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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Aug 14, 2016

Episode 4 of the Bally Alley Astrocast covers the Bally Arcade/Astrocade cartridge game Sea Devil and the BASIC type-in game (published in the Arcadian newsletter) The Pits. Chris and I discuss, as always, what we've been up to lately. Paul and I cover the Arcadian newsletter issues 3 and 4 (January and February 1979).  We cover a bit of feedback too (we could always use more though-- so keep it coming to us). Paul and I discuss seven letters to the Arcadian, dating from late 1978 and early 1979. The show ends with a short tune called Golden Slippers played from a type-in program called Player Piano from the Bally BASIC manual

Recurring Links 


  • Sea Devil/The Pits - Astrocade High Score Club, Round 10: Sea Devil / The Pits (July/August 2016). Includes a screenshot of The Pits.

Cartridge Review - Sea Devil

  • Sea Devil Manual - (1983) Game "manual" (instructions) for Sea Devil by L&M Software.
  • Sea Devil Ad - (1983) Advertisement for Sea Devil. This document contains much more of the game's backstory than is in the manual.
  • Sea Devil Cartridge - Picture of the Sea Devil cartridge.
  • Sea Devil Video Review - YouTube video of Sea Devil gameplay by "Highretrogamelord"

BASIC Game Review - The Pits


  • Arcadian 1, no. 3 (Jan. 13, 1979): 17-22. - The third issue of the Arcadian newsletter.
  • Arcadian 1, no. 4 (Feb. 19, 1979): 23-30. - The fourth issue of the Arcadian newsletter.
  • Bally BASIC and "AstroBASIC" Manual Differences - By Richard Degler (October 2010)
  • Success Forces Book - Purchase Joe Sugarman's 1980 book from
  • The Seven Forces of Success - Joe Sugarman's 2014 eBook on
  • Division with Decimals - By Paul Law. "Division with Decimals is just in from Paul Law who says he modified a BYTE 2/79 program. N indicates the length of the decimal portion." This 300-Baud Bally BASIC program can be loaded into BASIC using the 300-Baud tape interface.
  • Game Over (Program) - By Tom Wood. "This routine will print "GAME OVER" depending on which version of the Bally Arcade that the user has." This 300-Baud Bally BASIC program can be loaded into BASIC using the 300-Baud tape interface code.
  • Game Over (Article) - By Tom Wood. This pdf document was excerpted from the Arcadian. This is the program's explanation, the BASIC loader, the Z80 machine language source
  • BASIC Zgrass--A Sophisticated Graphics Language for the Bally home Library Computer - By Tom DeFanti, Jay Fenton, and Nola Donato. This article was printed in Computer Graphics, 12, no. 3, (August 1978): 33-37. Abstract: "Home computer users are just now discovering computer graphics. Modest extensions to BASIC allow plotting but not much more. The Bally Home Library Computer, however, has hardware to aid implementation of video games. Custom integrated circuits working on a 160X102 pixel (2 bits per pixel) color television screen allow certain forms of animation in real time. To give this power to the user, BASIC Zgrass has been designed and implemented. It is an extension of BASIC that allows parallel processes, picture objects that move, scale and group together as well as several drawing modes. There are also software controls of a three-voice music synthesizer, interactive input devices, a film camera and an IEEE bus interface. We will concentrate mainly on the language design for making it all easy to learn and use."
  • Bally BASIC Hacker's Guide - By Jay Fenton. This was the 1979 supplement written by Jay Fenton that went along with the Bally BASIC manual. It's full of all sorts of goodies, most of which found their way into the "AstroBASIC" manual... but not everything.
  • Bally Arcade - More than Fun - By Graham M Wideman and Mark J Czerwinski. Electronics Today, November 1978. Paul and I refer to this article as "Bally Arcade: Game or Computer," but that's only the title on the cover of the magazine. This article covers the Bally Arcade. Although the page numbers are not consecutive in this scan, the article is complete (full page advertisements were removed). The article is notable because it assumes a basic level of technical knowledge and includes photographs of the internals.
  • Chain Store Age 'Catalog' - This 'catalog,' from June 1978, was put together by Bally to promote the Bally Professional Arcade to salespeople. This is a full-color 'catalog' that is a large download (9MB). It is 8 1/2" x 11" and is sixteen pages long. I love the 1970's style art!
  • Bally Programming Keyboard - Color picture of the unreleased "programming keyboard." The Bally Arcade system sits on top of this "add-under."

Classic Letters

  • Letter to Bob Fabris, From Brett Bilbrey (December 11, 1978) - Brett was a mainstay of the early issues of Arcadian and Cursor. He went on to write two Astrocade cartridges (ICBM Attack and Treasure Cove), contribute to the "AstroBASIC" manual and work for Action Graphics (as well as contribute to the Bally community in many other ways). Later, Brett worked for Apple. This eight-page letter shows a hardcore user's enthusiasm for the Bally Arcade.
  • Star Trek - By Brett Bilbrey (and/or friends). Brett did not 'write' the Star Trek game. He either typed it in from the book 101 BASIC Games or one of his friends that Brett started Spectre Systems with did it. This 300-Baud Bally BASIC program can be loaded into BASIC using the 300-Baud tape interface code.
  • Star Trek (Docs) - Instructions for the above program.
  • Byte Magazine (December 1978) - Many articles dedicated to Life. While none of these articles/programs are specific to the Bally Arcade/Astrocade, the manual for Life by Jay Fenton does directly lift quite a bit of material from that issue of the magazine.
  • Interact Model One Computer - The Newman Computer store suggests potential Bally Arcade purchasers buy the Interact Model One instead. (
  • Letter to Bally Arcade Customers, From Joseph Sugarman (May 1979) - Joe Sugarman, the president of JS&A, claims that the company "had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising to obtain our sales." That's a lot of money, which makes it hard to believe this claim. However, in the early 70s, when JS&A began, full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal cost about ten-grand (says Joe in his 1980 book, Success Forces), so perhaps this high-dollar advertising figure is possible.
  • Letter to Bob Fabris, from Glenn Pogue (Jan 22, 1979) - Glenn says that if a user complains about the unit's name change, then Bally will send a "tag" to those users who request one that says "The Bally Computer System." This letter has a list of release dates (month and day) for Bally games, including some that were never released at all (including Checkers, Desert Fox, Astrology and Drag Race/Desert Fox
  • Bally Dust Covers Pictures - Each time the Bally system's name was changed, the dust cover reflected the new name.
  • Unit Label Variations - Lance Squire does an excellent job explaining the different labels on the dust covers of the Bally units. He also gives an approximate rarity level for each label.
  • Letter to Bob Fabris, from Guy McLimore (January 29, 1979) - Guy is a Bally Arcade dealer for ABC Hobbycraft. Guy has popped up on the Bally Alley Yahoo group from time to time. In this letter, Guy says that he gets more information from the Arcadian newsletter than he can get from Bally-- and he's a dealer! He mentions several programs he's working on. He suggests that Bally should make a second, more detailed (I presume) version of the Bally BASIC manual for "the really rabid Arcade freak." In a way, Jay Fenton's Hacker's Manual was this second "book," but it was only about twenty pages long and probably wasn't widely available.
  • Fantasy Game Package - By Guy McLimore. 1979. There is an advertisement for this program in Arcadian 1, no. 7 (Jun 15, 1979): 54. A fantasy game package for advanced players is available for those who enjoy the Dragon/Dungeon type of operation. The package includes: Dungeon Grafix I and II, Fantasy People and Multidie.
  • Arcadian Logo - By Guy McLimore. From Arcadian 2, no. 1 (Nov. 29, 1979): 3., "Logo shown at the head of page one is based on an idea by Guy McLimore, and embellished by myself. If you'd like to see it in action (literally) and in living color, the program is included."
  • Letter to Bob Fabris, from Jim Unroe (December 27, 1978) - Jim canceled his order with JS&A after waiting for long time and then he got an Arcade unit right away from another dealer (yes, even at the end of 1978, JS&A wasn't getting enough units from Bally to fill orders). He's having issues with his unit (it sounds like overheating). He notes that you can have commands executed directly from tape rather than being loaded as a program line. This is one advantage of Bally BASIC over "AstroBASIC." Jim talks about wanting to create an elaborate alarm system using his Bally Arcade.
  • Letter to Bob Fabris, from Joe White (November 26, 1978) - Joe talks about his general experiences using the Bally to program in BASIC. Joe's son, Greg, wrote Bally Trek, which is based on Erik Mueller's Star Trek for MINOL - Tiny BASIC.
  • Bally Trek - By Greg White. 1979. Unpublished Arcadian submission. Bally Trek is based on Erik Mueller's Star Trek for MINOL - Tiny BASIC. Bally Trek follows a popular style of game program from the 1970s era. Other examples on the Bally Arcade/Astrocade include Space Chase by WaveMakers and Star Trek/Starship Command by Esoterica. This 300-Baud Bally BASIC program can be loaded into BASIC using the 300-Baud tape interface code.
  • Letter to Bob Fabris, from John Sweeney (January 22, 1979) - John requests Executive Software by Tom Wood because he is trying to write an assembler for the Bally Arcade. This is very early in the Bally Arcade's history to be working on something like this. There is no evidence that this assembler was created, but General Video Assembler (which required a RAM expansion) was eventually written and released on tape in 1982 by Dave Ibach and Steve Walters (General Video). Dave used this assembler to write his centipede-inspired, cartridge game, Sneaky Snake. John talks about safe places for assembly code in Bally BASIC (he uses the editor/buffer). He recommends some articles/books for Tiny BASIC information.
  • General Video Assembler with Examples (Programs) - By General Video. The General Video Assembler is made-up of four programs which include: General Video Assembler Collector, General Video Assembler Pass I, General Video Assembler Pass II, and General Video Assembler Text Editor. Also included are sample programs (both as assembler code and in their final assembled form), Flying Witch Sample, Logo Sample. This 2000-Baud "tape" runs from "AstroBASIC and it requires extra RAM.
  • General Video Assembler (Docs) - By General Video. Written by Dave Ibach. Documentation for a Z80 assembler that runs on the RAM-expanded Bally Arcade.

End-Show Music


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