Monday 25th May - Another homebrew Vectrex logic board – SCOPETREX
Seeking an alternative to an original Vectrex?
There have been one or two boards in the last couple of years that meet this requirement. First there was Fred Konopaska’s board designed specially for
going into Vector arcade cabinets and which sold out very quickly. Jason Kopp is promising a similar board and this looks imminent
judging as there are already online pictures of his creation.
However, if you are into electronics DIY you can purchase PCBs from another source now and build your own Vectrex logic board. You need to buy all the electronic components
and assemble yourself, but once done (including programming of the firware), you can connect to a XY monitor, Vectrex CRT or
even an XY oscilloscope. The project was developed with an oscilloscope in mind and this is how it got the name SCOPETREX.
Eric Schlaepfer announced the completion of this project in May on his Twiiter page. He has now kindly released the full design files on
Github.com. This includes circuit diagrams, list of components, instructions to build and PCB layouts. However, if you were try to
manufacture the PCBs yourself you would need a minimum order quantity from a typical PCB manufacturer in order to avoid paying an expensive one off PCB.
Fortunately, Andy Coleman
(maker of the 72 in 1 Vectrex game multi-cart) has come to the rescue.
Andy has commissioned a batch of PCBs and is currently selling them as sets (one logic board PCB and two controller PCBs) at a very
reasonable £10 GBP plus shipping. Even if you don’t intend to build the logic board immediately, its worth to get the controller PCBs at that price.
If interested in these PCBs please contact Andy. His details can be found via his online shop.
Now I have to add this build activity to my ever growing list of Vectrex things to do!
Sunday 3rd May - RetroMagazine covers the Vectrex
RetroMagazine (a freely downloadable PDF magazine) and having published more than 22 issues since 2017 has always been filling the
appetites of Italian retro gaming readers. But this month they published their first International issue in the English language.
This issue has 40 pages dedicated to retro gaming but with a bias to more technical details such as the programming aspect as well
Of particular interest in this magazine is the article titled “Don’t ever by a Vectrex!” by Robin Jubber (creator of the Vectrex
homebrew Player 2). He covers the Vectrex in general and the steps leading to his game. He also gives a technical addendum, in effect
a crash course on how to create the equivalent of the “Hello World” program on the Vectrex.
This is a great read, and if you are familiar with a Vectrex, you are sure to be familiar with the machines covered in the other articles.
The English version is a pilot. If you are able to contribute towards English written articles please make contact with the magazine because it
will be great to see more international publications from them. To read the first English language issue click
29th March - Black light king sets up online website for UV overlays and posters
Between Laurence Bennion with his ultraviolet (UV) screen overlays for the Vectrex and James Watt’s
UV light frames, this duo have
contributed to a new wave of Vectrex awesomeness for the playing and visual transformation of both original games and new homebrew games.
If you don’t know what I am talking about where have you been? The overlays and UV light combo give the effect of a holographic dimension
where depending on the UV light intensity the Vector graphics appear to float either behind or on top of the overlay. There are videos
showing the effect, but it can only really be appreciated by seeing it on a Vectrex and with the ambient light suitably dimmed.
Laurence was announcing and selling his new UV overlays via the Vectrex Fans Unite FaceBook forum but he has just launched a new website
where you can see and buy his overlays. In addition his Vectrex poster products are also listed there.
Saturday 28th March - The VecMulti multi-cart is back
Those Vectrex old timers from 2000 onwards will remember Richard Hutchinson’s VecRam, VecFlash and VecMulti programmable multicarts.
The VecMulti cart was first released in 2010 and represented the pinaccle of Richard's programmable cart range.
Indeed the VecMulti, having a removeable microSD card for storing all the Vectrex programs, represented
the state of the art at the time for all programmable multi-carts.
The VecMulti had a few batch iterations but in the last couple of years, Richard would stop selling these as
he informed he had sold his Vectrex and was making hardware only for the Nintendo Virtual Boy. After a lot of fans requesting for it to
come back, Richard bought another test Vectrex and has just announced that the VecMulti is back in production.
Basically you use your PC to read/write to the microSD card, copy the game files you want to play, run a little application that
arranges the game files onto the microSD card, and then insert the microSD card into the VecMulti. The maximum size SD card size is 2GB,
although there is no reason to use one that big and even using a 64MB microSD card the VecMulti is able to store everything that is
available as a binary file and any future binaries. This means all the MB/GCE games released in the past, and all public domain
binaries ever made. Of course there are other more sophisticated programmable carts now e.g. VecFever, but these are not currently
available, and VEXTREME is still under development.
The price is around $100. The shipping cost and the SD Card are included in the price.
Tuesday 24th March - L@@k! : At the overlay factory
Visiting the screen printing shop and collecting overlays! Batch of the brand new VectorBlade overlays ready,
New batch of Test Cart overlays, and some old stock and seconds found for Mine Storm, Pole Position and Generic Blue.
The Vector Blade overlays are going straight to Malban (the game author) and will not be for sale from me.
Watch this space for prices.....
Tuesday 3rd March - RIP Tim Skelly
I am saddened to say we have lost an early Vector Guru.
Tim Skelly died yesterday at the age of 69. He is known particularly
in the Vector world for his time in Cinematronics, where he was a video game designer and programmer. He programmed the arcade
cabinet Vector games Star Hawk, Sundance, Warrior, Rip-Off, Armor Attack, War of the Worlds and helped design Star Castle. All of these games are familiar to Vectrex
fans as the games were either originally converted by MB/GCE (through a licencing deal with Cinematronics) to Vectrex games back in the 80’s,
and the ones that weren’t converted in the 80's have been converted in recent times (Fury Unlimited).
I still find most of these Vectrex conversions enjoyable today, and indeed, more recently I have been playing all those games (as close to
the original you can get without the actual arcade cabinet) from MAME ROMs via the VecFever cart and corresponding binary emulators on the Vectrex. The fact that these games are still very
playable in a modern age is testament to Tim’s skills and technical prowess. We lost a good one.
My condolences to his family.
Tuesday 25th February - Vectrex Special Podcast from 10p Arcade
Hot on the heals of the previous post, is a new podcast from Tenpence Arcade. This podcast is more than 3 hours long and talks everything
about the Vectrex. Host Victor Marland, a regular on the Facebook Vector Fans Unite forum, speaks with self confessed Vectrex expert
Chris Parsons. Chris aka CNP of Vector Republic Games
is known to the Vectrex community for his Vectrex games Frontier and Big Blue.
The podcast covers a range of topics: Intro to Vectrex Ownerships, Vectrex Tech Specs, Official Games ‘Quick’ Reviews, Homebrew Hardware,
Homebrew Software, Multicarts, Newb Guide and Essentials.
To get the podcast click here or on the image below.
Definitely recommend to listen if you are a Vectrex fan - even if its to hear what you already know :)
Monday 17th February - Vectrex Radio is back!!!
After around a year and half since episode 10, Vectrex podcasters Rick and Willie are back with Vectrex radio episode 11.
They announce that the podcast format has changed since the earlier episodes in that they now split the show into two halves, a review of one original Vectrex game
and one home brew game will be featured. In this episode they cover Space Wars and VecMan. In actuality, they still briefly cover a
range of Vectrex news and games.
Definitely worth a listen. And if you want to watch/listen to the previous podcases you can see
Thursday 2nd January - VecFever website
Thomas Sontowski, creator of the VecFever cart, has produced a website to support the VecFever. Here you can get the latest VecFever
firmware plus all the latest vector arcade emulator games (you would still need to source the MAME ROMs). In addition he has included brief explanation about certain aspects of
the VecFever and Thomas's other Vectrex projects. Visit the new VecFever site at
*** Post Note *** - it seems I was a bit premature with this announcement, the VecFever website is still curretly being developed and whilst
there is further content being added, the website is currently password protected.
Wednesday 1st January - Happy New Year !!!
Another year has gone by and the Vectrex community is alive and well. New hardware and software continues to be released.
Astonishing for a games console that was released in 1982!
For me there have been two significant game changers for the Vectrex in recent times. The first is Thomas Sontowski’s VecFever
and the various enhancements Thomas made to it in 2019, including the ability to play emulated vector arcade games which work in
conjunction with specific MAME ROM set zip files.
With this capability, it’s now possible to play 28 original arcade cabinet Vector games on the Vectrex. I particularly like Battlezone,
Red Baron, Star Wars, Tempest, War of the Worlds and Demon.
The only Criticism made about the VecFever was that there were not enough of these wonderful
carts released but there are indications that Thomas is likely to make another batch for release in 2020.
Whenever, there is a game changer, a sure bet is that other solutions will follow and due to the shortage of VecFevers (Thomas made less than a 100 I believe),
there are promises of capability and evidence for new cart solutions for release in 2020 from other home brewers. Namely, Brett Walach’s
VEXTREME (based on Sprite_tm’s open source solution) and Graham Toal and team’s PiTrex. Like the VecFever, all these solutions share the fact
that the cart contains a high performance modern day microcontroller used for processing the game code, with the Vectrex in effect acting as an output/input device for
displaying the graphics, making the sound and getting the user input. This allows for graphic intensive games not possible on the Vectrex alone.
The result for the VecFever are games that look and play near identical to the originals.
The second game changer is Laurence Bennion’s ultraviolet glowing Vectrex overlays. Shining an ultraviolet light onto the overlays gives a unique
glowing imagery with the Vectrex vectors. Depending on the brightness of the UV light, the vector graphics appear either below or above the
overlay imagery. The result is almost holographic and it gives a unique visual quality not seen before on any other games console. My plan is
to give a full review in 2020 including the use of different UV lighting techniques.
Regarding my own Vectrex contributions, progress has been poor. In the background I’ve been steadily selling out all my existing overlays.
A new overlay released in 2019 was the Test cart overlay. I was able to make a like for like copy of the original through the support of Chris
Romero and Roland Huber. These quickly sold out, and I have already ordered a second batch from my local screen printers. These should be
available in February 2020. Regarding my other Vectrex activities, my Auto fire dongle, game, and website, I suffered a big set back in March
last year:- a catastrophic hard disk failure! I didn’t loose everything as I did make a backup a few months before, but I didn’t
have a copy of all my latest stuff - so the last few months and future months will be occupied recreating missing files. In addition, I am
not back up to 100% productivity as many of the PC programs I used were either 16 bit or 32 bit and do not run on my new Windows 10 computer.
Finally, I would like to say thank you to all those Vectrex fans who have contacted me with comments about the website and offered
Vectrex news. Having dialogue and feedback with like minded Vectrex fans makes the hobby even more of a pleasure. I would love to hear from
you if you have any Vectrex related news.