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2020
Monday 14th September - Vectrex flyer found
Vectrex fan Dan Bowden recently reported that he had found an old Vectrex catalogue from the 80's in one of his drawers. This was from Silica Shop, a Kent based UK company, having a mail order operation for the selling of computers and electronic games, and then later a chain of independent computer shops (initially two branches and then mostly operating in Debenham stores).

Silica Shop made catalogues that typically were available as standalone flyers to support its mail order service or that were presented as multi-page adverts in the popular computer magazines of the day.

Dan has kindly passed on scans of a catalogue that featured the Vectrex. This can be accessed here and in the [Documents]->[Articles] section of this website. That catalogue is not dated but one can surmise that this must have come out late 83 to 84, when the Vectrex was already in commercial trouble and retailers were slashing the prices because of the video game crash.


Monday 31st August - The Vectrex light pen - for serious users?
A light pen, a computer input device that enters information quickly and easily just by touching the screen, was the state of the art for computer graphics back in the 60’s. If you had a light pen connected to your computer you were considered a serious user. Light pens were common during the 60’s on graphics terminals and later in the 80’s on music works stations and for home computers.

In 1983, Milton Bradley also released a light pen for use with the Vectrex that worked with three light pen “game” carts. Two of the releases were called Art Master and AnimAction, and these programs allowed you to draw pictures on the Vectrex screen and then animate them. I’ve tried these carts in the past. The programs are not exactly intuitive and I’m betting many users like me have tried a couple of things with these art programs, become a bit disappointed and then swiftly moved on to getting their next Vectrex game fix.

However, it is true to say “nothing comes to you without putting in the work”. Professional animator Japhy Riddle, has teased us in the past with his various animations he had made using his Vectrex setup. Now, he’s kindly created a video showing how he’s done this using the light pen together with Art Master and AnimAction. It’s a high quality video and he presents a very good summary of what is possible. Towards the end of the video he gives many visual examples.
In general it seems light pens are associated with serious or educational use. However, serious light pen use on the Vectrex is questionable, particularly with the art programs. This is because after spending time on your new drawing creation, it’s not possible to save your work. Despite this limitation and the limited memory of the Vectrex which prevents you from making complex drawings and animations, as Japhy has demonstrated, you can make some interesting animations, unique to the Vectrex Vectors.

Other than the art programs, Milton Bradley, did release an educational music program that was operated by light pen. They also completed development of a game called Mail Plane which was never officially released due to the video game crash. These programs are well worth a look if you have a light pen.

No Vectrex light pen? Well you can still buy homebrew light pens. One source is Madtronix.com – though many buyers have reported a long wait after actual purchase. If you are handy with a soldering iron you can also build your own. Here is a link to a design that’s been around a long time. I emphasise “long time” as it may be difficult to locate the photo diode light sensing component.

But more recently, a chap by the name of Ryo Mukai presented a light pen based on one active part! Yes you read correctly;- A single OPL801 integrated sensor combining both light sensor and the necessary electronics in one component. You can find more info on his blog. The blog is written in Japanese, but Google offers a translate option and you can see from the images what do to. The circuit is simplicity in itself and the hardest part is your creativity for mounting it into a pen housing.




So, there really is no excuse not to get serious and start to investigate the Vectrex light pen and associated programs!

Sunday 3rd August - New demoscence demo for the Vectrex
For us oldies, remember back in the day, the demoscene where posses of talented programmers (usually a combination of coders, musicians and artists) showed of their skills through the creation of demos for home computers (typically Commodore ones)? These deomos would often show sophisticated visuals and audio that pushed the computer to its limits. This subculture scence is still very much alive and in the last decade, this “art” form also reached the Vectrex.

A new Vectrex demo was released at the July 2020 Flashparty held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by the group calling themselves "Onslaught". Elder0010, Razdee and Mat64 are the Onslaught crew who worked on this demo.

The YouTube video doesn’t do the demo justice. Always better to view on a real Vectrex. The binary can be downloaded from Pouet.net.

Saturday 18th July – Another lost Vectrex redesign is discovered
Just when you thought you knew all that there was about the Vectrex, something new is unearthed about its history.

Back in June 2011, I already reported about photos being found of a different Vectrex design, and then in 2018, the actual prototype was found which can be seen by all, at the National Videogame Museum in Texas, USA.

Well, a website article was published this month about yet another Vectrex design and it looks to be genuine. Published by Frank Gasking, author of the recent book “Games that weren’t”, he informs that whilst researching Dark Tower for his book, he saw some photos of yet another Vectrex redesign that was never to be.

Through his contact with Gary Bergmann (Senior Electronic Project Engineer at Milton Bradley 1980-2000) Frank got in touch with Tom McDonald. Tom used to work in the model shop at Milton Bradley at the time of the Vectrex, working on models for the likes of Dark Tower and more.

Tom gave Frank some images showing a non functional mock-up that he had worked on that didn't get past marketing. The design spec given to him at the time was to make a visual improvement to make the standard-sized Vectrex look more appealing to the customer. Therefore in order to show the marketing potential, a full-sized shell mock-up was produced in order to show potential. As such, no electronics were added to make this design a working prototype. No doubt, there would have been some market research to get some initial feedback on the new look. However, it is questionable how far the the marketing research was progressed (if any at all), as the redesign occured just before the Vectrex was pulled from the market as a result of the Video game crash. The team who worked on this mock-up were even asked to throw it away. However, Tom rescued it and its been in his possession ever since.

The mock-up has the same logo as the Mini Vectrex shown a few years back by the National Video Game Museum. I’m hazarding a guess but it is likely that this mock-up was a first iteration before that Mini Vectrex working prototype was made.



Sunday 14th June - Test cart overlays still for sale


I still have Test Cart overlays for sale. They are exact reproductions of the original test cart overlay used in the GCE/MB factory. They are ideal for hobbyists to help ensure they have their Vectrex display adjusted correctly. Use this in conjunction with the Vectrex service manual.

They also make good overlays for some of the Vectrex games, e.g. add a gun sight to VecFever Battle Zone and Red Baron. Please don't confuse these with the floppy ink jet printer produced overlays. See my overlay spec here.

The pricing is as follows and covers postage and packing:

UK - £10.30
EU - £12.75
US/Canada/Australia/Japan - £13.50

In addition to the 100% perfect overlays above I also have some 'b' class Test Cart overlays stil remaining. 'b' class indicate that they are not 100% perfect. The 'b' class overlays have a small blemish or light scratch on the back. These imperfections can be seen when holding up to the light. When the overlay is placed on the Vectrex the imperfection is impossible to see. As 'b' class overlays are not 100% perfect I am selling them at reduced prices:

UK - £6.30
EU - £8.75
US & other - £9.50

Hey, at the above prices, get one 'a' class and one 'b' class. The 'a' you can put in your collector's cabinet, and the 'b' can be part of your work-bench :) To purchase please contact sales@vectrex.co.uk.

Saturday 6th June - The story of the Vectrex Demonstration pod with a coin-box
Sander Slootweg is a Dutch collector of video gaming history. He has an interest in all things video gaming (from small handhelds, original video arcade games to various consoles from the past) and this includes a love for the Vectrex. Recently he posted on Facebook about his purchase of a demo-pod stand for the Vectrex from an original Vectrex store owner.

A demo-pod stand has a very unique look with a transparent blue bubble over the top of a stand where the Vectrex would sit. Vectrex fans have posted about these demo-pods before. This seems to be a Dutch specific phenomenon back in the day (circa 1983) resulting from a deal made between Milton Bradley (MB) and the Dutch Toy shop chain known as Intertoys in order to make an in-shop feature of the Vectrex to help with it's sales. The demo-pod Sander recently acquired is interesting as it included a coin-box too. After his Facebook post, I contacted Sander and asked if I could share his story (pretty much word for word) and photos:
"From a distant memory, I remembered sometimes there was a payment system on the Vectrex demo-pod in the Netherlands and I have always searched for evidence of this. Also because I have a little rod with my previously purchased Vectrex Bubble, which I do not know where it belongs, and always thought that this was part of a payment system.

Yesterday I was lucky and bought a Vectrex MB demo-pod with a coin-box this from the original Intertoys store owner, and he knew the story behind the bubble and the coin-box. He told me that the deal with MW was if more than 12 Vectrex consoles were bought by a shop back in the days, he received this demo Bubble pod from the MB representative. If he bought less Vectrex consoles he had to pay for the demo-pod. He received the demo-pod as a kit, and this turned out to be quite a challenge to assemble, and afterwards he saw that he had placed the Vectrex stickers on wrong too. The Vectrex-demo pod in his shop was a success but also a mess:- Too many children wanted to play, and there were fights over who played first and over how long to play!

The Vectrex console purchase price was expensive and not many were sold. The store owner complained to an MB representative, who recognised his problem was similar with other shops. MB came up with a solution, a coin-box with a timer, so it became less interesting for the youth to play, also he was able to increase his Vectrex revenue and he was also recommended to run the game Scramble, this was proven to be played the most.

For locking the cartridge against theft, the store owner received a plastic clamp with a lock. The coin-box with timer was placed for free by a mechanic, hired by MB. Unfortunately this did not last long. Within a few weeks they had police in his shop, according to the Dutch law, this was illegal, young kids paying to play! So the store keeper removed it immediately to avoid a fine.


As a result of the poor sales, the store keeper took the demo-pod away and stored it. Over the years he also had several other brands of demo-pods including the much sought-after 8-bit Nintendo with a built-in television. However, eventually he demolished and threw all the pods away except the Vectrex demo-pod. He kept the Vectrex demo-pod because he found the bubble beautiful. So he left it in storage for more than 35 years until we see it now."

Thank you Sander for letting me share this really interesting story.

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 as hardware.

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 here.


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.

Please visit www.blacklighter.co.uk to get more information!


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.

For more information contact richard.hutchinson@dsl.pipex.com.


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 here.

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 www.vecfever.com.

*** 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.

I’ve already mentioned particular home brewers in this blog but I would like to give shoutouts to the following home brewers: Thomas Sontowski, James Watt, Malban, Chris Binarystar, Richard Hutchinson, Chris Parsons, Robin Jubber, Brett Walach, Graham Toal, Chris Romero, Laurence Bennion, Razmasynth, Peer Johannsen, Bob Alexander, Sean Kelly, Frank Buss, David Flemming, Andy Coleman, and Jason Kopp. :- A big thank you for helping to keep the Vectrex alive with support and new developments!

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.

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