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

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I have a small correction -- this was a scholarly journal article rather than a book:

 

Part 1 --  TEACHING Exceptional Children, v14 n2 (1981 - 11): 80-83

Part 2 -- Teaching Exceptional Children, v14 n3 (1981 - 12): 127-29

 

It appears that this photograph appeared with Part 1 of the article. This journal is widely available in academic libraries (at least here in Canada). 

 

The whole article is available online, at a cost of $37.50 (per each part):

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/004005998101400210 (part 1)

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/004005998101400309 (part 2)

 

 

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On 2/3/2020 at 1:50 PM, 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

Do we know what year the programming cart was created? I followed the threads to those pics/scans ekeefe posted of the cart and instructions but couldn't find more info.

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Happy late rca s2 star wars day!

PSX_20200505_024313.thumb.jpg.a94f1d43f26e46fdf7cd8ab88a1d65f5.jpg

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Posted (edited)
20 hours ago, 4cade said:

Do we know what year the programming cart was created? I followed the threads to those pics/scans ekeefe posted of the cart and instructions but couldn't find more info.

So the original documents in the Weisbecker files are undated, but I believe they date to 1978. Weisbecker refers to RCA producing around 150,000 units and liquidating them to Radio Shack, where you could buy them at the time. He then details how you can build your own cart with off the shelf parts.

 

Not sure if the directions were published anywhere at the moment - I have other documents to sift through that I haven't yet - but Radio Shack doesn't seem to have advertisements for the machine past that year.

Edited by ubersaurus
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It is always a great pleasure to make a new discovery and in addition to Blackjack and Schoolhouse I, there is another intentional variant for Space War! The much rarer earlier version that must have been changes after the initial test release simply says TV Arcade Series, while almost every copy from after that point has the much more familiar TV Arcade I on the cart labels. If anyone else has this major label variant, please share, especially if the manual also has differences.

0613202230.jpg

0613202230a.jpg

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On ‎7‎/‎8‎/‎2020 at 10:56 AM, ubersaurus said:

This was brought to my attention by another game history researcher: Joe Weisbecker wrote about FRED for the People's Computer Company newsletter (specifically the September 1974 issue):

 

https://archive.computerhistory.org/resources/access/text/2017/09/102661095/102661095-05-v3-n1-acc.pdf

Whoah! :)

 

That article is itself a gold mine of additional programs that existed and which hopefully can still be recovered somehow. The mention of multiple prototypes having already been constructed and used in homes for several years prior to 1974 is tantalizing, and would certainly explain a few mentions of "home units" that various people mentioned but which did not align with known hardware dates.

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Well, it sounds like only the programs with asterisks were actually some, and given this was late 74 I think they were already working on the arcade machine. The multiple units is also known, thanks to Joyce and BJ Call - they built several Fred units for testing purposes (I think 6?) and then several Fred 2 briefcase sized units. Several of them are at TCNJ!

 

as for the asterisk programs, I think all but three or four are accounted for from the tapes. It’s possible the remaining ones exist as written code in Hagley’s archive or on punch cards.

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Hi folks!

 

There is a new homebrew game that was released 3 days ago by azya52 (the same author that did Microbird & Tetris for the Milton Bradley Microvision),

the name of the game is "Race" (i know, not very original) but he did a HELL of a homebrew!! Check it out here on Youtube:

 

 

I just have one word seeing this.... WOW!! The game is not finished yet but i have never dreamed to see a game like this for the RCA Studio II.

He uses a resolution of 64x128 (!!!) which we only see for Super Chip. What fascinates me is he writes that it can be played on a real Studio II !!!

Anyway, check out the video and read his description.

 

You can download a copy of the unfinished game here: https://github.com/azya52/rcastudioii

 

Have fun (and start drooling....LOL!!!)

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, slydc said:

I just have one word seeing this.... WOW!! The game is not finished yet but i have never dreamed to see a game like this for the RCA Studio II.

He uses a resolution of 64x128 (!!!) which we only see for Super Chip. What fascinates me is he writes that it can be played on a real Studio II !!!

Anyway, check out the video and read his description.

 

Extremely impressive - the 1861 allows a number of different video resolutions, but the available RAM limits what can be used. I assume there's some clever trickery involved, as 64x128 would normally need 1k of RAM (Studio only has 2 x 256 bytes)

 

it'll be a bit of a challenge to get this running on real hardware, or at least on my multicart. The game uses the $a00-$bff range. In my multicart design, these are not mapped to the cartridge ROM so they are not usable. There may be a way, assuming the game doesn't rely on any kernel routines (by moving the program around and not using the on-board ROMs, in the $000-$3ff range).

 

Still, awesome effort and looking forward to further development...

 

FliP

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He had a detailed write-up in Russian, which translates fairly well through Google Translate. From what I can understand, he has his own interrupt handler that changes the address of the video memory so he can feed part of the video frame from ROM and part from RAM. The upper half of the screen runs in 64x128, the lower half runs in 64x64 so that would be split screen, effectively 64x96 pixels I think.

 

https://m.habr.com/ru/post/422277/

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12 hours ago, slydc said:

Hi folks!

 

There is a new homebrew game that was released 3 days ago by azya52 (the same author that did Microbird & Tetris for the Milton Bradley Microvision),

the name of the game is "Race" (i know, not very original) but he did a HELL of a homebrew!! Check it out here on Youtube:

 

 

I just have one word seeing this.... WOW!! The game is not finished yet but i have never dreamed to see a game like this for the RCA Studio II.

He uses a resolution of 64x128 (!!!) which we only see for Super Chip. What fascinates me is he writes that it can be played on a real Studio II !!!

Anyway, check out the video and read his description.

 

You can download a copy of the unfinished game here: https://github.com/azya52/rcastudioii

 

Have fun (and start drooling....LOL!!!)

 

 

 

Kinda goes to show that the Studio II had more capability than what a lot people think about it.  Shame RCA made so many bad decisions concerning it.  It could've been a winner in some respects.  Still, great to see development going on for the Studio II.

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That game looks wild! I am continually impressed with homebrew Studio II stuff. I wonder if the author has considered adding Studio III color and sound support?

 

Unrelated, I got a research grant from the Hagley Library to look through their RCA materials for a full week! Just gotta figure out when I can get up there, but it'll be a huge boon compared to only being able to take a few hours on a Saturday to frantically go through boxes as fast as I can.

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Interesting. It brings the follow-up question if the Studio III (i.e. the various systems previously erroneously known as clones) also would be capable of up to 64x128 pixels, or if the addition of colours was made by sacrificing higher resolution. I'm sure it is documented somewhere but I've forgotten. I would at least assume that colours make the display take up a bit more RAM?

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Pixels and colours used different ram space - there's a third ram chip in the PAL clones. The maximum resolution for the CDP1864 (used in the PAL/color systems) was actually 192x64, but that would have required 1.5k RAM for the pixels, or 6 times what they had in those consoles...

 

FliP

Edited by flip
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Bizarre aspect ratio to have 64 pixels across and 192 pixels from top to bottom.

 

64x192.gif.c67762bc23d29d3e1af6080abe6eb359.gif

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Probabl

57 minutes ago, carlsson said:

Bizarre aspect ratio to have 64 pixels across and 192 pixels from top to bottom.

 

 

probably why it was never used, in combination with the price of RAM at the time... 192 could be related to the number of lines available in PAL - the total lines =312, which is almost 1/2 of what is available in PAL (625). So each "line" is painted twice on the PAL screen. Interestingly, if you run Studio II games on the PAL consoles using the Studio II kernel, part of the screen is duplicated: the interrupt routine is timed wrong, so it starts redrawing the screen before the beam has reset to line 0.

 

FliP

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Hi all,

 

I've managed to get Azya52's racing game running on real hardware. It won't run on the multicart for the moment without a hardware modification unfortunately: an extra address block ($a00-$bff) needs to be mapped to the cartridge. This requires an extra bit of logic on the cartridge. It *might* be possible to shuffle things around, so the game uses $000-$7ff and $c00-$fff, which would make it run on the multicart. Part of the initialisation routine that gets the console up and running would need to be inserted in the code...

 

Interestingly (at least I think it is): my monitor shows some color bleeding around the edges of the objects. Regular games don't do this, so it might be that the timings/higher resolution resemble a PAL signal more than the normal resolutions.

 

Incredible effort by Azya52, stretching the machine to its limits!

 

FliP

Edited by flip
forgot something
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Hi again,

 

I have Azya52's race game running on an unmodified multicart. As indicated before, the multicart does not map $a00-$bff to the cartridge, so I remapped the game to use $100-$7ff and $c00-$fff. Pointers and interrupt are initialised from $000 onwards - the rest of the kernel is left out. I am sure there's a more elegant way of doing it, but it works... Interestingly, this leaves more space for game expansion (though this may need additional shuffling; $400-$4ff is currently not used). To use the game, it needs to have the system's kernel switched off (jumper or switch on the multicart). I've forked Azya52's git to include a new .asm file specifically for the multicart hardware.

 

Due to the exotic timings and resolution, it doesn't run on the PAL clones (MPT-02 & co) or not in any usable way...

 

Attached is a new image that has the racing game in slot 6-0. You'll need a programming device that supports a 39sf040 flash rom (and probably an adapter for PLCC devices). The chip cannot be reprogrammed while on the cart...

 

FliP

 

 

39sf040.auto.bin

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Exciting news on my end: Hagley has given me a grant to dig into their RCA papers for a week of research. Gonna see if I can arrange something in the next few months - they’re taking a lot of precautions and only allowing a couple people into their buildings at any given time, which seems preferable to waiting until they’re possibly fully reopened.

 

The good news here: I don’t have to try and cram in looking at boxes of documents in a couple hours on a Saturday. I think this’ll be good for getting a more fulsome idea of the story of the FRED and how it relates to RCA’s other activities.

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Chip-8 Database is now online!

 

Hi folks!

 

For the past weeks, i have finally listed all the Chip-8 games, demos, programs etc...that i have find over the internet for the past

10-15 years or so and had many headaches to prove it. I also post this on my RCA Studio II Database blog - http://rcastudio2.blogspot.com/

 

As of September 01, 2020, there is in the Database:

 

* x174 Chip-8 Games (and missing x213 not yet typed)
* x146 Chip-8 Demos/Progs
* x10 Chip-8X (with Hybrids)
* x53 Super Chip-8 Games
* x50 Super Chip-8 Demos/Progs
* x25 XO-Chip Games
* x28 XO-Chip Demos/Progs
* x22 Machine Languages Games (and missing x46 not typed)
* x41 Machine Language Demos/Progs
* x09 Chip-8 Hires (64x64)
* x05 MegaChip files
 
So go here: https://archive.org/details/chip-8-games and have fun! Hoping that this will help numerous programmers and gamers
(maybe even a dedicated Chip-8 multicart ?!) and if Marcel wants to add all the files which aren't included for the Emma 02, be my guest!
 
Have fun folks!
 
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Hi Slydc,

 

I started adding the missing files to the Emma 02 archive, however ran into some problems when I tested the BMP viewer. I did have that included before but only the Hello version from 'Hap'. When I run this or any of the other BMP viewer demos on the VIP, Elf or Studio II chip8 they don't actually show a picture (except for the Andnxor one which also crashes in the end on the VIP). Have you tested these, if so on what? I'm suspecting they are not compatible with the original chip 8 interpreter but of course I could be mistaken.... 

 

It looks like V0 gets initialised to 2 instead of 0x40 and V1 to 1 I think instead of 0x20. Haven't really figured out why as yet...

 

Cheers, Marcel.

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Hi Marcel,

 

Long time since we chatted, how are you ? Yeah all the BMP viewers don't work on a real Studio II or VIP and same thing

for your Emma 02 (you emulated the VIP too exactly ;) but does work on other emulator like Fish 'N' Chip or Kiwi8 (with

the "emulation option: Shift Quirk".

 

I wrote about it here on my blog: http://rcastudio2.blogspot.com/2019/07/chip-8-for-studio-ii-part-3.html

 

So i found out the problem but since i'm no Chip-8 programmer, i don't know how to fix it....(sigh!)

 

A few days ago, i discovered a tool called "OctoPaint Pictures" made by SystemLogoff which you can convert a picture

and convert it to Chip-8 (the program is in LÖVE) and redone my "Hello World" picture and it works on Emma 02!

But not all picture will work with this tool as i tried to convert other BMP viewer i've made and some crash right away

or is missing a few to many pixels and if you have a picture with a white background and black drawing, then it will

definitively crash so i had to invert my Hello World to make it work.

 

Here's the converted file with OctoPaint: Hello World! (by Sly DC)(converted with OctoPaint) (2020).ch8

 

HELLO2.thumb.PNG.2515ef6bed0e54fbae4c1a81500329e2.PNG

 

If there's anything else (beside programming...lol!), let me know! 😃

 

 

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Hi slydc,

 

Indeed, I remember now that we talked when we ported the chip8 interpreter to the Studio II; that was fun. Since then I also ported chip8 to the Elf2K :).

 

Anyway I read your blog after I posted here yesterday, read it again today and looked at the shift command definition. So at least for the bmp viewer there is an easy fix; just change the SHR V1,V0 to SHR V1. Or in other words change byte ‘F’ (byte 15) from 6 to hex 16. Just tested that for the Hello version and it ran directly. Traced as well and the code makes sense to me know 😀.

 

I cannot really ‘fix’ it in Emma 02 as I don’t emulate chip8 as such there is no bug in Emma 02. I emulate the 1802 and then the chip8 interpreter running on the 1802 decides how to handle the chip8 shift commands.

 

If needed I can post converted files here later tonight.

 

Cheers, Marcel 

 

 

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