Thursday 1st April - YouTube proof that Dark vectors are really possible on the Vectrex!!!
Thanks to the technical wizardry of Robin Jubber of Jubberbaut.com,
he has managed through an extras demo included in his excellent Player 2 game, to demonstrate that black vectors are not only possible on the
Vectrex but you can actually visualise them on the screen!
Displaying black Vectors on a black and white CRT screen such as that used in a Vectrex has always been challenge. The issue being that
the default background on Vectrex screen is dark and drawing dark vectors is just not possible to see them. However, through some
magic code, Robin has managed to pull this off, - a fete never captured on YouTube before. It shouldn't be posssible, but check the video
and you can definitely see black Vector shapes.
This opens up all sorts of possibilities for exciting new games. Imagine being able to play Mine Storm with all the vectors shown in black!
It would be well worth to contact Robin to give him ideas for new games that would work well with black vectors.
Do you have the Player 2 game already and want to try for yourself? On Art 2, in EXTRAS, use button 2 instead of 4 to see the
Black Vector demo. Button 3 has a variation.
Sunday 22nd March - The Minskytron tapes on the PDP-1 emulator for VecFever
Now Thomas Sontowski is always busy adding new software functionality to his VecFever creation. So he is always suprising us with new (and unsual) things.
Recently he has developed a PDP-1 Emulator to run on the
VecFever and made the new firmware available to VecFever owners. Specifically, it allows you to play the original Spacewar! game. This game was the
first known video game
to be played at a multiple computer installation and this was in 1962 on the DEC PDP-1 mini computer. This game was later spawned into the 1972 Vector
arcade game called Space Wars by Vectorbeam/Cinematronics.
You can now play the original Spacewar! on the Vectrex. However, it needs two players and I am more fascinated by another function of the PDP-1 emulator
that Thomas has included.
This is something called the Minskytron tapes or "Three Position Display" and comprises a range of graphics demos that run on the PDP-1.
It is not immediately obvious how to select this, but you do in it in the setup menu for the emulator.
Pressing button 4 cycles between pre-selected test switch settings. You could just imagine these animated images filling
XY scopes used in a Sci-Fi B movie. The algorithmic nature of the repeating images seem to cycle in increments and become more and
more unstable over time until a regular cyclic pattern is reached.
There is no sound from the Vectrex speaker as these are graphics demos only. However, I was a little bit alarmed to hear the high
pitch monitor neckboard chatter when running these demos. I’ve never heard so much Vectrex screaming noises other than I think in the Vectrex game Protector
(which is known to push the Vectrex screen to its limits) – but of course, here the chatter pitch is cyclic and continuous. I did check
with Thomas about what these PDP-1 emulator graphics demos were doing to health of my Vectrex but he assured me that no Vectrex would come
to any harm from running this emulator.
Saturday 13th March - Vectrex Whack-A-Mole on the big screen
Here we have an early video showing my Vectrex driving an old Asteroids 19" Vector Monitor (from Jason Kopp) and me trying out Chris
Binarystar's light gun operated Whack-A-Mole.
Whack-A-Mole has been available as downloadable binary for quite a while now. You can play it with
the Vectrex controller, but far better is to use the Sega light gun option.
When I made this video I was curious to see if this light gun game would work on the big screen without any issues. And I can confirm yes,
absolutely no problem at all. The bigger screen allows you to play even further away from the screen (I managed to reliably shoot moles
to a maximum distance of 2 meters). I did have to incease the monitor brightness though.
Chris Binarystar will eventually being releasing a cart containing a compendium of light gun controllable games. You can get the Whack-A-Mole
binary from his web site.
Saturday 20th February - Missing your pads?
There's a very common problem with my Vectrex consoles and I suspect other Vectrex owners have this issue too; - I have a few controllers and
most are missing their feet.I decided to address this recently in an early Spring cleaning excercise.
The controllers lose their rubber feet pads over time.
It's not surprising since the glue holding those pads no doubt has perished considering that the Vectrex is now more than 37 years old.
Actually, upon closer investigation, for some of the pads they are still present but it looks like their
thickness has shrunk or rubbed down over time.
Measuring existing pad dimensions
Lose more than one pad and if you are using the controller as intended on a flat surface, the whole controller can end up skidding across
the table during frantic game playing activity. Even worse though, the skidding action will put more stress on any remaining pads, and
eventually the bottom of the controller surface will rub and get scratched from the surface it is on.
I took out my trusty callipers and measured an existing orphan pad: diameter 6.9 mm and thickness 1.3 mm. There is some tolerance to be accounted for
the measurements as being rubber there is some movement when closing the calliper jaws.
What can one do? Finding the exact flat rubber feet replacement appears nigh on possible. You could punch your own feet out from a rubber sticker
pad but of course you need the tools. Searching on eBay there seem to be no flat rubber pads with the right size but there do seem to be a
lot of pads called "small silicon self adhesive stick on pads" or “bump ons” (the type often used on kitchen cabinet doors) with near enough
the right dimensions (I ordered 7 mm diameter, 1 mm thickness).
So I ordered a set (take care to order black and not translucent) and they are
perfect. With 1 mm thick pads the controller bottom just clears the surface it is on. Obviously, when applying the new feet, take care to clean
away any of the old glue residues and old rubber gunk so the pad recesses in the controller appear empty.
With my next purchase of pads I think I'll go for 2 mm thickness to get slightly more clearance. The result is a very stable positioned
controller on a table and with no risk of the controller getting jettisoned when I’m frantically hitting button 4!
Removing old pad residue
New Bump-on rubber pad stickers
Sunday 3rd January - Happy New Year !!!
Another year gone, and boy what a year. Any sort of reflection on last year and one has to mention the “C” word.
All our personal lives aside, the COVID19 pandemic even impacted on our Vectrex hobby; Vectrex homebrews come from
all over the world, and we all experienced delays for international purchases, slow updates from the Vectrex
community in general and even a COVID19 virus inspired Vectrex music demo
that played tinkly music-box tones from
the DNA code of the COVID-19 virus was released.
From my own experience, I know I was late in shipping out overlays to many customer because I would often arrive at the post office in lock down,
to see a queue of 20 persons, and decide to go back home and try on another day.
Vectrex highlights for me last year were the release of Malban’s Vector Blade game, Malban's release of Vectrex Berzerk Ultimate.
and the announcement of the finding
of a couple of unknown hardware and software prototypes.
The hardware prototype foud was yet another Vectrex case design that was never released, and the software prototype was an unknown game called
“A crush of Lucifier”.
This game is still not in the public yet, but the discoverer Steven Salter, is attempting to
extract the binary and promises he will share with the Vectrex community. The game itself is an unreleased prototype but the
gaming mechanics presenting you in a 3D space envrionment look quite advanced for a 1983 game.
In the background Thomas Sontowski continues to update and improve his VecFever offering and shortly before the end of last year
he released a “Christmas” firmware update with completely new menu software, new games and new Vector MAME emulators.
The first thing to note is that the the VecFever is truely international, with its menus and many of the included games available in English, French and German.
New to the VecFever are also ports of the RPG games Akalabeth and Dungeons of Daggorath.
If your are into shoot-em-up type games, these are definitely not for you, but these slower role playing games do offer a different genre to the Vectrex platfrom.
Thomas, has also included VecFever optimised versions of some of the original GCE games including a faster, smoother
graphics version of Web Warp. You can now even run Jereon Domburg’s 2015 tech demo which he calls
Voom. This binary allows you to roam around
in a Doom like 3D environment on the Vectrex.
For the latest VecFever firmware (V2.22 at time of writing) you either have to go to
his website, or contact Thomas direct if you don’t have the website login details.
The only criticism made about the VecFever cart is that it is so good that everyone wants one and there are not enough to go around.
Currently there isn’t any sign if more will be made. There have been other carts released such as Brett Walach’s Vextreme
and Graham Toal and team’s PiTrex, but they all offer different functionality, and it’s the VecFever thats at the forefront for me.
Last year, due to work pressures, I did not have too much time for my Vectrex hobby and indeed even updates to this website were
slow. But a big thank you to all those Vectrex fans who have contacted me with comments about the website and offered Vectrex news
– this helps to keep me going. 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. Happy New Year!