What’s an “Astrocade?”

Hi, my name is Adam.  I’ve been a classic game fan since I began collecting Atari 2600 games in 1990.  In the 1990s, for twelve issues, I published a newsletter, eventually with a co-editor named Chris, called Orphaned Computers & Game System (OC&GS).  The OC&GS website went online in 1999.  In the April 1999 issue, I published an article called “The Software CD Project for the Bally Professional Arcade.”  This eventually became the BallyAlley.com website for the Astrocade game system.

Wait, what is the Bally Arcade/Astrocade?  It’s a game console released in January 1978.  It looks like this:

home library computer (front - cover on)_02

Now, finally, after just a short 18 years there is now a blog for the BallyAlley website!  What am I going to cover here?  I’m not sure, but new things do happen in the Bally/Astrocade community.  I’ll try to highlight what’s going on in the Astrocade sub-forum on AtariAge Astrocade sub-forum on AtariAge.  There’s also the BallyAlley Yahoo group, where you can read the messages and post to a thread if you’re a member.  There is also an Astrocade podcast called The Bally Alley Astrocast.

A BASIC cartridge was released for it in September 1978 and a homebrew community grew up around it through two newsletters, The Arcadian (1978-1986) and Cursor/The BASIC Express (1980-1981).

In 1977/78, [Jay Fenton] implemented a BASIC interpreter called Bally BASIC that ran on the Bally Arcade system in a cartridge. BASIC language statements were entered using a keypad overlay over the calculator keypad. For about 6 months, [Jay] held the honor of providing the world’s cheapest computer. – http://www.fentonia.com/bio/

The 1981 re-release of the BASIC cartridge looks like this:

astro basic (bally)

With BASIC you could program this game console.  Many games and other programs were written for the system that could be typed into BASIC.  There were even hundreds of games released and sold on standard audio tapes like this:

lookout for the bull i and ii (wavemakers)(side 1)

Neat, right?

Are you curious about Bally BASIC?  I made a video overview of it in June 2017:

Bally BASIC limited the programmer to just 1.8K of programming space, but there were RAM upgrades available in the early 1980s, such as the Blue Ram:

The Astrocade could even be programmed in machine langauge using the a cartridge called the Machine Language Manager by Bit Fiddlers:

But, come on!, aren’t game consoles about the games?  Of course!  Some of the best known games for this console are ports of the arcade games Space Zap (Space Fortress) and Wizard of Wor (The Incredible Wizard).  Still, despite the quality of these games, I’ve always been partial to games that don’t appear on any other platform, such as Ms. Candyman by L&M Software:

Recently, I’ve been entranced by art that was created in BASIC. J-3 3K Art by Stanley Kendall is an excellent example of video art for this system:

I’ve never made a video overview of the Astrocade, but other have made some of them.  Jason Slaughter published a great Astrocade overview in February 2012:

Well, folks, that’s it for now.  Is this my last post, or is it the first of many?  I guess we’ll find that out together over the next few months.


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