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Atari game cartridges to Vic 20 adapter?

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I suppose the hardware would be similar to the Atari 2600 adapters for ColecoVision and Intellivision, i.e. nearly an entire system in the module, possibly minus joystick port and video output. While the VIC and Atari almost have the same CPU, that is probably as far as compatibility goes.

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It was announced at the Summer 1983 CES -- there is a brief mention in Creative Computing's coverage of the show.

 

The editors covered quite a bit of vapourware in their show report; most they recognized for what it was, but surprisingly many of the announced games never made it to market.

 

I do not have the citation handy -- my photocopies of the article are packed away in another province -- but the back issues are online for anyone who wants to chase down the original article.

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I remember drooling over this ad back in the day. I was always suspicious that the ad didn't show a device - just a box. I knew that the VIC-20 and Atari 2600 had similar CPUs. I questioned how the device would deal with things like different color palettes, the single joystick port on the VIC and of course the cost.

 

I'm not at all surprised that the product turned out to be vaporware. At the same time I wonder if anything was ever developed. Was there a prototype? Was anything tangible displayed at CES?

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I remember seeing that too. It would have likely had to have had an onboard controller port, since the VIC-20 only has a single controller port of its own.

 

Anyway, such a device was certainly theoretically possible, but, considering the timing so close to the Crash, what development, if any, was really put into such a device, was no doubt soon halted.

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I have just rechecked the Summer 1983 CES coverage in Creative Computing (published in October), but there was no mention of this device (despite a very extensive article); perhaps it was first announced at the Winter 1983 show. I shall check further.

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If it was advertised already in the spring of 1983, likely it was introduced at Winter CES.

 

Here is the Creative Computing magazine:

http://www.atarimagazines.com/creative/v9n4/18_1983_Winter_Consumer_Elec.php

 

COMPUTE! didn't see or bother about the orange cardboard box in their summary:

http://www.atarimagazines.com/compute/issue34/008_1_NEW_HOME_COMPUTERS_AT_THE_WINTER_CONSUMER_ELECTRONICS_SHOW.php

 

There should be plenty of coverage from that CES, though every magazine would have different focus and only the truly major news would be covered by everyone.

Edited by carlsson

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It is too late to edit my earlier post, but here is some additional info from Creative Computing (April 1983):

 

I'm not at all surprised that the product turned out to be vaporware. At the same time I wonder if anything was ever developed. Was there a prototype? Was anything tangible displayed at CES?

 

 


While we're talking about the Vic, we should mention that Cardco was showing two expansion boards (one with three slots and one with six), a cassette interface, a light pen, a printer interface, and, hold on to your hats, an adapter to allow the Vic to play Atari VCS cartridges. This latter device was shown with much secrecy in an out-of-the-way hotel room with a rent-a-guard at the door. It gets our

 

Best Protected Orange Cardboard Box Award

 

Housed, temporarily we were told, in an orange cardboard and Scotch tape box, the device plugs into the expansion connector on the back of the Vic and has a slot into which VCS cartridges are plugged. It also brings the Vic connector out the back for added memory, etc. The Vic function keys take the place of the VCS switches, and the whole thing works like a charm. Price is $89.95.

 

Did the editors actually see a working piece of hardware, or just a Coleco Chameleon-like mock-up? Who knows?

 

This is about as much information as we will ever find in a publicly available source, given that the device does not seem to have ever actually been sold.

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Haha. My first thought went to the Coleco Chameleon as well, except that I don't know if MK hired any guards to protect his $10,000 prototype while it was on display.

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It seems that Billboard had a good deal of video game coverage, as well as plenty both before and after the Winter CES. Though I fail to find any reference to the Cardco device in their coverage afterwards, so perhaps it wasn't a very big thing.

 

January 15, 1983:

https://books.google.com/books?id=ZCQEAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&hl=sv&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

January 22, 1983:

https://books.google.com/books?id=5iMEAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&hl=sv&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

January 29, 1983:

https://books.google.com/books?id=EiQEAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&hl=sv&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Edited by carlsson

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Assuming that it was a "by invitation only" showing rather than on the main show floor, I would expect that there would be some coverage in the Commodore-specific magazines (the few that there were in early-1983). Bombjack.org looks to have most everything that existed.

 

I would expect that the more specialized media would be their target audience; though I do not know how the folks from Creative Computing got to see this legendary device.

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I found the attached ad in one of my files which appears to be the first ad for this adapter, including the suggested retail price of $89.95. This ad appeared in the January 1983 issue of Compute! magazine. I've included the back page which shows the date of the magazine on the bottom.

Vic20 Atari adapter.jpg

Atari Adapter back page.jpg

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Yeah, perhaps in January 1983 it still made sense to clone the Atari 2600 on a PCB to plug into a VIC-20, just like Coleco and Mattel already (?) had done. But as we all know, the market changed radically in the next few months leading up to the summer, not to mention fall, so unless Cardco had their device ready to sell by February or March at latest, the train probably had sailed.

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As a Vic 20 owner, I would love to see someone come up with this today with perhaps some more modern functions.  I love these homebrew projects that bring vaporware to life.

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In that case, I'm more interested in reproduction of the 6562/63 chip, to give 40 column video. I understand that the original SRAM may be too slow to keep it refreshed but probably an upgrade could have its own refresh. I'm not really interested in interfacing a VIC-II as it would make it a SID-less C64.

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On 12/30/2020 at 9:08 PM, imstarryeyed said:

As a Vic 20 owner, I would love to see someone come up with this today with perhaps some more modern functions.  I love these homebrew projects that bring vaporware to life.

that would be very difficult due to the way the 2600 and the VIC worked their graphics. It would more likely look like crap with the compromises that have to be made. Now an Atari 2600 adapter on a C64, that would work as the graphics were much more advanced on the C64.

Come to think about, there is one way that the VIC20 could work with a 2600 adapter is just hook the video cable straight to the adapter bypassing the VIC20 altogether (maybe that's what they did?). I saw a Sega Master System adapter on the SNES work that way. All the SNES did was supply the Joysticks & power.

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You're describing how the System Changer on the Intellivision and Colecovision worked in order to have those play Atari cartridges. Basically implementing a full Atari 2600 console but connected as an expansion. It is a given that if this VIC-20 expansion existed in real life, it is how it would have worked too, but that the market demand for a such expansion quickly dwindled compared to the costs to develop and manufacture it.

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