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RetroN 77

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There are also potential issues with Genesis controllers, in that Stella needs to 'know' that a Genesis is plugged in. So if a ROM has been programmed to work with such a controller, there needs to be a ROM properties entry telling it to treat the input as 'Genesis' input, and not something else.

 

Also, related to this, we've recently fixed Genesis autodetection issues with some sample ROMs, and found out that it's unclear why a Genesis controller actually works on a real Atari console :) That is, the pinouts are such that the power to the Genesis controller isn't even connected to the same pin that powers a 2600 joystick! This leads me to another rant, in that everyone seems to think that an FPGA is the end-all solution to perfect emulation. I'm willing to bet that some of the esoteric things (such as this) that happen on a real console wouldn't necessarily work on an FPGA anyway.

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It is only melody board based homebrews that wouldn't work?

Can someone answer a dumb / ignorant question for me? I assume the Harmony cartridge uses a melody board, is that right? Therefore plugging a Harmony cart into the Retron 77 won't work for those of us with more than a dozen or so homebrews we want to play?

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I’m sure the initial SD limitation is simply due to Hyperkin wanting the focus to be on the primary draw of the device; i.e. loading real carts. Anyone who is currently content with emulating the 2600 on their PC, Console, Pi (or even Flashback) won’t be particularly interested this box, regardless of whether you can put 500 ROMs on it or not. The target is those of us with physical collections and controllers who are perhaps replacing a dead system, moving to a flat-panel TV, or just want a modern option that doesn’t require tinkering/maintenance.

 

It would hurt the image of the device as a valid hardware replacement if all of the initial videos and reviews were people simply loading the device with huge lists of ROMS and scrolling through them to play, as well as having these devices popping up on Ebay pre-populated with full ROM sets as mentioned. This would give the impression that the Retron ‘77 was simply a Pi type box that does not offer much over existing solutions.

 

Of course since the device is open-source, Hyperkin is obviously aware that people who are determined can circumvent this limit, but it is smart of them to aim to showcase the device as a way to play carts, as it is uniquely the first out-of-the-box dedicated system to do so since the original consoles (even if it is cheating a bit). The 2600 experience is so primal from a gaming perspective that it really does lack something when you aren’t grabbing a cartridge with cool artwork, popping it in the slot and holding an original controller in your hand (as Metal Jesus pointed out).

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...The 2600 experience is so primal from a gaming perspective that it really does lack something when you aren’t grabbing a cartridge with cool artwork, popping it in the slot and holding an original controller in your hand (as Metal Jesus pointed out).

 

I have to admit that I have a PI and a modded FB2, but will always want to stick a cart into the original hardware and connect it to a CRT. For me anyway, this is how you play Atari. 41 years ago, I would sit on the floor, with my legs crossed, in front of a CRT and plug in cart after cart. Oh yeah...those were the days, which thankfully I'm still able to recreate today.

Stella Foreva!

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Would a Genesis pad work if you plugged it in after turning on the Retron? I think this was a workaround with the Harmony at one point.

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Can someone answer a dumb / ignorant question for me? I assume the Harmony cartridge uses a melody board, is that right? Therefore plugging a Harmony cart into the Retron 77 won't work for those of us with more than a dozen or so homebrews we want to play?

 

Essentially that's right. There's some differences between the boards, but you can chalk it up to "stuffing options" to make it cost-effective for Harmony usage or Homebrew usage. They're both built around ARM and the realtime communication between the console and the ARM itself.

 

The Retron77 is a one-way dumper. And it won't work with co-processors or "funky" carts like the Arcadia/Starpath Supercharger.

 

---

 

After all, ARM and Supercharger **ARE** new additional hardware. Thankfully Emulator Stella covers them. And R77 should cover them as well, via SD ROMs.

Edited by Keatah

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Essentially that's right. There's some differences between the boards, but you can chalk it up to "stuffing options" to make it cost-effective for Harmony usage or Homebrew usage. They're both built around ARM and the realtime communication between the console and the ARM itself.

 

Cool thanks for the info. I also have an old Krokodile Kart, was that melody based?

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Wow, I am surprised, that one, they actually are making this, and secondly, I have just now found out this thing exists, despite the fact that in the last 2 years, I have wrote to them about it, Petitioned on Change.org to make one, Talked about the idea several times, etc.

 

I truly feel great seeing that this thing will be here July 7th! (and of course, i'm getting one, just like I told Hyperkin I would if they made one!)

 

Also, the price on Hyperkin's website lists it at $69.99.

Edited by Polybius

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Of course since the device is open-source, Hyperkin is obviously aware that people who are determined can circumvent this limit, but it is smart of them to aim to showcase the device as a way to play carts, as it is uniquely the first out-of-the-box dedicated system to do so since the original consoles (even if it is cheating a bit). The 2600 experience is so primal from a gaming perspective that it really does lack something when you aren’t grabbing a cartridge with cool artwork, popping it in the slot and holding an original controller in your hand (as Metal Jesus pointed out).

 

I had that unique experience when I ran my first emulator for the VCS. The Activision Action Packs they were.. It was so different and unique, to be playing a VCS game on my 486.

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I had that unique experience when I ran my first emulator for the VCS. The Activision Action Packs they were.. It was so different and unique, to be playing a VCS game on my 486.

I remember renaming ROMs so the emulator could play games that weren't included in the retail package. It seems lame now, but at the time, that's all we had.

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In Windows 3.1 with Win-G no less! And it was fun! I remember the first time I tried those I got up from my chair, spun around and ran up and down the stairs, and something exploded in my head. Only 7 years had elapsed between when I played my last "real" VCS game before I had to throw it all out, and when I played the action packs. And it was already nostalgic and inspiring. The future was suddenly bright again!

 

All I had to do was wait for refinements to show up. But for the love of god how was it all going to come together, the roms, the new software, what shape would it take? How would I "get it all" back. It took longer than I anticipated. And somewhere along the way my idea of an all-in-one console looked like it could become real for real! So. Here we are!

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If the ports had used 2600-daptors, then Stella would indeed work with any controller (that the 2600-daptor supports at least, which is most of them). I still don't know how the controller ports are being 'interfaced' with Stella, since I haven't yet seen the source code. Depending on how the input is being 'massaged', it may be possible to do more with it than it currently does.

There are also potential issues with Genesis controllers, in that Stella needs to 'know' that a Genesis is plugged in. So if a ROM has been programmed to work with such a controller, there needs to be a ROM properties entry telling it to treat the input as 'Genesis' input, and not something else.

 

Also, related to this, we've recently fixed Genesis autodetection issues with some sample ROMs, and found out that it's unclear why a Genesis controller actually works on a real Atari console :) That is, the pinouts are such that the power to the Genesis controller isn't even connected to the same pin that powers a 2600 joystick! This leads me to another rant, in that everyone seems to think that an FPGA is the end-all solution to perfect emulation. I'm willing to bet that some of the esoteric things (such as this) that happen on a real console wouldn't necessarily work on an FPGA anyway.

I am a bit disappointed about the lack of Genesis compatability. This tells me that the controller port operates like a 2600-daptor v1. When pins 5 and 9 are high, it expects paddle inputs and sends them to the emulator as analog x+y with button 1 and button 2 tied to paddle fire buttons (joystick right and left). When pins 5 and 9 are low, it assumes joystick. UDLR are mapped to x+y axis and Fire is button 1. Button 2 is null.

 

I have a custom joystick with built in paddles and a dpdt switch that alternates between active paddles and 7800 operation mode, so I can easily test if joystick inputs are disabled when the paddle lines are activated (which is exactly how the 2600-daptor behaves). If so, then the Coleco padle/joystick combo units won't work either.

 

Genesis controllers rely on the principal that the encoder chip has a fairly low value pullup resistor connected to the select pin (pin 7, also Atari vcc). It is also likely that the chip contains anti-esd diodes which will contuct if a reverse bias voltage of greater than .6v is applied to any input. This reduces the effective voltage at the vcc pin of the genesis chip (atari pin 5, paddle input) to 4.4v minimum, within the operating range of the chip. As a result, the Atari always detects a high logic signal on pin 5. The multiplex chip within the Genesis controller outputs button B to pin 6 (Atari Fire) and button C to pin 9 (other paddle) whenever a high logic signal is detected on Genesis select (pin 7 Atari vcc) which is always held at 5v in the event the controller is plugged into an Atari. Homebrew games wait for the second paddle pin to be pulled low to detect a button C press. Upon boot, the game can detect the presence of a Genesis controller by a high logic state on pin 5. Incidentally, certain games or apps (such as the Harmony menu) which allow paddles as an alternate form of input, or otherwise exhibit wierd behavior when paddle inputs are detected, may not work correctly with Genesis controllers.

 

Unfortunately, like the v1.0 2600daptor, the controller port input seems to be wired to detect "joystick or paddles only" and may not respond properly to joystick type controllers which pull up the paddle inputs. It remains to be seen if the joystick port is capzble of communicating with advanced perioherals such as Atarivox or keypad, but I wouldn't hold your breath.

 

Lastly, I am disappointed by the lack of effort on Hyperkin's part not getting vintage stuff like Pitfall 2 dumped and running on the controller port.

 

@MetalJesus, did you attempt to run non-melody based 4kb -32kb homebrews via the cart port? Many of them use basic bankswitch routines.

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Thanks for your feedback, guys! It means a lot to our company and to me personally.

 

To answer your questions - yes, we didnt want people to use the R77 to have tons of ROMs. Not only its illegal, but we wanted to encourage people to actually re-live the experience of using real cartridges, preserve the legacy of this platform and to show their kids what games used to be back in the days. Its a great and very affordable platform to collect for.

 

Now, ROM support is basically there to encourage and support homebrew development and to give people the opportunity to test their games or play freeware titles (some of which are truly amazing btw). Or if you own the real cartidge but it doesnt work for whatever reasons. The limitation can be easily removed if you really require to have lots of freeware / hombrew games - remember its all open-source so the GUI could be modified or removed altogether so that youd have just the basic Stella interface.

 

As for AV output, no, its dead simple to add that feature (I think the connection spot is actually still mapped on the PCB, but Im not sure the final revision still has it), but it made more sense to us to have the system as HD-only. It looks so much better that way.

 

Thanks again for all your support and feedbacks!

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No, the Harmony doesnt work. It used to in our last years E3 prototype, but including the solution required to support it would have doubled the cost on our end, and consequentally price on customers end.

Edited by AndrewHyperkin
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Reading through the thread and did not see an answer.... does the Harmony work?

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

No.

 

Retron77 dumps the game cart to memory, then runs it in an emulator. Even if it were possible to dump the Harmony BIOS, it wouldn't do any good without direct bus access to the SD card.

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As for AV output, no, its dead simple to add that feature (I think the connection spot is actually still mapped on the PCB, but Im not sure the final revision still has it), but it made more sense to us to have the system as HD-only. It looks so much better that way.

 

Thanks again for all your support and feedbacks!

I assume you mean the look of the games on a modern display over a CRT rather than looks of the console itself.

Personally I cannot stand the look of retro games on a modern TV, to me the CRT gives the games the "proper" look. Sharp pixels just don't do it for me, when I emulate on a modern display I use high quality CRT shaders to at least make it look closer to how "it should" imho.

Anyways I hope the Retron 77 does well and hopefully one day you do a revision to add in composite video output, then I would buy one.

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No, the Harmony doesnt work. It used to in our last years E3 prototype, but including the solution required to support it would have doubled the cost on our end, and consequentally price on customers end.

 

What is difference between the two solutions?

 

Personally I cannot stand the look of retro games on a modern TV, to me the CRT gives the games the "proper" look. Sharp pixels just don't do it for me, when I emulate on a modern display I use high quality CRT shaders to at least make it look closer to how "it should" imho.

 

I dislike the harsh sharp pixels of unfiltered emulation. Blehghgh. I also dislike the old RF I had in 1977, but there was a certain warmth to it. In 1977 through the mid-80's I always wanted a sharper display, but not like we have today. So. I prefer and use CRT shaders and tweaks when possible.

 

I wonder if it is possible to "re-discover" or hack the code to access the Blargg filtering? Because it does an ok job of taking the edge off on modern displays.

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I don't even like the Blargg filters. I like the Royal shaders in Retroarch, that looks very close to my 20" Toshiba CRT that I have my old consoles hooked up to. For Mame I use personalized HLSL shaders that give it a very nice look similar to an arcade monitor.

Shaders arn't 100% but they are very good and "break up the pixels" to make the art look "right"

Edited by Lordmonkus
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I've already got an unmodded 2600 if I want an original experience, I was hyped for the Retron77 just to have a clean, compact way to play my carts on a modern TV, which looks to be what I'm getting. Cools, thank you guys for thinking of older Atari systems, I know the "retro boom" seems to be focused on NES & later.

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I have a question @AndrewHyperkin,

Will you be offering firmware/software updates for bug fixes etc via the SD card slot?

The biggest need I see out of the gate is getting SEGA pads working and Pitfall II.

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Looking forward to July 7th. My only concern is the wimpy joystick. I have some sturdy sticks in my collection to play with but, I appreciate Hyperkin was trying to duplicate the feel of the original controller.

 

Still, I have to wonder if Hyperkin took their black Cadet pad and wired it for 7800/2600 compatibility then offered that for sale by itself, how many of those they might sell? There have been a lot of people that converted NES pads or use Genesis pads or use the (now expensive and somewhat fragile) 7800 pads. Just seems like there might be a market for a control pad to use with the Retron 77. Big bonus if it would also work with our beloved 7800 in two button mode.

Edited by SIO2

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Let's go ahead and start a list of games known to work (and not work) with the R77.

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How can I cancel my Pre-Order?

With the ROM limitation, this device won't be much use for me since I don't own a lot of cartridges and don't really want to build a large collection.

This limitation saddens me as I was really looking forward to owning the Retron 77.

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Looking forward to July 7th. My only concern is the wimpy joystick. I have some sturdy sticks in my collection to play with but, I appreciate Hyperkin was trying to duplicate the feel of the original controller.

 

 

I was originally put off by them shipping US only and I couldn't order one in Canada. The plus side is issues like the better joystick should be ready when they do ship international orders. That's the down side of early adoption and preorders I suppose.

 

How can I cancel my Pre-Order?

With the ROM limitation, this device won't be much use for me since I don't own a lot of cartridges and don't really want to build a large collection.

This limitation saddens me as I was really looking forward to owning the Retron 77.

 

If this years flashback has SD card support it sounds like you may be better off holding out for one of those.

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