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  1. Like
    DegasElite reacted to CrossBow for a blog entry, Sega Master System - FM upgrade Region Switch Info   
    I've installed the FM upgrade board 4 times now into a few different SMS NTSC consoles now and something that I tend to always forget, is that the official instructions for installing the board has a few mistakes in it. One of those mistakes is a pretty big one that I've mentioned to Tim Worthington a few times but it never seems to get fixed in his guide. That step is regarding the process for getting the region switch working on NTSC consoles. Now the steps listed I'm sure are accurate for PAL versions of the console, but 3 different model 1 and one model 2 unit I've installed the kit into all required the same thing to get it working.
    The specific step to install the region switch wire states to solder a wire from the IORQ pin off the FM board and to isolate and solder the same signal pin on the 2516 IC chip in the console. This chip is the IO Gate array IC btw. The docs state this is pin 19 on that IC and that is a correct statement. However, removing this pin from circuit on the NTSC consoles will prevent the SMS from booting at all. Just a black screen when powering on the console. Attaching the region switch wire to that pin while isolate does nothing.
    The pin you want to attach to instead on that IC is actually Pin 23. It is listed as the KillGa pin and I assume has something to do with a halt or reset. In some models of the SMS pin 23 isn't attached to anything. But on the NTSC systems it is part of the circuit. So, you have to either cut the trace to this pin or lift the pin from the board to isolate it and then install the IORQ wire from the FM board to pin 23. This will correctly allow switching the region on the SMS. The region switch isn't dynamic so you have to either reset the game after switching, or power the SMS off and then back on for the region switch setting to take effect. Here is a picture of the wire I'm talking about attached to a lifted pin23 off the IC I did the other night as an example.

    Here is the IORQ pad the other end of the wire attaches to on the current and latest version of the FM board upgrades. Depending on the version of the FM you have, this pad has changed places but it is always labeled the same. In the pic below is the yellow wire soldered on the upper left section.

    So if you ever install one of these or possibly have one installed and hadn't gotten the region switching working on your NTSC console, now you know why and how to correct for it.
    BTW the switch is advised because it allows you to select between US/PSG audio, US/FM audio, and JPN/FM audio settings. There are 2 games known that require the JPN/FM setting in order for them to work with the main one being Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap here in the US (Wonder Boy II in JPN).
  2. Like
    DegasElite reacted to CrossBow for a blog entry, Atari 7800 :- Controller remote pause function modification   
    This is something I've messed with on and off again over the years. After I discovered the controller pause modification you can do on the Sega Master System, it got me to thinking if something similar was possible on the 7800. And yes, it totally is as similar to the SMS, the pause line on the 7800 is always active and only when pulled low to ground does it trigger the pause. So I had played with it a bit using home made perfboard setups etc. But it wasn't really as useful or needed on the 7800 as it is on the SMS so I hadn't really invested much into it.
    For those that might not be aware, the Master System also uses a 2-button controller like the 7800, but the SMS also has a pause button on the console itself just like the 7800. The difference it that many SMS games actually use the pause on the console as a 3rd button to pull up inventory or stats..etc. in quite a few games. As a result, playing those games can be a bother when you have to get up and press the pause on your console each time you want to access those extra functions in the game. So naturally a modification for the SMS was going to come about to allow a person to add a 3rd button to their controller and along with a simple logic circuit in the console, you can make impossible controller combinations trigger functions inside the system. In the case of the SMS it is using an extra button to trigger either an Left+Right direction combo, or Up+Down depending on how you wire it up. That in turn is fed to a logic OR gate so that when you press that button on the controller it sends that impossible combination to the chip and that in turn will trigger the reset function. 
    The 7800 sharing essentially the same setup here can also be done in the same manner. However, due to the 2600 and 7800 internal logic regarding the paddles controllers; you can't use the Left+Right combo because it will confuse the console and sometimes thing paddles are plugged in. But aside from that, it is the same. 
    Consoles Unleashed in the UK sells a lot of excellent quality modification and upgrade kits for various consoles. One of those they have the most kits for, is the Sega Master System. They provide their own pause button modification kit that is really well made and looks nice. Well, I ordered up a few several weeks back and got them in yesterday. I immediately went to work on installing one into my personal 7800 as I have 2 controllers that I've modified in the past to be able to use this setup. Here is what that looks like:

    As you can see it is a tiny PCB that will fit in lots of places on the 7800 main board. Again, it is designed for the SMS but will work just as well in the 7800. In the pic above you can see that I'm getting power and ground from the bypass cap just to the right of the 6502. The Player 1 Up and Dn connections are at the top of those two resistors right next to that cap. So you have half of what you need right there in that spot. 

    Above is where the rest of the connections in my setup are going. The small blue wire that runs by itself to that single point below the RIOT IC is the reset trigger. This is an unused via that is present on every single 7800 main board revision I've see and always in this same spot. I assume it was there for testing but is also makes a great place to attach the PB pad from that board to trigger the pause function. The other two blue wires are going into cleaned out unused vias so they pass back down on the bottom of the board to attach to a similar set of resistors for the player 2 Up and Down connections. I did it this way because I didn't want to trim the RF shielding. The resistors are outside of the shielding for the player 2 controller port next to the Reset switch.

    And this is where the two wires come back through to the bottom of the PCB to attach to the resistors mentioned above. BTW, the Up and Down combo wiring attaches to Pins 1 and 2 on the controller ports.
    And that's it! Now with this in place, I can use my modified controllers to remote activate the pause on the 7800 console from either controller port.
    One thing to mention about using this kit from Console's Unleashed...
    You have to wire both controller ports! The reason is because instead of using an OR logic in this setup, they are using a NOR logic chip. As a result, the controller ports are always registering high. If you don't connect up the second set of wires, then the logic on the pause board in the kit ends up triggering the pause constantly. It needs to see that +5 from the port pins in order to maintain the logic. So if you only wanted one port to activate this, you need to use a different logic IC. Also, the kits from consoles unleashed has extra stuff I don't normally need as it comes with additional small PCBs to mount a 3rd button to and provide as a template to drill the hole into your SMS controllers for mounting it. An excellent touch to be sure, but I don't like the SMS control pads compared to other controllers and wouldn't be using them on a 7800 anyway. But they aren't that expensive and I might need those boards in the future so who knows? I might go into details on what is required on the controller side someday for this modification to work as there is work required in the controllers. I think I've covered it elsewhere online but might do that as a follow up someday.
    Here is a link to Consoles Unleashed in the UK and again, they have some excellent quality kits on hand to help modders and tech with making their projects look that more professional and easier to install.
  3. Like
    DegasElite reacted to Video 61 for a blog entry, HOW ATARI XE MARIO BROS. GOT THROWN IN THE DUMP   
    Tuesday, March 26, 2024
      Hi and welcome to Lance’s Laboratory! This is the eighth 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!
    Before we jump right into the story of the Atari XE Mario Bros. cartridges, let’s take a giant step back and see the big picture of how Atari was ran in those years. Have I ever told you about the 400 400 computers? Well, in one of Atari’s warehouses around Sunnyvale they stumbled upon 400 Atari 400 computers they still had brand new in the box, that they had inherited from Warner. This was in the early 1990s during the time of the Atari Lynx when Jack Tramiel ran the show with his three sons. When this happened, Jack’s people at Atari called up and wanted to know if Bruce, Brad and I wanted to go in on this together and buy out their remaining inventory of 400 400 computers. We said “YES! We’ll be there to get them the next day.” - But that’s not what ended up happening. More on that one in a minute…

    It had come down from Jack that this was the only way they would sell to us. Let me tell you how expensive it was for Atari to process an order - it cost them about $125 to write out a single invoice. And you have to understand, even under what Jack had done to Atari, his austerity measures, cutting down their workforce by over 80%, it was still a huge company. Efficiency experts had figured out that for Atari to write out one invoice and ship an order, it was $125, regardless if it was one video game cartridge or 100. This wasn’t the shipping expense, this was Atari’s time and labor. So when you’d send in an order to Atari for one 2600 game or one 7800 game, a new joystick or something like that, it cost Atari $125 to fulfill the order in time and labor - for someone to write out your order, for someone else to find your game in a warehouse, for a worker to pack it, label it, and ship it to you. For it to cost them $125 to fulfill an order for a $15 cartridge, Atari went in the hole. They’d lose money, and Jack wouldn’t have that. That’s why when you’d pick up the phone and call Atari in those days for a cartridge order or service repair, they sluffed that off onto me because it cost them too much money to do it themselves, although it shouldn't have. It was much easier and much less expensive for them to just answer the phone. It became a very expensive thing.

    "Many of the people who try to pry information out of me, like the Vice guy who ran the hit piece on Brad, have this idea in their head that Atari only had one warehouse. NO THEY DID NOT. They had MULTIPLE warehouses around the world, and it was expensive to have all these employees and insurance, air conditioning and electricity, property upkeep, taxes, everything needed to keep those warehouses going day in and day out. It's expensive for me too."
    @Video 61 
    Jack Tramiel never looked at video games as a premium. He looked at games as too costly, too much money to develop, publish, warehouse, retail. And of course that’s how he made money, but he just didn’t understand it. He thought it was all hardware sales and games were up to third party developers who were left all on their own. "Here's a Jaguar and a dev kit, you go do it." Jack would do everything he could to sluff off sales onto other places like Federated electronics stores, which Jack Tramiel owned through Atari Corporation from 1987 - 1989. Jack used Federated as a way to directly retail warehouse loads of Atari merchandise almost into the 1990s and beyond, especially overstock remaining from the Warner Communications days:
    “Business is war” Jack said. I’m sure every little boy or little girl buying Mario Bros. understood that. They were so eager to make me a distributor - “We need somebody in the midwest to help us out, we made a lot of mistakes” - and me not having been a distributor before and not knowing the ins and outs, of course I said YES. Boy, I had no idea just what I was in for.

    "I didn’t realize they were setting me up to be not just an Atari Distributor and Service Department for them, but also a public relations sort of thing for them too. You wouldn’t believe how many invoices I wrote for $9.95 power supplies and TV switch boxes. $10 orders that would’ve cost Atari $125 or more to fulfill. So just think about all the money I saved them, and I think that’s one of the reasons why they looked so fondly on me and didn’t want to burn me, because if they had burned me then I would’ve been just like everybody else. Everybody else got burned but us."
    @Video 61 
    Just to give you some sort of idea how Jack managed things and micromanaged almost every aspect of the business: This one time, one of the developers who was working on one of the Jaguar CD games (I can’t remember which one) needed more blank CD-Rs for testing the game. This was a game that Atari had over $1 million bucks tied up into developing. This was before CD-Rs were in peoples' homes and spindles of CD-Rs would not have been commonplace yet in stores like Office Max, CompUSA, or Sam's Club, but they should’ve been available within a place like Atari.

    The programmer went up to the office manager and requisitioned more blank CD-Rs for testing and development, expecting that there’d be a spindle of them somewhere. “We don’t have any” the office manager told him. The programmer thought the manager didn’t understand what he was asking for. “What do you mean, this is a million dollar game with a deadline and I’m under pressure to get this done. When are you going to get them in?” Manager said “I don’t know, Jack’s waiting for a sale.” So he held up production on these games waiting for one of his suppliers to have a sale on blank CD-ROMs, and only then would he okay the office manager buying them. That’s called micromanagement, and it’s not something the President or CEO or Chairperson of a company that size should be doing.

    POW! Losing Sleep Over A Plumber And A Trucker
    So the Mario Bros. story: There was another time when there were 1,500 brand new Atari XE Mario Bros. cartridges sitting at Atari new in the box, being offered to me and I wasn’t able to get them. I’m still sick over that one. I had accepted Atari's offer for me to purchase the Mario Bros. cartridges and they slipped through my fingers like sand.
    You really don’t know what “pinching pennies” means until you hear this stuff Jack Tramiel used to do. He did this sort of stuff all the time. I still lose sleep over this XE Mario thing. This is a story that should be told, though. Atari had me as a distributor supplying foreign Atari dealers. I was told it was cheaper for Jack to have me deal with these Atari dealers in Latin America and Europe than for Atari to do it themselves. But if you knew some of the reasons why, you’d be stunned, because he’d probably have made more money directly dealing with these people.

    "I was on the phone with Atari as much as ten to twenty times a day, if not more. It was a constant barrage."
    @Video 61 
    You see, one of the ongoing things was Jack didn’t like dealing with all these dealers and distributors - he just wanted to deal with a couple of them. I don’t know why. It's how Jack did business. So I had Atari’s inventory and I was watching it GO-GO-GO. It sold well, and of course I had access to all of that stuff and the ability to buy more directly from Atari. But I couldn’t buy it all, because of course there were millions of cartridges. So I was trying to buy up the cartridges that were going faster because I knew those were good games. And Mario Bros. was one of them, especially the version that had been released for the Atari XE. Atari wisely made this Mario Bros. for the XE, and there was still a huge userbase for the Atari 8-bit computer from before Jack took over that would love to have a Mario Bros. game for their Atari XL computer too. So I put an order in for a couple of master cartons of Mario Bros. cartridges for Atari XE. That’s 72 cartridges to a master carton. I receive them at my warehouse and they sell through quickly. I come back later to order more from Atari, and another huge chunk of XE Mario Bros. cartridges are gone from their inventory. They were going fast!

    One time I went to order some and there were only 1,500 left. “I’ll take them all...” I said to the person from Atari the phone, "...everything you have left." Atari came back and said “Well there’s something here you might be unaware of about those Mario Bros. cartridges.” I said “Well, what are they?” and they said “Those games are locked up in semi truck trailers in our lot.” Okay, fine. I asked that they open the semi truck trailers up and take them out - “We can’t do that” she said, “because they are parked against each other, bumper to bumper, so you can’t open them.” Hmm, okay. I said “Well get a truck and move them.” Atari responds: “Oh we can ’t do that.” I asked why. “Oh Jack won’t let us, that will cost money.” Me: “Well how do I get them then?” Atari: “Well you’ll have to hire a trucking company to come in and do this. You’re just going to have to do this on your own. Once the trucking company comes in and moves the trailers apart and we can get into them, then we will call you back and tell you what cartridges we have, but for sure we have 1,500 new Mario Bros. for the XE game machine. What else is in there we’re not exactly sure.”

    "Yep, that's me. You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation. Here I am on the phone ready to buy 1,500 Mario Bros. cartridges directly from Atari, who wants to sell them to me, but are held back by Jack’s penny-pinching policies. Spend a dollar to save a penny. This is just how things were ran. This is the reality of things that I dealt with day in and day out."
    @Video 61 
    So to get access to the Mario Bros. games in the semi trailer, I have to go and hire a trucking company myself, to go do the work for Atari. Remember the $125 it cost Atari per invoice to fulfill an order? Not only was Atari not paying for the trucking company to come do the work, they were having me do all the legwork with making arrangements with the trucking companies, so that Atari didn't have to pay their employees to do it themselves. That's a cost saving measure. 
    I called some trucking companies here in Minnesota to see if they had anybody out in California who could do this for me. Yeah, some of them had some guys available out there near Sunnyvale, CA - but this wasn’t over yet, it would take some time. The trucking companies came back and said YES, they could do the job of going out to Atari, hooking their truck up to the trailers and pulling them apart - but I’d have to pay for the licensing and insurance, yada yada yada, pay for the truck drivers to go in there, move things around, unhook the trailers, and then let Atari go in and take inventory and wait for DAYS. So I would have to pay for the truck and the driver, for all of those days, until they are done with Atari going through everything and taking inventory. For every minute of every day they are doing that, I would be charged by the trucking company to sit and wait. So you can only imagine how much that was going to cost me.

    This took some doing, but I got it all sorted out. I called Atari back, and said the expense of the trucking company could cost me $5,000 - $10,000 dollars. In those days that was the price of a nice new American car. Atari said “Don’t worry about it. Jack got mad and we just trashed it all. We sent the semi trailer full of games off to the scrappers.” I said “Well then you had to hire a trucking company to come in and do the work.” Atari: “Yeah we did. But the thing about it is we didn’t have to have any of our Atari employees inventory anything. The truck drivers just pulled the trailers apart and hauled it away. We didn’t have to spend money on employees doing inventory.” You got to remember those trailers were rented also, so by throwing the Mario Bros. games in the dump not only did they avoid having to pay the expense of employees inventorying the games, they also didn’t have to pay the rental on the trailers anymore or the taxes on the inventory. That was "Jackthink".

    "When I say 'Bruce and Brad' I'm referring to my old colleagues, Bruce is Bruce Carso of B&C ComputerVisions, and Brad is Brad Koda of Best Electronics. The three of us have operated independently in the Atari business for many, many years, and we dealt directly with Atari every day. Yes, Bruce and Brad are my 'competitors' but not really, we each have a speciality: Mine is games, Brad is parts, and Bruce is mostly computers."
    @Video 61 
    People think the E.T. in the garbage dump in New Mexico story is bad. This was insane, I still can’t believe it. Jack would rather manufacture cartridges to just sit unsold, parked in a hot trailer in a parking lot, and then throw a truckload of brand new Mario Bros. games in the garbage - than to spend a few extra pennies inventorying the games so he could sell them to me and have plenty of room for him to make a profit in the end. This is how this guy thought, it was just beyond unbelievable.
    In the end, Brad, Bruce and I managed to get all the 7800s out of Atari and we managed to get what was left over of the Lynx stuff except for 10,000+ units sitting in Hong Kong that needed to be repaired. I may have gotten some of them, I don’t remember it’s so long ago, whatever happened to the bulk of them. Brad doesn’t have them, Bruce doesn’t have them, and I don't know what happened to the rest of them but, that will be a story for another day.

    Oh, and what happened to the 400 400 computers you ask? Well when we went there the next day ready to buy them and load up the truck, Atari had already tossed them into the dumpsters and the dumpster divers and scrappers got them for $ZERO. Most of the Atari 400 computers went to the scrappers because if the dumpster divers had gotten them we would’ve known immediately. Many of the dumpster divers at Atari would call us up immediately, because they knew they could only sell them to flea market type things one or two at a time, and it was easier for them to call me, Bruce, and Brad, and try to get money out of us because they knew we’d buy a bunch of them. And they were right.
    This was Jack saving money. Instead of waiting a day or two for me to get everything organized, it was “Well we don’t need the labor, we don’t need the added expense of paying more employees to do more work, just get rid of the computers now.” That’s the way things operated under Jack. It was ran as a feudal system with Jack as King and his three sons as Princes. They wouldn’t wait five minutes, they’d just ask if you wanted it or didn’t. Sometimes Atari wouldn’t even ASK if you wanted it or not, they’d just ship it to me. Things would arrive on trucks to my warehouse that I didn’t order, or ask for, or knew anything about. Jack would decide to get rid of something and use Lance as his dump. That’s how I ended up with so many random things out of Atari that I’m still uncovering and have to make heads or tails out of. (See my recent series of Blog posts titled “Raiders of the Lost EPROMs”.) That was the frustrating problem - there’s quite a bit of Atari stuff that I have no idea what it was or asked for, and some of the Atari stuff I wanted bad went to the scrappers or the dumpster. Had I been able to purchase them back then, today they'd all be in the hands of loyal Atari players out there like you, instead of in the dump.
    Thanks for reading,
    - Lance  
    Please visit me online for more at www.atarisales.com
  4. Thanks
    DegasElite reacted to Video 61 for a blog entry, RAIDERS OF THE LOST EPROMS - UPDATE!   
    Monday, March 11, 2024
      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:

    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.

    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.

    "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.

    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!

    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.

    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.

    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?

    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.

    "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  
    Please visit me online for more at www.atarisales.com
  5. Like
    Monday, March 4, 2024
      Hi and welcome to Lance’s Laboratory! This is the sixth 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!
    Have you ever wondered what you might do if there were to be a long term power outage? I would miss my video games. So I thought for this Blog post I would experiment a little with my Atari Lynx and rechargeable batteries, and see what we find.
    Things to Think About:
    Power outages in severe weather Hurricanes Snow storms Black and brown outs Heatwaves Natural disasters Taking your Atari Lynx on a camping trip or RV  
    First off, I know the Lynx is a battery hog. Those double "AA's" do not last long, and won’t be enough to get you through a long term power outage. What can be done? Let's step into my lab and explore some options:
    Atari Lynx Battery Pack "AA" Rechargeable Batteries in the Lynx "D" Rechargeable Batteries + Atari Lynx Battery Pack Using Solar Power to Recharge Batteries Light Weight Batteries
    The Official Atari Lynx Battery Pack, and Third Party Battery Packs
    One survival option for a long term power outage is the official Atari Lynx Battery Pack. It comes with a shoulder strap and is large enough to hold six "D" sized batteries, and makes you look like the Terminator when it's strapped to your side. It will keep you electrified long enough to get you through a road trip, or a couple of nights without power, but when loaded with six big batteries it gets pretty heavy. Eventually though, that too will exhaust your batteries.
    There was the NAKI Power Pak, a third-party rechargeable battery option that clipped onto the Lynx and added quite a bit of weight hanging off the back. There was also the Best Electronics battery pack - but the batteries for both of those products are long past their date, and no longer will hold a charge.

    "There might be other aftermarket battery packs out there, I just am unaware of them if there are. Pairing the Atari Lynx Battery Pack with rechargeable NIHM batteries is the way to go."
    @Video 61 
    TEST 1: "D" Size Rechargeable Batteries + Atari Lynx Battery Pack
    Now let’s try playing out this scenario of a long term power outage and see how much life we can squeeze out of the Lynx. What would happen if the power outage lasted so long that it exceeded the life of the "D" size batteries? The Atari Lynx Battery Pack takes six “D” batteries and can power your Lynx for several hours, but even they eventually will run out. We can stock up on extra “D” cell batteries, but that gets expensive and heavy to bring with you, especially if you're evacuating a storm.
    I decided to try something different, so I went out and bought rechargeable NIHM batteries. They may cost a bit more at first, but you can recharge them over and over again, giving your Lynx nearly unlimited power and saving money over time. I found that the NIHM batteries are much lighter, so the Battery Pack is not so heavy and burdensome. This is an excellent option that lets you pair original Atari hardware with the ability to recharge your power, and not keep burning through batteries and hard-earned bucks.

    I should also mention that the Atari Lynx Battery Pack was a good Jack Tramiel product. It’s heavy duty and well designed, with a metal knob and screw mechanism helping contain the weight of six "D" batteries and competently holding it all together. Pairing the Atari Lynx Battery Pack with rechargeable NIHM batteries is one good option to consider, especially in a long term power outage. It's nice knowing you have a portable power pack ready to go.
    TEST 2: "AA" Size Rechargeable Batteries + Atari Lynx
    Let’s experiment with another option: When I purchased the batteries, I also got "AA" rechargeable batteries to power the Lynx the “regular” way, with 6 "AA" size batteries in the Lynx itself.
    So what kind of life can I get, and how will the "AA" batteries compare with the "D" batteries? I used by own Lynx to test this out, leaving it to run using my Blue Lightning demo dealer cartridge that is looped with the game playing in attract mode, and timing how long the different sizes of batteries and power options lasted before the Lynx ran out of juice.
    The "AA" size rechargeable batteries went 3.5 hours. The "D" size batteries in the Atari Lynx Battery Pack went almost 8.5 hours. The Lynx only quit working once the batteries were exhausted. After both sizes of batteries were exhausted, I used my handy little battery tester ($6 at Menards) to see how worn down they were:

    Here’s where it gets weird: Both sizes did exactly the same thing.
    Of the six "D" size batteries, two were worn down almost exhausted. Another two were close to exhaustion, but still were usable. The last two were still almost fully charged. Yet that was not enough battery life to sustain play. It’s weird how the batteries were used up on the Lynx.
    These same results were replicated exactly with the “AA” size batteries on the Atari Lynx.

    "The "AA" size rechargeable batteries went 3.5 hours. The "D" size batteries in the Atari Lynx Battery Pack went almost 8.5 hours. The Lynx only quit working once the batteries were exhausted."
    @Video 61 
    No Sun Visor Required
    So if the lights go out, and you have exhausted your battery life, get this: a solar powered battery recharger. These may be helpful if you live in areas with hurricanes or extreme weather, where you could be without power for several days after the storm and would enjoy a break playing games on your Lynx. They can also be handy on road trips or if bringing your Lynx along camping trips where you're away from electricity for extended periods of time. The solar battery charger I'm using can charge "D" / "C" / "AA" / and "AAA" size batteries.
    Using the solar battery charger, it took about four hours in the sunlight to recharge eight batteries: four "D" sized, and four "AA" size. One idea would be to have a solar battery charger recharging one set of batteries, while you continue to play video games on your Lynx with another set of rechargeables. This would be like doing laundry and knowing you still have clothes to wear while the rest of the laundry is in the wash. It's a good idea for rechargeable batteries too, especially if you're waiting on the sun to do your charging for you.

    Also, a solar battery charger could be very handy to keep in the house for use in inclement weather or a natural disaster. It's not just the hurricane or the snowstorm, it's the week after when the sun comes out and there's still no power until the crews are able to restore it. Using the sun to charge batteries in a long term power outage has benefits beyond just keeping your video games playing.
    For now, I'm going to keep experimenting. Later on, once all the batteries are recharged, I will test our different options again to see how good and deep the battery charge is using solar. Will the batteries last as long using the solar powered battery charger as they do with the regular battery charger, or will solar end up giving the batteries a weaker charge? Let’s see how these different power options perform in the long term, and I’ll report back here with my findings.
    Thanks for reading,
    - Lance  
    Please visit me online for more at www.atarisales.com
  6. Like
    DegasElite reacted to Video 61 for a blog entry, I MAY HAVE FOUND ROAD RIOT 4WD FOR ATARI 7800 - ALONG WITH MORE INTERESTING ATARI 7800 EPROMS   
    Monday, Feb 26, 2024
      Hi and welcome to Lance’s Laboratory! This is the fifth 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 over 40 years!
    Quick update here from the Lab I wanted to share with all my friends on Atari I/O so you’d be the first to see. While I was working in my warehouse high atop the escarpments of the Twin Cities, cleaning up my office with my lab assistant on Saturday, we unearthed a trove of 7800 EPROMs I didn’t realize I had, and may have discovered Road Riot 4-Wheel Drive for Atari 7800 with a few other things. Like Rampart, Pit-Fighter, and Steel Talons, Road Riot 4-Wheel Drive was originally an arcade game from Atari Games that was released on Atari Lynx and believed to be in development for the Atari 7800 as late as 1993. I will try testing these EPROMs in some of my developer boards on the 7800 and see what we can get. It may take time to get this all sorted, but we will figure out what we have and I will report back here with more updates as we make progress.

    We were cleaning up my warehouse office on Saturday and I said “Well, I know I’ve got EPROMs here from Atari that we should go through and catalog, and I know that I have them in two different places in the warehouse and in my office.” I hadn’t looked at these, and they were sitting in a package from Atari collecting dust for decades. My warehouse assistant and I pulled them out, and of course like everything I got from Atari, there was no rhyme or reason to it, it just gets thrown. In those days, Atari would send me all sorts of things from EPROMs to joysticks, just thrown in a box and sent to me with hardly any documentation at all.
    One of the things we were looking for was Fatal Run documentation, which we found. Because I don’t have the strength to venture into the warehouse all the time to do this, I thought some of it could be in my office and we should spend some time looking in my office and cleaning up in there. We started cleaning up and sorting through packages, and of course there were tubes and tubes of this stuff from Atari that I got towards the end of the Jack Tramiel days. 
    One of the packages I got from Atari were full of tubes of chips. If you don’t work with electronics you may not know, chips come in protective plastic tubes, usually five to ten or more at a time. And I’ve got rolls and rolls of this stuff, and you don’t know what they are - there’s just a kazillion part numbers and labels, or there’s nothing. Some of them are so old that the labels have fallen off to the bottom of the box and gotten all mixed up. And it’s hard to find out what they are, because it’s like trying to put a puzzle together. Not only are the labels missing, mixed up, or mysterious, but you have to figure out what the chips are and where they go, and on what board. For example, Midi Maze for the Atari XE was a 256K game, but they put it on a board that had 8 chips on it originally, so you’ve got 8 different chips that you have to sort through and figure out what goes where and get it to work.

    When I found the EPROMs, most of them had labels on them. I found Sentinel LO and HI chips, Xenophobe HI, and KLAX LO and HI chips which I believe is a different version of KLAX than the one I’ve published before which was also given to me by Atari. I found Barnyard Blaster and Food Fight, both of which are PAL and have dates from mid-late 1989. That 1989 date is a little later than NTSC Barnyard Blaster, and quite a bit later than NTSC Food Fight, which was completed and shipped to retailers by May, 1984. So what does it mean that PAL Barnyard Blaster and Food Fight were being worked on as late as the Summer and Fall of 1989? Well, it’s possible these games play no different than the originals - but it’s also possible these versions of Barnyard Blaster and Food Fight could be different in some other ways. You just never know what Atari would’ve done, sometimes PAL market games had different sprites, they may have played different, or had other changes to the game beyond just PAL and NTSC. Sometimes those things would happen. 

    Save Mary surprised me - I said “Hey look, these are on 7800 chips!” That’s different than what I’ve seen before. In my trove of EPROMS we unearthed, we found Save Mary on two 64K chips (LO and HI), not on two 16K chips as you might expect to find. Like KLAX, this is NOT the same version of Save Mary that I published years ago. The Save Mary I got from Atari that I used to sell, that is on one 32K chip which is different from what I found. This is Save Mary on two 64K chips, which means this would be a 128K game, which is what a lot of the newer 7800 games were put on towards the end. It may well be the 7800 version of Save Mary, or it may be that they started to work on it for the 7800 and got the 2600 ordered on there to get it to work and go from there. Another chip I found only had half a label, with part of the EPROM window exposed. I don't know if this EPROM survived, but hopefully it will be okay. We will have to see. The half of the label that was still stuck on the chip has handwriting on it that I think says "Save" followed by the number 4800, which usually means it's 48K. I'm wondering if this is a 48K version of Save Mary? 

    "The test cartridges used two chips, but the final production cartridge would only use one, so there’s a LO and a HI on the test cartridge. The test cartridges were set up for a 64K game or a 128K game, with two sockets. So that’s why there’s two Sentinel (LO and HI), two KLAX (LO and HI) and two Save Mary (LO and HI)."
    @Video 61 
    The weirdest, most curious EPROM has a handwritten label that looks to say “Riot”. Clearly this is an EPROM and not a RIOT chip for the Atari 2600. The EPROM is dated 1993, which is very late for 7800 development but not unheard of. We MAY have found Road Riot 4-Wheel Drive for the Atari 7800 - we’ll have to see. The label on the EPROM says “Riot” on it, it’s dated 7-20-93 and it has the number “2” circled, which means this could be one of two chips needed to test the game - a HI and a LO. This date I believe is two months newer than the last version of 7800 Toki that has been shown, so two months after Toki was nearly complete and ready to go, this game “Riot” was still being worked on for the Atari 7800. Even if this does turn out to be Road Riot 4WD, it’s possible we’re still missing one of the chips needed to get it working. I can imagine someone testing the game and on such a tiny label writing “Riot” instead of “Road Riot 4WD” almost as an abbreviation of the name, it was common for these guys to do that, just because the EPROM labels are just so tiny.

    Atari 7800 Games thought to have been in development during 1991-1993:
    Pit-Fighter ElectroCop Steel Talons Toki Rampart Road Riot 4WD More? From my knowledge there were at least five games in development under Atari Corporation for the Atari 7800 as late as 1993, probably more. In those days, the Atari Lynx still had life in it, and Atari Jaguar was coming up on the horizon. The story as I hear it was that Jack Tramiel took one look at 7800 Pit-Fighter and how bad it looked and put the kibosh on anything more for the 7800. He pulled the plug right then and there and that’s all she wrote. We know Pit-Fighter, Rampart and Toki have been found in different levels of completion, and the date on this “Riot” EPROM is newer than all of those. We will have to research to see if this chip dated 7-20-93 is the latest 7800 EPROM dev date known to exist. It may be, I don’t know for sure, but it’s got to be close. 7800 ElectroCop was shown at the 1991 CES and Juli Wade told me she had an EPROM of it on a cartridge in her desk but wouldn’t share it with me. I had hoped John Skruch would. I don’t know if ElectroCop was one of the batch of 7800 games still in development as late as 1993 or not, but the other ones definitely were. It would be cool if we could find those hidden away somewhere in my warehouse office too. It may take time to get this all sorted, but we will figure out what we have and I will report back here on my Blog with more updates as we make progress. Stay tuned!
    Thanks for reading,
    - Lance  
    Please visit me online for more at www.atarisales.com
  7. Like
    DegasElite reacted to Wumperdinkle Sniy for a blog entry, A month later...   
    I can't believe it's been over a month since I last posted here. Time really flies by. I finished two games: Stupidman (NES) and Flying Hamburgers (GG). Decided to go back to work on a game that I don't need very good artistic skills to work on. That would be the Odyssey 2. I worked some on a new minigame where the object is to get the Ps and avoid the Os. It needs more work for me to be happy with it, but I'm at a good stopping point so I'll stop and rest for a bit now.

    This is the last minigame I think I can fit in the game. Then it will be 8k. I'd like to make a 16k game one day but I don't know how. So I'll leave it at 8k. Since I don't have any ideas for more minigames as well.
    All my creations seem like just little doodles of mine that can move around. If I ever get this finished and released, I'd like to make a 12-page manual, two pages for each minigame and then two extra pages for something else.
  8. Like
    DegasElite reacted to Wumperdinkle Sniy for a blog entry, The end of November   
    So I have been doing a lot of work recently. I picked back up the X Vs. O game I was making for the Odyssey 2 and added a few more things.

    I added a win counter to the tic-tac-toe game, I added in the Cedar Games logo splash screen, and now I'm working on a Whack-an-O game. That is what the last picture is. No game play has been added yet. But I will add O's to whack and X's to not whack hopefully soon.
    I was really sleepy after getting up at 10p.m. so I went to sleep at around 4:30a.m. When I woke up, it was after 5. I went into the living room and it was dark in there. To my surprise, I discovered that it wasn't 5 a.m., but 5 p.m.! I had just slept for about 12 hours, which, while easy for me to do, I wasn't expecting to do that after only being awake for 6 1/2 hours. I guess I'm really sleepy and as a result, I sleep much more than a normal person would. At any given time, you could say, "Hey, Wumperdinkle, go to sleep!" and I would be able to. I know it's probably not good for my health, but I lose weight more if I'm not eating anything, lol.
    I made some more webcomics. To last until the end of the year. I'll continue into the next year. I've been doing them since 2006! Various comic series. I find it easier to make ones where there's no recurring characters, and it's just a gag. I call that one "Jukebox Quiz." Right now though I'm focusing on one about a zamboni driver and his wife called "The Life of a Zamboni Driver."
  9. Like
    DegasElite reacted to Video 61 for a blog entry, HOW I SURVIVED 4 INCARNATIONS OF ATARI IN 40 YEARS   
    Monday, September 18, 2023
      Hi and welcome to Lance’s Laboratory! This is the third 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  more than 40 years!
    I need to update my website about my longevity. I always have so much to do. Anyway, with everything going on in the Atari world right now, I had some thoughts from these 40 something years as an Atari dealer that I wanted to share with you. I have now survived at least FOUR incarnations of “Atari”. I started as an Atari dealer in 1983 under Atari, Inc. - “Warner’s Atari.” I really didn’t know anyone there.

    Steve Ross, CEO of Warner Communications in 1983. Steve Ross is not often spoken of within the Atari community, but it was Steve Ross who bought Atari from Nolan Bushnell, who both hired and fired Ray Kassar, who single handedly took control of Atari in 1983 often showing up in person to run the company, who ultimately sought out Jack Tramiel with a deal to take Atari off his hands, and who orchestrated the Time-Warner merger.
    Atari dealers at the time were contacted and supported by dealer representatives who were supported by Warner Communications and would occasionally stop by the stores. I had a good one that supplied me with lots of dealer cartridges, floppy disks, and promotional materials. This is essentially the same way PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo support their retailers today, with reps who go into the stores to update the demo games in kiosks and make sure there’s current promotional signage in the stores. They usually have goodies to give to the workers too.
    One day my Atari dealer rep came into my store and announced “This might be the last time I see you. A new owner is taking over… everything is up in the air, and the rumor is he does not support his operations in… let’s say… “a traditional way.”
    That was Jack Tramiel, later on affectionately known as “Jack".
    He was right. That was the last time I ever saw my friendly dealer rep, and I never heard another word from Atari until the Atari ST computer was released.
    Alan Alda from the popular TV show M*A*S*H* was a celebrity spokesperson for Atari Home Computers during the Warner Communications era of Atari. (1984)
    All high-paid celebrity endorsements were dropped when Jack Tramiel took over.
    One day out of the blue I received a packet along with an Atari ST with some software. Gone were the days of glossy print ads in National Geographic, and sophisticated TV commercials with Alan Alda, the popular actor who played “Hawkeye” on the top TV show M*A*S*H* and was Atari’s spokesperson. The Atari ST that I was sent came with the instructions that - as a dealer - it was up to ME to educate my customers about the new Atari ST computer line, and it was up to ME to support and sell the machine as support from Atari would be minimal. STUNNING, to say the least.
    This began the second incarnation of “Atari” - Atari Corporation, or Atari Corp., - “Jack’s Atari”. This was the incarnation of Atari that I was most involved in, and had a lot of day-to-day interaction with. That was sometime in 1985.
    I did not hear from Atari again until 1986 or possibly 1987. It’s been so long that it’s difficult to remember the exact timeline, but around that time I received a letter from Atari Corporation with a hefty “release schedule” of games lined up for the Atari 2600, Atari 7800, and Atari XEGS. I was impressed! For nearly two years it was crickets out of Atari, and finally we were receiving real support and a commitment for new games.
    At the time, the only real major supporter of the Atari 2600 was Activision. It felt like they were the only kid on the block. Atari had been quiet, and most other third party publishers like Imagic, Coleco, M-Network and Parker Bros. hadn’t survived the crash. Activision was still with us though, and at Video 61 Kung-Fu Masters, Ghostbusters, and Pitfall II were serious strong sellers.

    Jack Tramiel with the Atari ST
    When I received the new release schedule from Atari, I thought “Hey, maybe the new owners figured it out!” There was still plenty of life left in Atari, even for the 2600, which I could see in my stores. To my dismay, many of Atari’s newly announced titles never came even close to being released on time, or worse - never came at all!
    This was very frustrating because I could see the demand for new Atari stuff and yet the Atari potential was being pissed away. There’s this common belief that “The Atari 7800 was released in 1986.” That’s not really true. I had received a few 7800s from Warner’s Atari Inc. in 1984, and they sold quickly. This was in Minnesota, not California or New York City. I never got a thing from Atari again until 1986.
    So as Nintendo took America by storm with Mario, Zelda and Metroid on the NES, and with Atari being run so poorly, I thought the jig was up.

    "When I received the new release schedule from Atari, I thought 'Hey, maybe the new owners figured it out!' There was still plenty of life left in Atari, even for the 2600 which I could see in my stores. To my dismay, many of Atari's newly announced titles never came even close to being released on time, or worse - never came at all."
    - Lance
    Then came the fury. After defaulting on their release schedule and missing any new releases at all one Christmas season in 1988, I was outraged. I picked up the phone and called Atari. I wasn’t just a customer, I was in business with Atari as a dealer responsible for a percentage of all Atari games sold that year. I was helping make them money. When I called Atari, I was given the run around about “how hard it was to keep these games in stock” and “how hard it was to bring out new games.” I interrupted the lady and told her what she was saying was word for word what Nintendo was saying to their distributors - she broke down and agreed that what she had been instructed to say was not really the case.
    Later on I came to find out about certain “business details” and “practices” that were happening under “Jack’s Atari” which made it clear to me HOW and WHY Atari had missed so many release dates, launch windows, and even lost new releases, but thats a whole other story that we will go into another time in an upcoming Blog entry.

    Jack's Atari: This was the incarnation of Atari that I had the most day-to-day involvement with
    I continued on the phone and was trying to be nice. It wasn’t this nice lady’s fault that she had been instructed to lie. So I asked what can be done. I was sent “upstairs" and told that Atari "had messed up and badly damaged the market" and had really had messed up in my region of the country, the upper midwest. Sales and support in our part of the country needed help, and I was asked by Atari Corp. to become a service department and distributor for Atari. I was stunned. I dealt with other Atari dealers, but it was mostly to buy or trade what was needed.
    I said yes. I was blown away later on when I found out how just badly Atari had shrunk. They had lost almost 90% of their workforce. Yet the "Atari" brand still commanded household name recognition and selling power, which they underutilized thanks to certain business ideologies and practices from the Tramiel family.
    Here is a link to my Atari distribution paperwork, which is hosted on my website:
    I became really enmeshed in this as Atari sent me to deal directly with third parties, who I then bought from as what’s known as “direct". During this time I got to know many good people in third party companies like Activision, Avalon Hill, S.S.I., Datasoft, Eypx, Sierra Online, Microprose and more.
    As an Atari distributer I purchased immense amounts - truckloads - of games and software direct from Atari and all third parties at the time. When Atari pulled the plug, I had about 250,000 pieces of software in my warehouse. Today it’s dwindled to under 40,000 pieces left.

    Jack Tramiel's son Sam Tramiel took over leadership of Atari in the mid-'90s with Jack's continued close involvement.
    Was the Atari ST named after Sam Tramiel? Was TOS the "Tramiel Operating System?"

    Jack Tramiel and wife Helen in their retirement years

    Jack Tramiel traveling the world
    After Jack Tramiel pulled the plug on Lynx, Jaguar and the Atari computers, I could see what he was doing. Sam wasn’t going to save the company, and J.T.S. Corporation - an Indian hard drive manufacturer founded after the Jaguar’s launch - acquired Atari though a “reverse merger”. (Was Atari, as an entire company, "laundered" through J.T.S. so it came out nice and clean to be able to sell to a potential buyer?)
    This lead to Atari, or what IPs and documentation was left of it, being sold to Hasbro. This became the third iteration of the of Atari that I dealt with, “Hasbro’s Atari.”
    When Atari was sold to Hasbro, Atari gave Hasbro a list of contacts. I was one of them. Not only for service, parts, and software, but I was also Atari Corporation’s person who interacted with movie studios and television networks. Atari no longer had the game systems, computers, many times the software and games, nor the man power to supply the entertainment industry with Atari “props” when filming a movie or tv show that was to feature Atari in it.
    Atari just sent them to me for systems, computers and games, and I supplied the movie studios and television networks with what was needed, under the license agreement from Atari.

    One day I got a call from Hasbro, and very arrogantly told me that they would do the supplying, and the legacy Atari market was really no interest of theirs. They were going to release new games for new platforms.
    I supplied Atari items to Columbia Pictures (now Sony) Warner’s of course, Paramount, 20th Century Fox and others. I almost got some footage into one of the Alien movies, but Fox still owed me money from Fox Sports, and they could not come to agreements with “Jack". Many TV shows had my Atari stuff in it, one name I remember was The King of Queens, there was an Atari 7800 and Video Olympics if I remember right.

    Atari 2600 and 5200 game cartridges on NBC's cult classic show Freaks and Geeks (2000)
    Later on, my contact at Paramount studios was dismayed they could no longer get legacy Atari hardware and software for their productions, and that Hasbro’s Atari would only supply them with the newest games, which in the case of the studios and networks, was not what they wanted. I apologized to her, and said my hands were tied, "I can’t do a thing."  These people at Hasbro were clueless as to what they bought. They didn’t understand what Atari was, what they still had, or the potential even for legacy markets. Hasbro really messed up quickly, and quickly sold Atari off.
    Meanwhile - almost daily - ever since “Jack” sold off Atari, I would get calls from disgruntled stock holders, former suppliers, and people who were owed money by Atari. Some even made threats of suing me, because in their eyes, I was Atari. That lasted even into the early Infogrames days, which is what came next.
    The French company Infogrames Entertainment SA acquired Atari in January, 2001 as the biggest part of their purchase of Hasbro’s software division “Hasbro Interactive”, which also included MicroProse, and Hasbro’s game.com monochrome handheld system which was a joke compared to what the Atari Lynx could do, even years later, and couldn’t compete contemporaneously against Game Boy Color.
    This began the fourth incarnation of Atari - “Infogrames Atari” or “French Atari” which now goes by Atari, SA. (Infogrames rebranded themselves as Atari in 2003 and began releasing games like Splashdown, Driver 2, The Matrix and Ghostbusters for modern game systems of the time.)

    Splashdown was one of the first new "Atari" games released by Infogrames in November, 2001
    The cover art featured branding for both Atari and Infogrames
    Infogrames never contacted me period, until one day a fellow named “Wim” (not sure of the spelling…) gave me a call. I tried to enter him into my contacts database, he would not spell his name for me, and acted quite annoyed that he even had to speak with me.
    I found out that Infogrames had an operation that was local to me in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Minneapolis / St. Paul, in a suburb named Plymouth I think.
    “Wim” wanted to know who I was, and he was looking for certain items. He would discuss nothing, could care less about Atari’s legacy, knew that many, many people were looking for Atari service, parts, games etc., but "Wim" was only interested in my Atari 2600 power supplies, Atari 7800 power supplies, TV switch boxes and R.F. cables.
    He demanded to buy them all. I said no. “What about my customers?” I retorted … let alone the legacy Atari systems that found their way to me.

    "Wim" had no interest in the Atari legacy, nor the history I was privy to, and had lived through much of. "Wim" only wanted to get the people off his back who were looking for those particular legacy parts. Why?
    I found this simply amazing. Here I was, and of course the two other legacy dealers (we’ll get into that in a minute) who could step in and help Atari’s legacy customers, and help guide Infogrames in making decisions around the needs and potential of the legacy market.
    I thought to myself "Here we go again!” Never interacted with them directly again, only indirectly when I was contacted by a debt collector wanting to know “what happened to Atari" as they were owed money. Something I have heard about many times before before, and I thought “Man, will this ever end?”
    I told the collector Atari was now located in New York, last time I heard. As it turned out the collector ended up being an old friend from high school that I hadn’t seen in decades.. small world indeed!

    "'Wim' wanted to know who I was, and he was looking for certain items. He would discuss nothing, could care less about Atari's legacy, knew that many, many people were looking for Atari service, parts, games, etc. but Wim was only interested in my Atari power supplies, switch boxes and R.F. cables... Why?"
    - Lance
    Here we are, now well over 20 years since Infogrames acquired Atari and has become the longest owner of the name, with new products being developed - finally - around Atari’s greatest strengths - it’s legacy.
    So that's the history of my involvement with the many evolving incarnations of Atari. The history in my eyes that counts the most, was the "Jack" era. The stories, what happened within those walls, what they pulled off and what they got away with - it’s almost too amazing to be true.
    When "Jack" merged with J.T.S., the government would only allow the "reverse merger" to proceed if Atari kept the American market supported. That was ignored entirely, and Atari was sold to Hasbro.
    The other two legacy dealers are Bruce at B&C Computervisions who started in 1984, and Brad at Best Electronics who started in 1985. I was introduced to both of them by Atari Corp.
    Together, the three of us became heavily involved day to day under “Jack's" Atari. This is just a minor rundown in who I am in the Atari world, and I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences with you. Today, after over 40 years, I continue to march forward in the legacy Atari world, still providing sales and support, and developing new games which I hope will continue to entertain and dazzle Atari players for generations to come.
    What comes next?
    Thanks for reading,
    - Lance  
    Please visit me online for more at www.atarisales.com
  10. Like
    DegasElite reacted to Video 61 for a blog entry, WHY DO ATARI XEGS CARTRIDGES RATTLE?   
    Saturday, November 11, 2023
      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 more than 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,
    - Lance  
    Please visit me online for more at www.atarisales.com
  11. Like
    DegasElite reacted to Atari 5200 Guy for a blog entry, First Time Playing Crossbow   
    I have had this game called Crossbow in my collection for a while now.  It is for the XE computers.  Tonight, I played it for the first time.  Keep in mind that I have never played this game before let alone heard of it. How did I do?  I got 478,000 points.  I have no clue if that is good or bad because it doesn't take long to start racking up points in this game.

    Did I enjoy the game?  Oh yes!  I even played a second game but did not do as well.  I have yet to discover how to reach the Evil Master.  But I have to admit that this is a really nice piece of software.  The graphics look really good, especially the environments.  The sounds are good and I swear the friends dying is almost digitized.
    I believe this is one of the most active light gun games I have ever played on any console.  Well...almost.  Gumshoe on the NES required a lot of trigger pulling as well but on the Atari this one is easily one of the more trigger-happy games on the system.  That I'm aware of.  One characteristic aspect if the game that I find a bit odd is the cartridge design.  I use to seeing the small gray ribbed edges.  The Crossbow cartridge is different.  Then again it might have done that way because of the XE computers and where their cartridge slots are.  I use an XEGS so I tend to forget about the XE computer design.

    Regardless of the cartridge design it is probably one of the best light gun games on the system.  Im glad to have it.  Y'all need to play this one.
  12. Like
    DegasElite reacted to Video 61 for a blog entry, WELCOME TO MY LAB!   
    Hi and welcome to Lance’s Laboratory! This is the first post of what will be my personal blog sharing small slices of life with you from within my Lab.
    For those of you who are just getting to know me for the first time, my name is Lance, I’m from Minnesota, and for nearly 40 years I’ve been in the Atari business operating Video 61, one of the last surviving original retail Atari distributors. We started in the video business as a local chain of video rental stores serving the Twin Cities area with locations along U.S. Highway 61, the road that musician Bob Dylan referred to in the album and song Highway 61 Revisited.
    I also love classic movies and spending time with my family and friends at my cabin up north. For decades I’ve gotten to know you guys as my customers and friends, buying, selling and remanufacturing Atari systems, games, software, and computers, and developing my own line of Atari-compatible Video 61 games and controllers.
    I’m still in my Lab working away dreaming up new creations and shipping off new original Atari products, and I thought after all these years of being in the Atari community it was time to start sharing tidbits of Minnesota life with you here on my blog. To old friends and new, WELCOME!
    - Lance 

  13. Like
    DegasElite reacted to dgrubb for a blog entry, In defence of emulation   
    A common sentiment found among retro-computing enthusiasts is that there's nothing quite like the real thing. It's understandable, computers and game consoles (i.e., computers disguised as toys and appliances) are physical items and our happy nostalgic memories are complimented by recollections of touch and heft: the feedback of button clicks, shunting cartridges into slots, and so on. However, there's a particular aficionado - we've all met him, he's a member of every fan group and forum - whose affection for real hardware gives way to an unpleasant snobbery. A "true fan" would never emulate, he says, implying that a gaming community is only a place for those with disposable income, space, and a nihilistic acceptance that the platform will die with the original hardware.
    I'm certainly not arguing against the value of hardware and experiences which come with it, we're all in agreement of its importance, but I do insist that emulation is also a first class citizen without which a platform has no future.
    Ashes to hardware ashes
    Take the Atari Jaguar; fewer than 250,000 are known to have been produced, with even fewer numbers of accessories such as CD-ROM drives. Of that number a great deal will have been owned by people with no interest in preservation. Many Jaguars have likely been dumped in the trash along with an avalanche of VCRs. Of the survivors many will suffer electrical faults due to old-age (the dreaded open-circuit capacitor problem). Many more will simply be damaged in accidents.
    This is already a serious problem for CD-ROM units which were produced in much smaller numbers than the console itself and are notoriously failure prone - although, arguably, no more so than other CD-ROM drives from the time.
    Taking the long view there will be a time when, for most people, original hardware will no longer be a viable way to access the content produced for the platform!
    New developments
    This is perhaps the strongest argument in favour of emulation. New content is vital for a platform and emulation is key to lowering the barrier in producing new content. In the late 70s it took highly skilled programmers with excellent design sense (a very select cross-section of personality) months to produce new games for the Atari 2600 using mainframe computers costing thousands of dollars. Today, a cheap PC with the Stella emulator, which includes an excellent debugger and the ability to step through program execution and inspect the emulated Atari's emulated state. Imagine what those original Atari and Activision programmers could have achieved in an afternoon with such capabilities! Imagine what today's programmers, of all kinds of skill levels, can achieve!
    A more thoughtful perspective
    I highly recommend that anybody with an interest in retro-gaming listen to Frank Cifaldi's GDC talk on the subject of emulation. It's witty, thought-provoking and quite brilliant. There's a lot to unpack, but in under an hour he touches on numerous relevant subjects such as preservation, the ethics of piracy, and how emulation can be leveraged in the most positive (and commercial!) ways:

  14. Like
    DegasElite reacted to Atari 5200 Guy for a blog entry, Small Size, Big Heart   
    What to write about?  I know I want to write about the 2600 but I just don't know where to begin.  Do I talk more about the iconic woody console or the Junior model?  I don't have much to say about controllers because it's either paddle, driving, keypad, or more joystick designs than anyone could fathom.  Games?  Do I talk more about games that I have managed to pick up since my last post?  I might have to think on this a bit more.  While I'm thinking...
    As I sit here writing this there is a 2600 Junior model sitting in front of me.  Recently acquired in unknown condition I spent the better part of a day taking it apart all the way down to the motherboard and gave it a good cleaning.  Wondering why I couldn't get bubbles off the chrome strip I finally discovered that the protective covering had never been taken off.  Nice surprise.  So I removed it.  I couldn't let all that moisture remain trapped and ruining that beautiful chrome strip.  It still has some color issues I have to work out but is functional otherwise.
    Since I'm here, and more Atari games have been added to my collection, I'll do a bit of an updated version of my favorite cartridges.  Keep in mind these are personal favorites solely based on two factors...they are favorites and played the most.  Let's get started.
    Favorite Black Label Carts

    I have two black label favorites.  Video Chess and Yar's Revenge.  Yar's Revenge was a 2600 title I could have seen as a Saturday Morning cartoon show.  It wasn't until a recent Squad Challenge that the true nature of this game proved to me just how challenging Yar's could really be.  Because of that, and the few years I've been biased about the 2600 in general, that this game moved up the ranks as a favorite and played often.  It's arcade-style game play is rock solid and sure to give the joystick a workout.
    Video Chess is my go-to black label game when I want to play a relaxing game.  I still haven't managed to beat the computer but I enjoy playing Chess and don't really have a human opponent to go up against.  I'm not a pro at the game but I enjoy this classic strategy game.  I have never found a perfect computerized Chess game either and the 2600 is not without its own flaws.  However the 2600 is a very strong opponent no matter which skill level you attempt at trying to win.  And it will always plan its next moves carefully but at times it seems as if its first few moves are preset.  Still fun, though.
    Favorite Silver Label Cart

    One of my favorite games on the 5200 is Vanguard so it shouldn't be no surprise that the 2600 port of Vanguard became a favorite.  I love the artwork on the label and surprised that it isn't the same one that was used on the 5200 as was often done.  Compared to the 5200 port Vanguard on the 2600 seems a bit more challenging and a bit more unforgiving.  One mistake can mean sudden death.  I also believe this is the only 2600 game I have that has a continue feature.  It's also the only one where the player can move diagonally while firing because you can't do that in the 5200 port.   Graphics in this game are absolutely stunning and the sounds are not much different from the 5200.  I do miss the music that plays during some of the vertical scrolling segments.  I also miss the Striped Zone that is absent in the 2600 port.  And I have yet to destroy the end boss before it takes me down.  Believe it or not, I never knew this was an arcade game for the longest time until I discovered an actual cab during the NES days.  Very well made 2600 port with very little to no flicker issues.  My favorite shoot'em up on the 2600.
    Favorite Adventure Cart

    For most other 2600 gamers Adventure might be their favorite adventure-style game but for me Dark Chambers has slightly taken an edge above Adventure.  I enjoy having to figure out the levels to find items and exits that are often hidden.  I also enjoy having to go through the level screens to figure out how to reach those items.  For this reason this game gets more play time than Adventure in my library.  I personally think it is even slightly better than the 7800 version.  That one looks better but, as NSG has mentioned, if only it would have taken the game play concept of hidden items to find the 7800 version might have been the better game.  But, alas, the 2600 once again shows just how well it can capture a gamer's attention and hold it when properly developed for.  And Dark Chambers is one of those games.  I've not been able to spend as much time with it as I would like to fully enjoy it but what little I have played of it I keep finding myself spending more time in every level trying to find items than what is probably required.  Seriously, I've spent about 15 minutes in some levels.
    Favorite Pinball Cart

    Again, it should be no surprise that Midnight Magic makes for one of my most played 2600 games.  I like Video Pinball but at times you just sit there waiting to do something.  Midnight Magic manages to capture some of the pure essence that makes pinball tables fun.  There are targets, bumpers, a spinner, kickbacks, dual flippers, rollover targets...this game has the basics that are perfectly placed and captures what made some of the early pinball tables memorable.  Knock down all the targets at the top and the game goes into double points.  The table also changes color and plays a short tune.  Knocking down targets again advances the multiplier all the way up to five times the points obtained.  Lose your ball, however, and it's back to single points again.  Do it right and the player can obtain extra balls.  Lose all five balls and the game is over.  Easy to pick up and play, no flickering, and it looks good.  I'm also a little partial to this game because when I got my very first paycheck the NES and Sega Genesis were on the market.  Instead of buying anything for either of those I picked up a new 2600 Junior, Jr. Pac-Man, and this game.  All for about $50.  I played Midnight Magic the most.
    Favorite Arcade Cart

    The 2600 got lots of arcade ports.  While the limitations of the system kept most ports from looking like their arcade parents the game play managed to remain intact.  Two arcade ports stand out in my collection.  Space Invaders and Gyruss.  Space Invaders was the very first Atari game I remember playing many moons ago on a store display.  Dangling from a chain I put the game in and quit playing only when it was time to leave.  This game was the one that introduced me to Atari, the VCS, and the only reason why I kept hoping for one.
    Gyruss, on the other hand, was a game I remember playing in arcades and enjoyed it immediately.  I must have been sleeping when Parker Bros. ported this game over to various consoles.  Being fairly new to my collection Gyruss on the 2600 has quickly become a favorite.  It might not be graphically impressive but the game play is there and the music that constantly plays in the arcade was put in the 2600 port in all of it's 2-channel glory.  And it's really not all that bad.  Missing are the sound effects because the music constantly playing doesn't leave room for any sound effects.  A valiant effort that is a very worthwhile cart to play.  One of my favorite arcade games and one of my now favorite 2600 games.  Space Invaders and Gyruss.  What more could one ask for?
    Favorite Dot Munching Cart

      Mouse Trap is an easy to pick-up and play dot munching game where the player controls a mouse.  The object is to eat all the dots in the maze of which I'm not entirely certain what they are suppose to be.  In each of the four corners of the maze are X's that change the player into a dog temporarily when the fire button is pressed.  This helps keep the cats chasing the mouse at bay.  A unique feature of this game is the ability to change the maze by opening and closing doors.  Doing this can help block cats from catching the mouse.  Originally released on the 2600 by Coleco of ColecoVision fame the cart I has is the re-release Atari did with a red label.  Still an easy game to pick up and play today.  This one and Jr Pac-Man get lots of attention but I find myself coming back to this one more often.
    Favorite 3rd-Party Carts

    Fast Eddie and Planet Patrol are great 3rd-party 2600 games.  I'm sure there are others but I have to base this post on games I have in my collection.  Something about Fast Eddie is addictive.  The ladders are vary in position with each game played, enemy characters are basic but challenging, and the only real thing the player has to do is collect things like hearts, tanks, fish, etc., to grab a key being guarded by the enemy at the top.  It's a bit of Popeye (the collecting hearts part) mashed up with Lode Runner in a easier format.  Very colorful game that is fun for hours on end.
    Planet Patrol is another shoot 'em up on the 2600.  The only real difference is the changing of day to night, destroying enemies and reactors/power plants, and scrolling from right to left over left to right or vertically.  A bit unusual.  What makes this so appealing to me are the small details of this game.  Easy to pick up and play, takes a while to master.  I also love the chrome label, something rarely seen.  It's very attractive and I could see how eye appealing that package would have been sitting next to other games, fighting to be taken home.  It does that now in a large library of 2600 carts.  
    Favorite Activision Cart

    It's almost unlawful to mention the 2600 without thinking immediately about the first 3rd-party game developer known as Activision.  Activision literally pushed the 2600 as hard as they could and, in the end, it paid off.  Almost every title they released for the 2600 was an instant classic.  While I enjoy all Activision games in my collection the two that I go to the most are Enduro and Space Shuttle.  
    Enduro took me completely by surprise in 1988 when I picked up a used 2600 with a bunch of games.  This cart was one of the games included and when I first plugged it in I expected it to be a Pole Position rip-off.  The next thing I know I had been playing it for over an hour and forced myself to stop when it was time for dinner.  I was in 8th grade then.  Enduro left such an impression that I would have an agonizing 24 hour wait time to return home to play it again.  To help with that I woke up an hour early to get a game in before having to get ready for school.  Space Invaders game me a reason to want an Atari, Enduro gave me a reason to hang on to one.  Enough said.
    Space Shuttle.  Gee, where do I begin with this one?  You're a NASA astronaut and your mission is to dock with a satellite in space currently orbiting the Earth.  Sounds simple, right?  Then you give it a shot and wonder why in God's name you can't seem to leave the planet without killing you and your crew members.  Then you grab the manual for some pointers.  It is at this precise moment you realize what you have plugged into your 2600.  This isn't a game...this is a simulator.  The author wanted to capture as much as he could about space flight that he literally went to NASA and participated in learning everything the astronauts have to do and even used NASA's flight simulators used for training.  I would have to say that his efforts paid off in probably the only simulation game made on the 2600.  The amount of detail in unreal.  Every switch on the 2600 does something to the space shuttle.  There's a switch for running gear, brakes, deploying parachute when landing...let's see what else?...one to turn on ignition I think...it's unreal!  The instructions alone are like a shortened step into NASA's school.  The manual is thick and can take a lot of time alone to absorb.  But it is also probably the most expensive instruction book made for any 2600 game ever.  Full color, exploded views of an actual space shuttle, step-by-step instructions on what you are suppose to do.  And it's on the 2600 to boot.  I'm not very good at it but I keep finding myself coming back to this simulator because its visuals and sounds are absolutely amazing to me.  I consider this one of Activision's, and Steve's, holy grail.  If only today's games went this far.  I believe there was only one other game to do something similar but it was at least a decade after Space Shuttle.  For those that wanted to be astronauts but never did...here's your chance.  This is as close as it gets.
    Favorite Paddle Game

    The 2600 had plenty of games but it also had plenty of controller options.  I don't know how many times I would play a 2600 game without paying attention only to realize I needed paddle controllers.  For the longest time I felt the paddle controllers for the 2600 could have been better.  Once I found Warlords, however, that thought quickly changed.  It didn't take me long to realize just how comfortable those paddle controllers actually are.  And after hours of playing Warlords the design of the paddle controllers made sense.  What makes playing Warlords for hours on end a must on the 2600 is the fact it's a mix of Pong and Breakout put together and then shaken up with steroids in the mix.  The 2600 might not be graphically impressive but when it comes to game play it can strut its stuff like no other.  Warlords offers four-player game play either solo against three computer players or with a group humans be it they are friends or enemies.  And once the action starts it's hard to put down.  All you have to do is break down your opponents' barrier to their castle to hit the center of their castle with the ball.  That's it.  Yea...good luck with that.
    Favorite Red Label Cart

    Since I did my favorite black and silver label carts I might as well tell my favorite red label cart.  I kept wanting to put Solaris on this list but that game makes me rage quit so much that it could take me weeks to return to it.  Radar Lock on the other hand is a well done game, by the same author, using most of the same mechanics found in Solaris.  This is easily the 2600's answer to those needing an After Burner fix.  It looks good, sounds good, uses dual joysticks (one stick is used to select weapons), plays good, and is just all around fun for hours on end.  This on is probably one of the more rare red-label carts out there so if you find it I would suggest picking it up.  
    Favorite Non-Game Cart

    One cart in my collection that is not a game at all is Basic Programming.  The 2600 is interesting not only from a gaming point-of-view but also from a technical perspective.  It's hard to believe a game console designed to do strictly tank and pong games showed that it could do so much more, often times surpassing what it was originally designed for.  For the curious this cart would allow anyone with the enthusiasm and patients to write small programs for the 2600 to perform.  While it doesn't unlock the full potential of the 2600's inner workings it does give a taste of what it's like to program the 2600.  However, with the memory limitation, don't expect to write the next Adventure game as there simply isn't room.  Also, once turned off any programs you've written are erased.  Pencil and pad are your best friend.  I use this one often just to toy around with the system.  Kind of neat to see what can be done with it.
    Final Thoughts
    The 2600, no matter which model you own, has always been a small system with a big heart.  Even the almighty six switch models are not that large.  When taken down to just the heart of the system only a small footprint remains.  Big things do sometimes come in small packages and the 2600 has proven time and time again that it is very capable of entertaining for hours on end.  I still run across games that are just unbelievable in terms of what the developers managed to pull off.  Again, here is a console designed for simple Pong and Tank style games.  It was never designed to play Space Invaders, Galaxian, Gyruss, Pitfall!, or anything close to Space Shuttle...but it did those things and did them pretty well.  Truthfully, the video game genres we have today have their roots dating back to the 2600.  This is the console that started it all and it is still showing it can stand its ground against modern gaming hardware.  And that, my friends, is no small achievement.
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