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Bally Alley Astrocast

This podcast covers the Bally Arcade videogame console released in 1978. This system was also called the Astrocade and the Bally Professional Arcade.
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Now displaying: November, 2016
Nov 22, 2016

Episode 6 of the Bally Alley Astrocast covers The Incredible Wizard, the port of the arcade game Wizard of Wor. Paul and I are joined by our new co-host Michael Di Salvo. Paul and I cover the Arcadian newsletter issues 7 and 8 (June and July 1979). Paul and I discuss six letters to the Arcadian, dating from the Spring and Summer of 1979.

The next Astrocast podcast (episode 7) will feature holiday feedback in the December episode. If you have any holiday stories to share, then please send this feedback that you'd like to see included in episode 7 by December 16'th. I can't wait to hear your tales!

Recurring Links 

Introduction/News

  • Three Voice Music Program - This "AstroBASIC" program, by Brett Bilbrey and George Moses, allows the user to create three voice music on the Bally Arcade/Astrocade. This program was printed in the "AstroBASIC" manual on page 70. This program can be used on real Astrocade hardware to create new music. I encourage people to make music on the Astrocade using this software and then to send it in for inclusion on the Astrocast. I'd love to see music submissions start to pour into the show!
  • Lesson 9: Three Voice Music with Bally BASIC - This is a tutorial by George Moses from the "AstroBASIC" manual. It explains how to use the Three Voice Music Program (above).

Michael's History with the Astrocade

  • Astrocade Kiosk - This was the dealer's display cabinet, intended for small shops and large department stores. Made by the Santa Cruz Wire and Mfg. Co., this kiosk stood over five feet tall and resembled a coin-op cabinet. It came wired for 110 volts for use with the Astrocade and a TV (not included with the unit). There was a cartridge selector inside for up to ten game cartridges to be demonstrated (with a time limit); a "10 key" switch selected which cartridge was played.
  • Crazy Eddie's TV Commercial - This TV commercial features the Astrocade, Odyssey 2, Atari, Colecovision, Arcadian 2001, Intellivision and Vectrex.
  • "Astrocade Owners!" Ad - This half-page ad appeared in the January 1983 issue of Electronic Games. It lists "the professionals who support your computer with programs, hardware and information to help you enjoy your Astrocade to the maximum! Contact any of them for details." Each of the companies listed has contact information, along with a brief summary of what they do. Running this ad was very expensive. Richard Houser, from Astrocade Sourcebook (one of the companies in the ad), has said that everyone in this ad grouped together funds to run it for several issues in Electronic Games magazine. When asked if the ad worked at all, Richard said that it did have noticeable results.
  • Castle of Horror (Gameplay Video) - A gameplay YouTube video uploaded by "ArcadeUSA" on September 21, 2013. WaveMakers' Castle of Horror is the one tape game that Michael Di Salvo bought in the 1980s. He thinks he heard of it from the ad that was run in Electronic Games.
  • Swap 'N Shop Text Channel - Michael used the Cablevision Swap 'N Shop channel from his cable provider to sell his Atari 2600 in the early 1980s so that he could buy a Colecovison. This is an example of that channel for those (like me) who have never heard of this before. This is a five minute segment of a community access channel called 'Swap 'N Shop' from back in 1984. It is provided by Cablevision TV service in Downers Grove, IL.

The Incredible Wizard

  • The Incredible Wizard in Shrinkwrapped Box- If you bought this game in 1982, this is what you would have brought home.
  • The Incredible Wizard Cartridge - This is a high-quality picture of The Incredible Wizard cartridge.
  • "Astro Arcade" TV Commercial - This thirty-second TV commercial from 1982 features several prominent game for the Astrocade, including The Incredible Wizard, and several games that were never released.
  • The Incredible Wizard Ad - This advertisement is from the 34-page Astrocade, Inc. 1982 game catalog. This is a color catalog of the cartridges available for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade. Check out the ads for the unreleased cartridges: Bowling, Creative Crayon, Conan the Barbarian, Music Maker, and Soccer!
  • The Incredible Wizard, "Let's Play" Video - A "Let's Play" YouTube video uploaded by "ArcadeUSA" on September 29, 2013.
  • HSC01 Round 4: The Incredible Wizard - Round 4 of the Astrocade High Score Club (March/April 2016) featured The Incredible Wizard as the main game.
  • The Incredible Wizard - The instruction manual in pdf format.
  • The Incredible Wizard Screenshots - I used the Astrocade emulation in MAME to take screenshots of the twenty unique dungeons that I've come across in "The Incredible Wizard." The dungeons that the player reaches on each stage seem to be randomly selected. Therefore, there are probably more dungeons that I'm not aware of yet. I reached these later levels using save states in MAME while searching for more dungeons. Check out all the level variety that I've seen so far in, as the Wizard calls his collection of dungeons in the arcade game, the "Caverns of Wor."
  • Wizard of Wor (Video) - This is a gameplay video of Wizard of Wor in action. This appears to be the MAME version of the game. Use this video to compare the Astrocade home port of the game against the original arcade version.
  • The Incredible Wizard Review 1 - This is a review by Joe Santulli of The Incredible Wizard for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade. This review first appeared in the January/February 1996 issue of the Digital Press #28 newsletter.
  • The Incredible Wizard Review 2 - Here is a second review of the "Wizard." This review is called Astrocade's 'The Incredible Wizard' for Astrocade by Danny Goodman and was published in Radio Electronics, April 1983: 14, 20. This review is in pdf format. You can read the review in text format here.
  • "Wizard" Strategy Guide - Here is an in-depth strategy guide for the The Incredible Wizard. This is from an article called Conquering: The Incredible Wizard from Videogaming Illustrated, Dec. 1982: 24-26. You can read the article in text format here
  • The Incredible Wizard Video Review - This video review was uploaded to YouTube by Nice and Game on August 19, 2010.
  • The Incredible Wizard (Partial Z80 Disassembly) - This is a disassembly of the Wizard of Wor clone for the Astrocade called The Incredible Wizard. This disassembly was begun in November 2011 and has been worked on in fits and starts over the last few years. There is plenty of work that needs to be done, but this is a healthy beginning.
  • The Incredible Wizard Press Release - June 1982 press release announcing The Incredible Wizard.
  • Picture of The Incredible Wizard Ad at Baseball Game - According to an Astrocade press release from June 1982, this was the world's first video game to be projected on a giant screen (25' x 35') at a baseball game. Other than knowing that this is a White Sox game played in Chicago in the Summer of 1982, I don't know who took this picture. This picture is from the Digital Press CD released in 1997. Thanks to Digital Press for allowing this picture to appear on Bally Alley.
  • The Incredible Wizard CES Contest - This is a press release from June 6, 1982. Astrocade, Inc. held a special three-day Incredible Wizard video game contest at the June 1982 Summer CES.

Arcadian Newsletters

  • Arcadian 1, no. 7 (June 15, 1979): 47-54. - The seventh issue of the Arcadian newsletter.
  • Arcadian 1, no. 8 (July 20, 1979): 55-68. - The eighth issue of the Arcadian newsletter.
  • Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade - Carly Kocurek examines the factors and incidents that contributed to the widespread view of video gaming as an enclave for young men and boys. Coin-Operated Americans holds valuable lessons for contemporary culture as we struggle to address pervasive sexism in the domain of video games—and in the digital working world beyond.
  • HSC01 Round 12: The Adventures of Robby Roto! / Q-B2B - The main Astrocade High Score Club game is not a cartridge-based game this round. Instead, it is an arcade game that uses the "Astrocade chipset." The Adventures of Robby Roto! is the main game for Round 12 of the Astrocade High Score Club. The BASIC bonus game is a Q*Bert clone called Q-B2B by WaveMakers.
  • Jameco JE 610 ASCII Keyboard Datasheet - These keyboards, from 1979, were often hacked with the 300-BAUD interface to create a keyboard that could be used with Bally BASIC. From the datasheet: "The JE610 ASCII Encoded keyboard kit can be interfaced into most any computer system. The keyboard assembly requires 5V @150mA and -12V @ 10mA for operation. Interface wiring can be made with either a 16-pin DIP jumper plug or an 18-pin (.156 spacing) edge connector."
  • Bangman (AstroBASIC) - This is the "AstroBASIC" (2000-baud) version of Bangman by Ernie Sams that appeared in Arcadian 1, no. 7 (Jun 15, 1979): 47-49. Bangman is a take-off on the classic Hangman word spelling game. It has two novel features - letters being entered are hidden from view of the opposing player - and the penalty for losing is not a hanging... One person keys in a word to ten letters; another tries to guess it with no more than nine wrong guesses using the knob and trigger.
  • Bangman (Video) - This is a gameplay video of Bangman by Ernie Sams for Bally Arcade/Astrocade. This BASIC program appeared in the June 1979 issue of the Arcadian.
  • ABC Hobbycraft Website - ABC Hobbycraft used to sell Astrocades in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They were a hub of Bally Arcade/Astrocade activity. The company still exists today in Evansville, IN, although now these specialize in trains, plastic models, scale models and accessories.
  • aMAZEd in SPACE (AstroBASIC) - This program is by Aquila and Richard Houser appear in Arcadian 1, no. 8 (Jul. 20, 1979): 58,60-61. aMAZEd in SPACE is a rocketship-thru-the-maze challenge with a number of levels of difficulty. Maneuver spaceship thru maze without crashing into walls. Direction is controlled by joystick 1. Path size, maze height, maze width and degree of difficulty, are selected by keyboard input. Score is based on these inputs and time taken to complete maze. It takes quite awhile to complete maze interior, so start small.
  • aMAZEd in SPACE (Video) - aMAZEd in SPACE is a BASIC game by Aquila and Richard Houser for Bally Arcade/Astrocade (Arcadian, July 1979).
  • Astrocade Programming Sheets - Nine Programming and Graph sheets specifically for use with the Bally Arcade/Astrocade. Many of these were created by Spectre Systems in 1982. The different sheets are BASIC Programmer's Sheet, Z-80 Programmer's Sheet, Screen Map (Type 1, Character Number CX, CY Value), Screen Map (Type 2, FC/BC Color Map), Screen Map (Type 3, Right/Left Color Map), Screen Map (Type 4, Totally Blank, Screen Map (Type 5, Blank, No Map Key), Screen Map (Type 6, Blank Character Graph Paper), and Screen Map (Type 7, Character Graph Paper, With Color Key).
  • Slot Machine (Bally BASIC, 300-Baud) - Slot Machine was written for Bally BASIC by Ernie Sams. This program was originally published in Arcadian 1, no. 8 (Jul. 20, 1979): 59. A correction was published in Arcadian 1, no. 9 (Aug. 18, 1979): 69.
  • Slot Machine (Video) - A gameplay video of Slot Machine by Ernie Sams. This video shows a full game being played.
  • The Music Synthesizer (Article, Text Format) - The Music Synthesizer by Chuck Thomka. "The synthesizer circuit, which is contained wholly within the 40 pin custom I/O chip, is a very versatile circuit which contains counters and amplifiers to give the programmer tremendous control of the three voice output along with a tremolo, vibrato, and even a noise generator. The output frequency range is very accurately adjustable from less than 14 hertz to ultrasonic frequencies. The upper limit may be set by the capacity of your TV sound system." This tutorial original was made up of two parts: The Music Synthesizer [Part 1], Arcadian, 1, no. 8 (July 1979): 62-66. and The Music Synthesizer, Part 2, Arcadian, 1, no. 9 (August 1979): 71-73. This text version of the tutorial is missing four parts as they appeared in the Arcadian newsletter. The missing parts are: 1) Sound Graph - A Bally BASIC program that allows access to the sound ports and makes a simple graph of the results. Arcadian, 1, no. 8 (July 1979): 65. 2) Touch Tone Simulate - A Bally BASIC program that can be used to dial phone numbers. Arcadian, 1, no. 8 (July 1979): 65. 3) The Sound Synthesizer as Perceived by Chuck Thomka - A visual overview of the sound ports. Brett Bilbrey has said that this has some errors, but he can't remember what they are. ARCADIAN, 1, no. 8 (July 1979): 66. and 4) Frequency Table - A table of all the sound generating keys, their &(17) values, the resultant frequencies, and any special notes about them. ARCADIAN, 1, no. 9 (August 1979): 73. The two tutorials have been extracted from the two different issues of the Arcadian newsletter and combined into one text document.
  • Sound Graph ("AstroBASIC," 2000-baud) - Sound Graph b Chuck Thomka from Arcadian, 1, no. 8 (July 1979): 65. This utility is part of the "The Music Synthesizer" tutorial by Chuck Thomka. In order to understand what "Sound Graph" is doing, the user must read the tutorial or at least have previous knowledge of the sound ports. With this knowledge, then you may be able to make some noises, but you won't be able to understand why they work or really what is happening. "Sound Graph" is an early BASIC program that allows direct access to the sound ports. The user can try making different sounds by changing the ports with an interface that uses hand controller #1..
  • Touch Tone Simulate - Touch Tone Simulate by Chuck Thomka from Arcadian, 1, no. 8 (July 1979): 65. and modification from Arcadian, 2, no. 10 (Sept 1980): 90. This utility allows the user to type in a phone number, and then dial it by placing a phone near the TV speaker and then pressing PRINT. The Bally Arcade will automatically dial the phone number. Make sure that when you use the program that your TV's volume is set to a high enough level so that your telephone can "hear" the TV.
  • Fabris/Thomka (Phone Conversation) - A very technical phone discussion between Bob Fabris and Chuck Thomka about circuit frequencies. This was probably recorded on January 2, 1982. This recording (in FLAC format) is 15:29 long.
  • Memory Display (Bally BASIC, 300-baud) - Memory Display by Chuck Thomka from Arcadian, 1, no. 8 (July 1979): 67. This is a machine language utility for BASIC. This program displays input memory locations in both Hexadecimal format (with hex pairs in reverse order) and Bally BASIC decimal format. This is a nice memory dump program that displays the decimal and hexadecimal location numbers (address) and data. It will do whole blocks of dumps by giving a starting and ending address. It will increment the address by the entered amount if you only want to check every 1000'th location, for example. Use negative numbers to check the upper memory: -32767D = $8001 to -1D = $FFFF.
  • Square Root (Bally BASIC, 300-Baud) - Square Root by David Stocker from Arcadian 1, no. 8 (Jul. 20, 1979): 67. The Arcadian does not have any comments or instructions for this program. Although the name implies that the program calculates a square root in BASIC, it would be impossible to know that while running the program as it gives no indication of what the program is asking for at the INPUT prompt. Only a look through the code would give a hint of that information.
  • Distance Between Two Points (Bally BASIC, 300-Baud) - Distance Between Two Points by David Stocker from Arcadian 1, no. 8 (Jul. 20, 1979): 67. The Arcadian has no comments about this program, though from the title it can be surmised that this eighteen-line calculates the distance between two points.
  • Bally Chess Board (Bally BASIC, 300-Baud) - Bally Chess Board by John Collins was originally offered for sale for $6.00 in 1979 (as Chess), then later printed in the Arcadian newsletter in the October 1984 issue on page 120.
  • Bally Chess Board ("AstroBASIC," 300-Baud) - Bally Chess Board by John Collins was originally offered for sale for $6.00 in 1979 (as Chess), then later printed in the Arcadian newsletter in the October 1984 issue on page 120.
  • BATNUM (Battle of Numbers) - BATNUM for the Bally Arcade by Ron Schwenk was originally printed in Creative Computing. It has not been archived from tape and is only available as a type-in BASIC listing.
  • Mastermind - Mastermind for the Bally Arcade by Ron Schwenk has not been archived from tape and is only available as a type-in BASIC listing.
  • Scott Waldinger (Type-in Programs) - Scott Walldinger advertised ten programs for sale in Arcadian 1, no. 8 (Jul. 20, 1979): 68. The ten programs are Connect Four, Craps 2, Horse Race, Robot War, Sea Battle, Slot Machine, Star Wars, Star Ship, Star Trek, and Tic-Tac-Toe. None of these programs have been archived from tape; they are only available as a type-in BASIC listings.
  • A Guided Tour of Computer Programming in BASIC - A link on Amazon.com to A Guided Tour of Computer Programming in BASIC by Thomas A. Dwyer and M.S. Kaufmann. A book recommended by Arcadian subscribers.
  • 57 Practical Programs and Games in BASIC - A link on Amazon.com to 57 Practical Programs and Games in BASIC by Ken Tracton. A book recommended by Arcadian subscribers.
  • 24 Tested Ready-To-Run Game Programs in BASIC - A link on Archive.org to 24 Tested Ready-To-Run Game Programs in BASIC by Ken Tracton. Programmers who submitted program to the Arcadian used this book for inspiration.
  • BASIC Computer Games: Microcomputer Edition - A link on Amazon.com to BASIC Computer Games: Microcomputer Edition, edited by David H. Ahl. Programmers who submitted program to the Arcadian used this book for inspiration.
  • The BASIC Cookbook - A link on Archive.org to The BASIC Cookbook by Ken Tracton. Programmers who submitted program to the Arcadian used this book for inspiration.

Classic Letters

  • Ron Schwenk Letter to Bob Fabris (February 2, 1979)

    Ron gives early comments on a few cartridges: "Football is very good. They even have music with Vibrato! It sure sounds good. I quickly ran out of them, but should have more in a week. Maze/Tic-Tac-Toe is ok, but mainly for kids. I think that Star Battle is their poorest videocade and don't care for it at all."

    The add-under never made it out the door. It had issues from the start. Ron already has a criticism, "In the expansion unit it looks like they are increasing the amount of ROM but decreasing the RAM. And increasing the price!" Not only does the increase cost of the unit upset Ron, but he is confused by what's on offer. He hopes that Bob can clarify the statement, "To get 80 characters per line, does 'optional TV printer' mean a video monitor?"

    Ron has written a Mastermind game. This is mentioned in passing by Bob in the March 1979 Arcadian on page 31. There is an ad for Ron's Mastermind in the July 1979 Arcadian on page 68. The program was never printed in the Arcadian, but there is printed BASIC listing of the program available in the Bob Fabris Collection. Copies of two other games are also available: BatNum and One Check.

    Ron includes a one-page listing of the Bally items that he carries through his company Schwenk Enterprises. Among these items are the Bally Arcade systems. At the time the list price was $329.95 for a system with four controllers. Ron sells them for a cash price of $289.53 (or 296.95 for credit card purchasers). After looking over Ron's 11-cartridge listing, I noticed that the list price for 2K cartridges is $19.95 and the 4K cartridges sell for $24.95. Ron sells the carts for slightly cheaper than retail: his cash price is about $18 for 2K carts and $23 for 4K cartridges.
  • RM Martin Letter to Bob Fabris (May 28, 1979)

    Mr. Martin has some programming questions for Bob Fabris. Along with this letter, I found handwritten notes that Mr. Fabris prepared to answer the questions that he was asked.

    Mr. Martin says that his Checkers game, by John Collins, cheats. This game was printed in the May 1979 issue of Arcadian. As usually occurred, there were errors in the original listing. The June 1979 issue of Arcadian printed some corrections. Hopefully these got Mr. Martin fixed-up. Over the years, John Collins revisited his Checkers program, eventually making two major updates to it (calling them, quite originally, Checkers II and Checkers III).

    Mr. Martin asks how he can convert Star Trek and Wumpus written for other computers that have READ and DATA statements. The Bally doesn't support these commands, and he wonders how he can work around this limitation of Bally BASIC.

    All of the information in this letter is pretty typical for much of the correspondence that is written to the Arcadian. It's this letter's last paragraph that made me choose to include it in this podcast. Mr. Martin says, "You are doing one hellofa job. I have learned more about computers than I thought I ever would. Thanks." I'm not sure if this is an accurate summary of Mr. Martin, but I picture him as somebody who purchased his Bally Arcade to play games in much the same way that someone may have bought an Atari VCS in 1979. Then he stumbled into the Arcadian newsletter, bought Bally BASIC and was delving into his game system after realizing it could do much more than he originally thought possible.
  • Guy McLimore Letter to Bob Fabris (May 29, 1979)

    Guy recently received Scott Waldinger's version of the Star Trek program that he ordered. Scott must have ordered this from the classified ad in the May 1979 Arcadian on page 46. The instructions and the BASIC listing are available here:

    1. Star Trek by Scott Waldinger (Bally BASIC Listing)

    Guy hasn't had time to type in the listing yet, but it looked to him like Scott Waldinger found a unique way around the Bally's lack of substantial memory and multi-dimensional arrays. That's one of the neat details about the Bally system. People who owned it had to find interesting, and perhaps unique, methods to work around the system's minuscule 1.8K or RAM and limitations imposed by the Bally BASIC cartridge.

    It seems that Bob must have given Guy the corrections for Checkers, for its now working for him. He's glad there is a BASIC version of this program, "Bally has held up the videocade version." Actually, this cartridge never did ship, although a usable 2K prototype does exist-- though I've not played it. Guy says that the "the programmer [of Checkers] deserves applause for his work, as I would have bet it couldn't be done in 1800 characters."

    Guy is working on a light pen. The work is currently stalled, but if he gets it working, then he plans to sell it through the Arcadian. However, I don't think that this ever occurred. Some people in the Bally community did end up creating their own light pens, among them are Craig Anderson and Leroy Flamm. The Light Pen was supposed to be used with the Creative Crayon cartridge, but that cartridge never shipped and I don't think a prototype has ever surfaced.

    Bally's National Service manager told Guy that they planned to revise the Hacker's Manual and make it into an advanced operations manual. This never occurred. It seems that Guy already had doubts about it being released, for he mentions to Bob that if Bally falls through with this project then he thinks that someone, maybe even himself, should make such a manual for the Bally Arcade.
  • Laurence Leske Letter to Bob Fabris (June 6, 1979)

    This is a letter that Bob Fabris wrote to Larry Leske, an employee at Bally. Bob is hoping to get some more information on the internal workings of the Bally system. Bob says:

    "I publish a newsletter for owners of the ARCADE, and provide them with material which enables them to better understand the machine, and which informs them of operations that are possible. The inputs for my paper come primarily from the more technically oriented subscribers. I now have over 600 persons subscribing from across the country and Canada, plus a handful foreign, and we are all concerned about the status of the Add-On, or Programmable Keyboard. We have the Bally story of 'waiting for the FCC to act on the TI proposal', but we have also been waiting since last year when the Add-On was originally expected. Many of the subscribers responded to the JS&A advertising of Oct/77, and are quite frustrated with the situation.

    "We would be greatly interested in a surrogate keyboard, with additional memory capacity and capabilities approaching those which were advertised in the literature - a more powerful BASIC and a full-size ASCII keyboard, at least. In addition the units should have some equivalent to GRAFIX, ZGRASS, TERSE, etc., languages if at all possible."

    Before I continue with Bob's letter, I want to say how fascinating I find Bob's statements. He's basically writing a letter to Bally saying, "Hey buddy, we can't wait anymore for your delayed keyboard add-on, so we're gonna make our own." Imagine this happening today. You'd probably get a cease-and-desist letter from the manufacturer. Times surely have changed!

    Bob continues:

    "I am writing this letter on Jay Hess' recommendation to let you know that we as a group exist, and are interested in upgrading the system to higher capabilities. Of my group, I would suspect 70% to 80% would be in a position to purchase a unit in the $400-600 range.

    "I would be pleased to receive your comments and thoughts about our 'problem', and to answer any questions you may have."

    While searching the BallyAlley website for some additional information on Larry Leske, I found a quote from an article called In the Mind of Tom Defanti... Inventor of ZGrass by Suzan D. Prince. This was printed in the June/July 1982 issue of "Business Screen." Here's what Tom DeFanti says about Larry Leske:

    "About this time [1976 or 1977], another friend, Larry Leske, decided he could no longer afford to remain a student at the University [of Chicago] and went to work for Bally Manufacturing Co., the games producer. There he discovered the Bally Professional Arcade system, a fully assembled home computer game unit Bally planned to market to the public. Leske started programming on the Arcade, and believe me, he nearly knocked our socks off. Two others—Jay Fenton, a top programmer and developer of Bally BASIC; and Nola Donato, a language programmer-- and I, quickly wrote all the code for this new form Leske based on Grass. In 1979 Bally brought out the Arcade and its new software written in Z-Grass."

    Tom's remarks are not entirely accurate, for the BPA came out in 1978, and Bally never actually did release Z-GRASS. The full article can be read online:

    1. In the Mind of Tom Defanti... Inventor of ZGrass (Article) - In the Mind of Tom Defanti... Inventor of ZGrass by Suzan D. Prince. Business Screen (June/July 1982).

    Also, of note, there are several recorded phone conversations between Bob Fabris and Larry Leske.

    1. Larry Leske and Bob (Phone Conversation, Part 1) - Bob Fabris talks on the phone for about eight minutes with Larry Leske, who's been working on a programmable keyboard kit. [Arcadian volume 1, issue 8, page 55] It seems likely that Fidelity Electronics will take over the system, and they plan on possibly reviving the ZGRASS add-under in about six months. Larry has great respect for the engineering at Fidelity, and thinks it's likely they'll get out a quality product fairly quickly. Given this, Larry doesn't really want to compete with them, so the project is put on hold. [Arcadian, volume 2, issue 3, page 19]
    2. Bob Freeman and Bob (Phone Conversation, Part 2) - Bob Fabris talks on the phone for about fifteen minutes to Bob Freeman, who's been working on an S-100 adapter for the system [Arcadian volume 2, issue 2, page 11]. With Larry Leske losing interest on programmable keyboard work, Fabris is now particularly interested in this. Freeman is also thinking about things like a modem. But he's not moving at a fast pace unless there's enough interest to make it profitable. Fabris is planning on surveying the Arcadian readers on what they want. [Arcadian volume 2, issue 3, page 19]. Freeman has also programmed a system monitor ROM (it COULD be the "ADS System Monitor," but this is only conjecture), to be used for debugging assembler programs. Freeman wonders if Fidelity Electronics would consider speeding up the system's Z80, but Fabris says they're trying to cut costs on the board instead. They might consider a retrofit kit, though.

    They probably originate from around this era. It's intriguing to know that Bob reached out to Bally for help and maybe even guidance.
  • Light Pen Plans and Schematics - These plans by Leroy Flamm show how to build a light pen for the Bally Arcade/ Astrocade. The documentation refers to a tape with a program for the hardware. It can't be certain, but that program is probably Light-Pen Graphics Program, which was printed in Arcadian, 7.4 (Aug. 15, 1986): 68-69.
  • Guy McLimore Letter to Bob Fabris (June 14, 1979)

    Guy thanks Bob for his additions to Skyrocket (known also, on BallyAlley.com as Logo). According to the letter, it was Bob that added the rocket's vapor trail. Guy thanks Bob for his corrections to Checkers, but he's still having issues with the game.

    Guy is meeting with Bally's national sales manager [probably Jack Nieman] in Evensville on June 20, 1979. He plans to "get on his case pretty heavy about the keyboard expansion."

    Guys feels that "The potential is there for Bally to wrap up a large hunk of the personal computer market, but they are blowing it by holding up the keyboard, by failing to provide adequate documentation for Bally BASIC, and by falling to properly promote the system, service current customers, and provide software. I have just seen information on ATARI's new system, and Bally is going to lose customers to this new system if it doesn't provide the keyboard FAST."

    Guy is "encouraging all local Bally owners to write Bally encouraging a firmer commitment to expansion of the unit and demanding definite answers on the keyboard." He goes on to say "If all 600-plus ARCADIANS would write, maybe it would make a difference. Unfortunately, Bally is in the unique position of being able to well afford to ignore public demand, since their income from consumer products is only a tiny, tiny fraction of their total income. They just don't seem to give a damn one way or the other."

    Guy has "given Bob Fabris' address to two or three Bally owners in [his] area that [he] contacted through the Evansville Computer Club. One man [Guy] talked to [...] was frankly flabbergasted at all the information that was left out of the manual. [Guy] showed him &(9) [to control the left/right color boundary], the music oscillator and vibrato controls, ABS(X), the PEEK and POKE functions, ROM subroutines, etc. and [the man] nearly lost his teeth. He echoed the sentiments of so many others-- "Why doesn't Bally let people know what they have here?"

    Guy's light pen, which he talked about in his previous letter dated May 29'th, still won't work.

    Guys says, "This is unofficial and-- as yet-- not for publication, but I am negotiating with a major war gaming wholesaler in the East to supply him with game support software for the Bally system. He intends to become a Bally wholesaler, and will deal with Bally dealers by mail order if this goes through. I will be acting as his consultant on this project. Nothing is settled yet, but if it works out, we may be able to provide Bally dealers nationwide with a source of reliable software. If you wish, you may run in the ARCADIAN that I am interested in hearing from programmers who wish to license or sell their software. I can make NO PROMISES yet, though. It might help if I could give him some idea on these programs-- availability, reliability and such. Guy added a handwritten note here: "Again, P.S.: Hold off on this. Negotiating still proceeding, but slowly!"

    Guy makes a point that I've noticed over the years when reading the instructions for software published on tape. Guy says, ""So far, most of the Bally software I've seen is pretty amateurish in terms of presentation and documentation, while being surprisingly sophisticated in terms of actual program writing. What is needed is a tutorial on documentation, and my submission for such an article is enclosed. An improperly documented program is almost as bad an no program at all." [Unfortunately, I was unable to find in the Fabris Collection this documentation that Guy wrote.]
  • John Sweeney Letter to Bob Fabris (July 14, 2016)

    This is a double-spaced, nine-page type-written letter.

    John laments about the "new delay in the keyboard [add-under]." John gave up waiting for the add-under already and he has purchased a TRS-80 with the money he had set aside for the keyboard expansion. However, he still plans to use his Bally Arcade. In fact, he plans to get the two systems talking to one another.

    John has enclosed the schematic (for the main logic components) for a memory expansion that he created for his Bally Arcade. John assembled it with, he says:

    "wire-wrap on a 4 1/4" x 4 1/2" Vector board, mounted in a Radio Shack instrument cabinet. Actually, the mechanical problems of getting the signals out of the Bally, and of arranging the power supplies and cabinet were more formidable than any of the electronic or logic problems, save one. [which he doesn't mention]

    "As drawn, the schematic provides for up to 8 kilobytes of additional memory. At this moment, I have 3K installed, and the last 32 addresses at the top of the space are decoded to provide I/O & other special purposes."

    John goes into great detail about how his RAM expansion unit works. He provides a parts list too. Any listeners who are hardware hackers will probably be interested to read (or at least skim) this letter. This information was never published in the Arcadian newsletter, but I suspect that it was probably shared with some Arcadian subscribers.

    The hardware and software projects that were created by the Bally Arcade users in the late 1970s and early 1980s seem to fit very close with what homebrewers on 8-bit and 16-bit classic gaming systems and computers are creating today. The Bally system is hardly unique in this respect, even for its time of release. The Apple II, TRS-80, Commodore and S-100 users all were hacking away nimbly at their systems. The difference, to me, is that we don't look at the Bally Arcade system today as a computer, but rather as a game system in the same vein as the Atari VCS or, perhaps, the Intellivision. In 1978, one didn't bring home an Atari VCS and start adding RAM to it. Atari owners played Combat. They had great fun doing it (and so did I!), but maybe the Bally users had a type of fun that Atari game system owners couldn't touch: the fun of learning a system and creating with it.

 

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