Thomas Sontowski, of RobotArena and VecFever Vectrex fame, has recently directed his home brew talents to a mini project called the
thermometer cartridge. Thomas, describes his new project as "Not really useful, except as a curiosity or to complain at retro
meetings in Vectrex-style, if it should be too cold/hot."..."Measurements are valid from 0-85 deg C in 0.5C intervals (measured
roughly once a second)".
The project centres around the use of a DS18S20
1-wire chip. This is a high-precision 1-wire digital thermometer. The term 1-wire
is because you communicate with the chip by sending and receiving serial data using a single data line plus a "ground" reference.
Already for many years now, Vectrex home brewers have been using an 1-wire serially controlled 32-byte EEPROM for saving high scores.
Available games such as Protector, YASI, Vectrexians and Vector Pilots or make use of such a device. Well, Thomas as substituted the
EEPROM with the DS18S20 digital thermometer chip and has written a small accompanying Vectrex program that is just over 2KB.
This program communicates with the 1-wire chip and displays the temperature on the Vectrex screen. Temperature is displayed in
degrees Centigrade, but any button on the Vectrex controller toggles between Centigrade and Fahrenheit.
Thomas has provided some instructions for building your own. You need a cart PCB which supports 1-wire chip capability.
If you contact BinaryStar Software or
they should be able to sell you one. You will also need a 1k or 2.2k resistor and of
course a DS18S20 chip. Of course you also need the capability to burn an EEPROM with the Vectrex program. The following photo
shows where each component must go. The Vectrex binary can be downloaded from here.
Sunday 5th March - New Screen printed repro Mine Storm overlays in production
The screen printers have just let me know the Mine Storm overlays are nearly ready and have kindly sent me an image of the 125(ish)
Mine Storm overlays drying on the rack.
The next stage is sending to the die-cutters so they can be cut to shape.
Once these are finished you will find it very difficult to tell the difference from the original Mine Storm overlay. The only give away
is the small copyright text on the right side of the reproduction overlay.
Watch this space for more news, but the expectation is that the overlays will be ready for shipping soon. As soon as I receive them, I
will then take orders. For pricing and shipping details please visit the Shop page on this website.
Friday 3rd March - Look what arrived just in time for spring!
I just purchased these replacement joystick centering springs from GauzeSoft. The Vectrex console is quite a robust beast, but for a
system that is approaching 35 years old, things do go wrong/break. Typically, the first thing that goes is anything mechanical. As such, a common
problem is the joystick on the Vectrex controller no longer centering. This is due to the springs snapping. Unfortunately, you canít just
buy replacement springs for the controller off-the-shelf. There are thousands of different springs which are not an exact match. There
are various fixes given on the net, from replacing the broken spring with a spring taken from an Atari 2600 cartridge, using "spring" wire
and reshaping it, to using piano wire.
On the Vector Gaming Forums, proboards member Gauze, recently got a
batch of new springs manufactured which are one to one replacements for the originals. These are made in the US. You can purchase four for $5
inside US and territories (use this link) or $6 international
(use this link).
Now, all I have to do is set aside some time to install in my faulty controller. The most difficult part will be peeling off the top
overlay in order to access the four screws holding the controller together. Fortunately, there are YouTube videos showing how to do this.
Sunday 15th January - Juno First - a new game demo for the Vectrex
A member on the German forum "Forum 64" going by the handle of Peiselulli
quietly released a demo for the Vectrex in November last year. A recent YouTube video has brought his activities into the limelight.
Peiselulli has released a playable demo Vectrex version of the
arcade game Juno First. Titled "Hera Primera", this
vertical scrolling game is quite remarkable considering it is just 20KB in size.
Itís a shoot Ďem up game with fast paced graphics. The player must negotiate and shoot several waves of aliens.
The game is unusual for a Vectrex in that the overall graphics occupy the whole width of the screen giving the sense of a much bigger
playing field compared to other Vectrex games.
In addition throughout the game, music plays in the background and throughout the play.
Sound effects are still present when shooting and killing the enemy - all this with a stable and non flickering display - no mean feat
on a Vectrex. Itís also impressive that Peiselulli says that this is his first Vectrex game.
As mentioned the game is currently a demo but it is nevertheless still enjoyable to play. You can download this game from Peiselulli's 16th November
post on "Forum 64" but if
you are not already a member you will have to register your details.
Sunday 1st January - Happy New Year!
Wow, what a time to be into Vectrex last year -the heart beat of the Vectrex community is approaching high BPM! In 2016 there
was not only new homebrew software but also hardware.
The established homebrewers from the first Vectrex renaissance came back and
were active (Christopher Tumber , Chris Salamon aka Malban
with his VIDE Vectrex development suite and George Pelonis from Fury Unlimited
with the completion of his delivery of Warrior). Christoper Tumber provided a few demos and concept at the beginning of 2016 and at the
end announced his intention to get back in to writing and releasing Vectrex games this year. Kristof Tuts was refining his
Vector Patrol game throughout last year and has recently
announced that he expects it to be ready for release Q1 this year.
Then there were the new Vectrex kids on the block. This included Sascha aka Luch-soft with
Dead of Knight and MITNAL (to name but two of his recent Vectrex releases),
Andreas Gustafsson with Vectrexagon, Chris Malcom of Binary Star Software with
Death Chase and NOX (James Watt), Chris Parsons aka Vector Republic with
his Big Blue game, and Thomas Sontowski most notably for his Robot Arena. And
what I outlined so far was just the software! Some of the names above come up again for new hardware.
Most of the hardware was demoed last year but is to be released this year. One exception was the announcement and release of
Vectrex32 by Bob Alexander. This is a new cartridge for the Vectrex that
allows you to write Vectrex games in interactive interpreted BASIC. The cart contains a 32 bit PIC micro controller which takes care of
all the algorithmic aspects of a game, leaving the Vectrex to act as a dummy and maximize its time for displaying Vector graphics.
The result, is that purchasers of the Vectrex32 games will be able to write some slick Vector games in a relatively simple programming language (as opposed to writing in 6809 assembler).
What am I looking forward to this year? Well the release of Vector Patrol, Mail Plane, a homebrew project by Federico Salerno, for
Vectrex collectors "recreating" the original GCE packaging -box, manual and cart style and Fury Unlimitedís
Hell Hole. Chris of Binarystar software will be releasing his Vectrex light-pen and light-gun games. Hopefully, Thomas,
will be officially releasing his Robot Arena game, plus the other projects he has in his pipe line. Of particular interest is
his VecFever cart. This is more than just a multi cart with 16MB of memory. The cart is able to take all original games titles and
substitute their high score routines with a high scores top eight for each game (and game mode). This is possible for 30+ games and
includes homebrews too. There are many other tricks this cart will allow too.
And my activities? Demand for Vectrex screen overlays has been high. Last year I commissioned and sold another batch of YASI and Mine Storm
overlays. After repeated requests from vectrex fans I'm currently selling a batch of generic green overlays. These overlays hark back to that era (for those
of us who admit to remember) of CRT monitors with green phosphors. For me this simple overlay works well with all games. It is also useful
for program development. Speaking of which, my Veczogs game has advanced another 10% and is now 70% complete. Will this be the year for
its release? - I hope so!
As before, I would just like to finish this first entry for 2017 by saying thanks to all who have contacted me with comments about the website, scores and Vectrex news.
I look forward to sharing my Vectrex enthusiasm with you in the near future.