From: Glenn Saunders <krishna@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 1997 05:38:13 -0700 (PDT)
                        "CYBERPUNKS" Project FAQ

Previously Atari 2600 VCS-STARPATH/ARCADIA FAQ
last modified 6/10/97 by krishna@xxxxxxxxxxxx (Glenn Saunders)

  I. The Starpath Supercharger:
	A. What is it?
	B. How to find one today--current sources.

 II. Starpath/Arcadia game list / CD contents

III. What happened to Starpath?

 IV. What was the hobby Starpath CD project?
        A. Why was it done?
        B. What was on it?
        C. How was it done?
        D. How do I get one?/How much?

  V. Can one program the Atari 2600 through the Supercharger?
	A. What you need
	B. Support--The Stella mailing list

 VI. Aftermath
	A. Preserving the integrity of the Starpath rights.
	B. The Press
  (NEW) C. PAL Survival Island ---------FOUND------------

VII. The Future
	A. Long-range goals for the stella mailing-list programmers' coop	
	E. The commercial run
	F. A 2600 side-project, the 20th anniversary 2600 documentary


I have abridged this section of the FAQ because I think it's only of
specialized interest.

Essentially Cyberpunks is a codename for four people, myself (Glenn
Saunders), Russ Perry Jr., Dan Skelton, and Jim Nitchals who engage in
telecommuting-style game-related projects part-time over the internet. The
Starpath CD was our first completed project, and hopefully not the last.

The basic division of labor is:

Glenn Saunders (krishna@xxxxxxxxxxxx)
 -Production supervisor
 -Promotion & Public relations
 -Video Production *
 -3D modeling/rendering
 -Distribution (for the Supercharger CD)

Russ Perry Jr. (slapdash@xxxxxxxxxx)
 -Rights negotiations
 -Basic business-type stuff, contracts, etc...
 -General classic-game knowledge-bank

Jim Nitchals (jimn8@xxxxxxxxxx)
 -Executive Producer ($overhead$)
 -CD mastering and Supercharger technical issues (on the Supercharger CD)
 -Apple II/MAC programming

Dan Skelton (dskelton@xxxxxxxxxxxxx)
 -Multimedia (scanning, compilation, etc..)
 -Graphic art and booklet design
 -Cover art
 -Playstation programming (via Yaroze) *

* = Skills of potential use for Cyberpunks projects, but not used to date.

Below you can read the Starpath story, the hobby CD's evolution, it's
aftermath, and what lies ahead...


  I. The Starpath Supercharger:

	A. What is the Starpath Supercharger?

This post is from VGR, but I made a few edits.  Hope he doesn't mind:

The Supercharger was made by Arcadia (who was later forced to change
their name to Starpath).  It is an extremely long cartridge, longer than
a Xonox double-ender.  The Supercharger has a blue label on it.  The
end of the cartridge (the end which doesn't plug into the 2600) is a
large handle.  Coming out of one side of the cartridge is a cord, ending
in a plug which can plug into any cassette player's earphone jack.

Basically, then, the Supercharger is a giant cartridge which connects to
any cassette player.

The games for the Supercharger are not cartridges.  They're normal audio
cassettes.  Needless to say, that allows for a lot more program space. The
Supercharger cartridge interface itself has 6K RAM.  Games have to run
from RAM rather than ROM because the memory has to get written-to every
time you load in new games.  The result is twelve games which are superior
to a lot of other 2600 games.  Dragonstomper and Escape From the
Mindmaster are two of the best.  These two and Survival Island in
particular take advantage of the ability to save portions of the Starpath
memory and load in new data for new levels.  These are known as

Since the games can be copied, we put them all on a single CD.

        B. How to find one today--current sources.

Recent RGVC post by Jay Tilton:
Dan Mowczan had some last time I heard, which was a few months ago.
Swell guy, and sells them for a good price.  Email dano@xxxxxx


 II. Starpath/Arcadia game list / CD game contents

Title{Programmers}                                       Notes   BoxID#  Cat#
-------------------------------------------------------- ------ ------- -----
Supercharger {Craig Nelson} + Phaser Patrol {Dennis Caswell}    1       AR-4000
Communist Mutants From Space {Steve Landrum}                    2       AR-4101
Fireball {Scott Nelson}                                         3       AR-4300
Suicide Mission {Steve Hales, Steve Landrum}                    4       AR-4102
Escape From The Mindmaster {Dennis Caswell}               1     5       AR-4200
Dragonstomper {STeve Landrum}                             2     6       AR-4400
Killer Satellites {Kevin Norman}                                7       AR-4103
Rabbit Transit {Brian McGhie}                                   8       AR-4104
The Official Frogger By Sega {Steve Landrum}                    9       AR-4105
Party Mix {Dennis Caswell}                                      10      AR-4430
Sword Of Saros {Jon Leupp?}                                     11      AR-4201
Survival Island {Scott Nelson}                            3     12      AR-4401

Sweat!: The Decathlon Game {Scott Nelson}                 4     N/A     N/A
(Semi playable prototype included)

Notes: 1 - originally named Labyrinth
       2 - originally named Excalibur
       3 - originally named Jungle (PAL recently discovered and VERIFIED!)
       5 - Contains at least 2 loads, at least 2 events.
           This is the most complete Sweat! in existence.
           (NTSC only)

Bonuses included:

All known "preview" demo versions:

Commie Mutants
Suicide Mission
Killer Satellites
Rabbit Transit
Party Mix *

Legally included Polo proto *
Dragonstomper beta "Excalibur" *
Suicide Mission beta "Meteroids" * +
Ed Federmeyer's SoundX utility *

* = NTSC only
+ = closest thing to vector asteroids you'll get on the 2600.

--NTSC-- refers to the television standard for north america and Japan:
  60hz, fewer scanlines than PAL.
  Playing a PAL game on an NTSC TV usually results in a hopelessly rolling

--PAL-- refers to the television standard for Europe and some of Asia:
  50hz, more scanlines than NTSC.
  Playing an NTSC game on a PAL machine results in badly altered colors
  (many revert to grey). 

III. What happened to Starpath?

The company was originally called Arcadia until Emerson released their
Arcadia 2001; making the change to avoid potential legal troubles.

The end of Starpath: apparently some "firm commitments" for sales didn't
come through, and they ran out of money.  At roughly the same time Epyx
lost a lot of staff who formed another company.  Since they shared some
common investors, the two companies merged in November of 1983.  Later
Epyx went bankrupt too, but before doing so Atari had gained exclusive
usage rights to all Epyx games for Atari systems (hence XEGS Ballblazer,
etc..) but the official corpse of Epyx was bought by Bridgestone
Multimedia.  Bridgestone owns the copyrights of Epyx and retroactively
Starpath.  Atari still retains exclusive usage rights (in theory) and
therefore had to be consulted to avoid litigation.

What happened to Sweat?  The market was crashing, Starpath didn't have any
$$, Eventually inspired Epyx's Summer Games but only a few basic Starpath
routines were kept.

The mail order games:  At the end, Starpath needed to get rid of stock (to
pay bills no doubt), so they sold everything to A&B Sales, who got the
up-til-then unreleased Swords Of Saros and Survival Island.  These never
had boxes or "normal" instructions and were shipped in a baggie. 


 IV. What was the hobby Starpath CD project?

        A. Why was it done?

Supercharger tapes are uncommon to rare yet easy to copy, in a state of
deterioration after more than a decade, and Arcadia/Starpath has long
passed away.  So was about about time, in light of what good happened with
the Vectrex, to look into a preservation effort by transferring the tapes
to an audio-CD.  Not only that, but the Supercharger interface can
conceivably be used as a development system once the audio encoding scheme
is understood, therefore the prospects of new game development and easy
internet distribution was too exciting to ignore.  There was talk on the
net about this, and finally it was decided to organize this project in
late 1994.

As time went on, I really became more interested in the odds of
encouraging further programming of the 2600 so that this project shifted
beyond mere preservation to a big experiment to see whether there is any
enthusiasm left to push the boundaries of the 2600, since this system is
absolutely ideal in the 90's to program and distribute 2600 games. 

With this system, it is truly possible to develop easy-to-distribute
shareware games on the internet just as easily as for other home
computers: through traditional binary files. 

The 2600 has now become an "open" system, as programmable as any [less
than 8K] home-computer.  Even more "open" than the Astrocade with it's
crippled 1800 byte basic implementation w/tape.  Multiloads open the
possibility for more complex games than are possible in just 6K RAM.
Random-Access (CD or via computer) make mega-load (dozens or hundreds of
loads) finally practical and less painful to play.  Imagine complex RPGs,
Lode Runner clones, multi-wave scrollers, and so on.  The CD and the
resulting mailing list (read on) are all there to encourage programming.
Give it a shot.

The title for this project???

                   "STELLA GETS A NEW BRAIN"

Named after the internal Atari codename of the 2600 VCS chipset.

           B. What was on it?

Every Starpath/Arcadia game released, in PAL and NTSC formats (save
Survival Island which only recently resurfaced for PAL) and an NTSC
version of the most complete SWEAT! extant.  Also, SoundX, a great
Asteroids-clone pre-release version of Suicide Mission, and Carol Shaw's
unreleased 1978 game POLO are present.

<present tense on>

This CD acts as a standalone audio-CD, but also has an ISO-9660 data
portion readable by a CD-ROM.  Included on this data portion are a lot of
image files as well as some development software which allows you to talk
to the Supercharger to write your own games.  A Vectrex portion includes
high-quality cleaned-up overlay scans (much better than what you can find
on the net) and legal ROM dumps, and more.

And don't forget the booklet.  It is 4.25x5.5" in size, with an intro from
Steve Hales, instructions, reviews, color cover and backcover, and more. 
The first 100 or so booklets were hand-initialed by Steve Hales.  The
pressing was limited to 400 units, about 350 of which were sold to
consumers, the rest reserved as personal backups by the "Cyberpunks".

This CD is not for use with emulators.  This is not an emulation!  This
CD is primarily an audio-CD to replace original Arcadia/ Starpath audio
tapes and MUST be used with a genuine Starpath Supercharger cartridge and
Atari 2600-compatible console (2600, 2600 jr., most 7800s, and so on).
There is a data portion which requires a computer w/CD-ROM to use, but the
computer will always only be a cross-compiler and file-server for the
actual Atari 2600 hardware.  Neat, huh?

<present tense off>

        C. How was it done?

This whole project was organized on the internet.  Calls went out for
'tape donators' and a special hook was put into my email address to
collect names onto a list of people interested in the CD once it is done.
Eventually I gathered a team of people to help me.  Russ Perry handling
rights negotiation, Dan Skelton handling CD artwork, Jim Nitchals handling
the initial tape remastering.

Believe me, it's a long story and I don't even remember the whole thing.

        D. How do I get one?/How much?

The CD has been sold out for a long time now.

It _was_ sold for only $15 plus shipping.


  V. Can one program the Atari 2600 through the Supercharger?

	A. What you need

Software was included on the CD for PC and MAC to encode audio
 from 6502 ML into Starpath audio .WAVs for playback (bin2tape), as well
as decode the Starpath audio signal and put it back into 6502 ML.  The PC
version of Bin2Tape was not properly beta-tested and was DOA but was
rereleased by Bill Heineman in a working form on the net.  Still, for now,
Bob Colbert seems to have the lead in making the better program (see
below).  These tools, combined with a 6502 cross assembler, can be used to
write 2600 games.  The Supercharger has 6K RAM onboard which, due to it
being more than the 4K ROM limit, and it being RAM, opens up a lot of
doors for the 2600 which writing for ROM simply keeps shut.  Jim also
included some hints on 2600 and Starpath programming to get you started,
as well as sourcecode to many of the games.  I think any 16-bit or greater
machine with at least 8-bit sound should be able to run the software.

Bob Colbert (hatchets buried permanently, knock on wood) is currently
supporting his own standalone freeware program called "makewav".  If you
are an Amiga owner like myself, makewav is the only choice for you.  If
you are a PC owner, you may also want to use makewave over bin2tape.  For
instance, due to CD pressing concerns, most the .BINs on the data portion
of the Supercharger CD are padded to 32K.  I don't believe the current
version of bin2tape will read these effectively.  Makewav will!  Makewav
has other compatibility enhancements and optional flags as well.  Check it

Both bin2tape and makewav can be used to send preexisting 2 and 4K ROM
dumps of commercial cartridges to the supercharger, although I do not
endorse this if it is used for piracy.

Bob Colbert's Cheetah program can be used in conjunction with this to
modify games for infinite lives, etc similar to Game Genie.  Since some
commercial games bang on the Supercharger bank select register, causing
crashes, Bob Colbert designed a hardware modification which write-protects
the Supercharger RAM and allows most incompatible games to run.

Relevant 2600 programming information and support files to be found at
this URL:


        B. Support--The Stella Mailing list

Subscribe via     stella-request@xxxxxxxxxxx
post to                   stella@xxxxxxxxxxx

This is an Atari 2600 programming cooperative and discussion group. 
Beta-test source code and binaries are often published here.

Past archives are available at this URL:


There is also a way to subscribe via the above pages.

So, if you wanna code, get a Supercharger, get the software, and get onto
the stella list.  Even if you plan on coding via an emulator a
Supercharged 2600 is important to verify the integrity of your games. 
Many games will run fine on emulators but screw up on authentic 2600s. 
Even if you intend to distribute via cart it's much more convenient to
debug with a Supercharger.  No more test-EPROM burns... 

 VI. Aftermath

	A. Preserving the integrity of the Starpath rights

It took some subtle negotiation to get the permission to produce this CD
legally and by the book.  This CD does not signal that the games are
suddenly public domain or freely distributable, therefore I will frown
upon any effort to upload the Starpath games onto web sites (we've had
some close-calls, with lots of nasty email exchanges to boot.)  Other ROM
images, it's really too late to do anything, but the rights of these games
have been well established.  Considering that there is now an active
effort to rerelease this CD commercially with a new emulator, trading
these games openly on the net may hurt me in the pocket book and suddenly
it will get personal.  It is in the best interest of the "classic
community" to respect these rights to facilitate the commercial release. 
(For details of the commercial release read on.) 

Also the developer software should not be used as a pirating device. 
This would defeat the purpose of including "DEVELOPER" software.

	B. The Press

The CD was written up in the following periodicals:

-Digital Press had a blurb on it
-2600 Connection devoted a whole issue to it (which one again??)
-Replication News, a CD manufacturer's trade journal, had a piece on it
	(I have yet to see this one, BTW)
-Wired magazine had a collumn on it (February 1997, p. 171)

BTW, it also made the rounds through 3d0 and maybe elsewhere in the

	C. PAL Survival Island newly discovered!!!!!!


Recently I got an e-mail from a guy named Chris Hind who claimed to own an
honest-to-goodness PAL version of Survival Island.  We were skeptical
because we had gotten our hands on one before that was labelled as a PAL
version but upon decoding turned out to be byte-identical to the NTSC
version (as odd as that sounds).

We then assumed that there never was a true PAL version of Survival
Island.  It turns out that we were wrong.  This game must be pretty rare
in Europe because despite all the exposure on r.g.v.c. it's taken this
long for anyone to come forward with a genuine PAL Survival Island, and
it's unfortunate that this game did not make it onto the official CD.  But
it is fortunate that the Arcadia/Starpath catalog has been properly
archived in its entirety down to every single byte of released code,
remaining betas and source, and the vast majority of the released printed
material (a little more of this has surfaced as well).

If you are one of the handful of Supercharger CD owners who use PAL
televisions, please email me (krishna@xxxxxxxxxxxx) and I'll see about
sending you the 3 loads in .BIN form which you can then run makewav or
bin2tape on to generate a viable WAV file.  I'm not putting these up on an
ftp or web server because these games remain copyrighted outside of the
domain of the Supercharger CD.  That also means you should reserve it for
personal use only.

VII. The Future
        A. Long-range goals for the stella mailing-list programmers' coop 

A poll conducted a couple months ago revealed that about a half dozen
people are planning to have completed a mature game in one year's time. 
Since then I've seen steady progress in at least a few individuals
(although stella-list is rather dormant right now).  I am still hopeful
that there will indeed be some interesting software by the spring of 1998.

Although I was hoping that this software would be distributed as .BINs,
most of the programmers are going the route of 4K ROM as the final
distribution method so they can get physical carts made.  This raised a
whole "cart vs. bin" debate on the mailing list.  However, at least one
person is planning to release a multiload Supercharger game.  I hope
others follow as the Supercharger environment is much nicer to work with
thank the constrained 4K ROM workspace.

If enough software is written, a followup Stella CD is a possibility with
deluxe manual et. al.  Should economics permit, a prize will be offered by
Cyberpunks for the best new game written by March 1998 <no promises yet>. 

        E. The commercial run

Current status 6-11-97

Negotiations with Bridgestone are complete in principle, but no contract
signed.  Negotiations with Atari continue to be problematic.  We are
attempting to license the ENTIRE Atari catalog including prototypes.  As
for distribution, if we go through Activision we'd likely put the entire
Activision, Absolute, and Imagic catalog on it.  The small Avalon Hill
catalog will probably be represented.  Coleco, Parker Brothers, and 20th
Century Fox are possibilities.  Curios like Tooth Protectors and Chase the
Chuckwagon are also likely.  Due to the huge volume of games, not all of
them will receive the deluxe multimedia treatment the Starpath catalog
had.  The games will likely be sorted in order of importance with the best
games getting the deluxe treatment, and the rest put in a no-nonsense
basic .BIN drawer.

Dan will hopefully update the manual and it will NOT be cheapened for
mass-production.  The cover is likely to change, though.  Plus, the price
is going to be higher. 

Cross your fingers and hope.

This is potentially a real mass-production mainstream product on the lines
of Activision's Action Pack that you may see on your store shelves this
fall or winter, and with the superior emulators, the larger catalog, and
the nicer production, it may do quite well.

        F. A 2600 side-project, the 20th anniversary 2600 documentary

Current status 6-11-97

It is going to be a birthday party for Stella, and a coming-together of
many famous figures in Atari past where they discuss their groundbreaking
work in front of the video camera.  Call it "Stella: Anthology" if you

I have already made a dress-rehearsal trip up there and met personally
with Al Alcorn (Co-founder of Atari), Larry Wagner (Combat, Chess), and
Larry Kaplan (Air Sea Battle, Kaboom) sans the cameras.  I got to view
many artefacts including a wire-wrap Atari 2600 prototype, early homebrew
developer 2600s/ramcarts, and photocopied the best of Larry Wagner's
fascinating production notes circa 1976-1977. 

Figures currently committed:

Al Alcorn
Larry Wagner
Larry Kaplan
Steve Mayer
Ron Milner
Joe Decuir
Bill Aspromonte
Warren Robinett (if flown from NC to CA)
Howard Scott Warshaw
John Harris
Steve Hales
Steve Landrum
Craig Nelson

Figures likely but not set in stone:

Doug Neubauer
Carla Meninsky
Bill Heineman
Bob Smith (still need to establish contact)


Nolan Bushnell
Rob Fulop (sympathetic, but rather busy running P.F. Magic)

Figures still not tracked down:

Al Miller (Carol Shaw said she forwarded info to him, but no reply)
Steve Kitchen (Very important - Space Shuttle)
Rick Maurer (Once with Sirius, an important coder - Space Invaders)
Steve Defrisco (Very important as he wrote the last 2600 games)
Dennis Koble
David Crane
Larry Miller

One notable absentee from this project will be Carol Shaw.  I did the best
I could to secure her, but she won't budge.

I'd also like to track down the authors of these games but have no names:

California Games
Winter Games
Summer Games
Fatal Run
Road Runner
Pac Man Jr.
ABSOLUTE games such as F-14 Tomcat and Skateboarding

Names of the authors of 3rd party titles other than Activision is also
very hard to come by.

The current schedule is to shoot SOMETIME THIS SUMMER in the SF Bay area. 
Scheduling is currently problematic due to personal and professional
obligations and the comings and goings of the programmers involved.

I will try to frantically edit something together by the end of the year. 
Potential end product could be cable broadcast, PBS broadcast, and/or
direct video sales.  Broadcast version will be either 1 hour (PBS), 1 hour
minus commercial breaks (cable) and the home version will likely be
expanded to 2 hours, or two tapes with one devoted exclusively to the
genesis of the console itself.


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