Ward's Multicart FAQ
for his "Bally Astrocade" and "Emerson Arcadia 2001" multi-carts

January 25, 2002

This text answers people's questions about the two multi-carts
that Ward Shrake has created. It will be updated from time to time.
If you have questions or comments after reading this text, Ward
will try to include those answers in a later update to this FAQ.

Click here for the latest news and/or the history of this project

Questions about features
Questions about cost
Future support expectations
Questions about ordering
Miscellaneous questions

Things that any potential homebrewer should read and carefully consider

And last but not least, the sarcasm section...

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Q. Can I skip reading this FAQ, assuming I know how this project will work?
A. There are going to be a number of very significant differences between this multicart project and any other multicart projects that have preceded it. I wrote this FAQ to clarify things, some of which would be impossible for you to know about otherwise. I hope you read it, but I can't force you to do anything you don't want to do.

The bottomline is, I do not want to make promises I cannot keep. This forces me to go out of my way to minimize any "forward-looking projections" in an effort to protect us both from the inevitable results of bad assumptions. That's just common sense in today's world, but there are also other influences I should clarify.

  • My daily schedule and personal financial picture are prone to many more rapid, unplanned swings than most other people's, making any long-term planning very difficult at best. This is because my current "day job" is unusual; I'm a "dues-paying" screen actor. Like many in my profession, I need to seek an additional income to supplement the often meager financial rewards. I often have more free time than most, but with nearly no advance predictability as to when it might come, or as to when it might suddenly leave me again.
  • There are differences in the manufacturing methods used in this project compared to the previous multicart projects done by other people. (Their carts are mostly mass-produced; mine are all hand-made.) This is important, and the unintended results of this should not be underestimated, in terms of advance planning.
  • Let's face it... these multicarts are being made for retro-gaming systems that are not very popular, so...
    • The demand for these items is counted in dozens of people instead of hundreds of people. The idea of using "economy of scale" to spread production costs out over time, just does not apply here. It is much more difficult to justify spending time or money on this project, as it is unlikely it will ever be repaid. (Paying to have PC boards made up commercially would likely be financial suicide.)
    • Other systems have many people actively searching for and archiving ROM images. I have to find them all myself, and archive them all myself. This radically alters any future support expectations.
    • Finding and buying "common" carts -- to recycle their plastic cases -- is always much more difficult and more costly than for the most popular systems. I can't help that. (Sean Kelly once told Ward that this was one of the main reasons he never made a Bally multicart, despite being asked to.)

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Q. Why is a FAQ of this length necessary?
A. Because I am wary about the chances of such a project going badly for all concerned. Also, because I want to pass on a few of the more important, preventable problems with any gaming project to potential homebrewers.

I want to be able to look back at this self-imposed project, years from now, and be glad that I did it. Years after the initial sale I want my multicart customers to think well of me and of the object that I made for them, instead of being reminded of a hopelessly traumatic experience. Personally, I do not want to look back at this project and shudder at the memory of it, like many homebrewers have sadly admitted doing when their projects were done?

  • Poor communication is one of the biggest single problems. Potential customers get angry or worried when their questions are not being answered. This is bad in general, but it gets worse quickly if a customer has given a person their money up front and then Murphy's Law kicks in and sabotages the project deadlines. This often causes stress on both sides of the equation, sometimes resulting in the death of the project itself. (Either people lose all faith in the project's eventual completion or the overwhelmed homebrewer "quits".) To avoid both of these problems, I wrote a "War and Peace" length FAQ and I am not taking money up front. By doing this, the single largest legitimate complaint that remains possible is customer impatience. I even did my best to deal with that by including a Timeline text that shows all of my progress, day-by-day.
  • It is inevitable that any homebrew project done by any one person will result in one or more people being a "have not" when it comes to being able to meet the total demand for that handmade item. It has become crystal clear to many of the homebrew people in retro-gaming circles that the moment you have a situation where it is impossible to meet every bit of the potential demand, that people become very angry at you.
  • Even among those people that end up being in the "have" group at some point, you still have the potential that some people will end up being upset with you. A good example of this is trying to explain why you are going to insist that a "one item per customer" rule applies to your project. A great example is the huge amount of people that insist that they're your buddy and that therefore your rules should not apply to them.
  • Some of the best-known and most experienced "repeat homebrewers" believe that any classic gaming project is doomed from the start if the homebrewer is looking for positive feedback as a major reward. Most people who do like it, simply say nothing. Those who have some grievance will often air it publicly.
  • Anyone that is doing a homebrew project is wise to consider NOT SAYING ANYTHING about it to anyone but a very few of your most trusted friends. (This is the opinion of some of the most experienced, "repeat homebrewers".) I was told that things are always far more direct and far less complicated if you simply TELL NO ONE what you are doing until you are ready to sell copies. At that point you list the features of your project and you name your price. People have two choices with that sort of project: "take it" or "leave it". I was told that was the only way to retain one's sanity. If you allow people to inject their fantasies into a project you are making your own life much more difficult! Do the project to please YOU.
  • Every homebrew project has an implied "here are my personal rules, take it or leave it" stance built into it, either by assumption or default. Just because a person does not state their rules, does not mean there are none. I am stating all of my own rules crystal clear up front, rather than implying them (or not even giving them thought.) Cynically, I might say that perhaps doing this simply p*sses people off sooner rather than later? But if a person wants all of the candy in the candy store, and they want it yesterday, and they want it for one-hundredth of what that item would realistically cost if it were sold by a commercial company, then that person's p*ssed-off attitude was simply unavoidable from the start. My thinking is that it is wiser to simply get rid of such people early on. You'll enjoy your project much more and be able to concentrate on those people that truly appreciate what you're doing for them, instead of wasting resources on ingrates.

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Q. What exactly is a "multicart"?
A. A combination of old and new technology. It allows you to see and play more than one game program, which is contained on a single cartridge. A multicart can have a little as two games on it or many hundreds of games on it.

The most ambitious multicarts will make some attempt to include every game that was ever made and released for a given system. This may or may not include any or all of the officially "unreleased" prototypes or early versions of a game which found their way out of the programming labs of various companies over the years. It all depends on a number of design decisions the cartridge designers made when they had their initial multicart design sitting on the drawing board, and how easy it is to locate and archive "every" last cartridge made for a given system, along with how much time and effort the creator is willing to put forth, which is in turn affected by the size of a given market.

What makes this all possible is the difference between what was once considered a lot of computer-type ROM memory space, and what the current standards for "enough" or "a lot" are. Back in the early 1980's most game systems were designed to take between 2,048 and 16,384 bytes of ROM memory space in their cartridges. Twenty years later games are sold on CD-ROMs that have roughly 650 million bytes of storage space, and can be mass-produced for pennies. Memory chips in the half-a-million-bytes range will hold 64 different game programs of 8,096 bytes or 128 different programs that are 4,096 bytes in length. A multicart works by loading many programs, back-to-back, within that large space. If you have a way to have the game system "see" only one game at a time, a multicart can appear to be any individual game you want it to be.

There are two major methods used by multicarts to allow the user to easily select one game, and ignore all the others. The fanciest -- and also most costly -- is to wire things up so that you see a menu on the screen, listing all the programs it holds. You pick a name on the screen, and the computer or game system then does the technical things necessary to "see" only that game. The other major way to select games is to include small switches which the user must flip by themselves, before starting each game. This is somewhat harder to use, but it reduces complexity and final cost a great deal. Only a few multicarts use onscreen menus. Most multicarts made by either retro-gaming fans or "real companies" use DIP switches; even Sean Kelly says so, on his multicart web site.

Some people ask me if there is a standard way to spell the word... "multicart" or "multi-cart" or some variation? Frankly, I'm just using what I like best, but a good prededent would be the non-hypenated word "multimeter".

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Q. How many multicarts include "everything" ever made for a given system?
A. None to my knowledge. There may be one or two? Even if there is, it is definitely the exception and not the rule. I am aware of a number that include "*almost* everything ever made" for that particular system, but in general they are all missing at least one game ROM image, so they cannot literally be considered to be "100% complete".

The main reason I feel compelled to remind people of the shortcomings of any other multicarts is because far too many gamers forget they are NOT complete when they ask me if mine "will be complete". It is frustratingly like trying to compare apples or oranges to watermelons: the comparison is hopelessly flawed. Every multicart I am aware of is missing something, so it is silly to tell me that I "ought to have everything because other people do".

In my opinion, the real question should be, "What is actually missing, and are there enough interesting games on this multicart to make me happy?" And that is simply something that I cannot answer for anyone but myself.

  • To see what will or will not be included in my Bally Astrocade or Emerson Arcadia carts, click here.
  • The most popular of several Vectrex multicarts -- Sean Kelly's -- is missing at least one commercially released game for reasons of technical complexity. It is also missing a number of recent homebrew games because the author of those games prefered to release his games himself, on his own carts. It is unlikely those games will ever show up on Sean's multicart unless the author gives Sean his permission. For both these reasons this very popular multicart -- as cool as it is -- is not "complete" and likely never will be.
  • The one Atari 5200 multicart I am aware of -- Sean Kelly's -- is missing at least one commercially released game, for reasons of technical complexity. For those same reasons, there are no plans to add it.
  • A ColecoVision multicart technically exists -- again by Sean Kelly. (However, this cart cannot be sold due to copyright enforcement reasons, so you could actually argue that it is missing *everything*?) The company that apparently owns the copyrights to many of these games refuses to allow any competition as they try to sell off their remaining new-old-stock of single game cartridges, so this is unlikely to change.
  • The multicart made for the Odyssey2 game system by John Dondzila may actually be 100% complete. (I tend to think of it as being about as complete as any gaming multicart is ever likely to be?)
  • Multicarts made for the Atari 2600 game system usually only include 128 or 256 total games, leaving out literally hundreds of other games that were released. Some may include 8, 16, 32 or even fewer games.
  • Bob Colbert came up with a way to modify a Starpath Supercharger for the Atari 2600 to allow it to load many more games than it would normally. After being modified, all 2k and 4k games will work in it. But that still leaves a very significant amount of games that will not work with this pseudo-multicart device.
  • Chad Schell made a cool device called the Cuttle Cart for the Atari 2600. It allows games to be loaded into it from an external source -- a RAM drive of sorts -- so it serves the purpose of a multicart without actually being one. However, one original game (Pitfall 2) is known to be incompatible with it. In addition, Chad's web site warns that there may be other games it will not work with, that are not currently known. He also warns that the device is not made to work with the Atari 7800 game system; just the 2600.
  • Chad Schell made a device called the Intellicart which serves a similar purpose as a multicart, even though it technically isn't one. This Intellivision device allows programs to be loaded into it, from an external device such as a CD-ROM drive. As cool as the Intellicart is, there are three known games that do not work with it, because those games originally had a type of hardware in them that no other games for that system had.
  • Multicarts for more-modern game systems (such as the Nintendo NES, etc) usually include only a small sample of the total amount of games ever made for a given system. This is largely because as time went on the memory requirements of games went ever upwards, making it too costly to include more than a few games. Copyright owners are still actively enforcing their rights more often, the more modern a system is.

I want to make it crystal clear that I am not (repeat NOT) trying to say anything negative about the people that make these other multicarts! I do not consider myself their competitor, and I see no indication that they consider me to be their competitor either. I am sure that all of us who do these things for fun agree "the more the merrier"?

I have no problems with anyone that makes any homebrew item(s). I bought one of Sean Kelly's new Vectrex multicarts and I think it rocks. I bought one of Chad Schell's Intellicarts and while I still have not used it yet, I am sure that it rocks, too. If I had an Odyssey2 system, I'd run out and buy one of John Dondzilla's multicarts. I bought a number of Randy Crihfield's Atari 2600 homebrew reproduction carts over the years and I think they are great. One of these days, I'll even get around to modifying one of my Starpath Superchargers. And so on.

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Q. What system will these multicarts work on?
A. There are going to be two of these cartridges. This FAQ discusses them both in detail.

One of these multicarts will work with the so-called "Bally Astrocade" videogame system. (That was never its official name, but fans of retro-gaming have begun calling it that. It was officially called the Bally Pro Arcade, the Bally Professional Arcade, the Bally Home Computer system, and likely many other name variations.) You can see the Bally FAQ online for a better description of this system, and any other names it was officially called.

Another cartridge was designed for use with the "Emerson Arcadia 2001" system and/or its direct clones. See the Emerson FAQ for a list of what systems actually belong in what system "family", but in general there are a number of systems that are directly compatible with the U.S.-based Emerson Arcadia 2001. These include the Canadian Leisure-Vision system, the German Hanimex HMG-2650 or Schmid TVG-2000 systems, and many others. However, the multicart will not work with the MPT-03 family or Palladium family of consoles; sorry.

Current notes on my own future projects can be found here. Notes on other people's projects can be found here.

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Q. How will I switch from one game to another?
A. Both of Ward's multicarts will use a row of eight small "DIP switches" to select which game you want to play. To know what switch settings you need for each game, you simply look that game up on a printed list. Doing this is really no harder to do than using a printed "TV guide" to find a television program that you want to watch. 

Some people believe it is hard to physically "flip" the small DIP switches used in most multicarts. It is not hard at all, if you are aware of the right tool for the job. A short length of hollow tubing is all you need. You hold the tube like a pen or pencil, place one end over a single DIP switch, and push. With a bit of practice, you can change all eight DIP switches in just a few seconds. Press the console's reset button, and the new game is ready to play.

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Q. Why can't you include on-screen menus to choose the game you want?
A. Adding an on-screen menu to one or both of these multicarts would take one man literally years of additional effort on a part-time basis or months of full-time effort. I would not get paid anything for the huge amount of time it would take to engineer this single feature, so I am not interested in doing it. For the same reason, I consider it highly unlikely that anyone else will ever do it. (Not having it is the norm, not the exception. You don't have to take my word for it, you can take Sean Kelly's word for it. Read it at http://home.xnet.com/~skelly/multis.htm.)

On the Bally system, this feature is technically possible but implausibly difficult. (See discussions on BallyAlley.) On the Emerson system, it is simply impossible. Even if a menu could be programmed for the oddball 2650 CPU that is used in the system, there are no extra data lines that could be programmed to replace the DIP switches.

The raw parts necessary for a complete DIP switch selection system cost me approximately $5 per multicart. That cost level can easily be passed on to the customer. The cost of an onscreen menu system would raise the multicart's price by many $100's. That means no one would buy it, which in turn means no one will create it.

Using DIP switches to change games beats having no multicart at all, which is what the choices boil down to.

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Q. Do you have any plans for other gaming-related hardware projects?
A. My plans at this time are just to concentrate on filling orders for the two multicarts I've already created. I may or may not do any other projects in the future. I really don't know. I'm just living my life, and playing things by ear.

Given the projects I've done already, "what's next" may seem natural? Long before my first multicart project had even begun, various people had asked me if I would ever consider making a multicart for their favorite obscure old game system. I don't mind the question, and I can understand the motivation behind it. (I even take it as a compliment from time to time, especially when it comes from one of my obviously-satisfied multicart customers!)

Here are some projects that I may or may not be interested in, at some unknown future point....

  • From time to time, I've been asked to do something which amounts to doing what Randy Crihfield of "Hozer Video" does for the Atari 2600 community. That is, to take a common cart, modify it internally to work with an EPROM, and program it to be a different game. I have some mild interest in doing that, but only for certain game systems; most likely the Bally, the Emerson and the VIC-20, perhaps some others.
  • For years, off-and-on, I have toyed with the idea of making myself a Commodore VIC-20 multicart. The one part of this possible project that really appeals to me on a "nerdy" technical level, would be making it work with an onscreen menu. (The system has an 8-bit outport port that I already know how to use.) The reality is, I may or may not ever make one. Even if I did make one just for myself at some unknown future point, that does not necessarily mean that I would also make additional copies of it to sell to the general public. (I have very serious doubts that one could be made at anything like a reasonable price point, given the fact that the cartridge library takes up two megabytes or more of storage space?) A partial multicart may be the most likely scenario for a public release, but even that would have problems: everyone who wants to buy a multicart has high hopes of having "everything" on it. So it may remain a dream, forever.
  • For years, off-and-on, I have toyed with the idea of making a plug-in cartridge-based, automated menu program that would work with the Commodore C64 system. In the 1980's, I even wrote a disc-based program that would automatically figure out how to load any disc-based program, so long as it could actually be loaded by hand. (It was later published on a ReRun disc.) Adapting it to another form would be the bulk of the work required. If I could just modify an existing Fast Load cartridge, I'd just publish a "how to" for everyone else to read. This is a back-burner project, one which I may or may not ever do. But it has better chances of happening than many other potential gaming projects I could do, for various reasons including the fact that I want one myself, and that I have young nephews that would be able to use it, too.
  • Once in awhile, I have toyed with the idea of making an Atari 2600 multicart. It would not be much of a technical challenge to do, since I would limit the amount and types of games on it. It would not be of any great use to anyone else, so I doubt I'd ever sell them but I would still kind of like having it for myself. I have always liked the idea of a "real life" Activision multi-game pack on a real system, in a cartridge form.

A few other projects I feel like I can definitely rule out...

  • In general, I have no interest in competing with other people's projects or duplicating work that has already been done. This tends to rule out most of the potential projects related to the most popular "classic" game systems, such as the Atari 2600 / 5200 / 7800, the ColecoVision, the Intellivision, the Vectrex, and so on.
  • In general, I also have no interest in being involved in hardware or software projects for "modern" game systems. This tends to rule out most of the potential projects for any game systems from the Nintendo NES on forward. Don't get me wrong; I do not dislike those systems. I'm just happy being a random consumer.
  • I will not be making anything like the "CuttleCart" or the "IntelliCart" for any system. (Chad Schell -- who made those two devices -- was asked if he was interested in doing a similar project for the Bally. He told Adam Trionfo he was not.) The "Blue RAM" expansion box already fills that need in the case of the Bally, and I simply have no interest in having such a device for any other gaming system that I can think of.
  • I archived three of the four "cartridges" for the AdventureVision system. A multicart was briefly discussed, but was quickly rejected on technical grounds. (I simply don't see how such a thing is even possible for that system? The carts are really nothing more than a raw ROM chip, with its legs just folded up under itself.)
  • I have no remaining interest in the Fairchild Channel F system. I owned one once, but I sold it cheaply to a well-known MESS emulation author, with a bunch of its games, for reverse-engineering purposes. He emulated that system over time. That ended my own involvement in contributing to that particular system.
  • I have no plans or interest in working on any project involving the RCA Studio II system. I know of only one person doing any serious work on reverse-engineering that system, and that person's project is a private one. If and when he decides to go public with it, you'll hear about it. I can't reveal more details.

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Q. What is the latest news and/or progress?
A. That info can be found at: http://classicgaming.com/arcadia/multhist.htm

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Q. How much will your multicarts cost?
A. Each individual multicart will cost $100.00 each plus shipping costs.

I realize that this may seem like a lot of money to some people. I'm sorry, but I can't help that. I have already cut out more bill-able things than I can really afford to. By any reasonable business standard all of my multicarts are already being sold at a loss instead of a profit. (See this cost breakdown for details.)

A few examples of the total cost with shipping (assuming a Continental U.S. mailing address) ...

  • $105.90 total for one multicart, mailed out using the US Post Office's "Priority Mail" with $100 insurance on the package and "Delivery Confirmation". (That is a rudimentary online package tracking number.)
  • $207.35 total for two multicarts, mailed out using the US Post office's "Priority Mail" with $200 insurance on the package and "Delivery Confirmation".

Price and payment details...

  • PayPal works fine for me; that's the method I prefer. E-mail address:  ward.shrake@worldnet.att.net
  • Postal Money Orders sent by way of snail mail are also fine, but they have to be payable in US funds.
  • Money Orders from some source other than a government's Post Office are probably OK too.
  • I kind of doubt that anyone will want to pay by Cashier's Check but I suppose that would work, too?
  • Personal checks will almost never be a good option, on my end of things. I would much rather not accept them. Please do not take this news personally; it has very little to do with me trusting you. It has everything to do with timing, and my ability to pay my bills. The long delay to let a personal check clear the bank may end up meaning that I cannot pay my rent on time, which is obviously unacceptable to me. (I already have nine toes hanging off of a financial precipice as it is; it makes no sense for me to take any additional risks.)
  • Forms of payment that I cannot or will not accept include COD orders, concealed cash in envelopes, payments made in foreign currency, and probably a long list of unexpected things people will ask me to do.

Shipping details...

  • The cost examples above assume a 48-state, Continental US mailing address. All other areas will be more.
  • If you live outside the US, please do not wait until the very last second to tell me that news. Please do not assume that I know it already, even if you feel I should. It would be best to remind me of it regardless.
  • In general, I plan to just charge you for my actual shipping costs. I prefer to use the US Post Office as a carrier. However, if you strongly prefer or insist upon using another carrier -- such as FedEx -- be aware that I can do it but I may require a few extra dollars above my actual mailing expenses to reimburse me for my added time and/or gasoline expenses when making these special trips. (Or not, but I reserve the right.)
  • Personally, I cannot stand UPS. I have no faith at all in their ability to reliably deliver anything. Years of bad personal experiences with them have made me want to stay as far away from them as I can. I will not deal with UPS unless I absolutely have no choice in the matter. (I would prefer a carrier pigeon to UPS.)
  • The US Post Office runs an online Postal Rate Calculator on their web site, so you can see what shipping options are available to you, and their costs. (My zip code is 91791 -- West Covina, CA, USA.) Be aware that they sometimes insist on sending certain sizes and/or weights of packages out by Priority Mail, even if you would prefer to send them out by First Class. I have no control over rules like that; sorry.
  • Shipping methods that are not acceptable to me include any COD orders (see "payment" above), any request to ship packages out by media or "book rate" means (they are not books), and any attempt to save a relatively small amount of money on shipping expenses at great risk of loss or damage to the package. In general, if a request adds any needless stress or worry to my life, I'm not going to go along with it. Sorry.

Insurance details...

  • The purchase of these handmade items is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It should be treated as such.
  • I must insist that each package be adequately insured, for both our sakes. Sorry, but I simply will not take any responsibility for any package that goes out uninsured or under-insured at the buyer's request! I have no desire to make the same multicart twice, nor to add needless complication and/or worry to my own life.
  • Yes, I know that overseas shipping rates can be quite high. Yes, I know that the number of shipping options may be limited, and that the only way to insure some overseas packages is to send them out by Express Mail (or similar) at a much greater overall shipping cost. I can certainly empathize with that but the fact remains that I have no control over the rates or options that are given to me. It does not change anything.
  • Along the same lines, I can empathize with a desire not to pay any excessive customs duties on packages shipped overseas. But that does not means I should under-value an insured package on the customs forms. I will not do anything that would jeopardize a successful insurance claim if the package is lost or damaged.
  • If an insured package is lost or is severely damaged, I reserve the right to simply repay the purchase price instead of actually replacing the item. I do not plan to do this, but I reserve the right to do so at any time if the current circumstances in my personal life make that option seem like the best overall choice for me.

Miscellaneous payment details...

  • I really do not wish to raise the cost any, but I reserve the right to do so if my costs go way up. Try to bulk-buy any of the so-called "common" carts for either system, and you'll quickly see my dilemma.
  • As mentioned elsewhere in this FAQ, I have to insist on payment in full before I can ship anything out.
  • Do not send any form of payment before I ask for it. I am not taking money from anyone until late in the overall process. That is on purpose. It protects you from having to pay first, and then waiting a long time for the item to be ready. (The two most common problems with homebrew projects are that situation and/or not keeping people well informed.) This method also keeps me from feeling unduly pressured.
  • Be ready to pay when I do ask for the money. I will try to keep each person well informed as to when that will be, but once you have committed to buying a multicart you should be ready to pay at any time.

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Q. Will you break down the total cost so I know what I'm paying for?
A. Yes, I'd be glad to. I think it is important to do that for any number of excellent reasons.

What you ARE paying for:

  • Labor. This accounts for approximately 60% to 75% of your final cost.
    • It is hard to calculate how much time is spent on each individual cart, partly because I'm not doing one cart, then another, then another. I estimate that I will have to invest at least four solid hours of time to create each individual multicart. This is just an estimate, and a "best case" scenario at that. It is likely that the real life figure was more like ten or twelve hours per multicart through batch three, thanks to the inevitable glitches. I am finding ways to trim a few minutes here and there on each step as I gain more practical experience, but this is going to remain a VERY labor intensive undertaking.
    • Highly skilled techical people -- like those capable of making their own PC boards from scratch -- usually make $15 to $30 an hour if not much more. (Even the standard household electronics repair places generally charge $50 to $75 an hour for labor, plus expenses for any parts bought.) Ideally, I'd like to make $15 to $20 an hour while doing this. Realistically, I'm probably making minimum wage. This simply wouldn't be worth my time and effort, if I had a "real" job... be glad that I don't!
    • To see a list of every little sub-task necessary to make one of these handmade items, click here.
    • You may also want to check out Bob Colbert's excellent description of what it took to create his "Okie-Dokie" Atari 2600 cart, since he has many nice-looking pictures up, and I don't have any.
  • Parts. This accounts for approximately 25% to 40% of your final cost, as follows...
    • one half-a-megabyte "27c040" EPROM memory chip at $8 to $15 each plus shipping expenses,
    • one so-called "common" game cartridge intended to be recycled as an empty plastic case, at a cost which varies widely from time to time but will usually cost $3 to $10 each plus shipping expenses,
    • one raw PC board, plus all of the chemicals used to create a finished PC board at $7 to $10 each, 
    • any necessary support chips (such as 7432 "OR" gates) ranging around $1 per multicart,
    • eight seperate 4.7k ohm resistors or one "resistor pack," usually around $1 per multicart,
    • one bank of eight DIP switches, usually sold at $1 to $4 each,
    • any wire and solder needed to assemble everything, at around $1 per multicart,
    • materials to make a custom cartridge label (adhesive inkjet photo paper, ink) at around $1 per cart,
    • materials to make one printed chart explaining DIP switch settings per game, and/or a set of printed instuctions for the end user, which varies from $1 on up, depending on complexity and colors usage,
    • ...and so on. There may be some incidental things I'm forgetting, but this is the bulk of the raw parts.
  • Shipping and insurance costs to get the completed items into your hands.

What you ARE NOT paying for:

  • Game ROM contents. Simply put, I do not own them so I cannot charge others money for them. That's only fair. To me the game ROMs are almost an afterthought. I would make a blank copy of a multicart with zero games on the EPROM chip for the same exact price as a cart that is loaded full of game ROMs because the parts cost me the same regardless and it takes me almost the same amount of time either way.
  • Profit. Other than the low hourly wage I insist on charging for, I am not adding any amount of additional money to the final consumers cost, to account for "profit". If I were, these carts would both likely be priced three to five times higher to fall into line with common, usual and customary business mark-up margins. (And that's just a minimum; they could be ten or twenty times higher, if I were charging for "everything".)
  • Ward's years of painstaking research efforts. Among other things, these wholly unpaid efforts led to the discovery of the Emerson "multiple family" concept, the unearthing of much of that system's "lost" history, the most accurate and complete list of games available for that system, lots of details on the games, etc.
  • Ward's years of painstaking and costly effort spent on ROM image archiving, which made this project possible in the first place. (Ward archived two thirds of the existing Emerson software library by himself, with only the assistance of a few generous collectors who loaned him carts long enough to archive them.)
  • Any time spent beyond the estimated four hours of labor to create each cart is at no charge. If something goes wrong in the manufacturing of these items, which causes me delays, I do not charge you for that time.
  • The time and effort it took to create two original prototype designs. This took days of unpaid effort.
  • The time and effort it took to test and tweak those early designs, until a reliable final design was finished and was all debugged. (Add in quite a few days of additional effort, all of it being unpaid.)
  • The time and effort it took to design the first two PC board layouts. (Add in more days of unpaid effort.)
  • The time and effort spent revising and improving both board layouts. (You see the pattern by now...)
  • The time and effort it took to design and create specialized tools for the purpose of making future ROM-content upgrades easier, and to redesign the Bally PC board layout to make that possible.
  • The custom-made label artwork for both carts was designed at no charge.
  • Any printed instructions were designed / typed / edited / etc. at no charge.
  • The time and effort it takes to constantly locate more cartridges I can recycle as raw plastic cases. (Finding them is often a pain in the butt! Be aware that there is almost never a good way to just buy many carts at once, even on eBay. If you simply manage to find three or more carts at once, consider that a bulk buy!)
  • The effort of writing this stupid FAQ to protect myself from abuse that is likely inevitable anyway, when I could just as easily be paid for each page I wrote if I had decided to write articles or short stories instead. (And no, it is not very funny to me to have people whine that this FAQ is really a "novel".)
  • Stress-related medical expenses should really be factored into all this, but aren't. There is no current charge for hair loss caused by lazy people asking me to answer questions I've already taken the time to answer in  this FAQ, nor for high blood pressure caused by inconsiderate people that want to whine, beg, guilt-trip or otherwise manipulate me into giving them some kind of favored or special treatment over a stupid toy that 99.99% of the public would think any of us were nuts for wanting (let alone making) in the first place, etc.
  • I could include more, but if you don't already get the picture, I'm -- pun intended -- just wasting my time.

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Q. Can I get a discount? Do I have to pay the full amount all at once?
A. If Ward unexpectedly wins the State lottery, and is therefore able to retire at a relatively young age, that could happen. But realistically, since he cannot even afford to buy lottery tickets, the answer must be "no". Sorry.

Ward's job (screen acting) leaves a lot to be desired as far as finances go. Since Ward has no desire to be homeless, he has to either make a fair hourly wage while doing this project or not do it at all. At some point in a worst-case scenario, he is better off just to abandon this project and to take a paying part-time job instead.

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Q. Can I trade you something to get one of your multicarts?
A. Sorry, no. As a struggling actor I don't have the luxury of the levels of financial security most people take for granted; my disposable income was disposed of long ago. The bottomline is that it costs real money out of my pocket to buy the raw parts to be able to make each one of my multicarts. Any trade would involve me giving up money that I need to pay my monthly bills with, in exchange for something that I could easily live without. Since I have no intention of being the homeless person that owns the most cool old videogame stuff, I am afraid that any and all non-money multicart transactions are out of the question. Sorry! I don't have a choice, so neither do you.

The only exception to my "no trade" policy might be trading me existing cartridges that I can use to make other multicarts with. (Even this will only be an "iffy" occasion thing, because someone else may have beaten you to it. With the demand for these items being as low as it is, even four or five carts at a time is like a "bulk buy".)

Bally carts are cheap and easy to obtain in brand new condition, but with one important caveat. The catch is that these newly-molded, never-used cart cases were based on a third-party design. Most third-party companies did not bother to include a nice, flat area on the bottom of the case where you can stick a printed label. I prefer to use the original Bally cases (when I can) because I designed a silly, cyborg-inspired bottom label as well as the upper label you'd expect. But if I simply cannot find any original Bally cases, I have to use whatever is available. (Starting with batch #4 I plan to slightly redesign the PC boards to work with either case. I may decide to simply stop offering the bottom label, if it is going to cause me far more cartridge supply headaches than it is worth?)

Emerson carts are usually harder to obtain, but I often have to turn people's trade offers down. There are quite a few "common" carts that cannot be used for this project. They come in two sizes; tall ones at 3 5/8" by 5 7/8" inches or short ones at 3 5/8" square. I can't reuse any of the carts that have the shorter, square-looking cases.

Emerson carts I cannot use

Emerson carts I can use

3-D Bowling
3-D Soccer
Alien Invaders
Brain Quiz
Missile War
Ocean Battle
Space Mission
Star Chess

American Football
Astro Invader
Cat Trax
Crazy Gobbler
Grand Slam Tennis
Jump Bug
R2D Tank
Red Clash

Robot Killer
Route 16
Space Attack
Space Raiders
Space Squadron
Space Vultures
Super Gobbler
Tanks A Lot
The End

Some of these are more rare and valuable than others to your fellow collectors.
You may be better off auctioning some carts than trading them to me? I prefer to
buy my raw / reusable carts very cheaply. From my point of view, an ideal cart
for me to obtain for this project involves a fairly "common" cart  in "loose" (no
box or instructions included) condition. The plastic parts of the cartridge have
to be in perfect shape, but the label condition does not matter at all. The game
inside the cart does not even have to work, since I am just going to take it out
of the case and discard it anyway. I prefer to get the later, long-style carts that
do not have a movable, spring-loaded plastic covering over the area that plugs
into the cartridge slot. (Those are still usable, but cause me a lot more work.)

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Q. Will you sell a kit that I can assemble, so I can save money?
A. Sorry, no. It would not save you any money, and it would make my own life far more difficult without any good reason. These are handmade items; there is no realistic way to have any hands but my own creating these items.

Since I have to make every PC board myself, I would save no significant time and effort by doing 90% plus of that work myself, and then handing the last part of an hour or so of soldering work off to a customer? I would be adding tons of reliability hassles into the mix as well, since I have no control over a customer's ability to actually assemble it successfully. Like it or not, most people can't do this work well, even with good instructions. I know this for a fact because I once worked as a lab assistant at a local college, helping teach "hands-on" electronics.

A kit only would only make sense if I were having my PC boards made up by an outside company in batches of hundreds of finished units, as other people have run their multicart projects. But that is not the case here as I have mentioned. Each PC board must be made entirely by hand, by me, at a cost to me of multiple hours of my life. I have to charge for those hours. Those labor hours are the bulk of what each consumer is paying for.

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Q. Can you take some of the games off your multicarts and sell them cheaper?
A. Sorry, no. Costs are already down as low as they can reasonably go. Even if I just left out the single EPROM chip, your costs could only drop by ten percent total . You are not paying for the contents of the memory chip in the first place, so changing what is or is not recorded on it will not affect your final cost. In theory I would sell a blank EPROM chip for the same cost as a fully programmed one, except for my time to erase and program it.

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Q. Will you teach me how to make my own multicart?
A. Sorry, but I'm afraid you will just have to struggle through it yourself, like the rest of us had to.

That type of training essentially entails a few semesters of college-level course work in electronics, if you were starting from scratch. Even if you had a head start on the learning curve, it is weeks of time that I can't spare from my life. If you are willing to take a self-paced course of sorts, you can read the archived messages on BallyAlley. (Look for message #115; it gives web links to useful "how to" information.) If you really want to "do it yourself," and you think you may have enough of the background information / experience / skills to do something like this project, then that linked information should be all you need to do a project of your own. "Good luck!"

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Q. What about copyright infringement?
A. I'm not going to be coy about this... technically, many game ROM images are often unauthorized copies of works that were created by other people. Distributing copies of the digital information that makes up a computer program most likely violates some part of Title 17 of the U.S. laws regarding copyright ownership and control. But I think it is important to look beyond the letter of the law, to both its intent and the intent of those involved.

I tend to agree with the intent of copyright law. I try to comply with it as much as circumstances reasonably allow. Bottomline, if some person or company can rightfully claim ownership in these intellectual properties, and they tell me that they object to the free distribution of their particular property, I will readily comply with their stated desire to stop any futher distribution of that property. (My e-mail address is at the top of this document.) No problems.

My take on things is that most of the authors I've spoken to over the years honestly do not mind what I am doing. In fact, a number of them made supportive comments towards my efforts. Some have even publicly said that due to the obscurity of this subject matter, and the lack of organized preservation efforts done when these systems were actively on the market, that they would not have copies of their own games if it were not for the efforts of myself and people like me. (For instance, Jeff Minter's web site made that claim about VIC-20 games.) A refrain I've often heard from these authors is that, "I'm not making any money off of this, so I don't mind non-profit use."

The fact is this is not being done on anything like a commercial scale. Total hand-assembly rules that out, as far as actual multicarts go. As far as game ROM images and Internet-based distribution go, this stuff is hard to even give away for free. (I'm not kidding, either!) Only those with a deep interest in old computers seem to care at all.

People like me may not officially be recognized as a non-profit archival / research institution, but I believe the shoe still fits. There is no profit being sought for the many hundreds of hours I have put into my efforts over the course of seven years. In fact, I paid to do all this out of my own pocket, without expecting to break even.

If I were just interested in copying games, I would not have spent years of my life getting to this point. I am in this hobby because I like old computers and old video game systems. I respect the efforts of the people that made them and the sub-culture that surrounds them. I see myself as a preservationist and historian more than anything else. This is a tiny little niche, but it is one I believe is as legitimate as any other form of scholarly research. I intentionally chose game systems that virtually no one else cared about, and directed my archiving efforts there.

One problem is that video game copyrights are almost never owned by the author of the actual game. Quoting Jeff Vavasour from a 1998 Usenet posting: "One thing is for sure: copyrights always go somewhere. They don't just disappear even if the originating company did. Though, there is the possibility of complication through ongoing licences. For example, Frogger was created by Gremlin for Sega, but it is currently owned by Konami, yet Hasbro has exclusive console and computer licence through Parker Brothers' licence which never expired."

This is definitely the case with the so-called Bally Astrocade game machine. No one is 100% sure who owns the rights to the game system's software library. However, one important precedent was set many years ago. When Astrovision was nearing the end of its commercial life, at least one fan of the system was given official permission to make non-profit copies of the various software properties, for other fans of the system. This person did not have the technical capabilities to do it himself, so he in turn asked Michael White of Ohio to do the technical things necessary. Adam Trionfo is actively seeking the current copyright owners of various games for the Bally Astrocade system. He has already been successful in a few cases, to track down third-party authors and obtain their permission for non-profit use of their intellectual properties. These efforts are continuing -- within the limits of our meager resources -- and we plan to continue seeking out these people, and asking for their kind permission. So far, everyone originally involved with the making or marketing of these items was happy to see our efforts. 

The Emerson Arcadia 2001 system and its library is a complete mess, in terms of copyrights. Despite years of efforts on multiple hobbyist's parts, we seem no closer to finding the actual copyright owners. Even if we knew them personally, and could readily ask them for their permission, we suspect that many questions would remain. This is because many of the games were actually unauthorized copies of other people's properties (as I've gone to great lengths to document in places like the FAQ for this game system and in the "Digital Press Collectors Guide" version six.) I'm proceeding anyway, mainly on the basis of historical preservation. This system above all the others I've worked with over the last seven years or so, is most in danger of remaining a cloudy mystery. It above all has the potential to show future generations a snapshot of an era, both legally and technologically.

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Q. Is there any alternate way I can see and/or play these games?
A. Yes. There are a number of ways you can aquire and play these games, besides buying original cartridges.

Software emulation is the most obvious method. The "MESS" emulator includes emulators for both the Emerson and Bally consoles. At least some ROM images are available on the web; try the Vault for starters.

For the Bally Astrocade, at least one person has a service he offers, where he can solder up a reproduction of a cartridge and put it into an official case, for a small fee. If you just want one or two favorite Bally games in "real" form, see Mike White. (Be aware he is not available on the Internet. His snail mail is: 4585 County Line #2, Wakeman, OH 44889. His catalog of services is available on Adam Trionfo's BallyAlley web site.)

Please note that throughout this FAQ (and in person) I am doing just about the softest sell imaginable on these multicarts. Why? Is this because I believe they are not worth having? Is it a vast international conspiracy? No,  not hardly. I just want the decision to buy one or not to buy one to be made on an very individual basis, with minimal stress all around. I want the experience to be pleasant for both of us. In part that is "just me". But it also tends to protect me from irrational accusations later on, if and when some unhappy "have not" decides to whine.

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Q. What kind of warranty are you going to offer on these carts?
A. Your primary protection is my pride in my workmanship and my desire to do right by those that do right by me.

Second, this FAQ is intended to be a tool to provide ample protection both for myself and for my potential customers. Ask yourself this: if I took this level of effort to think potential problems through and to document them here, how much more time and effort did I spend making sure these carts would work reliably and well?

Beyond that, here is the rough shape of the warrantee terms I'm offering:

  • Sixty days of coverage. (I may decide to extend that to ninety days, at my sole discretion.) Most other "homebrew" or hobbyist hardware type folks only offer thirty days -- if they even have an expressed warrantee -- so I feel I am being pretty generous? There is a well-known "bathtub curve" in the electronics industry. It implies that, statistically speaking, most of the failures of any given product will take place either right away or many years later, with a long and useful life in between. That is why most electronics places are so eager to sell you an extended warranty -- it is a very good bet that they'll never have to honor it.
  • The warrantee will cover only defects in parts and workmanship; pretty standard stuff. It will not cover any damage done to your game system, but frankly I don't see that happening anyway. It will not cover any form of abuse, either intentional or accidental. What constitutes "abuse" is going to be left up to me to decide, and me alone. However, I do take great pride in my work. I plan to be both as honest and fair as a person reasonably can be when making the final decision as to what is or is not considered to be abuse. I have been working with electronics for years and have a degree in Electronics. I do know the difference.
  • Any attempted repairs or modifications a user makes to a multicart automatically voids the warrantee.
  • After the warrantee period expires any required repairs will be done at an hourly wage to be worked out between myself and the owner. (I do not expect that repair rate to dip lower than $15 or $20 per hour.)
  • Any warrantee applies only to the original owner, and not to any person they happen to re-sell the item to. This is a warrantee standard virtually everywhere you look. However, it should also help to reduce the odds of someone buying one from me and then reselling it later on eBay or elsewhere? (Even before I shipped a single multicart out, I had one angry person tell me they'd just "source a multicart elsewhere" if I refused to sell him one. Keep in mind that I plan to individually number each cart, inside and out. It isn't going to be all that easy to trick me regarding who-owns-what cart, later on?)
  • This cart is being sold on an "AS IS" basis with regards to its ROM contents. (As discussed elsewhere in this FAQ.) I make no expressed or implied promise of any kind for continued support in terms of trying to find new ROM images to upgrade these carts with. (Whatever is on it when you buy yours, is all that I am ever promising will be put on it.) I've also made it very clear that these items will not be sold indefinitely.
  • Failure to read this document when I ask you to is beyond my control. I will not be held accountable for misunderstandings or incorrect assumptions made by potential customers, due to their failure to read it!
  • I reserve the right to do more than this warrantee, if I am able to and I am feeling particularly generous.

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Q. Will these multicarts be "collectable" in any way?
A. I am treating these items like hand-numbered artist's prints. (Since all of these carts are going to be individually hand-made, this just seems natural.) How much value this is actually going to add, I honestly have no idea.

I plan to individually number them all, both on the PC board itself (inside the cart), as well as on the outer label. I'm currently allowing people to pick a favorite number instead of arbitrarily assigning them one. I am keeping a list of my own, in-house, to keep track of what numbers go with what customers, and which remain unassigned.

I do not plan to artificially limit the number of multicarts that I make. (Meaning I can't easily say "cart #XX of YY total"?) Nevertheless, they'd still each be unique and numbered as well as being hand-made. And I must assume the overall amount would  be relatively low in number, since not too many people seem willing to pay for such an "expensive" and obscure item when they can just play the same games for free via software emulation. You have to realize that I personally see myself as an artist first, perhaps a fan of gaming history second, a game-player third, and a collector of rare items somewhere below that? If it wasn't for the artist in me I probably would not bother to number these things in the first place, hence my unusual rules regarding this numbering.

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Q. What other cool features do these carts have?

Most people have told me that if these carts work, they'll be happy enough. (That's obviously important!) But beyond that, I designed in a few pretty cool but perhaps non-obvious features to both of these carts...

  • I went out of my way to choose an ergodynamic and visually appealing place to stick the DIP switches. This cost me quite a bit of extra work but I think the result was worth it. For instance, the easiest thing I could have done when I initially designed the Emerson cart was to just have the DIP switches stick out of a hole in the back of the unit. (Ugh!) Doing that would have saved me from having to design a second small PC board just to mount them at the top of the unit and running a special cable up to that second board, not to mention making a set of plastic internal braces to hold it all up there. But with the DIP switches mounted at the top of the cart, they are very easy to see, reach and flip. Most importantly, you don't have to take the cart out of the slot to change anything. You would have to do that every time, if they were in the back.
  • Emerson actually made cartridges for their system in two different sizes. I had a choice of using either the short-style carts or the long-style carts, when I made my initial design decisions about the project. If I really wanted to I could have made everything fit into the smaller cart size. Part of the reason I chose the larger of the two case styles was simply to have more room to make a better looking set of labels.
  • The Bally cart are so tiny in overall size that it is a wonder I got all the stuff in it that I did!? But beyond that, I think it was a shame that the area available for a cartridge label was only a few square inches. I did not want to waste any more of that area than I had to. The problem with that is, the DIP switches also had to stick upwards through that part of the cart. There was simply no other place for them to go, and still have the cart itself actually still fit into the Bally's cartridge slot. So I did what I could to minimize the visual damage the DIPs would do to the label area by rotating it all sideways by 90%. By doing that, I managed to save most of the label area for an actual label with only a "missing stripe" on the right side of the cart.
  • The Bally carts use memory very efficiently; better than any other fan-made multicarts I'm aware of. To fit in as many games as I did, I had to come up with a way that would allow me to mingle ROM images that were all different sizes without wasting any memory at all; every byte can be and is used for storage.
  • The Emerson library is not anywhere near as large as the Bally's, so I didn't have to crunch memory as much to make everything fit inside. Even using Sean Kelly's time-tested but less efficient "just throw more memory at it" method of storing and accessing programs, I still have enough left-over memory space for the forseeable future. If there ever comes a time when all of the storage space is used up and we find we still need more room, I will be able to just retro-fit in my fancier method of memory use at minimal cost. I won't have to throw out any of the existing parts inside, and I won't have to add many costly new ones. (Not to pick on Sean again, but he had to replace his whole PC board to upgrade early Vectrex carts.)
  • Most people will never notice -- and likely won't care -- but I did do a fairly decent job of making the innards of the carts "pretty". I even used lots of bright colors for my jumper wires and ribbon cables.

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Q. Are there any known problems with either of these carts?
A. I am not expecting anything major to go wrong, but I'm a firm believer in the "All-mighty Power of Murphy and his Laws". I'll keep a close eye on quality issues and do the best I can to make a very pleasing product. (One nice side advantage of building things like this in small batches, rather than mass-producing them all at once, is that things improve slightly with each new batch of carts. Some sublte, positive changes have already taken place.)

The known or expected problems at this point:

  • Some games are hard to figure out without any instructions. Better written instructions are in the works.
  • The Bally cart originally had a number of bad or questionable ROM dumps. Those were corrected in early December of 2001. (Only three "bad" copies had gone out; they're being upgraded under warrantee.)
  • There are no known bad dumps of any Emerson games, but "Golf" does not work. (Explained elsewhere.)
  • Some programs for the Bally system need additional hardware or a RAM upgrade to run properly, and a few of the Bally programs are simply unfinished prototypes. These may appear to be faulty programs at first. I'll do what I can to document which games need additional hardware or RAM in the instructions.
  • One problem I can't really do much about is that the Emerson carts sometimes are pretty picky as to how they are inserted into the machine. This is -- believe it or not -- pretty "normal" behavior for this machine. You don't have to take my word for it: check with any of the (few) hardcore Emerson collectors; they'll tell you it is true. (Before I took over the Emerson section of the "Digital Press Collectors Guide" version six from Russ Perry Jr., he had even made published comments along the lines that getting the games to insert and start up properly, was in his opinion sometimes more fun than playing the actual games.)
  • I painted the DIP switches where they stick out of the plastic cart cases. That paint will chip and wear.

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Q. How many do you plan to sell? Will there be limits, per customer?
A. The total amount sold will be whatever it ends up being. I do not plan to set an arbitrary cut-off point. Whenever new orders stop coming in -- or I lose all interest in making more of these items -- that will be the cut-off number.

The hobby's recent history has shown me that no homebrew hardware person is likely to be able to meet the full demand that dozens or even hundreds of people can put on their time. One hundred handmade carts is about the most that any single homebrew person has ever made, as far as I can tell? Many homebrew projects have been artificially limited to numbers of twenty-to-fifty total. Fifty multicarts each, times two carts, does equal 100 total? I honestly have no idea what final numbers these things will be made in, and I'm not going to try to predict it more fully than that. I am certainly not going to commit myself to make "X amount" of carts; I'm done when I'm done.

In fairness to myself, to collectors and to original authors, I plan to limit purchases to "one each per person". (Fair warning: If you buy one and then re-sell it, planning to replace it later, you most likely will NOT get another!)

If a person wants one each of both cart types, but can't afford to buy them both at once, that's not a problem. I don't want to pressure anyone into anything, and I can definitely empathize with the idea of not having much money! Just let me know what you'd like to do -- good, two-way communication is always important in any homebrew project -- and I'll do whatever I reasonably can, to make the path smooth and easy for both of us.

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Q. How long do you plan to keep making these items?
A. Barring the unforeseen, I plan to keep making these items for as long as I feel that it is at least marginally worth my time and effort to continue to do so. When I begin to feel that the bad has definitely begun to outweigh the good, I will cease making these items. That's an entirely subjective assessment, so there is no definite length of time that I plan to invest in this project. I have no current plans to quit at a certain date or other arbitrary event.

However, I can't predict the future. Sooner or later, "everything changes and everything ends". I am being realistic about that concept and you should be, too. It is better to put in your order now, or be added to the waiting list. Please consider carefully that I am the one-and-only person involved in this particular project. I realize that I cannot honestly promise that I will still be interested in this subject matter, years from now? Once I find that I've lost the last shred of interest in this project (or in gaming for that matter), I do not plan to force myself to "stick around" and "keep working". There would be no point in that? I only have one life and so much free time.

One thing that will most certainly hasten the end of my motivation to keep working on these items will be seeing someone buy one of these items from me at a barely-breaking-even price point, and then turning around and selling it at an exorbitant profit to some other individual. I don't try to sell these things on eBay myself and I don't want anyone else to either. I guarantee that I will not look kindly upon such things, so please don't do them!

I reserve the right to cease production of these items at any time, for any reason, at my own sole discretion; it is my life to do with as I please. (If I stop production because someone ticked me off, I can almost guarantee that you will be named publicly for doing it.) I also reserve the right to start up production again even many years from now, after I have decided to cease production of these items. If I do so, I also reserve the right to apply new or different rules to this later batch or generation of carts; just as one example, to stop hand-numbering the carts.

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Q. How are you going to handle orders, or expression of interest?
A. The process of ordering a multicart may seem complicated. I am running things this way simply because I have to. This is a one-person project. There are many very real limits on my time and my resources. In addition, there are various other circumstances that are simply beyond my control. I do prefer simplicity, but my life is complicated

As I've mentioned elsewhere, obtaining one of these items is probably going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. That doesn't mean it is as important as finding the cure to cancer, or World Peace. Not by a long-shot! But it does mean that if you're seriously interesting in obtaining one of these items that it should be worth a few minor hassles.

This is a multi-step process. Everyone begins at the beginning and will go step-by-step through the same process:

  1. Phase one begins when you E-mail me and tell me that you may be interested in purchasing a multicart.
    • Be sure to specify what you want; one of the Bally carts, one Emerson cart, or one of each.
    • If you honestly can pay in full at any time, without any form of advance notice from me, be sure to tell me that as early in this lengthy process as you can. Otherwise, I will assume you need some amount of time to come up with the money. (That's fine, too, but the other way may avoid delays.)
    • Wait for my e-mail reply. I will tell you specifically that you are now on my non-binding waiting lists. If you do not hear from me in a day or two, feel free to e-mail me again, but I'm usually pretty quick to respond, and am usually pretty good at holding up my end of the communication process.
  2. Phase two begins when I tell you that you are now officially on my in-house, non-binding waiting list.
    • Once you are on the waiting list, please be sure you are aware of what that means. It is just a list of people that are waiting for their turn, not a firm list of people who have ordered something from me. Everyone waits for their turn; there is no way around it. I am only one person, and I can only do so much at any given time, so I am processing orders in multiple small batches instead of all at once. I feel this is the only good way for me to run this project, given all of the special circumstances.
    • While you are waiting, you may want to pass the time by checking out the nearly-daily updates that I post publicly on the web in my Timeline text. This text exists to keep interested parties informed as to my daily progress, and it saves me from having to answer a zillion "Is it done yet?" questions, by way of private e-mail. (I can concentrate on the project's work itself, if I post brief daily updates.)
    • If you are really impatient and really bored, and you are still looking for something to do while you wait, you could always read the rest of this Multicart FAQ?
    • If it appears that the process of waiting will involve more than a few days, I may also send out a brief "I am still alive and did not forget you" type of update e-mails, at roughly two week intervals.
    • If finding the money to pay for this may be a problem later on, now is the time to start saving up.
  3. Phase three is an informal overlap period between two batches of multicarts. It begins when I feel that I am nearing the end of making the current small batch of carts, and I am almost ready to begin working on the next batch after that. There is no set time period for when this will be. The time will vary according to various unpredictable factors; it could be tomorrow, it could be weeks from now. You will be able to tell when this time is approaching if you are following the daily updates in my Timeline text at regular intervals.
  4. Phase four begins when I write one short, bulk e-mail to everyone on my waiting list. The bulk e-mail will tell everyone that another batch is about to begin, and will ask everyone the same basic question: who still wants to buy one of these items, and has the money to pay for their cartridges right now (or will soon)?
    • The details of this phase of the process have been constantly evolving over time. The basic idea is to take all the people who have once said they were interested, and to sub-divide them into four new groups. One group of people remain on my non-binding waiting list, with no change in their status. (They either lost interest, they don't have the money right now, they prefer to wait, or something similar.) A second group moves up to a firm and binding "on order" status. A third group is a new wrinkle; the people that have told me they can pay me in full at any time, with no problems at all, as soon as I ask for their money. These people are still really part of the non-binding waiting list, but they will be my first contacts if something non-routine happens. (For instance if I make more carts in a given batch than I really need for that batch -- as I did during batch #2 -- these people will be the ones I privately ask first, if and when I need a quick buyer for one of these "extra" carts.) A fourth group are those people that for one reason or another, lost interest in obtaining a multicart and want to be removed from my mailing lists. (Just tell me so, as long as you have not actually ordered.)
    • When I send out my "phase four" bulk e-mail, the first few people to respond saying they definitely will have the money to pay me whenever I am ready to ask for payment in full, become the next few customers whose status will be upgraded from the non-binding "waiting list" status to "order" status. Be sure you really want the item, and have the money, or do not waste my time saying that you do!
    • During the start of this phase, I will check my e-mail often and will reply quickly as e-mails come in. Past experience shows that some people reply in less than one hour's time, while others may take two weeks to respond. (I am not in a financial position that will allow me to simply wait and wonder so "first come, first served" unless someone tells me up front that they can pay in full at any time.)
    • Once I have enough people for the next batch, I will send out another bulk e-mail to all of those who still waiting, telling them that the list is now closed for the time being. (If a person is not sure they still want to order one, they can choose to just keep waiting while they decide. That's fine.)
  5. Phase five (and higher) involves only those people whose order status was upgraded during phase four. Everyone else stays in a "holding pattern," as it were, until their personal order status is upgraded. Sorry.
    • The people that have moved upwards from a non-binding "waiting list" status to a firm and binding "on order" status will be given the opportunity to pick the cartridge number they want from a list of all remaining cartridge numbers. I send out a list by e-mail at this point, one person at a time. This seems to me to be the best way to avoid a rush on such things, with added presure on everyone. I do NOT offer this to anyone until they have made a firm "I have the money right now" commitment to buy AND I have told them that they are included in the short list of people that will "go next".
    • Contrary to what some collectors might think, many people seem to prefer a favorite number, and will choose that number instead of the next number in the series. (Thanks go to Chris Neiman, who first asked me to do this for him. He could have had one of the first four or five pairs of carts made, but he chose seven instead.) This further reduces the pressure of getting an "early number".
    • The batch will most likely take days or weeks to fill. To watch my daily progress, see the Timeline text. I listed all of the necessary steps that each order will take in check box form, and I also include descriptive text along with it. I also am categorizing time periods by "batch number" in my timeline test, to give a better overview of just that single period. With all this, you should have a much better idea of how much longer your order will be, based on current progress versus past experiences.
    • I plan to send out e-mail updates every two weeks or so, just to communicate well if things will take a long time. (And because a few people either prefer that method over reading the timeline text or are blissfully unaware that I've even taken the time to make any kind of daily online updates.)
  6. Phase six involves the actual purchase arrangements, when the cart is done or is nearly done.
    • When an individual customer's hand-made and individually-numbered multicart is completed and has been tested -- or is very near that point -- I will send out an individual e-mail. It will ask that person to send me payment in full including all shipping costs. (There may be some overlap in these steps to accomodate payment methods that take longer than others to arrive and to clear the bank.)
    • When that person's payment arrives, I will say so by e-mail so they don't worry about its arrival.
    • When their payment actually clears my bank, I will mail out their hand-made and hand-numbered item(s). As soon as it is actually in the mails, I will e-mail them again so they know it is on its way. I send out any applicable tracking numbers at that time, and where they can look that up online.
    • I would prefer to hear from the customer when the item arrives so I don't worry about its arrival, but of course that is up to the individual. I don't have any real control over that, but most people usually do it. (A tracking number doesn't necessarily tell me it arrived safely, just that it arrived.)
  7. Phase seven involves watching for any technical problems that might arise during the warranty period. Any problems that arise will be dealt with accordingly. Any known problems will be listed in this FAQ. It is also a good time for me to get feedback from the customer, on how they like their personal multicart(s). 
  8. Phase eight is really just a return to "phase three" to start on another small batch of carts. This will take place when all of the customers in this current batch have been taken care of. After that, when I start on the next batch depends on my personal commitments, which I have no way of predicting in advance.

A few important points regarding this ordering process:

  • Note that I am NOT accepting payment until nearly all of the steps of the process are complete. (Phase six.) This is admittedly for my own peace of mind so I don't feel overly pressured, but it also obviously protects you. My reason for doing things this way are simple; I have a deep respect for "Murphy's Law". Many homebrew projects don't work out as planned. Set-backs are inevitable in any new project, really. The only intelligent way to handle this reality, in my opinion, is to hope for the best but plan for the worst.
  • One of the main reasons I am doing all of this, in the precise way that I am doing it, is that it gives me the freedom to pace myself well. By only taking a few confirmed orders at any one time, and by leaving most other people on a waiting list, I can quickly slow down the pace of new orders, or stop taking any future orders entirely. I feel this is simply a wise precaution, given the totally unpredictable nature of my current day-to-day work and play schedules? I can't predict my future more than a few days in advance, so I'd be monumentally foolish to simply take everyone's money up front and to simply hope for the best!? Doing things this way gives both of us the most logical set of inevitable compromises, and seems fair to all parties.
  • I reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, for any reason whatsoever. This includes but is not limited to the concept that I've dealt with someone before, and I consider past experiences with them to have been unpleasant or unnecessarily complicated. My reasoning is simple... it is my life, to do with as I please. This project is only marginally "worth it" to me from a financial standpoint. That said, I simply have no desire to waste my time interacting with people that want to be mean or rude to others, or are otherwise unpleasant.
  • I reserve the right to handle orders in whatever sequence makes sense to me at the time, given many unpredictable variables. For instance, I may take people "out of order" on the waiting list. My intent here is not to be sneaky or play favorites, but to simply leave myself room to operate as efficiently as possible. My decision to do this will help potential customers as well as myself. For example, a number of people want a multicart but currently have no system to play it on, so waiting awhile makes sense for them. Or a person may want one, but they do not have the full purchase price at that particular moment, and they may have to wait while saving money to purchase one. Or they told me thay have the money any time I request it. Etc.
  • I will NOT automatically assume a person wants to buy something from me. Nor do I wish to "cold call" or otherwise pester people into buying something that they have expressed only vague interest in. To play it safe, I decided when this project began that if you did not specifically express written interest in buying one of these specific multicarts -- since their first public appearance in August 2001 at CGE -- then you are NOT considered to be on my non-binding list of people that may want one of these items. If you do not start the process at the beginning, you're never going to reach the end, and actually get one of these items.
  • I no longer read anything that is posted to any Usenet newsgroup, including "rec.games.video.classic". If you expressed interest in a purchase in any Usenet newsgroup, then everyone but me knows about it.

What I hope to gain from this is a win-win situation for both parties. A relaxed, non-obsessive, non-stressful plan will keep me happy and motivated over the long term. Using this method, only a few people can become angry with me at once, if Murphy's Law suddenly comes into play and my schedule prevents me from working on this project much. (For instance, if I have to get a new "day job" and my free-time availability suddenly changes.)

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Q. After I have ordered one of these carts, how will I know when mine will be ready?
A. My best advice is for you to read this FAQ first, and then to "pay attention" to any e-mails that I send you.

It is hard to know what is under- or over-communicating, on a per-person basis? Some people seem to prefer almost daily progress reports. Others are in "don't bug me till you're finished and ready to ship" mode. I have no personal problem with either preference, but please realize that this does create very real difficulties on my end.

The best compromise I have worked out so far is to send out brief e-mail updates at roughly two-week intervals, while putting most of the daily, minute-by-minute stuff online in my timeline text. (See ordering info for details.)

If you are impatient and/or just want to watch the daily, step-by-step progress of this project, click here to check out my project timeline text. It should have more than enough detail to satisfy any cravings for continual updates.

I don't want to "Spam" people with constant e-mail updates they do not want, hence my having made this FAQ and the timeline. My intent was to allow people to satisy their needs for an update at their own personal pace.

However, many people do not bother to read either one, despite having been e-mailed the link to it more than once. That puts me in a very difficult position as well. Some of these people may decide I am not communicating at all, if I do not send out regular e-mail updates? In fact, I have already run into that problem more than once.

At first, I probably sent out too much info by e-mail. I began to feel like I was probably spamming some people. I then started the timeline text online. I sent out an e-mail or two that told people about it. I included the web link. A few weeks went by. Judging by the new silence, I thought people liked this new method. Then a few people began to send me semi-angry requests for progress reports, as if I had just disappeared entirely. It was obvious they had not read or saved my earlier e-mails or they would not have been waiting for any more e-mail updates. I was then forced to inform them the problem was really their own, for not having paid enough attention in the past. Not wanting to embarrass anyone, I sent out one last bulk e-mail, re-explaining where to look for updates. More time passed. Then I got an e-mail reply to that bulk e-mail. Yes, it asked me for an update. You just can't win?!

Bottomline, I am certainly doing my part to communicate well. Good communication is a two-way street. I will not take any responsibility for the consequences of your own faulty assumptions, if you refused to do your part.

I say this because I honestly anticipate that some people will totally ignore my written ordering procedures and then get angry at me, when that creates problems for them. The scenario I dread the most is that someone will blissfully assume that they are one of my next customers, when in fact they are not even on my waiting lists.

This is not outside the realm of possibility. A number of people have already (badly) assumed that I would have just automatically included them in the list of interested parties, even though they never told me specifically that they were interested. They were often surprised and perhaps hurt when they wrote to ask me how much longer it would be to get their particular cart, and I was forced to tell them they were never even on the waiting list to get one. (Simply put, I cannot read minds. I don't know other people's financial situations. I do not wish to apply any pressure to sell these things. I've decided you have to come to me and express interest. That protects everyone.)

Fair warning: If I have not told you in writing that you are on my waiting list for one cart or both, that means you are NOT on my list of interested parties. Period. Nothing will happen until you have begun the ordering process. The list is not binding, so if you think you MIGHT be seriously interested, it behooves you to be on my lists.

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Q. What games will be included? Will it be "everything"?
A. The reality is that no multicart is likely to ever be totally "complete". As soon as one person finds an official one-of-a-kind proto, or someone creates a new homebrew game, every multicart for that system suddenly becomes "incomplete" overnight. (See these notes on the subject, so I don't have to beat that dead horse again.)

I plan to include as much as will fit onto the half-a-megabyte EPROM memory chip inside each cart, up to every thing that I have ROM image access to. (Obviously, if no one I know has a ROM image of "random cart X" then I cannot include it.) If the memory chip's space fills up over time, there won't be room left for new stuff, but there seems to be plenty of left-over room at this point to meet the expected level of new finds. (See also upgrades.)

Let me tell you a story before you read the software lists below....

"There once was a great video game programmer. Everyone that played any of his early games all agreed that he was obviously born to be a Programming God. After many years of working for large software companies, this programmer went off on his own to make the game he had long dreamed about. It would be the game even he would love to play.

He poured his whole life into this game for many months. He kept its development and his progress a closely guarded secret. Only a handful of the man's most trusted friends were ever allowed to see it. To keep his overall secret he never showed more than a few parts of this game to anyone. Even then, those that saw it could not help but tell others what a great game it was going to be when it was finally finished. One day long after he had first begun working on it, he put the final touches on the game. Even by his high standards, it was now good enough to show to the world. He just couldn't wait to show it off!

Sadly, on the day that he was scheduled to have the only known copy duplicated for mass production, he was killed while crossing a street. Nobody knows for sure whether the trash truck that hit him actually ran a red light, or if he was just day-dreaming and stepped out into the street. Paramedics pronounced the man dead not long after arriving on the scene. They did find the one copy he had on him at the time, but it was destroyed beyond any recovery. No one knows for sure if any other copies exist or are playable.

At the funeral his best friend spoke. He referred to the game but admitted that he wasn't sure what its real name was going to be. Before that, nobody had ever thought to ask. At some later point, someone else referred to it as 'the trash truck game'. The name stuck."

There is only one problem with that story... it is fiction. There is no truth to any of it. I made up every word.

Why would I do this? Simply to illustrate an important point. You should not allow yourself to become overly obsessed with finding and/or obtaining something, no matter how good it sounds or who told you about it.

What I just did was to intentionally deceive you. That was admittedly rotten. Shame on me... et cetera. My point is that many well-meaning people do much the same thing with the best of intentions, every day. Other than the actual intent of a person, I don't see much of a significant difference? A false statement is still a false statement.

Over the years I have done a lot of historical research related to obscure gaming systems. I have tracked down and archived dozens of rare games for those same systems. I think I know something about seperating fiction and truth on this particular subject? And the sad reality is that until you actually have something in your hot little hands, you never know for sure whether it exists or not, or if it is anything like past descriptions have portrayed it.

One quick example: I had one former-programmer-turned-software-exec swear up and down that he had a copy of one of his earliest, rarest games... as a cartridge. Months of looking took place; a literally global search for this mythical cart. Guess what? Despite his having repeatedly denied that the game was sold as a cassette instead, that turned out to be exactly what had happened. Our suspicions were right, and he had been wrong, all along. Oh well. Stuff happens. People make simple, honest mistakes every day. We're all human. Humans are all fallible.

About halfway through my archival effort on the Commodore VIC-20 computer cartridge software library, I substantially revised my evolving methods to give this growing realization the full respect it deserved. I had to.

I quit treating every name on everyone else's prior software "want lists" as if it was just out there, somewhere, waiting to be found. I started from scratch. Everything on those want lists was officially downgraded to being exactly what it was; just a name written down on a list. I asked people I trusted to tell me what they had in their own collections at that very moment. Those names, and only those names, were moved up one reliability notch: from "rumored" to actually "confirmed". Many of those names languished in one of those two categories for years. Eventually, many moved up to "archived". And some are still names, with no one able to say who had "said so".

Some we thought were surely vaporware, we eventually ended up getting our hands on. Others we would have sworn were just dying to leap out at us and announce their presence, still have not been found. I learned that you can only speculate and hope for the best. You have no real control over what will or will not show up in time.

If you ever find yourself stressing out over your own searches remember the "Trash Truck" game. Then go dust off your collection, plug in some old favorites and remind yourself why you got into this hobby in the first place!

Bally Astrocade programs
(Version 1.3)

Emerson Arcadia 2001 programs
(Version 1.1)

  • 280 Zzzap, Dodgem
  • Amazing Maze, Tic-Tac-Toe
  • Artillery Duel (cartridge version)
  • Artillery Duel (original BASIC type-in version)
  • Astro Battle
  • Backgammon
  • Bally Pinball
  • Baseball, Handball, Hockey, Tennis
  • Biorythm
  • Blackjack, Acey Deucy, Poker
  • Blast Droids
  • Bowling
  • Brickyard, Clowns
  • Candyman
  • Checkers (BASIC)
  • Chicken
  • Collision Course (BASIC)
  • Coloring Book
  • Conan (Never finished)
  • Connect Four (BASIC)
  • Cosmic Raider
  • Demo: Bally BASIC
  • Demo: Bally Pro Arcade
  • Dogpatch
  • Flying Ace (BASIC)
  • Football
  • Galactic Invasion
  • Galaxian
  • Gate Escape (BASIC)
  • Gold Digger (BASIC)
  • Grand Prix, Demolition Derby
  • Great American Jigsaw (BASIC)
  • ICBM Attack (uses standard Bally controller.)
  • ICBM Attack (requires a custom-made controller to work, but works OK if you have one.)
  • Incredible Wizard, The
  • Letter Match, Spell 'n Score, Crosswords
  • Life (by R. Diegler, not the J. Fenton version.)
  • Mazeman (Has no sound but this is normal. The original author wrote it to help keep kids quiet.)
  • Monkey Jump (BASIC)
  • Ms. Candyman
  • Muncher (three versions including "no die".)
  • Music Maker (This runs, but the original had an added tape I/O port like the AstroBASIC cart. Without it you just can't load or save anything.)
  • O-Jello (BASIC)
  • Old Bent Nose (BASIC)
  • Outpost 19 (BASIC)
  • Pac-Man (One of three "Muncher" variants.)
  • Pirates Chase
  • Putt-Putt golf (BASIC)
  • QB-2B (BASIC)
  • Quadra (seven programs in BASIC. It requires at least a Blue Ram to run. "Snoop camera" also needs and NEC printer and a printer interface to use all of its features.)
  • Red Baron, Panzer Attack
  • Road Toad
  • Sea Devil
  • Seawolf, Missile
  • Simon (BASIC, two versions)
  • Sneaky Snake
  • Soccer
  • Solar Conqueror
  • Songs (A selection of songs by George Moses.)
  • Space Fortress
  • Space Invaders
  • Speed Math, Bingo Math
  • Star Battle
  • Super Slope (BASIC)
  • Tests (user-written hardware testing program)
  • Treasure Cove
  • Video Storybook (Runs, but is very hard to understand without instructions or an overlay)
  • Wack-a-mole (BASIC)
  • Yahtzee (BASIC, two versions)
  • Yesterday (It just plays the song of that name.)

Programming languages and utilities:

  • BASIC (Astrocade version, 2000 baud)
  • BASIC (Bally version, 300 baud)
  • BASIC (Vipersoft version. Will not run without additional RAM; 12k minimum, 32k maximum.)
  • Blue Ram BASIC (requires additional RAM from $6000-6fff)
  • Blue Ram Utility (requires RAM and an 8154)
  • MLM ("Machine Language Manager")


  • There are still ten "empty 8k holes" left at this point that can be filled with anything new we find.
  • Some programs will not run on any Bally without additional hardware or RAM. This is normal. If you do have the additional hardware or RAM needed, these programs should all work fine.
  • Games that say they require Blue Ram BASIC (BRB) fall into the "added hardware" category.
  • Some programs are in AstroBASIC (AB). You can play these hybrid "used to be tapes" carts with the multicart; just switch the multicart over to AstroBASIC when the program ask you to.

  • 3-D Bowling
  • 3-D Soccer
  • Alien Invaders
  • American Football
  • Astro Invader
  • Auto Race
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Brain Quiz
  • Breakaway
  • Capture
  • Cat Trax
  • Combat
  • Crazy Climber
  • Crazy Gobbler
  • Escape
  • Funky Fish
  • Golf
  • Grand Prix de Monaco
  • Grand Slam Tennis
  • Hobo
  • Horse Racing
  • Jump Bug
  • Jungler
  • Missile War
  • Ocean Battle
  • Panzerspiel
  • Pleiades
  • R2D Tank
  • Red Clash
  • Robot Killer
  • Route 16
  • Soccer
  • Space Attack
  • Space Mission
  • Space Raiders
  • Space Squadron
  • Space Vultures
  • Spiders
  • Star Chess
  • Super Gobbler
  • Tanks A Lot
  • The End
  • Turtles


  • There are nineteen "empty 8k holes" left at this point, for any new programs we find.
  • If those fill up, I can retro-fit in the fancier memory organization scheme of the Bally cart to use space that is being wasted now.
  • Many of the games above have never been officially released for the "Emerson" system. This collection is actually far more complete than any "real" collection of carts could be, as it includes various MPT-03 or Palladium games that will play just fine when used on an Emerson system. To have a playable collection of this size without this multicart, you would have to own three different game systems. (See the Emerson Arcadia 2001 FAQ on Ward's web site for an explanation of these cartridge or system families.)
  • To see more info on these carts, see either my Emerson section in the "Digital Press Collectors Guide" version six, or my online cart software lists on my Emerson web site.
  • "Golf" does not work. It came from an MPT-03 cart unlike any we have ever seen. (I am sure that the cartridge ROM image dump was good as I desoldered the two 4k chips from the PC board and read them in directly, instead of using an adapter device.) This unique cart had two bank-select lines that no other MPT-03 cart has ever had. To top it off, we've never seen the actual system it runs on to trace where they go. Long story short, this game does not work properly now, and it will never do so until someone actually rewrites the code of the program to make it work. That isn't likely? I would not hold my breath waiting for it.

If you want any additional information be aware that I keep up-to-date,
public lists of what ROM images are or are not available to me at any given
time. These lists include any games rumored to exist, as well as any that have
been confirmed to exist but that have not been archived to our knowledge.
In this way, you can also see what games are "missing" from the multicart.

The Emerson's have/want list (of ROM images) is at this address:

The Bally system's full ROM image have/want list can be found at:

Ward maintains a web site about the Emerson system. See it at:

Also, Adam Trionfo runs a Bally discussion group at this address:

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Q. Can these carts be upgraded later, to put more games on them when new ROM images are available?
A. Yes. I went out of my way to make both carts' ROM contents upgradable.

Both carts have room left over; see the ROM image lists for notes on how many "blank spaces" are still left.

Your multicart would have to be mailed to Ward, who would perform the upgrade and mail the cart back to you. (This is the "standard way" they get upgraded; Sean Kelly and other hardware guys use this same procedure.)

The cost for an upgrade is not set in stone yet, but I don't plan to charge for much more than recouping my actual costs, mostly for my actual time spent and for return postage. As long as no physical modifications or new parts are necessary, I don't plan to charge more than $10 to $20 for the addition of new ROMs onto either multicart.

Because I knew I would be doing these upgrades or updates sooner or later, the Emerson cart's custom label artwork was designed so that they are not damaged by any of the four normally-hidden screw holes under them.

One thing common to both multicarts is that there will have to be a printed chart included with each cart, to tell a person what programs are stored on that cart and what the DIP switch settings are to activate each of them. To keep things as simple and as user-friendly as possible in the long term, I plan to do my best to keep the older settings "valid" per each program, with any new programs using unused DIP switch settings at each upgrade. In other words, I'm doing my best to plan ahead early, so that you don't have to "re-learn" the DIP switch settings.

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Q. When and how will you be looking for new game ROM images?
A. I apologize in advance if this section seems overly defensive. I just want to make sure that I am being perfectly clear on this important subject, as this is one of the subjects most likely to cause friction over the long term.

Let me say this up front, to put things into proper perspective and to make the overall tone more positive: even "AS IS," these two ROM image collections are already more complete than most video gaming experts would likely have ever dreamed possible. In many cases, there are games planned for release on my Bally and Emerson multicarts that even the most hardcore, long-term collectors had simply never heard of, before this year. I ought to know, because I'm one of the section authors of the hobby's most respected guide to collecting video games.

My aquisition plan is to maintain my "pre-multicart-release" methods. That is, a pretty relaxed and non-stressful pace with a minimum of money spent on any new ROMs. Things still get done, obviously, so why rush things?

Keep in mind that other gaming systems (Atari 2600, Vectrex, etc.) all have groups of people that are each seperately working on archiving new ROMs. The person making such a multicart may just download the image off the net, and offer it as an upgrade. I think it is wonderful that can happen, and I hope it continues to happen.

However, in the case of these much-more-obscure video game systems, the burden for finding and archiving any new ROM images falls largely (if not entirely) on my shoulders. I can't offer any new ROM image to you unless I first can find a rare cart somewhere and archive it myself. That's an important difference to grasp! (Please try!)

I did do something to help that along, as best I could. I mailed off my own two custom-made archiving cables, to Joe Santulli at "Digital Press," back in March of 2001. (And made myself new ones.) Joe is not very familiar with archiving things himself just yet, but I am assisting him with technical information whenever he requests it. And of course he has others around him locally that should be able to help him. Whether or not this will ever result in the aquisition of new ROM images for either of these systems is beyond my control, but I did try to raise the odds?

Also, please note that I've made pinout diagrams and other technical information publicly available. If anyone out there wants to get involved with archiving new ROMs for these systems, the necessary information is available?

Bottomline... To cover myself and reduce misunderstandings , I am hereby announcing that I intend to make and sell these multicarts on an "AS IS" basis, where ROM images are concerned. I am not promising any new ROMs beyond those already included. If I do offer new ROM images, just consider it a bonus, not a paid-for feature!

"You can't get blood out of a turnip." Similarly, guys like me can't pay others to obtain new ROM images from a non-profit hobby project. Therefore, I am publicly announcing that I have NO intention of paying what I myself would consider to be insanely high "collector" prices for anything that is listed on my ROM image "want" lists. (In fact, I hereby reserve the right to decide not to pay anything for any new ROM images, period.)

I am not saying any of this to be mean or rude. I want to be fair to every potential multicart buyer, hence all of these warnings. As I mentioned before, my personal income simply will not allow any project to be funded out of my own pocket. There is no "profit" involved in this project since I am simply charging buyers for my parts and labor. Therefore, I have no financial resources to draw upon where new ROM images are concerned. Period.

Another reason I want to clearly forewarn potential multicart customers is that it may literally take years to finally find the last of these ROM images, even under the best of all possible circumstances. I am basing that assumption on three major things....

  • First, we've already found just about everything that there is to find. I have included more games now, than the software lists in the most respected printed publications have even mentioned as "rumored" carts! That alone insures that "diminishing returns" applies, big-time, from now on.
  • Second, there are only a tiny handful of people that are or ever have been actively involved with archiving efforts for any of the more obscure and/or less popular systems. The pace of archiving on a very popular system like the Atari 2600 has no real relevance to "also ran" game systems like the Emerson. If and when there are dozens of people involved with something, of course their combined efforts will progress at a faster pace. It is to be expected. However, it should be self-evident that the opposite is also true.
  • Last but not least, I have been archiving ROMs for various obscure systems since 1994. (Commodore VIC-20, AdventureVision, and these two obscure systems.) I know from experience that the first carts come relatively quickly and in relatively great numbers, at the start of any archiving project. Once that period ends, diminishing returns set in. Things still show up once in a very long while, even seven years later, but it isn't worth waiting for in advance. In my very experienced opinion, only a small handful of new images are likely to show up in any given year, at this point. (To see what I mean, check out the seperate multicart timeline I created.) I have little or no control over all that, and it is only fair to clarify that now.

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Q. What can I do to help get more ROM images, to have a "complete" library available?
A. There are many possible answers to this question.Which one applies to you depends on how obsessed or relaxed you are about the subject.

The most direct way you can help is a cart loan. If you own a cartridge that is not on my "have" lists, and you are willing to loan it to me for a short period so that I can archive it, contact me by e-mail and we'll work out the details. (But please remember that my financial situation will not allow any money to change hands. Sorry!)

If you know someone personally that owns a cart, and you are a friend of that person, consider pointing them towards this FAQ. They can then read about what I'm doing, and decide for themselves if they want to help or not with this archiving effort. (Be aware that I've contributed to four different system's ROM image library over the years, even before things like emulation were around. ROMs that I archive generally also get emulated.)

If you know of someone that owns a given cartridge, but you do not know that person themselves, PLEASE treat that person very gently! If you do try to get them to help out, and they show signs of not wanting to help, that is their decision. Please leave them alone! Please do not put any pressure on them! It is their decision to make. Like it or not, "no" is an acceptable answer. (I say this for a number of reasons, good manners among them.)

In the past, most of those willing to help say "yes" almost immediately. It has been my experience that just about everything shows up later in the hands of someone willing to help out, if one source is reluctant to help. I beg you not to get obsessed with pestering anyone for their possessions. It isn't healthy, and it isn't helpful.

I learned through my ROM archiving efforts on four different classic game systems that it is difficult to get people to even discuss their gaming finds in detail (to get part numbers, etc.), let alone to have them loan their prized possesions out to some stranger. That's just basic human nature? Most people just don't care about other's needs, wants, or emotions. If they can't get something out of an effort personally, they won't make that effort.

Most of the carts that exist now on my want list are either going to take years to show up, or will not show up at all. That's beyond my control. Please try to accept that, and please be relaxed and non-obsessive about it!?

My stance is this: "If some person is willing to loan me a cart they have, great. If not, oh well; I can't help it." I try to be both patient and grateful to those people who are generous enough to loan me a cart to archive. If this involved finding a cure to cancer, I'd try harder. But it is just a hobby. Hobbies shouldn't become obsessions.

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Q. How many people have expressed interest in buying one of these?
A. Excellent question! The short answer is, "not very many at all". Not enough to make this all financially feasible.

In the first six weeks that the public was aware that these were going to be offered for sale, 26 total carts were spoken for. That is for both systems combined, making the system average barely over one dozen each. (By any reasonable financial standard that makes the project a complete waste of my time. But I kept going anyway.)

Of these initial expressions of interest, only a fraction seemed to be truly hardcore fans of one system or the other. Most people appear to be just buyers of anything new and unusual, or video game collectors in general. Some even admit that openly. I have my doubts as to how many of these items are actually going to be "played with"?

One other thing to consider is that I've been told by some very knowledgable and experienced homebrewers that the percentage of people that actually make good on their promise to buy a project when it comes out, is very low. (I've been quoted figures as low as five percent of those expressing interest on well-known projects.) This makes the project even less worthwhile, if one is considering this a business venture and not just a hobby project?

Subtract from that remaining figure -- pitiful as it already is -- the large percentage of people that either want to pay less than my full asking price, or want to just trade me some of their stock of gaming items instead of paying anything at all. (Easily fourty percent.) This whole thing quickly becomes a laughable thing; a financial disaster waiting to happen. At best, I'm doing this as a labor of love? At worst, I'm wasting my time.

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Q. How much work goes into building one of these multicarts?
A. More than enough, believe me! As one supporter recently told me, "No sane person would do what you are doing. We're glad you're insane." If I had a "normal" day job I might never have seriously considered doing it.

One way I can give you a detailed look into the process is to refer you to my Timeline text, and to the cost section of this FAQ. The cost section has a detailed breakdown of all of the parts and labor costs involved. The Timeline text includes a section that describes the step-by-step chores necessary to build one cartridge, as well as keeping track of the overall amount of work it took to create all of the multicarts that were made so far. Be sure to multiply the steps you see there by the total amount of people that are willing to pay for one or both carts.

Sean Kelly wrote a great article that I think explains the level of work necessary to make a cartridge very well.

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Q. I like your custom label artwork. How did you make it?
A. The short story is that I used my IBM-compatible personal computer, my flatbed scanner, and a program called "Paint Shop Pro" to actually create the labels. I printed them out on my Lexmark 5700 inkjet printer, using adhesive-backed paper made for inkjet printers. (A trick that I learned from being in the "A#1FLC" label club.)

I'll try to add some more details to this explanation, at some future point.

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Q. Why don't you sell some of these on eBay?
A. People keep asking me that, lately. Sometimes they ask it as if they thought I was dense, since I apparently did not think of that on my own. The reality is I did think of it, almost instantly. And I rejected the idea just as quickly.

These people are correct in saying that I could probably get more money for any unit sold that way. However, if this project was strictly about money, I would simply charge much more. (Or abandon this project and go find a part-time job instead.) Yes, money is very important to me; I need all I can get. But listing an item on eBay that is considered to be questionable due to software copyright concerns is not going to benefit anyone in the long run.

I realize some people will argue that "nobody will care". No offense, but that's really not much of an argument.

From the years of effort I've put into my "Digital Archaeology" researching efforts, it should be clear that I deeply respect the imaginative artistry and technical skills involved, which made these games possible in the first place. I respect the people that made these games. I am making the best moral compromise I know how in both helping to preserve and display these artifacts of our cultural past, while trying to adhere to the spirit of copyright laws.

I feel very good about the feedback I have received over the years from various software authors of this era. They generally seem to be glad to see people still care about their early artistic works. They generally don't mind non-profit distribution. I think they'd support my efforts, as is, but agressively seeking profit is a very bad idea. I see mutual respect as the best way to keep both sides of this -- creators and admirers -- contented and happy.

I care how the rights of other artists are treated. I want others to know I understand and support their rights. I will not sell these items on eBay myself and I do not support anyone else who would try to re-sell these items for profit. I am selling these on a strict "one to a customer" basis, in part to discourage any such resale efforts.

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Q. I don't like your rules. I want special treatment. How do I get special treatment?
A. Take a very deep breath. Hold it. Continue to hold it. Be very patient. If you pass out before you get what you want, that means you probably were not trying hard enough. Go back to the beginning and start all over again.

Seriously, you are not going to do yourself any good by putting pressure on me to give you special treatment.

I made these rules to protect myself, to protect my customers, and to make things as fair as circumstances will allow. The simple reality is that there are roughly six billion people on this planet, and only one of me. No matter how much of my life I dedicate to this project, those numbers clearly indicate that I simply can't avoid one or more interested people becoming a "have not". If I simply have to cut someone out of the loop, I'd rather it be someone that has made my life complicated and miserable, rather than someone that has added value to my life.

If someone is working hard to make my life miserable and complicated instead of fun and simple, I'm going to do whatever is necessary to protect myself from that abuse. That may mean I'll end up pushing the difficult people to the back to the line, as it were, so that I can give my full attention to pleasing the customers who aren't a pain. In some cases, I'm going to take Thoreau's advice to simplify my life by refusing to do business with certain people.

I am not going to abandon the results of decades of mental discipline and training in a foolish attempt to do the impossible for the ungrateful with inadequate resources. I have limits, and that means that neither one of us is going to get everything they want out of this. That's life. Like it or not, we can't have all of the candy in the store.

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Q. Other multicart creators did things much better than you plan to, when they put out their multicart for [insert any of the more popular "Classic" game systems]. Why can't you be more like them?
A. If I were more like them, I would not have made these multicarts at all. You should be glad I'm not like them!

The truth is, I tried to get the "big names" interested in doing projects like these, on-and-off, for a number of years. So did a lot of other people. None of them wanted to do it. Frankly, I don't blame them given the huge financial gamble it would have meant to them, with little or no chance of breaking even let alone making a profit?

I don't consider myself to be their competitor, and I seriously doubt that they see me as their competitor? I am glad that between all of us we're managing to "cover all the bases" for fans of various old gaming systems.

The only reason that I am even able to consider offering these multicarts at all, is that I was fortunate enough to have learned how to design and etch my own circuit boards using relatively inexpensive equipment and methods. The other hobbyist game manufacturers have to rely on outside vendors to create their boards. They risk tons of their own cash up front to make their multicart projects. (And they lost all of that start-up money in at least one case that I'm aware of. They made a simple mistake on the boards when they ordered them -- they reversed an image. This made every one of the non-returnable, paid-for circuit boards into garbage.)

I applaud any homebrew effort for the simple reason that I understand it is a "labor of love" sold at a loss. One of the things that saddens me the most in regards to people doing homebrew projects for others, is the nearly total lack of empathy shown to the artists creating this stuff. If you want to see projects like this one continue, PLEASE do not make it any more difficult than it already is, on any homebrew-type person! "Play nice."

Guys like us do not grow on trees, and are not easily replaced when we move on to bigger and better things. Our motivation is fragile enough to begin with. Please try to show some real empathy and compassion for us. Thanks.

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End of FAQ.