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Retail kiosk feature summary

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Hey all,

I was chatting to Joe about memory maps (as you do ;)) and he observed that page 10 of this Papa Intellivision document mentions a "POP monitor" located at $7000. We were speculating about what this might be, a bit of Googling and a couple of videos later we came to the conclusion it might be the retail kiosks (POP = Point of Purchase).

There is some technical information about these things scattered about, but I thought it might be an idea to try to summarise it in one place.

In addition to one of at least two styles of physical cabinet...

 

post-25458-0-96701700-1378608265.jpg



...each kiosk seems to have contained an Intellivision peripheral, model #3806, similar to a turbo charged Videoplexer (a POPlexer?). Unfortunately the kiosk in the video above seems to be missing its POPlexer brain. The POPlexer was hidden below the cabinet and allowed the user to interact with the Master Component and switch between up to ten standard Intellivision cartridges plugged into it. As you can see from the instructions between the master component and screen in the video, having hit reset, tapping the disk would cycle through an on-screen list of games and when you found the one you wanted to play, you just hit ENTER.

 

To create this interactive menu the POPlexer must have contained a small program to control it and we suspect it is this that was resident at $7000 in the memory map. Under software control the monitor would select each cartridge in turn, scan it for the standard header containing the game name and dynamically construct a menu for the user. When the user hits ENTER control would be handed off to the game, but the location of the POPlexer monitor in memory would ensure it regained control when RESET was pressed.

 

The POPlexer would have made changing the games available to be demonstrated cheap and easy relative to constructing and issuing new demonstration cartridges. It also seems to have had an external cartridge port, allowing in store demonstration staff or consumers!? to play a game not on the main nine cartridge carousel. Finally, it would default to showing a demonstration cartridge if left idle. All these features can be seen in this demonstration:



I love the small marketing touches like the large, smooth font used for the game titles, the little jingle that plays before starting each game and the fact that it still displays a marketing message if no demonstration cartridge is present. As you can see the POPlexer is significantly more complex than Videoplexer, which seems to have been a hardware only device with no on-screen menu:



Because the POPlexer relied on cartridges having standard Mattel headers to extract the game names, later titles and third party games which did not use the EXEC would not work correctly with it.

There seem to have been at least two versions of the POPlexer as shown on page 15 of the Papa Intellivision memory map. The pre-1982 version had its monitor ROM resident at $7000, this was changed in the post 1982 version to $4800. It is possible that shifting the POP monitor from $7000 to $4800 allowed the POPlexer to be used to show off the ECS which also had a ROM at $7000. Other than this change in address it is not known how the two versions differed. The POPlexer also made some changes to the standard Master Component cartridge port, as detailed on page 16 of the same document. These are primarily to support voice cartridges by propagating the IntelliVoice serial bus from the IntelliVoice module on the top of the kiosk to the voice cartridges hidden underneath.

Finally, there is a suggestion here that the POPlexer contained a watchdog timer that would trigger a reset of the Master Component, and therefore reassert its control, after a configurable period of time. This would prevent someone hogging Astrosmash the console and ensure the Intellivision would revert to the demonstration cartridge if it was left unattended with a game running.

All in all, it was a pretty sophisticated piece of kit for the time.
Edited by decle
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Hey all,

 

I was chatting to Joe about memory maps (as you do ;)) and he observed that page 10 of this Papa Intellivision document mentions a "POP monitor" located at $7000. We were speculating about what this might be, a bit of Googling and a couple of videos later we came to the conclusion it might be the retail kiosks (POP = Point of Purchase).

 

There is some technical information about these things scattered about, but I thought it might be an idea to try to summarise it in one place.

 

In addition to one of at least two styles of physical cabinet...

 

post-25458-0-96701700-1378608265.jpg

 

 

...each kiosk seems to have contained an Intellivision peripheral, model #3806, similar to a turbo charged Videoplexer (a POPlexer?). Unfortunately the kiosk in the video above seems to be missing its POPlexer brain. The POPlexer was hidden below the cabinet and allowed the user to interact with the Master Component and switch between up to ten standard Intellivision cartridges plugged into it. As you can see from the instructions between the master component and screen in the video, having hit reset, tapping the disk would cycle through an on-screen list of games and when you found the one you wanted to play, you just hit ENTER.

 

To create this interactive menu the POPlexer must have contained a small program to control it and we suspect it is this that was resident at $7000 in the memory map. Under software control the monitor would select each cartridge in turn, scan it for the standard header containing the game name and dynamically construct a menu for the user. When the user hits ENTER control would be handed off to the game, but the location of the POPlexer monitor in memory would ensure it regained control when RESET was pressed.

 

The POPlexer would have made changing the games available to be demonstrated cheap and easy relative to constructing and issuing new demonstration cartridges. It also seems to have had an external cartridge port, allowing in store demonstration staff or consumers!? to play a game not on the main nine cartridge carousel. Finally, it would default to showing a demonstration cartridge if left idle. All these features can be seen in this demonstration:

 

 

I love the small marketing touches like the large, smooth font used for the game titles, the little jingle that plays before starting each game and the fact that it still displays a marketing message if no demonstration cartridge is present. As you can see the POPlexer is significantly more complex than Videoplexer, which seems to have been a hardware only device with no on-screen menu:

 

 

Because the POPlexer relied on cartridges having standard Mattel headers to extract the game names, later titles and third party games which did not use the EXEC would not work correctly with it.

 

There seem to have been at least two versions of the POPlexer as shown on page 15 of the Papa Intellivision memory map. The pre-1982 version had its monitor ROM resident at $7000, this was changed in the post 1982 version to $4800. It is possible that shifting the POP monitor from $7000 to $4800 allowed the POPlexer to be used to show off the ECS which also had a ROM at $7000. Other than this change in address it is not known how the two versions differed. The POPlexer also made some changes to the standard Master Component cartridge port, as detailed on page 16 of the same document. These are primarily to support voice cartridges by propagating the IntelliVoice serial bus from the IntelliVoice module on the top of the kiosk to the voice cartridges hidden underneath.

 

Finally, there is a suggestion here that the POPlexer contained a watchdog timer that would trigger a reset of the Master Component, and therefore reassert its control, after a configurable period of time. This would prevent someone hogging Astrosmash the console and ensure the Intellivision would revert to the demonstration cartridge if it was left unattended with a game running.

 

All in all, it was a pretty sophisticated piece of kit for the time.

 

 

Cool! I seem to remember seeing one of those display cases at my local Sears retailer when I was young. I too believe "POP" means "Point Of Purchase"; it's a term of art in the retail industry.

 

We bought my Intellivision at a local video/stereo/electronics purveyor called something like "Videotronics" (or some cheesy hi-techy 1970s name like that). They just had them on a table with cardboard signs and (I think) a Master Component hooked up to a TV. Sears, on the other hand, had a rather large "electronics department" and had these sorts of kiosks for everything. I really do have some memories of seeing one, "in the wild." :)

 

-dZ.

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Our local K-Mart had one of those kiosks as well. In the first photo, in the inset at the upper right, what is that black thing to the right of the Master Component?

 

Looks like an arty shot of the Keyboard Component to me:

 

post-46336-0-46830600-1519659622.jpg

 

probably the same one that Intellivision Lives says appears in the 80/81 catalogue:

 

81catalog.jpg

Edited by decle

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I mentioned in another thread that I have one of the switchboxes from the guts of a kiosk, and decle asked for photos. I notice that mine has fewer and different stickers than the one in the video. The attached games were in the unit when I picked it up at a church sale several (16?) years ago.

 

post-3842-0-43552200-1552327525_thumb.jpg

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post-3842-0-67361600-1552328921_thumb.jpg

post-3842-0-14177300-1552328947_thumb.jpg

 

 

 

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I mentioned in another thread that I have one of the switchboxes from the guts of a kiosk, and decle asked for photos. I notice that mine has fewer and different stickers than the one in the video. The attached games were in the unit when I picked it up at a church sale several (16?) years ago.

 

Wow that was quick! Cool, thanks for taking the pictures. Here is a quick bit of analysis:

 

post-46336-0-19621800-1552334275.png

 

Green chips are confirmed, yellow are tentative and red are currently uknown. Connectors are in blue.

 

The large chip is a RO-3-9502 which is a 2K decle ROM that also contains an interface to standard memories. In this case there are two such memories fitted, 2 x 2716 EPROMs. These are 2K bytes in size, so the program within the switcher could be up to 4K decles in size. Hmm I wonder if we could use an LTO flash with suitable software to dump the contents of this? :ponder:

 

As I mentioned on the other thread, there are a number of images of both the inside and internals of the switcher / poplexer at the Intellivision library. It is interesting to note that this unit does not have the EPROMs fitted like your machine does, meaning it only has 2K decles of controller program:

 

18.jpg

 

The 8T245s are pin compatible with 74LS245 octal bus transceivers, so these are probably just buffering the Master Component's address/data bus. Much of the rest of the known chips are standard glue logic. Probably doing bits and pieces of interfacing / cartridge switching and implementing the watchdog timer. The NE654 (top left) is a bit of an enigmatic chip. It looks as though the part number has been reused and it is now a 24pin Dolby controller. I don't seem to be able to find a DIP-16 chip with this number. The unknown fat 24pin chip above cartridge slot #6 is also interesting.

 

Looking at chip dates it seems that your switcher was made somewhere after week 40 of 1981. If you take further photos of the chips we're missing I'll add them to the diagram.

 

 

Thanks once again :thumbsup:

 

decle

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On krslam's, the S/N says 2819 B. I'm guessing B is the revision, as the one at Intellivision library has a later S/N written on it (5209) and specifically states rev D.

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I've been contacted by someone local who wants to use his LTO flash to read the ROM, but it'll be at least a few weeks before we can try that. Meanwhile, here's some more pix to try to fill in the missing info. The contrast of the writing on some of these chips is very poor so let me know if I need to read off any of them for you.

post-3842-0-44964100-1552340296_thumb.jpg

post-3842-0-35169200-1552340328_thumb.jpg

post-3842-0-82890800-1552340354_thumb.jpg

post-3842-0-39801200-1552340375_thumb.jpg

post-3842-0-54940100-1552340406_thumb.jpg

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I'll let the cat out of the bag that the local person is me. ;)

 

BTW, thanks decle for the work of identifying many of the chips. I was planning to do the same thing, but you got to it faster than me.

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Wow, it's like some weird electronics nerd-porn around here ... :grin:

 

Thanks to all of you for doing this and keeping the most esoteric parts of the history of our console alive. :) :thumbsup:

 

-dZ.

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Although the unit worked fine when last powered up, I think I should replace the corroded screws (you can see some in the photos) and clean out the flakes that are coming off them just in case those flakes are conductive before trying it again. I'm not familiar with what sort of corrosion that might be given the odd yellow-green color. It's only on about half the screws and no other components.

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Although the unit worked fine when last powered up, I think I should replace the corroded screws (you can see some in the photos) and clean out the flakes that are coming off them just in case those flakes are conductive before trying it again. I'm not familiar with what sort of corrosion that might be given the odd yellow-green color. It's only on about half the screws and no other components.

I've seen a similar color dust on old tube radio chassis. So it could be cadmium dust, similar to the radio chassis. Which is not so good for the lungs. Or the rest of you if you inhale it.

 

Not saying that's what you have there. Just that it looks similar.

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For reference, this is what I'm talking about. This is a picture I borrowed from an antique radio forum, and is actually a TV. But it looks very similar.

post-32065-0-42137000-1552434300.jpeg

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On 3/12/2019 at 1:55 AM, Lathe26 said:

I'll let the cat out of the bag that the local person is me.  ;)

 

Hey all,

 

I'm looking forward to the results of the work started by @Lathe26 to document the POPlexer / Kiosk Component.  In the mean time, I've finished off a work-a-like ROM, a POPlex-a-like if you will, that I started back in 2018.  So here we go:

 


The POPlex-a-like works as a simple front end for up to 11 games, just like the POPlexer.  To play the currently selected game, just hit ENTER.  To switch to the next game, tap the disk.  Finally, to bring the menu back, just hit RESET on the console.  Just like the real POPlexer, the POPlex-a-like will automatically start the ROM in the first slot if there is no input for 30 seconds.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to automatically reset the console if a game is left running.

You can download the ROM here:

 

poplex-a-like.zip


Obviously, I can't distribute the Mattel ROMs, so the version in this zip file has small stub programs that just display the title screen of each game for 30 seconds and then reset the console, restarting the menu.  However, I have included shell scripts to package up your game ROMs and generate stub programs for yourself.

 

In putting this together it has become apparent that there are a number of interesting titles within Mattel's pre-1983 catalogue.  This is before we get to weirdnesses generated by the ECS and third party titles.  It will be interesting to see what the real POPlexer does with:

  • Math Fun and Shark Shark - neither of these have EXEC title strings, the POPlex-a-like just displays them as blank titles, but will play the games.
  • Backgammon - has exactly 10 characters in its name with no breaks.  In the video the real POPlexer seems to handle this correctly as a single line title
  • Burgertime! - has an 11 character title with no breaks.  In the video the POPlexer seems to treat this is a two line title, but truncates the exclamation point.
  • Lock'N'Chase and Maze-A-Tron - also have titles longer than 10 characters with no spaces.  Neither game appears in the video, so with a bit of artistic licence the POPlex-a-like treats the quote and hyphen characters as breaking characters (like spaces), which means that these titles are split onto two lines.

It's fascinating how something as simple as writing two lines of fixed pitch text yields so many edge cases.

 

For those that are interested in how the menu system works, it makes use of Mattel style page flipping to change the ROMs with the menu resident at $7000.

 

As always, any comments or corrections let me know.


Cheers

decle

 

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Thanks for putting this together.

 

Just so folks know the status on where the Kiosk Multiplexer project is at:

  • ROM has been dumped (this was much harder than expected)
  • ROM has been disassembled and fully commented.  This includes several bugs, dead code, handling of corner cases, and 2 Easter Eggs
  • Demo / testing program created called "Sphinx Of Quartz, Judge My Black Vow".
  • Rev D board netlist created
  • Cartridge hardware limitations discovered
  • Mystery connector pinout and purpose documented
  • Schematic in progress
  • Video to be created
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18 hours ago, decle said:

I'm looking forward to the results of the work started by @Lathe26 to document the POPlexer / Kiosk Component.  In the mean time, I've finished off a work-a-like ROM, a POPlex-a-like if you will, that I started back in 2018.

 

Obviously, I can't distribute the Mattel ROMs, so the version in this zip file has small stub programs that just display the title screen of each game for 30 seconds and then reset the console, restarting the menu.  However, I have included shell scripts to package up your game ROMs and generate stub programs for yourself.

 

This is awesome - thank you for the POPlex simulator!  Any chance you could a similar shell scripts with your Playcable demo so we could add games to it ourselves?

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On 6/17/2019 at 9:51 PM, Lathe26 said:

Just so folks know the status on where the Kiosk Multiplexer project is at:

  • ROM has been dumped (this was much harder than expected)
  • ROM has been disassembled and fully commented.  This includes several bugs, dead code, handling of corner cases, and 2 Easter Eggs
  • Demo / testing program created called "Sphinx Of Quartz, Judge My Black Vow"...

 

This is great news, I'm looking forward to the results.  I'm intrigued to see the complete font and how the real POPlexer handles "Sphinx Of Quartz, Judge My Black Vow". I think it's fair to say that POPlex-a-like does not do the best job :sad:

 

quartz.png.12916ebe6adc1ae566055a42de5e330c.png

 

I couldn't work out a way to get a full 4x4 tile font to fit into 64 GRAM characters, even if bits of similar glyphs like P and R are reused.  It was also necessary to invent a number of glyphs, as they do not appear in cylondr's video:

 

font.thumb.png.83c4da5e610a5572bbc468e36d9846bf.png

 

However, a look at the Intellivision catalogue suggested that, of the released Mattel titles, the most complex seemed to be "Blackjack & Poker" with 17 characters, and ignoring spaces, 11 unique letters.  So, to keep things simple, POPlex-a-like applies a set of restrictions - a title can have no more than 20 characters, of which no more than 16 can be unique.  It will be interesting to see what the real thing does with more complex titles like "Sphinx Of Quartz...", or The Dreadnaught Factor (180 letters long, with 28 unique characters!).

 

It would seem that I spoke too soon about the completeness of POPlex-a-like, pride before a fall and all that.  On watching cylondr's video again, the original Poplex-a-like was missing the jingle on starting a game, the "message from Marketing" when the demo cart is not plugged in and the all important "key clicks" when changing games.  :dunce:

 

The following update adds all of these "features" and reduces the delay before kicking off the demo to 10 seconds:

 

poplex-a-like.zip

 

As you can see in this short clip:

 

 

I think this gets close to what is shown in cylondr's video.  The font and sound are probably a bit off, and there are some unknowns, for example whether the game launch jingle plays when starting the demo cartridge, but I think it's a reasonable first second stab.  Either way, it's an item off the rather lengthy list of half finished projects. :thumbsup:

 

On 6/18/2019 at 3:40 PM, Byte Knight said:

This is awesome - thank you for the POPlex simulator!  Any chance you could a similar shell scripts with your Playcable demo so we could add games to it ourselves?

 

Unfortunately, the PlayCable's menu works in a different way to the POPlex-a-like.  Essentially it is more like a game than a hypervisor.  Happily it is just software, and with a bit of work it can be transformed...

 

 

Cheers

 

decle

 

 

 

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Cool!  There are some differences I can see between POPlex-a-like and the Kiosk Multiplexer, but it would take a bit to go through all of them.  The most notable is the lack of color in POPlex-a-like which is probably due to the color being lost in the VHS to digital transfer in the clyondr's video.  You have the tune surprisingly close .

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