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

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On 7/14/2019 at 3:25 AM, Questor said:

I'm sorry if this is the wrong place to ask for help. I have an RCA Studio II system that half works. By that I mean only half the lines show up on the TV screen. I've attached a picture of the built-in Bowling game. There are evenly-spaced gaps in the solid white border as well as the bowling ball and pins.

 

I've tried the system on several different TV sets, including one from the late 1970s. I've switched the channel from 2 to 3. I've tried both the original switch box that came with the system and a second switch box I picked up years ago. The original power adapter failed so I replaced it with a 9v 300mA AC adapter. This was also years ago. Is this the wrong power adapter? Is it possible I fried the circuit board(s)?

 

Thanks for any help.

rcastudio2.jpg

[I thought I had answered this, but it seems to be missing, so maybe I forgot to submit?!?]

 

anyway, your system has a faulty RAM chip - the Studio II has a whopping 512 bytes of RAM. Half of this is working memory - the other half is for the video. They're 4-bit chips, meaning you need two of them for 8 bits: one handles bits 0-3 and the other one 4-7. One of the ones that handles the video is broken, so that you only see half the bits drawn.

 

It's an easy enough fix, if you know how to (de-)solder. You'll need to source a CDP1822 (or equivalent). If you can't find one for a reasonable price, let me know and I should be able to help... I forgot which chip it is on the mainboard, but I can find out if you're planning to try and fix it.

 

FliP

 

p.s. it's unlikely a faulty power supply caused this - these chips are 40 years old and can fail...


 

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Yep, this seems to be 1 of the biggest problems with them....bad ram chips. So missing or garbled video.

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@flip having some trouble with my newly acquired Studio II. Can’t get much of anything to display on screen, but I did get a white maze to appear (maybe trying to play patterns?). It beeps occasionally like it’s semi-working and the red-light comes on. I’ve been told that these are signs of bad RAM. What can I do about it?

72D8CD60-2814-4262-A789-99C0FA5648FA.jpeg

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9 hours ago, EdgeOfPortal said:

@flip having some trouble with my newly acquired Studio II. Can’t get much of anything to display on screen, but I did get a white maze to appear (maybe trying to play patterns?). It beeps occasionally like it’s semi-working and the red-light comes on. I’ve been told that these are signs of bad RAM. What can I do about it?

72D8CD60-2814-4262-A789-99C0FA5648FA.jpeg

Hi,

 

Bad RAM is one possibility, but one or more bad ROM chips is also a possible. Do you have any cartridges you can try? If that works, it would mean that the lower ROMs and RAM are OK. If you have the multicart, this can actually replace the entire ROM set and if that works, it would mean the RAM is OK. If no cart works, you'll need to look at replacing the RAM...

 

It'd be happy to help out, if needed. Let me know...

 

FliP

 

 

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2 hours ago, flip said:

Hi,

 

Bad RAM is one possibility, but one or more bad ROM chips is also a possible. Do you have any cartridges you can try? If that works, it would mean that the lower ROMs and RAM are OK. If you have the multicart, this can actually replace the entire ROM set and if that works, it would mean the RAM is OK. If no cart works, you'll need to look at replacing the RAM...

 

It'd be happy to help out, if needed. Let me know...

 

FliP

 

 

Hi, yes I’ve tried Tennis/Squash, Math Fun, Blackjack, and Speedway/Tag. Unfortunately none work with the system. Help would be great, thanks.

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So back in August I recorded a podcast for Retronauts about the RCA Studio II and the Channel F, which just went live today. I don't know that it's any information that isn't located somewhere in this thread, but it was a great opportunity to get the story of the system out there!

 

https://retronauts.com/article/1443/revisit-an-age-before-atari-2600-in-episode-278

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So back in August I recorded a podcast for Retronauts about the RCA Studio II and the Channel F, which just went live today. I don't know that it's any information that isn't located somewhere in this thread, but it was a great opportunity to get the story of the system out there!
 
https://retronauts.com/article/1443/revisit-an-age-before-atari-2600-in-episode-278

Great podcast! Never listened to this one before, guess I have a new one to listen to.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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On 1/27/2020 at 8:07 PM, ubersaurus said:

So back in August I recorded a podcast for Retronauts about the RCA Studio II and the Channel F, which just went live today. I don't know that it's any information that isn't located somewhere in this thread, but it was a great opportunity to get the story of the system out there!

 

https://retronauts.com/article/1443/revisit-an-age-before-atari-2600-in-episode-278

I’m listening right now, which inspired me to visit this thread for the first time in a long time. Thanks for the informative listen; I had no idea about the Studio IV!

 

I’ve had an Studio II in my collection just kinda collecting dust for years and this has inspired me to get it back out and give it a little love. 

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On 1/27/2020 at 8:07 PM, ubersaurus said:

So back in August I recorded a podcast for Retronauts about the RCA Studio II and the Channel F, which just went live today. I don't know that it's any information that isn't located somewhere in this thread, but it was a great opportunity to get the story of the system out there!

 

https://retronauts.com/article/1443/revisit-an-age-before-atari-2600-in-episode-278

This was the first retronauts podcast I listened to (very fun and informative btw) and the very next day I found a Studio II at a Goodwill. I posted about that in the thrift store thread. It was a very happy coincidence and I’ve been enjoying the oddity of the system all weekend. Thanks for the good listen!

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9 hours ago, fakecortex said:

This was the first retronauts podcast I listened to (very fun and informative btw) and the very next day I found a Studio II at a Goodwill. I posted about that in the thrift store thread. It was a very happy coincidence and I’ve been enjoying the oddity of the system all weekend. Thanks for the good listen!

I’m glad you enjoyed! You should look into the multicart for the machine - easiest way to play those Studio III games like Pinball and Star Wars on it!

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Update to the post a while back regarding Jack Wright's VIP adapter and getting around the lack of an R/W line on the cart slot. It seems that it wasn't a full VIP system (Maybe a 180?). Wright said that he wasn't able to find any of his documents from that era, but his memory suggests the card had ROM code to tell the processor to read computer machine code typed in from the keypads, put it in the system RAM, and then run it. Without the design for it or the SII on hand, he speculates that it might have had a pin on the cart slot that allowed him to add a cassette recorder connection on the card that would allow saving programs to tape and reading them back like the VIP does, or an unused pin on the cart slot he wired up himself to the necessary connection on the Studio II circuit board to allow for connecting a tape recorder.

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6 hours ago, ubersaurus said:

Update to the post a while back regarding Jack Wright's VIP adapter and getting around the lack of an R/W line on the cart slot. It seems that it wasn't a full VIP system (Maybe a 180?). Wright said that he wasn't able to find any of his documents from that era, but his memory suggests the card had ROM code to tell the processor to read computer machine code typed in from the keypads, put it in the system RAM, and then run it. Without the design for it or the SII on hand, he speculates that it might have had a pin on the cart slot that allowed him to add a cassette recorder connection on the card that would allow saving programs to tape and reading them back like the VIP does, or an unused pin on the cart slot he wired up himself to the necessary connection on the Studio II circuit board to allow for connecting a tape recorder.

Interesting: a cassette interface like the VIP would require some modifications to the console itself. The VIP uses EF2 to read and Q to write tapes. Q on the SII is used to drive the speaker, EF2 is not used. The cart itself appears to resemble the programming cart that @ekeefe mentioned in this post. Assuming that cassette in/out routines could be added, it would come close to what Mr Wright describes?

Taking this further and accepting hardware mods to the console, you could disable the onboard game ROMs using a switch. This would free up the ROMDIS signal on the cartridge port. You could then use that for the MRW signal... Mods to the console would be minimal but you could come close to a VIP. 

 

FliP

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Maybe someone can refresh my memory.  A while back I had a card that I was told was some sort of programmers interface for the Studio II.  I was never able to try it because it needed extra RAM and ended up selling it off.  All I recall is that it was apparently sold through the Studio II newsletter.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?  Does anyone have pictures of it in action?  Just curious.

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6 minutes ago, Tempest said:

Maybe someone can refresh my memory.  A while back I had a card that I was told was some sort of programmers interface for the Studio II.  I was never able to try it because it needed extra RAM and ended up selling it off.  All I recall is that it was apparently sold through the Studio II newsletter.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?  Does anyone have pictures of it in action?  Just curious.

Is that not what @ekeefe posted about? The cartridge runs in Emma 02 (cart is called computer.st2) if you want to see it "action", but it's fairly cumbersome to use, having to type is code via the keypads, byte by byte and without a way to save it. You don't need extra RAM, but you only have about 200 bytes to play with...

 

FliP

Edited by flip

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35 minutes ago, flip said:

Is that not what @ekeefe posted about? The cartridge runs in Emma 02 (cart is called computer.st2) if you want to see it "action", but it's fairly cumbersome to use, having to type is code via the keypads, byte by byte and without a way to save it. You don't need extra RAM, but you only have about 200 bytes to play with...

 

FliP

Maybe?  I swear it needed extra ram though (like an extra 2K).

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When I visited Hagley library yesterday, I was able to make some high quality scans of the Coin Arcade instruction cards. Might be helpful for emulation/archival purposes. Most intriguing was coming across the schematics of the VIP II hardware, which I have already provided to Marcel and Ed Keefe for their respective uses.

 

Met up with Joyce Weisbecker while I was there, who provided me with some nice context to the documents we looked over and sat down for a lengthy interview of her history with the FRED line and her general philosophy on video game design and what can make it interesting. Additionally, she shared Joe's theory on why the console was called the Studio II (as not even he was sure): his reasoning was that "Studio" could have been an initial reference to a broadcast studio, since RCA owned those, and that someone who scheduled programming was called a programmer... and therefore maybe it got the name to appease an executive involved in the broadcast side of the business. He said that the name focus tested poorly but since it didn't get changed, he suspected it was a decision out of marketing's hands.

 

Got a few more names of folks who were connected to the project in some way to try and track down...

rca arcade instruction card scans.pdf

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One more thing, re: Bingo. Jack Wright told me this weekend that he also doesn't remember seeing it anywhere while he worked out of the Swannanoa manufacturing plant, but he doesn't discount that as necessarily not having been produced there. Joyce Weisbecker did remark to me that RCA folks typically went all out on their pre-release marketing mockups of materials as it made it more likely for a product to move forward if it looked like it could be ready to go on store shelves soon. So with these points in mind, it does seem likelier to me that the existing Bingo copies floating around are indeed among those marketing mockups rather than anything that was mass produced. 

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Don't know if these informations have already revealed but I've just found, in the Ebony magazine dec.77, a small article about Jesse Williams, a manager at RCA Corporation. On the photo, we can see a demonstration Studio II! Too bad we can't see it in entirety!

Here are some captures from google books. Don't know if it exists a PDF or if someone on this topic has theses documents in better quality?

 

Ebony.png

Jesse Williams.png

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1 hour ago, RayXambeR said:

Don't know if these informations have already revealed but I've just found, in the Ebony magazine dec.77, a small article about Jesse Williams, a manager at RCA Corporation. On the photo, we can see a demonstration Studio II! Too bad we can't see it in entirety!

Here are some captures from google books. Don't know if it exists a PDF or if someone on this topic has theses documents in better quality?

 

Ebony.png

Jesse Williams.png

I did indeed post this exact blurb a year or two ago. I attempted to find for sure if Mr. Williams is still alive, as did several researchers. If he is still with us, he either never received any of our inquiries or his health does not permit answering questions. That, and his extremely common name. There's a lot of Jesse Williamses out there.

 

The image of that stand isn't the most interesting tidbit for me. The confirmation that there were 22 different RCA Family Stores locations is part of what makes me entertain the possibility that TV Bingo did have some sort of "in house" release.

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Yeah, I've been trying unsuccessfully to track him down. Given that he was head of marketing the machine, he'd be able to shed some light on a number of aspects - why the name was chosen, who did the artwork, distribution, what limitations they had as a special products item, etc. so far nada though!

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Sorry to post again these informations. And yes of course, the 22 family stores are a really interesting aspect. Do you know if they are sort of DIY or a real "commercial" realization (like Vectrex stands for example). Do exist other photos of this store?

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I have just found a very interesting photo on the switchgaming website. Don't know if you here already know it?

It shows a b&w photo with a handicapped person playing with the Bowling game on Studio II!

This photo is extracted from a book written by Karen Hugues, in 1981. I will try to find this book if possible but it seems not available yet.

https://switchgaming.blogspot.com/2008/03/accessible-gaming-in-1981.html

 

RCAStudioII-headwand.jpg

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1 hour ago, RayXambeR said:

I have just found a very interesting photo on the switchgaming website. Don't know if you here already know it?

It shows a b&w photo with a handicapped person playing with the Bowling game on Studio II!

This photo is extracted from a book written by Karen Hugues, in 1981. I will try to find this book if possible but it seems not available yet.

https://switchgaming.blogspot.com/2008/03/accessible-gaming-in-1981.html

 

RCAStudioII-headwand.jpg

Ah, so that's where that image came from! I'd seen it before but never knew the source, and more importantly what exact year it was taken. Thank you for posting that!:)

 

I had wondered if there was perhaps specialized hardware involved in that, but it seems that it was just an ordinary stock system that was likely used because it doesn't require a fine degree of control to use. Not the best for normal gaming but works well for somebody with physical challenges.

 

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