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Advice requested on fate of a defective Astrocade

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Thanks in advance for any insight and advice on the following question:

 

After finally getting around to testing a loose Astrocade I'd had lying around and having it instantly start to vent out smoke (which I've never before had a console do), should I simply trash the unit? I did not pay much for this unit and bought it on the chance that it might work, but while it did power on, nothing but grayness displayed on the screen, and within seconds actual smoke was venting out of the bottom of the unit. Fortunately I had an ideal setup for testing an Astrocade- see the pics below, so I am able to be sure it is the system that is a fire hazard. Now I cannot in good conscience sell or trade or even give away such a system, but nor can I simply throw away such a hard to find system. So in short, the question is, what should I do with this Astrocade?

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Use it as a conversation piece! I knew a guy who put all his game systems on display in his house... you could do that with the Astrocade, and just tape off the inputs to ensure that it's not used.

 

By the way, did you open the machine before you tested it? Maybe there was some dust in the system that had accumulated. I had that happen with my old model PS2, and it wouldn't work properly until all the dust was sucked out of it.

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Use it as a conversation piece! I knew a guy who put all his game systems on display in his house... you could do that with the Astrocade, and just tape off the inputs to ensure that it's not used.

 

By the way, did you open the machine before you tested it? Maybe there was some dust in the system that had accumulated. I had that happen with my old model PS2, and it wouldn't work properly until all the dust was sucked out of it.

 

Nope, I actually haven't opened it. I think I'll do that now. Hadn't thought about using it as a conversation piece, maybe because the few friends of mine who do know what one is already know at least as much as me. Will open and report back shortly...

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I would take it apart for sure and see what it looks like. Possibly one IC would be burnt/melted and maybe you can repair it. Might learn something anyway. I also think there may be someone who wants it for the keypad or case, or other parts. I have one with a worn-out keypad that otherwise seems to work (though I don't want to repair mine...I'm saving it for other parts). You could offer it in the marketplace forum to anyone who wants it for the cost of shipping.

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I would take it apart for sure and see what it looks like. Possibly one IC would be burnt/melted and maybe you can repair it. Might learn something anyway. I also think there may be someone who wants it for the keypad or case, or other parts. I have one with a worn-out keypad that otherwise seems to work (though I don't want to repair mine...I'm saving it for other parts). You could offer it in the marketplace forum to anyone who wants it for the cost of shipping.

See below, and will likely do both...

 

If you don't want it anymore I will certainly take it off your hands for project fodder......will pay for it too. :)

 

Awesome to hear, and duly noted. But for now, it's just been opened. And I just realized that this is the first time I've ever opened up any console I've ever owned. Figures it would be an Astrocade...

Anyways, it appears that the RF shield is still in place, and aside from a distinct smoke smell, nothing immediately looks scorched or even all that dirty. Any thoughts are appreciated...

 

On another note, I believe I might have just found the perfect platform for using an Astrocade with: the cart I have it on. Easy to access, sturdy, has several different shelves, lightweight and easy to move around on the wheels, and plenty of breathing room for the heat vents underneath. Does anyone know what these black wire carts/stands/racks are called?

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You're going to have to remove the RF shield before you can find any damage to the motherboard. That's the way these machines are designed, to prevent signal leakage to other devices. Fortunately, in the 21st century, you can remove the RF shield and lose nothing except some weight and the annoyance of shielded technology. I took the badly rusted shield off an Odyssey2 and it works just as well, if not better, than it did before.

 

I will warn you... some people have had issues with their Astrocades when they use them without the RF shield. I can't explain why, and logically, there shouldn't BE a reason for it. My guess is that it doubles as a heat sink for a console with a habit of overheating. I've never personally had issues taking the RF shields off my systems- I have a fierce dislike for them and do it whenever I need to open them- but I can't guarantee your Astrocade will run perfectly without one.

 

Has anyone figured out what the deal is with these systems? They seem to have a higher than average failure rate, and nobody seems to know what makes them drop dead aside from a hot processor.

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You're going to have to remove the RF shield before you can find any damage to the motherboard. That's the way these machines are designed, to prevent signal leakage to other devices. Fortunately, in the 21st century, you can remove the RF shield and lose nothing except some weight and the annoyance of shielded technology. I took the badly rusted shield off an Odyssey2 and it works just as well, if not better, than it did before.

 

I will warn you... some people have had issues with their Astrocades when they use them without the RF shield. I can't explain why, and logically, there shouldn't BE a reason for it. My guess is that it doubles as a heat sink for a console with a habit of overheating. I've never personally had issues taking the RF shields off my systems- I have a fierce dislike for them and do it whenever I need to open them- but I can't guarantee your Astrocade will run perfectly without one.

 

Has anyone figured out what the deal is with these systems? They seem to have a higher than average failure rate, and nobody seems to know what makes them drop dead aside from a hot processor.

 

Thanks for the insight- I've been looking for a working Astrocade for a good while now, and have been worrying about eventually having to remove an RF shield from one, and accidentally killing an otherwise healthy unit. Do you know of any good Guides on removing the RF shields?

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All I can find at the moment is this:

 

http://www.ballyalley.com/faqs/bally-astrocade_faq.txt

 

There's a lot of information on modifying the system here. There's also a link to a service manual, but sadly, it no longer works. (shrug)

 

You might want to ask around on AtariAge for Astrocade owners who have (successfully) removed the RF shield. I never attempted it when I owned the machine, although my current demand for composite or better video would certainly tempt me if I ever found another one.

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All I can find at the moment is this:

 

http://www.ballyalle...trocade_faq.txt

 

There's a lot of information on modifying the system here. There's also a link to a service manual, but sadly, it no longer works. (shrug)

 

You might want to ask around on AtariAge for Astrocade owners who have (successfully) removed the RF shield. I never attempted it when I owned the machine, although my current demand for composite or better video would certainly tempt me if I ever found another one.

 

Thanks for that suggestion- I saw it already though while trying to find a walkthrough or pictures of what to do to remove the RF shield. If you're interested in the chance of some spare parts, there is likely to be some coming soon...

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There's also the possibility that a capacitor blew, I don't know much about the Astrocade but I would think that it has a few electrolytic caps in there that could go off.

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There's also the possibility that a capacitor blew, I don't know much about the Astrocade but I would think that it has a few electrolytic caps in there that could go off.

 

Oh geez... well, at least the Astrocade can provide for entertainment one way or another :) Hey lemme ask, did the picture I posted above reveal anything obviously wrong with the systems insides? I couldn't tell...

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They overheat quite easily, and oddly enough, I've never really seen anyone offer repair services to the masses. Not sure if it's too much trouble or what.

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People actively buy Astrocades on eBay specifically to repair and flip them. If you don't have the skills to repair it then that's one avenue to get it back out in the wild.

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They overheat quite easily, and oddly enough, I've never really seen anyone offer repair services to the masses. Not sure if it's too much trouble or what.

 

It's mostly because those systems have proprietary chips; once it's overheated, it's dead, and you need to find a new one.

Where can you find a new one? In another Astrocade, nowhere else! That's the issue with the Bally and the reason why, unless you already have a dead one with different dead chip, you can't fix a dead one (providing it's an chip that overheated here, and not a transistor, or a capacitor)

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It's a damn shame nobody's tried to reverse engineer this system and turn it into a console on a chip. The tech is what, thirty-five years old by now? It should be entirely possible. Hell, you could go for the gold and make a TV Games unit that runs all the arcade games that use the Astrocade hardware while you're at it.

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There's also a link to a service manual, but sadly, it no longer works. (shrug)

 

Here are some updated links to the service manual:

 

Scanned Version:

 

http://www.ballyalle...vice_manual.pdf

 

Scanned and OCR'ed Version:

 

http://www.ballyalle...anual (OCR).pdf

 

The next two links are GIFs. For some reason, when I posted these people using Internet Explorer had a hard time viewing them. Not sure if that's been fixed or not.

 

The Bally Arcade / Astrocade Parts Layout from the service manual that has been stitched together and is available seperately in an easier to read format.

 

http://www.ballyalle...ice Manual).gif

 

The Bally Arcade / Astrocade schematic from the service manual that has been stitched together and is available seperately in an easier to read format.

 

http://www.ballyalle...ice Manual).gif

 

Sorry to hear about the trouble with the Bally Arcade unit. Smoke coming out of the console... now that's a new one on me! If you don't use it for parts, then there is someone on the Bally Alley discussion group that sometimes fixes Astrocades for folks who might be able to use it. You may want to try posting there:

 

http://tech.groups.y...oup/ballyalley/

 

I hope the links help you out.

 

Adam

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Where can you find a new [proprietary chips]? In another Astrocade, nowhere else!

 

Not quite true. The three socketed chips on the motherboard are:

  1. Address Chip (U17 - Bally Part # 0066-115XX-XXYX)
  2. Data Chip (U18 - Bally Part # 0066-116XX-XXYX)
  3. I/O Chip (U19 - Bally Part # 0066-117XX-XXYX)

The arcade games that used the Bally Arcade / Astrocade chipset also use these same three chips. Those are games are:

  1. Extra Bases
  2. Gorf
  3. Robby Roto
  4. Seawolf II
  5. Space Zap
  6. Wizard of Wor

Also, although Space Zap doesn't use the Astrocade chipset, I think that it DOES use the same custom I/O chip. It's possible that some other arcade games with a similar configuration to the Astrocade also use it.

 

So, arcade games can be a source, but who would have THESE laying around? So, it's probably better to use another Astrocade. It's actually better to know these chip are inside an Astrocade if you are fixing the arcade games.

 

Also, while the custom chips are quite prone to failure, recall that the first Bally Arcade system shipped in January of 1978. There could me MANY reasons for these systems to fail nowadays. I've had MANY Astrocades myself and only a few of them had bad/flaky custom chips... but they still were dead.

 

Adam

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It's a damn shame nobody's tried to reverse engineer this system and turn it into a console on a chip.

 

The Bally Arcade/Astrocade was reverse-engineered in 2006 and the FPGA code is publically available.

 

http://www.fpgaarcad.../bally_main.htm

 

The code was written to run on a Xilinx Spartan3E starter kit board. This "system" even supports high-res mode like the arcade games (which the Astrocade does NOT support without additional hardware).

 

Adam

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Here are some updated links to the service manual:

 

Scanned Version:

 

http://www.ballyalle...vice_manual.pdf

 

Scanned and OCR'ed Version:

 

http://www.ballyalle...anual (OCR).pdf

 

The next two links are GIFs. For some reason, when I posted these people using Internet Explorer had a hard time viewing them. Not sure if that's been fixed or not.

 

The Bally Arcade / Astrocade Parts Layout from the service manual that has been stitched together and is available seperately in an easier to read format.

 

http://www.ballyalle...ice Manual).gif

 

The Bally Arcade / Astrocade schematic from the service manual that has been stitched together and is available seperately in an easier to read format.

 

http://www.ballyalle...ice Manual).gif

 

Sorry to hear about the trouble with the Bally Arcade unit. Smoke coming out of the console... now that's a new one on me! If you don't use it for parts, then there is someone on the Bally Alley discussion group that sometimes fixes Astrocades for folks who might be able to use it. You may want to try posting there:

 

http://tech.groups.y...oup/ballyalley/

 

I hope the links help you out.

 

Adam

 

You are awesome! Will report back later tonight. And yes, smoke actually started to vent out of the unit- I'm going to try testing the system again tonight, and will try to take video of that to document exactly where it is coming from. Best I can say about the unit is that I know it powers on, and that it was trying to output something to the TV...

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Not quite true.

 

Also, while the custom chips are quite prone to failure, recall that the first Bally Arcade system shipped in January of 1978. There could me MANY reasons for these systems to fail nowadays. I've had MANY Astrocades myself and only a few of them had bad/flaky custom chips... but they still were dead.

 

Adam

I didn't mentioned the arcade because I know only a few people would gut an arcade, or even try to find an arcade board just to fix an Astrocade.

 

As for the release date... sure, it's getting old; but, Atari 2600 are rarely non functionnal, and they are as old.

1292 AVPS and Interton VC4000 are as old, and they aren't know to be prone to failure (but the Interton get damn hot if you make it run for half a day. This isn't too good).

If the custom chips aren't damaged, then it's most likely you can fix your dead unit. It might take a power replacement, or some other chip, tho.

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