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Nathan Strum

About the AtariVox

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Overview

 

The AtariVox+, designed by Richard Hutchinson, is a self-contained speech/music synthesizer and memory card for the Atari 2600 and 7800, Vectrex, and other video game consoles with compatible controller ports.

 

The AtariVox+ plugs into an available controller port on the console, and is powered by the console. To hear the sounds from the AtariVox+, you must plug in a pair of powered speakers (like desktop PC speakers), or if you have an AV modded console, you can mix the output of the AtariVox with the console's audio output. You can create a simple do-it-yourself mixer to do this, or purchase one online.

 

The heart of the unit is the SpeakJet – an amazing chip with phonetic speech, preset sounds and a five channel music synthesizer. All of these are controlled by the console via a serial interface emulated through the driver software.

 

Similar to chips used in 80s speech synthesizers but with extended capabilities, the speech retains a nice retro quality, making it a perfect partner for classic consoles.

 

Also onboard the AtariVox+ is 32K of non-volatile memory which can be used as a memory card. The flash memory will retain data without power for 200+ years.

 

An allocation scheme has been devised so that no file is ever overwritten, allowing many different games to store data on just one unit.

 

Variants

 

There have been three versions of the AtariVox so far:

  • AtariVox (original version)
  • AtariVox+ rev. 1 (updated to add Vectrex compatibility)
  • AtariVox+ rev. 2 (updated to fix issues with the rev. 1 AtariVox+)

 

The original AtariVox:

avox-exterior.thumb.jpg.acc867013f813a5ceb0517caa5690d58.jpg

 

Non-AtariAge AtariVox+ rev. 1 (blue and white label):

 

avox-plus-rev2-non-AA-exterior.thumb.jpg.5e4cf5d627ad3617b00a035f840271b5.jpg

AtariAge AtariVox+ rev. 1 and rev. 2 models:

 

avox-plus-rev1-exterior.thumb.jpg.198f2e60bd348ee0207340ab5968a46e.jpg

 

Later AtariAge AtariVox+ rev. 2 models have nearly the same label, except the bullet • between Vectrex and Enhanced is a diamond, rather than a circle:

 

avox-rev2-label.jpg.3286889aa03fd400d34bb3f83a7f210d.jpg

 

The best way to determine your AtariVox model is to open it up and look at the circuit board. There are two small slots on the side of the case - insert the tip of a small screwdriver into them, and pry the halves apart.

 

avox-opened.jpg.8080c624a1dbd55e1a8ce23effb410c7.jpg

 

Original AtariVox:

 

avox-original-inside.thumb.jpg.d4c4f0a772d25d634143f4305e9ad125.jpg

 

AtariVox+ rev. 1 (note the jumpers above the volume pot):

 

avox-plus-inside.thumb.jpg.9e3eeee55f9c9d7f1fe8160958ab6a19.jpg

 

AtariVox+ rev. 2 (no jumpers, and the DIP switches are turned 90°):

 

avox-plus-rev2-inside.thumb.jpg.39791bad57ab2c15ace59c9bb104cefb.jpg

 

 

Dip Switch Settings

 

The AtariVox+ contains a bank of dip switches that allow you to select which mode the AtariVox+ will operate in:

  • AtariVox - for the Atari 2600 and 7800 (default setting)
  • VecVoice - for compatibility with earlier Vectrex speech synthesis - mainly for the speech-hacked version of Berzerk (Verzerk) and Y.A.S.I.
  • VecVox - for the Vectrex.

 

avox-plus-rev2-dips.gif.bf4f72b37ef29c5438e9f955d59187cb.gif

 

AtariVox+ Supported Games

 

Atari 2600:

  • Aardvark
  • Amoeba Jump
  • Anguna
  • Assembloids 2600
  • AStar
  • Drive!
  • Duck Attack
  • Elevators Amiss
  • Fall Down
  • Galagon
  • Go Fish!
  • Juno First
  • Lead
  • Mappy
  • Omicron
  • Scramble
  • Space Game
  • Strat-O-Gems Deluxe
  • Super Cobra Arcade
  • Sync
  • Three.s
  • Thrust+ Platinum
  • Wall Jump Ninja
  • Wizard of Wor Arcade

 

Atari 7800:

  • b*nQ
  • Dungeon Stalker
  • Serpentine
  • T:ME Salvo
  • Worm!

 

Vectrex (via VecVox):

  • Brecher [2015]
  • Color Clash
  • Debris Revisited
  • Shifted
  • Space Frenzy
  • Spike's Circus
  • VecFahren
  • Vectoblox
  • V:Hockey
  • VecVox X-Mas
  • Vectrex (via VecVoice):
  • B.E.T.H. (Boulder Escape Terror Hazard)
  • Deathchase [2015]
  • NOX [2015]
  • Pythagorean Theorem
  • Verzerk
  • Y.A.S.I. (Yet Another Space Invaders)

 

Homebrew Developers

 

If you're developing a new homebrew game for the Atari 2600, 7800, or Vectrex and you'd like to add AtariVox support, we maintain a memory allocation list for games wishing to use the save feature of the AtariVox. Blocks are allocated in 64 byte chunks, useful for saving high score information, game state information, user settings, and so forth. Games can be allocated more than one block if necessary, but we ask that you be efficient in the storage of any data your game must save to the AtariVox, as a limited number of blocks are available.

 

Atari 7800 and Vectrex Users

 

If you want to use the AtariVox+ with an Atari 7800 or Vectrex console, you will need to purchase an appropriate controller extension cable. Original Sega Genesis extension cables work well, and some third-party cables that match the Sega cable may work as well. However, the commonly available Retro-Bits Sega Extension Cable does not work, as the AtariVox+ cannot be plugged into the cable (the fit is too tight). You can also remove the AtariVox+ from its shell, and it will then fit in the 7800 controller port without issues.

 

USB Interfaces

 

Richard Hutchinson made a limited run of AtariVox USB Interfaces, for connecting the AtariVox to computers with a USB cable for use with Stella and other development tools.

 

avox_usb.jpg.e0eb0db7016a118ce6d6246a97f5abcf.jpg

 

Other USB to Serial adapters will work with the AtariVox, including the 2600-daptor II with a firmware update.

 

Resources (from Magnevation's website)

 

  • SpeakJet User's Manual - Comprehensive guide to the chip inside the AtariVox. speakjetusermanual.pdf
  • Phrase-A-Lator - Software to develop your own sounds, words, phrases, and control functions for the SpeakJet. Requires PC running XP Home or XP Professional. PhraseALator.zip
  • Phrase-A-Lator User's Guide - Operators manual for the Phrase-A-Lator software. PhraseALator14031706.PDF
  • Phonetic English Dictionary for SpeakJet - Installed automatically with Phrase-A-Lator. Edit with any text editor and save with the ".dic" extension. You can also edit from within Phrase-A-Lator. dictionary.zip

 

Additional Resouces

 

 

Where to Get One

 

The AtariVox+ can be purchased from the AtariVox+ product page in the AtariAge Store.

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