[stella] VCS Hard Drive

Subject: [stella] VCS Hard Drive
From: Glenn Saunders <cybpunks2@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 18 Jan 2003 21:56:34 -0800
At 10:56 PM 1/18/2003 -0600, you wrote:
I think this would be a great way to implement an RPG type game on the 2600.
You could store lots of room/monster/character/game-state information in the

If we are talking about random access read-only hard drive support for the 2600, I can think of one method that would definitely work--using the Supercharger or Cuttle Cart.

The Supercharger is ALMOST there except that it requires human intervention to start the next load.

Supercharger loads can overwrite any number of pages for all 6K of the cart's RAM, leaving the rest persistent. It's a pretty flexible system that can be used for modular programs and data that swap in and out.

Multiload games for the Supercharger have been linear to date, but they COULD be more random-access. On a Cuttle Cart you could do it right now because it visibly shows you the load number to load. On the Supercharger you'd be running blind unless the game's own code told you what to load before jumping to the Supercharger BIOS routine.

What you really want is a way for the 2600 to request its own load.

This should be possible to do by bit-banging on one of the controller ports, sending signals to a client program on the PC via serial. The PC would then feed the 2600 the required load.

Now of course, it might also be possible to have a RAM-on-cart solution that either has its own interface on board or uses one of the controller ports for both directions. It's just that we haven't seen that yet.

But using the Supercharger it should be possible to write RPGs where various zones are stored in different loads and file pointers to other loads exist in the exit points of the zones, and you can move from zone to zone with complete freedom and the game would automatically load in the proper data. If each load were around 4K and you used TURBO mode on makewav then it should be snappy enough to not be that intrusive having to wait for the loads to happen.

You could then have as many loads as you want as long as the PC knows how to translate the raw load request into a filename to pull. The Supercharger format assigns a load number to loads but there is no reason you can't reuse load numbers. The load numbers were done so that if the user tries to load the wrong load, it won't wipe out his game. But if the loading is automated then there is no chance that the PC would send the wrong file; you would just request it via some 2+byte sequence that would have a greater maximum number of files.

At that point you could have infinite data capacity to the 2600, albeit not all instantly accessible.

You could do some cool things with this, by the way. You could have the PC modify/compile data on the fly, acting sort of like a coprocessor or client/server sort of thing. The more the PC does besides just serve static files the more it might seem overkill, though.

It might actually be faster and more direct to write a Supercharger program that does all I/O across the board via serial on one of the controller ports, though.

It's just that you'd have more overhead in your program for that, whereas using the BIOS routines eats no RAM.

But since you'd already be taking the hit writing the code to send data to the PC requesting the load, it might be better to do both directions in serial. Don't know what the speed difference would be.

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