Tagged: ROM cartridge

SNK Neo Geo MVS (1990 – 2004)

The Neo Geo MVS (for ‘Multi Video System’) was a cartridge-based arcade game system released in 1990 by SNK.

The MVS was a coin-operated arcade console that could accept up to six cartridges in a single cabinet (1,2, and 4 slot versions were also available). Different games could be selected by players. and arcade operators could easily swap the cartridges inside the machine and change the exterior artwork. It was a successful product in the 1990s due to its low cost, compact size and the ability to offer different games in the same cabinet. When released, it was also the most powerful arcade system available.

A home version of the Neo Geo system, the AES (for ‘Advanced Entertainment System’) was made available for rental in 1990, and later for sale in 1991 when it was discovered people were willing to pay the high price.

Software is compatible with either system as they had the same specifications, but although the large cartridges look very similar they have different pin configurations and require an adaptor to use in the other system.

Neo Geo memory cards were available to allow players to save a game to return to at a later time, or continue play on either the MVS or AES systems.

Although hardware for the MVS and AES ceased production in 1997, game software was released until 2004 with the last official game being Samurai Shodown V Special. The Neo Geo MVS was replaced by the Hyper Neo Geo 64.

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Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer (1980 – 1991)

The TRS-80 Color Computer (often called the CoCo) was a home computer system introduced by the Tandy Corporation in 1980 and sold through their RadioShack stores. It is not to be confused with the monochrome TRS-80 that was aimed at the business and education market and had been introduced in 1977; the two systems are incompatible despite the similar names, and used different microprocessors.

The Color Computer did not have dedicated chips for sound and graphics like some other competing home computers such as the Atari 400 or Commodore VIC-20, so these were handled by the main processor (a Motorola 6809) which was more advanced than those used by competing systems, but consequently had more to do.

The Color Computer had a ROM cartridge slot for ‘Program Paks’. These were mostly games, but some other applications, and even a floppy disk controller could be used to control the 5.25-inch floppy disk drive that was made available as an option later. Initially, data could only be saved using a cassette recorder.

The Color Computer went through three generations before being finally discontinued in 1991, by which time it had gained a full-travel keyboard and 128 KB of RAM (which could be upgraded to 512 KB).

Many (though not all) Program Paks can be read by all three generations, but some require more RAM or joysticks to operate. The Dragon 32 and 64 shared many components with the Color Computer, and many Color Computer cartridges will also work in the Dragon.

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Commodore 16 / Plus/4 (1984 – late 1980s)

The Commodore 16 and the Plus/4 were two home computers introduced in 1984. The Commodore 16 was intended as a replacement for the VIC-20, and was named after its memory capacity of 16 KB. A more basic version of the Commodore 16, the Commodore 116, was sold in Europe, in addition to the Commodore 16.

The Commodore Plus/4 was intended as a higher-end model and came with 64 KB of RAM and four built-in office applications, though these were criticised as not being up to the task.

The Commodore 16 and Plus/4 were software compatible, and ROM cartridges would work on either machine provided the program worked within the Commodore 16’s 16 KB memory. As the Commodore 16 was the bigger seller of the pair, this meant that most software was written with the lower 16 KB limit in mind and didn’t take advantage of the greater memory of the Plus/4. Both machines could also record to Compact Cassette, and optional 5.25-inch disk drives were also available.

Neither model was successful, partly because they were not compatible with the Commodore 64 which had a large software library. After the Commodore 16 was discontinued in the US market in 1985, it was sold in Hungary, and also in Mexico. Similarly, the Plus/4 was discontinued in 1985, but was available from liquidators for some year afterwards.

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Pokémon mini (2002)

The Pokémon mini was a handheld game console, and the smallest game system to use cartridges weighing in at just 70g. It was introduced by Nintendo in 2001 (reaching Europe in 2002).

Only 10 cartridges (up to 512 KB in capacity, and a similar size to a Nintendo DS card) were released for the console, each themed around the Pokémon brand, with the last being released in Japan in December 2002 (Pokémon Breeder). It was sold in toy shops, and was seen as a children’s toy rather than a serious game system.

The Pokémon mini offered features such as force feedback, a shock detector and an infrared port for multiplayer gaming but had a small monochrome screen and monophonic sound. It was available in three colours, Wooper Blue, Smoochum Purple and Chikorita Green.

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VJ Starz Video Karaoke Machine (2002 – mid 2000s)

The VJ Starz Video Karaoke Machine was introduced in 2002 by Toymax Inc., and allowed users to create video recordings of themselves singing (and dancing).

The VJ Starz unit used cartridges containing ‘digitally recreated’ music (i.e. not recorded by the original artist) along with subtitled lyrics that could be displayed on a TV. The unit had a built-in video camera as well as a microphone, and by hooking it up to a video recorder, users could make a recording of themselves (the recorded version did not show the subtitles). For the cost of the unit, video quality was considered good.

Tempo, key and volume could be controlled.

Three cartridges were available, each with a selection of five pop hits.

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Nintendo Game Boy dual-mode cartridge (1998 – 2003)

When the Game Boy Color was launched by Nintendo in 1998, it had the ability to use cartridges (‘Game Paks’) from the original Game Boy, albeit in monochrome. Its own cartridges, usually translucent, were not backward compatible with the Game Boy but there was a third type of cartridge introduced at the same time as the Game Boy Color, and this was compatible with both models.

These ‘dual mode’ (also known as class B) Game Paks were usually black, and were the same shape as the original Game Boy cartridges (that were usually grey) including the notch that allowed the power switch to be moved across. They were programmed to play in colour when used on the Game Boy Color.

The dual mode Game Paks were compatible with all Game Boy models, except for the Game Boy Micro.

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e-kara Karaoke Cartridge (2001 – 2009)

e-kara was a karaoke system aimed at children, designed by the Japanese toy company Takara and introduced in 2001.

The e-kara system itself was a handheld unit containing the microphone and controls, which plugged into a television set. The interchangeable cartridges that contained the digitally recreated music were then plugged into the handheld unit. An e-kara Pro version was also available that had a separate headset for hands-free singing.

Lyrics appeared on the TV screen, and the e-kara unit also allowed singers to pick special effects for their voice such as various types of echo and pitch control.

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Casio Loopy (1995 – 1997)

The Casio Loopy (subtitled My Seal Computer SV-100) was a fifth-generation home video console introduced by Casio in 1995. It was only released in Japan. While the system claims to use 32-bit RISC processing, it appeared technically unimpressive due to the nature of the software available.

It was unusual in being marketed to female gamers, and included a built in colour thermal printer to print stickers from game screenshots. An optional accessory called the Magical Shop Word Processor could also be used to obtain images from other devices (such as a DVD player) to allow stickers to be created using images from them.

Eleven titles were available for the Casio Loopy during its two-year lifespan. All the games tend to have the same themes – painting, dress-up/makeover, and romance stories were all that were offered.

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Nintendo Virtual Boy (1995 – 1996)

The Virtual Boy was a 32-bit video game console released by Ninteno in 1995 to the Japanese and US markets (it was never released in Europe).

Although advertised as a portable system, the console was a table top model requiring a flat surface to rest on, with the player looking into a headset. It was promoted as the first portable game console to  provide an immersive 3D experience.

The display used red LEDs for cost reasons, but the console was still initially expensive.

The 3D effects were a result of two linear arrays, each one directed to an eye that are presented to the player through oscillating mirrors that cause the Virtual Boy to emit a murmur. The 3D effect could cause eye strain, and there was an option to pause the game every fifteen or thirty minutes.

Nintendo initially showcased three games for the Virtual Boy, and planned to release two or three each month. By the time is was discontinued, 22 titles had been released.

The cartridges (‘Game Paks’) themselves were not compatible with any other Nintendo system, and unlike other Nintendo Game Paks, had a small removable cover for the pins.

The Virtual Boy proved to be a commercial failure and was discontinued in 1996.  Nintendo did not release another 3D console until 2011 with the Nintendo 3DS.

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Nintendo Game Boy Color (1998 – 2003)

The Game Boy Color was a handheld video game console released by Nintendo in 1998 as a successor to the original monochrome Game Boy.

The Game Boy Color had double the processor speed, three times as much memory, and an infrared communications port as well as a colour display. Its main competitors were the SNK Neo Geo Pocket and the Bandai WonderSwan, but the Game Boy Color had much greater commercial success. The Game Boy and Game Boy Color combined sold nearly 119 million units worldwide.

Cartridges (called ‘Game Paks’ by Nintendo) for the original Game Boy could be used in the Game Boy Color, which was a major selling point.

There were also cartridges that could be used in either console (class B or dual mode). These are the same shape as the original Game Boy cartridges, but are usually black instead of grey. Cartridges that are designed specifically for the Game Boy Color (class C) are clear-coloured and are shaped slightly differently from the original Game Boy cartridges. They lack the notch that allows the original Game Boy power switch to be moved across, to ensure they could not be used in the original Game Boy by mistake.

The Game Boy Color was eventually discontinued in 2003, when the Game Boy Advance SP was launched (it had sold alongside the first version of the Game Boy Advance that was launched in 2001).

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