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gorf68

Making a Vectrex cartridge.

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I'm ok with burning an eprom, but what I'm not sure of are the legalities of making the actual physical cartridge for a Vectrex.

 

First off are there PCB designs already available that I can use to ether make a PCB myself, or get a bunch made from a third party?

Secondly is it Ok to just copy the dimensions of an original Vectrex cartridge and 3D Print a case myself? If so is this generally considered to do robust enough? Or are there already 3D printer patterns made, or other options. I know somebody still owns the copyright to the original cartridge, butam not sure what am I allowed and not allowed to do?

 

I looked at buying all this stuff a few years ago but it was going to get pretty expensive fairly quickly!

 

 

I now have: TL866II Eprom programmer, and the chips used by the Vectrex seem fairly cheep on Ebay. I also have a 3D printer, not the best but I'm sure I can knock up a cartridge box if needed.

 

IWhat  need: a PCB design, or because of copy-write do I have to go through the pain of designing my own? (I have designed and produced custom PCBs before. but it isn't exactly my favorite thing to do!)

 

 

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On 3/2/2020 at 9:50 AM, Richard H. said:

It should be noted that the soldermask is not properly removed around the fingers of that PCB.  I would love to point you to VEXTREME, which is open source, and you can start with those design files... and convert to an EPROM only board fairly easily... but it's still going through some revisions to clean things up.  I'd be more than happy to discuss what the specs of the PCB should be though... and it's mostly documented in the VEXTREME github repo in various places.

 

https://github.com/technobly/vextreme/issues/11

 

https://github.com/technobly/vextreme/tree/master/docs

 

48.0mm wide is the preferred width IMO, which differs a bit from the above docs and is how v0.2 VEXTREME has been made.

Edited by playvectrex

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There's this design as well.

 

 

https://hackaday.io/project/28295-vectrex-cartridge

 

There's an OSHPark link for the simple version of the board.  Note this also has solder mask around the fingers which has been noted to cause problems in some cases but it should probably be fine if he's used them successfully. 

 

https://oshpark.com/shared_projects/wJFL6D41

 

For his latest design with all the Kicad etc it's linked from Hackaday but I'll also add it here.

 

https://github.com/FrankBuss/bloxorz

 

Edited by djmips

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On 3/6/2020 at 3:32 AM, djmips said:

Note this also has solder mask around the fingers which has been noted to cause problems in some cases but it should probably be fine if he's used them successfully. 

 

It can be fine if you get lucky... but I would highly advise against it :D

 

 

 

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Ebay has PCBs, Sean Kelly has reproduction cart shells. If you're making your own dedicated carts, you might be able to get both from someplace like Packrat Video Games (who get shells from Sean and PCBs from Harvey DeKlein). 

 

I don't know why anyone one bothers 3D printing shells when Sean's reproductions are perfect in every way. As long as you're not making a competing multicart, he's fine selling them to you. He only requires that there is a minimum order of 4 shells. 

 

Harvey DeKlein's boards are really the way to go. No soldering, they can be programmed at anytime with the edge connector on the PCB with a standard programmer and a special connector. 

 

As for legality, its fine to make personal carts of any game. Any original GCE game can only be sold at cost (per Jay Smith's request, the owner of the rights to all original era Vectrex properties). Any homebrew game must have the permission of the developer. In most cases, they are selling the game themselves, having someone else sell it for them, or wish that their games not be sold. Please respect their wishes. 

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I decided to buy some pre-made PCBs, and have ordered a few cases from Sean Kelly.

I've burnt my 'Trapped' game to a M27C256B EPROM and it appears to play fine.

So next I need to solder the EPROM on to one of the cartridge PCBs and make a box.

What I'm looking for are any links to sites that give you templates that match the original Vectrex games cartridge box?

 

I'm not planning on selling this version of the game as it's a proof of concept game that I've already released the bin for.

I'm doing this because I'm thinking or releasing the full version of this on cartridge, if I ever get it finished, as some people seemed to like this POC version.

So right now I'm doing this to see if I can produce a professional standard product.

Edited by gorf68
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On 5/31/2020 at 1:13 PM, gorf68 said:

 

What I'm looking for are any links to sites that give you templates that match the original Vectrex games cartridge box?

 

 

 

There was a post today on fb by Graham Toal with a pattern to cut a cartridge box with a vinyl cutter. 

"Input file for the "Make the cut" vinyl cutter program, to create a box very similar in size to the standard Vectrex game box containing a cartridge, manual and space-filling insert. Details on exactly how to make a box will be posted as a separate article. Cut files in other formats may follow. Created for 17x11 in paper or larger (to the limit of what a wide format inkjet printer can handle)."

https://www.facebook.com/groups/vectrex/permalink/1310735169136857/

 

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On 6/3/2020 at 4:56 PM, djmips said:

 

There was a post today on fb by Graham Toal with a pattern to cut a cartridge box with a vinyl cutter. 

"Input file for the "Make the cut" vinyl cutter program, to create a box very similar in size to the standard Vectrex game box containing a cartridge, manual and space-filling insert. Details on exactly how to make a box will be posted as a separate article. Cut files in other formats may follow. Created for 17x11 in paper or larger (to the limit of what a wide format inkjet printer can handle)."

https://www.facebook.com/groups/vectrex/permalink/1310735169136857/

 

Tony Holcomb and Helmut Mueller also have templates that they'll share directly with developers if you PM them - they look better designed than mine but require a larger size of card.  My stuff has moved to http://gtoal.com/vectrex/DIY-Vectrex-Cartridge-Box-Kit/ because I had trouble uploading the final files to the FB file area.

 

Bill of Materials
=================

silvered card 11x17 or larger
  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AYBS5JW/

white card for insert (or something a little stiffer) 11x17 or larger
  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XCDBD2C/

Krylon Crystal Clear
  https://www.amazon.com/Krylon-K01303007-Acrylic-Crystal-11-Ounce/dp/B00023JE7K/

Krylon Easy Tack (very optional)
  https://www.amazon.com/Krylon-K07020007-10-25-Ounce-Repositionable-Adhesive/dp/B000A8AYO4/

Masking tape (eg Lowes)
  https://www.lowes.com/pd/ScotchBlue-1-88-in-Painters-Tape/1002792518

A3 printer
  https://www.adorama.com/icaix6820.html
  https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_nkw=hp%20photosmart%208750%20printer&_sacat=0&rt=nc&_udlo=100&_udhi=260

A3 vinyl cutter (or 12in x 24in vinyl cutter)
  https://www.iloveknk.com/current-specials-2/




---------------

Before making and assembling the box, you might want to practice on the easier tray insert -
also it makes it easier to fold and glue the box if you have the tray inside to provide a little
extra solidity to push against when gluing the flaps.

Cut the file vectrex-tray.mtc and fold & glue it.

---------------

When I set this up I was using 11x17 card which was the largest size I could find at the time which
would fit both my printer and my vinyl cutter.  Later I discovered that 12x18 paper is available.

The unfolded box just fits in 11x17 but the tuck-in flap needs to extend right to the edge of the
paper in the area that would be in the non-printable margin in most printers. Also cutting right to
the edge of the paper can sometimes be problematic, so we just don't cut right to the edge.

So the cut file I've made does not cut all the way around the box - there are two areas where you
need to release the shape from the enclosing card by cutting it away with scissors.  I'll mark up
a photo to show exactly where in case it is not obvious.

The image is sized at 300dpi and should print without hassles caused by exceeding the printable area
into the margin (you must print with the image centered).  You don't need to select borderless printing,
which isn't supported on all printers.

(The old version of Photoshop 5.5 that I bought many years ago is now available for download on the net
 at https://winworldpc.com/product/adobe-photoshop/5x - printing the psd file from Photoshop 
 would be the most reliable way to print accurately)

Turn on 'registration marks' and 'corner crop marks' in the windows printer driver.  Be sure to
set paper size to 11x17in portrait, and for paper type if there is nothing better that matches,
try 'other specialty paper' which *should* slow down the printing to a speed less likely to
smudge or have alignment problems.

Make sure the "SCORE/CUT LAYER" is off.  It's not accurate and is only there as a visual guideline.

The PSD file contains 3 different versions of the central image.  Make sure only one of them is
selected before printing.

Print the file tailgunner-box.psd centered, with 'other specialty paper' for slow careful print at 300dpi

When you first try this you might want to turn off the image to save ink, and print in draft mode -
it may take a few iterations around printing and cutting before you get everything perfectly aligned.

The card you print to assumes 11x17 inches.  If using a different size you'll need to make small accomodations
when cutting.

You will cut using vectrex-box.mtc

Align your cutter's origin with right edge of the card, level with bottom alignment line.
When you cut, there will be an L-shaped alignment mark '|_' which should be as close as possible
to the right-hand edge of paper

There's a printed registration mark '---' on both the left and the right of the print, and that
should be aligned to the cutter's axis/zero point.

I designed the cut file for use with "Make The Cut". If you are using another application, you'll
need to convert the cut files to your format.  I've included as many exported formats as I can but
you should expect to have to put in some effort to convert to your cutter format.  Please feed
back any files you create and I'll add them to this archive.

The MTC file includes an alignment layer which you can use as a rough position check when you
first start cutting. It'll score central spine an extra time.  Expect to do a few cuts to get the
position right while you're getting set up.

A common printing and cutting technique is to tack the material to the cutting mat.  You probably
don't want to do that here.  The design is such that it will cut OK as long as the near and far
edges are taped down.  Tape near edge liberally (up to 1/2 in of overlap) and the far edge more
conservatively (eg 1/10 in)

Tape the printed paper over the path of any rollers that run over the print area. (when you print on
the silvered card - you'll skip this if practicing on cheap plain card)

Clean the rollers with lens wipes and let them dry.

The cut file has a few layers.  They should all be turned off and then enabled one at a time -
so enable the scoring layer first and run the cutter on very low pressure.

Next, make the actual cuts - possibly in several passes with increasing pressure.  Maybe a maximum
of 3 passes to preserve alignment throughout.   25 pressure @ 50 speed, 30 @ 100, and 45 @ 150 worked
for me.  But these parameters all depend on your specific vinyl cutter and you'll have to work out
what's best for you by trial and error...

When it's done and removed from the vinyl cutter, cut the 4 places on the edge of the card where the
cut lines do not extend to edge... then remove the cut-off edging.

If this is a final box, spray the flat card with fixative and wait 12 hrs before folding.

Fold and glue.  Not too much glue if that gets the card wet.  Clear 'mucilage' might be better than the white school glue.

When assembled and tucked in, you might notice a very slight bowing of the front of the box - if so, you
can fix this by spraying the tuck-in flap *only* with a very light coating of easy-tack repositionable
spray, so if this is wanted, mask off the rest of the box exposing only the tuck in flap, and pass a
VERY LIGHT spray of repositionable Krylon Easy-Tack over it from a distance.

When you put the tray insert in the box, be careful not to have the tray stick to any wet glue on
the box!

Please do take a photo of your box and post it on our Facebook group!

And now that you've mastered building one from this design, edit the psd file and create a new
box for your own roms! You'll need the fonts in "Poppins.zip" which are an approximation to ITC Avant Garde (LT or Pro?) Demi, which is my guess as to the family used on the original boxes.


Graham

 

 

font.jpg

back.jpg

Edited by gtoal
added README
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Thanks for the replies.

 

I haven't had any time to work on this so far, but still want to try.

Just getting around to soldering the chip sockets on to the cartridge boards.

 

I hate soldering! It's a necessary evil, not part of my hobby ;)

Edited by gorf68
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I finally got all the bits together and made cartridge versions of two of my games, Circus Vectrex and Trapped, and they actually work! 

I've also made my first attempt at making an overlay and it's passable, so making a box next.

 

Already got a few people who say they would like to buy a boxed version of Circus Atari, so I'm looking at tweaking it a bit first to see if I can get it running just that bit better. Also trying to think up the artwork for the overlay.

 

 

Trying to do the whole package is interesting, hopefully it will all turn out fine.

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If you'd like to build a verified open-source Vectrex PCB Cartridge design, you can find my design files and ordering instructions here: https://github.com/technobly/vectrex-cartridge

 

It supports 32/64KB EPROMs/ROMs and optional DS2430/DS2431+ 1-wire memory devices.  It also has an optional RGB LED you can populate. Measurements are also documented if you just want some guidance on making your own.

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