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intvsteve

New to Astrocade - Any hope to repair?

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46 minutes ago, ballyalley said:

 

I posted your picture of the RF shielding to BallyAlley.com:

 

https://ballyalley.com/pics/hardware_pics/consoles_and_accessories/Bally_Professional_Arcade/Bally_Professional_Arcade.html#BallyAstrocadeRFShielding

 

Have you removed the shielding yet?

 

Adam

Thanks!

I have not removed the RF shielding yet. Lots going on. With luck, I'll have some time this weekend.

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On 11/5/2019 at 11:55 PM, ballyalley said:

there was less shielding and the shielding that was there was used as a sort of heat sink; some the shielding sits on top of the data chip and sometimes actually even has thermal grease on it.


I've never had any issues removing shielding, but I've heard from a few people that after they've done it that their systems have just been 100% dead.

I had that type of console. I bought aluminium radiators and thermal blue, and slapped it on the specific video chip; and also on the Z80 CPU since it's the same package chip size and I got 5 radiators. While the Z80 doesn't run as hot as the graphics chip, it still run hot so cooling it can't hurt. it NEVER hurts :)

 

I had issue when removing the botton shielding. But my unit always booted back on after putting it back, so I assumed that the engineer used it as a ground link and so, I ran a wire around the board, soldered to each solder point of the shielding, and it resolved my issue.

I have since manipulated my Astrocade several times and it haven't flaked seriously so I suppose that in my case it was only a grounding issue.

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After (carefully!) removing the shielding, I presume is it OK to re-connect everything and boot the system back up, just to be certain I haven't harmed it then?

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It is. If you haven't glued a radiator on the special chip, don't leave it running for too long to avoid destructive overheating.

 

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21 minutes ago, CatPix said:

It is. If you haven't glued a radiator on the special chip, don't leave it running for too long to avoid destructive overheating.

Cool.

 

Do you have any recommended heatsinks to use for the custom chip? I've not read up on that part yet. If you've already got an answer at hand, I'll trust direct experience over teh internetz any day! :D

 

EDIT: I just found this thread: 

 

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I got mine from Console5. I bough them under the Intellivision section :D but the chip size is the same so it works.

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This is an interesting thread.  I hope that Ken and/or Allen jump in here sometime soon with some advice on getting your unit up and running again.  Heat sinks are a great idea (although I don't use any-- I just always use my Astrocade with the top removed), but all of the heat dissipation techniques won't help a non-working unit.

 

When you get your unit going again, what cartridge do you plan to try first?  Did you get anything unusual in the collection of 15 carts that came with your console?

 

Adam

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1 hour ago, ballyalley said:

This is an interesting thread.  I hope that Ken and/or Allen jump in here sometime soon with some advice on getting your unit up and running again.  Heat sinks are a great idea (although I don't use any-- I just always use my Astrocade with the top removed), but all of the heat dissipation techniques won't help a non-working unit.

 

When you get your unit going again, what cartridge do you plan to try first?  Did you get anything unusual in the collection of 15 carts that came with your console?

 

Adam

Allen has contacted me via PM with a lot of great advice.

 

I just placed an order with Console5 for the 40-pin heat sink and some thermal conducting adhesive. :D

 

If / when this is running again, i'm halfway tempted to install a fan just because! :P

 

I'm not equipped (or inclined) to make a video of the process, but I do plan to take lots of pictures while doing the work.  With some luck, I'll have time this weekend to remove the heat RF shield and make sure things haven't gotten any worse.

 

As to the games... I'll have to double-check what I got. I'm probably going to fire up The Incredible Wizard first.  I had a great time playing that game with @ianoid a couple years back -- the very first time I'd played an Astrocade -- so it's a special game to me. I guess I 'imprinted' on it. Artillery Duel is also high on the list, as well as Space Fortress and Galactic Invasion.  I just saw a video of Star Battle while searching for 'breakdown' videos and am intrigued by that, being mainly an Intellivision guy... But not sure if it's in the set of games I got.

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14 minutes ago, intvsteve said:

Allen has contacted me via PM with a lot of great advice.

 

I'm glad that Allen is giving you some personal service.  He's helped me too.

 

One summer, about ten years ago, I was using my Astrocade for days at a time and I directed a fan right across the motherboard.  There was heat build-up not only from the chips, but also from the voltage regular (which is typical for any system).  This works quite well.

 

If you do take pictures, then expect that you'll share them here.  Great!

 

The Incredible Wizard is a wonderful game.  Artillery Duel is also a good one.  Try loading up the original BASIC version for comparison.  Space Fortress is awesome; I've had thoughts of making an arcade huge-button-controller to make it more like the arcade game Space Zap.  Galactic Invasion is good, but it gets hard too quickly for me.  Try playing it on the hardest level (it's called "Professional," I think) and see how long you last-- not long, I bet.  Star Battle is a terrible game, which might be better with two people.  It certainly won't control as you expect it should work.

 

Other good, but rare, titles are Cosmic Raiders and Solar Conqueror.  Pirate's Chase is really good with two players.  If you have the multicart, then try the two homebrews: Crazy Climber and War.  The multicart also has some of the other really rare games worth-playing third-party like Ms. Candyman and Sea Devil.  Some of the BASICarts on the multicart are good too, but you can load them with "AstroBASIC."  Finally don't forget about the built-in games: a four-player game of Checkmate is wonderful.

 

Good luck fixing your Astrocade system this weekend!

 

Adam

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1 hour ago, ballyalley said:

 I just always use my Astrocade with the top removed), but all of the heat dissipation techniques won't help a non-working unit.

Not everybody is inclined to do so.

And as for me, I often get it out and display it on retrogaming expos/salons, so a "nice" model is better than a bare board.

I drilled holes in the cart tray to improve air flow over the main chip (there are vent slits in the tray but they are very thin, I'm not sure they really improve anything). I plan to put small 5V fans soon because most expos are in summer.

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This project is still in the diagnostic phase. First, we need to determine which kind of memory chips this unit uses. Then, the acquisition of replacements, followed by identification of defective chips. Allen has been super-helpful about informing me about all this. I'm hoping it's just bad RAM... In fact, what I'm really hoping is that it's not even bad RAM but maybe just a bad connection. Based on what I've been told and what I've read, though, it sounds like it's a good chance that it's "just" bad RAM, and that it could be one or more chip. Time and experimentation will tell.

 

My intended plan (time permitting) is:

  • Remove the armor sarcophagus RF shield
  • Verify functionality of the console is unharmed
  • N times: remove RAM chip, install DIP socket for said RAM chip, replace RAM chip, test functionality

Where N is the number of RAM chips. I've read that this number can vary, but is usually 8.

 

I don't have access to a chip tester. I just need a time machine to go back to the undergrad ECE parts shop I worked nearly 3 decades ago (!!)... We had several different chip testers, including ones for various RAM chips. And an endless supply of DIP sockets, EPROM burners, wire wrap supplies and components.... le sigh

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39 minutes ago, CatPix said:

I plan to put small 5V fans soon...

I like where you're going with this! :D

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7 minutes ago, intvsteve said:
  • Remove the armor sarcophagus RF shield

[...]

 

I just need a time machine to go back to the undergrad ECE parts shop I worked nearly 3 decades ago (!!)... We had several different chip testers, including ones for various RAM chips. And an endless supply of DIP sockets, EPROM burners, wire wrap supplies and components.... le sigh

 

I really laughed about that armor/sarcophagus.  If you find any dead bodies in your astrocade, then it's probably time to bury the it.

 

You're not thinking hard enough about time travel.  If you go back three decades, then it's about 1989.  During that period you could get Astrocades for a "song."  By 1984 or so (during the so-called American Videogame Crash), you could get them new for $25.  In 1989, if you can find a NIB Astrocade, then it probably would have been less than that extremely low price.

 

Do me a favor; when you get back to 1989, please pick me up a few Astrocades and whatever NIB old-stock (but practically new at that time) Atari 2600/5200/Intellivision titles that you can safely carry back with you in your time machine.  If you're paying more that a buck or two for a new copies of Stadium Mud Buggies, Body Slam Super Pro Wrestling, Championship Tennis, Commando, or Congo Bongo, then you probably can talk the sellers down a bit.

 

Oh, and if you're time machine can go back to the 1981/82 era, then bring Donkey Kong Arcade with you and have Coleco sell that game instead of the version that was released in "our" timeline.  There's no real harm changing the timeline a little bit, is there?  After all, you'd just be "putting right what once went wrong" when some other angry Atari 2600 fan went back to that time and tricked Coleco to release that probably-beta version of Donkey Kong as the real thing.

 

Adam

 

(You know, I'm actually pretty glad that we don't have actual time machines available for all of us to use.  We'd all get rather petty about that changes that we'd make.  Wouldn't you all be surprised when the top selling system this year is the latest incarnation of the Bally Astrocade?  Everyone would say, "It's that Adam fellow screwing with the time line again.")

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I've found ... things ... in old Intellivision units.  With that spiffy cartridge storage area, I imagine the Astrocade crowd has found even more shocking things!

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When I received mine, I was extremely worried to hear something rattling in the machine. Something metallic, not plastic.

After opening, I found... a penny. From 1981! Did it fell in the machine when it was put for storage? Who knows!

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Hehe. Maybe added for luck? Or since it was a “home arcade” pennies worked instead of quarters? 😛

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IT LIVES!

20191116_211501409_iOS.thumb.jpg.5ae42544edb4fc914e65e82e960d07d9.jpg20191116_211521200_iOS.thumb.jpg.e7542fe9e3536cb666a96a75db9e92e0.jpg20191116_211546748_iOS.thumb.jpg.b0992960cd637c943d030f65d872c54f.jpg

 

 

I can't thank @ballyalley and @Allen Schweitzer enough for their help, guidance, and patience!

 

In this case, it was a bad RAM - just as Allen predicted. U28, I'm talkin' to you!

 

At least one of the controllers isn't working properly, so there's another project. Next on the list - learn the controller pinout and behaviors and debug / repair. This unit came with a total of four controllers.

 

Haven't finished cleaning everything up and reassembling, and have a few other ideas to consider before calling it "done"... But this is SO AWESOME!

 

And, yes, The Incredible Wizard boots right up and plays fine! :D Held the cart in while Son the Youngest got to play it for the first time. Made it to the third wave on his first try!

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On 11/16/2019 at 2:27 PM, intvsteve said:

IT LIVES!

 

I can't thank @ballyalley and @Allen Schweitzer enough for their help, guidance, and patience!

 

That's "Incredible" that you got your Astrocade working; your a real "Wizard!"  (Sorry for the bad joke-- nah, I'm not sorry at all).  It's great to hear that there is a new member of the Astrocade community.

 

On 11/16/2019 at 2:27 PM, intvsteve said:

And, yes, The Incredible Wizard boots right up and plays fine! :D

 

There is a great thread in the High Score area about "The Incredible Wizard."  It has tons of information, plus it includes the layout of the (at least) twenty mazes in the game:

 

https://atariage.com/forums/topic/250623-hsc01-round-4-the-incredible-wizard/

 

Episode 6 of the Astrocast podcast covers "The Incredible Wizard:"

 

http://ballyalleyastrocast.libsyn.com/bally-alley-astrocast-episode-6-arcadian-newsletter-june-and-july-1979

 

Here is a compiled article about some of the best games released on cartridge for the Astrocade:

 

https://ballyalley.com/ballyalley/articles/Top_Ten_Astrocade_Games.txt

 

Next up on your Astrocade to-do checklist is to try to play some Bally BASIC games (or, preferably, "AstroBASIC" games).  I suggest browsing the "Best BASIC games" thread to get some ideas of what BASIC games to try first:

 

https://atariage.com/forums/topic/264658-best-basic-games/

 

I made a joystick adapter for my Astrocade that allows me to use Atari 2600-style controllers.  It works wonderfully.

 

Have fun with your new system!

 

Adam

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2 minutes ago, ballyalley said:

Next up on your Astrocade to-do checklist is to try to play some Bally BASIC games (or, preferably, "AstroBASIC" games).

I'll have to learn how to do that. Would it require the BASIC cart or some kind of cassette adapter? I haven't RTFM that came with the system yet.

 

3 minutes ago, ballyalley said:

I made a joystick adapter for my Astrocade that allows me to use Atari 2600-style controllers.  It works wonderfully.

Cool! I've been using the pinout guide in the FAQ, which handily has the standard Atari controller pinouts listed as well. I've got 2 working controllers based on testing out in Scribble, one still in the package, and one that still needs some reconditioning. It's electrically sound, but can't close one of the switches when the controller is fully assembled.  I think I need to bend the metal cross tabs a bit so they can apply pressure correctly. I've given it a go, but am worried about damaging the white plastic cross-piece.

 

The only bum cartridge was Biorhythms. It doesn't eject properly, and it doesn't boot, either. I opened it up and it looks OK. Cleaned it too. But of all the ones in the batch of 15 that came with the system, to have that one be the only one that doesn't work is just fine by me. :D

 

7 minutes ago, ballyalley said:

Have fun with your new system!

Definitely! There are a few more games I'm keenly interested in, but likely will be keeping my eyes peeled for the multi-cart. Hopefully when the stars align and I've got room in the budget it'll work out. This system was basically an accidental purchase -- i did not expect to get it at the price I did, so it's like Christmas came early this year for me! :D

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3 minutes ago, intvsteve said:

Would it require the BASIC cart or some kind of cassette adapter? I haven't RTFM that came with the system yet.

 

Why read the "AstroBASIC" manual when you can watch my how-to video that explains how to use "AstroBASIC."  Here is a link to it:

 

 

After watching the video, you should have a pretty good idea of how to load a BASIC program.

 

If you don't have the "AstroBASIC" manual, then here is a link to a pdf version of it:

 

https://ballyalley.com/basic/Astro_BASIC_Manual_(instructions)(bally)(color)(300%20dpi).pdf

 

I'm not even aware if the multicart for the Astrocade is available anymore; can you still purchase one from Allen or Ken?

 

Adam

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On 11/16/2019 at 3:27 PM, intvsteve said:

IT LIVES!

20191116_211501409_iOS.thumb.jpg.5ae42544edb4fc914e65e82e960d07d9.jpg20191116_211521200_iOS.thumb.jpg.e7542fe9e3536cb666a96a75db9e92e0.jpg20191116_211546748_iOS.thumb.jpg.b0992960cd637c943d030f65d872c54f.jpg

 

 

I can't thank @ballyalley and @Allen Schweitzer enough for their help, guidance, and patience!

 

In this case, it was a bad RAM - just as Allen predicted. U28, I'm talkin' to you!

 

At least one of the controllers isn't working properly, so there's another project. Next on the list - learn the controller pinout and behaviors and debug / repair. This unit came with a total of four controllers.

 

Haven't finished cleaning everything up and reassembling, and have a few other ideas to consider before calling it "done"... But this is SO AWESOME!

 

And, yes, The Incredible Wizard boots right up and plays fine! :D Held the cart in while Son the Youngest got to play it for the first time. Made it to the third wave on his first try!

This post made me happy

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18 minutes ago, intvsteve said:

The only bum cartridge was Biorhythms. [...] But of all the ones in the batch of 15 that came with the system, to have that one be the only one that doesn't work is just fine by me. :D

 

Even if Biorhythems worked, then you couldn't use it because it's not Y2K compliant.  If you put in the year "19," then you would get information relevant to 1919.  If you use that information that you might really mess-up your week.  I guess we can all band together and write a letter to bally.  Maybe they'll send us some free casino tokens are give us a complementary monthly membership at one of their fitness centers.

 

Adam

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