a PAL video chip vs. NTSC because their motion is tied to the vertical blanking interrupt while the main game loop just runs "as fast as possible" and thus does more frames per loop on NTSC than on PAL. Sometimes software was still adapted to account for this.

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I have Visicom 110, 130, 140 and 160. I have not found certain proof of the existence of the other two carts. Again, in storage.

 

Way back on page 7 of this thread, TLD1985 posted a picture that included 141 and 190. I've never seen them for sale myself.

 

As long as these have gone undumped, I'd say doing it at the end of the year would be worth the wait.

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News on the multi-cart front...

 

Had to set things aside for a few weeks and deal with other projects, but finally got back to work on it this weekend, late.

 

I have built a composite card that fits in the card slot and takes the place of all the RAM chips and the resident ROM chips. It has been misbehaving and presenting a complicated debug, leaving me uncertain as to what has been going on. It uses one RAM chip and one latch, plus some haywires. Takes a very slight mod to pick up two processor outputs.

 

Sorry for going dark, but what should have been a simple build and test took a lot longer than expected. One reason was that the S2 I was using was not one I had a huge amount of confidence in. I am using a busted video chip, too. And a micro-system troubleshooter which SEEMS to work pretty well, but which was giving me ambiguous results.

 

Finally this morning, I re-checked everything, made a few tweaks and now have an operational Studio 2 running out of a 32K battery-backed RAM chip. This is the first step in making it into a universal card. Right now, it's running RCA code, but doesn't have to. An enterprising lad might write an entirely different 'OS' for it. (That would NOT be me, BTW.)

 

Pix in a minute or two. It's downstairs waiting for me to make the first move in a bowling match.

 

Woot.

Edited by fauxscot
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Hello,

 

@fauxscot

 

If you need help debugging, I am willing to help. I also have a Fluke 9010a with the 1802 pod. I have been working with the 1802 for years. You can see some of the things I have done here:

 

http://www.cosmacvip.com

 

I posted some pictures of the studio II that I built back on post #263. Here is a link to that post:

 

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/209519-rca-studio-ii-gold-mine-an-interview-with-the-studio-2-production-manager/page__st__250#entry2733743

 

I don't mind point to point wiring or creating PCBs.

 

If you would like my help, just ask.

 

ED

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