Hi and welcome to Lance’s Laboratory! This is the fourth entry of what will be my personal blog, sharing small slices of life with you from within my Lab.
For those who are new to Atari I/O let me introduce myself. My name is Lance Ringquist, I’m from Minnesota, and I am the world's oldest surviving Atari dealer. You may have heard of me before as Video 61 Atari Sales which I have consistently operated since 1983 and I have been at it now for 40 years!
If you want to know why the Atari XEGS cartridges rattle, it’s because Atari used hot glue in at least three to four places within the cartridge to hold the PCB firmly in place and properly in the shell. When some of the hot glue comes loose, it floats around inside the cartridge, and that is the rattle you hear.
Here is a picture of an Atari XEGS ribbed super cart disassembled with the glue in place. In this example, you’ll see that one piece has came off that caused a rattle. The piece of glue is circled, and where it came from is circled also.
Now this brings up why Atari designed a ribbed shell for most of their Atari XEGS cartridge releases, and basically abandoned the handle on the back shells.
The handle on the back of the cartridge was really made for the Atari 65XE, and the 130XE. Both had the cartridge port on the back of the machine, just like Jack Tramiel’s Commodore 64, really intended for combining the cartridge port with other ports, to utilize external devices. This design choice was of course born for cheapness.
Then, no need for two separate ports, just one port. The cartridge handle was to give some sort of support for the cartridge not to sag from gravity, and also make the game easier to remove from the back of the machine. However, the problem with the handle cartridges is that they were not as easy to install, let alone extract in the Atari 400/800 cartridge well, and the 1200XL once installed, was not so easy to remove at all.
So, redesign time. The ribbed cartridge shell, with the ribbed design taken directly from Regan Cheng’s design for the Atari 5200 cartridge.
This ribbed Atari cartridge design solved all of those problems, and then some. The ribbed sides made the cartridge substantially easier to remove in the Atari 400/800s and 1200XL computers. Yet the ribbed cartridge was snug enough to help defy gravity in the Atari 65XE and 130XE computers. Not perfect, but good enough.
Keep in mind, this ribbed design also was cheaper in terms of the plastic cartridge shell and the printed circuit board that was inside. On the handle shells, the cart was held together with a screw, while the ribbed cartridge no longer needed a screw, as it was held together very firmly with clips on the side of the shell.
Plus, the handle cartridge board used four capacitors and four resistors, while the ribbed cartridge board used only three of each. With Atari ordering games 100,000 units at a time, saving one resistor and one capacitor per cartridge really added up, and Jack knew where to cut corners to save the additional cost of 100,000 resistors and capacitors.
Here are my Tower Toppler and Vanguard prototype cartridge boards. You see the Tower Toppler handle board is bigger, and has more support electronics, while the ribbed Vanguard board is smaller, and has less support electronics.
The ribbed Atari XEGS cartridges were all-around cheaper, and solved some problems. And really, the glue was not needed, but was a “just in case” sort of thing.
Now, you can take cheapness just so far. Once, Atari sent me a shipment of new Atari XEGS cartridges. I opened them to see if any changes had been made before I started to sell them, because with Jack, you just never knew what was coming next. When I opened them up and held them you could feel that the plastic was so soft, I could eventually crush the cartridge shell with my bare hand. I sent them back to Atari as unsellable.
That never happened again.
Thanks for reading,
Please visit me online for more at www.atarisales.com
Edited by Video 61