Mystery Bally Professional Arcade (Astrocade) Solved! (Lots of photos!)

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Bill Loguidice's picture

I had recently acquired my third console in the line known popularly as the Bally Astrocade, but in reality went by many different official names, including Bally Home Library Computer and Bally Professional Arcade since its initial 1978 release. This one was a bit different though, as it had a mystery notch cut in the top of the cartridge port and came with two chips hand labeled "Galactic Invasion" and "Bingo & Speed Math". Both were officially released, so that makes the necessity for having these on separate chips a bit odd. While "Galactic Invasion" (1981) was released with that title - it was originally going to be "Galaxian", which is what it was a conversion of - "Bingo & Speed Math", which was originally known as "Speed Math and Bingo Math" in an original catalog, was officially released under the name, "Elementary Math and Bingo Math" (1978). Were these perhaps prototypes of some type? First, some photos...

P1000398

P1000399
Hmm, the internal shielding was removed. The original owner was obviously not afraid to dig into things..

P1000400

P1000404

What was also interesting, was that both of those released cartridges mentioned above were included loose in the box with several other games.
P1000405

However, turning "Elementary Math and Bingo Math" over revealed a surprise.
P1000406
P1000408
It seems someone hacked the "Elementary Math and Bingo Math" cartridge to accept new chips. Someone must have had an EPROM programmer! The taped written message, "PIN 1 HERE! -> JEFFY'S XMAS CARTRIDGE" will no doubt remain a mystery.

P1000409
P1000410
The insides look pretty much like a typical cartridge edge connector, save for what looks like at least four solder points.

Time to hook this guy up and see what's going on here...

P1000411
What's this? The system case does not seem to be whole...

Yep, definitely a hacker. I'm not familiar with what the insides of an Astrocade are meant to look like, but this does not appear to be wholly manufacturer original. Time to hook it up for real now to my Tablet PC to see what's going on here...
P1000413

As you can see, it looks pretty normal...

0117215035

And plays pretty normal despite a controller in sub-standard condition...
0117215153
0117215155

Obviously the real test will be what happens with the modified cartridge...

P1000414
It goes in easy enough. Now to turn it on...

0117215423
After a few tries, I get it to display the correct title screen.

0117215456
0117215504
And it plays just like normal.

I extract the chip using my fingers.
P1000415

And carefully insert the handwritten, "Bingo & Speed Math"...
P1000416

Again, it takes me a few tries, but it does comes up.
0117215851
0117215920
0117215928

So again, pretty normal seeming (though maybe a slightly crummier display due to lack of shielding?). I'll wait for the guys at Bally Alley and the Yahoo! Groups Bally mailing list to chime in and report back... Superficially, this seems like a lightly modified system with a single modified cartridge that can take burned EPROMs, which unfortunately seem to be exactly the same as released games. Still, theoretically it opens up the potential for me to burn my own EPROMs if I ever get the right burner and the right chips and something interesting to put on them that only I could use...eh, on second thought, probably not...


Comments

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
RESTORED COMMENTS FROM GOOGLE CACHE

"
Paul T. wrote:
>>
I believe removing the shielding was rather common to prevent overheating.
>>

Yes, exactly. Also, there were a few different types of shielding... Bill has the biggest one; it
covers EVERYTHING. Makes everything nice and toasty. That's great for a heater -- not so
great for the Astrocade.

As for the hole in the Astrocade: as Tony said, and as Bill suggested-- it is to make room
for the EPROM. My EPROM cartridge would fit MUCH better if I made that hack. However, I
would never hack the console. It makes more sense (but is WAY more trouble) to cut the
traces and make jumper wires on the cartridge so that the EPROM can be on the top of the
cartridge. That's what the so-called "Bubba" cartidge is.

Adam T."

"I see that you didn't use the Conan screenshots you took, Bill.
Do you prepare a separate article for that?

Also: Did you cancel your Wizard's Crown articles?"

"Calibrator wrote:
I see that you didn't use the Conan screenshots you took, Bill.
Do you prepare a separate article for that?

Also: Did you cancel your Wizard's Crown articles?

take care,
Calibrator

The Conan screenshots were just for direct capture testing purposes: http://armchairarcade.com/neo/node/1669 . I always wanted to see it in action and it was on my multi-cart. With a superficial play, it seemed to be just a single screen hack and slash with a new monster after the last one was killed. You had independent control of movement and the sword's rotation thanks to the Astrocade's versatile controller

As for the Wizard's Crown articles, you can see in the photos above that the system is still set up with the game next to it. I've just had other things more pressing. I need a clear couple of hours to be able to begin playing properly. It probably wasn't a good first choice in deciding to do this. I should have picked something a bit more casual frankly, so I may have to put this on the backburner in favor of something less time consuming. We'll see. I also have another big posting coming, with a listing of all of my boxed computer (not console) software, which is the 600+ range. I may take requests from that list (obscure requests to photograph, scan, possibly review, etc.) as well."

"Thanks for satisfying my curiosity! ;-)

I did some reading on Wizard's Crown (Mantra: Do not abbreviate to WC! Do not abbreviate to WC!) and while I have been always interested in those wacky SSI RPGs I also got the impression that this is more of a tactical combat game - something in the line of the console games Tactics Ogre or Final Fantasy Tactics. A cross between Ultima and one of their trademark strategy games - which means a rudimentary plot/story, only a small amount exploring, shitty graphics ;-) and - of course - very detailed (turn-based?) combat.

Here's an idea for a more casual approach: "Rings of Zilfin" - also by SSI. This could also be much more in the line of your reviewing/blogging concept and it is relatively short. In other words: It isn't too epic."

"I have both the C-64 and Atari ST versions of Rings of Zilfin boxed, so that wouldn't be an issue, and I've always been intrigued by its hybrid nature. I understood the challenges with Wizard's Crown in regards to a story or lack thereof, which is why I also always want to write each entry with an imagined story that parallels the actual events I'm going through. Of course the big problem with that is in fictionalizing 30 minute fights, which would get tedious.

As for "wacky" SSI RPG's, obviously my first and most favored series is my oft talked about Phantasie (I, II and III). That would be easiest for me to fictionalize, since I've beaten it on the C-64 and even once on the PC. I also have the Atari ST (among others, like the Apple II) versions (I need to verify if the Amiga version is any better though), and was very tempted to play it through on that. I did want to devote my little amount of time though to something completely different, and I thought Wizard's Crown would really fit that bill. It just may not be compatible with my time at present. The good news is that I already did a tremendous amount of foundation work, obviously, so in the future if I did want to pick it up again, it would be trivial to do so. Of course that's assuming that I've given up on Wizard's Crown for now, which I haven't decided if I have or not.

My pressing projects at the moment (at least until the book gets a publisher) are pretty much as follows:

- Catalog my boxed computer (not videogame at this time) software (another couple of days of work)
- Test out modem to modem connection possibilities (a theory I came up with that we discussed over at Vintage Computer forums)
- Convert my spare Mac Mini to a Linux box, so I have all three current OS's available
- Continue to clean up and catalog more of my storage area (I'm actually trying to get rid of several SVGA CRT's that are taking up space and are very redundant)
- Do my daughter's video
- etc. (there are a few others I can't think of at the moment)

As an additional night-time project, I'd like to finish my first game in several years (ahem) by teaching myself GameMaker, which I have both the book on and a registered version 7 of. I have several game ideas I want to see become a reality, and that's the quickest way to do it at present. From there, I may eventually go to something like GLBasic, since that compiles cross-platform (I've given up on bothering to learn Blitz Basic at this point, even though I invested in that a few years ago). And yes, I realize I should be working in something higher level, but I have to be a little realistic...

Once I knock a game or two out, I'd like to continue to teach myself basic/general electronics so I can do better with maintaining/repairing my collection of systems.

So yeah, I need professional help..."

"Through our Contact Us form, I received an anonymous ("kjshomes") e-mail regarding this:

"
Here's what you have. You have an almost untouched Bally / Astrocade unit except for 3 things:

1) The shielding was removed, which was a common fix to prevent the large chip inder the keypad's wiring (Commonly called the "Custom Data" chip} from overheating. The shielding was originallt there to keep RF from the unit to effect nearby televisions. This was quite a problem when the unit was originally designed abd the TVs had tube-type tuners. With the advent of digital tuning used in ALL newer sets, this isn't an issue.

2) There appears to be a larger than normal heat sink on that chip. This is a GOOD thing.

3) The small notch in the back near hand control 3 jack has been removed.

This was so that the 300 baud interface could be used with the original BASIC (One with a GOLD label and NO jack or LED).

The long whir wire is there because when they originally designed the PCB, the filter (Largest of the 2 silver cylinders in that area) was too far away fron the power supply, so they needed to get it electrically closer.

I hope this answer some of your questions.

"

Thanks, "ksjhomes"!"

"It kind of reminds me of the arcade/ColecoVision/Atari 2600/Intellivision game Venture structurally, so I almost wonder if it would have evolved into something like that? The foundation is definitely there and if it could have become a type of hybrid Venture/Gateway to Apshai, they certainly could have had something. As it is now, it's really just a demo.

=================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
http://www.armchairarcade.com
A PC Magazine Top 100 Website
=================================

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From: ballyalley/yahoogroups.com [mailto:ballyalley/yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Adam Trionfo
Sent: Friday, January 18, 2008 3:27 PM
To: ballyalley/yahoogroups.com
Subject: [ballyalley] RE: Conan

Bill Loguidice, on Fri 1/18/08 at 12:08 PM, wrote:
>>
I realize [Conan] was never released first party, but was it released third party after the Astrocade's demise?
>>

Not officially. Mike White made cartridges, with permission from Astrocade in about 1985/86. He would know more about that.

>>
Is it considered a complete game?
>>

No, it was never finished.

>>
it seemed to superficially be a single screen game where after you killed a monster, a new monster would appear.
>>

That's it. The monsters do get faster and there are several of them at once, but it would not have been as popular as the Rubik's Cube (as Paul's recently quoted statement said!).

>>
I appreciate the nifty dual plane control scheme, with independent sword control/rotation, but beyond clean visuals there doesn't seem to be much going for it...
>>

Swinging the sword with the knob isn't bad, but after playing the game for awhile you realize that the rotation of the knob is more of a novelty-- especially when you get to the later levels and you have to hit the monsters so many times to kill them.

I don't know what exactly was planned for this game, but if just polishing the unfinished game up was all that was going to be done, then it would have been a pretty-bad game. If the game was going to allow the player to explore a dungeon or two searching for treasure it probably would have gone over well.

Here is what is written about the game in the cartridge FAQ (and thus the DP Guide):

Conan The Barbarian
Astrocade Inc. Strategy Series #5005 8K cart
AKA. Quest for the Orb. This cartridge is not finished, but did see a limited release through Dave Carson Software in 1985 (about forty were made). (Michigan Astrobugs Newsletter JUL.82 pg.1, Arcadian vol.4 pg.33,75, vol.5 pg.16,36,46,66, vol.6 pg. 99, vol.7 pg.2,13,46,67,94)

Adam"

"Mike White, on 1/18/08 at 1:12 PM, wrote:
>>
Conan was a VERY unfinished prototype! If you look at the code you'll relise just how unfinished it was!
>>

I wasn't sure what Mike meant by this, so I looked. The last 1,693 bytes of the Conan cartridge (about 1/5 of the 8K ROM) is completely empty. So, that leaves about 2K to play with-- if someone wanted to add some different rooms or something.

Adam"

n/a
Ned (not verified)
Game Over on power up

M y Bally has a game over on the power up and it doesn't go away and I would like to play it can you please tell me how to resolve this problem

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Bally Astrocade
Ned wrote:

M y Bally has a game over on the power up and it doesn't go away and I would like to play it can you please tell me how to resolve this problem

Ask at the Bally Alley Yahoo Group (mailing list). There are some technical people on there that can help. Many Astrocades have some type of issue. I'm lucky in that all of mine work perfectly.

n/a

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