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Albert

Play Atari 2600 Games using QR Codes

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You've surely seen QR Codes all over the place in the last decade. QR codes are a means of encoding information into a compact, square graphic that can be scanned (usually by cell phones these days) and decoded. Most often these codes are a link to a website, but they can be used to store any manner of information. Atari 2600 fan Seth Robinson recently embarked on the challenge of encoding Atari 2600 games as QR codes stored on paper cards, and then using a camera to decode the game and run it in an emulator.

 

As QR codes can store about 3K of 8-bit data, a 2K Atari 2600 game can easily fit in a standard QR code. Larger 4K games can be encoded using two QR codes, one on each side of the card. You then have to flip the code to load the second half of the game. As a large percentage of Atari 2600 games are either 2K or 4K in size, this allows you to run quite a few games from QR codes. Seth used a Raspberry Pi and a Picamera and open source software to read the "PaperCart" Atari 2600 game cards he printed, and once decoded they are run in the RetroPie Atari 2600 emulator.

 

 

For all the details about this PaperCart system system (including how to create your own), please visit Seth's Code Dojo page.

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I wonder if something like these could be sold by AtariAge for those who want to support homebrewing but don't need a cart.

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Well, you'd still need to have the Raspberry Pi and a Picamera hardware, plus the RetroPie software setup, and the custom software Seth wrote. So it's a bit of work and I'm not sure many people would go through the trouble. It is pretty cool, though. Also, this would only work for 2K and 4K games, unless you wanted to extend this further and read more cards for larger games. Reminds me of flipping Laserdiscs. :D

 

..Al

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Well, you'd still need to have the Raspberry Pi and a Picamera hardware, plus the RetroPie software setup, and the custom software Seth wrote. So it's a bit of work and I'm not sure many people would go through the trouble. It is pretty cool, though. Also, this would only work for 2K and 4K games, unless you wanted to extend this further and read more cards for larger games. Reminds me of flipping Laserdiscs. :D

IMO that's not really relevant when people do have the ROMs anyway. It's more like a legal certification that you own that game.

 

And maybe someone wants to create e.g. an app which stores the data on a mobile phone.

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That's super fascinating! Never really gave much thought about how much information could be stored using such a large QR code like this.

 

Clever and very cool.

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It's certainly an interesting tech experiment that has some appeal. Kinda like little certificates of authenticity. I can see a whole folder or wallet full of these QR slips.

 

On the other hand, how many different methods of delivery will the retrogamer tolerate or be interested in on a long-term basis? A long enough term that a collection can arise out of it.

 

Can't we just stick with carts & roms? The old standbys that have endured the test of time. The old standbys that everyone knows how to use straight away.

Edited by Keatah

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That's better than the solution I patented back in 94, where you take the printed source code of a cart, print it on a 9-pin printer, use OCR software to scan the source code, run a batch file to compile the binary, copy it onto a 720kb double-density 3 1/2" floppy, mail it to Best Electronics to burn the ROM onto a cartridge, and finally ship it to you.

 

I tried variations of a daisy-wheel printer and 1.2 HD 5 1/4 floppies, but that would have been ridiculous.

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I like the idea of cheap and less expert only media. I've made one or two mini games on SegaCD. No soldering or scrapping carts for parts there.

I like that, "expert only media". LOL.

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I'm not sure any soldering was involved for this. Looks like off-the-shelf parts (the Raspberry Pi and Picamera) and software, some of which he wrote himself. And he printed a nice 3D stand for the cards. I'd still consider this expert-level, of course. :D

 

..Al

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This was a good choice to feature on the front page.

Yes, I want to post more on the front page, so I invite anyone to send me links to interesting classic gaming-related content. I will make this a more formal process soon. Also posted this on Twitter and Facebook.

 

..Al

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Next step is a Pi that detects if a new USB stick is mounted and automatically plays back a .WAV file ROM onto a Starpath SuperCharger.

 

That would solve the emulation vs. real hardware issue in a roundabout way.

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Can't we just stick with carts & roms? The old standbys that have endured the test of time. The old standbys that everyone knows how to use straight away.

People have been asking for a cheap way to get a game only (no cart, box etc.) and still support homebrewing.

 

IMO this might work for them.

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People have been asking for a cheap way to get a game only (no cart, box etc.) and still support homebrewing.

 

IMO this might work for them.

I'm fine with selling ROMs directly, which is my plan once I get the store software changed over to new software.

 

..Al

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I found this idea to be strangely appealing to me for some odd-ball reason. The concept isn't new, the Nintendo e-reader for the Game Boy Advance did the same thing 15 years ago. But the utility of having one Atari 2600 game per card is ingenious.

 

Could this be implemented on a cartridge-shaped device that plugs into an Atari 2600? Obviously the 2600 can't scan codes in real time, but with a micro controller, it could theoretically be possible. Also, if you encode the card with alphanumeric codes instead of binary codes and only use 0-9 and A-F, you could get a little more than 4K on one card side. Then you could feed the code into a 4KB SRAM for the game to work.

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Could this be implemented on a cartridge-shaped device that plugs into an Atari 2600? Obviously the 2600 can't scan codes in real time, but with a micro controller, it could theoretically be possible. Also, if you encode the card with alphanumeric codes instead of binary codes and only use 0-9 and A-F, you could get a little more than 4K on one card side. Then you could feed the code into a 4KB SRAM for the game to work.

 

That sounds like of like the person who made NFC "cartridges" to play games in Retropie. https://www.3ders.org/articles/20160729-blogger-builds-3d-printed-nes-console-with-cool-nfc-tag-cartridges.html

I think the actual logic was on the host machine, and the NFC tags were just used to select/unlock what was already there, but nonetheless it's a cute idea that would have felt like magic when Atari games were new.

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This looks really cool! Reminds me of the Radio Frequency ID tag SID player that would play SID's that fit on an RFID tag whenever the tag came within proximity to the player.

 

I think the RFID's had a similar limit of 1 or 2K but there are tons of SID tunes that size it accommodated.

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Cool.

 

That could make an interesting cartridge label.

 

Maybe it's possible to build a raspeberry py in an Atari case, putting the camera somewhere between the speakers' openning, with a cartridge shell adapted to hold the QR codes.

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That could make an interesting cartridge label.

 

Ha, it would be pretty cool to make a label for a game with a QR code you could scan and then get another game to play! Or put it in the manual. :)

 

..Al

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Ha, it would be pretty cool to make a label for a game with a QR code you could scan and then get another game to play! Or put it in the manual. :)

Or build QR code support into a larger game ... get the codes from a smartphone or something. I dunno. This was probably attempted 15 years ago with "barcode battler" or somesuch.

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These remind me of the Monopoly property cards. And it would be nice if they get printed on quality stock and/or laminated. And even better to have a custom binder made to hold them in sets of 50 or some similar qty.

 

I could also envision ongoing "level development" in adventure or rpg games. When you go to a certain room, you load a new card, a new "world" or something.

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