These are audio recordings (mostly telephone conversations) that Bob Fabris, the
publisher of the Astrocade newsletter Arcadian, had with various people
in the Bally / Astrocade community in the years during the newsletter's publication
About the Audio Format:
These are recorded from thirty-year old audio-tapes. The sound quality is poor.
Rather than losing more quality by saving the files in a lossy format (like MP3),
these files have been saved in a lossless format called FLAC. What has been
discovered is that these FLAC recordings are smaller than the MP3s would be because
these are audio recording and not music. Most people should not have
any trouble listening to these (very large) recordings (as long as the files
are saved to the hard drive first). However, if you can't hear them, then try visiting
Notes from Paul Thacker:
"First, since I've been hyping the Bob Fabris tape recordings, I'm sending
Adam the nine recordings I have so far, plus my notes. These are still a bit
confusing. They're not labeled very well, so I'm not always sure when the
recording is from and who Bob is speaking to. If other people listen to them,
and I record more tapes, we may be able to piece them together better. I've
named the files according to the tape labeling, but we might want to come up
with some standard system. If the tape label doesn't say much, all we've got
to go on is the recording itself. I particularly recommend the Larkin and
Jay Fenton recordings."
Comments by Adam Trionfo:
"I've finally downloaded and started to check these out. Good stuff. What
amazes me most is the quality of the audio. It's pretty bad-- and in some
places it speeds up and slows down. I'm amazed, but GLAD, that we're able
to archive tapes like this. It's no wonder that the Astrocade can't load
tapes of this vintage!"
The audio quality on this recording is very poor, and I can only make out Bob Fabris'
voice to any significant degree. I would guess he's talking to Ed Larkin. Bob
mentions the need for marketing (presumably the VIPER 1). Bob also gives an update
on Astrocade. He says they're about to emerge from bankrupty, and are planning on
releasing 12 cartridges from Action Graphics. He mentions Robby Roto. Bob doesn't
think they'll have the money to push out an add-under.
Time - 8:01 / Size - 12.4MB
11-28 Conversation - DNA copy (reverse)
||11-28 Conversation - DNA copy (reverse)|
Brief conversation to arrange a meeting. The front side of the tape has a copy of the
conversation on "TEL. CONVERSATIONS Copy 11-28.wav".
Time - 0:55 / Size - 854K
Bob calls Jay Fenton. They largely discuss plans for a system add-under, and
speculate about many interesting features it could have. At this point, it's
planned to be 60K RAM and ROM. Bob's also been talking to Jeff Frederiksen about
it. Jay mentions some of the software he's working on, including Extended BASIC,
The Game Of Life, and Morse code software. They also lament how the system,
despite being very powerful, isn't selling that well and is apt to break. Jay
was once roommates with Dick Ainsworth, but now Dick's fallen in love, and has
moved in with his girlfriend and is converting to vegetarianism.
Time - 23:26 / Size - 28.4MB
After a date declaration of June 26 (1980), Bob Fabris calls Jeff
Frederiksen. Bob has been talking to Jay Fenton about his development of an extended BASIC
cartridge, and Bob's put him in touch with third parties developing RAM expansions. Bob asks
if Bally will be selling the extended BASIC cartridge directly, and Jeff says the plan is to
sell it as a limited edition at probably about $75. [This is mentioned in Arcadian volume 2,
issue 9, page 78.] They discuss advertising for it in the Sourcebook. It will search for any
contiguous RAM block above the screen RAM. They're planning on making a commercial ZGRASS
system package at a cost of about $3000 (with about $700 of that for the monitor). It's not
being aimed at amateurs. They're planning to demonstrate it at SIGGRAPH next month. The
recording ends suddenly.
Time - 12:02 / Size - 13.1MB
Bob Fabris and Jeff Frederiksen talk about the ZGRASS
expansion--possibly the same conversation as on the front side of the tape. Jeff mentions a
module for voice synthesis and light pen for graphics editing. It can either stand alone or
act as a slave to another computer system. He says there will be applications for it when
Time - 2:39 / Size - 2.88MB
Bob Fabris talks to Jeff Frederiksen. Bob asks about
cartridge parts, since some people want to manufacture their own Videocades. Jeff says they're custom made, but they'd be willing to sell EEPROM carts to people. They discuss the
sound registers, and Bob compliments Brett Bilbrey's sound work. Bob mentions work on a
keyboard addition, and asks about ASCII codes for commands. There are rumors about the system
being taken over from Bally by another company, but Jeff doesn't have any news about it. Jeff
demonstrates Vortrax speech synthesis. Jeff's found a modification to the audio interface
that makes it more reliable. [This is detailed in Arcadian volume 2, issue 8, page 71.]
Time - 9:32 / Size - 10.5MB
Ed Larkin dictates to Bob Fabris a description of the VIPER System 1, 5, and 10, for
an ad. The System 1 is due out April 25 (1981), the System 5 and the keyboard on
May 25, and the System 10 on June 25.
Time - 6:02 / Size - 8.72MB
Ed Larkin reads an advertisement for the Viper System 1 to Bob Fabris.
Time - 5:26 / Size - 6.31MB
Bob talks to John Perkins, although it's very difficult to make out what John is
saying. John gives Bob instructions about operating the Blue RAM, copying cartridges,
and using the Blue RAM Utilities. He discusses what the various pins on the connector
are used for. John says he and his father took the approach of making the device low
cost (with only 4K for now), but with a lot of flexibility through clever programming.
He gives Clyde's implementation of the keyboard as an example. John discusses the results
of an Arcadian survey about what capabilities users want. One frequent request is a
diagnostic program. There's also a desire to modify game carts, and to use the
Arcade's built-in routines. John is documenting these routines such that they could
be used to program games more easily. They discuss Brett Bilbrey's music programming.
They discuss cheap add-ons that you can use with the IO port, such as a relay to turn
lights on and off. John explains the technical operation of a light pen on the
Astrocade. He contrasts this to cheaper but less versatile light pens like the
one sold by Radio Shack.
Time - 31:54 / Size - 39.1MB
This continues the conversation with John Perkins. John talks about using a
printer. He explains how you can add a clock to the system. He discusses how to
get many colors on the screen at once. John's particularly interested in a
low-cost modem interface. He discusses the use of the Blue RAM diagnostics.
They discuss problems loading tape programs. Bob asks about production. Bob
had talked to Clyde a little while before, and Clyde said they had about twenty
Blue RAMs ready. (The Blue RAM was released in April 1980.) They discuss
chip availability. In the second half of the recording, I can hardly make
out anything John is saying.
Time - 25:08 / Size - 24.3MB
Bob Fabris was trying to get in touch with Ed Larkin, but ends up talking to someone
else, who I guess also worked for Alternative Engineering. This man says he and Esoterica
got back some prototype boards they ordered for Muncher, but they were missing three holes.
This may cause a small delay. It sounds like they're planning on selling thousands
of cartridges. ITT is still in talks about taking over Astrocade. There will need
to be some deals made with Bally as well due to licenses and such. The ZGRASS add-under
from Alternative Engineering and Esoterica is coming along well. They're going to be
paying royalties to Bally, but nothing up front. The man tells Bob they've gotten
great support from Bally. It's now February (1983), and Bob's looking to make an
announcement about Muncher in the March newsletter.
Time - 8:32 / Size - 9.5MB
Bob talks to Ed Larkin. Ed's got good Muncher boards now. Bob's getting about ten
orders a day. Ed speculates that it will shoot up to fifty once people figure
out it's actually real. Bob will be selling it through the newsletter, as well as
a couple of distributors. Ed's making some effort to keep their name off of it
(no ID on the circuit board, for example). Bob says Astrocade's well aware of
what they're doing, though. Astrocade's just been in a bankruptcy meeting. ITT
may be taking them over, and Ed assumes they'll install new management who knows
what they're doing. George Moses has been talking to Ed about VIPERSoft BASIC
for an Arcadian tutorial. Ed believes it will be obsolete in six months
though (due to ZGRASS, I assume). Bob's going to send the carts out without
instructions or anything extra. Ed would like to see some disassemblies of
cartridges with comments, but Bob says he only has uncommented ones. They discuss
the demo cart, and a new demo tape which includes a game to play against the
computer at the end. Ed just got a ZT180 computer, which he's trying to interface
to the Bally. Ed talked to Brett Bilbrey lately, and Brett complained that the UV1's
they use to program aren't really designed to play games.
Time - 12:07 / Size - 22.8MB
Bob Fabris calls Ed Larkin of Alternative Engineering and arranges to get
Muncher carts manufactured. Bob's going to be taking orders for them, which
would make the year 1983. Also, Alternative Engineering is gearing up for a
small initial run of ZGRASS expansions. Esoterica is involved, but Dan Dresher
wants to keep it secret. They're having trouble raising the capital to get
Time - 8:57 / Size - 8.1MB
Bob Fabris talks to Ed Larkin again. ZGRASS expansion development is running
into problems. They've had to switch to an external power supply so they'll have
enough power to run later additions like a disk drive. They've also switched
from a plastic to a metal case, both to get FCC approval and because it looks
better. They're even offering a metal case to put the Bally system in, and plan
to sell some complete systems since a dealer is dumping Ballys for $50 apiece.
The expansion will cost $2000. A high-res board is coming out later. The
recording ends suddenly as the tape runs out.
Time - 13:43 / Size - 13.6MB
Bob Fabris talks to Ed Larkin about ZGRASS some more (maybe the same
conversation as that in "Larkin_1-28_(part_2).wav" . It will be compatible with
the cartridge slot, and can work with a light pen and, in theory, could be
expanded to use laserdiscs. Esoterica hasn't seen the new case yet, and they're
planning to surprise them with it. Bob asks about getting discounted units for
programmers. It's now almost September, and they want to get it out by
Christmas. He says they're ready to rip off their arms and legs to get it
released. They're ready to start taking orders, but are displeased with ABC
Hobbycraft for advertising it and asking for immediate payment.
Time - 15:46 / Size - 17.5MB
Bob Fabris talks to Larry Leske, who's been working on a
programmable keyboard kit. [Arcadian volume 1, issue 8, page 55] It seems likely that Fidelity
Electronics will take over the system, and they plan on possibly reviving the ZGRASS add-under
in about six months. Larry has great respect for the engineering at Fidelity, and thinks it's
likely they'll get out a quality product fairly quickly. Given this, Larry doesn't really want
to compete with them, so the project is put on hold. [Arcadian volume 2, issue 3, page 19]
Time - 8:18 / Size - 10.0MB
Bob Fabris talks to Bob Freeman, who's been working on an
S-100 adapter for the system [Arcadian volume 2, issue 2, page 11]. With Larry Leske
losing interest on programmable keyboard work, Fabris is now particularly interested
in this. Freeman is also thinking about things like a modem. But he's not moving at
a fast pace unless there's enough interest to make it profitable. Fabris is planning on
surveying the Arcadian readers on what they want. [Arcadian volume 2, issue 3, page 19].
Freeman has also programmed a system monitor ROM (it COULD be the "ADS System Monitor," but
this is only conjecture), to be used for debugging assembler
programs. Freeman wonders if Fidelity Electronics would consider speeding up the system's
Z80, but Fabris says they're trying to cut costs on the board instead. They might consider
a retrofit kit, though.
Time - 14:29 / Size - 15.3MB
Bob Fabris talks to Tom Meeks. Tom discusses an attempt to release the Astrocade in
Europe. They've gotten a sample to a company called ITT (International Telephone and
Telegraph), and everyone is optimistic.
Ray George is really pushing to get ZGRASS out this year. Bally itself is also pushing
both these ventures, and may even provide financial backing for ZGRASS. No new
consoles are being manufactured at the moment, though there is still old stock to sell.
Astrocade is in some sort of dispute with Nitron. Bob says there's been a good response
to the ad in Electronic Games. Arcadian subscribers are stable at about 2,000. Tom
doesn't think the BASIC manual did a good job of getting people into programming. Tom's
going to get Bob mailing addresses from warranty cards. Astrocade's getting ready to go
do court over debts. Creditors are going after money Astrocade's gotten from Montgomery
Ward--money they need to keep the company running. Tom's trying to arrange to leave
Astrocade with a severance package, but wants to keep consulting with them on ZGRASS.
Tom's been doing lots of ZGRASS programming, developing educational children's programs.
He gives some details about ZGRASS programming, strengths, and limitations.
Time - 18:43 / Size - 20.2MB
Bob Fabris talks to Ed Larkin of Alternative Engineering. They
discuss the Electronic Games "underground" article. He's manufacturing Pac-Man carts for Bob.
They joke about the secrecy around it. He's developing a communication board. The company
doesn't have a lot of capital to work with.
Time - 6:16 / Size - 7.26MB
Bob Fabris talks to Tom Meeks. Astrocade has entered
Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Nitron's stock has suspended trading for two days, and Tom expects
Nitron to fail. In Tom's view, this situation is partly Nitron's fault, because he believes
they were trying to take control of Astrocade from the day they started building the systems.
He places more blame on Astrocade, however. Tom hopes ITT (International Telephone and Telegraph)
can rejuvenate the system by
building it cheaper than they can. Tom thinks the bankruptcy will help them get a little
sympathy and curiosity at the upcoming CES show. They haven't been able to implement anything
lately, even though they're getting lots of good suggestions, particularly from Dick Houser.
Astrocade has at least been getting more free publicity lately.
Time - 7:49 / Size - 8.24MB
Bob Fabris talks to Bob (Ogden?). With Astrocade in the
midst of bankruptcy, Bob (Ogden?) is looking into releasing future games through U.S. Games.
There's still hope of rescue from ITT (International Telephone and Telegraph), though. Bob
Fabris wants to put together an
independent advisory panel to guide software development. One interested party is Alternative
Engineering. With Astrocade not making games at the moment, Bob (Ogden?) isn't particularly
interested in this for now.
Time - 4:49 / Size - 5.71MB
Bob Fabris talks to Ed Larkin about three weeks after
the Astrocade bankruptcy. According to Ed, Bob Ogden expects to have a deal with ITT
(International Telephone and Telegraph) within
the next couple of weeks. At this point, Ed will start working for Bob Ogden to help address
the lack of software for the system. Ed sees ITT as a much more professional company than
Astrocade, and hopes they take over the whole business. Bob Fabris suggests he consider
producing ZGRASS for them rather than for Astrocade, and gives out contact information for
Nicholas Gibbs at ITT Consumer Products (UK) Limited. Ed talked to Tom Meeks just before the
bankruptcy for a little help with ZGRASS, but couldn't get much support. This may have been
related to the stress of the impending bankruptcy and Tom looking for a different job. ITT is
hoping to make the hardware compatible with both the US and Europe, and to re-release it in
the US at a lower cost. Right now, Astrocade could only bring in operating capital with new
products. They haven't paid John Perkins for work on a game, so he's planning to release the
game through another company. Bob talks to Ed about manufacturing Pac-Man carts, and wants to
change the name to Munch Kid. They're going to make 100 carts, with Bob putting up about
$1,000 upfront and $1,000 on delivery. The recording ends suddenly.
Time - 18:06 / Size - 20.8MB
Bob Fabris calls Ron Nelson of Fidelity Electronics. Bob asks about
recent developments, and Ron says that the current situation is that Bally is pushing to
quickly divest from the system, but Fidelity wants to slow down and look over the contract
closely. Bob also mentions the development of a hobbyist memory addition and keyboard. It's
planned to be sold as a kit, in part to avoid the need for FCC approval.
Time - 4:23 / Size - 4.74MB
TEL. CONVERSATIONS Copy 11-28
||TEL. CONVERSATIONS Copy 11-28|
Bob Fabris asks Jeff Frederiksen about possible new features for the ZGRASS
add-under. These include an S-100 adapter card (to allow different peripherals
to plug in), scientific calculations (already being worked on), and a ROM burner
(S-100 could help you hook one up). They also discuss using Bally BASIC to save
data files, and using a printer with BASIC. They arrange to meet later to
discuss further details. Bob will be in Washington on, he believes, Tuesday Dec.
Time - 12:07 / Size - 15.4MB
A very technical discussion between Bob and Chuck Thomka about circuit frequencies.
Time - 15:29 / Size - 15.1MB
Bob calls Jeff Frederiksen to arrange a meeting at CES in Las Vegas.
Time - 1:33 / Size - 1.6MB