Throughout this text the most recent news is at the top,
moving backwards in time (reverse-chronological order).
Checklist with stages of project
To get an idea of how close I am to being done
with the current batch of carts, review this
Final assembly, testing, etc.
||Be ready to do any necessary repairs or upgrades,
as either Murphy's Law kicks in or as a new game
ROM image is archived and becomes available.
||Check back with them to see that it arrived safely.
||Ship the completed multicart to the customer.
||Package the cartridge and the instructions carefully.
||Wait for the customer's payment to arrive.
||Play a few more games, just to enjoy yourself. By
now, you have certainly earned a little relaxation!
||Using the printed instructions, manually switch each
game on one at a time, and reset the machine. Each
game should start and play perfectly. Be sure it does.
||Insert and remove the cartridge a number of times.
Be sure that it starts and plays properly each time.
||Fix any last-minute problems that have shown up.
(By now these are mostly just small glitches caused
by momentary stupidity, such as forgetting to solder
a wire on both of its ends or something similar.)
||Do a quick pre-test of the functionality of each of the
seperate DIP switches, and of the cart itself. Certain
games are better than others for this quick pre-test;
it helps to have developed a list of what these are. Be
sure to play at least one of the largest games ROMs
to insure that all of the addressing lines are working.
||Insert the new game cartridge into a game system.
||Print out some instructions, on how to use the cart.
(At a minimum, the user needs to know what DIP
switch settings will activate each game.)
||Insert the completed circuit board into the
completed plastic case. Reinsert all case screws.
||Apply the stick-on label to the "new" plastic case.
(Be sure to get it on straight and wrinkle-free. Do
not touch the glued underside more than you must.)
||If you are going to get really fancy and put some
little dots on your row of DIP switches -- to show
which side is zero and which is one -- do it now.
||If you are going to get fancy and paint the row of
DIP switches to match the color of the plastic case,
do that now. (A paint marker works pretty well.)
Preparing the cart's plastic case
||Cut each label to size, preferably with a quality
paper cutting machine instead of ordinary scissors.
||If you are going to laminate the front side of each
label, do that now. (The local place I used to go to
for this service, no longer does it and I have not
found a suitable replacement place / method yet.)
||Hand-number and initial each printed cartridge label.
||Print out any required stick-on label artwork.
||Gently and patiently file the edges of the DIP's
small hole as needed, until the DIP switches will fit
through the case snugly but without binding. A
number of trial fittings will likely be required, but if
you take your time, it will look like a factory hole.
||Using a custom-made template, mark and cut
a small rectangular hole in each plastic case, so
the DIP switches can poke through the case. (It
helps to cut this hole slightly under-sized now, to
allow for any slight tolerances from cart to cart.)
||There are a number of "extra" steps required for
the Emerson cart, to accomodate the daughter-
board with the DIP switches. Small plastic parts
have to be cut to size and glued into the interior
of the case, to hold this daughter-board in place.
There are four areas needing these extra braces.
||Emerson cases are just barely roomy enough to
allow the main memory chip to be socketed. But
the case may still bind a bit in some instances, so it
is best to machine some of the case's interior away,
in the area just above the EPROM memory chip.
This makes the plastic a bit thinner in that area, but
since the plastic was so thick, it won't hurt anything.
||On the Emerson, there may be some small parts
in the way of things, internally; it depends on the
case style. (Best cases are the long ones without
a movable flap that covers the edge connectors.)
Cut out any internal parts that will be in the way.
||On the Bally cart, cut out one small internal brace
that is going to be in the way of the circuit board.
||Clean the plastic case, inside and out. (Some of
the worst carts are filled with dirt, dead bugs, etc.)
||Open the cartridge case up. Discard or give away
the existing game ROM chip and the circuit board
inside; no part of it can be re-used for this project.
||Get rid of any label glue residue left on the cart.
||Remove any existing printed labels from the cart.
It helps to heat them with a high-watt hair dryer.
||Locate and buy an existing game
cartridge so you
can re-use the plastic case that it came in. This is
often much easier said than done, even on eBay!
Circuit board assembly
||The Emerson has a simpler main circuit board but
it has a second, smaller "daughter-board" as well.
To hook these two boards together up, a length
of ribbon cable has to be cut to length, stripped on
both ends (nine wires) and tinned with solder. One
end of this small cable is soldered to each board.
||Add the 12 required jumper wires to all Bally carts.
||Add any required jumper wires to all Emerson
carts. (There are six total.) These wires must all
have been cut to length first, then had parts of their
insulation carefully stripped off. Solder one side of
each wire where it goes, then solder the other side.
Then repeat the process with the next jumper wire.
||Insert either a 32-pin chip socket (Emerson) or
the actual EPROM memory chip (Bally) onto the
circuit board. Solder this into place.
||Insert any required support chips. Solder them in.
||Insert a small de-coupling capacitor. Solder it in.
||Insert one set of eight DIP switches. Solder it in.
||Insert either eight individual resistors, or one
"resistor pack" and one resistor. Solder them in.
||Insert any required wires that electrically connect
both sides of the board together. Solder them in.
Preparing the memory chip
||Check if the chip was 100% perfectly programmed.
||Program one EPROM memory chip per cart with
the game ROM image contents of that multicart.
||Check to be sure the chip is erased perfectly.
||Erase the contents of one EPROM memory chip
using a special type of light, to prepare it for use.
Circuit board creation
The bulk of my time is spent creating circuit boards
from scratch. Once this stage is over with, I feel like
I am "over the hump" and am moving downhill ...
||Make sure the board fits snugly into the case, in
exactly the position it is supposed to be in. File
it gently wherever needed, to position it perfectly.
If it is loose or crooked, the cartridge will not work.
(Even factory-made Emerson carts can be touchy.)
||Sand down any rough edges or sharp spots. (You
may want to bevel some of the edges slightly, too.)
||Sand the edges down, to the board's final shape.
||Cut each actual board out of the sheet of raw
material, in the final shape it is supposed to be in.
(It is best to cut the board slightly over-size now.)
||Carefully paint the board's surface with varnish,
to keep the copper from corroding over time. Do
both sides, avoiding edge connectors and so on.
||Re-clean the board's surface, if necessary.
||Hand-number each PC board.
||Lightly cover each cartridge edge connector pin
with solder, then remove most of the solder. Clean
off all soldering flux. (The result makes a stronger
and easier-to-clean coating than the bare copper.)
||Drill lots of tiny holes in each board -- 79 for the
Emerson multicart or 124 for the Bally cartridge.
||Clean the etch resist coating off of each board.
||Etch each board -- a special acid eats away any
part of the circuit that isn't supposed to be there.
||Develop each board using special chemicals.
||Expose each board to special light, through a
custom-made circuit board photo-mask.
||Spray each board with a light-sensitive coating
and allow it to dry well. Repeat for other side.
||Clean each board's surface really well.
||Buy any required chemicals.
||Buy the raw copper-plated PC board material.
Go to the top of this page
Producing copies of the multicarts and shipping
them out to customers
To see the general rules of how I am handling all of my orders,
click here. To get a better
idea of where I am in the overall process, scroll upwards to see
what steps remain undone.
||Late Dec. 2001 to present
|Batches 2 and 3
||Early Nov. 2001 to late Dec. 2001
||Late Oct. 2001 to early Nov. 2001
||Mid Aug. 2001 to late Oct. 2001
||Apr. 2001 to mid Aug. 2001
Fourth batch of carts:
Things should start up again in early January, right after the holidays
end. With any luck, all of my past experimentation and learning
experiences should add up to faster turn-around time from now on?
Dec 28. Asked the four people that are ordering carts so far, what numbers
they wanted on their carts. May go looking for a few supplies today to prepare
for the work ahead, but I'm mostly still in "holiday mode" right now,
since it is my birthday today. "Happy birthday to me, Happy birthday
to me...." :-)
Dec 27. I'm trying to get some of my most critical supplies; I can't start
another batch without them. I called up the place that sells the
spray sensitizer that I need to start on my new PC boards, but was told nobody
would be in their offices again until the 2nd of January. (I'll still
try to get the other supplies I need, in the meantime.)
Dec 23. It is becoming apparent to me that there is often some
overlap between batches whether
I plan for it or not? I have decided to try making that
official from now on, and see how it goes. (One list of "official"
orders as originally planned, but also some extra PC boards being made up
at the beginning of the process, for sale towards the end of the
batch.) This is still all a big experiment in some ways, with my plans
Go to the top of this page
third batches of carts:
Working on twenty-four total carts during this time period: twelve each
of the Bally and Emerson models. Batch two consisted of eight Bally
carts and six Emerson carts. I intentionally made more than
I needed to fill the official orders on batch two; these "extra carts"
then became batch three. A lot of additional ROM image archiving also went
on during this period, which made both of the game ROM libraries more
complete. There was also a huge learning curve that took place this
time around, which I am glad I won't have to repeat later.
Dec 27. Shipped out five more carts; one Bally cart by itself, and
two pairs of both carts. This catches me up with all of the pre-paid
orders, once more. I only have three more pairs of carts to ship, once payment
arrives for those carts. (Two people planned to send me payments but got
too busy to do so, with the holidays and all.) Mike White called me up
from Ohio by phone, and told me that he has now confirmed that the recent
updates are all fine, on the Bally cartridge. All of the bad ROM dumps were
corrected, and everything works as well as it is supposed to. (Given that
some games were either never finished, or were written by non-professionals.)
Dec 26. Worked on polishing the main Multicart FAQ up a bit, but mostly I
just goofed off due to the holidays. (I am happy to report that at least
one of my young nephews is now solidly hooked on playing
"classic" games, thanks to the new Atari 2600 system they now have.
And one other loves a few of my Bally's games, too.)
Dec 24 and 25. I'm officially "on strike" to celebrate Christmas with my
family members. My little nephews, by the way, are getting introduced to
classic gaming whether they like it or not -- they're getting an Atari 2600.
Dec 23. Added the 12 required jumper wires to each of the five remaining
unfinished Bally carts. Tested all of those carts; they work fine. I just
need to put them in their cases now, and add their labels, and
then they will be ready to ship out. I also made some minor
Multicart FAQ clarifications in preparation for the next batch of multicarts,
which will begin soon. Over the last few days I have found buyers for nearly
all of the "batch three" multicarts that were made in excess of "batch two"
orders. These were buyers that promised me long ago that they could
pay at any time, whenever I asked for payment. (I still have two
nearly-completed Emerson carts left as of this afternoon, but all
of the completed Bally carts are spoken for now.)
Since I'm so close to the end of these two
batches now, I sent out a bulk e-mail today to everyone that was
on my waiting lists, to see who wants to move up to "Phase Four" of
the multicart ordering process. Since the experiment of two
combined batches worked OK this time -- one official and one sort of
winging it -- I'll probably try it again, next time?
Dec 22. Mostly a day off to catch up on Holiday chores. I did add
the 12 jumpers to one Bally cart using the new and improved assembly
procedures I came up with yesterday. (It took less time and was far
Dec 21. Shipped two carts out; one each of the Emerson and Bally
multicarts. This catches me up with all of the pre-paid orders to date,
again. Made a revised in-house assembly procedure for the 12 Bally jumper
Dec 20. Finished assembling and testing two multicarts, for a customer from
batch three that paid for his carts earlier today. (He had put in a "I can
pay at anytime" order with me, weeks ago.) I'll be shipping those out to
him tomorrow. I have the remaining three Emerson carts from batch two
all completed and ready for shipping now. (I also finished one extra up for
my own personal use -- I actually didn't have one for myself, until
today. Imagine that?! That's either cool or pathetic; I'm not 100% sure
which?) I'm in very good shape Emerson-wise because even after all that
I still have four more Emerson multicarts that are completed to the point
that I just need to insert an EPROM chip into the board, and
then put them into a case. (But I ran out of EPROMs and will have to
order at least four more soon. I guess this means that I'm planning
ahead for batch four, now?) I still have to add all of the twelve required
jumpers on the remaining six Bally carts, then I'll be 100% finished with
all of the carts in these two batches. Then I can start thinking
about batch number four -- after a few holidays off!
Dec 19. Shipped six carts out; three each of the Emerson and Bally
multicarts. This catches me up with all of the pre-paid orders. (The
others are still in progress, and will most likely be ready to ship by week's
end. But I'm still waiting for payment to arrive, so it is sort of a
moot point.) I'm going to goof off today; go to the movies.
Dec 18. Soldered eleven Emerson daughterboards to their main PC boards. (I'm
only one daughterboard short, for the dozen main PC boards I have now.)
Plugged in and tested seven completed Emerson PC board sets; all
of the ones needed for this batch, plus one for myself.
Hand-fitted seven PC board sets into their plastic cases. Carefully
hand-fitted the DIP switches through the holes in all seventeen of my
currently available Emerson cart cases. Applied front and
rear labels to the seven completed Emerson carts. Added the twelve jumper
wires to the three Bally cartridges that will be shipped out very soon. Plugged
those three carts in and made sure they work, using a specially made
"test case". Hand-fitted six Bally PC boards into their cases;
all of the carts for this batch. Hand-fitted the six Bally cart's DIP
switch holes. Applied front and rear cart labels to the six Bally carts.
Dec 17. Finished most of the soldering work that needed to be done,
on all twenty two carts. All but two of them now have either the EPROM chip
soldered in (Bally carts), or a quality socket soldered in (Emerson). I simply
ran out of sockets for the Emerson, but have more than enough assembled
carts for this batch anyway. The Emerson carts have all six jumper wires
soldered in; I still have to add the dozen jumpers for each Bally
cart. That sounds like a "tomorrow" job, along with getting the small Emerson
daughterboards soldered on.
Dec 16. Day off -- family / holiday stuff.
Dec 15. Lots of soldering work going on, on all twenty two of
the remaining carts. I put in all of support chips, all of the resistors,
all of the through-board jumper wires, the Bally's DIP switches, and
soldered them all in.
Dec 14. Shipped out three Bally multicarts; one for L. S. (#8) and
for G. G. (#10), along with Mike White's #2 cart, which was just upgraded
to add in all the new programs he'd sent me in EPROM form. I wrote up
some stuff about the replacement screws I'm now using for all my Bally carts
(message #506), and about removing Bally labels for homebrew projects (message
#507), and posted that info to the
Bally Alley message
boards. I finishing up sanding down all the remaining edges of all
twenty two PC boards, for this batch and for the next.
Dec 13. I planned to ship out three carts today, but "Murphy's Law" struck
in an relatively small but very annoying way. The ridiculously fine-threaded
screw holes holding original Bally carts together, strip out instantly
if you even think about looking at them funny. I forgot all about that
(censored) problem, until I tried putting the plastic cases back together.
Sure enough, all of my came-brand-new-in-shrinkwrap plastic cases
all had one or more screw holes that are stripped out.
I drove across town to go buy some new screws instead
of going to the post office. I bought enough spare screws (#2 by 3/8ths
panheads) that I may not have this problem again; at least not
for a long time! I went through the main FAQ one more time, looking
everything over to make sure I'm being clear without being rude, for any
new customers. I worked more on sanding the edges of the PC boards.
Dec 12. Soldered the first two Bally carts together, completely. Those
two and Mike White's cart all passed a quick functional test.
(Played a quick game of Wizard.) I cut out all twenty-two
of the remaining etched PC boards. Began sanding and hand-fitting each PC
board into its final shape. Programmed three more EPROMs -- all I had left
-- in preparation for the next batch of carts. Things are really coming
down to the wire now... after I've sanded all the PC board edges down, I
figure I only have about one more hour of assembly time per multicart,
and then I'll be done with all of the multicarts in this batch. I'll
start shipping them out soon; the first two will go out tomorrow. (I
hope to have a few "left-overs" from this batch to sell off right before
Dec 11. Programmed twelve more EPROMs; more than enough to complete this
batch. Soldered EPROM chips into three Bally carts; the two that are
going out next, and Mike White's cart which is being upgraded.
Dec 10. Varnished one side of each remaining PC board, and set them aside
to dry. (Cleaned both sides first.) Burned two more Bally EPROMs, for six
total. Erased fifteen additional EPROMs -- all I have in stock now -- to
have them ready for programming. I also made the list above into an
actual checklist... each step will now be marked to show how completed it
is. I varnished the other side of each remaining PC board. Made all of the
necessary adjustments to the printed DIP switch instruction sheet,
to reflect all the latest ROM images changes.
Dec 9. Finished the edge connector preparation, on all of the etched boards
I have on hand. Cleaned up any etching glitches where two adjacent wires
were touching, on all of the etched boards I have on hand. Burned four new
Bally EPROMs -- with all the new programs, and with all the new arrangements
of where they are.
Dec 8. Day off -- Family holiday gatherings.
Dec 7. Worked on all the PC boards some more; getting their edge connectors
prepped. I juggled a few of the new Bally's ROM programs around to make
them more easily accessible; like putting Blue Ram BASIC in the
"1000 0000" DIP switch position slot, and AstroBASIC in the "0100 0000" slot,
so that it is easy to find and switch over to when playing the
new AstroBASIC or Blue Ram BASIC games. (I'm trying to take the ROM shuffling
type stuff slow and keep it to a minimum, but I figure now is really the
best time to do things like this.)
Dec 6. Day off -- Went to the "Red Dragon" acting interview, and visited
my acting agent.
Dec 5. Day off -- Preparing for an important acting interview with the director
of the movie "Red Dragon".
Dec 4. Put a newly burnt chip with all the new software on it, into my in-house
test cart. Went through the new games. (Seems fine so far, but I'll do more
testing later.) Added the latest games into the printed DIP switch settings
cheat-sheet. Desoldered a bad EPROM chip from a cart I'm upgrading for Mike
White -- no thanks to that shady company that sold me
used EPROMs as if they were new, causing me tons of needless work. Sigh.
I also added a small "power on" lamp (LED) to my Bally, since I
kept forgetting to turn the silly thing off before.
Dec 3. Burned a couple of EPROMs for the two new Bally carts, using the latest
ROM images. (I will have to real-life test the new program additions
soon, and adjust the printed instructions to reflect all the changes.)
But today's big news is that I successfully tested the new Bally upgrade
procedure, using a special adapter cable I'd made some time ago.
(In other words, upgrading the Bally multicart should be relatively
fast and easy?)
Dec 2. "On strike" for at least one day this weekend -- playing with
my little nephews.
Dec 1. Updated the Bally software archiving database that is up on the "Bally
Alley" message board. Did a few more archiving chores related to the Bally
software library. Play-tested some games. Did most of the necessary
plastic case prepwork on six reusable Emerson Arcadia carts that
just arrived in the mail.
Nov 30. Finished up the archiving chores for the new Bally ROM
images and updated the software lists. I put them both up in the usual
place. There are 15 ROM dump corrections and 18
new games. (After pulling a 12-hour-plus shift doing all the details
related to all of this, I'm going to get away from it for a couple of
days!) I cut two Bally PC boards to shape and trimmed their edges.
I worked on soldering components into the two fully prepped Bally boards:
the various through-board jumper wires, the support chip and the eight resistors.
Finished tinning the edge connectors on two Emerson boards, and varnished
both of those Emerson boards. I also updated the batch program that creates
the big EPROM-ready file that contains all the actual content of the multicart.
As it works out, only seven new "empty holes" were filled. There are still
ten "empty 8k holes" left for use later, if and when we find more
cool stuff for the Bally machine. (Thanks a lot for all of Mike White's
Nov 29. Re-dumped all 23 of the EPROMs that Mike sent me, to have a second
set of images to compare the first ones to. Then I re-dumped them a third
time. Each time I did it using different hardware and/or methods.
This may sound paranoid, but I'd rather be safe than sorry where data
integrity is concerned. The end result is that I have a known-good set of
ROM dump corrections on file, along with some games I did not have before.
Nov 28. Dumped all of the 23 EPROMs that Mike White had sent to me,
for inclusion on the Bally multicart. I am going to re-dump them all
using a different method later, and compare the two to see if everything
is kosher. I want the updated ROM images to be 100% accurate, and also
to make sure I'm making good use of all the space I have available on
the multicart. A few things may get shuffled around, but its still early
enough to do it.
Nov 27. Mostly a day off, due to car problems. Did some minor FAQ editing.
Nov 26. Shipped two cartridges out; the Emerson carts that
were 90% ready since Nov 1st. (Both of the new owners had planned to
loan me carts for archiving -- thanks, guys! -- and had
said they'd rather wait awhile to get all three of the
new ROM images now, rather than whenever the next ROM image comes
along.) I also resumed work on the latest circuit boards. Began the
process of "tinning" all of the edge connectors on all of the PC boards.
Started working on the last board prep stages, on the first two Bally carts
to go out in this batch. The package from Mike White arrived; I'll be
looking over his ROM image updates, later in the week.
Nov 25. Worked on the Multicart FAQ, mostly to clarify the ordering procedures
in the hopes of avoiding any future miscommunication. (Some people
are just now finding out about this project, and are checking it out
for the first time.) The last few days were sort of a brief break for
me, from the actual building of the carts. But with all of this keyboard
stuff out of the way, I can go back to finishing up the circuit
boards and getting the next few orders shipped out. I plan to first ship
out the two orders I have for single Bally carts, then the six orders for
one of each carts. I suspect things will pick up soon, pace-wise, now
that most of the PC boards steps are finished?
Nov 24. Worked on the printed instructions for the Emerson multicart. Worked
on the Emerson cartridge lists.
Nov 23. Worked on this FAQ, adding a step-by-step checklist of chores necessary
to make one multicart. This accomplishes a few useful things. It helps
people that are waiting for a cart to be made for them, to get a better idea
of how much longer the wait will likely be, based on how far I am down that
checklist at any given time. It also helps people to see how much
work is involved, in case they want to make a homebrew project themself.
I also went nutso, revising the FAQ for the Emerson system itself, and
adding lots of new technical information.
Nov 22. Holiday -- nothing done.
Nov 21. Cleaned the etch resist chemicals off of the twelve new PC boards.
Drilled 654 small holes for the components. (The Bally boards each require
124 holes drilled, and the Emerson boards have 79 holes each.)
Nov 20. Finished etching the second dozen PC boards. Burnt two Emerson EPROMs
with the latest archived game on it, so that I can ship those two finished
carts out soon. (Thanks go out to both of those customers, as
they both loanedd me a cart or two to archive, so I could include
those games on everyone's Emerson multi.)
Nov 19. Archived the latest Emerson ROM to come in on a loan; the MPT-03
game called "Horse Racing". Began working on etching the latest PC boards
that were exposed and developed; twelve more PC boards.
Nov 18. Talked to Mike White in Ohio. He is sending out a bunch of ROM dumps,
to include new games as well as corrections on some games that weren't dumped
100% correctly, before. He OK'd me adding any of these images to the ROM
image collection for play on emulators, too. (As much as any of us are in
a position to do such things.) I'm told that with the images he is sending
me, that I'll have all the machine language games that were made for the
Bally system, besides some of the cartridge-ized BASIC hybrids already included.
Nov 17. Exposed and developed 12 new PC boards. (That's enough for this
batch, with some left over for the next batch.) I think it is important
to note that my error rate on this partial batch was 0% ... no
boards were lost in the exposing / developing stages. (See Nov 7th and 9th.)
I seem to have my techniques down pat now, and know exactly what tools
work best, etc., so future time / money loss due to those particular
problems should be drastically reduced from now on? I still have to do
some touch-ups on the latest developed boards, before I can etch all
of them, but that's a normal and expected part of the process. Things seem
to be moving right along.
Nov 16. Shopped for supplies, particularly more developer concentrate and
my favorite fine-gauge solder.
Nov 15. Etched the four newly exposed and developed PC boards. Drilled all
twelve newly etched boards, or about 3/4 of the PC boards I'll
need for this current batch.
Nov 14. Day off -- nothing done here. However, one Emerson fan dropped off
a package in the mails; a cart loan so that we all have a copy of "Horse
Racing" for the Palladium, on the Emerson multicart.
Nov 13. Bought some glass exposure frames, and suitable clamps, to replace
the problematic plastic ones I've used in the recent past. Began exposing
and developing four more new PC boards. Had a long talk with Mike White from
Ohio, on the phone. He checked every single game on the Bally multicart,
byte-by-byte, and he is going to send me re-dumps of every game that even
looks remotely like a potentially bad dump. He also plans to send
me some games that are not on the cart, just yet; some BASIC games he is
going to "cart hybrid-ize".
Nov 12. Created a useful production tool -- a power etching system. This
helps to automate and speed up the process of etching printed
circuit boards. I used it to etch 8 new PC boards (4
of each kind). Tested the Emerson multicart's DIP switch instruction sheet;
double-checking it for accuracy before I do more on it.
Nov 11. Soldered up the 11 etched daughter-boards for the next couple batches
of Emerson carts. Worked a bit more on the preliminary documentation
for the Emerson multicarts.
Nov 10. Personal day -- nothing done.
Nov 9. I cleaned and light-sensitized enough raw sheets to make 16 more PC
boards, if everything goes well. Added to the eight that were made on
the 7th, that's 24 total boards. (Minus however many don't work out.
With any luck, I hope to have a few ready for use with "batch three"
once this batch is finished?) I checked my records and sent out e-mails to
everyone on my waiting lists, clarifying who was or wasn't in this batch,
Nov 8. Took the day off to get some personal stuff done.
Nov 7. I worked on exposing and developing more presensitized PC boards.
Two more sheets (four boards) were ruined. This time it was caused by
two supposedly identical sheets of clear plastic, with
one not passing certain frequencies of light very well. Sigh. Four
boards went wonky and are unusable as is. (I can re-clean and
re-sensitize them.) This means I only "ruined" half the boards I was
trying to make. The pre-CGE failure rate was about double that.
With each painful screw-up, I'm gaining better control over the
ten-zillion variables that are involved. (Sean Kelly once told me he
knows how to etch his own boards, but he'd prefer a sharp stick in the eye.
Can't say I blame him!) I ended up with 8 individual PC boards that appear
ready to be etched soon.
Nov 6. Exposed, developed, etched, drilled, and cut out eleven small Emerson
multicart daughter-boards. (The new and improved developer worked fine.)
My order of EPROMs and other raw components came in today.
Nov 5. Tried to expose and develop four individual circuit boards. (Two
sheets, times two boards per sheet.) The first one was over-developed and
useless in seconds thanks to a new, overly-strong batch of developer.
The second sheet was also ruined, but I used it to make sure the developing
solution was at its proper strength.
Nov 4. Finished making the raw PC boards light-sensitive. Cleaned up the
design of a secondary circuit board for the Emerson, and made a photo-mask
of it, so I can make a bunch of those small boards on one sheet of PC
board material. Began work on the preliminary version of the Emerson cart's
Nov 3. Began prepping sixteen circuit boards; cleaning them well, and making
them sensitive to special light. (I'm getting better at it; this time
was much better than the painful pre-CGE process was.) Also, I machined out
the inner cart walls on a dozen Emerson carts, where the socketed EPROM
was causing clearance problems. I spoke with Mike White; he is going to look
his Bally cart's programs over, seeing if there are any bad dumps.
Nov 2. Ordered enough EPROMs, support chips and resistors to do the next
couple of batches of carts. Made up a machining jig to be able to thin part
of the inner wall of the Emerson's cartridge cases, to give a little
bit more clearance for the socketed EPROM memory chip. (It fit before; it
was just really, really tight.) Came up with a faster and better production
method to cut and trim the individual circuit boards into their final shapes.
This is important, as it was taking forever to do this before. Also,
the Emerson has a daughter-board that is only two inches long by one half
an inch wide... cutting those individually out of a bigger sheets was a royal
Nov 1. The list is now closed, for people wanting to move up from
the "waiting list" to a firm "order" status. I
will not be taking names again, until
this batch is nearly completed. Then I'll send an e-mail out to everyone
that is on my waiting lists, asking if they want to be on the next batch
of orders, and if they have the money for it. (Be ready for it when
it happens, towards the end of batch two, or risk being pushed
back to the fourth batch.)
Preparation time... I sent out an e-mail to everyone on my waiting lists,
on October 15th. I asked everyone the basic same question; "Who
would be able to pay for one of these carts, if I asked for the money
soon?" Not having done a project like this before, I said that I planned
to only take a few people, right away, and I would push the others back awhile
longer. I wasn't certain what cut-off number to pick, so I did not choose
one at that time. I got more responses than I figured I would, all seemingly
very eager to buy one or both carts soon. The end result is that I am working
on a larger second batch than I had anticipated at first, so it will
likely take me longer than I had initially hoped. (But at the same time,
more people will have orders filled, so who knows?) I may take fewer
names for the next batch, or set a cut-off point? I'll know more, towards
the end of this batch.
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First batch of carts:
Moving from the pre-production phase into
normal production. I made six total carts during this period;
one stayed in-house (my special Bally test cart with a socket),
three others were shipped out to customers right away, and two others were
shipped out later, after some additional ROM image archiving had
Nov 1. Shipped out the third Bally Astrocade cart. (#2, Michael White.)
The first two Emerson multicarts have been 90% ready for some time... I'm
just waiting on a new cartridge archiving loan to take place --
with both of the customer's approval -- before I ship those two carts
out. As soon as they are shipped, batch one is done.
Oct 31. The third Bally cart (#2) is ready to be shipped out now, as soon
as I can get to the post office. I made a special jig to allow marking off
the hole I have to cut in the plastic cases for the DIP switches to
stick through. I also made a special in-house case that speeds up
the process of testing a newly made/assembled PC board.
Oct 30. I decided to re-design the Emerson's rear label. I think
this version looks a little bit neater than my original CGE design, and
it was designed to make it easier to open the cart for upgrades and
such, later on.
Oct 29. Shipped out the first two Bally Astrocade multicarts. (Jamie
Fenton got #1, Adam Trionfo #3.) I considered the pre-production phase
closed at this point, since copies had been made and were shipped out. There
are still a number of important details to be worked out, however, as I continue
to produce copies.
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Pre-production: work done before multicarts
could be made and shipped to customers
If anyone wonders why homebrew projects are usually sold in very
limited numbers, here is some clue as to why... making them is
a LOT more work than most people imagine, and takes FAR more
Oct 28. Two Bally Astrocade multicarts are now ready to ship. A third
needs just a bit more work to be ready. (I enjoyed the testing phase
of all this... in other words, finally getting to play some games for
Oct 27. Touched up the main Multicart FAQ, since new questions are arriving
as production time approaches.
Oct 25. Finalized the preliminary printed menu of DIP switch settings for
the Bally. Prepped four more Emerson cases -- label removal, DIP switch hole
roughed out, added internal braces to hold up the DIP switch board.
Oct 24. The packaging materials I won on eBay arrived, so I can start thinking
about the final design for my Bally multicart's printed instructions. This
web page was revised; I grouped everything by project phases.
Oct 23. At least one Bally multicart is now ready to ship out, except
for the printed instructions. Two others just need a bit more work,
plus my own inhouse one used for testing new EPROMs.
(Last-minute rewiring of all the upper address lines needed to be done,
to implement the more efficient addressing scheme I came up with
that will allows many more programs to be stored on each
cart.) I had to spend most of today's work time, however, reflowing
all of the solder joints inside my Commodore 1702 video monitor, so
it would quit flaking out on me when I'm trying to test things. With
that fixed, now I can do a decent testing phase on the completed
carts, before I ship them out. (In other words, I'm looking forward to playing
some of the Bally games soon!)
Oct 22. Printed up and laminated a good number of labels for the
next few batches of Bally carts. Made up a preliminary list of Bally
DIP switch settings. The Bally packaging stuff I won on eBay is in the mails,
coming my way. I just got some bad news from what I hoped would be my primary
supplier of Emerson cart cases. He may or may not be able to help me,
as much as we'd both hoped? (A large eBay purchase he had
made, has not arrived yet and he's wondering if it ever will?) That
being the case, I have asked the readers of my Emerson Arcadia
2001 web site (hosted on ClassicGaming.com) for spare carts I can use
as shells to put multicarts into. (Bally carts are not a big problem. Mike
White sells them brand new, and I put in a decent order awhile ago.)
Oct 21. I won an eBay auction for four boxed Bally Astrocade games. (I wanted
them to see the packaging. I just thought it would be "cute" to
design my "DIP switch setting" instruction sheet or booklet, similar to that.)
Oct 19. I will soon have more than enough plastic cartridge cases for the
Bally multicarts, but I need to find a good source of Emerson cart cases.
(Tall style only; the short ones won't work.) I have enough to
finish the first batch off, then five more carts on the second batch, then
I am totally out of long-style Emerson cases. I can't make new carts without
them. (And yes, I've already tried eBay. That's not a good, steady source
Oct 18. I had to be away from home today, so I worked on designing
a circuit board for an unrelated project. (This is another project for
the Bally; a one-size-fits-all replacement board, made to fit a single
game. Mike White wanted one designed to replenish his stock of existing PC
boards, for his "Hozer Video"-like service.)
Oct 17. Most of today was wasted, thanks to having to
return some bad parts to a store that
sold me used, defective EPROMs packaged as new parts. As frustrating
as this is, I am glad I discovered their treacherous sales practices early
on, so I could return those bogus parts and work on finding an honest parts
house to deal with in the future. (My second batch of carts may be slowed
down a little, finding a new supplier and waiting for new parts, but
I have enough spare EPROMs on hand to finish up the first few carts
without any problems.)
Oct 16. Went back to my earlier work on some specialized tools I will
need later, to make future ROM image upgrades quicker and easier.
Good progress was made, but there are still some bugs I need to work
out. I put that work aside for now, and resumed working on the first small
batch of carts, to get them ready to ship out.
Oct 15. With forward progress being what it is at present, and most of the
big technical problems now solved, Ward e-mailed all of the people on
his non-binding waiting lists, asking who was ready to purchase
a cart now. (This doesn't mean carts are ready to be sold, but it is
a preparatory stage towards getting there.) Ward has enough names now to
begin that first batch, relatively soon. No money will be taken till
they're ready to ship. Ward still has to fully upgrade the first three
customer-ordered Bally multicarts plus his personal test one, with the
now-proven better memory addressing scheme. Plus, there is currently no
documentation on either cart, as to what DIP switch settings will activate
what program, and some fancy labels still need to be printed, as well. The
two nearly-finished Emerson multicarts won't be ready to go out until one
last archiving-loan cart arrives.
Oct 14. Success! "Real life" testing shows that my new-and-improved
Bally Astrocade memory addressing scheme not only works, but it works better
than I had originally hoped or expected! (Major "whoo-hoo"!) That
means that I can now easily co-mingle or mix all three of the known
Bally cart sizes (2k, 4k and 8k) together on one EPROM without wasting
even one byte of memory space. It works perfectly, as far
as I can tell? Right now, everything on my ROM image list is already
on my prototype test cart, and I still have room for 17 more
8k programs, plus one more 4k program. (There is plenty of room on
the Emerson, even without these tricks.) Most if not all experts on
these systems say that our existing ROM image collection is already
more than they would have expected to have seen. (This includes Jamie
Fenton, who led the project creating the Astrocade!)
Oct 13. Doing real-life tests on my new, less-wasteful memory
addressing scheme for my Bally Astrocade cart. The initial indications look
very good so far? I'm writing the "batch" program I need to take all of the
seperate ROM images, and make one huge file that can be programmed into
the Bally's EPROM memory chip. (This involved some decisions as to what or
what not to include, and their storage-space sequence. With only a few
exceptions, mostly for non-working games, all of the existing Bally ROM images
should fit onto the multicart.)
Oct 3 - 9. Got those two Emerson-compatible carts archived. Began installing
some parts in my Astrocade prototype, to give my memory-efficiency theories
a "real-life" test over the next few days. Worked on various of the "getting
ready for production" type things. A number of "common" Emerson game carts
were taken apart, cleaned, and de-labeled. I made a handy template to
mark where the Emerson DIP switches would go, and cut those holes into the
tops of the Emerson carts. Bought a number of small internal parts for
use in both multicarts (resistor packs, decoupling caps, etc.) to have
enough on hand. Shopped around for common Emerson carts, and some new Bally
cart cases. Continued to work on the first few half-finished boards (both
types) that I've had on hand for awhile. After discussions on
the BallyAlley message group, I decided to make the first program on
the Bally cart be a hardware "TEST" program. (Just
set "all zeroes" on the DIP switches to quickly find it.)
Oct 2. Working on archiving some more loaned carts: the Bally's rare "BASIC
DEMO" cart, plus two Palladium carts we had not heard of before this.
("Panzerspiel" or tank game, and "Grand Prix de Monaco".)
Oct 1. Split this section of the main Multicart FAQ off, making
it a seperate document. Worked to clarify things in general, and
also to tone down some spots that perhaps sounded
overly defensive? This version is starting to look pretty polished.
More importantly, it should protect both sides from many bad
assumptions, since this project is being done under different rules
and conditions than the multicart projects made by other people.
Sep 30. Revised the FAQ again to include a few "new" questions. Worked on
the first two Emerson carts to go out. They are almost ready
to go now, but I am waiting for two new Palladium carts
to arrive so I can archive those ROMs and include them. I am
also waiting for one new Bally cart to arrive, so I can
Sep 28. Prepping some plastic cartridge cases, and making continued preparations
for the "assembly line". Also waiting on a few loaned-for-archiving-purposes
Palladium cartridges that should arrive here in a few days?
Sep 27. Revising the prototype design, to allow more room for programs on
the Bally's memory chip. At least on paper, it looks like I can
happily co-mingle ROM images of different memory sizes, which no other multicart
for retro-gaming systems has done, that I'm aware of? (Figuring this technical
problem out would have a lot of uses in retro-gaming circles, not only for
Ward's two existing multicarts, but for those made by other people.)
Sep 23. Archived two new Bally Astrocade ROMs, and
updated the appropriate ROM-image lists.
Sep 21. Continuing to refine procedures, as before. Began
working on finishing up the first four carts, to send them out
to customers. (These four were all started for CGE, but only two
were completed enough to show.)
Sep 18. Ward continues planning and refining his
production procedures, for later on. Also waiting for a few
promised cart loans, to be able to include the ROM images on the
first production version of both multicarts.
Sep 17. Ward revises his FAQ text, converting it from raw ASCCII into a web-based
Aug 19 - Sep 17. Ward begins work on a variety of things, intended to make
the manufacturing and future upgrade processes less of a hassle in the
future. Ward's EPROM-erasing device is modified, so that Bally carts can
be erased without having to desolder and remove the chip from the board.
(This is necessary because there is simply no room inside the Bally
cart cases for even a short socket.) A special cable is made to
allow reading of soldered-on chips, with the hope that it can also be used
later to reprogram Bally EPROMs. Other things still need to be
done to streamline the manufacturing steps; work is begun on these items,
with considerable further experimentation and testing necessary. Ward purchased
a few common carts, to re-use their plastic cases.
Aug 18, 2001. Ward begins answering e-mail questions from interested folks,
about the possibility that he may begin sales of his two multicarts,
once he gears up for production. He begins writing up a preliminary FAQ.
He begins keeping a non-binding list of people
who have expressed interest in buying one of his multicarts.
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Creating the original prototypes of Ward's Bally
and Emerson multicarts
Making the first pair of nearly production-ready carts, and showing
them off at CGE 2001.
Aug 11-12. The annual "Classic Gaming Expo" or "CGE" is held in Las
Vegas. Ward is not able to attend the show in person, unfortunately, but
he sent his two new prototype multicarts to the show: one each for the
Bally Astrocade and Emerson Arcadia 2001 game systems. Adam Trionfo, Geoff
Voigt and Chris Neiman show the carts to others, both at an
on Friday, and during the event. The reports that Ward got back were
that people were generally favorably impressed with the workmanship of both
carts. (He was told he would have blushed, had he been there?) Gamers
generally liked the games for the Bally Astrocade far more than
they liked the Emerson's games. A number of people expressed interest in
buying a copy of one or both of these multicarts, if more of them were ever
made and offered for sale.
Early August 2001. Ward works on designing and creating the official
PC boards for the "production prototypes" of both the Bally and Emerson
multicarts. He does all the technical things necessary to physically
create the boards, to solder the components to them, and to make sure they
both work. (Too many sub-tasks to list.) Ward also began designing
good-looking color label artwork for both multicarts during this
Jul 2001. Ward shows off the latest prototype version of the Emerson multicart
at the local SC3 ("Southern
California Classic Collectors") meeting. It now holds the entire archived
library of Emerson, MPT-03 and Palladium software. Ward also shows off the
brand new, never-seen-before prototype of the now nearly finished Bally
Astrocade multicart. Ward and Adam Trionfo archive a few more of Adam's
Bally Astrocade carts during the SC3 meeting. Later in the month,
Ward is loaned another rare Emerson family cart for archiving purposes
("The End") by the generous German collector that got the MESS
team a Palladium. This cart makes 41 total ROM images, for the various
software-compatible systems. The Bally collection is now also nearly
complete, thanks in large part to the efforts of Michael White who actively
collected since the Bally's heyday.
Jun 2001. A three-way, international trade took place. It ended up with
the new MESS emulator author getting a Palladium-family compatible system
that he could use to compare "real life" to the MESS emulation software.
(Paul Robson had written the original stand-alone emulator without ever
seeing a real system to compare to!)
May 2001. The "MESS" emulation team takes over the stand-alone emulator
that Paul Robson had made years ago. Paul generously shared all of
his code and notes with members of the MESS team. Ward is loaned five
more Emerson-compatible carts. These include some of the rarest unarchived
carts yet remaining for this system or its clones; "Funky Fish"
and "Pleiades". Ward is also loaned the fifth MPT-03 exclusive
cart; "Golf". (The generous person that loaned these five carts out, has
previously also loaned four others out for archiving.)
Apr 2001. Ward Shrake decides to start working on both an Emerson Arcadia
2001 and a Bally Astrocade prototype multicart. He makes an early "proof
of concept" prototype of the Emerson multicart. (It was his ugly EPROM-playing
breadboard from Dec 2000, altered accordingly.) This has very limited
capacity at first: just two games. Once this model works well, it soon
gives way to an 8-in-1 version. That new model proves that the
bank-switching scheme that Ward is using will work for any other multicart
projects, later on. (This very early version has an MPT-03 style pinout;
it will not plug directly into an Emerson-family system. This is
no big deal, as Ward long ago made a special adapter cable to plug MPT-03
cartridges into Emerson-family systems, and to be able to archive MPT-03
carts.) At months end, this ugly-but-working prototype system is
sent to the annual "PhillyClassic" event for public viewing by anyone there
that wants to play its eight rare Emerson games.
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Events leading up to Ward's Bally and
Emerson multicart projects
Note that this section concentrates primarily on the Emerson system,
mainly because it is long already. It is just intended to give a general
feel for how projects of this type might slowly come about, over the years.
Mar 2001. Ward attends the quarterly
where he meets Adam Trionfo in person. (One of the main guys behind
archiving efforts for the Bally Astrocade system.) Adam brings quite
a few Bally Astrocade carts with him, from his personal collection. Ward
brings his archiving tools. Ward archives all of Adam's Bally carts,
using a custom adapter cable that Ward made from spare parts of
a non-working Astrocade. After the meeting Ward sent his two
custom archiving adapter cables -- Emerson and Bally -- to a well-known
collector in New Jersey, hoping to get new ROM image dumps through group
participation at one or more of the annual events/shows that gamers attend.
(As of October 2001 no new dumps came about because of this. But
it could lead to carts being archived at some future date? Who knows.) During
the SC3 meeting, the people that had encouraged Ward in December to make
a multicart for one or more obscure systems, encouraged him again.
Feb 2001. The "Digital Press Collector's Guide" book (version six) is now
ready to be shipped out to the retro-gaming public. Ward has three sections
in it. The book gets many rave reviews from fans
Dec 2000. Ward makes up an ugly-but-functional hardware device that
pretends it is an MPT-03 cart. It has a single socket for an 8k EPROM
memory chip on it. With this device, Ward can burn an EPROM copy
of any existing ROM image he has, and play it on a real Emerson system. This
device was originally made to be able to check that ROM dumps were
good, and also to allow Ward to play the games he has copied after he
returns carts that were loaned to him. Ward took the device with him
meeting. Some of the other people attending that informal meeting
of classic gamers asked questions and expressed interest in the Emerson and
its games. The possibility of Ward maybe making a multicart was also
briefly discussed, but only in the very vaguest of terms. During this
month, Ward archives the fourth loaned MPT-03 exclusive cart: "Basketball".
Nov 2000. A third semi-compatible family of carts is found; the Palladium
family. (Like the MPT-03, it is not pin-for-pin compatible, but software
for one machine will run on the others.)Ward is also loaned two Tele-fever
(Emerson family) carts: "Astro Invaders" and "Fussball". Thirty-four total
Emerson and MPT-03 carts have now been archived, and are
publicly available for fans of these retro-gaming systems,
for play on software emulators.
Oct 2000. Ward archives the third MPT-03 cart loaned to him: "Combat". This
is another MPT-03 exclusive.
Jul 2000. One more Emerson cart was loaned to Ward for archiving: "Space
Jun 2000. Ward is asked to write the new Commodore VIC-20 section of
the "Digital Press Collector's Guide" book, version six. He asks to
also take over the Emerson Arcadia section of the guide, and he is allowed
Jun 1999. Ward archives the second loaned MPT-03 cart; "Auto Race".
The Emerson never had this game.
Apr 1999. A generous collector loans Ward seven Emerson carts
for archiving purposes. The total amount of compatible carts now archived
has risen to twenty-nine, counting both Emerson and MPT-03 cartridges.
Feb 1999. The discovery is made that the overseas system named the
"MPT-03" is somewhat compatible with the Emerson Arcadia
2001 system. Ward Shrake figures out the cartridge pinout to the MPT-03 system.
He archives an MPT-03 cart called "Crazy Climber" that was loaned to
him. This game was once talked about for the Emerson system, but it was never
released in the United States, apparently due to copyright concerns.
Jan 1999. One more Emerson Arcadia 2001 cart is dumped by an
Italian fan of the system.
Dec 1998. Ward makes a web site about the Emerson Arcadia system...
Nov - Dec 1998. Ward is loaned seven new Emerson carts to archive.
(Five by one collector, and two others by a second person.) There are now
twenty Arcadia ROM images publicly available.
Sep 1998. Ward Shrake archives one new Emerson cart. He begins
asking others to loan him Emerson carts for archiving purposes. (Ward
had previously helped Paul LeBrasse to archive nearly 200 VIC-20 carts.)
July 1998. Jay Tilton dumps one more Emerson cart, for a
combined total of twelve available on the Internet.
April 1998. A retro-gaming fan named Jay Tilton archives the
first-ever Emerson Arcadia ROM images. Eleven cartridge images and an
Emerson Arcadia 2001 cartridge pinout diagram are publicly released
via the Internet.
1984. The well-documented "gaming crash" of 1984 occurs. This wipes
out any hope of ever commercially resurrecting the Emerson Arcadia 2001
system in the U.S. (No known games were written for it, past 1983.)
1983. A few more Emerson games are written. Most of these newer
games are intended for overseas release, however, as the U.S. system
has more or less been abandoned by Emerson at this point. Much more powerful
systems (ColecoVision, etc) have taken over the market, and the Arcadia simply
can't compare to them.
1982. Most of the Emerson game programs are written. The system has
many marketing and legal problems, right from the start. Due to copyright
problems, some games are never released in the United States. The authors
of various games (for this system and others) scramble to re-code games too
close to being copies.
Mar 1982. The Emerson Arcadia 2001 system makes its U.S. debut. Software
was written by an outside company. Hardware was either licensed from another
company, or something similar to such an arrangement.
End of document.
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