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Ayatollah-X

Why no cartridge port on the Flashback?

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I'm sure this has been discussed, but I couldn't find it addressed directly. If the AtGames Genesis console has a cartridge port. Why not the Flashback? It's not as if the Genesis is a true Sega machine, it uses emulation just as the Flashback does. Is the hardware needed to make an Atari cart port more expensive and/or scarce than what's needed to make a Genesis cart port? Is there a prevailing theory on this?

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I think while Atari cartridges can be found pretty easily, being another dozen or so years older than the Atari would likely mean there are significantly less of them floating around. Plus the Atari port would have to have the unlocking mechanism to that Genesis doesn't, to open the physical access to the cartridge board on a ton of cartridges. Given the expense of adding it would likely be a selling point to only a proverbial handful of us hardcore gamers, and therefore not worth the additional effort. There was the 'hackability' on the FB2 to add a port, and to be honest, it seems like very small number of people actually perused that. But of course, I'm just guessing here. :)

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I don't have a theory on the original decision behind AtGames not including a cartridge port when they designed their first Atari Flashback (2011's FB3), but the series' "chassis" is totally not architected that way. Adding cartridge capability now would mean a major makeover of the internal hardware (which is actually happening for 2017, but no word on whether a cartridge port is part of that). The system is designed to load program code into RAM and work entirely in RAM; to use a cartridge, you'd have to design your system to be able to switch to running program code from the cartridge, or at least slurp it all from cartridge into RAM as an initial step--note that this actually can be done regardless of whether or not your system is running game code natively or through emulation. An emulation-based system could read from a cartridge in the same way as a native-architecture system, as long as that part of the bus is set up to do it.

 

It's not as if the Genesis is a true Sega machine, it uses emulation just as the Flashback does.

That's actually not the case. The AtGames Genesis systems do in fact use a Genesis-on-a-chip implementation, a chip which they call "RedKid" (specifically, I believe they're using RedKid 2 for all their Genesis products these days). For details on the RedKid and its possible relationship to the old Genesis plug-n-play products from Radica Games, read from this 2013 post through to the end of that thread a few posts later. 2013 is pretty much when it was realized that the AtGames Genesis systems actually do not use the ARM-architecture Titan chip to run an emulator, as had previously been thought. Obviously, though, RedKid does have a nasty bug in its audio subsystem, hence the out-of-tune music played by AtGames' Genesis systems. Good news: AtGames' 2017 hardware overhaul is expected to apply to both the Flashback and Genesis product lines--no more bad Genesis sound.

 

The Titan chip is used for AtGames' Flashback products, though, having been in the Atari FB3, FB4, FB64, FB5, FB6, FB7, ColecoVision FB, and Intellivision FB. The new Atari Flashback Portable instead uses a Titan successor, the Monkey King chip. For all (or at least many of) your plug-n-play game system processor identification needs, check out this part of my plug-n-play games info website. Brought to you by the letters 'P,' 'N,' and 'P' again (I guess he got a company match on his donation). Actually, I keep the exact same data replicated here at AtariAge.

 

onmode-ky

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I stand corrected on Genesis emulation. You're correct that I jumped to that conclusion based only on the sour notes of some sounds (and some game incompatibility). All this didn't stop me from picking up the 2016 Ultimate Portable yesterday! I needed a second portable for the kids to open on Christmas (in addition to the Atari portable). Lucky for the kids, both systems will have been thoroughly QC'd by their dad.

 

That's good to hear the new consoles are being upgraded. I'm sure AtGames knows they need to step up their game, now that Nintendo and others have been cashing in on the retro console idea. I've never been compelled to buy a Flashback console (only the portable) as I already have a 2600, but I will if they make one with HDMI output and a cartridge port (ideally) or (at least) an SD card slot.

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Just curious -- how old are your kids, and how curious are they about delving into the ancient Genesis back catalogue? Do you need to help them find the good stuff?

 

It reminds me of my parents and their records ...I had no interest until I was an older teenager, but then it was awesome! It helped that I had a Rolling Stone Record Guide for context. Today's kids have the internet.

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