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Astrocart: Magical, reflashable 512KB homebrew cart

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astro-new.gif

 

Since I started getting into Astrocade homebrew dev, I've been thinking about making a little dev cart so I can test my ROMs on real hardware. Well, a few months later, here's the result: Astrocart! It supports a 512KB flash ROM chip, which is bankswitchable with the switches at the left. It's also socketed so you can easily pull it out, reburn, and reseat as needed.

 

As for the magic... well, I believe that beautiful electronics are pleasant to use and share with friends. I designed the board with a galaxy of gold and white stars to help make homebrew development all the more fun and magical. 

 

Many thanks are owed to my friend [twitter]batslyadams[/twitter], who did a fantastic job with all PCB routing and general Eagle wizardry.

 

As of right now, this is the only fully assembled Astrocart in existence, but, y'know, maybe more to come. 

 

astrostill.jpg

 

 

 

 

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Astrocart! It supports a 512KB flash ROM chip, which is bankswitchable with the switches at the left. It's also socketed so you can easily pull it out, reburn, and reseat as needed.

Very, very nice! I had a 512K flashable Astrocade cart, but it never went into production. It used the AtariMax flash software and hardware.  It's the only cartridge in existence that had an Astrocade cart on one side and an Atari 8-bit home computer cart on the other (so that it could plug into the MaxFlash USB burner).  Did you see the information on BallyAlley.com about it, here:

 

http://www.ballyalley.com/documentation/bally128k-com/maxflash/maxflash.htm

 

Is your flashcart compatible with it?  Maybe you can modify the Astrocade software that was written for that flashcart to work work with yours?

 

What are the specs on this cartridge?

 

If these go into production, then I'd buy one.  Heck, I know that many people would.

 

Adam

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I make a PCB that will allow you to do the same basic thing, but will allow as much as an 8 Megabyte chip. I use a 27c080 or 27c801 EPROM for my UltiMulti. But I have my "Hubba Bubba" cart with a ZIF socket for easy insertion and removal. The switches are accessible from the top also.

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As of right now, this is the only fully assembled Astrocart in existence, but, y'know, maybe more to come.


Lance Squire designed a 3D printable cart shell for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade system back in 2013.  It looks like this:

 

[attachment=571850:Astrocade_3D-Printed_Cart_Shell_01.jpg]

[attachment=571851:Astrocade_3D-Printed_Cart_Shell_03.jpg]

[attachment=571852:Astrocade_3D-Printed_Cart_Shell_04.jpg]

[attachment=571853:Astrocade_3D-Printed_Cart_Shell_05.jpg]

[attachment=571854:Astrocade_3D-Printed_Cart_Shell_06.jpg]

 

Maybe this shell can be used for the flashcart's shell?

 

Here is a link to the files:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:173532

Even if these files for the cartridge shell don't work as-is, then hopefully they'll be a good starting point for creating a shell that works well with the flash cart.

Adam

Edited by ballyalley

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Lance Squire designed a 3D printable cart shell for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade system back in 2013.  It looks like this:

 

attachicon.gifAstrocade_3D-Printed_Cart_Shell_01.jpg

attachicon.gifAstrocade_3D-Printed_Cart_Shell_03.jpg

attachicon.gifAstrocade_3D-Printed_Cart_Shell_04.jpg

attachicon.gifAstrocade_3D-Printed_Cart_Shell_05.jpg

attachicon.gifAstrocade_3D-Printed_Cart_Shell_06.jpg

 

Maybe this shell can be used for the flashcart's shell?

 

Here is a link to the files:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:173532

Even if these files for the cartridge shell don't work as-is, then hopefully they'll be a good starting point for creating a shell that works well with the flash cart.

Adam

I edited it  to work with the  ultimulti (pics of the pink and white cart above  )

and should not be hard to modify for the  op's pcb 

 

the only problems I had was  that the chip legs had not been trimmed  (lol and solder was a bit  of a blob )  so I just had to reflow the solder and clip the chip legs shorter

then measure the distance of the opening for the dipswitch  and add it in  tinkercad

 

the shell is a bit thin on the top and bottom and does not have the  recess for the cart label  but I'm going to try and thicken it up a bit and add the recess (feels a bit  flimsy as it is )

Edited by discgolfer72

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You kind of read my mind with that 3D-printed case link! It never occurred to me to check Thingiverse for an existing model... how cool! I love the pink and white shell combo, too.

In case anyones curious, I cut the hole in the Astrocade cart with a regular old X-Acto knife. I was originally going to use it just to score the cart before going in with a Dremel, but the plastic was so soft that I decided to give it a few passes with the X-Acto. It worked great, and the cuts ended up being much straighter than what I could have done freehand with a Dremel. (It was a little sad to deface a real cartridge, but I think it was OK to do one in the name of science.)

I looked a bit at other flashcarts but havent investigated compatibility between those and the Astrocart yet.

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Working on bally board. 32k memory expansion, sd cart reader (can dump/clone and load bally carts to sd card) , composite output, ballcheck diagnostic emulation. Connects to the 50 pin expansion connector on the back of bally.  Will post more info later. 

 

patrick

Edited by amiga92570

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Working on bally board. 32k memory expansion, sd cart reader (can dump/clone and load bally carts to sd card) , composite output, ballcheck diagnostic emulation. Connects to the 50 pin expansion connector on the back of bally.  Will post more info later. 

 

patrick

 

Take my money!  :)

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Working on bally board. 32k memory expansion, sd cart reader (can dump/clone and load bally carts to sd card) , composite output, ballcheck diagnostic emulation. Connects to the 50 pin expansion connector on the back of bally.

 

:-o

 

 

Take my money!  :)

 

And mine, too!

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Working on bally board. 32k memory expansion, sd cart reader (can dump/clone and load bally carts to sd card) , composite output, ballcheck diagnostic emulation. Connects to the 50 pin expansion connector on the back of bally.  Will post more info later. 
 
patrick

Please put me on the "interested" list. Edited by Twin_power

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Working on bally board. 32k memory expansion, sd cart reader (can dump/clone and load bally carts to sd card) , composite output, ballcheck diagnostic emulation. Connects to the 50 pin expansion connector on the back of bally.  Will post more info later. 

 

patrick

 

awesome work and want this when it is available.  

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Do not have a date for finished product, still some mods and debuging to do. On the 3 board rev. Maybe one or two more. Here are some more pics. Anyone well versed with bally machine language let me know if available later to help with menu system. Right now menu is on lcd on board. Later if we can create an easily installed highres option we will need on screen menus. Need is a strong word, lcd is very nice, on screen menu would be more finished. My son and I both work, so this is a side project. I want to finish it though.

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You couldn't just put a standard/mini/micro SD card you can insert in the Astrocade, like an Everdrive is for the Genesis and Master System.

 

It looks like you're going to have to disassemble an Astrocade to insert the part.  And I know a rule:  If it ain't broke, DON'T FIX IT.

 

What would the cost of an Astrocade Everdrive cost vs an Omni cart.  If it's the same price, the Everdrive can load homebrew cart games, whereas the games on the Omni cart are fixed.

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Do not have a date for finished product, still some mods and debuging to do. On the 3 board rev. Maybe one or two more. Here are some more pics. Anyone well versed with bally machine language let me know if available later to help with menu system. Right now menu is on lcd on board. Later if we can create an easily installed highres option we will need on screen menus. Need is a strong word, lcd is very nice, on screen menu would be more finished. My son and I both work, so this is a side project. I want to finish it though.

I see a LOT of over-kill with heat sinks. If the ADDRESS and I/O chips aer getting hot enough to apply thos heat sinks, there is something wrong with your unit, as well as the HS on the OSCILLATOR. When one of the address or I/O chips fail and you have to remove them to check, How will you know which one is which? Plugging them into the wrong socket can be dangerous because the power supplies are on different pins..

What type of Hantek unit is that? I have never seen it before.

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It looks like you're going to have to disassemble an Astrocade to insert the part.

 

No, you don't have to disassemble the Astrocade to plug anything onto the 50-pin connector.  Well, kind of you do... The Astrocade is disasembled in the picture to show the work that Patrick is doing with his project.  The 50-pin connector is hidden on the Astrocade (it's covered by a piece of plaster).  This is meant to be removed.  Ken Lill's directions for his 32K Lil' White RAM explain how to remove the knock-out cover.  You can read that document here:

 

http://www.ballyalley.com/documentation/misc_hardware_docs/Lil_White_RAM/Lil_White_Ram_(Instructions_and_Warranty).pdf

This project looks pretty sweet!

 

Adam

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You kind of read my mind with that 3D-printed case link! It never occurred to me to check Thingiverse for an existing model... how cool! I love the pink and white shell combo, too.

In case anyones curious, I cut the hole in the Astrocade cart with a regular old X-Acto knife. I was originally going to use it just to score the cart before going in with a Dremel, but the plastic was so soft that I decided to give it a few passes with the X-Acto. It worked great, and the cuts ended up being much straighter than what I could have done freehand with a Dremel. (It was a little sad to deface a real cartridge, but I think it was OK to do one in the name of science.)

I looked a bit at other flashcarts but havent investigated compatibility between those and the Astrocart yet.

You might want to get in touch with Michael DeSalvo on ballyalleycom to see what he and someone else did for a 256K cart. It might help you.

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You might want to get in touch with Michael DeSalvo on ballyalleycom to see what he and someone else did for a 256K cart. It might help you.

 

It was Steven J Tucker who designed the 256K (later upgraded to 512K) Astrocade bank-switch flashcart The board was just a plain PCB and was never sold. When Michael (who was working with Steven) sent me one of these for testing, I provided my own cartridge shell and hacked-it-up (quite literally using a hack saw!) so that the PCB would fit in it. One side of the PCB plugged into the Astrocade and the other side plugged into the Atari Max Flash cartridge programmer.  This cartridge worked great, but it never went into production, nor was it ever available for sale.  Here are some pictures of that board:

 

[attachment=580136:256K_Astrocade_Flash_Cart_01.jpg]

[attachment=580137:256K_Astrocade_Flash_Cart_02.jpg]

[attachment=580138:256K_Astrocade_Flash_Cart_03.jpg]

[attachment=580139:FlashCart PCB Card Orientation.jpg]

 

The Atari versions of this flashcart are still available for sale here:

 

https://atarimax.com/

 

I look forward to trying out this new Astrocade flashcart; it looks very useful.  If I had one, then it would allow me to test hacks of Astrocade games so much easier on real hardware.  Gone will be the days of EPROM burning!

 

Adam

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