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Who would go for an Atari 5200 Flashback-style unit???

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3 hours ago, wongojack said:

We STILL don't have most of the things people are talking about for the 2600.

Like what? I would say the VCS -O- Sphere has plentiful coverage across many platforms, emulators, original hardware, and console remakes/flashbacks.

 

And it seems like there's always a new stuff in development. Even some major games are getting VCS treatment.

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Accepts carts and original controllers with 99% compatibility.  We don't have one system that even does this.  Things even seem to be getting further away from this aspiration where you have things like original paddles not working with the Flashbacks or the Retron just running Stella.

 

Even if we did have those things lined up and ready to buy, the next step would be to add 7800 compatibility.

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17 hours ago, ledzep said:

I'd pay more for a functioning cartridge slot but, ya, there is a limit in terms of price.  Now, if it came with a working cartridge slot and a new pack-in game made specifically for this release, that would be something.

 

So, about the cartridge slot.

 

There was a time where I was all about modern systems such as Flashbacks having cartridge slots.  Why?  In all honesty, I don't know.  Yeah, it'd be neat and all for them to have one, but it's not something that would make the system quantitatively better.  Qualitatively, in terms of user experience, perhaps.  But on a cost:benefit ratio, it's difficult to see a way to justify the increase in both design complexity and manfacturing cost.  Having said that, the idea of being able to read cartridge data from original media does have merit.

 

Idea: USB-to-<insert cartridge slot here> adapters.  Make them a $24.99 accessory that can be plugged into the Flashback (or equivalent) unit, and let those who want the cartridge experience (or a way to play more than just the bundled games) able to do so.

 

If the person who designed these devices wanted to be a real sweetheart, they'd release the specs so that drivers for various common operating systems could be written, thus opening up the possibility of support for USB-attached original hardware in emulation.

 

And while I'm dreaming, I'd like a pony and a Maserati and the pony can also drive the Maserati when I've had too much to drink.

Edited by x=usr(1536)
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On 9/8/2019 at 8:44 AM, wongojack said:

Who would go for an Atari 5200 Flashback-style unit??? - The answer is almost no one.  You'd probably be overjoyed to sell 10,000.

 

I appreciate the Retron '77 for what it is, but we don't even have a proper clone of the 2600 that plays carts yet.  I can already play Stella.

I think an FPGA Atari 2600 with a cart slot would be dope...That said, the CollectorVision Phoenix seems to do pretty good at ROMs for 2600, but there's lots of things (games, paddles) that I haven't tried yet...

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2 hours ago, GoldLeader said:

I think an FPGA Atari 2600 with a cart slot would be dope...That said, the CollectorVision Phoenix seems to do pretty good at ROMs for 2600, but there's lots of things (games, paddles) that I haven't tried yet...

I have it and it doesn't work on either of my HDMI displays.  I have to play it through an HDMI to composite adapter.

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I don't like all these half-assed in-between things. I think the community should repolarize itself and settle on two things. We should stick to original hardware and/or emulation. Preferably a combo of both. Original hardware for the original experience. And emulation as a supplement for convenience and reliability and versatility.

 

Once you start hooking cartridges through usb readers you've automatically done gone and eliminated carts with CPUs and extra memory and such. Any kind of hardware assist is out the door.

 

Once you do an FPGA it seems that certain features are left out like the B/W switch maybe, or incompatibility with certain controllers due to different mapping of DB-9 connections or voltage levels or resistances. Or how something powers up. The designers of these new systems only go 95% of the way and then mysteriously stop. Seen it before and will see it again. Another failing is that console remakes aren't likely to physically accept ALL cartridges anyways. Seems to be a mystery why the cart slot can't be made to original dimensions. And sometimes the switch type is different. Momentary like GameSelect & Reset vs. Toggle Power, B/W, and difficulty A/B. Remake consoles seem to love fucking around with that!

 

Currently the Phoenix is having issues with certain television sets and how the console resets or powers up. Weird. But it is an example. And with R77 everytime a new hardware assisted homebrew comes out, the emulator will need to be updated and flashed. That's a lot of trouble to go through for the end consumer. I'm not really interested in wrestling with those issues.

 

The original consoles of yesteryear didn't have all that trouble. You bought it home from the store and it "just worked."

 

 

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3 hours ago, Keatah said:

I don't like all these half-assed in-between things. I think the community should repolarize itself and settle on two things. We should stick to original hardware and/or emulation. Preferably a combo of both. Original hardware for the original experience. And emulation as a supplement for convenience and reliability and versatility.

 

Once you start hooking cartridges through usb readers you've automatically done gone and eliminated carts with CPUs and extra memory and such. Any kind of hardware assist is out the door.

 

Once you do an FPGA it seems that certain features are left out like the B/W switch maybe, or incompatibility with certain controllers due to different mapping of DB-9 connections or voltage levels or resistances. Or how something powers up. The designers of these new systems only go 95% of the way and then mysteriously stop. Seen it before and will see it again. Another failing is that console remakes aren't likely to physically accept ALL cartridges anyways. Seems to be a mystery why the cart slot can't be made to original dimensions. And sometimes the switch type is different. Momentary like GameSelect & Reset vs. Toggle Power, B/W, and difficulty A/B. Remake consoles seem to love fucking around with that!

 

Currently the Phoenix is having issues with certain television sets and how the console resets or powers up. Weird. But it is an example. And with R77 everytime a new hardware assisted homebrew comes out, the emulator will need to be updated and flashed. That's a lot of trouble to go through for the end consumer. I'm not really interested in wrestling with those issues.

 

The original consoles of yesteryear didn't have all that trouble. You bought it home from the store and it "just worked."

 

 

I could go on and on here (I'm not going to go too far though)...Let's see.  As much as I love the sentence, "it just worked";  The originals had issues with displaying through RF...You had ghosting and a lack of clarity, and there were instances of certain hardware not playing certain games (i.e. Galaxian, for me will not display on certain Ataris, Defender won't control properly on an ADAM).  Emulators have issues;  For example, No explosion sounds on Wario Blast, Ultimate Qix always plays too fast, or when I play my favorite Atari 2600 game Dark Cavern (on an ATGames Flashback for instance) The robots have the ability to hug the walls on the left side of the screen and sometimes dodge your shots, even when you should have hit them.  This issue is not present in the original cart...And it's not present on the ROM when played on the Phoenix (It just works)...Now, after I updated the firmware, every ColecoVision cart I have thrown at it has worked perfectly and has been the clearest picture I have ever seen.  Mine has worked very well on 2 HDTVs, but one of them I do (usually) have to unplug/plug in the HDMI cable after swapping carts...I'd love to tell you it's perfect, but I cannot tell a lie.   I'll tell you it's almost perfect and I completely agree we shouldn't have to wrestle with issues at all...I'll take it any day over a buggy emulator though ;)

 

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4 hours ago, wongojack said:

I have it and it doesn't work on either of my HDMI displays.  I have to play it through an HDMI to composite adapter.

You and...Was it AtariLearf?  I wish I knew the answer there!  I really do.   Obviously I can only go on my own experience,  and I have a lot of faith in the company but it might be a tough nut to crack... I think it is not in the hardware spec, with regard to running the games (which I have had really good luck with), but something to do with the HDMI output.  I know I'm stating the obvious there, but my point is that the games should run fine.  If they get the output figured out, life should be good great!   I remember in the 90's I had a Nintendo (NES) that all of a sudden started going in and out of focus!  Obviously it was the most irritating thing in the world...Turned out that the TV had this "auto fine tuner" that was continually trying to fine tune something.  As soon as I turned it off (turned off one switch),  Everything worked like a champ!  I keep hoping The Phoenix is gonna be something like that!

 

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I would like to see one FPGA solution that we could ultimately plug in any cartridge from the 2600, 5200, 7800, 8-bit PC line, Intellivision, and Colecovision and have it work. Then we would need one paddle accesory, one trackball, and one controller with a keypad to cover all the bases. Best of all it would be one device to take the place of several others. A stack of cratridge adapters would me much preferrable to me.

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9 hours ago, Keatah said:

I don't like all these half-assed in-between things. I think the community should repolarize itself and settle on two things. We should stick to original hardware and/or emulation. Preferably a combo of both. Original hardware for the original experience. And emulation as a supplement for convenience and reliability and versatility.

 

Mostly agreed.  Some background: on and off, I've been restructuring my approach to both the hardware that I own as well as how I'd like to be able to use both that hardware and emulation in the future. However, in order for it to reach the point that I would personally consider to be nirvana, it's become apparent that there are some changes that would need to happen on both fronts.  More:

 

9 hours ago, Keatah said:

Once you start hooking cartridges through usb readers you've automatically done gone and eliminated carts with CPUs and extra memory and such. Any kind of hardware assist is out the door.

 

This part's long and went a bit stream-of-consciousness, so my comments may seem meandering, incomplete, or WTF? at times.

 

This is a good illustration of why I feel one of these changes is necessary, and that change is a shift from emulation as self-contained software to more of a virtual machine model (which, ultimately, is what most emulators are at their core).  This doesn't need to be bare-metal virtualisation à la ESXi or similar; a Virtualbox-alike approach would be fine.  But it should have features such as the ability to pass physical hardware through from the host to the guest, and built-in debugging of the guest.

 

Why I say this is necessary: we'll never have, at a component level, an emulation of every piece of hardware out there that a given system could conceivably use - hell, even common devices like cassette and disk drives are often simulations that basically fool the emulated machine into thinking that the image or audio file being fed to it is data from a real device.

 

For day-to-day usage, this is typically OK - but what happens when you have something that falls outside of the norm?  Using the enhanced cartridge example above, unless you come up with a way of identifying and handling every specific instance where this might happen within the emulation itself, there's kinda nothing you can do.  But if you can physically-connect that device to a virtual or emulated machine and run the appropriate tools to watch what happens, you can conceivably come up with ways to more appropriately handle these types of devices.

 

One other advantage to this: the ability for emulation to act as a true backup for failed physical hardware.  Let's say I'm copying data from a 1200XL to a modern machine, and the 1200XL itself dies.  It's toast; the magic smoke is gone and until I can find replacement parts (or, worse, a new machine), I'm effectively dead in the water.  However, if the option there to, say, USB-connect any necessary drives or other devices to a host machine capable of passing access to them through to emulation, work can continue for as long as the other physical devices hold out.  From a software preservation standpoint moving forward, this would be invaluable.

 

Conversely, as this relates to physical hardware: there's a lot of stuff out there that's vital to operation but subject to physical failure.  Three examples of this: cassette drives, floppy drives, and hard drives, each of which typically experience mechanical failures with varying degrees of likelihood of resurrection.  While there are options out there to connect things like SD and CF cards to a given machine and have them appear as native storage, the downside to this is that physical media is still in use, with all of the disadvantages (and, admittedly, advantages) that go along with that.

 

Where I would like to see this move in the future is to a model more along the lines of a RespeQt-style design.  Physical hardware is USB-connected to a host running software that provides emulation of devices designed to be attached to that physical machine's relevant bus over USB.  For a software preservationist, this would be awesome since it would mean that archived data could be verified on real hardware after being read / imaged / otherwise obtained.

 

And on a more general (and final) note: yes, I keep mentioning preservation, specifically of software.  This is because on a long enough timeline, all of our hardware is going to fail in unrepairable ways, be destroyed, or otherwise go to the Great Semiconductor Fab in the Sky.  Software, however, can potentially last indefintely - but is useless unless it can be read and executed, and the best way to ensure that that can happen is by thoroughly documenting the systems it ran on, both in written and emulation / virtualisation forms.  My hope is that we move in the directions outlined above so that preservation becomes easier and more accessible, and we save more of computing history for the future.

 

 

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Sad thing is, due to aging 'issues', I'm going to have to downsize in the future.  It could be one year, it could be four or five, I don't know.  Some things I'm not going to be able to keep, so emulation may be a route I'm forced to travel for some things.  I do however want to keep 'Real Iron' for both the TI and Atari. 

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Today's processors have 25GHz of power or more! That's 25,000,000,000 cycles on tap. This is serious overkill for reading and interacting with a measly 16K ROM. Comes to something like the processor being able to complete 5000 cycles of work between reading each byte. And that's working as fast as the vintage ROM can spit it out. In comparison in a vintage game machine you'd be reading the ROM 1 byte per clock cycle and not doing any work between reads.

 

An issue, as I was told, is that the USB protocol gets in the way, and nothing is consistent as far as timing. So there'd need to be a bit of custom hardware there. Not for speed, but for consistency.

 

IMHO ROM dumpers are a cheap-ass work-around for the problem. I believe they should be constantly scanning or reading the cartridge and dumping the data on byte-per basis as the emulator works through a game. Not the whole thing in shebang. Then you'd get compatibility with ALL carts.

 

Whether or not today's emulators are architected for that I have no clue. But 25,000,000,000 cycles on tap!

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3 hours ago, x=usr(1536) said:

Mostly agreed.  Some background: on and off, I've been restructuring my approach to both the hardware that I own as well as how I'd like to be able to use both that hardware and emulation in the future. However, in order for it to reach the point that I would personally consider to be nirvana, it's become apparent that there are some changes that would need to happen on both fronts.  More:

I personally believe the final output of the program is what's important. Whether it be a game or a numerical chart or bit-mapped artwork, the output product is what matters. And I think that if emulation or simulation achieves that end, then how it does it is rather unimportant.

 

Quote

Conversely, as this relates to physical hardware: there's a lot of stuff out there that's vital to operation but subject to physical failure.  Three examples of this: cassette drives, floppy drives, and hard drives, each of which typically experience mechanical failures with varying degrees of likelihood of resurrection.  While there are options out there to connect things like SD and CF cards to a given machine and have them appear as native storage, the downside to this is that physical media is still in use, with all of the disadvantages (and, admittedly, advantages) that go along with that.

As far as tape/disk drives and other storage media goes. They can be abstracted away with little or no loss to a preservation community. I suppose it comes down to how important the experience of sitting around waiting 7 minutes for a tape to load is. Or how much of a vigil you want to keep over bit rot.

 

Same with cartridges. Some people utterly insist on being able to fondle a cart and insert it into a machine. Or watch it sit motionlessly on a shelf - quaking and vibrating in a minuscule fashion as a dust mote lands on its surface. To me these are auxiliary experiences not intrinsic to software preservation. They're motions and activities we had to tolerate in a bygone era.

 

So.. I don't think we need to go much beyond having the data safely archived. Whatever physical form it takes is mostly unimportant. And that's been done in spades and droves many times over.

 

Quote

And on a more general (and final) note: yes, I keep mentioning preservation, specifically of software.  This is because on a long enough timeline, all of our hardware is going to fail in unrepairable ways, be destroyed, or otherwise go to the Great Semiconductor Fab in the Sky.  Software, however, can potentially last indefintely - but is useless unless it can be read and executed, and the best way to ensure that that can happen is by thoroughly documenting the systems it ran on, both in written and emulation / virtualisation forms.  My hope is that we move in the directions outlined above so that preservation becomes easier and more accessible, and we save more of computing history for the future.

 

I would say we're already there. Some emulators have been going at it for the past 20 years. And thousands upon thousands of software titles have been dumped to modern HDD.

 

Anyone can go and buy a more-than-powerful-enough computer on the cheap and pack it full of high-quality emulators like Altirra. I think widespread availability is already here. I don't think you'll see drug-stores carrying such machines with quality emus preinstalled though. All the same you won't find 6502 programming books at the grocery store anymore, not even a book store. But they are widely available from hundreds of sources online.

 

When I sit down to play Star Raiders or Defender. It is very easy to forget I'm not on original hardware. One of the things that reminds me so is the awesome reliability and extraordinary controls. A nice display with appropriate NTSC/CRT effects is a huge plus here.

 

Which brings me to a final point. In thinking about any one specific console + TV combination.. There were literally hundreds of thousands of combinations, each having adjustments for geometry, size, color, brightness, contrast, saturation, and more. This means that each setup was different. My Atari 400/800 setup looked and sounded different from my buddy's rig. And who was to say what was the CORRECT configuration?

 

That even applies to arcade cabinets. Oh they might have been adjusted perfectly identical at the factory. #985 being the same as #4002. Per pixel. But give it a year or two. With some wear and tear and compensating adjustments done by eyeball, the two machines now look distinctly different. Who is to say what's the right look?

 

With emulation and digital settings we don't have this issue. We can make it look like whatever we want OR stay with the default settings that everyone gets. And this is possible across many brands and sizes of monitors. This tends to ensure accuracy and the user seeing what should be seen - especially with those tricky artifacting modes.

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21 hours ago, Keatah said:

As far as tape/disk drives and other storage media goes. They can be abstracted away with little or no loss to a preservation community. I suppose it comes down to how important the experience of sitting around waiting 7 minutes for a tape to load is. Or how much of a vigil you want to keep over bit rot.

 

Same with cartridges. Some people utterly insist on being able to fondle a cart and insert it into a machine. Or watch it sit motionlessly on a shelf - quaking and vibrating in a minuscule fashion as a dust mote lands on its surface. To me these are auxiliary experiences not intrinsic to software preservation. They're motions and activities we had to tolerate in a bygone era.

 

So.. I don't think we need to go much beyond having the data safely archived. Whatever physical form it takes is mostly unimportant. And that's been done in spades and droves many times over.

 

I disagree.  Yes, preserve the software, the data, that goes without saying.  But the physical form matters to some people.  Seeing a movie on film in a theater is not the same as seeing on home off a Blu-ray disk or streaming it on a tablet.  Listening to an album on vinyl is not the same as listening to it on CD or tolerating the MP3 version on an iPod with those shitty earbuds.  Yet the source is (practically) the same.  People will prefer the outcome in different forms, though.

 

I much prefer the carts when it comes to console play.  I much prefer the consoles themselves, too, along with the correct controllers.  So emulators will never be good enough for someone like me.  And it ain't that fucking hard to make new cart readers for PC, companies are just lazy or not interested in "enough" profit vs. "maximum" profit.

 

23 hours ago, Keatah said:

An issue, as I was told, is that the USB protocol gets in the way, and nothing is consistent as far as timing. So there'd need to be a bit of custom hardware there. Not for speed, but for consistency.

 

IMHO ROM dumpers are a cheap-ass work-around for the problem. I believe they should be constantly scanning or reading the cartridge and dumping the data on byte-per basis as the emulator works through a game. Not the whole thing in shebang. Then you'd get compatibility with ALL carts.

 

What about SATA devices?  I would love to have a physical (accurate) cart reader in my PC in one of the 5 1/4 bays (optical drives, typically).  It could actually house the entire 5200 or 2600 hardware, probably.  the controllers could be plugged in with USB but otherwise wouldn't SATA connections be the better way to go?

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54 minutes ago, ledzep said:

I disagree.  Yes, preserve the software, the data, that goes without saying.  But the physical form matters to some people.  Seeing a movie on film in a theater is not the same as seeing on home off a Blu-ray disk or streaming it on a tablet.  Listening to an album on vinyl is not the same as listening to it on CD or tolerating the MP3 version on an iPod with those shitty earbuds.  Yet the source is (practically) the same.  People will prefer the outcome in different forms, though.

 

I suppose I'm not too big on preserving the exact precise physical experience of a whatever. Or like an "official" theater experience vs a home theater. I recognize and appreciate the differences however.

 

Quote

I much prefer the carts when it comes to console play.  I much prefer the consoles themselves, too, along with the correct controllers.  So emulators will never be good enough for someone like me.  And it ain't that fucking hard to make new cart readers for PC, companies are just lazy or not interested in "enough" profit vs. "maximum" profit.

 

The whole Retron77 thing is like uber-fake. Slap in the face. You see. Being a cart dumper is no better than an emulator + rom. Perhaps even worse because you're going through needless steps. It's a slap in the face because it doesn't work like anything like a real vintage console that reads the rom on the fly interactively. It just feels deceptive in nature.

 

Rom dumpers are comparatively easy to make. El'cheapo. And easy to interface to an emulator via command line. And that is the easy and lazy way of doing something. I don't believe the Retron77 designers could re-engineer a "real hardware" VCS that reads the cartridge interactively on the fly.

 

Many would say emulators are the same. Sure. Though with emulators you already know exactly what you're getting into. Where the roms are. How they are read and processed.

 

Quote

What about SATA devices?  I would love to have a physical (accurate) cart reader in my PC in one of the 5 1/4 bays (optical drives, typically).  It could actually house the entire 5200 or 2600 hardware, probably.  the controllers could be plugged in with USB but otherwise wouldn't SATA connections be the better way to go?

 

Probably not. SATA (and its protocols) are for storage. Any other use would need new driver stacks. And likely one for each major chipset implementation. A costly project.

 

And just as costly and complex to run real hardware in the bay with a real cartridge interface (not reader) and transfer that data to the PC.

 

Sounds like we're talking on the level of those early 3DO or Jaguar-on-a-card things they had in the 1990's. They were consumer products as complex as a development kit. Extraordinarily niche. I even had the 3DO one. And it was two huge full-length ISA cards!

Edited by Keatah

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On 12/17/2019 at 10:05 AM, --- Ω --- said:

Sad thing is, due to aging 'issues', I'm going to have to downsize in the future.  It could be one year, it could be four or five, I don't know.  Some things I'm not going to be able to keep, so emulation may be a route I'm forced to travel for some things.  I do however want to keep 'Real Iron' for both the TI and Atari. 

 

It's not a big deal. As said many times before, downsizing and supplementing with emulation will likely give you a renewed interest in the hobby. There comes a time when one simply has too much stuff. You can only cast your attention so far before it becomes diluted and unenjoyable.

 

I continue to focus on Apple II, PC, and a small subset of TRS-80 pocket computers. The rest through emulation. If I didn't do emu I'd be seriously overwhelmed again like in the 1990's when I *DID* have all that. I do not have the time or wherewithal anymore to set up a C64, Atari 400/800, ColecoVision, Astrocade, Ti-99/4A, TRS-80 Models I-II-III, Vectrex, Vic-20, 5200, Intellivision 1 & 2, Amiga 500/1000, AtariST, 486 PC, Pentium III PC, Odyssey^2, Adam, SegaMasterSystem, NES, SNES, Genesis, Aquarius, and VCS and god only knows what else! Imagine all that with associated peripherals, controllers, cables, and a massive software library for each. It's instantly obvious the logistics of all that detracts from enjoying the finer points of a select 2 or 3 fav platforms.

 

 

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