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2009
Monday 28th December - www.vectrex.co.uk website updates
In the beginning of December I wanted to make some updates to this website but I couldn't do so as Virgin Media who host this website did something to the server - so it was impossible for me to upload or change any files - an absolutely frustrating situation and very poor customer service as anyone having dealt with their telephone support can vouch. Now finally they fixed it. A quick summary of additions to the website: a 300 dpi scan of the GCE controller overlays back and front has been added to the [Documents]->Articles section. Alternatively you can just click here; More dead web links removed - Vectrex websites seem to be dropping like flies these days! There's more to tell, but I'll do that in the beginning of new year.

Tuesday 24th November - ZX81 Orphan Page
Argh!, this isnít Vectrex - whatís this? I hear you say. Yes folks the truth is out, I wasn't always VectrexMad!. Whilst I like to try to keep everything pure and Vectrex on this website, I recently came across a photo of my old ZX81 setup and not having the will or the resources to have yet another website, I have decided to host and put a link here to a page relating to the computer of my youth. In fact were it not for the ZX81 giving me an interest in computer technology I doubt if I would be such a Vectrex geek today.

Wednesday 7th October - More pictures of the Autofire dongle box
I've received more pictures of the AutoFire dongle box from nonner242 (for more details see Monday 5th news update). Please note that if you order a VectrexMad! Productions AutoFire dongle it doesn't come with this box (currently the dongle is simply supplied in a Jiffy bag).


Tuesday 6th October - Vectrex Serial Numbers
A new link has been added to a web site which contains a list of Vectrex serial numbers from around the world. You can either go to the [Links] tab and select the Miscellaneous option on this web site or just go to the site from here. I encourage you all to register your Vectrex serial numbers - new entries are shown at the end of the list. With enough entries it should be possible to make some conclusions about the number of Vectrex consoles sold and what the different letters in the serial numbers actually mean. I don't know how long this serial number web site has been present but I'm making regular copies of this web site just in case it suddenly goes offline).

So far we can say:

Ser. No.: 1 xx xxx A - GCE model
Ser. No.: 0 xxx xxx - MB USA model
Ser. No.: 1 xxx xxx - MB Canada model
Ser. No.: 2 xxx xxx - MB UK model
Ser. No.: 3 xxx xxx - MB Euro model
Ser. No.: 4 xxx xxx - MB Vectrex series 2 (no buzz issue) model

where (x is any digit between 0-9). However, there are some peculiarities. For example I have two UK models with the following type serial number: UxxxxxA. These details may be trivial to some (or even sound anorakish) but I find it heckish interesting :)

Monday 5th October - VectrexMad! news update


I've been busy with real life, hence the absence of any recent news updates. However, in the background things relating to the Vectrex have been happening. This is just a quick summary:

Firstly I have been cleaning up some of the dead outbound links on this web site. Itís a real shame that web sites disappear because each site can contain valuable snippets of information concerning the Vectrex.

On a different note, interest in the AutoFire dongle product has been very positive. So much so that I am now considering to make a second batch of dongles. The editor of Video Game Trader (VGT) has even interviewed me regarding the AutoFire dongle but I am not sure if/when/where this will get published.

Also on the subject of the AutoFire dongle I was really impressed by the recent work of a chap who goes by the handle of nonner242 on AtariAge. He is a box maker extraordinaire, having made all sorts of boxes for his games collection. Now, he has made a custom box to house his AutoFire dongle :)

Finally my article on the Vectrex game character Spike is published in this monthís printed version of VGT. I am looking forward to seeing this finally in print (I began writing this last year!) as a lot of effort went into writing it. I believe (although there is no guarantee) various articles in the magazine including the one on Spike will eventually be made viewable on online.

Unfortunately due to lack of time these last months, progress on my Vectrex game has been zero - so its still at the 60% complete stage :( Also regarding progress there is nothing new to mention about the overlay project other than it is still going. Peteski is busy with the artwork. For the latest status on this it's always best to check on the Yahoo based group Vectrex Overlay blog.

Monday 17th August - VectrexMad! Productions AutoFire Dongle - Now taking orders
Now taking orders for the AutoFire dongle! The price is £11.99 plus postage and packaging. Visit the shop for more information regarding price and shipping.

If you want to make an order send an email to sales@vectrex.co.uk (Send Email). Please state your address and preferred method of payment and I will get back to you. If you want to pay by paypal I will send you a different email address. If you are based in Europe and want to transfer money via my IBAN/BIC account please contact me for my IBAN number and BIC code. Those in the UK can also pay by cheque. Please contact me first to get a confirmation before sending any money.

Friday 14th August - VectrexMad! AutoFire instructions
Instructions (v1.3) for the VectrexMad! AutoFire: Click here.

Wednesday 12th August - Components for auto fire boards have arrived...
Just to say that the PCBs and all the components have arrived, and soldering can now begin in earnest and real soon. I've already built a couple of AutoFire dongles using the new components and I am glad to say that they work as well as the original prototype. Since, this is not a proper mass manufactured product where economies of scale can help spread the cost of fancy product casing, only shrink wrap sleeving (see figure 1) will be used to protect/cover the components on each dongle. It's not as professional looking as using a custom plastic case but it certainly keeps the bill of materials down.

I've kept quiet about the AutoFire circuit on newsgroups/forums because I wanted to have them ready first. However, I've already received several requests to be added to the "interested" list! - that shows this web site is getting its fair share of hits each week...

Soon I'll make a YouTube video and will then contact all those on the "interested" list. I will reserve any orders received via the "interested" list first before going public.
Sunday 19th July - VectrexMad! Productions inline Auto Fire prototype


Recently the finger I use for pushing the fire button on my Vectrex controller has been hurting. Whether this is due to an unhealthy obsession with playing Vectrex games (highly probable) or just plain old age I don't know. However, it was an issue and I didn't want to have to put a cigarette box type warning message sticker on my Vectrex to remind me that playing games on the Vectrex was bad for my health! I therefore came up with a small circuit that allows auto/repetitive fire with a single button press. Itís an "inline" device that sits between the Vectrex console and controller plug - so there's no need to take apart the controller. The prototype is based on a PIC micro controller. This means the Auto Fire device has been programmed to be "smart" e.g. by pressing the fire button down during Vectrex power on, the device allows normal controller operation for games that don't like auto fire (e.g. Pole Position).

The prototype works really well, not only is my finger hurting less, but I am also getting higher scores on old favourites like MineStorm and Vectrexians. I have decided to turn this into a "mass" production project so that other Vectrex players can also enjoy the experience. I've been in contact with Richard Hutchinson and he has kindly agreed to transcribe my circuit design into a PCB so I can get a professional PCB shop to manufacture the boards.

After that I'll make around 25 fully populated and completed Auto Fire products for sale. I hope to sell the Auto Fire products for around 12 pounds plus postage. If anybody is interested to buy one please send me an email to sales@vectrex.co.uk (Send Email) to get added to the "interested to order" list. Once I have built them then I'll communicate with those in the list first.

Friday 16th July 2009 - Kokovec's web site back up and running
Kokovec, author of demo software Beckyís message, Kokoís Retribution, and designer of the Vectrex PS/2 Keyboard converter as well as other Vectrex related hardware, including his marvelous PS2 to Vectrex convertor - one of which he sold to me, has a new link to his web pages. I've updated the Hardware Links page on this web site. but you can also jump to his webpages from here: www.kokosplace.50webs.com . Click on the line images that look like flute players to drill down to Kokovecís different Vectrex projects.

Sunday 7th June 2009 - Reproduction Vectrex Overlays Survey now closed
The results are in! There were 36 responses in total. My thanks go to all who responded. This is the top eight: (1) Mine Storm, (2) Star Castle, (3) Protector, (4) Pole Position, (5) Yasi, (6) Armour Attack, (7) Dark Tower and (8) Fortress of Narzod. A link to the spreadsheet used in the analysis of the results is included here. Some interesting responses were received. One asked for a Scramble overlay with the original arcade artwork. Another asked for a generic green overlay to be used to replace ones that aren't already owned rather than having just a b&w screen. Others expressed that they would want to buy whole sets of overlays if the price was right. New overlays for homebrews which don't already have them were also requested:- the game YASI being the most popular of the requests.

The results will now be presented to the enthusiasts at the newsgroup rec.games.vectrex to determine the way forward for producing the overlays.

Monday 1st June 2009 - Scan of news snippet from 1982 - "Milton Bradley Acquires G.C.E"
I just added, under the [Documents] tab in the Magazine Scans section, a scan of a news snippet titled "Milton Bradley Acquires G.C.E." as printed in Arcade Express. Arcade Express was a bi-weekly newsletter which was a published by Reese Publishing Co. Inc. in the 80s.

Monday 18th May 2009 - Calling all Vectrex owners - Reproduction Vectrex Overlays Survey
Some enthusiasts at the newsgroup rec.games.vectrex are considering a non profit venture to get Vectrex overlays professionally made. To begin with it is envisaged that only four to eight different overlays will be manufactured. To see if there is sufficient interest/demand to make this project viable, please would you take the time to email survey@vectrex.co.uk with an answer to the following:

(1) Please respond with up to four to eight Vectrex game names for overlays you would most like to see reproduced (overlay suggestions can be for either original or homebrew games). For more than one overlay wish please put your choices starting with the most wanted first.

This survey will close on the 6th day of June.

Saturday 2nd May - VectrexMad! VecVox Deluxe - A one off retro product revealed
Until last week my only hardware project for the Vectrex had been to solder a single wire from Richard H's VecDev product to the "reset" contact on the logic circuit board in my Vectrex. Some might argue that itís a huge overstatement, to call soldering a single wire to a PCB a hardware project. Well at least with my latest activities I can claim to have done a proper hardware project. Granted, the level of sophistication is still on the simpler side (compared to some home brewers) but nevertheless I am really pleased with the final outcome. What am I talking about? - I am talking about a pimped up VecVox that I recently built.

VecVox is a homebrew speech synthesizer that plugs in the second joystick port of the Vectrex. It's not new, it's predecessor called VecVoice was available sometime in 2002. Then VecVox came about in 2004 because the sound chip (SPO256 ) used in VecVoice had become obsolete. VecVox uses a newer chip (SpeakJet) which is still commercially available. VecVox has two modes, a mode to emulate the VecVoice (a microchip in the VecVox circuit maps the original SPO256 control codes to the newer chip), and a mode which offers the functionality of the newer sound chip including greater control of speech as well as sound effects.

VecVox isn't currently being produced. However, I was lucky enough to get hold of a VecVox (through eBay) in the beginning of the year. More recently whilst clearing out my attic I came across a pair of small passive stereo speakers that I originally bought in the 80ís and of the kind that would normally plug into a soundcard of a PC. The VecVox product typically comes uncased and the circuit board includes a 3.5mm phono socket for plugging in a small speaker or amplifier. I plugged in the speakers and was positively surprised about the volume and bass achieved considering the small size of the speaker cabinet - obviously only the one speaker worked because the output from VecVox is not stereo. This led me to undertake a small hardware project: - housing the VecVox circuit board inside one of the speaker cabinets. So out came the drill, file and soldering iron, and with a new pushbutton switch, 9 pin "D" socket and 3mm LED I produced what I will call the "VectrexMad! Productions VecVox Deluxe" :)

The only thing I didn't bring out from the VecVox PCB to the cabinet enclosure was the volume control. I figured that since at low volume the VecVox would be competing with the normal buzz of the Vectrex sound, why bother having a volume selection and instead just adjust the existing VecVox PCB potentiometer to give a permanent maximum volume to drown out the buzz. The red pushbutton on the top of the speaker cabinet is connected to the pushbutton on the VecVox circuit. Momentarily pushing down the button during power up of the Vectrex makes the VecVox behave as a VecVoice.

As you can see from the photos and video the final result is quite pleasing. The style of the speaker really does fit in with the Vectrex styling. I can't help but feel that the look of my mash up might not be too far off from the look of a commercially produced product had VecVox been around in the heyday of the Vectrex.


Thursday 16th April - Andy Coleman's 72 Game Multicart back in stock !!!
Andy Coleman's "72 Game Multicart" is back in stock. You can see from my review in Video Game Trader Issue 6 (pages 11 & 12) last year that I was quite impressed with this multicart. I've also got a Sean Kelly multicard, but I find selecting a game much easier with the "72 Game Multicart". Other advantages over the Sean Kelly multicart are that The "72 Game Multicart" has more programs than the Sean Kelly card plus also includes Andy's City Bomber and Hangman games. There's now also a "lite" version of the mulitcart selling at a reduced price that does not include the cartridge shell. Standard cartridge shells can be purchased from John Dondzila (www.classicgamecreations.com) - or if on a budget simply reuse a shell from an old MB/GCE game. For the "lite" version a standard sized sticker is included that can be attached to the donor cartridge.

Visit www.playntradeonline.com/vectrex/ to find out more or simply click on the image to the left.

Sunday 22nd March - New Vectrex Website
There's a new kid on the block! Oliver from Berlin has launched a brand new website titled Vectrex Museum. It has information nicely presented about the history of the Vectrex. If you drill down into the links you'll also find lots of other interesting information. Click on the image to the right to jump directly to the website (www.vectrexmuseum.com).

Thursday 5th March - www.vectrex.co.uk website updated - new section added under [Documents] tab
With the new Star Trek film expected in Theatres in May 2009, Star Trek is back in vogue (some might say its always been in vogue). I recently found an old magazine article briefly covering the original Star Trek game for the Vectrex. A new section has been added under the [Documents] tab called [Magazine Scans] on this web site. In the future I will include other relevant information scanned from magazines under this section too.

Saturday 21st February 2009 - Link to new Vectrex website added
A link to a new Vectrex website has been added. This website belongs to Rudy, who is a Vectrex collector and enthusiast. His website is still under development, but there you can find many photos showing step by step construction of the VecCab and Repro mini cade units that he has built. The new link can be found at this website under the [Links] tab and then clicking on [Miscellaneous]. Alternatively just click on the following link for direct access: www.rudtherud.ifrance.com

Thursday 5th February 2009 - Next issue of Video Game Trader features Vectrex on front cover
VGT have done a really good job for the cover of their March issue (#11). They've adopted a mock Vectrex overlay look. The cover is for a featured article which is a Vectrex Retrospective: "A look at the past and the future of this popular classic system". The magazine is available in paper copy by subscription (click on the image below to see subscription rates) or for a one off fee. Or if you wait till April/May it will be available online to view for free.

Monday 2nd February 2009 - Article on Madtronix 3D Imager finally available to the masses
When the Video Game Trader (VGT) went from monthly to bi-monthly I got really confused as to when my articles would become printed. To add confusion, each issue is printed and sent to subscribers first, and then roughly a month later, a flash version of the magazine is made freely readable on the VGT website. I orginally wrote the article about the Madtronix 3D imager in in August last year! It is now finally visible to the masses - check out starting page 46 in issue #10. - the printed copy version has already been out for some weeks. When I wrote that article I had a lot of contact with Madtronix A.K.A John Macallan. He told me how he was launching his new eShop and that he was manufacturing products that would be soon for sale. Nearly six months later, John has gone quiet and the website still appears to be in a test phase, his last entry is dated 3rd August 2008 (at least the last time I looked) . So dear reader I would advise caution before parting with any money via the automated paypal system at his eShop - make sure you have contact with him first, then you can be sure he will honour his obligations. Oh, and if you spot three English language mistakes in the article, they are definitely not mine! - they were introduced after the editor added some text :(

Thursday 29th January 2009 - New batch of 150 copies of Vectrexians available from Kristof
Vectrexians homebrew author Kristof always said that if there was demand he would make another batch of Vectrexian cartridges available. Well having successfully sold all 150 previous copies, Kristof has anounced on his website that he has created another 150 game batch! So if you didn't manage to get a copy the first time round you have another chance to enjoy this game and appreciate the quality of the colour overlay and how it contributes to the game. He also has a new website address: www.kristofsnewvectrexgames.comli.com. For those who don't know about Vectrexians, where have you been? - See my review in VGT Issue 6, starting page 13.

Sunday 19th January 2009 - The difference between VecVoice and VecVox
Yes, I am still here despite missing nearly two months of news updates. At the end of last year I got a VecVox on eBay and have been playing with it ever since. After contacting VecVox/Voice designer Richard H, I learnt something new. VecVoice was the original Vectrex speech solution which used the SPO256 speech chip. When that chip became obsolete, Richard produced VecVox which used an altogether more advanced chip known as the SpeakJet. For backwards compatibility VecVox does emulate the VecVoice - the user has to press a push button to get VecVoice mode. This is interesting for homebrewers, because if they are considering writing new games they should only consider to use the native VecVox (SpeakJet) mode. Games that specifically support the VecVoice are Verserk and YASI. Games that support VecVox are Space Frenzy, Spike's Circus, Debris, Colour Clash and Vectoblox. Of course because of its backwards compatibilty VecVox is able to support the VecVoice games too.