Short version: For quite a few years now the VF is my main hobby retro project and I intend to tinker with/update/improve upon it for the foreseeable future. Since I still get asked frequently for one and after years of not offering any I have decided for once to build a few for others of the latest VF -the Mark II- which in this incarnation uses 128MB; so if you are interested in one do contact me. Features are among others:
- Fast turnaround options for Vectrex cart. development
- Vectrex multicart., including ‘special needs’ ones (e.g. Vectorblade); it acts as a usb disk when powered via usb by a computer
- playing 8-bit vector Arcade games including prototypes and older romset revisions directly on the Vectrex (not via a version of MAME or something similar but every single romset was manually translated, adapted and optimized for the Vectrex.. and arcade romsets not provided)
- new, native applications running directly on the VF processor
- ym music and native video players
- unified firmware for all VF variants which can be updated via the Vectrex
I’ve also got a few shells in different colors. Just a few of each, though, and once they are gone it reverts back to ‘you can have any color you want provided it is black’.
Since started in 2015 the VF project ballooned into something ever more complex mainly because it (still) is the perfect hobby project: it kept on giving me more and more ideas of things to try out. Eventually this led to investigating the history of computer games and esp. vector hardware besides the Vectrex – using the Vectrex. This still is mostly a software project, >99% of the time is spent on software at a guess. Since the hardware is flexible it gave me the capability to change the behavior whenever necessary or just for certain scenarios. In most cases simply via software, for some projects I had to hook up additional hardware (real time clock or serial port) or modify it marginally (e.g. the IRQ line for Vectorblade).
Initially it was a pure development hardware -and I have developed a bunch of 6809 games and other cart. using it- which doubled as a multi-cartridge. Over time at least for me the focus shifted more to investigating -and playing- the original 8-bit vector arcade games. And figuring out how to create a tiny, reasonably flexible and above all maintainable OS which runs vector applications directly on a small microprocessor. Which then led to porting even more vector-based games – like lately Elite TNK or Dungeons of Daggorath.
So the current VecFever firmware does not only pretend to be a variety of Vectrex cartridge hardware to develop and/or play Vectrex games but additionally it loads and executes native applications – especially all the arcade emulators. These applications frequently are spread over three different files: the application binary itself, a text file for localization (English/German/French) and additional data, if necessary. That optional, additional data loaded by the application is separate from the actual binary simply because it contains dumps of either Vectrex cartridges which are not public domain or of dumps of ROMs of arcade pcbs – and they are not provided for obvious reasons (but usually easily findable out there).
So I have spent a .lot. of time on the VF and developing applications for it, lately I went through all 8-bit vector arcade games, prototypes and some different revisions one after the other; then I had to adapt these applications again -twice even- when the environment changed: at first when the firmware was rewritten and then for the vf library now used by all applications. Still, more fun than actually building hardware, I only enjoy developing stuff, to be honest.
The current iteration uses two 64MB flash chips to increase the capacity to 128MB and to improve the write performance (via a RAID-0 setup). Still not really fast but ok (these flash chips are optimized for robustness and not speed). The larger capacity is unnecessary so far – I have never even filled up 64MB and all Vectrex/arcade games incl. the necessary romsets still fit into the 16MB of the original VF. I am aware that this is a personal decision: I myself prefer something that’ll likely outlast us all but because of this is slower and expensive – even though there are much cheaper alternatives available.
Shells were cnc’ed by Tony Lindberg this time around (actually more than a year ago but still – thank you, Tony !) in various colors, and use a LED holder I was hoping would cut down the building time a bit (sadly: not really, but does look nicer).
The (semi-)transparent, non-black shells are all pretty nice, a ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ instance really. You may know them but if not here is my impression: my favorite is the normal black one, it is not flashy and opaque. The teal and red shells are the least transparent, the former less flashy, the latter quite noticeable. Orange is unique in that the material looks almost irridiscent depending on the lighting and the entirely transparent one again unique: the all-transparent look is liked by quite a few people for its modern looks and the ability to look at/show the innards.