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     These are letters that were written to the Arcadian newsletter. When the entire Bob Fabris collection was bought, it included many letters such as these, many, or most, of which were never printed before.

Letters From Bob Fabris

Laurence Leske Letter (June 6, 1979)
Letter to Laurence Leske.
From Bob Fabris.
June 6, 1979.

This is a letter that Bob Fabris wrote to Larry Leske, an employee at Bally. Bob is hoping to get some more information on the internal workings of the Bally system. Bob says:

"I publish a newsletter for owners of the ARCADE, and provide them with material which enables them to better understand the machine, and which informs them of operations that are possible. The inputs for my paper come primarily from the more technically oriented subscribers. I now have over 600 persons subscribing from across the country and Canada, plus a handful foreign, and we are all concerned about the status of the Add-On, or Programmable Keyboard. We have the Bally story of 'waiting for the FCC to act on the TI proposal', but we have also been waiting since last year when the Add-On was originally expected. Many of the subscribers responded to the JS&A advertising of Oct/77, and are quite frustrated with the situation.

"We would be greatly interested in a surrogate keyboard, with additional memory capacity and capabilities approaching those which were advertised in the literature - a more powerful BASIC and a full-size ASCII keyboard, at least. In addition the units should have some equivalent to GRAFIX, ZGRASS, TERSE, etc., languages if at all possible."

Before I continue with Bob's letter, I want to say how fascinating I find Bob's statements. He's basically writing a letter to Bally saying, "Hey buddy, we can't wait anymore for your delayed keyboard add-on, so we're gonna make our own." Imagine this happening today. You'd probably get a cease-and-desist letter from the manufacturer. Times surely have changed!

Bob continues:

"I am writing this letter on Jay Hess' recommendation to let you know that we as a group exist, and are interested in upgrading the system to higher capabilities. Of my group, I would suspect 70% to 80% would be in a position to purchase a unit in the $400-600 range.

"I would be pleased to receive your comments and thoughts about our 'problem', and to answer any questions you may have."

While searching the BallyAlley website for some additional information on Larry Leske, I found a quote from an article called "In the Mind of Tom Defanti... Inventor of ZGrass" by Suzan D. Prince. This was printed in the June/July 1982 issue of "Business Screen." Here's what Tom DeFanti says about Larry Leske:

"About this time [1976 or 1977], another friend, Larry Leske, decided he could no longer afford to remain a student at the University [of Chicago] and went to work for Bally Manufacturing Co., the games producer. There he discovered the Bally Professional Arcade system, a fully assembled home computer game unit Bally planned to market to the public. Leske started programming on the Arcade, and believe me, he nearly knocked our socks off. Two others—Jay Fenton, a top programmer and developer of Bally BASIC; and Nola Donato, a language programmer-- and I, quickly wrote all the code for this new form Leske based on Grass. In 1979 Bally brought out the Arcade and its new software written in Z-Grass."

Tom's remarks are not entirely accurate, for the BPA came out in 1978, and Bally never actually did release Z-GRASS. The full article can be read online:
  1. In the Mind of Tom Defanti... Inventor of ZGrass - By Suzan D. Prince. Business Screen (June/July 1982)
Also, of note, there are several recorded phone conversations between Bob Fabris and Larry Leske.
  1. Bob Fabris Audio Recordings Area
They probably originate from around this era. It's intriguing to know that Bob reached out to Bally for help and maybe even guidance.

Letter to Phil Morton from Bob Fabris (1983) - From Mr. Fabris, To Phil Morton

     This letter, from the Bob Fabris Collection, was paper-clipped to a "Softalk" article about Jane Veeder called "Chicago Computer Artist Accelerates to Warp Speed." Paul Thacker says, "I believe this must be a draft of a letter that Bob wrote to Phil Morton (who is mentioned in the [Softtalk] article)."

     Paul retyped the letter and it has been rearranged (the arrows connecting various pieces of the letter have been organized and removed to make it easier to follow.) The "Softalk" article in pdf and text format is also available.
  1. Phil Morton Letter - (Text Format)
  2. "Chicago Computer Artist Accelerates to Warp Speed" (Text)
  3. "Chicago Computer Artist Accelerates to Warp Speed" - (pdf)
ZGRASS Memo, by Bob Fabris (198x) - ZGRASS Memo, by Bob Fabris.

     Draft of a memo asking for ZGrass program submissions of two types: programs for publication in Arcadian and programs for sale.

Letters to Bob Fabris

Computer Info Exchange Letter (1978) - To Bob, From Computer Info Exchange Letter

Letter from April 18, 1978. A letter to Bob Fabris exchanging ideas and advice on starting a Bally Arcade publication.
To Bob, From MARC (1978) - To Mr. Fabris, From MARC

Letter from August 1978. A letter thanking Mr. Fabris for attending an August 15, 1978 Research Discussion Group meeting.
Letter (Ernie Sams)(Oct 28 1978) (October 28, 1978) - To Bob Fabris, From Ernie Sams

In this letter, Ernie explains his early attempts at hacking and trying to figure out how to use Bally BASIC. Ernie went on to become an early contributor to the Arcadian newsletter, and a large portion of this letter was used in the very first issue of the Arcadian from November 1978.
Letter to Bob Fabris from Joe White (November 26, 1978)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Joe White.
November 26, 1978.

Joe talks about his general experiences using the Bally to program in BASIC. Joe's son, Greg, wrote Bally Trek, which is based on Erik Mueller's Star Trek for MINOL - Tiny BASIC.
  1. Joe White Letter (Nov. 26, 1978) - Text transcription of Joe White's letter.
  2. MINOL – Tiny BASIC with Strings for Intel 8080 - PDF document of Erik Mueller's Tiny BASIC. Published in the April 1976 issue of Dr. Dobb's Journal of Computer Calisthenics & Orthodontia.
Brett Bilbrey Letter to Bob Fabris (Dec 11, 1978)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Brett Bilbrey.
December 11, 1978.

Brett was a mainstay of the early issues of Arcadian and Cursor. He went on to write two Astrocade cartridges (ICBM Attack and Treasure Cove), contribute to the "AstroBASIC" manual and work for Action Graphics (as well as contribute to the Bally community in many other ways). Later, Brett worked for Apple. This eight-page letter shows a hardcore user's enthusiasm for the Bally Arcade.

When this letter was written, Brett was attending the University of Michigan. He talks about building his own printer (which no longer worked). He lists six BASIC programs he wrote (or, possibly, co-wrote): Strek Trek, Shoot, Life, Life for Two, Simon and Othello.

Brett makes some comments on Space Race. It was originally going to be paired with the Clowns and Brickyard, but then developed into what looks like Star Battle.

Letter to Bob Fabris from Jim Unroe Dec 27, 1978
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Jim Unroe.
December 27, 1978.

Jim canceled his order with JS&A after waiting for long time and then he got an Arcade unit right away from another dealer (yes, even at the end of 1978, JS&A wasn't getting enough units from Bally to fill orders). He's having issues with his unit (it sounds like overheating). He notes that you can have commands executed directly from tape rather than being loaded as a program line. This is one advantage of Bally BASIC over AstroBASIC. Jim talks about wanting to create an elaborate alarm system using his Bally Arcade.

Tracy Crook Letter (About 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Tracy Crook.
About 1979.

"I wanted to let you know where I am on the Bally expansion. So far, I've added 16K RAM, one serial port, two parallel ports and an ASCII keyboard. These all work very well. What has not worked so well, is some special logic used with the non-mask will direct. With this, I had hoped to use the Bally basic unmodified with the keyboard I added. As it is, I can input data from the keyboard under basic control (or machine language), but program entry and editing must still be done through the keypad. I can't get this to work, I guess Bally BASIC (or some other language) could be placed in RAM. A commented listing of Bally BASIC would be invaluable at this point. [...] With that info, we could tailor it a bit and put it in RAM.

"At this point, I see the remainder of the expansion to be mainly a software effort, which is where I could use some help. The most important changes, I think, would be to get BASIC program storage out of internal (graphics) memory. This would greatly increase the color capabilities when using BASIC." [Note: Blue Ram BASIC does this, which is why more colors are available to this expanded BASIC.]

"Another interesting possibility open by having RAM memory available is the ability to load it with data from any of the game cartridges (which were previously dumped onto a cassette tape) and then switch this memory into the bank normally signed the plug-in cartridge. This is quite easy to do. At this point the Bally would perform exactly as if you had plugged in the game cartridge that the data came from." [The Blue Ram, Viper and Lil' White RAM expansion units all allow for this.] "The end result would be that you could have the entire library of Bally games in a couple of cassette tapes. Bally might not be too wild about this idea, I assure you it would work."

"In the meantime, in order to ease programming the Bally, I use another one of the microcomputers I own, which has an ASCII keyboard, to write Bally BASIC programs on and then dump them on tape in a format compatible with the Bally. Doing it off like this has some disadvantages, but it sure beats that key pad."

"Haven't done much on it lately, as my Bally was struck by lightning about five weeks ago, and it still not back from the factory."

[His Bally was struck by lightning?!? That's what you get for using your Bally Arcade in the rain under a tree! ;-) ]

Aquila Letter to Fabris (1-1-1979) Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Aquila.
January 1, 1979.

This letter includes a hand-written BASIC listing of the program "aMAZEd IN SPACE" plus additional notes and questions.

Letter to Bob Fabris from Glenn Pogue (Jan 22, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Glenn Pogue.
January 22, 1979.

Glenn says that if a user complains about the unit's name change, then Bally will send a "tag" to those users who request one that says "The Bally Computer System." This letter has a list of release dates (month and day) for Bally games, including some that were never released at all (including Checkers, Desert Fox, Astrology and Drag Race/Desert Fox).

Letter to Bob Fabris from John Sweeney (Jan 22 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From John Sweeney.
January 22, 1979.

John requests Executive Software by Tom Wood because he is trying to write an assembler for the Bally Arcade. This is very early in the Bally Arcade's history to be working on something like this. There is no evidence that this assembler was created, but General Video Assembler (which required a RAM expansion) was eventually written and released on tape in 1982 by Dave Ibach and Steve Walters (General Video). Dave used this assembler to write his centipede-inspired, cartridge game, Sneaky Snake.

John talks about safe places for assembly code in Bally BASIC (he uses the editor/buffer). He recommends some articles/books for Tiny BASIC information.

Letter to Bob Fabris from Guy McLimore (January 29, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Guy McLimore.
January 29, 1979.

Guy is a Bally Arcade dealer for ABC Hobbycraft. Guy has popped up on the Bally Alley Yahoo group from time to time. In this letter, Guy says that he gets more information from the Arcadian newsletter than he can get from Bally-- and he's a dealer! He mentions several programs he's working on. He suggests that Bally should make a second, more detailed (I presume) version of the Bally BASIC manual for "the really rabid Arcade freak." In a way, Jay Fenton's Hacker's Manual was this second "book," but it was only about twenty pages long and probably wasn't widely available. Too bad that there isn't a book called Compute!'s First Book of the Bally Arcade.

This gives a different perspective on Bally providing information to users. It seems like maybe they were willing to tell anyone inquiring what they knew, but for something like the add-on, they just didn't know what they were going to do yet (or ever!). Also, the add-on seems to be proposed to sell for $650, but JS&A advertised it for $300 in their original Bally Home Library Computer ad in September 1977.

Guy mentions his Dungeon Grafix programs. These may have been the first D&D programs for the Bally Arcade. Guy also mentions a Star Wars-inspired program.

Chuck Thomka Letter (Approx January 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Chuck Thomka.
1979 (probably late January).

The program called Modified Player Piano for Learning Aid on the &16 - &23 Commands was written in January 1979. I imagine that this letter was written around that time too.

Chuck sent two programs with this letter:
  1. Modified Player Piano for Learning Aid on the &16 - &23 Commands - A single-page modification to an existing Bally program which allows easy and quick changes to '&16' through '&23 commands [the sound ports].
  2. Leaning Aid for "&" Command - A five-page program that his purely my own concoction. This program uses all but about 150 bytes of memory and is somewhat involved, but is informative as to the workings of all the possible '&' commands.
It seems that these two programs helped Chuck figure-out the sound capability of the Bally Arcade. He went on to use this information to write the Music Synthesizer tutorials in the July and August 1979 issues of the Arcadian.

Chuck writes, "This form [which were in the two BASIC programs] is something that I've created on the machine that I work at Xerox (which is where I work). Am sending you some blanks you can try them if you wish."

I'm pretty sure that these BASIC forms made their way around the Bally Arcade community. I've seen quite a few of these forms used in the Bob Fabris Collection. I had thought that they were generic forms created for any computer that you BASIC, but it seems that Chuck Thomka created them.

Chuck describes the printer that he uses to create the forms, "It actually doesn't take too long to create a form on what I use, which is a cross between a computer and a very high-speed line printer. It puts images on paper with laser optics utilizes Xerox xerographics. It's really quite an impressive machine. As an example of what can be done with it, well, if you can envision an 8 1/2" x 11" blank piece of paper and another 8 1/2" x 11" completely black piece of paper, this represents the extremes of the machine. Everything in-between (just about) can be done by this machine. That includes all different font sizes and styles, logos, lines and even signatures! All this with about the resolution of 300 dots to the inch. The speed of this machine is two full pages a second. If you wanted to print with a reduced print style and also have put two sides of data on the same side of the paper, this machine would print at equivalent speed of 36,000 lines per minute! Like I said, a very high-speed line printer!]

[This sounds like an early laser printer to me-- does anyone have any idea what machine Chuck is referring to here?]

[Chuck's letter continues for about two more handwritten pages. I like the way that he ends his letter. He says, "I better close this letter now, this has gotten much longer than I had planned to be. And I do want to get in the mail. And besides, I'm getting tired and this pen is making a lot of mistakes." I like how he blames his pen for the errors!]

Ron Schwenk Letter (Feb 2, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Ron Schwenk.
February 2, 1979.

Ron gives early comments on a few cartridges: "Football is very good. They even have music with Vibrato! It sure sounds good. I quickly ran out of them, but should have more in a week. Maze/Tic-Tac-Toe is ok, but mainly for kids. I think that Star Battle is their poorest Videocade and don't care for it at all."

The add-under never made it out the door. It had issues from the start. Ron already has a criticism, "In the expansion unit it looks like they are increasing the amount of ROM but decreasing the RAM. And increasing the price!" Not only does the increase cost of the unit upset Ron, but he is confused by what's on offer. He hopes that Bob can clarify the statement, "To get 80 characters per line, does 'optional TV printer' mean a video monitor?"

Ron has written a Mastermind game. This is mentioned in passing by Bob in the March 1979 Arcadian on page 31. There is an ad for Ron's Mastermind in the July 1979 Arcadian on page 68. The program was never printed in the Arcadian, but there is printed BASIC listing of the program available in the Bob Fabris Collection. Copies of two other games are also available: BatNum and One Check.

Ron includes a one-page listing of the Bally items that he carries through his company Schwenk Enterprises. Among these items are the Bally Arcade systems. At the time the list price was $329.95 for a system with four controllers. Ron sells them for a cash price of $289.53 (or 296.95 for credit card purchasers). After looking over Ron's 11-cartridge listing, I noticed that the list price for 2K cartridges is $19.95 and the 4K cartridges sell for $24.95. Ron sells the carts for slightly cheaper than retail: his cash price is about $18 for 2K carts and $23 for 4K cartridges.

Tom Woods Letter (Feb 3 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Tom Woods.
February 3, 1979.

The explanation of the "Onboard Calculator" in the March 1979 issue of Arcadian seems to be based on this letter. Bob seems to have expanded on the letter (by writing an example program).

George Hale Letter (Feb 14 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From George Hale.
February 14, 1979.

George Hale has used an ohmmeter to trace-out the 50-pin connector on the back of the unit. He has included an illustration of it. He's not sure he's 100% right, but he can see that every pin of the Z80 is present on the 50-pin connector. The Bally PA-1 Service Manual doesn't explicitly give this 50-pin information in an easy-to-read illustrated format (as George created), but the Bally Arcade's schematic does provide the necessary information for the information to be extrapolated. Also, the "third page" of this letter was written later. It is one-page letter to Charles Vollmer, Bally's National Service Manual. George explains that his letter to Bob crossed in the mail with his receiving the Bally Service Manual. He notes that most of the information he figured out is correct, although he numbered his 50-pin connector in reverse order from the one provided in the Service Manual.

Boyd Perlson Letter (Feb 26, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Boyd Perlson.
February 26, 1979.

Boyd, who seems to be an accountant, has developed a system on the Bally for keeping track of his chargeable time for each office client. He would like to know how he can make printouts of this, rather than copying the information off of the TV screen. This is just another example of the Bally system being used in situations that I wouldn't have ever expected!

James Wilkinson Letter (March 30, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From James Wilkinson.
March 30, 1979.

This letter talks about the experience that James had running GAME OVER from the February 1979 issue. He had to substitute line 50, which originally had X=3164, with X=3159. This discrepancy is caused by differences between versions of the Bally Arcade's 8K ROM. Craig Anderson (of Hoover Anderson Research & Design) eventually covers this problem in detail (nearly four years later!) in the January 1983 issue of the Arcadian in an article called "Sneak Up and Bite Ya Department." He did this because "AstroBASIC" programs that he would write would work on some versions of the Bally Arcade and not on others.
  1. Sneak Up and Bite Ya Department - By Craig Anderson. This is a January 1983 article from the Arcadian which discusses the differences between different 8K on-board ROMs in the Bally Arcade/Astrocade.
Brett Bilbrey Letter (April 10, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Brett Bilbrey.
April 10, 1979.

Brett sends corrections for a typing mistake that he made in SIMON (printed in the March 1979 issue). Many people had called Brett directly to find out how to fix the program. Brett had NO idea how they got his phone number, but he figured that it must mean that they're very interested, and he thinks that's good. He expects "many letters" to be coming (to, possibly?, Bob) about this SIMON mistake. Some of the issues that people had were not understanding common computer notation, such as that the asterisk means to use the "times" key, the difference between "O" and "0," and the "not equal" sign. He wants people to write to him, NOT call, as that "ties up" the phone line for his family.

Brett tried transferring programs over the phone using his Bally unit, but he doesn't go into details about how he does it.

Brett put up flyers in the Computer Center (at, I suppose, the University of Michigan?) to form a Bally user group. The first meeting will be May 12, 1979. This is probably the user group that became the Michigan BUGs (Bally User Group) and eventually called the Michigan AstroBUGS.

Brett has included two programs: a SIN subroutine and OTHELLO. He says, "No mistakes, I hope!" Othello was never published in the Arcadian, but it was published fourteen months later in the June 1980 issue of the Cursor newsletter.

John Collins Letter (April 12, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From John Collins.
April 12, 1979.

John says, "Many of the stores in our area have not been able to be resupplied with the Bally Arcades and have not been able to get the new tapes [cartridges], even after two months wait." This delay is so bad, in fact, that John asks, "Do you know whether they are still manufacturing the basic unit?"

John is working on a version of HANGMAN, BOWLING and a special spelling routine. He'll furnish a copy when the bugs are worked out. Bob was having trouble with John's CHECKERS program (which was eventually printed in the May 1979 issue of the Arcadian), but John didn't know of any glitches. He hoped that Bob might be able to provide what the game board looked like and what level the game was playing when a bug occurred. John explains that the number printed on the screen tells the user that the computer is "still working." The number also provides the "type of decision or level the computer was at when it made its move." John describes in detail what the computer is doing as each number is printed on the screen.

John dictated this hand-written letter to his wife, which I found rather surprising. He ends his letter with, "My wife's arm is tired, so I must close now." I found that pretty amusing.

Brett Bilbrey Letter (April 14, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Brett Bilbrey.
April 14, 1979.

Brett sends another correction for SIMON. He makes an odd-sounding, but understandable, statement when he says, "Many people have called in response to these errors. I am now writing to these people to help them with other questions and problems. So, if there had not been the mistakes, I would never have contact all these other Bally users in this area." "Also," Brett says, "many of these people now know of the user's meeting coming up May 12 at the Computer Center. The attendance is expected to be about 50 users."

Brett notes that the April issue of BYTE, on page 193, has news called "Magnavox Files Suit on Microprocessor Video Game Patents." Included among the manufacturers they have filed suit against is Bally.

As a follow-up to this 1979 news, I came across an 11-page Activision Case Reading by Ralph Baer, called "VIDEOGAME HISTORY: A little matter of record keeping." I am not sure when this was written, but it seems to be possibly from the late-90s or early-2000s. Mr. Baer states:

"Let's examine the numerous stories floating around about the various videogame patent infringement lawsuits that were carried on by Magnavox and Sanders Associates, the owners of the seminal Baer patents and of the Baer, Rusch and Harrison patents. Those lawsuits started in the mid-seventies and ran all the way through the 1990's, the last of them for past infringement only, since the patents had long since lapsed. Bally, Seeburg, Mattel, Activision, Nintendo, Data East, Taito and others fought lengthy legal battles against the Magnavox/Sanders team in an effort to avoid having to pay license fees. They lost every one of those lawsuits, both in the initial actions in various Federal District Courts and finally, ignominiously, in the Court of Appeals. Then they had to pay up!"
  1. VIDEOGAME HISTORY: A little matter of record keeping - by Ralph H. Baer
Brett also says, "One of the Arcadians [by which he means a subscriber to the Arcadian newsletter] who called, mentioned an article in a recent STOCK (I don't know the name) which states that Bally will be cutting funding to their home arcade program. This is said to be because of their casino opening in Atlantic City." I checked, and Bally's hotel/casino opened on December 29, 1979.

Brett closes his letter with, "I am sorry for the mistakes in SIMON, and hope it did not cause too much trouble! But many users have learned something about debugging and a little about BASIC (sort of a learning experience). I will try to prevent further bugs from happening."

Mary Stanke Letter (April 21, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Mary Stanke.
April 21, 1979.

After reading Joe Sugarman's SUCCESS FORCES, I recognized Mary's name right away. Joe originally hired her as a secretary, and over the years she continued to move up in the company, eventually coming, it seems, his right hand man (woman?). This short letter informs Bob Fabris that JS&A can not provide him their "list of owners of the Bally, as JS&&A has a policy wherein [they] do not divulge this type of information to anyone, nor would [Bob's] material be of interest to [JS&&A] since [they] have discontinued offering the Bally Home Library Computer." So, now we know. By April, for certain, JS&&A had given-up 100% on Bally!

David Stocker Letter (April 23, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From David Stocker.
April 23, 1979.

David submits two of his tapes to Bob Fabris. These tapes contain a total of 23 programs. It seems that David took some of the programs from the Bally BASIC manual, changed them up a bit (or a lot-- I don't know) and sold them on tape and as program listings.

David would like Bob to inform the "Arcadians" about his programs, which he sells as two sets for two different prices. If you buy one set, then the cost is $8 (or $4 if you return the tape). If you buy both sets, then the cost is $10 (or $6 if you return the tape). This returning of the tapes seems like it would have really complicated matters and been extremely labor intensive. There are three pages of hand-written instructions for some of the programs.

Both sets of David Stocker BASIC programs were added to on March 13, 2015. Since these were available on tape-- they are some of the earliest third-party programs available on tape for a game console. Mr. Stocker even beat Activision to the punch, so it's too bad this stuff isn't up to say, "Pitfall" quality.

The instructions for these two tapes provide the hand-written BASIC listings for each program. This was common even in the early days of the "Arcadian" newsletter. Mr. Stocker's script is quite small (or maybe it was reduced), plus the quality of the original paperwork was also difficult to make out, which makes these programs quite hard to read.

The first tape is called "Set I - Games and Fun." It contains eight programs:

1) Building Blox
2) Cheese Boxes
3) Color Match
4) Memory Match
5) Random
6) Rock/Paper/Scissors
7) Siren
8) Slot Machine
  1. Dave Stocker Programs (Set 1)
The second tape is called "Set II - Video Art." It contains fifteen video art programs:

1) Building Blox
2) Color Box
3) Color War
4) Color Wheel
5) Electric Doily
6) Laser Duel
7) Perspective Box
8) Random Box
9) Random Line
10) Reverse Box
11) Rubber Band
12) Scroll Three
13) Scroll Two
14) Spiral
15) Video Wallpaper
  1. Dave Stocker Programs (Set 2)
The instructions and program listing for both Sets I and II fit onto just six one-sided sheets of paper. Now that's an economical use of space!


On March 16, 2015, David Stocker saw that I had added his programs to He replied with:

"Wow – I had COMPLETEY forgotten about that.

"At that time I was in high school, and working weekends at ABC Hobbycraft, a Bally reseller in Evansville, IN. I recall exchanging many letters and a few phone calls with Bob Fabris in those days.

"That was the software that I wrote for pay – and about a million lines of code ago for me. Engineering and Software Design became my livelihood; I am currently Chief Engineer in an industrial automation and robotics company.

"I believe I still have the rubber stamps that I used to create that awful artwork somewhere here in the house."


Paul and I asked David some questions and he replied with:

"I don't exactly remember how many tapes I sold -- but surely not many -- perhaps a couple of dozen. My wife asked me "did it pay for your college?" HA! That would have been nice.

"I made more (although not much more) $$$ refurbishing controllers in the store (ABC). We had a standard rate for cable replacement and cleaning the pots, which I did on piece-rate compensation off-hours. I recall that we always drilled a small hole so we (and the owner) could spray the pots with tuner cleaner from Radio Shack."


John Perkins Letter (April or May 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From John Perkins.
April or May 1979.

The Bally Astrocade only has 4K of RAM. This may seem like a plenty of RAM when compared to, say, the Atari 2600 (which only has 128 bytes of RAM), but 4,080 bytes of this 4096 total bytes of RAM is all dedicated to screen RAM. This makes up the entirety of the Astrocade's 102x160 bitmap screen (the remaining 16 bytes of RAM is called the scratch pad). Things begin to get really confusing when you consider that the BASIC cartridge doesn't contain any of its RAM, and yet it somehow (almost magically) it provides the BASIC programmer with 1.8K of RAM to program the system. How is this done? John Perkins wrote a hand-written letter to Bob Fabris which provides some of these answers.

This letter is the background and research for which the tutorial in the May 1979 Arcadian called "Screen Operations" by Mr. Perkins is based. The tutorial, as printed, condenses the information that John provided to Bob. The tutorial also excludes a short example program that John wrote that shows how to display four colors on-screen at once. The letter explains how the BASIC program is hidden on the screen in plain sight by taking advantage of some of the Bally Arcade's Left-Right Color Boundary.

In the early 2000s, I had a phone conversation with Mike White. I remembered that he said this article explained the details correctly, but that is was a bit muddled with some of its information. I couldn't remember exactly what Mike meant by this, so I emailed him back in February and he provided me with a full explanation.

Mike says, "John Perkins declares the program to be "stored in the even bits" with the picture using the odd ones. This is "computer geek" thinking and not what an algebra teacher would say! In algebra the digits are numbered 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8! While in computers it's 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7! Now, turned around to their natural format they become; 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 and 7-6-5-4-3-2-1-0 respectively! Therefore, hex 55 (01010101 binary) is EVEN and hex AA (10101010 binary) is odd in a computer ONLY! If you did this on a math test you would flunk out, and may be sent to the principal's office!"

RM Martin Letter (May 28, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From RM Martin.
May 28, 1979.

Mr. Martin has some programming questions for Bob Fabris. Along with this letter, I found handwritten notes that Mr. Fabris prepared to answer the questions that he was asked.

Mr. Martin says that his Checkers game, by John Collins, cheats. This game was printed in the May 1979 issue of Arcadian. As usually occurred, there were errors in the original listing. The June 1979 issue of Arcadian printed some corrections. Hopefully these got Mr. Martin fixed-up. Over the years, John Collins revisited his Checkers program, eventually making two major updates to it (calling them, quite originally, Checkers II and Checkers III).

Mr. Martin asks how he can convert "Star Trek" and "Wumpus" written for other computers that have READ and DATA statements. The Bally doesn't support these commands, and he wonders how he can work around this limitation of Bally BASIC.

All of the information in this letter is pretty typical for much of the correspondence that is written to the Arcadian. It's this letter's last paragraph that made me choose to include it in this podcast. Mr. Martin says, "You are doing one hellofa job. I have learned more about computers than I thought I ever would. Thanks." I'm not sure if this is an accurate summary of Mr. Martin, but I picture him as somebody who purchased his Bally Arcade to play games in much the same way that someone may have bought an Atari VCS in 1979. Then he stumbled into the Arcadian newsletter, bought Bally BASIC and was delving into his game system after realizing it could do much more than he originally thought possible.

Guy McLimore Letter (5-29-1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Guy McLimore.
May 29, 1979.

Guy recently received Scott Waldinger's version of the STAR TREK program that he ordered. Scott must have ordered this from the classified ad in the May 1979 Arcadian on page 46. The instructions and the BASIC listing are available here:
  1. Star Trek - Star Trek by Scott Waldinger (Bally BASIC Listing)
Guy hasn't had time to type in the listing yet, but it looked to him like Scott Waldinger found a unique way around the Bally's lack of substantial memory and multi-dimensional arrays. That's one of the neat details about the Bally system. People who owned it had to find interesting, and perhaps unique, methods to work around the system's miniscule 1.8K or RAM and limitations imposed by the Bally BASIC cartridge.

It seems that Bob must have given Guy the corrections for Checkers, for its now working for him. He's glad there is a BASIC version of this program, "Bally has held up the Videocade version." Actually, this cartridge never did ship, although a usable 2K prototype does exist-- though I've not played it. Guy says that the "the programmer [of Checkers] deserves applause for his work, as I would have bet it couldn't be done in 1800 characters."

Guy is working on a light pen. The work is currently stalled, but if he gets it working, then he plans to sell it through the Arcadian. However, I don't think that this ever occurred. Some people in the Bally community did end up creating their own light pens, among them are Craig Anderson and Leroy Flamm. The Light Pen was supposed to be used with the Creative Crayon cartridge, but that cartridge never shipped and I don't think a prototype has ever surfaced.

Bally's National Service manager told Guy that they planned to revise the Hacker's Manual and make it into an advanced operations manual. This never occurred. It seems that Guy already had doubts about it being released, for he mentions to Bob that if Bally falls through with this project then he thinks that someone, maybe even himself, should make such a manual for the Bally Arcade.

Richard Belton Letter (5-29-1979) Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Richard Belton.
May 29, 1979.

Richard talks about the difficult time that he has reaching Bally, contacting Bob Weber, his own 48K RAM expansion, and more interesting information gleaned from the current Bally Arcade gossip from early 1979.

Here is a link to the newsletter that Richard included with his letter:

Arcadian Local News (May 30, 1979)

Guy McLimore Letter (6-14-1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Guy McLimore.
June 14, 1979.

Guy thanks Bob for his additions to Skyrocket (known also, on as Logo). According to the letter, it was Bob that added the rocket's vapor trail. Guy thanks Bob for his corrections to Checkers, but he's still having issues with the game.

Guy is meeting with Bally's national sales manager [probably Jack Nieman] in Evensville on June 20, 1979. He plans to "get on his case pretty heavy about the keyboard expansion."

Guys feels that "The potential is there for Bally to wrap up a large hunk of the personal computer market, but they are blowing it by holding up the keyboard, by failing to provide adequate documentation for Bally BASIC, and by falling to properly promote the system, service current customers, and provide software. I have just seen information on ATARI's new system, and Bally is going to lose customers to this new system if it doesn't provide the keyboard FAST."

Guy is "encouraging all local Bally owners to write Bally encouraging a firmer commitment to expansion of the unit and demanding definite answers on the keyboard." He goes on to say "If all 600-plus ARCADIANS would write, maybe it would make a difference. Unfortunately, Bally is in the unique position of being able to well afford to ignore public demand, since their income from consumer products is only a tiny, tiny fraction of their total income. They just don't seem to give a damn one way or the other."

Guy has "given Bob Fabris' address to two or three Bally owners in [his] area that [he] contacted through the Evansville Computer Club. One man [Guy] talked to [...] was frankly flabbergasted at all the information that was left out of the manual. [Guy] showed him &(9) [to control the left/right color boundary], the music oscillator and vibrato controls, ABS(X), the PEEK and POKE functions, ROM subroutines, etc. and [the man] nearly lost his teeth. He echoed the sentiments of so many others-- "Why doesn't Bally let people know what they have here?"

Guy's light pen, which he talked about in his previous letter dated May 29'th, still won't work.

Guys says, "This is unofficial and-- as yet-- not for publication, but I am negotiating with a major war gaming wholesaler in the East to supply him with game support software for the Bally system. He intends to become a Bally wholesaler, and will deal with Bally dealers by mail order if this goes through. I will be acting as his consultant on this project. Nothing is settled yet, but if it works out, we may be able to provide Bally dealers nationwide with a source of reliable software. If you wish, you may run in the ARCADIAN that I am interested in hearing from programmers who wish to license or sell their software. I can make NO PROMISES yet, though. It might help if I could give him some idea on these programs-- availability, reliability and such. Guy added a handwritten note here: "Again, P.S.: Hold off on this. Negotiating still proceeding, but slowly!"

Guy makes a point that I've noticed over the years when reading the instructions for software published on tape. Guy says, ""So far, most of the Bally software I've seen is pretty amateurish in terms of presentation and documentation, while being surprisingly sophisticated in terms of actual program writing. What is needed is a tutorial on documentation, and my submission for such an article is enclosed. An improperly documented program is almost as bad an no program at all." [Unfortunately, I was unable to find in the Fabris Collection this documentation that Guy wrote.]

Letter (Ernie Sams)(July 7, 1981) (July 7, 1981) - To Bob Fabris, From Ernie Sams

In this letter Ernie gives permission to Bob Fabris to reprint Bingo for inclusion in a compilation of ten BASIC programs for new Arcadian subscribers. Bob's original form letter asking permission for the Bingo's inclusion is also included. This compilation of programs can be downloaded here:
  1. Arcadian Program Compilation
Ernie also jests with Bob by giving him a hint on how to increase the number of Arcadian readers to one million subscribers per issue.
John Sweeney Letter (7-14-1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From John Sweeney.
July 14, 2016.

This is a double-spaced, nine-page type-written letter.

John laments about the "new delay in the keyboard [add-under]." John gave up waiting for the add-under already and he has purchased a TRS-80 with the money he had set aside for the keyboard expansion. However, he still plans to use his Bally Arcade. In fact, he plans to get the two systems talking to one another.

John has enclosed the schematic (for the main logic components) for a memory expansion that he created for his Bally Arcade. John assembled it with, he says:

"wire-wrap on a 4 1/4" x 4 1/2" Vector board, mounted in a Radio Shack instrument cabinet. Actually, the mechanical problems of getting the signals out of the Bally, and of arranging the power supplies and cabinet were more formidable than any of the electronic or logic problems, save one. [which he doesn't mention]

"As drawn, the schematic provides for up to 8 kilobytes of additional memory. At this moment, I have 3K installed, and the last 32 addresses at the top of the space are decoded to provide I/O & other special purposes."

John goes into great detail about how his RAM expansion unit works. He provides a parts list too. Any listeners who are hardware hackers will probably be interested to read (or at least skim) this letter. This information was never published in the Arcadian newsletter, but I suspect that it was probably shared with some Arcadian subscribers.

The hardware and software projects that were created by the Bally Arcade users in the late 1970s and early 1980s seem to fit very close with what homebrewers on 8-bit and 16-bit classic gaming systems and computers are creating today. The Bally system is hardly unique in this respect, even for its time of release. The Apple II, TRS-80, Commodore and S-100 users all were hacking away nimbly at their systems. The difference, to me, is that we don't look at the Bally Arcade system today as a computer, but rather as a game system in the same vein as the Atari VCS or, perhaps, the Intellivision. In 1978, one didn't bring home an Atari VCS and start adding RAM to it. Atari owners played Combat. They had great fun doing it (and so did I!), but maybe the Bally users had a type of fun that Atari game system owners couldn't touch: the fun of learning a system and creating with it.

Ed Mulholland Letter (July 23, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Ed Mulholland.
July 1, 1979 / July 23, 1979.

This letter, from Ed Mulholland, is made up of two letters. The first is dated July 1, 1979. The second is dated July 23, 1979. From the way the letters appear in the Bob Fabris Collection, it looks as though these were sent to Bob at the same time.

In the July 1'st letter, Ed says, "The schematics to our Ballys show a 10-pin and a 26-pin port in addition to the IEEE-488 port."

The IEEE-488 port is a 26-pin port, developed by HP and used mostly frequently (it seems) on their test equipment. It was also used on the Commodore PET computer. I presume that Ed is misnaming the port and is actually referring to the 26-pin connector, not the 50-pin connector.

Ed continues: "My machine did not have 26-pin port as shown in the photo on page 14 of the [Bally PA-1] service. This would still be only a small inconvenience because the pin numbers and functions as shown on the schematic."

Ed is partially correct. The photo of the Bally Arcade motherboard, as shown in the Service Manual, does has a 26-pin connection. I took a look at my Astrocade unit (as manufactured by Astrovision in about 1981). It too does not have this port connector. However, I believe that these 26-pins are what are used for the cartridge port. I bring this up, because it makes me wonder about the various releases of the motherboard. How much changed between releases? I know that the onboard 8K ROM was originally made up of four 2K chips. These were later combined as one 8K chip. I wonder what other differences exist between the motherboards. I'd love to see high-quality pictures of all the various versions of the Bally Home Library Computer, the Bally Professional Arcade, and the Astrocade.

The second part of the letter (dated July 23) shows how the 10-wire 24-key keypad is arranged. I think that this information is meant to help explain how to wire a 63-key "full size" ASCII keyboard in parallel with the 24-key keypad.

Robert Dahl Letter (July 29, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Robert Dahl.
July 29, 1979.

Mr. Dahl suggests that future issues the Arcadian leave room so that a hole punch can be used so that the issues can be stored in a binder. He says, "They are well worth saving." I agree!

On July 27, Mr. Dahl received a mimeographed copy of the Hacker's Manual from Bally. He notes that they included a letter that says they do not expect the keyboard expansion to be released this year

Robert Dahl notes that he was able to order the Amazing Maze/Tic-Tac-Toe cartridge from Montgomery Ward's catalog. He got the cartridge in just three days. He adds that a fellow, who sells the Arcade and its accessories, tells him that he has a standing order for all arcade items, but gets more promises than anything else from a wholesale distributor in Milwaukee. This man had been trying to get the Amazing Maze cartridge ever since he first heard about it and he had yet to get it. Mr. Dahl figures that Bally's distribution must be out of whack.

Mr. Dahl has typed in various versions of Slot Machine. He talks about three that he has used comparing and contrasting differences between them.

Mr. Dahl makes a comment that the Checkers game number six had him puzzled. He was expecting a regular checkerboard on the TV screen. He says that, "Right now, it's beginning to soak-in that I should take a checkerboard and number the squares and move the pieces around as the numbers on the screen direct?" [Is this accurate?!?]

Andy Guevara Letter (July 30, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Andy Guevara.
July 30, 1979.

Andy Guevara wrote several programs that were published in the Arcadian and Cursor/BASIC Express newsletters. Andy programmed the Machine Language Manager, a 2K cartridge that was released in 1982 by The Bit Fiddlers. He released a few tapes, including Candy Man and Chicken, two games released on tape that were written in mostly machine language. He wrote Ms. Candyman and Sea Devil, both of which are 4K cartridges that were released 1983 by L&M Software. Mr. Guevara also wrote The Bit Fiddler's Corner, an Astrocade machine language programming tutorial that ran as a series of serialized articles in the Arcadian newsletter in 1983 and 1984.

Andy just received his first stack of Arcadian newsletters. He has had his Bally arcade for five months and never dreamed that so much information could be further developed. He has dumped the Baseball cartridge, and is pleased to see that other people have made ROM dumps too.

Mr. Guevera is looking into expanding his internal memory from 4K to 12K of RAM with a single IC designed by Harris Semiconductor. He goes into detail about how this might work.

Andy has come up with a solution for Bob to be able to print programs. He provides details and a schematic on a device that can be used that will use a UART to allow the Bally to print.

Although Andy has only had his Bally Professional Arcade model BPA-1100 for five months, the innards have already had to be changed twice.

Richard Dermody Letter (July 31, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Richard Dermody.
July 31, 1979.

Richard's interest has been piqued by the announcement of the keyboard project. So much so, that he has already gone out and bought a keyboard for the project. He says, the "glimmer of a future for the Arcade as a computer [...] has prompted [him] to retain his [Arcade] with hopes for the future."

Richard notes that while he understands the difficulties that Bally may be having with the FCC, he has noticed that other companies, such as Apple, have made significant progress in the same time period since the Arcade was first announced.

Richard is on his second Bally arcade. He had to return his first one to Montgomery Ward as "it tended to self-destruct after being in operation for a while."

Mr. Dermody hopes that reviews of the Bally cartridges will be in future issues. There is no local retailer for these items where he lives so his only resort is mail-order. He would like to have some idea of what he is ordering before he places an order.

Guy McLimore Letter (July 31, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Guy McLimore.
July 31, 1979.

Guy gives an unqualified "yes" to all the survey questions that Bob asked the previous issue of the Arcadian. Guy says that he wants and needs a keyboard badly.

An interesting bit here is that Ken Ballard, the owner of ABC Hobbycraft, has commissioned a professional hardware/software man to develop a 64K keyboard memory expansion to be sold commercially. The unit is still in the planning stages, but [they] hope that it will be ready by December." This seems overly optimistic, since it is nearly August already. I don't recall ever hearing about this from any other source. It is interesting that so many people wanted to build, create or purchase a memory expansion/keyboard for their Bally unit.

Guy really enjoyed Chuck Thomka's synthesizer tutorial. He found the two accompanying programs very useful. He does wonder how Bell Telephone feels about the programs, however. He notes that if you add the buttons A-D to the Touch-Tone dialer program (Touch Tone Simulate), then you have a semi-efficient Black Box for receiving free telephone calls. The Touch-Tone dialer doesn't work in Guy's local area. He thinks that Indiana Bell has an acoustical filter that prevents Touch-Tone signals from being input to the microphone from the handset.

By popular demand, ABC hobby craft is now accepting mail orders for Bally hardware, W&W software, Stocker Software, and Skyrocket Software (Guy's company).

Guys makes an observation about the tape quality for software that is being sold through the Arcadian classified ads. It seems that the people distributing their software on tape are using cheap tapes brands which makes loading the tapes difficult. He notes that the Dave Stocker software is also available on micro cassettes. I don't know of any other Bally software that was distributed on these tiny tapes.

Guy has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of response he received to the listing of his Fantasy Games #1 package in the Arcadian. Despite the fact that it is a limited program designed only for those persons familiar with fantasy role-playing games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, the program sold remarkably well! Phenomenally well, in fact, given an audience of relatively few people.

Guy will be creating programs under the name Skyrocket Software with his partner Greg Poehlein. They intend to sell software for the Bally, TRS-80 and eventually other systems. He says they won't be turning it out fast, but they will be turning it out good, paralleling Bally's own stated policy of producing fewer top quality cartridges as opposed to Atari's more is better philosophy.

Jeff Frederiksen Letter (August, 20 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Jeff Frederiksen.
August, 20 1979.

This letter is from Jeff Frederiksen, the chief engineer behind designing the Bally Professional Arcade hardware. It seems that this letter was accompanied by some hardware. The letter simply states:

"The enclosed assemblies replace the 75361 clock driver, located in the oscillator shield. The failure of the 75361 is that the 6V high time after warm-up drops below 55ns causing the data chip to appear defective. If you do not have this sinking clock syndrome, replacement is not necessary. I hope you find the enclosed hardware description useful."

Unfortunately, this is all the information this was included in the fabrics collection. Does anybody know what Jeff is referring to here? Was this fix to the clock driver included on later releases of the motherboard?

Jeff Grothaus Letter (August 31, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Jeff Grothaus.
August 31, 1979.

Jeff is building his own cassette tape interface from the schematics on page 20 of the Arcadian and page 4 of the Bally Hacker's Manual. He has run into a few difficulties and is hoping to get some help. He also wonders if Bob knows if anyone else has created a working interface from the schematics. There's a handwritten note from Bob where he simply writes, "No."

I find it interesting that Jeff is actually building his own tape interface. This interface would be of no use without the basic cartridge. At the time, I think, the tape interface was easy enough to get for $50. I wonder if Jeff was trying to save money, or if he was having difficulty finding the necessary hardware to use with Bally BASIC and a tape recorder.

Doug Marker Letter (Approx. Sept 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Doug Marker.
About September 1979.

Doug is a "computer specialist working on IBM compatible machines." It's notable that since this letter was written in 1979, Doug must have been working on IBM compatible mainframe computers, as the IBM personal computer wasn't released until August 12, 1981. Doug started his career as a hardware engineer, advanced to a software engineer and eventually became a Systems Engineer for IBM.

This type of in-depth knowledge of hardware and software is a common thread among quite a few letters in the Bob Fabris Collection: many users had technical backgrounds. What sets this letter apart from so many of the other letters is Doug's location: he lives in Auckland, New Zealand!

Doug doesn't explain how he came across the Bally Home Library Computer in New Zealand. Perhaps he ordered it directly from JS&A from the original September 1977 ad in Scientific American. What's significant about this letter is that there is no PAL version of the Bally Arcade system. Thus, Doug is using an NTSC system in a PAL territory. This isn't unheard of (many collectors do it today), but it's quite unusual (especially for 1979). Doug says, "I am presently building a PAL modulator so that I can get color. The USA has a different color transmission system called NTSC, so I have to modify my Bally." He talks about working on upgrading his unit's RAM internally to 8K or 16K, but won't work on this until he has the PAL modulator working correctly.

Doug has done some exploration on his own of the built-in routines of the 8K system ROM, but he proposes a project that he would find very useful: a list of all of the built-in routines in the "resident ROM and the BASIC ROM." Doug goes into some depth on what he has discovered on his own about how the interrupts works on the Bally Arcade.

Doug's final discussion is about changing the speed of his Bally Arcade unit, providing that the custom chips can handle it. [Which I don't think that they can do.] He intends to replace the basic timing of the microcomputer by replacing the master oscillator, which he has to do anyway so that he can get the PAL color working correctly. He plans on replacing the 14.31818 MHz with a 16Mhz crystal oscillator.

Karen Nelson Letter (September 10, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Karen Nelson.
September 10, 1979.

Karen is a programmer who got interested in the Bally when JS&A advertised it in Scientific American in 1977. She was told that she was one of the first people to get her hands on one. She was very excited about machines potential, but was disillusioned by the heat problems which were inherent in the first machines. She "burned out" two of the units. Just after she returned the second unit, she discovered that her programming instructor was doing the graphics for the Bally. She says, "Yes, folks, it was the infamous Tom DeFanti and his magic Z-GRASS." She knows Tom well enough to drop into his "Graphics Habitat" at the University of Chicago to talk intelligently about some of his projects. She also knows Nola Donato and a few other of Tom students who are working on projects for Bally. Tom has had the University of Chicago purchase eight Bally's and eight Sony TVs to teach students the basics of computers and programming.

In August 1979, Tom was the chairman of a traffic seminar held jointly by IEEE and ACM/SIGGRAPH. For three nights, Tom and his crew presented new and interesting works in various areas of computer graphics (including a few by people using Bally Arcades). In addition to the seminar, a graphics experiment Expo was held and it was there that Karen met some of the guys from Dave Nutting, in particular Ricky Spiece (who developed the Football cartridge). Ricky was helpful and showed Karen some tricks (like the ports in BASIC), and he also demonstrated the graphics capabilities by loading a picture from a disk to a color monitor. In addition, his Bally was connected to a B&W monitor and a keyboard. His commands appeared on the black-and-white monitor, and the graphics were displayed on the color monitor. However, the whole setup was attached with the Bally board mounted in a frame, not in the case, which leads Karen to believe that some special wiring is needed.

Karen describes her experimentation with the different ports available in BASIC.

Karen has recently seen the pinball cartridge demoed at the graphic seminar. She says that it looks pretty good. She heard one of the Dave Nutting guys say that he had just sent the thing off to Bally and that it should be out on the market pretty soon. Karen says that there was a demo of Z-GRASS, but that she didn't get to see it. She does note that as a student of De Fanti, she learned how to program in GRASS-- Z-GRASS's daddy-- using a PDP-11/45.

Karen is glad to find out that there are other people like her who think that the Bally Arcade/computer has a lot more potential than most people give it credit for. She hopes that Bob Fabris might be able to pass on some information to whoever the marketing manager at Bally is. She would like to see the Bally advertisement computer magazines such as BYTE and Personal Computing. She would like to see Bally stress that most people buy home computers for games and that Bally has terrific controls, and that by the time people become interested in programming, Bally will have add-on module available. She also says that the graphics capabilities of the Bally have no competition; they are the best, and the Arcade is dirt cheap when compared to other systems.

Letter To Bob Fabris From Paul Slezak (Oct 8, 1980)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Paul Slezak.
October 8, 1980.

Paul submits his first Bally BASIC program, Horse Race. This was published as Horserace in Arcadian 3, no. 2 (Dec. 05, 1980): 26-27. Paul gives a few details on his game:

"It took me about 50 hours to create. I was debating on whether to have it published or put up for sale, but since it is my first attempt (not at programming- I'm a programmer/analyst) and the Arcadian has given me so much, I thought I owe it at least one program."

Paul submitted, what appears to be, a typed BASIC listing of the program, as well as detailed notes on how the program works.
  1. Letter to Bob Fabris (Oct 8 1980)(Paul Slezak) - Paul's complete letter in text format.
  2. Horserace Typed BASIC Program Listing and Documentation - pdf
  3. Horserace Program Documentation - Text Format
Paul went on to published one more program in the Arcadian: Night Raid (Arcadian 4, no. 7 (May 7, 1982): 70-71.).

Letter to Bob Fabris By Bob Wiseman (Oct 9, 1980)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Bob Wiseman.
October 9, 1980.

Bob submits two BASIC programs: Speedo-Math and Mastermind. He also discusses his previously published game, Yahtzee. He has tired of waiting for the Bally add-on, so he bought an Apple II.
  1. Letter to Bob Fabris from Bob Wiseman - Text transcription of Bob Wiseman's letter.

Letter to Bob Fabris (July 20 1981)(Jim Winn) Letter to Bob Fabris, From Jim Winn.
July 20, 1981.

This letter accompanied two programs that were submitted to the Arcadian for publication: INVISIBLE WAR and STARFIGHTER. Both of these programs were published in the Arcadian newsletter. INVISIBLE WAR was printed in the ARCADIAN newsletter without any instructions. However, James did include some brief instructions in his program submission letter.
  1. Letter To Bob Fabris, From Jim Winn - Text version of this handwritten letter
  2. Invisible War for Bally BASIC - 300-baud version of this game
  3. Starfighter for Bally BASIC - 300-baud version of this game
Roy Dal Poqqetto's Keyboard Schematic (August 19, 1981) - To Mr. Fabris, From Roy Dal Poqqetto

Roy provides information, a schematic and help for Bob on how to use a full-size keyboard. Roy makes suggestions on what might be preventing Bob's keyboard from working properly.
Letter to Bob Fabris from Ken Springsteen (1982, Jan 2) (1982, Jan 2) - Letter to Bob Fabris from Ken Springsteen

Ken discusses his November 1981 Astrocade demonstrations that he gave at Montgomery Ward. He also mentions his program, though not by name, called "Ward's Display." He discusses a four-color catalog for tape programs that might be published by Astrovision (this never occurred). Included in the letter are example pages from current catalogs that sell Bally Arcade/Astrocade tape software. Ken points out what he likes and dislikes about each approach used in the catalogs.

Phil Bauer Letter to Bob Fabris (1982) (June 2, 1982) - To Bob Fabris, from Phil Bauer

This is a hand-written letter concerning an unpublished "Arcadian" submission called "Exterminator." It includes the letter, game instructions, and a hand-written BASIC listing. I have also added a BASIC LISTing of the program, probably made by Bob Fabris..

Trap Shoot (July 14, 1982) (July 14, 1982) - To Bob Fabris, From Joe Peoples

This ten-page hand-written letter including details about "Trap Shoot," a program that was published in ARCADIAN 5, no. 11 (April 4, 1983): 93. Joe includes a BASIC LISTing and also instructions (that were not printed in the "Arcadian").

Letter to Arcade Fanatic (Craig Anderson)(Dec 9 1982)(Concerning COMB Liquidation Ad)_tn.jpg
Letter to "Arcade Fanatic."
From Craig Anderson.
December 9, 1982.
Archived from the Bob Fabris Collection.

The enclosed half-page advertisement was xeroxed from [the December 9, 1982] Minneapolis Star and Tribune. The nationally-known firm of C.O.M.B. (Close-Out Merchandise Buyers) [...] has acquired a 1.2 million dollar stash of 1982, fresh-in-the-box, Astrocades. [...] this adds up to an inventory of 5000 machines. [...] The price: 98 bucks apiece!

The original COMB ad is included as page three of this document.

This letter has been OCRed and is available in text format.

Letter to "Arcade Fanatic" - Text Format

Trap Shoot (July 14'th July-Up) (1982) - To Bob Fabris, From Joe Peoples

This is a three-page hand-written follow-up letter to Joe Peoples' entry for the programming contest, "Trap Shoot."

Keyboard Schematic (Unknown Source) (1982) - Keyboard Schematic (Unknown Source)

This is a keyboard schematic from an unknown source. If you've seen this in the Arcadian newsletter, or know where this may have come from, then please identify this.
Dave Carson Printer (1982/83 Era) - To Bob Fabris, from Dave Carson

This letter is VERY short. This is it:

"This is what I've come up with so far. I hope it helps someone else. I would appreciate any further information that might turn up regarding the NEC printer. By the way, if you want to "slash the zeros," set switch 2-1 to the ON position."

I suppose that Dave probably sent a tape along with this letter that had a printer program on it.

Note that the date and era are completely unknown. This is my best guess. I could be off by a couple of years...
Al (1K RAM Expansion and Keyboard Comments) (1983) - To Bob Fabris, from Al

I'm not sure what Al's last name is. He comments on the 1K RAM expansion and also on one of the keyboard schematics.
Swordfight Letter and LISTing Swordfight
by Brian Hildebrand

Swordfight is a first program by Brian, and was included in the "Arcadian" to give game-makers the germ for a new game.

Dale Low (Program submission) (1983) - To Bob Fabris, from Dale Low

A letter that accompanied a tape with two of Dale's submissions to Arcadian: "Control 30" and "Pac*Man." Bob did publish "Control 30" in Arcadian Vol. 5, No. 9, Pg. 136-137 (July 22, 1983).
Gary D. Huston (1983)(RAM Expansion Schematics) (1983) - To Bob Fabris, from Gary D. Huston

A letter that includes a schematic diagram to enable the addition of 1K static RAM to the Astrocade.

Sept. 27, 2011:
Ken Lill notes, "Everything on this schematic looks good EXCEPT that there are no connections to the DATA lines shown!"
Michael Pawlowski (Keyboard) (1983) - To Bob Fabris, from Michael Pawlowski

Michael explains that he hooked up a keyboard to his Bally Arcade using about $150 worth of parts. He says, "I have tried to sell it in the Michigan newsletter with no luck." Michael wants to sell it for $100 or best offer.
To Bob, From Lance Brisee (1984) - To Bob, From Lance Brisee

Letter from July 15, 1984. Includes two program submissions: Phaser Phun and Sideswipe (both of which are modified programs from the Astrocade BASIC manual).
To Don, From Dieter Heinermann (1985) - To Don, From Dieter Heinermann

Letter from August 9, 1985. Talks about all the different computers that he owns and some hardware/software ideas. Says that the Computer Ear, for the Astrocade, is compatible with the Commodore 64 and Atari computers without any modifications. Mentions some programs that he has submitted, but that are not included in this letter.

Letters Forwarded to the Arcadian

Lite Pen Idea (1982) - To Astrocade, Inc. from Edward J Lee

In this letter Edward pitches the idea for a light pen for the Astrocade. His idea of a light pen is more of a graphic tablet. He includes a drawing of what he'd like to see. If only vague ideas like this could be made into reality.
Spectre Handle Idea (1982) - To Astrocade, Inc. from Mark Heikka

Mark wrote to Astrocade, Inc. in the hopes of them coming out with a game of "Defender" that would use the Spectre Handle.

To Brett Bilbrey from Greg Hanson (1982) - To Brett Bilbrey from Greg Hanson

This letter has ideas from an Astrocade fan for an idea for a game called "Donkey Kong II." The fan hopes that perhaps Brett can write the game.

The full text of the letter is available in text format, here.
Al Rathmell (Printer Interface) (1983) - To Al Rathmell from Dick Reinke

Bob Fabris forwarded this printer interface inquiry from Dick Reinke to the interface's creator, Al Rathmell. Dick was the ONLY person that seemed interested in the idea, so Al answered him and included schematics for the intereface, but did NOT included the machine language program that is required to interface with AstroBASIC to make the interface work.

Survey Letters to Bob Fabris

Letters related to the programming keyboard survey on page 55 of the July 1979 issue of Arcadian. As a reminder, the survey questions were:

  1. Assume that the Bally keyboard is available with full capacity (reference page 21). Are you ready to pay $650 for it?
  2. Assume that the Bally keyboard is available with partial capacity (reference page 54). Are you ready to pay $350 for it?
  3. Assume that we develop a keyboard that would have 16K RAM with upgrading capability of 24-plus K RAM, and some form of resident BASIC in 16K ROM, along with some features such as cassette motor control, word processing capability, etc. Are you ready to pay $350 for it? (Assuming that Bally does not produce in the same timeframe.)

A postal card with numbers down the side and yes/no opposite each is all that is necessary, but suggestions are certainly welcome. Also, tell me the model number and serial number of your machine if you haven't done so yet.

Paul Zibits Letter (Approx. July/Aug 1979
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Paul Zibits.
1979 (Approximately July/August).

I'd like to answer your three questions in Vol. I, #8 and vie you my new address.

1) Yes. Willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard.
2) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for partial capacity keyboard.
3) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard.

Model #: BPA-1100
Serial #: 4252

I've had a few minor problems with my unit, but they are being taken care of. Sometimes, the color cuts out, leaving a B&W screen. If you push in the cartridge pretty hard, the color pops in again. It's been a nuisance at times, but I can live with it for now. If it gets worse (or won't go back to color) then I'll get it taken care of.

My other problem seems related to my interface. While using the programming cartridge, sometimes the program would freeze on the screen with nothing functioning. If I pulled out the RS-232 connector in hand controller socket number 3, it would function again, but you couldn't use the interface. Other times, the interface would work fine. I think there was some sort of short in the connector which my dealer said he'd have taken care of.

By the way, for your Chicago area records, Sonny Cohen at Videodyssey in Deerfield, IL [...] has been wonderful for taking care of repairs, giving out info, etc., on the Bally. Even though I've moved to LA, I intend to continue doing business with him because I found him so straightforward, sincere and honest.

[Paul purchases three items: The PA-1 Service Manual, Executive Software and Hacker's Manual.]

I really appreciate and admire your efforts to get all this information out to Bally users. I feel very dismayed by the Bally Corp. dragging their feet on the keyboard unit, as well as being so pokey coming out with new cartridges. What did they say about this stuff? I also thought that come out with software tapes (the original was #1-- what happened to the continuation of this idea?).

Kirk Gregg Letter (Approx. July/Aug 1979
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Kirk Gregg.
1979 (Approximately July/August).

1) Yes. Willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard.
2) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for partial capacity keyboard.
3) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard.

Model #: BL-1200 (JS&A Home Library Computer)
Serial #: 3710

I bought the Bally with the idea of expansion to a full micro later. With ZGRASS or GRAFIX, it would be better than Apple/PET/TRS-80/OSI, etc. Bally should finish the system as planned. It could be one of the best.

If a third-party keyboard is forced by a Bally default, will it be properly designed, and bug free? If we can be assured of a good unit, I would definitely be ready and willing!

Levin Letter (July 31, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From "Levin."
July 31, 1979.

Bob has written the name "Levin" across the top of this letter. However, it seems to be signed by someone named (if I'm reading the signature correctly) Randy with a last name that begins with "F."

1) Yes. Willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard.
2) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for partial capacity keyboard.
3) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard.

Model #: BPA 1100
Serial #: 55836

I'm very interested in the events pertaining to the development of an add-on keyboard or memory device. I can understand Bally's view, but more computer memory is needed now. The keyboard can be easily tolerated, shortage of memory hurts. Bally's unit at $650 is well-designed and very state of the art-ish. Even a partial unit at $350 be welcome in the marketplace. The Bally offerings are attractive because you have a company matchup of components. I would not, however, rule out the possibility of bypassing Bally's unit for the one described as a third-party add-on. We are all becoming aware of the delays involved in the video/computer business, so a club-made unit would be excellent!

Please, if possible, coverage of the various game cartridges (i.e. strategy, improvements, variations). Bally is without a doubt the finest game (graphic, handle, storage, etc.) available. Why such a shortage of good game cartridges? Atari cranks and out, with skill levels, variations. Magnavox, whose games are a step above tedious, offer golf, bowling cartridges. Is there any way to adopt any other cartridges (through an adapter) to the Bally unit?

Any idea when these cartridges will be available: Backgammon/Checkers [never released], Desert Fox [never released], Pinball, Space Invaders and Drag Race [never released]?

M Lewitzke Letter (Aug 2 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From M Lewitzke.
August 2, 1979.

1) Yes. Willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard, but only after seeing it to make sure it is worth it.
2) Yes, probably. Willing to pay $350 for partial capacity keyboard.
3) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard.

Model #: BPA 1100
Serial #: 12696

Do you have any plans for a voice synthesizer?

[I think it's pretty cool that someone was asking for this in 1979!]

Herb Weintraub Letter (Aug 3 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Herb Weintraub.
August 3, 1979.

1) Yes. Willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard.
2) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for partial capacity keyboard, but prefer full capacity.
3) Yes, most definitely! Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard. Would like to place my order now for completely assembled unit.

Model #: BL 1200 (JS&A Home Library Computer)
Serial #: 279

Since I barely have enough time to devote to the computer, what with the constant demands of the printing business, I would like to know if anyone is working on any business-related programs, or if anyone out there would be interested in programming some for me. I would, of course, pay for such a feat.

Richard Bates Letter (August 4 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Richard Bates.
August 4, 1979.

1) No. NOT willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard.
2) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for partial capacity keyboard.
3) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard.

Model #: BPA 1100
Serial #: 54041

These answers are contingent on finances.

I do not understand exactly what capabilities this would at my computer. Why no GRAFIX or ZGRASS? If you did not greatly add to the language and allow me to use decimal numbers, I might not by any of these units.

I would like to handle larger numbers. Output is an important item for me also. I really know very little about what I can do with this computer. Most of the books and articles I get hold of are far too technical for me to understand.

Terry Kersey Letter(August 10, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Terry Kersey.
August 10, 1979.

I am going to wait for Bally's $650 keyboard expansion with ZGRASS, unless you can at least match, if not surpass it. However, I would like to further expand my RAM with your upgrade kits; I presume they won't cost as much as those commercially available.

Model #: BPA-1100
Serial #: 14907

ZGRASS is something I can't pass up. I've done a lot of shopping for the computer for me and I've done a lot of thinking as for which expansion units I prefer for what I need it to do: I think I made the right choice for me. I had experience in making a choice between TI and HP calculators and I chose HP for what I need. Now, I choose ZGRASS for my expansion needs. I still would like to know what specs you have on your expansion system, for if Bally doesn't come out with theirs before the end of next year, I will go with yours.

John Hurst Letter (August 11, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From John Hurst.
August 11, 1979.

1) Yes. Willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard.
2) Maybe. Would rather have the full unit than the partial capacity keyboard.
3) Yes, of course. Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard.

Model #: BA-1000-2
Serial #: 10421
Purchased May 1979.

What is the possibility of increased resolution? 16,000 points isn't much compared to Texas Instruments new computer [the TI-99/4] (and some of the other ones). What about more colors available at one time? TI has 49,000 points and sixteen colors.

I would like to see more info on machine and assembly language programming to get better speed out of games. Keep up the good work!

Kelvyn Lach Letter (August 19, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Kelvyn Lach.
August 19, 1979.

1) Reluctantly, yes. Willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard.
2) Probably, willing to pay $350 for a partial capacity keyboard, but it depends on the features.
3) Yes, sound okay. Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard.

Model #: [Not stated]
Serial #: 11055

Please keep up your excellent work in the Arcadian, it is the one thing that has kept me from being totally discouraged with the endless delays Bally on the expansion unit. It obviously was a great disappointment to learn the price would increase from $400-$650 (it will probably go higher before it goes on sale).

My main future interest in the expansion unit would be for business accounting and financial analysis programming (real estate, in particular). In the meantime, would really appreciate seeing some business programs in the Arcadian.

L Kingman Letter (August 24, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From L Kingman.
August 24, 1979.

1) No, not willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard.
2) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for partial capacity keyboard.
3) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard.

Model #: BA-1000-2
Serial #: 3237

To me, the present keypad is adequate. The other capabilities [of the third-party keyboard] are desirable.

My machine is crashing. Bally sent me a service manual and hackers manual. The problem seems to be in one of the custom chips, so back to the factory it goes for repair.

[I can't believe that Bally sent an end user a Service Manual and the Hackers Manual so that Mr. Kingman could try to repair his own non-functioning unit. What is even more surprising to me, is that Mr. Kingman seems to have narrowed down the issue to one of the custom chips. Want to bet that it is the data chip?]

Thomas Foster Letter (August 28, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Thomas Foster.
August 28, 1979.

1) Maybe. Willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard.
2) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for partial capacity keyboard.
3) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard.

Model #: BPA-1100
Serial #: 5233

First, let me say how impressed I am with the three issues of Arcadian that have been received. You are doing an excellent job, and I wish I had gotten on the bandwagon sooner.

[Thomas orders a fifty pin connector for $2.50 from Bob.]

I have an OE1000 ASCII keyboard and video board made Otto Electronics. I am presently trying to hook up an Intel 8085 micro. The trouble is a severely limited memory. I am eventually going to try to hook into the Bally Z80 micro, but will need about 64K of memory and a good BASIC.

Curtis Schmidt Letter (August 28, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Curtis Schmidt.
August 28, 1979.

1) Yes. Willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard.
2) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for partial capacity keyboard.
3) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard.

Model #: BL-1200 (JS&A Home Library Computer)
Serial #: 4348

I presently have a member of the Tidewater computer club trying to interface the Bally with the Printec 100 printer I received for a good price.

Ken Stalter Letter (September 3, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Ken Stalter.
September 3, 1979.

1) No. Not willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard.
2) Yes, probably. Willing to pay $350 for partial capacity keyboard.
3) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard, but how about upgrading to 36-plus K of RAM?

Model #: BL-1200 (JS&A Home Library Computer)
Serial #: 5470

This happens to be my third unit since February 1978, because the other units failed to operate right after a couple of months of use. My present unit is now clearing the memory and doing very aggravating things. I have written to Bally concerning the problems and am awaiting a reply from them.

[Wow! This guy seems to need a fourth unit. It's really no wonder that Bally exited the console/computer market!]

David Templeton Letter (September 5, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From David Templeton.
September 5, 1979.

1) Yes. Willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard.
2) No. Not willing to pay $350 for partial capacity keyboard.
3) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard.

Model #: BL-1200 (JS&A Home Library Computer)
Serial #: 1878

I enjoy the Arcadian very much and find it very useful. I appreciate the effort you put into it and the contributions made by others.

Al Nowak Letter (September 6, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From Al Nowak.
September 6, 1979.

1) Yes. Willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard.
2) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for partial capacity keyboard.
3) Yes. Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard.

Model #: [Not provided]
Serial #: [Not provided]

If Bally does not come out with a keyboard, I would want to replacement to be able to handle Bally graphics, color, and sound, as I feel their system is superior to anything available.

The computer magazines all seem to have ads for available software to be used on the TRS-80, PET, Apple, etc. I would like to keyboard unit to be compatible with one of these systems (the one with the best graphics and color) so that I'm able to buy and use available software directly.

[A compatible system in 1979-- that's a nice wish... and a very tall order!]

My last check with Bally (August 30'th) revealed no BALLY PIN cartridges until the end of September and SPACE INVADERS at the end of October due to delays on the part of the chip supplier.

George Tucker Letter (October 16, 1979)
Letter to Bob Fabris.
From George Tucker.
October 16, 1979.

1) Yes. Willing to pay $650 for full capacity keyboard.
2) No. Not willing to pay $350 for partial capacity keyboard.
3) Yes, definitely. Willing to pay $350 for non-Bally (third-party) keyboard.

Model #: BL-1200 (JS&A Home Library Computer)
Serial #: 3635

Other than the loss of the ZGRASS feature, I like your plans for the expansion unit better than Bally's. I called Bally recently to ask about the expansion unit, and came away pretty discouraged.

You asked whether anyone is interested in the lists of routine descriptions and object codes described on page 83 [George is referring to the "Nutting Manual"]. Please let me know how I can get a copy. I had no trouble understanding the sample [Display Time], and only which you had given me the address of the routine, so I could use it.

George provides a short four-line BASIC program that can be used as a subroutine to give a Gunshot sound effect.

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