[stella] Krokodile Cart prototype review

Subject: [stella] Krokodile Cart prototype review
From: "Andrew Davie" <atari2600@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 21 Feb 2004 00:35:49 +1100
Thought I'd fire a quick first-hand report to the list on this new '2600
cartridge from Kroko (who has posted here, too).

In short, the Krokodile Cart (not it's official name -- yet ;) is now in
prototype form.  The designer, Armin, first created a wire-wrapped
spiderweb, got it working and then ordered three actual boards to his
design.  These worked (except for the RAM) and I have agreed to purchase one
of them with a view to testing and assisting with development on future

The cartridge arrived on my doorstep a few days ago.  It is exceptionally
well-made, and comes completely enclosed in a standard '2600 cartridge
shell.  The Krokodile Cart emulates '2600 cartridges including many
differing bankswitching schemes.  Of particular interest to me are the 512KB
ROM support, and future 128KB RAM -- and note, Kroko has been asking about
RAM-based bankswitch schemes.  Something to consider carefully, given that
this cartridge may form the basic development system for a lot of us (if I
get my way!).  The proto I have does not have extra RAM due to a small
glitch in the original design :)   Thus, the RAM-bankswitch schemes are not
functional on this particular unit.  That problem has already been fixed,
though, so it's a non-issue.

This thing is fantastic.  Obviously there are a few rough edges -- but not
many, and for a first-up proto, it's amazing.  I have successfully
downloaded all of my demos that I've not previously seen running on the real
thing.  Well, they all worked just fine.  Downloading a 512KB ROM takes just
under a minute - but a simple 4K ROM takes around half a second... barely
enough time to blink!

The cartridge keeps the ROM data intact even when powered down.  Evidenced
by the fact that Kroko shipped this to me from Germany with the Dancing Baby
ROM saved on it... and it made it here just fine and worked first time I
plugged it in.  It's quite possible for this thing to become the multicart
to end all multicarts -- 512K could hold 128 of your favourite 4K ROMs, for
example, with a simple menu selection program.  That's in the future -- for
now, just a single ROM at a time, but the potential is enormous.  Once you
have your program downloaded to the Krokodile Cart, it looks and behaves
just like any other 'cart.  Take it with you and plug it into a friend's
machine (without its power supply)... and it will work just fine, with your
program running.

The PC software interface is well designed, and intuitive.  Armin is
planning a command-line interface, too, so we can all use this device from
our makefiles.  But for now, it's a windowed utility providing selectable
files, bankswitching, and an inbuilt MD5 checksum and file database for
automatic configuration.  Download is via serial cable, male to female.  The
cartridge requires its own power supply (6VDC).  Both the power input and
serial port are carefully installed in the top-end of the standard '2600

This cartridge is the CuttleCart we all wanted, but could never get.  I
would recommend you all put in your orders for this beauty NOW, because the
greater the demand, the quicker they'll get to final production.  I'm
absolutely stoked with the potential this thing has, and VERY impressed with
the fine work Kroko has done in design and production.


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