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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: 2020
May 29, 2020

In episode #16 of the Bally Alley Astrocast, Kevin Bunch interviews Andy Guevara. The interview took place Saturday, May 16, 2020. Andy wrote three programs that were released on cartridge for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade. The first cartridge was Machine Language Manager (MLM), released by The Bit Fiddlers in 1982. L&M Software approached Andy due to his machine language skills and a collaboration got underway that produced Ms. Candyman and Sea Devil, which were both released on cartridge in 1983. Andy also wrote some additional software: Chicken and the Goldfish Demo were released on tape, while a few others were released as type-in programs. Mr. Guevara's used an Apple II Plus with a Z80 card which ran the CP/M operating system to write most of his software for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade.

Recurring Links 

Machine Language Manager (MLM)

  • Machine Language Manager (MLM) is a 2KB cartridge written by Andy Guevara in 1981 for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade. It was released by The Bit Fiddlers in late 1981/early 1982.
  • There is a series of four videos about the MLM. The episodes are called, "Part 1: Overview and Background," "Part 2: How to Use the MLM," "Part 3: Using MLM Example Programs," and "Part 4: Using MLM with the Astrocade MAME Emulation."

  • Machine Language Manager User's Manual - This manual explains how to program in machine language using the "MLM" cartridge. There is also plenty of information that explains how to program the Bally Arcade/Astrocade in general. The complete source code listing for the cartridge is included.
  • Machine Language Manager Programs - Digitally archived Bally Arcade/Astrocade programs that will load with the Machine Language Manager cartridge and the 300-BAUD tape interface.
  • Machine Language Manager - Source Code - This is the Z80 assembly source code the for MLM cartridge in ready to assemble format.

Sea Devil

  • Sea Devil is a 4K third party game. It was released in 1983 by L&M Software. This cartridge was written by Andy Guevara (of The Bit Fiddlers). You are the guardian of a 21st century undersea farm. Not only is this important to the survival of the people on earth, but the company you work for have risked millions on this venture. Zardos, the evil king of a distant planet, needs this food for himself. He has sent android divers with other sea creatures to steal this food. You must destroy the hoard of poachers as quickly as possible because each bit of food (the white abalone on the bottom) they get will cost you bonus score at the end of the screen. Beware, the poachers are releasing undersea mines to destroy you, avoid them by evasive action.

Ms. Candyman

  • Ms. Candyman is a 4K cartridge released by L&M Software in 1983. It was programmed by Andy Guevara. Ms. Candyman is the sequel to 1983's Candy Man, which was released on tape. This is the description of the game from an advertisement: "Real arcade action with joysticks, 1 or 2 players and 3 levels of difficulty. More than 20 screens, each faster than the one before. Full screen display in exquisite detail. Ms. Candyman must pick up all of the lifesavers as quickly as possible while avoiding contact with the Ghosts & Goblins. During the first half of a screen the Ghosts or Goblins will try to catch you. During the 2nd half of a screen the Ghosts or Goblins will take up protective positions to keep you away from the life savers. Each contact costs Ms. Candyman one life and she will nose-dive head first off the bottom of the play field. A wrecker or ambulance will carry her off."

  • Candy Man is the prequel to Ms. Candyman by L&M Software. It was released on tape. It loads via the Astrovision release of Bally BASIC (usually called "AstroBASIC"). The game was written by Bill Loos and Greg Miller, who make up L&M Software. It's unclear to me how much of this game is written in BASIC, but by the speed of this game, my guess is that it relies heavily on machine language subroutines built into the Bally's 8K on-board system ROM. Andy didn't directly work on Candy Man, but the programmers of the game might have used his machine language routines in the game.

  • Ms. Candyman Ad - L&M Software's very rare cartridge release for the Astrocade. This game is one of those rare occasions where the rarity of the game does not speak about the quality of gameplay. A great game.
  • Ms. Candyman Review - Michael Prosise reviewed Ms. Candyman in his "The Game Player #13" column in the November 29, 1983 of the Arcadian newsletter.
  • Ms. Candyman Disassembly - This is a partially commented Z80 disassembly of Ms. Candyman. All of the games graphics were found and most of the code was disassembled, but not commented. Hopefully Andy can provide the printed source code listing so that this game can be completely commented.
  • Ms. Candyman High Score Club - Ms. Candyman was played for the Astrocade High Score Club in June 2017 for HSC02, Round 6: Ms. Candyman / The Mummy's Treasure.

Chicken

  • Chicken! - The Bit Fiddlers, 1982. It's late... you've got to get your brood home in time to watch "Fowl Play." The only problem... there's six lanes of freeway between you and home. And every day it seems to get worse... CHICKEN! is a one or two player game of skill. It pits each player against six lanes of highway of ever increasing traffic density. The object, of course, is to get your chickens across the road.

  • Chicken source code - This is Richard Degler's disassembly of the Bit Fiddler's "Chicken (The Bit Fiddlers).bin." This game originally loaded via Bally BASIC, AstroBASIC or the "Machine Language Manager." This version of the binary will run as a cartridge.

Goldfish Demo

  • Goldfish Demo - Seven goldfish (actually they are neon tetras) swim around a fishtank, a clock runs, and a cat meows every minute.

  • Goldfish Source Code - In January 2008, Lance F. Squire converted the Goldfish Demo to run as a cartridge.

Standard Color Generator

  • Standard Color Generator - By Andy Guevara/The Bit Fiddlers. BASIC EXPRESS, THE 3, no. 2 (May/June 1981): 15-16. "Machine Language Manager" Manual (Page 7-4) This video test software generates 8 standard colors used in TV work. It is for use with the Bally Arcade/Astrocade and Bally BASIC or the Machine Language Manager. The "Standard Color Generator" program will display a series of color bars which can be used to set the colors on your TV set. The color bars are displayed from left to right in the following order: Black, White, Yellow, Green, Blue, Magenta, Red and Cyan. This video is broken into several part: Overview of Program, Program Loading and Running (Direct Capture), and Program Loading and Running (Video of TV). This program is useful to help adjust colors on a TV. It's also an excellent example of showing more than the usual two colors on the screen at once from BASIC.

The Bit Fiddler's Corner

  • Andy Guevara programmed the "Machine Language Manager" ("MLM") cartridge for the Astrocade as well as writing "The Bit Fiddler's Corner" tutorials to help support the program. The tutorials complement "MLM," but they also have a general focus, so this information can be used without reinterpretation by Bally Arcade/Astrocade assembly language programmers, or those wishing to learn about the machine.
  • The Bit Fiddler's Corner - Links to each article in the series as they appeared in the Arcadian.
  • The Bit Fiddler's Corner - These tutorials were converted to text by Adam Trionfo on January 13, 2002. This is the complete series in one Rich Text Format document.

Andy Guevara - Miscellaneous Links

  • Atari Archive - Kevin Bunch is "chronicling the early history of video games with mini-documentaries focused on a particular game or topic.
  • Z-80 SoftCard - Bit Fiddler's programs were created using this Z-80 card, or one similar to it, for the Apple II Plus.
  • "Astrocade Owners!" Advertisement - This half-page ad appeared in the January 1983 issue of Electronic Games. "Here's a list of professionals who support your computer with programs, hardware and information to help you enjoy your Astrocade to the maximum!" Each of the 17 companies listed in the ad 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. A higher-quality version of the just the ad can be read here.

Feedback

There is no feedback covered in this episode,but we would love to hear your thoughts and comments about this (or any) Astrocast episode or about your history with the Bally Arcade/Astrocade. The best way to contact us is via email at BallyAlley or through via the Bally Alley Discussion Group at Groups.io.

Next Episode's Coverage

Astrocast #16 was supposed to be the first of a sporadic multi-part series that covers some of the material in the "AstroBASIC" manual. That episode was bumped to make room for the interview with Andy Guevara. The "AstroBASIC" manual overview will be in Astrocast #17.

 

May 8, 2020

In episode #15 of the Bally Alley Astrocast, Adam conducts a user interview with David Kindred. David got his Astrocade console in 1981 when he was eleven years old. He learned to program in Bally BASIC, which caused a spark that eventually ignited into a flame that drove David to college where he studied computer science and information technology. He worked for 25 years as a computer programmer, beginning with Fortune 500 companies, before he moved into IT management, where he works to this day.

In this podcast, David explains how using the Bally/Astrocade helped to shape his early views on programming and how the system and its BASIC programming language allowed him to be precise in his thinking. Lastly, lets not forget the fun tale of the subtle drawing of a tree with toilet paper hanging from its limbs that he created with a friend using the Astrocade's built-in program, Scribbling. Why would he draw this small wonder of art? This humble drawing glorified the cute misconduct of two thirteen year old boys who had spent the previous evening TP-ing a neighbor's tree.

If you have ever wondered what it felt like to be the owner and user of a minority game system like the Astrocade, then David can help fill in some of the blanks that are so hard to come by when talking to people who grew up with the more mainstream game systems like the Atari 2600 or much more popular computers like the Apple II.

Recurring Links 

  • Dick Ainsworth Webpage - Dick's manuals and how-to-program books introduced several of the early personal computer systems, including the first Microsoft BASIC with Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and Bally BASIC for the Bally computer. The Computer Learning Lab was an interactive book/software combination for the Sinclair Z-80 and the Radio Shack Color Computer that included software programs on audio tape cassettes. I also developed a wide variety of software from personal productivity and time management systems to game simulations.
  • Ainsworth Computer Seminar - Curious about computers? This hands-on seminar (from 1996-2004) is the ideal place to begin. You can view the text portion of the seminar by following the links on the website. If you would like to also view the program examples and details in addition to the text, get the free download that includes both text and programs. [Some of the links on this page are broken; maybe they'll be fixed someday?]
  • Sourcebook Bally/Astrocade Catalogs - The ARCADE unit with the BALLY BASIC Cartridge inserted becomes a versatile home computer. If you are interested in what equipment and programs are available to expand your ARCADE - then buy the BALLY / ASTRO SOURCEBOOK. The BALLY/ASTRO Professional ARCADE Software and Hardware SOURCEBOOK will acquaint you with the programs and accessories that are available for you to use with your new ARCADE computer. The SOURCEBOOK is a compilation of Software and Hardware Products produced for the BALLY/ASTRO Professional ARCADE. The SOURCEBOOK contains 100+ pages, with more than 400 Software and Hardware Listings. Two editions of the SOURCEBOOK are published each year. Orders received between March and August will receive the SUMMER Edition. Orders received between September and February will receive the WINTER Edition. The SOURCEBOOK is published by RMH Enterprises and has no official connection with the ARCADE manufacturer- ASTROVISION Inc.

Feedback

There is no feedback covered in this episode,but we would love to hear your thoughts and comments about this (or any) Astrocast episode or about your history with the Bally Arcade/Astrocade. The best way to contact us is via email at BallyAlley or through via the Bally Alley Discussion Group at Groups.io.

Next Episode's Coverage

Astrocast #16 will be the first of a sporadic multi-part series that covers some of the material in the "AstroBASIC" manual.

 

Apr 27, 2020

 

In episode #14 of the Bally Alley Astrocast, Adam and Paul cover the October 1979 issue of the Arcadian newsletter (vol. 1, #11) along with sixteen letters, postcards, notes and even one telegram that were sent to Bob Fabris, editor of the Arcadian newsletter, in the late 1970s/early 1980s. The two programs in this issue are "Microtrek" by Bill Andrus and "Resequencing" by Ron Schweitzer.

This episode also covers many letters to the Arcadian that were sent in the fall of 1979.

Recurring Links 

Arcadian, October 1979

  • ARCADIAN 1, no. 11 (Oct. 31, 1979): 85-92. - This is issue #11 of the Arcadian. It is ten pages long. It is covered in detail in Astrocast #14.
  • Bally Astrocade Document Collection, Astrocast #14 - These are the sixteen letters, postcards, notes and even one telegram that were sent to Bob Fabris, editor of the Arcadian newsletter, in the late 1970s/early 1980s. These documents are in pdf format and all of them are covered in Astrocast #14. Those that were typed have been OCRed but several of these documents are handwritten, so character recognition was not possible. There is a wealth of information inside of these documents which have been scanned from the Bob Fabris Collection. The names of the documents, along with extremely terse overviews about what is in some the documents, are at archive.org. The only way to really know what is inside of these documents is to dig into them and read them from start to finish.
  • "Microtrek" by Bill Andrus (AstroBASIC Program) - "Microtrek" is a very small but interesting version of the Star-Trek game. This version was originally shared by the North Carolina TRS-80 User Group. In playing, watch your energy level and remaining time.
  • "Resequencing" by Ron Schweitzer. (Bally BASIC, 300-Baud) - This program renumbers a BASIC program by using a tape as output, meaning the program in memory isn't actually changed, only the program on the tape is changed.
  • "Space Chase" by WaveMakers (Bally BASIC, 300-Baud) - Uses few graphics, but has good sound effects. You try to guide your ship through 200 light years to your destination. You may be attacked by enemy ships, run out of fuel, collide with meteors, etc. You're at the controls: warp 1, warp 2, wait for help, fire phaser or evasive actions. It's a long way to go, but a good captain can make it with a little help from friendly alien. Tape 3 (1980)
  • "Space Chase" by WaveMakers (AstroBASIC, 2000-Baud) - WaveMakers' take on a Star Trek-type game. This one uses few graphics, but has good sound effects. You try to guide your ship through 200 light years to your destination. You may be attacked by enemy ships, run out of fuel, collide with meteors, etc. You're at the controls: warp 1, warp 2, wait for help, fire phaser or evasive actions. It's a long way to go, but a good captain can make it with a little help from friendly alien.
  • MAGFest 2020. Presentation: "The Arcadians: Exploring the History of Homebrew for the Bally Astrocade" - The Bally Professional Arcade (or Astrocade) was little more than a minor player in the early programmable console space, suffering from hardware shortages, endless software delays, and vaporware expansions. Yet since its 1978 debut, the system’s passionate fanbase has taken matters into their own hands, developing and selling a quirky library of homegrown games unlike that of any other console library. Join Rachel Simone Weil and Kevin Bunch as they dig into this fascinating corner of game history, including a hands-on session in the museum afterward.
  • "Have a Ball with Bally" by Richard Nitto - Article from KILOBAUD MICROCOMPUTING (November 1979): 142-144. A review of the Bally Arcade console. This review, unlike many reviews for this system, concentrates strongly on Bally BASIC, so much so that it nearly avoids the topic of the cartridge games altogether. There are numerous short examples of Bally BASIC syntax. This article also includes a type-in game called "Battlestar Galactica." This is also one of the few mainstream publications of this system aimed at a general audience.
  • "Bally Professional Arcade by Karl Zinn - Article from "Creative Computing," 4, no. 5 (Sept-Oct 1978): 56-59. This article covers the Bally Arcade, not as a game playing console, but as an entry-level computer for use with BASIC. The only way that games are covered at all is using Bally BASIC to create games. There is a sample type-in BASIC program included called "Guess the Number."
  • Palo Alto Tiny BASIC, Version 3 by Li-Chen Wang - Article and source code excerpted from PCC's Reference Book of Personal And Home Computing, Edited by Dwight McCabe. 1977. Pages 58-88. Bally BASIC (and "AstroBASIC") are a superset of the original Palo Alto Tiny BASIC. This version of Li-Chen Wang's Palo Alto Tiny BASIC will run on either the 8080 or Z-80, and only uses 2K of core memory. It contains a number of nice features including command abbreviations and error messages. At the end of the listing is a cross reference table for symbols used in the program and also the object code for the program. For further information on Tiny BASIC languages, see Dr. Dobb's Journal, Volume 1.
  • Video Brain. Another System Bites the Dust! - "Recently, our Los Angeles Bally Users Group found out that Video Brain went bankrupt, and we were able to get a fantastic price on the basic units and cartridges by buying out the complete stock of a Texas dealer." Fred Cornett, the editor of Cursor, is selling three new, overstock Videobrain computers for $125 each. CURSOR 1, no. 3 (March 1980): 21.

Feedback

There is no feedback covered in this episode,but we would love to hear your thoughts and comments about this (or any) Astrocast episode or about your history with the Bally Arcade/Astrocade. The best way to contact us is via email at BallyAlley or through via the Bally Alley Discussion Group at Groups.io.

Next Episode's Coverage

Astrocast #15 will be a user interview with David Kindred. David was a user of the Astrocade in the early 1980s and the system helped to shape his career in programming.

 
Mar 11, 2020

 

In episode 13 of the Bally Alley Astrocast, Adam and Chris review the Bally Arcade/Astrocade game "Cosmic Raiders," a horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up. "Cosmic Raiders" is a game released in 1983 on an 8K cartridge by Astrocade Inc. It is part of the Action/Skills Series and is part #2019. It was written by Bob Ogdon, Scot L. Norris, Julie Malan, and Lisa Natting.

"In deep space lies the alien sector Larkin. You are there on a mission to obtain energy sources that have been seized by the evil Larkins. Radar and a superior guidance system help you avoid attacking fighters and Kamikaze ships. The energy stars are near the Larkin command ship: you must retrieve them before you can leave the enemy sector."

Recurring Links 

"Cosmic Raiders" Notes

  • "Cosmic Raiders" Video Overview by Nice and Games (August 26, 2011).
  • "Cosmic Raiders" Cartridge - JPG Picture.
  • "Cosmic Raiders" Cartridge Prototypes - JPG Pictures. At least ten prototype cartridges of "Cosmic Raiders" have been found, with the game in various states of production. Most pictures have labels from Action Graphics and there is one from "Arlo Morrill, A.M. Associates, Inc."
  • "Cosmic Raiders" Manual Cover - JPG Picture.
  • "Cosmic Raiders" Manual - PDF Document.
  • "Cosmic Raiders" Z80 Disassembly - Cosmic Raiders Disassembly for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade - Started by Adam Trionfo and completed by Richard Degler (December 25, 2018) - This is a Z80 disassembly of the Cosmic Raiders cartridge. This is the third release of this code. It is now commented and most everything has been disassembled. Richard comments: "Here's "COSMIC RAIDERS 2019.zip" (early VideoCADE #2019 New Year's present) anyway. [...] Check the names of the different fighter patterns - Type-2 and Type-4 might be switched. And notice that the BOMB-Explosion is NOT used for the Bomb! [...] Contains the infamous "LD A,$F0 / OUT ($CC),A" (BASIC equivalant "&(204)=240") which fooled [some few] into believing there was a MYSTIC register hidden in their machine's hardware. Probably just a command to turn off a Printer, UART or Electronic Module in the test bed instead.
  • "Cosmic Raiders," The Game Player" Review #15 - PDF. - ARCADIAN 6, no. 3 (Jan. 27, 1984): 23.
  • "Cosmic Raiders," "The Game Player" Review #15 - Text. "The Game Player" review compilation. This review of "Cosmic Raiders" originally appeared in the "Arcadian" newsletter in the column called "The Game Player." See review #15 in this compilation for the complete review.
  • "Cosmic Raiders" Review by Kevin O'Neill - This column reviews the Treasure Cove and Cosmic Raiders cartridges for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade. These reviews first appeared in NIAGARA B.U.G. BULLETIN, 2, no. 6 (July 27, 1984): 29-30.

Next Episode's Coverage

  • Clowns/Brickyard by Astrocade, Inc. - (Cartridge Game) - "Clowns" and "Brickyard" (both on the same cartridge) are the two games that will be reviewed in the next episode. "Clowns" is a color port of the Midway's 1978 B&W arcade game "Clowns." The second game, "Brickyard," is a "Breakout" clone.
  • Outpost 19 by WaveMakers - (BASIC Game) You are stranded on an alien outpost with nobody to help you. While you wait and pray for a rescue party, the only hope you have of surviving is to gather the food parcels that exist in each of the 16 rooms of the outpost. While you're chasing after the food parcels, the alien is chasing after you! His advantage is that he can go through walls, so his path toward you is more of a straight line, while your escape must be around obstacles in the rooms and through doorways provided.

Feedback

  • HSC01 Round 3: Cosmic Raiders - This is the AtariAge thread from when "Cosmic Raiders" was played in the Bally Arcade/Astrocaded High Score Club in March 2016. The feedback for Astrocast #13 is in this thread.
Feb 6, 2020

In episode 12 of the Bally Alley Astrocast, Adam is joined by his good friend, and sometime-co-host, Chris++. Adam and Chris review the Bally Arcade/Astrocade game "ICBM Attack." This is one of the very rare third-party programs that was released on cartridge. This 4Kb game was released in 1982 by Brett Bilbrey, Mike Toth and Marian Nalepa (Spectre Systems). It requires a special controller called the "Spectre Handle" to play the game.

Recurring Links 

"ICBM Attack" Notes

  • ICBM Attack by Spectre Systems - Video overview and how to use a trackball to play the game in the Astrocade emulator included with MAME.

Astrocade News/Updates

  • 8-Bit Workshop - Write 8-bit code, including for the Astrocade, in your browser. Ever wanted to be an old-school game programmer? Learn how classic game hardware worked. Write code and see it run instantly.
  • Gorf Coin-Op: Latest Disassembly - David Turner's original posting to the Bally Alley discussion forum on Groups.io. Dave says, "I've made a little progress on the Coin-Op version of Gorf and thought I would make it available. It will assemble with zmac." Dave added comments from the GORF source code written in TERSE. BallyAlley.com hosts the Gorf Arcade Disassembly, but (as of Feb. 6, 2020) it doesn't have Dave's newest update yet.
  • TERSE Documentation and Source Code - Alan McNeil programmed TERSE, which is short for either "Terse Efficient Recursive Stack Engine" or "Terse Efficient Reentrant Stack Engine." This programming langauge was used at Dave Nutting Associates to program arcade games such as The Adventures of Robby Roto!, GORF and other games from the late 1970s and early 1980s. The TERSE language is based on FORTH.

Next Episode's Coverage

  • Cosmic Raiders by Astrocade, Inc. - (Cartridge Game) In deep space lies the alien sector Larkin. You are there on a mission to obtain energy sources that have been seized by the evil Larkins. Radar and a superior guidance system help you avoid attacking fighters and Kamikaze ships. The energy stars are near the Larkin command ship: you must retrieve them before you can leave the enemy sector.
  • Outpost 19 by WaveMakers - (BASIC Game) You are stranded on an alien outpost with nobody to help you. While you wait and pray for a rescue party, the only hope you have of surviving is to gather the food parcels that exist in each of the 16 rooms of the outpost. While you're chasing after the food parcels, the alien is chasing after you! His advantage is that he can go through walls, so his path toward you is more of a straight line, while your escape must be around obstacles in the rooms and through doorways provided.

Feedback

  • Sideswipe by WaveMaker - Mike Peace, the author of this Sideswipe, left feedback in January 2020 on this overview of this BASIC game.
Jan 6, 2020

In episode 11 of the Bally Alley Astrocast, Adam is joined by his 25-year-old son Dominic. Dominic discusses his memories of growing up with an Astrocade in the house in the late-to-mid-nineties and early 2000s. Adam and Dominic review the Bally BASIC/"AstroBASIC" game Hamurabi.

Recurring Links 

Some Astrocade News/Updates

In this short episode, we decided not to cover any updates, as very few were made since our last recording.

Introduction Notes

Hamurabi Notes

  • King Hamurabi by Richard Houser - "King Hamurabi," a Bally BASIC game appeared in Arcadian 2, no. 4 (Feb. 25, 1980): 32-33 and on the tape "Best of Arcadian - 1980." In this video, Dominic and I play a few games to help listeners of the Astrocast to better conceptualize how the game is played.

Feedback

  • Sorry, there is no feedback in this episode...

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