Timeline and news of the progress on Ward's multicarts

This text is part of the Multicart FAQ that was written to answer
 people's questions about these multicarts. See the main FAQ at:

Ward Shrake's e-mail address is:

Producing copies and shipping them out to customers

Pre-production: getting the "assembly line" up and running

Creating the original prototypes of Ward's multicarts

Events leading up to Ward's Bally and Emerson multicarts

Throughout this text the most recent news is at the top,
moving backwards in time (reverse-chronological order).

Checklist with stages of project completion
To get an idea of how close I am to being done
with the current batch of carts, review this checklist.

Final assembly, testing, etc.

Be ready to do any necessary repairs or upgrades,
as either Murphy's Law kicks in or as a new game
ROM image is archived and becomes available.
Check back with them to see that it arrived safely.
Ship the completed multicart to the customer.
Package the cartridge and the instructions carefully.
Wait for the customer's payment to arrive.
Play a few more games, just to enjoy yourself. By
now, you have certainly earned a little relaxation!
Using the printed instructions, manually switch each
game on one at a time, and reset the machine. Each
game should start and play perfectly. Be sure it does.
Insert and remove the cartridge a number of times.
Be sure that it starts and plays properly each time.
Fix any last-minute problems that have shown up.
(By now these are mostly just small glitches caused
by momentary stupidity, such as forgetting to solder
a wire on both of its ends or something similar.)
Do a quick pre-test of the functionality of each of the
seperate DIP switches, and of the cart itself. Certain
games are better than others for this quick pre-test;
it helps to have developed a list of what these are. Be
sure to play at least one of the largest games ROMs
to insure that all of the addressing lines are working.
Insert the new game cartridge into a game system.
Print out some instructions, on how to use the cart.
(At a minimum, the user needs to know what DIP
switch settings will activate each game.)
Insert the completed circuit board into the
completed plastic case. Reinsert all case screws.
Apply the stick-on label to the "new" plastic case.
(Be sure to get it on straight and wrinkle-free. Do
not touch the glued underside more than you must.)
If you are going to get really fancy and put some
little dots on your row of DIP switches -- to show
which side is zero and which is one -- do it now.
If you are going to get fancy and paint the row of
DIP switches to match the color of the plastic case,
do that now. (A paint marker works pretty well.)

Preparing the cart's plastic case

Cut each label to size, preferably with a quality
paper cutting machine instead of ordinary scissors.
If you are going to laminate the front side of each
label, do that now. (The local place I used to go to
for this service, no longer does it and I have not
found a suitable replacement place / method yet.)
Hand-number and initial each printed cartridge label.
Print out any required stick-on label artwork.
Gently and patiently file the edges of the DIP's
small hole as needed, until the DIP switches will fit
through the case snugly but without binding. A
number of trial fittings will likely be required, but if
you take your time, it will look like a factory hole.
Using a custom-made template, mark and cut
a small rectangular hole in each plastic case, so
the DIP switches can poke through the case. (It
helps to cut this hole slightly under-sized now, to
allow for any slight tolerances from cart to cart.)
There are a number of "extra" steps required for
the Emerson cart, to accomodate the daughter-
board with the DIP switches. Small plastic parts
have to be cut to size and glued into the interior
of the case, to hold this daughter-board in place.
There are four areas needing these extra braces.
Emerson cases are just barely roomy enough to
allow the main memory chip to be socketed. But
the case may still bind a bit in some instances, so it
is best to machine some of the case's interior away,
in the area just above the EPROM memory chip.
This makes the plastic a bit thinner in that area, but
since the plastic was so thick, it won't hurt anything.
On the Emerson, there may be some small parts
in the way of things, internally; it depends on the
case style. (Best cases are the long ones without
a movable flap that covers the edge connectors.)
Cut out any internal parts that will be in the way.
On the Bally cart, cut out one small internal brace
that is going to be in the way of the circuit board.
Clean the plastic case, inside and out. (Some of
the worst carts are filled with dirt, dead bugs, etc.) 
Open the cartridge case up. Discard or give away
the existing game ROM chip and the circuit board
inside; no part of it can be re-used for this project.
Get rid of any label glue residue left on the cart.
Remove any existing printed labels from the cart.
It helps to heat them with a high-watt hair dryer.
Locate and buy an existing game cartridge so you
can re-use the plastic case that it came in. This is
often much easier said than done, even on eBay!

Circuit board assembly

The Emerson has a simpler main circuit board but
it has a second, smaller "daughter-board" as well.
To hook these two boards together up, a length
of ribbon cable has to be cut to length, stripped on
both ends (nine wires) and tinned with solder. One
end of this small cable is soldered to each board.
Add the 12 required jumper wires to all Bally carts.
Add any required jumper wires to all Emerson
carts. (There are six total.) These wires must all
have been cut to length first, then had parts of their
insulation carefully stripped off. Solder one side of
each wire where it goes, then solder the other side.
Then repeat the process with the next jumper wire.
Insert either a 32-pin chip socket (Emerson) or
the actual EPROM memory chip (Bally) onto the
circuit board. Solder this into place.
Insert any required support chips. Solder them in.
Insert a small de-coupling capacitor. Solder it in.
Insert one set of eight DIP switches. Solder it in.
Insert either eight individual resistors, or one
"resistor pack" and one resistor. Solder them in.
Insert any required wires that electrically connect
both sides of the board together. Solder them in.

Preparing the memory chip

Check if the chip was 100% perfectly programmed.
Program one EPROM memory chip per cart with
the game ROM image contents of that multicart.
Check to be sure the chip is erased perfectly.
Erase the contents of one EPROM memory chip
using a special type of light, to prepare it for use.

Circuit board creation

The bulk of my time is spent creating circuit boards
from scratch. Once this stage is over with, I feel like
I am "over the hump" and am moving downhill ...

Make sure the board fits snugly into the case, in
exactly the position it is supposed to be in. File
it gently wherever needed, to position it perfectly.
If it is loose or crooked, the cartridge will not work.
(Even factory-made Emerson carts can be touchy.)
Sand down any rough edges or sharp spots. (You
may want to bevel some of the edges slightly, too.)
Sand the edges down, to the board's final shape.
Cut each actual board out of the sheet of raw
material, in the final shape it is supposed to be in.
(It is best to cut the board slightly over-size now.)
Carefully paint the board's surface with varnish,
to keep the copper from corroding over time. Do
both sides, avoiding edge connectors and so on.
Re-clean the board's surface, if necessary.
Hand-number each PC board.
Lightly cover each cartridge edge connector pin
with solder, then remove most of the solder. Clean
off all soldering flux. (The result makes a stronger
and easier-to-clean coating than the bare copper.)
Drill lots of tiny holes in each board -- 79 for the
Emerson multicart or 124 for the Bally cartridge.
Clean the etch resist coating off of each board.
Etch each board -- a special acid eats away any
part of the circuit that isn't supposed to be there.
Develop each board using special chemicals.
Expose each board to special light, through a
custom-made circuit board photo-mask.
Spray each board with a light-sensitive coating
and allow it to dry well. Repeat for other side.
Clean each board's surface really well.
Buy any required chemicals.
Buy the raw copper-plated PC board material.

Go to the top of this page

Producing copies of the multicarts and shipping them out to customers
To see the general rules of how I am handling all of my orders, click here. To get a better
idea of where I am in the overall process, scroll upwards to see what steps remain undone.

Timeline summary

Batch 4 Late Dec. 2001 to present
Batches 2 and 3 Early Nov. 2001 to late Dec. 2001
Batch 1 Late Oct. 2001 to early Nov. 2001
Pre-production Mid Aug. 2001 to late Oct. 2001
Early prototypes Apr. 2001 to mid Aug. 2001

Fourth batch of carts:
Things should start up again in early January, right after the holidays end. With any luck, all of my past experimentation and learning experiences should add up to faster turn-around time from now on?

  • Dec 28. Asked the four people that are ordering carts so far, what numbers they wanted on their carts. May go looking for a few supplies today to prepare for the work ahead, but I'm mostly still in "holiday mode" right now, since it is my birthday today. "Happy birthday to me, Happy birthday to me...."  :-)
  • Dec 27. I'm trying to get some of my most critical supplies; I can't start another batch without them. I called up the place that sells the spray sensitizer that I need to start on my new PC boards, but was told nobody would be in their offices again until the 2nd of January. (I'll still try to get the other supplies I need, in the meantime.)
  • Dec 23. It is becoming apparent to me that there is often some overlap between batches whether I plan for it or not? I have decided to try making that official from now on, and see how it goes. (One list of "official" orders as originally planned, but also some extra PC boards being made up at the beginning of the process, for sale towards the end of the batch.) This is still all a big experiment in some ways, with my plans slowly evolving.

Go to the top of this page

Second and third batches of carts:
Working on twenty-four total carts during this time period: twelve each of the Bally and Emerson models. Batch two consisted of eight Bally carts and six Emerson carts.  I intentionally made more than I needed to fill the official orders on batch two; these "extra carts" then became batch three. A lot of additional ROM image archiving also went on during this period, which made both of the game ROM libraries more complete. There was also a huge learning curve that took place this time around, which I am glad I won't have to repeat later.

  • Dec 27. Shipped out five more carts; one Bally cart by itself, and two pairs of both carts. This catches me up with all of the pre-paid orders, once more. I only have three more pairs of carts to ship, once payment arrives for those carts. (Two people planned to send me payments but got too busy to do so, with the holidays and all.) Mike White called me up from Ohio by phone, and told me that he has now confirmed that the recent updates are all fine, on the Bally cartridge. All of the bad ROM dumps were corrected, and everything works as well as it is supposed to. (Given that some games were either never finished, or were written by non-professionals.)
  • Dec 26. Worked on polishing the main Multicart FAQ up a bit, but mostly I just goofed off due to the holidays. (I am happy to report that at least one of my young nephews is now solidly hooked on playing "classic" games, thanks to the new Atari 2600 system they now have. And one other loves a few of my Bally's games, too.)
  • Dec 24 and 25. I'm officially "on strike" to celebrate Christmas with my family members. My little nephews, by the way, are getting introduced to classic gaming whether they like it or not -- they're getting an Atari 2600.  :-)
  • Dec 23. Added the 12 required jumper wires to each of the five remaining unfinished Bally carts. Tested all of those carts; they work fine. I just need to put them in their cases now, and add their labels, and then they will be ready to ship out. I also made some minor Multicart FAQ clarifications in preparation for the next batch of multicarts, which will begin soon. Over the last few days I have found buyers for nearly all of the "batch three" multicarts that were made in excess of "batch two" orders. These were buyers that promised me long ago that they could pay at any time, whenever I asked for payment. (I still have two nearly-completed Emerson carts left as of this afternoon, but all of the completed Bally carts are spoken for now.) Since I'm so close to the end of these two batches now, I sent out a bulk e-mail today to everyone that was on my waiting lists, to see who wants to move up to "Phase Four" of the multicart ordering process. Since the experiment of two combined batches worked OK this time -- one official and one sort of winging it -- I'll probably try it again, next time?
  • Dec 22. Mostly a day off to catch up on Holiday chores. I did add the 12 jumpers to one Bally cart using the new and improved assembly procedures I came up with yesterday. (It took less time and was far less hassle.)
  • Dec 21. Shipped two carts out; one each of the Emerson and Bally multicarts. This catches me up with all of the pre-paid orders to date, again. Made a revised in-house assembly procedure for the 12 Bally jumper wires.
  • Dec 20. Finished assembling and testing two multicarts, for a customer from batch three that paid for his carts earlier today. (He had put in a "I can pay at anytime" order with me, weeks ago.) I'll be shipping those out to him tomorrow. I have the remaining three Emerson carts from batch two all completed and ready for shipping now. (I also finished one extra up for my own personal use -- I actually didn't have one for myself, until today. Imagine that?! That's either cool or pathetic; I'm not 100% sure which?) I'm in very good shape Emerson-wise because even after all that I still have four more Emerson multicarts that are completed to the point that I just need to insert an EPROM chip into the board, and then put them into a case. (But I ran out of EPROMs and will have to order at least four more soon. I guess this means that I'm planning ahead for batch four, now?) I still have to add all of the twelve required jumpers on the remaining six Bally carts, then I'll be 100% finished with all of the carts in these two batches. Then I can start thinking about batch number four -- after a few holidays off!
  • Dec 19. Shipped six carts out; three each of the Emerson and Bally multicarts. This catches me up with all of the pre-paid orders. (The others are still in progress, and will most likely be ready to ship by week's end. But I'm still waiting for payment to arrive, so it is sort of a moot point.) I'm going to goof off today; go to the movies.
  • Dec 18. Soldered eleven Emerson daughterboards to their main PC boards. (I'm only one daughterboard short, for the dozen main PC boards I have now.) Plugged in and tested seven completed Emerson PC board sets; all of the ones needed for this batch, plus one for myself. Hand-fitted seven PC board sets into their plastic cases. Carefully hand-fitted the DIP switches through the holes in all seventeen of my currently available Emerson cart cases. Applied front and rear labels to the seven completed Emerson carts. Added the twelve jumper wires to the three Bally cartridges that will be shipped out very soon. Plugged those three carts in and made sure they work, using a specially made "test case". Hand-fitted six Bally PC boards into their cases; all of the carts for this batch. Hand-fitted the six Bally cart's DIP switch holes. Applied front and rear cart labels to the six Bally carts.
  • Dec 17. Finished most of the soldering work that needed to be done, on all twenty two carts. All but two of them now have either the EPROM chip soldered in (Bally carts), or a quality socket soldered in (Emerson). I simply ran out of sockets for the Emerson, but have more than enough assembled carts for this batch anyway. The Emerson carts have all six jumper wires soldered in; I still have to add the dozen jumpers for each Bally cart. That sounds like a "tomorrow" job, along with getting the small Emerson daughterboards soldered on.
  • Dec 16. Day off -- family / holiday stuff.
  • Dec 15. Lots of soldering work going on, on all twenty two of the remaining carts. I put in all of support chips, all of the resistors, all of the through-board jumper wires, the Bally's DIP switches, and soldered them all in.
  • Dec 14. Shipped out three Bally multicarts; one for L. S. (#8) and for G. G. (#10), along with Mike White's #2 cart, which was just upgraded to add in all the new programs he'd sent me in EPROM form. I wrote up some stuff about the replacement screws I'm now using for all my Bally carts (message #506), and about removing Bally labels for homebrew projects (message #507), and posted that info to the Bally Alley message boards. I finishing up sanding down all the remaining edges of all twenty two PC boards, for this batch and for the next.
  • Dec 13. I planned to ship out three carts today, but "Murphy's Law" struck in an relatively small but very annoying way. The ridiculously fine-threaded screw holes holding original Bally carts together, strip out instantly if you even think about looking at them funny. I forgot all about that (censored) problem, until I tried putting the plastic cases back together. Sure enough, all of my came-brand-new-in-shrinkwrap plastic cases all had one or more screw holes that are stripped out. I drove across town to go buy some new screws instead of going to the post office. I bought enough spare screws (#2 by 3/8ths panheads) that I may not have this problem again; at least not for a long time! I went through the main FAQ one more time, looking everything over to make sure I'm being clear without being rude, for any new customers. I worked more on sanding the edges of the PC boards.
  • Dec 12. Soldered the first two Bally carts together, completely. Those two and Mike White's cart all passed a quick functional test. (Played a quick game of Wizard.) I cut out all twenty-two of the remaining etched PC boards. Began sanding and hand-fitting each PC board into its final shape. Programmed three more EPROMs -- all I had left -- in preparation for the next batch of carts. Things are really coming down to the wire now... after I've sanded all the PC board edges down, I figure I only have about one more hour of assembly time per multicart, and then I'll be done with all of the multicarts in this batch. I'll start shipping them out soon; the first two will go out tomorrow. (I hope to have a few "left-overs" from this batch to sell off right before the holidays.)
  • Dec 11. Programmed twelve more EPROMs; more than enough to complete this batch. Soldered EPROM chips into three Bally carts; the two that are going out next, and Mike White's cart which is being upgraded.
  • Dec 10. Varnished one side of each remaining PC board, and set them aside to dry. (Cleaned both sides first.) Burned two more Bally EPROMs, for six total. Erased fifteen additional EPROMs -- all I have in stock now -- to have them ready for programming. I also made the list above into an actual checklist... each step will now be marked to show how completed it is. I varnished the other side of each remaining PC board. Made all of the necessary adjustments to the printed DIP switch instruction sheet, to reflect all the latest ROM images changes.
  • Dec 9. Finished the edge connector preparation, on all of the etched boards I have on hand. Cleaned up any etching glitches where two adjacent wires were touching, on all of the etched boards I have on hand. Burned four new Bally EPROMs -- with all the new programs, and with all the new arrangements of where they are.
  • Dec 8. Day off -- Family holiday gatherings.
  • Dec 7. Worked on all the PC boards some more; getting their edge connectors prepped. I juggled a few of the new Bally's ROM programs around to make them more easily accessible; like putting Blue Ram BASIC in the "1000 0000" DIP switch position slot, and AstroBASIC in the "0100 0000" slot, so that it is easy to find and switch over to when playing the new AstroBASIC or Blue Ram BASIC games. (I'm trying to take the ROM shuffling type stuff slow and keep it to a minimum, but I figure now is really the best time to do things like this.)
  • Dec 6. Day off -- Went to the "Red Dragon" acting interview, and visited my acting agent.
  • Dec 5. Day off -- Preparing for an important acting interview with the director of the movie "Red Dragon".
  • Dec 4. Put a newly burnt chip with all the new software on it, into my in-house test cart. Went through the new games. (Seems fine so far, but I'll do more testing later.) Added the latest games into the printed DIP switch settings cheat-sheet. Desoldered a bad EPROM chip from a cart I'm upgrading for Mike White -- no thanks to that shady company that sold me used EPROMs as if they were new, causing me tons of needless work. Sigh. I also added a small "power on" lamp (LED) to my Bally, since I kept forgetting to turn the silly thing off before.
  • Dec 3. Burned a couple of EPROMs for the two new Bally carts, using the latest ROM images. (I will have to real-life test the new program additions soon, and adjust the printed instructions to reflect all the changes.) But today's big news is that I successfully tested the new Bally upgrade procedure, using a special adapter cable I'd made some time ago. (In other words, upgrading the Bally multicart should be relatively fast and easy?)
  • Dec 2. "On strike" for at least one day this weekend -- playing with my little nephews.
  • Dec 1. Updated the Bally software archiving database that is up on the "Bally Alley" message board. Did a few more archiving chores related to the Bally software library. Play-tested some games. Did most of the necessary plastic case prepwork on six reusable Emerson Arcadia carts that just arrived in the mail.
  • Nov 30. Finished up the archiving chores for the new Bally ROM images and updated the software lists. I put them both up in the usual place. There are 15 ROM dump corrections and 18 new games. (After pulling a 12-hour-plus shift doing all the details related to all of this, I'm going to get away from it for a couple of days!) I cut two Bally PC boards to shape and trimmed their edges. I worked on soldering components into the two fully prepped Bally boards: the various through-board jumper wires, the support chip and the eight resistors. Finished tinning the edge connectors on two Emerson boards, and varnished both of those Emerson boards. I also updated the batch program that creates the big EPROM-ready file that contains all the actual content of the multicart. As it works out, only seven new "empty holes" were filled. There are still ten "empty 8k holes" left for use later, if and when we find more cool stuff for the Bally machine. (Thanks a lot for all of Mike White's help!)
  • Nov 29. Re-dumped all 23 of the EPROMs that Mike sent me, to have a second set of images to compare the first ones to. Then I re-dumped them a third time. Each time I did it using different hardware and/or methods. This may sound paranoid, but I'd rather be safe than sorry where data integrity is concerned. The end result is that I have a known-good set of ROM dump corrections on file, along with some games I did not have before.
  • Nov 28. Dumped all of the 23 EPROMs that Mike White had sent to me, for inclusion on the Bally multicart. I am going to re-dump them all using a different method later, and compare the two to see if everything is kosher. I want the updated ROM images to be 100% accurate, and also to make sure I'm making good use of all the space I have available on the multicart. A few things may get shuffled around, but its still early enough to do it.
  • Nov 27. Mostly a day off, due to car problems. Did some minor FAQ editing.
  • Nov 26. Shipped two cartridges out; the Emerson carts that were 90% ready since Nov 1st. (Both of the new owners had planned to loan me carts for archiving -- thanks, guys! -- and had said they'd rather wait awhile to get all three of the new ROM images now, rather than whenever the next ROM image comes along.) I also resumed work on the latest circuit boards. Began the process of "tinning" all of the edge connectors on all of the PC boards. Started working on the last board prep stages, on the first two Bally carts to go out in this batch. The package from Mike White arrived; I'll be looking over his ROM image updates, later in the week.
  • Nov 25. Worked on the Multicart FAQ, mostly to clarify the ordering procedures in the hopes of avoiding any future miscommunication. (Some people are just now finding out about this project, and are checking it out for the first time.) The last few days were sort of a brief break for me, from the actual building of the carts. But with all of this keyboard stuff out of the way, I can go back to finishing up the circuit boards and getting the next few orders shipped out. I plan to first ship out the two orders I have for single Bally carts, then the six orders for one of each carts. I suspect things will pick up soon, pace-wise, now that most of the PC boards steps are finished?
  • Nov 24. Worked on the printed instructions for the Emerson multicart. Worked on the Emerson cartridge lists.
  • Nov 23. Worked on this FAQ, adding a step-by-step checklist of chores necessary to make one multicart. This accomplishes a few useful things. It helps people that are waiting for a cart to be made for them, to get a better idea of how much longer the wait will likely be, based on how far I am down that checklist at any given time. It also helps people to see how much work is involved, in case they want to make a homebrew project themself. I also went nutso, revising the FAQ for the Emerson system itself, and adding lots of new technical information.
  • Nov 22. Holiday -- nothing done.
  • Nov 21. Cleaned the etch resist chemicals off of the twelve new PC boards. Drilled 654 small holes for the components. (The Bally boards each require 124 holes drilled, and the Emerson boards have 79 holes each.)
  • Nov 20. Finished etching the second dozen PC boards. Burnt two Emerson EPROMs with the latest archived game on it, so that I can ship those two finished carts out soon. (Thanks go out to both of those customers, as they both loanedd me a cart or two to archive, so I could include those games on everyone's Emerson multi.)  
  • Nov 19. Archived the latest Emerson ROM to come in on a loan; the MPT-03 game called "Horse Racing". Began working on etching the latest PC boards that were exposed and developed; twelve more PC boards.
  • Nov 18. Talked to Mike White in Ohio. He is sending out a bunch of ROM dumps, to include new games as well as corrections on some games that weren't dumped 100% correctly, before. He OK'd me adding any of these images to the ROM image collection for play on emulators, too. (As much as any of us are in a position to do such things.) I'm told that with the images he is sending me, that I'll have all the machine language games that were made for the Bally system, besides some of the cartridge-ized BASIC hybrids already included.
  • Nov 17. Exposed and developed 12 new PC boards. (That's enough for this batch, with some left over for the next batch.) I think it is important to note that my error rate on this partial batch was 0% ... no boards were lost in the exposing / developing stages. (See Nov 7th and 9th.) I seem to have my techniques down pat now, and know exactly what tools work best, etc., so future time / money loss due to those particular problems should be drastically reduced from now on? I still have to do some touch-ups on the latest developed boards, before I can etch all of them, but that's a normal and expected part of the process. Things seem to be moving right along.
  • Nov 16. Shopped for supplies, particularly more developer concentrate and my favorite fine-gauge solder.
  • Nov 15. Etched the four newly exposed and developed PC boards. Drilled all twelve newly etched boards, or about 3/4 of the PC boards I'll need for this current batch.
  • Nov 14. Day off -- nothing done here. However, one Emerson fan dropped off a package in the mails; a cart loan so that we all have a copy of "Horse Racing" for the Palladium, on the Emerson multicart.
  • Nov 13. Bought some glass exposure frames, and suitable clamps, to replace the problematic plastic ones I've used in the recent past. Began exposing and developing four more new PC boards. Had a long talk with Mike White from Ohio, on the phone. He checked every single game on the Bally multicart, byte-by-byte, and he is going to send me re-dumps of every game that even looks remotely like a potentially bad dump. He also plans to send me some games that are not on the cart, just yet; some BASIC games he is going to "cart hybrid-ize".
  • Nov 12. Created a useful production tool -- a power etching system. This helps to automate and speed up the process of etching printed circuit boards. I used it to etch 8 new PC boards (4 of each kind). Tested the Emerson multicart's DIP switch instruction sheet; double-checking it for accuracy before I do more on it.
  • Nov 11. Soldered up the 11 etched daughter-boards for the next couple batches of Emerson carts. Worked a bit more on the preliminary documentation for the Emerson multicarts.
  • Nov 10. Personal day -- nothing done.
  • Nov 9. I cleaned and light-sensitized enough raw sheets to make 16 more PC boards, if everything goes well. Added to the eight that were made on the 7th, that's 24 total boards. (Minus however many don't work out. With any luck, I hope to have a few ready for use with "batch three" once this batch is finished?) I checked my records and sent out e-mails to everyone on my waiting lists, clarifying who was or wasn't in this batch, etc. 
  • Nov 8. Took the day off to get some personal stuff done.
  • Nov 7. I worked on exposing and developing more presensitized PC boards. Two more sheets (four boards) were ruined. This time it was caused by two supposedly identical sheets of clear plastic, with one not passing certain frequencies of light very well. Sigh. Four boards went wonky and are unusable as is. (I can re-clean and re-sensitize them.) This means I only "ruined" half the boards I was trying to make. The pre-CGE failure rate was about double that. With each painful screw-up, I'm gaining better control over the ten-zillion variables that are involved. (Sean Kelly once told me he knows how to etch his own boards, but he'd prefer a sharp stick in the eye. Can't say I blame him!) I ended up with 8 individual PC boards that appear ready to be etched soon.
  • Nov 6. Exposed, developed, etched, drilled, and cut out eleven small Emerson multicart daughter-boards. (The new and improved developer worked fine.) My order of EPROMs and other raw components came in today.
  • Nov 5. Tried to expose and develop four individual circuit boards. (Two sheets, times two boards per sheet.) The first one was over-developed and useless in seconds thanks to a new, overly-strong batch of developer. The second sheet was also ruined, but I used it to make sure the developing solution was at its proper strength.
  • Nov 4. Finished making the raw PC boards light-sensitive. Cleaned up the design of a secondary circuit board for the Emerson, and made a photo-mask of it, so I can make a bunch of those small boards on one sheet of PC board material. Began work on the preliminary version of the Emerson cart's printed documentation.
  • Nov 3. Began prepping sixteen circuit boards; cleaning them well, and making them sensitive to special light. (I'm getting better at it; this time was much better than the painful pre-CGE process was.) Also, I machined out the inner cart walls on a dozen Emerson carts, where the socketed EPROM was causing clearance problems. I spoke with Mike White; he is going to look his Bally cart's programs over, seeing if there are any bad dumps.
  • Nov 2. Ordered enough EPROMs, support chips and resistors to do the next couple of batches of carts. Made up a machining jig to be able to thin part of the inner wall of the Emerson's cartridge cases, to give a little bit more clearance for the socketed EPROM memory chip. (It fit before; it was just really, really tight.) Came up with a faster and better production method to cut and trim the individual circuit boards into their final shapes. This is important, as it was taking forever to do this before. Also, the Emerson has a daughter-board that is only two inches long by one half an inch wide... cutting those individually out of a bigger sheets was a royal pain!
  • Nov 1. The list is now closed, for people wanting to move up from the "waiting list" to a firm "order" status. I will not be taking names again, until this batch is nearly completed. Then I'll send an e-mail out to everyone that is on my waiting lists, asking if they want to be on the next batch of orders, and if they have the money for it. (Be ready for it when it happens, towards the end of batch two, or risk being pushed back to the fourth batch.)
  • Preparation time... I sent out an e-mail to everyone on my waiting lists, on October 15th. I asked everyone the basic same question; "Who would be able to pay for one of these carts, if I asked for the money soon?" Not having done a project like this before, I said that I planned to only take a few people, right away, and I would push the others back awhile longer. I wasn't certain what cut-off number to pick, so I did not choose one at that time. I got more responses than I figured I would, all seemingly very eager to buy one or both carts soon. The end result is that I am working on a larger second batch than I had anticipated at first, so it will likely take me longer than I had initially hoped. (But at the same time, more people will have orders filled, so who knows?) I may take fewer names for the next batch, or set a cut-off point? I'll know more, towards the end of this batch.

Go to the top of this page

First batch of carts:
Moving from the pre-production  phase into normal production. I made six total carts during this period; one stayed in-house (my special Bally test cart with a socket), three others were shipped out to customers right away, and two others were shipped out later, after some additional ROM image archiving had taken place.

  • Nov 1. Shipped out the third Bally Astrocade cart. (#2, Michael White.) The first two Emerson multicarts have been 90% ready for some time... I'm just waiting on a new cartridge archiving loan to take place -- with both of the customer's approval -- before I ship those two carts out. As soon as they are shipped, batch one is done.
  • Oct 31. The third Bally cart (#2) is ready to be shipped out now, as soon as I can get to the post office. I made a special jig to allow marking off the hole I have to cut in the plastic cases for the DIP switches to stick through. I also made a special in-house case that speeds up the process of testing a newly made/assembled PC board.
  • Oct 30. I decided to re-design the Emerson's rear label. I think this version looks a little bit neater than my original CGE design, and it was designed to make it easier to open the cart for upgrades and such, later on.
  • Oct 29. Shipped out the first two Bally Astrocade multicarts. (Jamie Fenton got #1, Adam Trionfo #3.) I considered the pre-production phase closed at this point, since copies had been made and were shipped out. There are still a number of important details to be worked out, however, as I continue to produce copies.

Go to the top of this page

Pre-production: work done before multicarts could be made and shipped to customers
If anyone wonders why homebrew projects are usually sold in very limited numbers, here is some clue as to why... making them is a LOT more work than most people imagine, and takes FAR more time!

  • Oct 28. Two Bally Astrocade multicarts are now ready to ship. A third needs just a bit more work to be ready. (I enjoyed the testing phase of all this... in other words, finally getting to play some games for a change!)
  • Oct 27. Touched up the main Multicart FAQ, since new questions are arriving as production time approaches.
  • Oct 25. Finalized the preliminary printed menu of DIP switch settings for the Bally. Prepped four more Emerson cases -- label removal, DIP switch hole roughed out, added internal braces to hold up the DIP switch board.
  • Oct 24. The packaging materials I won on eBay arrived, so I can start thinking about the final design for my Bally multicart's printed instructions. This web page was revised; I grouped everything by project phases.
  • Oct 23. At least one Bally multicart is now ready to ship out, except for the printed instructions. Two others just need a bit more work, plus my own inhouse one used for testing new EPROMs. (Last-minute rewiring of all the upper address lines needed to be done, to implement the more efficient addressing scheme I came up with that will allows many more programs to be stored on each cart.) I had to spend most of today's work time, however, reflowing all of the solder joints inside my Commodore 1702 video monitor, so it would quit flaking out on me when I'm trying to test things. With that fixed, now I can do a decent testing phase on the completed carts, before I ship them out. (In other words, I'm looking forward to playing some of the Bally games soon!)
  • Oct 22. Printed up and laminated a good number of labels for the next few batches of Bally carts. Made up a preliminary list of Bally DIP switch settings. The Bally packaging stuff I won on eBay is in the mails, coming my way. I just got some bad news from what I hoped would be my primary supplier of Emerson cart cases. He may or may not be able to help me, as much as we'd both hoped? (A large eBay purchase he had made, has not arrived yet and he's wondering if it ever will?) That being the case, I have asked the readers of my Emerson Arcadia 2001 web site (hosted on ClassicGaming.com) for spare carts I can use as shells to put multicarts into. (Bally carts are not a big problem. Mike White sells them brand new, and I put in a decent order awhile ago.)
  • Oct 21. I won an eBay auction for four boxed Bally Astrocade games. (I wanted them to see the packaging. I just thought it would be "cute" to design my "DIP switch setting" instruction sheet or booklet, similar to that.)
  • Oct 19. I will soon have more than enough plastic cartridge cases for the Bally multicarts, but I need to find a good source of Emerson cart cases. (Tall style only; the short ones won't work.) I have enough to finish the first batch off, then five more carts on the second batch, then I am totally out of long-style Emerson cases. I can't make new carts without them. (And yes, I've already tried eBay. That's not a good, steady source of them.)
  • Oct 18. I had to be away from home today, so I worked on designing a circuit board for an unrelated project. (This is another project for the Bally; a one-size-fits-all replacement board, made to fit a single game. Mike White wanted one designed to replenish his stock of existing PC boards, for his "Hozer Video"-like service.)
  • Oct 17. Most of today was wasted, thanks to having to return some bad parts to a store that sold me used, defective EPROMs packaged as new parts. As frustrating as this is, I am glad I discovered their treacherous sales practices early on, so I could return those bogus parts and work on finding an honest parts house to deal with in the future. (My second batch of carts may be slowed down a little, finding a new supplier and waiting for new parts, but I have enough spare EPROMs on hand to finish up the first few carts without any problems.)
  • Oct 16. Went back to my earlier work on some specialized tools I will need later, to make future ROM image upgrades quicker and easier. Good progress was made, but there are still some bugs I need to work out. I put that work aside for now, and resumed working on the first small batch of carts, to get them ready to ship out.
  • Oct 15. With forward progress being what it is at present, and most of the big technical problems now solved, Ward e-mailed all of the people on his non-binding waiting lists, asking who was ready to purchase a cart now. (This doesn't mean carts are ready to be sold, but it is a preparatory stage towards getting there.) Ward has enough names now to begin that first batch, relatively soon. No money will be taken till they're ready to ship. Ward still has to fully upgrade the first three customer-ordered Bally multicarts plus his personal test one, with the now-proven better memory addressing scheme. Plus, there is currently no documentation on either cart, as to what DIP switch settings will activate what program, and some fancy labels still need to be printed, as well. The two nearly-finished Emerson multicarts won't be ready to go out until one last archiving-loan cart arrives.
  • Oct 14. Success! "Real life" testing shows that my new-and-improved Bally Astrocade memory addressing scheme not only works, but it works better than I had originally hoped or expected! (Major "whoo-hoo"!) That means that I can now easily co-mingle or mix all three of the known Bally cart sizes (2k, 4k and 8k) together on one EPROM without wasting even one byte of memory space. It works perfectly, as far as I can tell? Right now, everything on my ROM image list is already on my prototype test cart, and I still have room for 17 more 8k programs, plus one more 4k program. (There is plenty of room on the Emerson, even without these tricks.) Most if not all experts on these systems say that our existing ROM image collection is already more than they would have expected to have seen. (This includes Jamie Fenton, who led the project creating the Astrocade!)
  • Oct 13. Doing real-life tests on my new, less-wasteful memory addressing scheme for my Bally Astrocade cart. The initial indications look very good so far? I'm writing the "batch" program I need to take all of the seperate ROM images, and make one huge file that can be programmed into the Bally's EPROM memory chip. (This involved some decisions as to what or what not to include, and their storage-space sequence. With only a few exceptions, mostly for non-working games, all of the existing Bally ROM images should fit onto the multicart.)
  • Oct 3 - 9. Got those two Emerson-compatible carts archived. Began installing some parts in my Astrocade prototype, to give my memory-efficiency theories a "real-life" test over the next few days. Worked on various of the "getting ready for production" type things. A number of "common" Emerson game carts were taken apart, cleaned, and de-labeled. I made a handy template to mark where the Emerson DIP switches would go, and cut those holes into the tops of the Emerson carts. Bought a number of small internal parts for use in both multicarts (resistor packs, decoupling caps, etc.) to have enough on hand. Shopped around for common Emerson carts, and some new Bally cart cases. Continued to work on the first few half-finished boards (both types) that I've had on hand for awhile. After discussions on the BallyAlley message group, I decided to make the first program on the Bally cart be a hardware "TEST" program. (Just set "all zeroes" on the DIP switches to quickly find it.)
  • Oct 2. Working on archiving some more loaned carts: the Bally's rare "BASIC DEMO" cart, plus two Palladium carts we had not heard of before this. ("Panzerspiel" or tank game, and "Grand Prix de Monaco".)
  • Oct 1. Split this section of the main Multicart FAQ off, making it a seperate document. Worked to clarify things in general, and also to tone down some spots that perhaps sounded overly defensive? This version is starting to look pretty polished. More importantly, it should protect both sides from many bad assumptions, since this project is being done under different rules and conditions than the multicart projects made by other people.
  • Sep 30. Revised the FAQ again to include a few "new" questions. Worked on the first two Emerson carts to go out. They are almost ready to go now, but I am waiting for two new Palladium carts to arrive so I can archive those ROMs and include them. I am also waiting for one new Bally cart to arrive, so I can archive it.
  • Sep 28. Prepping some plastic cartridge cases, and making continued preparations for the "assembly line". Also waiting on a few loaned-for-archiving-purposes Palladium cartridges that should arrive here in a few days?
  • Sep 27. Revising the prototype design, to allow more room for programs on the Bally's memory chip. At least on paper, it looks like I can happily co-mingle ROM images of different memory sizes, which no other multicart for retro-gaming systems has done, that I'm aware of? (Figuring this technical problem out would have a lot of uses in retro-gaming circles, not only for Ward's two existing multicarts, but for those made by other people.)
  • Sep 23. Archived two new Bally Astrocade ROMs, and updated the appropriate ROM-image lists.
  • Sep 21. Continuing to refine procedures, as before. Began working on finishing up the first four carts, to send them out to customers. (These four were all started for CGE, but only two were completed enough to show.)
  • Sep 18. Ward continues planning and refining his production procedures, for later on. Also waiting for a few promised cart loans, to be able to include the ROM images on the first production version of both multicarts.
  • Sep 17. Ward revises his FAQ text, converting it from raw ASCCII into a web-based HTML format.
  • Aug 19 - Sep 17. Ward begins work on a variety of things, intended to make the manufacturing and future upgrade processes less of a hassle in the future. Ward's EPROM-erasing device is modified, so that Bally carts can be erased without having to desolder and remove the chip from the board. (This is necessary because there is simply no room inside the Bally cart cases for even a short socket.) A special cable is made to allow reading of soldered-on chips, with the hope that it can also be used later to reprogram Bally EPROMs. Other things still need to be done to streamline the manufacturing steps; work is begun on these items, with considerable further experimentation and testing necessary. Ward purchased a few common carts, to re-use their plastic cases.
  • Aug 18, 2001. Ward begins answering e-mail questions from interested folks, about the possibility that he may begin sales of his two multicarts, once he gears up for production. He begins writing up a preliminary FAQ. He begins keeping a non-binding list of people who have expressed interest in buying one of his multicarts.

Go to the top of this page

Creating the original prototypes of Ward's Bally and Emerson multicarts
Making the first pair of nearly production-ready carts, and showing them off at CGE 2001.

  • Aug 11-12. The annual "Classic Gaming Expo" or "CGE" is held in Las Vegas. Ward is not able to attend the show in person, unfortunately, but he sent his two new prototype multicarts to the show: one each for the Bally Astrocade and Emerson Arcadia 2001 game systems. Adam Trionfo, Geoff Voigt and Chris Neiman show the carts to others, both at an SC3-sponsored meeting on Friday, and during the event. The reports that Ward got back were that people were generally favorably impressed with the workmanship of both carts. (He was told he would have blushed, had he been there?) Gamers generally liked the games for the Bally Astrocade far more than they liked the Emerson's games. A number of people expressed interest in buying a copy of one or both of these multicarts, if more of them were ever made and offered for sale.
  • Early August 2001. Ward works on designing and creating the official PC boards for the "production prototypes" of both the Bally and Emerson multicarts. He does all the technical things necessary to physically create the boards, to solder the components to them, and to make sure they both work. (Too many sub-tasks to list.) Ward also began designing good-looking color label artwork for both multicarts during this time period.
  • Jul 2001. Ward shows off the latest prototype version of the Emerson multicart at the local SC3 ("Southern California Classic Collectors") meeting. It now holds the entire archived library of Emerson, MPT-03 and Palladium software. Ward also shows off the brand new, never-seen-before prototype of the now nearly finished Bally Astrocade multicart. Ward and Adam Trionfo archive a few more of Adam's Bally Astrocade carts during the SC3 meeting. Later in the month, Ward is loaned another rare Emerson family cart for archiving purposes ("The End") by the generous German collector that got the MESS team a Palladium. This cart makes 41 total ROM images, for the various software-compatible systems. The Bally collection is now also nearly complete, thanks in large part to the efforts of Michael White who actively collected since the Bally's heyday.
  • Jun 2001. A three-way, international trade took place. It ended up with the new MESS emulator author getting a Palladium-family compatible system that he could use to compare "real life" to the MESS emulation software. (Paul Robson had written the original stand-alone emulator without ever seeing a real system to compare to!)
  • May 2001. The "MESS" emulation team takes over the stand-alone emulator that Paul Robson had made years ago. Paul generously shared all of his code and notes with members of the MESS team. Ward is loaned five more Emerson-compatible carts. These include some of the rarest unarchived carts yet remaining for this system or its clones; "Funky Fish" and "Pleiades". Ward is also loaned the fifth MPT-03 exclusive cart; "Golf". (The generous person that loaned these five carts out, has previously also loaned four others out for archiving.)
  • Apr 2001. Ward Shrake decides to start working on both an Emerson Arcadia 2001 and a Bally Astrocade prototype multicart. He makes an early "proof of concept" prototype of the Emerson multicart. (It was his ugly EPROM-playing breadboard from Dec 2000, altered accordingly.) This has very limited capacity at first: just two games. Once this model works well, it soon gives way to an 8-in-1 version. That new model proves that the bank-switching scheme that Ward is using will work for any other multicart projects, later on. (This very early version has an MPT-03 style pinout; it will not plug directly into an Emerson-family system. This is no big deal, as Ward long ago made a special adapter cable to plug MPT-03 cartridges into Emerson-family systems, and to be able to archive MPT-03 carts.) At months end, this ugly-but-working prototype system is sent to the annual "PhillyClassic" event for public viewing by anyone there that wants to play its eight rare Emerson games.

Go to the top of this page

Events leading up to Ward's Bally and Emerson multicart projects
Note that this section concentrates primarily on the Emerson system, mainly because it is long already. It is just intended to give a general feel for how projects of this type might slowly come about, over the years.

  • Mar 2001. Ward attends the quarterly SC3 meeting, where he meets Adam Trionfo in person. (One of the main guys behind archiving efforts for the Bally Astrocade system.) Adam brings quite a few Bally Astrocade carts with him, from his personal collection. Ward brings his archiving tools. Ward archives all of Adam's Bally carts, using a custom adapter cable that Ward made from spare parts of a non-working Astrocade. After the meeting Ward sent his two custom archiving adapter cables -- Emerson and Bally -- to a well-known collector in New Jersey, hoping to get new ROM image dumps through group participation at one or more of the annual events/shows that gamers attend. (As of October 2001 no new dumps came about because of this. But it could lead to carts being archived at some future date? Who knows.) During the SC3 meeting, the people that had encouraged Ward in December to make a multicart for one or more obscure systems, encouraged him again.
  • Feb 2001. The "Digital Press Collector's Guide" book (version six) is now ready to be shipped out to the retro-gaming public. Ward has three sections in it. The book gets many rave reviews from fans upon release.
  • Dec 2000. Ward makes up an ugly-but-functional hardware device that pretends it is an MPT-03 cart. It has a single socket for an 8k EPROM memory chip on it. With this device, Ward can burn an EPROM copy of any existing ROM image he has, and play it on a real Emerson system. This device was originally made to be able to check that ROM dumps were good, and also to allow Ward to play the games he has copied after he returns carts that were loaned to him. Ward took the device with him to the quarterly SC3 meeting. Some of the other people attending that informal meeting of classic gamers asked questions and expressed interest in the Emerson and its games. The possibility of Ward maybe making a multicart was also briefly discussed, but only in the very vaguest of terms. During this month, Ward archives the fourth loaned MPT-03 exclusive cart: "Basketball".
  • Nov 2000. A third semi-compatible family of carts is found; the Palladium family. (Like the MPT-03, it is not pin-for-pin compatible, but software for one machine will run on the others.)Ward is also loaned two Tele-fever (Emerson family) carts: "Astro Invaders" and "Fussball". Thirty-four total Emerson and MPT-03 carts have now been archived, and are publicly available for fans of these retro-gaming systems, for play on software emulators.
  • Oct 2000. Ward archives the third MPT-03 cart loaned to him: "Combat". This is another MPT-03 exclusive.
  • Jul 2000. One more Emerson cart was loaned to Ward for archiving: "Space Squadron".
  • Jun 2000. Ward is asked to write the new Commodore VIC-20 section of the "Digital Press Collector's Guide" book, version six. He asks to also take over the Emerson Arcadia section of the guide, and he is allowed to.
  • Jun 1999. Ward archives the second loaned MPT-03 cart; "Auto Race". The Emerson never had this game.
  • Apr 1999. A generous collector loans Ward seven Emerson carts for archiving purposes. The total amount of compatible carts now archived has risen to twenty-nine, counting both Emerson and MPT-03 cartridges.
  • Feb 1999. The discovery is made that the overseas system named the "MPT-03" is somewhat compatible with the Emerson Arcadia 2001 system. Ward Shrake figures out the cartridge pinout to the MPT-03 system. He archives an MPT-03 cart called "Crazy Climber" that was loaned to him. This game was once talked about for the Emerson system, but it was never released in the United States, apparently due to copyright concerns.
  • Jan 1999. One more Emerson Arcadia 2001 cart is dumped by an Italian fan of the system.
  • Dec 1998. Ward makes a web site about the Emerson Arcadia system... http://classicgaming.com/arcadia/.
  • Nov - Dec 1998. Ward is loaned seven new Emerson carts to archive. (Five by one collector, and two others by a second person.) There are now twenty Arcadia ROM images publicly available.
  • Sep 1998. Ward Shrake archives one new Emerson cart. He begins asking others to loan him Emerson carts for archiving purposes. (Ward had previously helped Paul LeBrasse to archive nearly 200 VIC-20 carts.)
  • July 1998. Jay Tilton dumps one more Emerson cart, for a combined total of twelve available on the Internet.
  • April 1998. A retro-gaming fan named Jay Tilton archives the first-ever Emerson Arcadia ROM images. Eleven cartridge images and an Emerson Arcadia 2001 cartridge pinout diagram are publicly released via the Internet.
  • 1984. The well-documented "gaming crash" of 1984 occurs. This wipes out any hope of ever commercially resurrecting the Emerson Arcadia 2001 system in the U.S. (No known games were written for it, past 1983.)
  • 1983. A few more Emerson games are written. Most of these newer games are intended for overseas release, however, as the U.S. system has more or less been abandoned by Emerson at this point. Much more powerful systems (ColecoVision, etc) have taken over the market, and the Arcadia simply can't compare to them.
  • 1982. Most of the Emerson game programs are written. The system has many marketing and legal problems, right from the start. Due to copyright problems, some games are never released in the United States. The authors of various games (for this system and others) scramble to re-code games too close to being copies.
  • Mar 1982. The Emerson Arcadia 2001 system makes its U.S. debut. Software was written by an outside company. Hardware was either licensed from another company, or something similar to such an arrangement.

End of document.

Go to the top of this page