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2019
Wednesday 2nd January - New test cart and generic blue overlays now in stock (The story)
Following on from the previous post I wanted to give some background. Back in the eighties, MB/GCE used a test cart and an accompanying overlay to optimise the Vectrex screen output. This was also used by Vectrex repair service centers to fix sick Vectrex consoles. As the test cart overlay wasnít a mass produced product it is very rare to find today. As far as I can make out there is only one test cart overlay in existence and that was in the possession of Chris Romero and now Roland Huber.

Most Vectrex consoles, being analogue in nature and because of their age have lost their screen alignment due to degrading capacitors and associated voltage offsets. I am sure that there is not one Vectrex that has the same display as another. You see it in
YouTube videos of different usersí Vectrex consoles where Vector lines donít quite meet up or there is a line offset, or the displayed text is slanted. Many Vectrex consoles are owned by electronics enthusiasts eager to tweak their machines so my thinking was that if there was a modern day reproduction of the original test cart overlay then many Vectrex consoles could be tweaked and repaired for optimised graphic display.

The test cart overlay project took a few years to realize. Both Chris and Roland had kindly made an electronic scan of the original overlay for me so I could attempt to replicate the art work on the repro overlay. Typically, I go for a screen printed solution for my overlays but I wanted an overlay that was low cost. My first go was to try printing the artwork on a completely transparent overlay (I have a bunch of transparent polycarbonate overlays spares that are just die cut; no ink present). However, the overlays were just slightly too thick for my ink jet printer to print reliably.
Back to the drawing board, and together with my screen printer contact, we took the scanned artwork and set about vectoring it. This wasnít difficult as the artwork is just s a pattern of lines and circles. The finished overlay artwork was sent to Roland, and printed on paper, so he could make a direct comparison with his original. After a couple of iterations: Eureka! -we had an exact match. In order to distinguish this repro from the original, a different transparent blue background colour (almost like a Mine Storm blue) was used for the overlay together with some text printed on the side clearly indicating that it was a repro overlay. There was one thing I noticed about the original test cart artwork design after commencing production with the screen printers. The left margin is 11m and the right margin is 12mm on the overlay. Now I could have fixed this in the new repro design. But the +/-1mm was probably good enough in the early 80s for calibration so I decided to go for exact reproduction.

Due to the sales success of the previous generic green overlays I also decided to make fifty generic blue overlays using the same blue ink as used in the test cart overlays. The blue overlays are cheaper than the test cart overlays because they represent the first stage only (blue ink layer and no added second white layer artwork).

The result is two batches of beautiful overlays. The images shown here don't do them justice (becuase of light reflection and image compression). Visit the vectrex.co.uk shop to get them while you can :)


Tuesday 1st January - Optimising Vectrex operation
All my vectrex consoles need some fine adjustment to improve their image quality or to get them working. Now, I have all the bits in place which will assist me to that.

I have Thomas Sontowskiís Test cart, my Test Cart overlay and a copy of the Vectrex service manual. The test cart has the same ROM binary as that available for download on the internet. It is the original revision 4.0 (1982) which was issued to Vectrex repair centers back in the day. In conjunction with the service manual the test cart allows a number of checks and adjustments to be made. Thomasís test cart is different in that it includes a built in voltmeter which allows a very basic check to confirm that the logic board in the Vectrex is at least providing the correct voltage.

Tuesday 1st January - Happy New Year !!!
Happy New Year to all Vectrex fans. Its 2019, and this website has been going for more than 10 years! Who would have thought Iíd still be active with the Vectrex - Iíve had other games consoles and interests of course, but the Vectrex is my primary. The Vectrex world seems to be going from strength to strength with plenty of new homebrew software and hardware released in the last year alone.

There are many new Vectrex things I have acquired and wanted to report on throughout 2018 but I havenít been able to keep up! I aim to trickle feed reports on these items into my news page this year. This will include new hardware: VecFever, VecFeverRTC, VecFever UE, Test Cart with built in voltmeter, 19" XY monitor, Vectrex arcade cabinet, Razmasynth control; and new games: Menschen Jagd, Stramash Zone, and Player 2.

Regarding my own contributions to the Vectrex world they have gone rather slowly. I am able to report that end of last year I have a new batch of professionally screen printed generic blue, test cart and Karl Quappe overlays. In the next few days I will put more information on the website about them.
In Q4 last year I had intended to release my updated version of the autofire dongle, that I originally produced in 2009. I have most of the parts sitting in my workshop but I just need to grab some time to build fifty boards:- so expect a release Q1 2018. I wonít dwell too long on mentioning my other 'to do' job which was to complete my first Vectrex game (which I originally began in 2009!). I havenít touched it in the last year and half and it's still stuck at 70% complete :- one day I will complete it!

Finally, I would just 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.