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Ballblazer on 600XL?

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3 minutes ago, SS said:

I have both an un-modded 600XL and an original Ballblazer cartridge and can absolutely confirm that the cart will not run on this machine. 

That's good confirmation that the packaging as scanned and posted on AtariMania is incorrect. 

 

image.thumb.png.8b6415c583e93645555d779d5d917b36.png

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Yep you can do al the soldering far from the atari by removing the needed chips, and then once everything is ready you put the chips back into the MB

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1 minute ago, DrVenkman said:

Indeed. That's exactly how I did mine, using @Mathy's website instructions to verify which pins to connect. Replace the two DRAM chips, solder three wires. Done. 

 

You have to bend up the legs of some chips for this method though.  Skyfox said that he's nervous about ruining his machine so I doubt that this would be something that he would be comfortable with.  I feel that Lotharek's drop-in board is probably a better solution for him.  

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8 minutes ago, SS said:

You have to bend up the legs of some chips for this method though.  Skyfox said that he's nervous about ruining his machine so I doubt that this would be something that he would be comfortable with.  I feel that Lotharek's drop-in board is probably a better solution for him.  

Maybe. But the various homebrew methods are certainly cheaper. I paid under $5 for 5 of the DRAMs I used, shipped.  YMMV. :)

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38 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

That's good confirmation that the packaging as scanned and posted on AtariMania is incorrect. 

 

image.thumb.png.8b6415c583e93645555d779d5d917b36.png

So this was interesting.  I wanted to double check myself just to make sure that I was giving out the correct information.  As reported, Ballblazer will NOT run on my 16K 600XL.  However, then I switched off the machine, left the cartridge in its port, and plugged in my 1064 module into the back of the 600XL.  I flipped on the power and then Ballblazer fired right up.  I am calling this myth "Confirmed".  The Ballblazer packaging is in error. 

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1 hour ago, SS said:

I have both an un-modded 600XL and an original Ballblazer cartridge and can absolutely confirm that the cart will not run on this machine. 

I kinda thought so. Best solution is to upgrade the 600XL's memory.

 

Alternative is download and run Altirra. Neat thing here is you can swap the virtual stock CPU for a 7MHz version and get ultra-silky game grid scrolling - while everything else remains the same at normal speed. It's a real treat to see even if you don't intend on messing with emulators. Use the disk version.

 

 

Edited by Keatah

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1 hour ago, SS said:

I have both an un-modded 600XL and an original Ballblazer cartridge and can absolutely confirm that the cart will not run on this machine. 

 

Thank you for doing this.  I tested it in Atari800MacX shortly before pawing through the cartridge dump, and got the same result.  Didn't want to use it as an example, though, due to possible differences between emulated and physical hardware.

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That is strange. I always thought that that was the whole deal with cartridge games; that you could get larger games to work with less system memory. I guess there's a limit though.

 

It's not just Ballblazer though. I checked a couple of other 64KB carts, and they didn't work either. Granted, my only 600XL has 64KB, so I was check using an emulated 16KB 600XL through Altirra, but they didn't work.

 

I checked all the 64KB carts that I could locate quickly and only two, Bug Hunt and Tower Toppler appeared to start normally, though they could have crashed later. I didn't play them for very long. Everything else did nothing at all or crashed hard. Of the 40KB and 32KB carts I checked, only Bounty Bob Strikes Back!, Castle Crisis, Star Raiders II worked, or at least started. Maybe this is normal for a 16KB machine.

 

 

Edited by bfollowell

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A lot of those XE carts are a bank switched rom anywhere from 32K (not sure if it is that low) through to 128K and maybe higher.

They copy some of the banks of rom to lower ram. A std 600XL has a hole from 16k to 32K so any data copied there is lost so any game that loads stuff there will crash.

Ballblazer cart would be one of many that wont work on a std 600xl.

 

James

 

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8 hours ago, SS said:

You have to bend up the legs of some chips for this method though.  Skyfox said that he's nervous about ruining his machine so I doubt that this would be something that he would be comfortable with.  I feel that Lotharek's drop-in board is probably a better solution for him.  

 

I agree. Also, at my request, Marlin now carries this board through The Brewing Academy, so you don't have to pay two times the cost of the device for shipping and wait three months to get it, assuming the OP is in the states.

 

I had the chips to do the original upgrade, but bought the SRAM upgrade just because I looked the looks of it and thought it looked a little cleaner.

 

Darned near every little town has at least one little mobile phone repair shop. While they may know absolutely nothing about Ataris, I'd be willing to bet they have someone that can solder. With the instructions and the module, and assuming the 600XL was already disassembled and the motherboard out, I'd say they should be able to have it soldered in and ready to go within ten minutes max for a minimal charge.

 

https://thebrewingacademy.com/collections/atari-800-xl-xe-xel-xld/products/64k-sram-module-for-xl-xe-computers

 

Edited by bfollowell
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This has come up before - the bottom line is that this and a lot of other re-releases of older disk games onto cartridge only use the cartridge as a sort of Rom-disk.

The program "loads" into Ram just as it would from a SIO device - nice easy way to port the games without the pain of a partial redevelopment to get it to operate from 8K banks.

 

Obviously the downside is that anyone with under 32 or sometimes 40K of Ram misses out, but by the mid 1980s they would have been a small minority.

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13 hours ago, SS said:

@Skyfox - Lotharek sells an internal 64K RAM upgrade/replacement board.  It is super simple to install because *all* NTSC 600XLs have fully socketed motherboards and the installation requires only one wire to be soldered.  Even an amateur should be able to accomplish it with relative ease.  You might really want to consider this.

https://lotharek.pl/productdetail.php?id=291

 

And Skyfox, if you feel like driving 100 miles to Richmond, I'll install it for you.

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3 hours ago, bfollowell said:

Darned near every little town has at least one little mobile phone repair shop. While they may know absolutely nothing about Ataris, I'd be willing to bet they have someone that can solder. With the instructions and the module, and assuming the 600XL was already disassembled and the motherboard out, I'd say they should be able to have it soldered in and ready to go within ten minutes max for a minimal charge.

 

I'd recommend filing those type of shops' soldering ability under 'questionable'.  The majority of their business tends to be screen replacements, which are typically just parts swaps; the same applies to PCB-level problems.  It's rare for them to do actual work at a component level.

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What about TV and audio repair store? Those places usually have people old enough to remember what real Atari was. 

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6 minutes ago, ZuluGula said:

What about TV and audio repair store? Those places usually have people old enough to remember what real Atari was. 

 

Maybe, but scout them out carefully first.  TV repair these days is largely-similar to cellphone repair - replace backlights, screens, and PCBs as a unit rather than going down to a component level.

 

Not saying these are bad ideas, but that there are gotchas with them.

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

It's not realistic to expect someone to convert a game in order to run it on what's essentially an edge-case machine these days.

200.gif

 

Will add it to the list of things to do :)

 

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17 hours ago, Skyfox said:

You're talking about the size of the rom itself, which is not a problem since it's held by Unocart.  It's the ram requirement that is the obstacle and somehow different between the versions.  The 5200 can make do with 16k to run Ballblazer while the A8's need 48k for the same game.  Was the 5200 version coded more efficiently or is it missing features?

In the 8-bit days, it wasn't necessarily coding efficiency.   Often code was written to reside at fixed memory locations.  So you could write an 8K program, but write it to reside in upper RAM, and therefore you'd need 48K to run it even though it only uses 8K of that.

So if the Ballblazer code crosses the lower 16K boundary at all then it's going to require a 32K/40K/48K machine to run.  Since the first release was on disk, it wasn't going  to run on a 16K system anyway, and developers probably didn't bother to ensure everything fit into lower RAM.

 

When the XEGS Ballblazer cart came, the XEGS had 64K RAM, so there was no incentive to ensure that it only used the lower 16K RAM.  They probably did the bare minimum effort needed to get the game running from cart.   By the point that happened, nobody was supporting 16K Ataris anymore.

 

So only the 5200 version needed to be modified to use the lower 16K.

 

As for missing features.   The 8-bit disk version had a pretty cool loading animation that I'm sure was cut from the 5200 version,  I'm not sure if that was included in the XEGS cart.

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11 hours ago, bfollowell said:

That is strange. I always thought that that was the whole deal with cartridge games; that you could get larger games to work with less system memory. I guess there's a limit though.

 

It's not just Ballblazer though. I checked a couple of other 64KB carts, and they didn't work either. Granted, my only 600XL has 64KB, so I was check using an emulated 16KB 600XL through Altirra, but they didn't work.

 

I checked all the 64KB carts that I could locate quickly and only two, Bug Hunt and Tower Toppler appeared to start normally, though they could have crashed later. I didn't play them for very long. Everything else did nothing at all or crashed hard. Of the 40KB and 32KB carts I checked, only Bounty Bob Strikes Back!, Castle Crisis, Star Raiders II worked, or at least started. Maybe this is normal for a 16KB machine.

 

 

Yeah, but remember Ballblazer didn't start out as a cartridge.   I think they possibly took the path of least resistance when converting it to cartridge and it copies data into the same memory locations the disk version would.

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Yes, the intro is on the cart version and yes, it takes the lazy approach off just copying the code from ROM to RAM and transferring control there:

    BC33: 20 AD BC          JSR $BCAD              ;[expand]
    BC36: A9 00             LDA #$00
    BC38: 8D 00 D4          STA DMACTL
    BC3B: 8D 1A D0          STA COLBK
    BC3E: A0 03             LDY #$03
    BC40: 99 01 D2          STA AUDC1,Y
    BC43: 99 04 D0          STA HPOSM0,Y
    BC46: 99 00 D0          STA HPOSP0,Y
    BC49: 88                DEY
    BC4A: 10 F4             BPL $BC40
    BC4C: 8D 1D D0          STA GRACTL
    BC4F: A9 04             LDA #$04
    BC51: 8D 00 D5          STA $D500
    BC54: A9 00             LDA #$00
    BC56: 85 02             STA CASINI
    BC58: A9 40             LDA #$40
    BC5A: 85 03             STA CASINI+1
    BC5C: 20 77 BC          JSR $BC77              ;[expand]
    BC5F: A9 05             LDA #$05
    BC61: 8D 00 D5          STA $D500
    BC64: A9 00             LDA #$00
    BC66: 85 02             STA CASINI
    BC68: A9 60             LDA #$60
    BC6A: 85 03             STA CASINI+1
    BC6C: 20 77 BC          JSR $BC77              ;[expand]
    BC6F: A9 06             LDA #$06
    BC71: 8D 00 D5          STA $D500
    BC74: 4C 00 4C          JMP $4C00              ;[expand]

So the breakdown is:

 

$BC33 is jumped to if you interrupt the intro with a console key press

Turn screen off and clear sound and player/missiles

Switch to a given bank (4) at $8000 and copy 8K from $8000-$9FFF to $4000->$5FFF

Switch the next bank in (5) and copy 8K to $6000->$7FFF

Switch another bank in (6) and launch the game code at the entry point $4C00

(note on an XEGS Cart model that Bank 7 is always at $A000->$BFFF)

 

So for a 16K version it would probably required seeing if the $4000-$7FFF area could remain (after relocating code/data) in switchable bank area of $8000-$9FFF

This would require that none of the code is not self-modifying and that there is a home for any data areas in the <16K space over existing used RAM. 

Given that the 5200 area runs in 16K I think the runtime RAM requirements should still be met on a 400/600XL with 16K so not overly worried there.

 

Edited by Wrathchild
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3 hours ago, bf2k+ said:

And Skyfox, if you feel like driving 100 miles to Richmond, I'll install it for you.

I live closer...If  you want to drive to Reston. You just need a couple of 4464 or equivalent

 

edit: I actually have a couple, so you can order to China, the cheapest ones, to my address to return them later. I don't need them now.

Edited by manterola
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11 hours ago, x=usr(1536) said:

 

I'd recommend filing those type of shops' soldering ability under 'questionable'.  The majority of their business tends to be screen replacements, which are typically just parts swaps; the same applies to PCB-level problems.  It's rare for them to do actual work at a component level.

 

I'm sure you're probably right. There's probably not a lot of call for bench repair techs as much as there used to be.

 

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Contact the nearest barcade/retro-arcade place in your area; the nearest decent sized city will have at least one or two in the area. Ask them who does their arcade machine repair. That person will have no issue doing something as easy as soldering a few wires, and probably be willing to do it super cheap. 

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55 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

Contact the nearest barcade/retro-arcade place in your area; the nearest decent sized city will have at least one or two in the area. Ask them who does their arcade machine repair. That person will have no issue doing something as easy as soldering a few wires, and probably be willing to do it super cheap. 

 

That is a very good point. Evansville has a population of about 120,000, 350,000 for the metro area, and we have at least one retro gaming bar in town. I'd be willing to bet even the smallest of towns have a similar type of arcade/bar/club within an hour's drive.

 

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1 hour ago, bfollowell said:

I'm sure you're probably right. There's probably not a lot of call for bench repair techs as much as there used to be.

I wish the globe wasn't so damn large and shipping so expensive!  I want to offer to help with all of these mods / upgrades where people can't do them until I see the distances involved.

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Seems that at time goes on, soldering will become more and more of a necessary skill in this hobby. Same with basic electronics knowledge and DMM use. Especially if you're messing with 45 year old hardware.

 

It wouldn't cost much to get a basic tool kit and some junk boards to practice on. And if you get the hang of it and like it, get more professional-grade tools.

 

A trick I learned early on is understanding surface tension and how fluids flow. You're kinda doing the same thing with soldering.

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