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Sunday 22nd December - Season's greetings

Sunday 15th December - YASI Overlay progress
So just over a month has passed since I asked if there was interest in the YASI overlay and fortunately there is enough interest to consider production of a batch of 50 YASI overlays. If all goes well I believe I will be in a position to start shipping overlays end of January 2014.

I've already been to the local screen printer company to discuss the requirements. The printers are currently mixing and testing glazes for the transparent colours (i.e. the red, blue and green bands) and when done I'm scheduled to visit again to see the results.
What Iím striving for, is for the colours to be vivid enough so that when the game is viewed in the dark, the UFO, invaders, shield and player's ship appear to be in colour.

The printer has already sent me early 1:1 images and I have been experimenting with the physical printouts of the overlay. The image on the right shows a printout of an early YASI design overlayed on a defective Pole Position repro overlay.

I'm trying out these physical printouts on a number of different Vectrex consoles. This is a useful exercise to ensure that the transparent colour bands are big enough to cover the area they are supposed to be covering. E.g. I want the red area to cover the UFO path, the green area to be just over the shields and the score not to be hidden behind the YASI logo. This is an important consideration since not every Vectrex display is aligned optimally and there will be differences then in the placement of the Vectrex graphics on the screen.
The YASI design as presented here is subject to change. As indicated previously I am basing the design on the ParaJVE Vectrex emulator YASI overlay. I have been in discussion with Franck aka Parabellum and he has kindly supplied me the artwork with some modifications to his original design to make the overlay more suited to a real Vectrex.

If you haven't already been in contact and are interested in an YASI overlay please email me at sales@vectrex.co.uk . I'm not taking orders yet, but once produced I'll be contacting those on the mailing list first.

Sunday 1st December - The long lost Mail Plane light pen game is made public!
True to his word, Vectrex collector and fan Chris Romero (aka Vectrexer) released the Mail Plane ROM binary today. Go over to his website at vectrex.com to download it.

Youíll need a light pen to play the game. If you donít already have such a pen see here for instructions on how to make one. Also RecyledGamer is making repro light pens for 30$ a piece. Head over to his webshop to make an order.

Now Chris had to pay quite a significant amount of money to "win" Mail Plane on eBay. After the auction heís had some financial support from some other generous members of the Vectrex community too. I take my hat off to all of them. Thank you!

Mail Plane is the closet thing to a Flight Simulator that the Vectrex has ever had. Now I think the Vectrex community has to get together to write a manual for the game :)

Long term I'm looking forward to the cartridge and boxed edition of the game.

Monday 18th November - YASI Vectrex overlay interest check
Hi all, Iím trying to gauge the level of interest for a Vectrex overlay for YASI. Following on from the success of my last two screen printed overlays, MineStorm and Pole Position, I'm considering commissioning my local screen printer to produce a batch of 50 YASI overlays. These would be professionally made as in the days of the original GCE overlays.

They would
-Be professionally screen printed
-Die cut
-Comprise 8 colours

These overlays will capture the spirit of the original Space Invaders arcade artwork. Theyíll look very similar to the ParaJVE overlay for YASI. Parabellum has given me approval to base my overlays on his design.
The printing process is more complex compared to the previous overlays (Mine Storm and Pole Position used just four colours; the YASI artwork will use 8 colours). Also, theyíll be thicker than my previous overlays and have a similar thickness to the original overlays (500 micron). Do not confuse these with the lower quality homemade ink jet printer produced overlays.

The price each would be around £13 / 21USD / 15.54 Euros plus postage and packaging. If you are interested please email me at sales@vectrex.co.uk to get added to the "interested to order" list. If there is enough interest then I'll communicate with those in the list first.

Saturday 9th November - Vectrex "Holy Grail" Mail Plane game likely to be made public
Well it looks like that the 'lost' Vectrex game "Mail Plane" might finally be made public. This game would have been released in the 80ís were it not for the untimely demise of the Vectrex due to the video game crash. The Mail Plane game was an interesting and original concept. It was a light pen driven game, where a plane had to be loaded with parcels and flown to different cities in the United States. Thereís a freely downloadable binary of the game floating around on the net but the data in the binary is corrupt and as a result the game always crashes at the beginning.

Only three fully working versions of the game are known to exist (in private collections) and as such the game can be considered as one of the Vectrex enthusiasts "Holy Grails".
Yesterday an auction on eBay ended for what was reported as a fully working version of the game. There was a strong possibility that the game could have been bought by a Vectrex collector and for it to live a life of solitude in a glass cabinet and be never shared with the rest of the Vectrex community.

But there is more optimism for this eBay auction, for the game was purchased by Chris Romero (aka Vectrexer), long time collector and supporter of the Vectrex. The final eBay price was $877 USD, considerably lower than the previous auctions seen for Mail Plane. This price was probably achieved because Chris shared his intentions on the Vector Gaming Forum. He stated that he would buy and dump the ROM publically as well as making a cartridge edition. Because of this, other VGF members agreed not to bid and to support him. More will be reported when it is known.

Tuesday 5th November - New vector graphics on an old Asteroids monitor
Ok, this post is not directly Vectrex related but it is vector related. I just stumbled on this at the hackaday.com website. This was an entry dated August this year but somehow I completely missed it at the time.

Two individuals by the name of Todd and Andrew got hold of a Vector monitor from an old Asteroids cabinet and built their own vector arcade game. Using an off-the-shelf FPGA development board and their own designed DAC and amplifier board they were able to write a nice vector game to demonstrate the possibilities. More detailed info can be found on their blog.

Gives food for thought about a new design for the Vectrex ?

Sunday 28th October - International Play Your Vectrex Day (November 1st)
Calling all gamers that indulge in a certain black and white console, it's the International Play Your Vectrex Day once more, slated for November 1st, marking the month of the debut of the Vectrex many years ago!

The rules are quite simple: one, play your Vectrex on November 1st, and two, submit either your name or nick, and you're all set! Various bonuses are also acceptable, such as taking one or more Vectrex-related photos, making drawings, etc. The (pretty simple) rules and regulations can be seen here.
Last year we had 24 "official" people play on this Day, along with several additional non-official players, plus one bonus Honorable mention spread out over at least six known countries. Let's see if we can do it again!

Friday 25th October - Vectrex CRT cannibalised for mini asteroids cabinet
Today I just stumbled across the website www.e-basteln.de where author Juergen Mueller gives full details about a mini asteroids cabinet that he has built.

As any Vectrex fan knows, Asteroids was a vector based game and used a vector monitor. Juergenís mini asteroids cabinet houses a real full size Asteroids PCB and also a Vectrex monitor turned on its side to display the vector game. Juergen states that the Vectrex CRT is very close to half the size of the original monitor in an upright Asteroids cabinet (9" diaganol vs. 19") and the size suited exactly for his mini cabinet design which is designed to sit on a table.

Normally, I wouldnít condone cannibalising a Vectrex for parts but the mini asteroids cabinet is a good cause and he has done a good job. Check out Juergenís website for a full description.

Sunday 20th October - Daft Punk on the Vectrex!
Well itís always interesting to observe the result when "modern" meets "retro". One such culmination is a new Vectrex demo called Random Access Vector and the result is good!

Manu Pšrssinen (responsible for code and graphics) and YrjŲ Fager (responsible for the music) have made a really nice demo in homage to Daft Punkís "Get Lucky" from the bandís Random Access Memories album.
Long term Vectrex fans will recognise the name of Manu as he has made several demos and games in the past. The most famous game of his being Vec Sports Boxing. A collection of his old demoís with code examples can be found at www.pelikonepeijoonit.net.

It is good to see the return of Manu to Vectrex coding (after quite some years). I wonder if there will be more from Manu's collaboration with YrjŲ and others in their joint guise which is collectively called "Fit". "Fit" was founded in the beginning of 1991 with the purpose of making demo releases on various platforms. What seem's promising is that on their website they state they will probably bring more productions.

The ROM binary is just 9K in size and you can download it at www.Pouet.net by clicking here.

Sunday 13th October - Armour Attack debugged and improved
Franck, aka Parabellum the author of ParaJVE -the extremely good Vectrex emulator running on Java platform for the PC, has been looking to improve the Vectrex game Armor Attack. The original game had quite a few bugs contained within, but with the benefit of using extra memory (original game was just 4K in size) many things can be fixed.

In the video you see a quick demo of Armor Attack II. One immediate thing to notice is the new explosion when your vehicle is hit.
For the video period upto 0:37 seconds you see the AI flaw which is present from the original game. That is when you leave your vehicle in the centre the attacking tanks cannot seem to make up their mind as to which way they can come and track you down. Instead they just move up and down. Basically, just stay in the centre and all you have to worry about is if getting hit by the helicopter. If you are skillful you can shoot down all the helicopters and attain a very high score.

On the whole Parabellum has made some nice improvements to make the game more solid for one and two players. If he could fix the AI issue that would be the icing on the cake.

Now I wonder... if only he would expand the arena to a large scrollable area in both X and Y axes :)

Sunday 22nd September- John Dondzila's shop, another step closer to shutting :(
John Donzila, the very first video game homebrewer for the Vectrex and author of many a game over some 17 years, is shutting shop. Visitors to his site www.classicgmecreations.com a couple of months back will have seen Johnsís message stating that on December 31, 2013 he is closing down his website due to other projects and work commitments. He did say at the time that he would continue to produce game cartridges this year until his stock of parts had run out.

Well, I am sorry to report that he has run out of parts. His latest message on his website (from a few days ago) reads "Classic Game Creations is no longer building Vectrex or Colecovision game cartridges. Since I announced that I was closing up shop later this year, I have been swamped with game orders that have exhausted my supplies far earlier than I had anticipated. I am working to "pass the torch" on to others who have expressed interest in continuing to build Vectrex carts and will post the information here when it becomes available."

Visit his site, whilst you still can! At the time of writing you can still download the Vectrex game binaries.

Sunday 25th August - New quarterly magazine for vector game enthusiasts
First Fury made games, then he made various controllers for the Vectrex, and now he has announced he is launching a new quarterly magazine for vector game enthusiasts.

The first issue is not due to January 2014 and is expected to ship November. That issue will include an article on Space Fury, Zektor and Space Frenzy, an article about first Vectrex homebrewer John Dondzila, his games and his recent announcement to quit on the Vectrex, plus many more articles.

Fury told me that the magzine format will be paper and a bit smalleer than A4 with the final page count still to be determined. Head over to Fury's site to sign up for a four issue subscription. The first 50 subscribers will also get themselves a free Vectorbolt T-Shirt! Each issue will have only one run at the printing press, primarily based on the current number of subscirbers with only a few extra copies printed and there will be no guarantee of issue availability for non-subscribers.

Wednesday 21st August - Vectrex in art again
Here at Vectrex.co.uk weíre absolutely interested in anything to do with the Vectrex.

Recently on YouTube a video was uploaded titled "Vectrex in Metro cLub, Guatemala City". It showed what looked to be a night club scene with pumping rave music accompanied by Vectrex and Mine Storm game images projected on to the ceiling and walls. I couldnít begin to imagine how I would react if I was at a night club and suddenly the Vectrex appeared on the walls. Being a Vectrex nut, Iíd be totally gobsmacked.
Naturally, I was intrigued and immediately set about trying to find out more by contacting the video up-loader. Thankfully, he responded. He is Jonathan Pigram, Artist, and he "loves" the Vectrex. After working in the TV production industry for many years he became a student and undertook an MA in Fine Art. His Vectrex has featured in several artistic endeavours showcased at various events.

Pigram told me that on a whim, because he had been told by many that it was their favourite city, he travelled to Guatemala, Mexico. Whilst over there he met a guy on a tourist minibus who promoted raves in Guatemala City.
That guy invited Pigram to be a VJ at a rave. Pigram had never been a VJ before so instead he offered to do some video projector feedback supporting another VJ. One thing led to another and Pigram joined the VJ at his next event in a small club. The VJ feeds the output of an Apple Mac into a wide area projector and uses Madmapper application as the projection mapping software (this allows the building of many different sized images and to place video within these images to fool the viewer into thinking there are many different projectors). Pigram was able to go through the software with the VJ and play his Vectrex films and other performances. The result is what you see in the YouTube video.
What was very apparent with my contact with Pigram is his whacky enthusiasm. And this very much includes his love for the Vectrex. I look forward to seeing future artworks from Pigram.

Check his website to see some examples of his artwork, from projector feedback to him projecting a car racing video game on the windscreen in the inside of his car!

Tuesday 6th August - Old homemade MTV pop video employing Vectrex vectors discovered!
Given the uniqness of the Vectrex and its vector graphics, it is not suprising it has featured in various art pieces over the years. So far we have seen Vectex graphics feature in song videos, backdrops for clubs, shop displays and as an exhibits in art galleries. This has all happened relatively recently.

However, there were already artists making art with the Vectrex in the 80s! An old video tape has recently come to light. Called Human Vectors and made by Dov Jacobson, the video features graphics primarilly produced on the Vectrex accompanying a punk/electronic song.
This was a homemade pop video which was selected for and featured on MTV's basement tapes. Jacobson generated the Vector images using AnimAction on the Vectrex. Together with his partner Bill Ferster, Jacobson went on to produce a piece of software called Nimble which was based on the AnimAction interface which was more immediate and useable compared to other standard animation programs.

More information including the video can be found here.

Monday 29th July - Vectrex Bloxorz homebrew
After only updating the news blog over a day ago about a new homebrew by Frank Buss that is in development, thereís a whole lot more of information about it. Today, he put details on his website about his Vectrex game.

Itís a scaled down port of a modern flash based PC game puzzle game called Bloxorz. Like the original, the aim of the Vectrex game is to get a moveable block to fall into a square hole at the end of each stage. The block is moved around the stage by the joystick and you have to avoid the block falling of the edges. All this takes place in a pseudo 3D environment and the block appears to "roll" along.
Frank has kindly made the ROM binary available for download from his website. And for programmers and tinkerers he has even made the C source code available. Iíve played this game and although at the time of writing it is not finished (only three stages), there is something strangely satisfying when managing to get a block through a square hole.

Buss says that one day he will update the game but for the RetroChallenge competition he is not making any more updates.

Saturday 27th July - Another Vectrex homebrew game!
With the summer in full swing it is strange that in the last couple of months there has been a surge in home brewers announcing games that they have under development for the Vectrex. One would have thought that Vectrex endeavours are pushed to the back while the sun is enjoyed - not that I am complaining.

Hot on the heals of the Nagoya and Nox game announcements is yet another new game. Frank Buss who hails from Germany is writing a game for the Retrochallenge Competition. 2013 Summer Games.

A sneak preview of his game as shown here was tweeted on his twitter account. Currently, there isn't any more information about the game but the deadline for the Retrochallenge Competion is 31st July 2013, so we are sure to find out more very soon.

Thursday 11th July - Vectrex games feature in band video
The band called Typical Reptiles is a circuit band hailing from Detroit. Comprising two stepbrothers who are both producers and singers they are influenced by the early days of minimal techno electronic music, and 70s and early 80s video game systems like Vectrex.

They have recently released a new song called "Passport". This electronic synth song with pleasing light vocals is accompanied by a video that features a kaleidoscopic mash up of quite a few Vectrex games (For the Vectrex fan its fun to count and recognise the different games).

Wednesday 10th July - NOX, Another game from a new Vectrex home brewer
Following on from last month's release of the homebrew Nagoya beta, there is another programmer in town developing a game for the Vectrex. Called NOX, itís a racing game not looking too dissimilar from the original Atari arcade game called Gran Trak 10 which was released in 1974. So you drive a car with an over head look down at the course that your car has to race through.

Not a lot more information is known about it so far other than it will allow either one or two player mode, has music, will offer support for VecVox and will have multiple racing tracks. The game is approaching 32K in size, and the author going by the name of Marblemad hopes to make a cartridge release. This cartridge is likely to also include a game, from his mate Chris Malcom, author of the Nagoya game (see previous post).

Wednesday 19th June - Vectrex Nagoya Attack homebrew beta available for download
Itís always great to see new games on the Vectrex.

Written by author Chris Malcolm, Vectrex Nagoya Attack is a different take on the classic Space Invaders game.

Basically you have to shoot at growing numbers of aliens in each level before they reach you. The game is a beta version at the moment. The game appears simple but itís actually quite addictive and playable. Take your eye of the game and in later levels it's all to easy for the game to end:- The player only gets one life!

The game is unusual for Vectrex games in that it manages to play music on two channels of the Vectrexís sound chip during the game play, leaving the third channel for sound effects. The author states that the title screen music uses all 3 channels of the sound chip.

For more information, and the ROM binary download link, visit the AtariAge forum post by clicking here.

Thursday 6th June - Hidden advert in WebWars ROM binary
I'm still examining the various Vectrex game ROM binaries in search of hidden text and passwords etc. Today I have been looking at the game Web Wars.

Again like the previous games I examined authored by programmer William Hawkins, the Web Wars game shows the author names (three of them). This text is visible when looking at the binary. To get this text to display in the game you need to press a combination of buttons (hold buttons 1, 2, and 4) before the title screen and before the music finishes playing. That text can be seen in the hex editor too.

But look below at the text (see last column) I found at the end of the Web Wars ROM binary as shown in the TextPad editor. It looks like some kind of an advertisement:

I wonder when or if this message ever gets shown in the game? Otherwise what's the point of putting that message there? Very strange indeed...

Wednesday 5th June- Hidden text data in Vectrex binaries
Further to my 31st May post Iíve been looking at a few more ROM binaries with TextPad. It is interesting what text you can find. It has already been reported that a programming credit is hidden in the ROM at address 0x04C: "PROGRAMMED BY WILLIAM HAWKINS 1982". You can see it also with TextPad as follows:

It was not uncommon for programmers in those days to make credits for their names. Often this text would only be revealed after pressing the controller buttons in a particular sequence.

The programmers often had a sense of humour too. I laughed when after scrolling through the binary with TextPad I found this:

I donít think this text was ever for the public. More likely William was just highlighting a free memory space in the ROM to remind him that that area could be filled if necessary when he was developing the game.

The search goes on...

Sunady 2nd June 2013 - The Macintosh 1984 case design said to be based on Vectrex case is a myth
There has been speculation in the past that the Macintosh 1984 computer was somehow inspired by the Vectrex case due to some visual similarities between the two case designs. VectrexMuseum.com owner Oliver states in his 1st June news blog that he had contacted the Macintosh case designer Jerry C. Manock about this and the answer was an emphatic no. In fact Jerry hadnít even heard of a Vectrex!

However, the Vectrex did in influence and inspire another equipment manufacturer. Walter LeCroy, originator of the company LeCroy Corp. which is famously known to many electronic test engineers for its oscilloscopes to this day (the company has since been taken over by Teledyne). LeCroy took inspiration for the company's oscilloscopes from a Vectrex on display in Toys R Us at the time. After all, the analogue part of the Vectrex isnít much different from an XY oscilloscope. Assimilating the Vectrex's magnetic deflection technology, LeCroy created oscilloscopes that could perform tests and draw results on screen for engineers to evaluate. A fuller story can be found here.

Friday 31st May - The search for ghost text in Vectrex binaries
I was somewhat intrigued when I saw the recent YouTube video showing the "SPACE" game splash screen which was alleged to have been caused by tilting a game cartridge in the Vectrex during the Vectrex boot up. In the accompanying video description it conveys that this effect was caused with the Spike cartridge. However, for me it is not clear if this was entirely accurate, and if perhaps a multi-cart is being used instead. This is because at one stage in the video the start up screen of the Hyper Chase game is displayed. In the YouTube comments there was speculation that the "SPACE" text was old code hidden in the binary.

Usually (assuming the text hasnít been encrypted), the possible text strings that can be displayed in these early games can be revealed by examining the binary code in a hex editor. In this way itís possible to see text that would normally only display after reaching a certain level or later game screen. Any secret text strings which are put in by the game author can also be revealed. This text can easily be spotted when examining the hex and associated ASCII values in a hex editor. Therefore I downloaded the free editor called TextPad and decided to examine the Mine Storm, Spike and Hyper Chase binaries to see if the text "SPACE" had been included anywhere.

In the image below you see a part of a screen dump from TextPad I made for the Spike binary. All the numbers are represented in the Hexadecimal notation.

The first column shows the address of the game code data as it is located at in the binary ROM. The sixteen following columns each represent a byte of information stored in the ROM binary. You will see that the next address is 10 which is actually address 16 in decimal. This is logical since, since the address is incremented 16 bytes for each following row. The editor also represents the bytes in ASCII code (see characters at the end of each row). This representation is of most interest since by searching through this you can easily spot any text that would normally be displayed when playing the game. The image above shows the text for Spike that is normally shown when the game boots up i.e. Spike, GCE 1983.

Searching through the whole binary reveals no other readable text other than the following:

Spike game players will immediately recognise the text as that which is shown during the game animations. The text "DARNIT" is displayed when Spike loses a life and the other text is displayed during the Spud stealing Molly animation.

The only other readable text is the text "END" which is shown on the Vectrex display only at the end of the game.

No text for "SPACE" could be found in the Spike binary game code. In fact I could not find this text in the Mine Storm or Hyper Chase binaries either. This led me to the following hypothesis. That in fact the text "SPACE" is caused by missing data and not by secret or old text made by the game author. You will notice that the text "SPIKE" and "SPACE" only differ by two characters i.e. "IK" or "AC". The ASCII decimal code for "I" and "K" is 73 and 75 respectively. The ASCII decimal code for "A" and "C" is 65 and 67 respectively.

The equivalent decimal and hex numbers representing the ASCII characters donít reveal any pattern. But convert them to binary values and you see something interesting. Bit 3 (see the grey highlights in the above image) is the only bit that is changed between the text for "IK" and "AC". It is this bit that causes the Vectrex to misread the characters as "AC" rather than "IK".

It seems highly plausible that the text "SPACE" is seen because when the cartridge is tilted one of the data lines between the Vectrex and cartridge is not in contact causing the missing data at bit 3 which would normally give the text "SPIKE". A missing data line would also corrupt any other data that is presented including text and program function. So the text "© GCE 1983" is seen as "© GCE 1103" as shown in the video for exactly the same reason as explained above :- in other words the missing data bit 3.

Lets look at the text "1983" in detail. For the ASCII digit "1", the binary value is 0110001. A missing data bit 3 has no effect because this bit it is already in the off state i.e. logic 0. So the first digit of "1983" remains the same. For the ASCII digit "9", the binary value is 0111001. Because the bit 3 signal is not present i.e. not logic high, the binary value is read as 0110001 i.e. ASCII digit "1". The same story is true for the remaining ASCII digits. The binary value for ASCII digit "8" is 0111000. But if bit 3 is missing the read binary value is 0110000 which is actually the ASCII character "0". For the ASCII digit "3", the binary value is 0110011. Note that bit 3 is already zero, so a missing bit 3 signal has no effect. Hence you see "1103" rather than "1983".

So, although its possible to use a hex editor to reveal hidden text, in this case the "SPACE" text splash screen is as a result of missing data. On a final note I donít recommend doing what the YouTuber did. Moving the cartridge or removing it altogether whilst the Vectrex is on, is definitely not good for a Vectrex consoleís health.

Monday 6th May 2013 - Interview with Vectrex Regeneration App creator
Four days ago TUAW (The unofficial apple weblog) posted an interview with Anton Faulconbridge about his companyís "Vectrex Regeneration" app. For those of you who donít know, this is a fantastic Vectrex emulator app for the iOS (especially when it is run on an iPad and used in conjunction with an iCade).

In the YouTube video Anton recounts his childhood love for the Vectrex and explains how seeing an iCade for the iPad inspired him through his company Rantmedia Games to develop the "Vectrex Regeneration" app.

Of course the emulator can never be as good as the real thing, but it does get very close. My opinion of the app? Vectrex purists will still prefer the original Vectrex, but the app is a good ambassador for those wanting to get a taste/reminder of the Vectrex world - this can only lead to more popular interest in the Vectrex. Well done to Anton and his colleagues.

Saturday 27th April - 3D printing: the saviour of the Vectrex?
Iíve been meaning to upload this news item for a couple of months now, after receiving two separate 3D printed items for the Vectrex in the space of a few weeks in January.

3D printing seems to be all the rage these days and what can be produced with this technique never ceases to amaze me. Indeed it seems there are no limits, even a complete bicycle has been additive printed (including the internal ball bearings on the wheel hub). Click here to see the proof! These printers work by laying down accumulating thin layers of nylon plastic to form a resultant 3D object. Software on the PC converts CAD designs and the printer prints the object layer by layer. Finalised designs may be sent to a 3D printing house for production or a hobbyist can print using their own 3D printer. Smaller printers based on the same idea are coming down in price and are now affordable to the hobbyist.
This is good news for retro gamers. It means that hard to find spare parts for their beloved consoles can be recreated using a 3D printer. Perhaps they are missing an on/off switch, or want to replace a specific shaped plastic part in a joystick. Well with 3D printing, identical replacement parts can be created. 3D printing can certainly benefit the 30 year old Vectrex to help keep it going a bit longer.

As a first example Richard H, homebrewer of various Vectrex Multicarts has been dabbling with his 3D printer and has experimented with producing the joystick thumb tip reproductions for the Vectrex controller. He used a MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer to produce them. He sent me a sample and other than the material of the part being plastic rather than the original metal I must say it really is a like for like substitute. The surface was also very smooth. I thought he had maybe sandpapered it or machined it but when I asked him he told me it was straight out of the machine. He told me he had printed it at the highest resolution setting of 0.1mm. These small parts can be printed in multiples, so small scale production is also possible.
By coincidence at the same time I was communicating with Richard I also was contacted by an Australian Vectrex fan who goes by the tag of Computer Nerd Kev (CNK). He has a 3D printer called the Cupcake. It was the first kit sold by Makerbot and they no longer make the model, but he's tweaked and improved it to give quite respectable results. Producers of games and multi carts for the Vectrex have been provided for in the past when a few years ago Sean Kelly arranged for production of a large batch of reproduction cartridge cases from a mould.
This means that most homebrewers are able to house their creations in professional looking game cartridge cases. However, the supply to the homebrewers hasn't always been readily available which has sometimes resulted in a delay in the supply of new Vectrex hardware and software in the past. And the question is always, once the supply has run out, will there be another production run of cartridge cases?

As an experiment CNK has produced Vectrex cartridge cases on his 3D printer. CNK took an original Vectrex cartridge and measured its dimensions with a ruler. It took just two iterations of printing to reach the current design which shows he made very good measurements!

The resulting cartridge comprises two halves each having been printed separately and each taking around forty minutes to print.
CNK kindly sent me an example of a 3D printed cartridge. On first impressions of the surface finish you definitely won't mistake the cartridge to be injection moulded especially when you look at the top and bottom surfaces of the cartridge. CNK told me that the finish was not completely smooth because when putting down the first layer of plastic on the build surface (in his case a non-standard lump of aluminium with painter's tape on top), the plastic has difficulty sticking and the individual strands like to curl up as they cool and shrink. On the subsequent plastic layers (i.e. the inside of the cartrdige, the plastic layers have previous plastic layers to bond to) which gives a better surface.
However, I really like the resulting finish! The texturing of the surface reminds me of a bar of soap and seems to imply it is organic. The other obvious difference from the original is there isnít a slightly recessed area on the top surface for holding the cartridge sticker. Like the original Vectrex cartridge the two halves of the case are held together by a screw. Undo the screw and you can see the mounts for holding the PCB. I put an old game PCB in the case and it fitted perfectly. Likewise the cartridge slots into the Vectrex perfectly.

This cartridge is truly a limited edition and I am very happy to be the owner of it. These cases although not an identical replacement for the original would be handy for anyone with an uncased multi-cart. CNK has uploaded the 3D models of the Vectrex cartridge to the Thingiverse website for free download so that other owners of 3D printers can also have a go at printing.

There is no better cause for 3D printing then preserving our beloved 30 year old Vectrex consoles. No longer do we have to consider to cannibalise a less fortunate Vectrex and reduce the number of working Vectrex consoles further - 3D printing is our Vectrex saviour!

Friday 19th April - Another Sulake created demo for the Vectrex - tidying my binaries (part 2)
Following on from the vow I made in this site's March 6th news entry, I'm continuing in my quest to share relatively unknown Vectrex demos via YouTube. Today I present Sulake's other demo called slides.

The demo was made by Sampo Karjalainen, co-inventor of Habbo and with involvement from Mikko KŲykkš (who wrote the Vectrex Lumisade snowflake demo - see 3rd February 2013 news entry). The demo being a demonstration of Vector art slides was also used as an internal teaser for Sulake company events. This demo was released in 2002.

Monday 8th April - High scores page updated
Time is my enemy! Just a quick note to all who have sent in high scores in the last few months. The high scores page is now finally up to date...

Sunday 17th March - AtariVox+, Release imminent, get on the waiting list now!
A few years ago there were products designed by Richard H called VecVoice and VecVox which were homebrew speech synthesizers that plug in the second joystick port of the Vectrex. VecVox was the later of the two and replaced the VecVoice. The VecVox offered two modes, a mode to emulate the VecVoice, and a mode which offered extra functionality including greater control of speech as well as sound effects. A few homebrew games are available that make use of these speech synthesizers, such as Verzerk and Debris. Debris used the VecVox for speech, explosions and other sound effects.

The VecVox had a limited run and as such there were never enough to go around. Then came AtariVox which worked in the same way as VecVox but was for the Atari 2600 & 7800 only. This was also a a limited run.

At the end of 2008, AtariVox+ was proposed on the Atariage.com forum. This would be a single device that combined all three products with specific operating mode selectable by DIP switches. Richard H designed the AtariVox and handed over production to another Atariage.com member. Unfortunately due to various reasons the project never progressed to the end until now.

A new member has taken over production and the release of the AtariVox+ is imminent. Prospective purchasers are asked to express their interest on this forum thread at Atariage.com.

Wednesday 6th March - Habbo demo for Vectrex - tidying my binaries
Having been collecting everything to do with Vectrex for more than five years I've ended up with folders and folders of Vectrex ROM binaries. Anyway, I'm making it a mission to film some of the binaries running on my Vectrex and for which I know haven't already shown on YouTube. Last month it was a Snow demo coming from Finland. This month is another demo hailing from Finland.

The "movie" you see here is a Vectrex demo which was on display at the Computer Games and Digital Cultures Conference (CGDC 2002) in Tampere in Finland. It was also used as an internal teaser for Sulake company events. The graphics were made by Sampo Karjalainen, co-inventor of Habbo. You can download the binary here.

Sunday 3rd February - Snow
Given the snow that seemed to be experienced in much of Europe these last few weeks, it reminded me to dig out an old 2006 demo written for the Vectrex by programmer Mikko KŲykkš, and load it into my Vectrex via the VecMulti. This demo is called Lumisade in Finnish and is called Snow flake animation in English.

I first reported on this demo when I got the binary file from Mikko in 16th September 2010. Go to the news item for that date in my news blog and you will find the binary for download. The program is only 2K in size but captures the way snow flakes can fall through space very well. This demo does not have sound on the Vectrex but I accepted the offer of music from YouTube when I uploaded the video and you hear a song called Snow from the band Continental Drifters.

Sunday 20th January - Mine Storm (Euro Version) High score world records
In the last couple of months I have received a number of high scores for submission on the high scores page. In particular for the built in Vectrex game:- Mine Storm. I am only now just catching up with all the submissions. After digesting all the results I see some incredible achievements and as an aside I am also a little more educated regarding the different Mine Storm game versions.

At the end of November a player with the tag of RetroVicio-JAL submitted a Mine Storm best score of 1,010,540! If one were not to see it with their own eyes or from a video, one would treat the news with some suspicion. Mine Storm only goes up to 999,999 points. After that it starts again from zero. However, the proof was there because RetroVicio-JAL included two photos: the first for Level 63 with a score of 991.985 points and the second for level 64 for 10,540 points. It is well known that the early versions of the Vectrex Mine Storm can behave a bit strangely after level 13 (i.e. space dust and skipping levels). RetroVicio-JAL has a Vectrex with the serial number starting with the digits "31 1". It is a fact that these consoles were the last of the production and the built in ROMs included a corrected version of the Mine Storm game (The other fix is that the consoles did not buzz). RetroVicio-JAL confirmed that all the levels worked correctly and that it took him 1 hour to get to level 64!

Then some days later I got an email from another player by the tag of NONIK (RETROVICIO). He also sent multiple photos and he had scored 1,133,929! It turns out these two players were friends competing with each other and were members of a Spanish forum called www.retrovicio.org. Not to be out done RetroVicio-JAL submitted another score two days later with the whopping score of 1,700,121 achieved at level 94! This is the world record (for Mine Storm II)! More information and a video can be seen over at his site.

Just before the last day of December I received two Mine Storm high scores from father and son Sven and Siebert. Sven informed that it had been raining a lot in Belgium and that his son had practised for many hours and achieved a best score of 436,535. Not to be outdone, Sven who has owned his Vectrex since childhood went and scored 541,963. However, in January Siebert beat his previous Mine Storm record, and he did it with the monster score of 1,010,961 and then again with an even higher score of 2,169,881! The serial number of their Vectrex starts with the digits "30 5" and Siebert did confirm that whilst playing the game some strange behaviour is sometimes exhibited e.g. Suddenly the game decides to end and displays 'game over' even when some lives are left. Sometimes the numbering of the levels is strange. Sometimes the game jumps some levels and there is no logic in the difficulties. Sometimes game player gets easier as the levels go up. Nevertheless, well done to Sven as being of the age of 12, he is currently the youngest Mine Storm (Euro version with bug) champion in Europe!

Considering the corrected version of Mine Storm is harder than the bugged version built into the earlier Vectrex consoles and in the interest of fairness, I'm splitting the Mine Storm high scores into "Mine Storm Euro version" and "Mine Storm II" catagories. The Mine Storm II catagory covers scores achieved on the seperately available debugged Mine Storm II cartridge and the built in version that exists on the final version of Vectrex consoles. Also for all future submissions if a score is "rolled over" in Mine Storm (e.g. score is higher than 999,999) multiple photos must be supplied. One photo should show the pre 999,999 score and level. The subsequent photos should show the last score and level, with the final photo showing the last score.

Sunday 13th January - Website house keeping
Just reporting on some house keeping. Inevitably nothing lasts forever, and some Vectrex website links no longer work. I've removed these. For the remaining general links I have reordered into most active.

Also just to note I added a link to a new website called www.vectrex.de that has came online end of last year. This is a German fan site. As a result it's not written in English, but for non German speakers don't let that stop you as you can always use an online translator. Click here to see the website translated to English.

Wednesday 2nd January - Happy New Year !
This is the first news post for 2013:- As everyone knows, the start of a new year is the usual time for a nostalgic look at the past year and brave predications about the future. Not to miss this time honoured tradition I herewith present the following:

I eagerly awaited Warrior from Fury last year and had hoped to make a mini review of the game for this website. The first games began to ship in September. Despite a tantalising YouTube video and news of the arrival of the game to some lucky owners I still didnít receive mine. I understand there have been some issues with the availability of cartridge PCBs and overlays and this has caused some delay. Fury recently emailed to say that delivery of the game should be expected in January this year - so hopefully the saying "good things come to those that wait" will be realised. I beleive Fury is going to be very busy in this new year, as he has released new hardware (various controllers) and is promising new games. A new Tempest like game called Hellhole is expected early this year and it will be shipped with a custom made Spinner controller. Fury also announced another future game called Tail Gunner and like Warrior it is based on an original Cinematronics game.

The biggest news last year concerning the Vectrex was the release of RantMedia Gamesí Vectrex Regeneration app for the iPhone and iPad. Ok itís portraying Vector scan graphics in a pixel display, but for those gamers wanting to reincarnate the Vectrex, the app actually does a very good job. For me I find the on-screen Vectrex game controls a bit clumsy but when an iPad running the app is paired with the iCade controller the concept of the Vectrex is very convincing. Vectrex purists will still prefer the original Vectrex, but the app is a good ambassador for those wanting to get a taste of the Vectrex world - this can only lead to more interest in the Vectrex.

Itís always a pleasure to receive an email from a Vectrex fan concerning this website and I received more than a few in 2012. Once again, as in 2011, this website achieved over 10,000 hits in 2012. The Vectrex high scores page is continuing to generate competition between Vectrex game players and this page helps to improve the popularity of this website. Implemented in simple html code, there have been some subtle improvements in the layout of the high scores page and I thank hcmffm and Lady Eklipse for their help in improving it. My apologies to those who have sent scores and for which I have not updated yet- I will upload them I promise!

And what about my own endeavours relating to the Vectrex? Last year I stated I would restart my Vectrex programming and finish my first game. Well due to time restraints as a result of my job this never happened, perhaps this year I can update the progress. I did initiate another project though and which is still on-going. That is the development of a full size upright arcade cabinet based on the Vectrex. There is still much to do but you can see my ideas and progress in a special blog that I created. This is accessible from the tab above titled [VecCab] or from here. Build progress is ahead of the blog so Iíll try and make some blog updates in the very near future.

The vectrex.co.uk website is now in its sixth year. The aim is to help keep the Vectrex alive by generating interest in it. If you have any news relating to the Vectrex that you think would be of interest to other Vectrex fans I would gladly present it here in this news blog. Happy new year to all Vectrex fans!