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RAIDERS OF THE LOST EPROMS - UPDATE!


Video 61

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DISPATCHES FROM THE LAB - RAIDERS OF THE LOST EPROMS
Monday, March 11, 2024

 

:nintendo_professor_hector:  Hi and welcome to Lance’s Laboratory! This is the seventh entry of what will be my personal Blog, sharing small slices of life with you from around the Twin Cities and 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 over 40 years!

Here’s a quick update on my ongoing search for EPROMs that I wanted to share with everybody on Atari I/O. I’m continuing to uncover interesting and odd Atari EPROMs and hopefully we will be able to get some of these to work. We will have to see.

Let’s take a look at what I unearthed in this batch:

 

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  • Atari 7800 EPROM for Xenophobe, no date. This is the LO chip that I was looking for, to complete the set with the HI chip I found last time. So now we have 7800 Xenophobe the HI and the LO.
  • There were two Atari 2600 EPROMs found. The first one you can see the label fell off.
  • The other Atari 2600 EPROM had a label on it that says “VMS” on it or something in that order. (Are those somebody’s initials? Or is that an abbreviation for something else?) This EPROM is dated July 20, 1981. It’s only 24 pins, and 24 pins are 4k or 2k EPROMs.
  • There were three TOSS chips in there for the Atari TT030 computer.
  • Two Atari 5200 EPROMs for Millipede LO and HI, dated February 22, 1984.
  • Two Atari 7800 EPROMs for Touchdown Football, NTSC, LO and HI, and the date is August 8th, 1989. 7800 Touchdown Football had been released in NTSC format in the US in 1988.
  • Atari 7800 EPROM for Basketbrawl, NTSC, but only the LO chip. Dated 1990.
  • Atari 7800 EPROM for Impossible Mission, NTSC, dated August 11, 1989.
  • Atari 7800 EPROM for Galaga, PAL, that’s also dated 1989. And the thing about Galaga - it’s only 32K in North America, but it’s 64K for Europe.
  • Atari 7800 EPROM for Desert Falcon, PAL, 1989. I think it’s a 48K game in America but it’s 64K in Europe.
  • Atari 7800 EPROM for Jinks, PAL, 1989
  • Atari 7800 EPROM for Tower Toppler, PAL, 1989.
  • Two Atari 520 ST EPROMs, both are labeled HI, undated.
  • Parker Bros. Atari 2600 EPROM for Q*bert, dated 1983, and later handed over to Atari Corp.
  • Unknown EPROM labeled “MONITR Rev 1.1”. I do not believe this is for the 7800 Monitor Cartridge.

 

The Best Is Yet To Come

Now, there were a lot of other EPROMs in there too that aren’t pictured. We’ve continued our effort to try to find more of these EPROMs. I believe there are more, and this is what we’ve found so far. All the labels have fallen off of those, like the Basketbrawl label has half warn off, and on the Atari 2600 game the labels were off totally. I closed the cover to everything else, the EPROMs were kept in the dark so they may still be good. Fingers crossed!

What they all are? I don’t know. When will I get to all of them? I don’t know. Can I match everything up? I don’t know. It's a lot to go through and to make work.

 

large.video_61_EPROMs_update_Impossible_

 

Atari's Official Fixed Impossible Mission

This one is an interesting find - we’ll call this “Possible Mission” - it’s a 64K Impossible Mission EPROM for Atari 7800 dated August 11, 1989. This might be the fixed version of the game. Impossible Mission was originally released for the Atari 7800 in 1987, and yet this EPROM is dated late into 1989, long after the “unsearchable” bug had been found in the game.

1989 was a banner year. That was the year I signed up to be a Distributor for Atari. (Prior to that I was an Authorized Retailer, dating back to the Warner Communications days.) The only way Atari would let me sell Impossible Mission is if I sold it as a collectors item because the game can’t be finished. Atari was well aware of this issue by the time I became a Distributor, and yet this EPROM is dated August 11, 1989.

 

 

 

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"What’s the difference between being an Authorized Atari Retailer, and being an Authorized Atari Distributor? It was: 1.) Pricing, 2.) Quantity you were allowed to buy, 3.) they made me an Authorized Atari Service Center, and 4.) Direct access to the Tramiels on a regular basis. I supplied Atari inventory to retailers in the Midwest, Canada, Latin America, Europe and beyond. When customers would call Atari looking for games or repairs, they would often redirect them to me. Access to the Tramiels allowed me to influence the product line, and I helped convince them to release the XF551 Disk Drive."

@Video 61 

 

 

 

I think the initial run of Impossible Mission was 100,000 units, with a great number of those held back from distribution. As the story goes, one of the missing pieces that you had to locate behind a computer terminal in the game was unsearchable and the game really was impossible to beat, and Atari had discussed internally with John Skruch the idea of shipping the defective inventory of Impossible Mission down to South America or scrapping it entirely, correcting the bug in the game, and ordering another run of 100,000 units.

 

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Impossible Mission was a great looking game on the 7800 and would’ve sold well. Epyx made great games and it was very popular on the Commodore 64. At some point Jack Tramiel put the kibosh on more Impossible Missions, making the existing run of games a little more desirable because they became somewhat hard to find. How many more people would've bought an Atari 7800 to play a great game like Impossible Mission had it been available?

Is this EPROM the official fixed version from Atari that we never got? It sure looks like it! The Atari Inter Office Memo about 7800 Impossible Mission (shown above) from John Skruch to Garry Tramiel documents that this is likely the case, and states "we released a corrected rev. of the software on 8/11/89." That date is identical to the one on our Impossible Mission EPROM and confirms in Atari inter office documentation initialed by John Skruch that we've almost certainly uncovered an EPROM of Atari's official fixed version of Impossible Mission that was never manufactured. Cool!

 

large.video_61_EPROMs_update_520ST.jpg.b

 

Atari 520 ST

There were two 520 ST EPROMs that we found in there, but they both say “HI”, and I don’t know where the LO chips are.

 

 

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Atari TT030 Computer

There were three TOSS chips in there for the Atari TT030 computer. However that’s probably not complete, because I think they used either four or six chips. I can’t remember at the moment, it’s something I will have to investigate further.

 

 

large.video_61_EPROMs_update_parker_bros

 

 

Q*bert, Parker Brothers, Coleco, and Jack Tramiel

And there’s one that just says “Copyright 1983 PB”. Oh I know what this is, as I’m making this Blog post I just realized that the “PB” means “Parker Brothers”. The labels as you can see are on little white circles, and printed in a way different from what Atari did.

At the bottom of this label it says “QB” which I bet means “Q*bert”. This is a Parker Bros. EPROM. What game it is, I don’t know for sure yet, but I bet it’s Q*bert since it says QB on it. I believe we found a Parker Bros. Q*bert EPROM with the 1983 copyright.

After the video game crash, Jack Tramiel bought up all of that third party Atari stuff out of Parker Brothers, Coleco, and others after the collapse, so Atari would have good software to support their systems in Jack’s red box era. To give Jack credit, that wasn't a terrible idea. Parker Brothers, Coleco and the rest were hurt badly, and Jack got it all for a song. That’s how you had games like Donkey Kong and Mouse Trap being re-released after 1986 in the burgundy Atari 2600 boxes. Most of these guys were not getting back into the Atari business and he bought all of Parker Bros. 2600 stuff, he bought all of Coleco’s 2600 stuff, he bought Activision’s Atari 8-Bit computer stuff which a lot of people don’t know, he bought over 300 games but didn’t name everything he purchased rights for. I’m looking at all of the EPROMs and images that I got from him, there must be 60 or more. The stuff that I don’t know that I’ve got I’m starting to unearth now. Will we find a Holy Grail?

 

large.video_61_EPROMs_update_MONITR.jpg.

 

IPL/MONITR?

And then there’s another one I have absolutely no idea what it is - it just says “IPL / MONITR Rev. 1.1” I don’t think this is related to the Atari 7800 Monitor Cartridge. I wonder what it could be for?

 

But How Did You Get All This Stuff?

These are all EPROMs that were purchased and sent to me by Atari Corp in the Tramiel era, during my time as one of Atari’s major Distributors. This was common. They’d send me this stuff, some stuff unlabeled, barely any paperwork or none at all. I probably set these down 30 to 35 years ago and lost track of them, only to find them again in unopened inventory.

So here's the plan: once I think we’ve found everything that can easily be found, we’ll catalog and organize what we have and I’ll methodically start to work on the EPROMs to see which ones work and which ones don’t, what kind of combination do we need have to have on the 7800 board, which 7800 board to use, etc. etc. etc. I don’t expect we’ll be doing much looking for more EPROMs after this because that will be a big undertaking, maybe another time, but once I feel like we’ve found everything that’s easy to get to, we are going to concentrate our energies into getting the EPROMs that we have found to work.

 

 

 

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"There were only a couple Atari releases on the 7800 that I did not like: RealSports Baseball, Crack’ed and Jinks. I liked most everything else."

@Video 61 

 

 

 

The Slow Burn of Progress

In my previous Blog post about discovering lost EPROMs, I said I would be testing the games and report back. We've been busy searching for more of the EPROMs that I think will be easy enough to get to, however I’ve been able to quickly test some of the EPROMs and made a little progress, but haven’t yet gotten anything to play.

So far, I’ve got some of the 7800 EPROMs to display the Atari logo when you power on the game, but that’s it. These games have shown the Fuji logo but nothing else, and none of the games shown in the previous Blog entry have played yet. I think eventually I'll be able to get some to play, but that will take some doing and we will have to see how it goes.

 

More RAM

One of the things that will be very hard to do is test an Atari 7800 EPROM game that requires RAM to work. You see, if there's an EPROM for a 128K game that we want to test and it needs RAM, I currently have no way to test it. From what I understand, Atari had a 7800 board that had a cable hanging off of it, and on that board you could put 8K ,10K and 16K RAM chips interchangeably, so then you could test it as an EPROM board. It was set up to take two 64K EPROMs for a 128K game, and one of those RAM chips would plug into a socket. If the game required 16K of RAM, you could put the 16K chip in, if it required 8K you would put the 8K chip in, etc. I don’t know if Basketbrawl took RAM or not, but I know Commando did take RAM.

That’s all I have for this week! I will continue to post updates on my progress here on my Blog, along with Blog entries on other topics, and try to answer your questions the best I can. I appreciate all the enthusiasm, coverage and interest in this topic.

 

Thanks for reading,

- Lance  :nintendo_professor_hector:

 

Please visit me online for more at www.atarisales.com

Edited by Video 61

4 Comments


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The IPL/Monitor label..looks exactly like the labels used on actual Parker Bros proto and WIP games. Same size lable...same looking dot matrix font printer used to print that label. 

So I'm wondering if that might not be something from PB? I know it looks a lot like my labels on my PB protos of SW:TAG WIP build and Rls1 of Gyruss that I own.

Also...IPL usually means Initial Program Load or Loader. So it could essentially be a firmware type chip for something unrelated?

 

 

Edited by CrossBow
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I have both chips for the fixed 7800 Impossible Mission. While they fixed the original bug they introduced a new one. The new bug involves the bonus game that gives you free items when you win. After a couple rounds it will tell you that you entered the wrong sequence every time. Even if you got it correct. That may be the reason it didn't get released. I posted the ROM out on the internet a few years ago, if anyone wants to try in an emulator.

Also, Commando used a Pokey sound chip but no extra on cart RAM.

It's great to see this stuff, I hope you can find more working games.

Mitch

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Great stuff Lance! 🙂

Would be interesting to see what comes of those EPROMs. 🙂 Wonder why the Touchdown Football is labeled so late if it's NTSC. Maybe someone actually made it more fun? 😛

Sending the defective carts to South America is bleh, not something I agree with, but in the Tramiel mindset, it keeps from having to destroy them, and how can you get bad press for a bugged game pre-internet if it's all the way down in South America, I'm sure that crossed their minds.

The monitor EPROM maybe is a code debugger of some kind of burn in or test cart, who knows. 😛

Interesting stuff as usual. ❤️

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On 3/12/2024 at 7:03 AM, Jinroh said:

Great stuff Lance! 🙂

Would be interesting to see what comes of those EPROMs. 🙂 Wonder why the Touchdown Football is labeled so late if it's NTSC. Maybe someone actually made it more fun? 😛

Sending the defective carts to South America is bleh, not something I agree with, but in the Tramiel mindset, it keeps from having to destroy them, and how can you get bad press for a bugged game pre-internet if it's all the way down in South America, I'm sure that crossed their minds.

The monitor EPROM maybe is a code debugger of some kind of burn in or test cart, who knows. 😛

Interesting stuff as usual. ❤️

hi Jinroh,

 

the touchdown football my have been a improvement, or a bug fix.

thanks for the info,

 

lance

www.atarisales.com

 

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