Vectrex “Frequently Asked Questions” List!
Created: 9/1/92 – version 4.0
Copyright worldwide (c) 1992, 1996
Created Gregg Woodcock (email@example.com)
Maintained by BaronVR (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(duhn duht duhn duht … duhn duht duhn dit dut)
This file is copyrighted (c) 1996 by Gregg Woodcock but may be
distributed in part or in whole by anyone for any purpose (commercial or
otherwise) provided proper credit is given to me and the individual
contributors. If you do use the FAQ, I would appreciate it if you send
me a copy of whatever you are doing with it. Special thanks to Tom
Sloper for correcting many mistakes and providing insightful
explanations on several parts of earlier FAQ versions!
Additions for version 5.0 and after are public domain and end with
a date (1999 or after) in brackets and (in the html version) are in red.
Q. What is Vectrex?
Q. What games were released or on the drawing board before Vectrex died?
Q. What projects have been released or on the drawing board since then? [6/99]
Q. How does the 3-D imager work?
Q. I see double images and blurry objects; is my 3-D imager broken?
Q. I have a 3-D game but no imager. When I play the game it doesn’t do
anything; is it broken?
Q. What is Minestorm/II?
Q. What is the Minestorm “Wave 13” bug?
Q. Well how many released versions of the Minestorm software was there?
Q. What miscellaneous Vectrex items might my collection be missing?
Q. Where is the Vectrex FTP archive and what is there? Any other places?
Q. Isn’t copying the games by burning EPROMs stealing or violating a
Q. OK, I want to make a copy of a game; what is the pinout of the port?
Q. Do I have to make my own multi-cart; can’t I just buy one from
Q. How do I play [game X]?
Q. Is there a way to make a Vectrex joystick perhaps with autofire
Q. How can I make a copy of a screen overlay?
Q. My Vectrex is very noisy; is there anything I can do to make it any
Q. My joystick won’t auto-center anymore; can I fix it?
(AKA How do I get inside or open up my joystick?)
Q. My Vectrex just shows a white dot when I turn it on. I can hear the
game playing but there is no picture. Can I fix it?
Q. Are there tricks or cheats for any Vectrex games?
Q. What is the history of the Vectrex?
Q. How can I play the games if I don’t have a Vectrex? [6/99]
Q. Where on the net can I find Vectrex information? [6/99] (LINKS)
LIST OF PERSONS INVOLVED IN THE VECTREX DEVELOPMENT
Here it is in layman’s terms:
Vectrex is one of the most inspired video game machines ever produced
(but similar things were said about the Edsel and Titanic). Its point
of distinction is the fact that it uses vector “line” graphics (as
opposed to raster “pixel” graphics). This is the same type of screen
used in such arcade classics as Space Wars, Asteroids, Battlezone and
Tempest. The machine has a 9 x 11 inch black and white screen and comes
with a built-in Asteroids clone called Minestorm. The games come with
plastic overlays that slide over the screen to cut down on flicker and
give some illusion of color. It uses one of the most advanced 8 bit
processors, the 68A09 (6809 with 1.5MHz clock speed), and a popular and
excellent sound chip, General Instruments AY-3-8912, which can produce a
wide range of noises. Also included is a 1.5 inch, self-centering,
joystick with 4 buttons on the right. It uses an analog/potentiometer
system allowing differing degrees of directional input.
The machine’s footprint takes up a little less than a square foot on a
desk (in fact, it quite resembles a jet black Macintosh SE sans mouse
and keyboard), and can be operated easily in that area. The joystick is
connected via a springy telephone-like cord and can be folded into the
base of the machine for portability. The machine is moderately
transportable and very well constructed but, alas, very much extinct.
It made its debut late in 1982 and was quite scarce by the end of 1984
due to the Great Video Game Depression of ’82 which forced Milton
Bradley (who bought the rights to the Vectrex from General Consumer
Electronics (GCE)) to discontinue production due to to poor sales.
After this, the rights to the Vectrex and all related materials were
returned to the original developers, Smith Engineering. Smith
Engineering has graciously condoned the not-for-profit circulation of
any duplicatable materials including games and manuals and is happy to
see it is still ‘alive’ in certain circles.
Here are some more detailed snippets from the service manual:
As a general description, the HP3OOO is a self-contained video game
system intended for home use. The system includes its own 9″ B&W
monitor screen and 3″ permanent magnet speaker. Plug-in ROM type
cartridges are available offering arcade type video and sound game play.
No external TV receiver hookup is needed or provided for. A front panel
storable controller allows control over the game via joystick and push
button action switches. For two player operation a second controller
identical to the single player controller is available as an accessory
product. Both controllers attach to the main game console through nine
wire coiled telephone style cables. There is a consumer power
switch/volume control on the front panel as well as a game reset button.
A consumer adjustable brightness control is located on the main console
For the technical description which follows, the reader is encouraged to
refer to the block diagram and schematic [not included here].
The HP3OOO is a microprocessor based, vector scan system using a
standard 9″ black & white CRT as its video display device. The
microprocessor (MPU) is the Motorola 68A09 device. The MPU operates at
1.5 MHz from a 6 MHz external Xtal. An internal divide by 4 circuit
generates the MPU 1.5 MHz “E” clock signal used in the system. Program
memory is stored in the 8K x 8 bit 2363 type ROM. This ROM contains
common subroutines, the “executive” or assembler instructions plus one
Two 1K x 4 bit 2114 type static RAMs provide storage locations for data
indicative of locations of objects, game status, and various other
information needed by the microprocessor during game operation.
Peripheral Interface Adapter (PIA) Chip, has two 8 bit peripheral ports
which interfaces the MPU with peripheral devices and external signals.
One of the PIA ports interfaces the General Instrument AY-3-8912
sound-I.O. chip with the MPU and also drives the digital to analog
converter chip MC1408. The other PIA port is used as control lines for
the sound chip, selector control for the multiplex chip and as a means
to read the A/D comparator that’s used in the joystick successive
approximation circuitry. Sound is either MPU generated directly or by
use of the AY-3-8912 sound chip.
The AY-3-8912 sound chip is a programmable sound generator containing 3
tone generators and wave shaping circuitry. This chip also has a single
8 bit I.O. port used to read the status of each of the hand controller’s
4 action switches.
The standard TTL device types 74LS00 and 74LS32 are used as control line
decoders to allow the MPU to select the appropriate circuit element to
be addressed at any particular time.
The analog processing section includes digital to analog converter (DAC)
chip type MC1408, dual 4 channel multiplexer/demultiplexer chip type
CD4052, and dual channel op-amps types LF353 and LF347.
DAC chip MC1408 receives an 8 bit word at data terminals D0-D7. DAC
output (pin 4) is current source. One section of IC LF353 is used to
change this current to a voltage representative of the 8 bit digital
word received by the DAC chip. The LF353 voltage is applied to an input
of the dual 4 channel multiplexer (MUX) chip CD4052. This same voltage
(designated “DAC” on the schematic) is the X-axis drive signal.
The CD4052 MUX chip serves two purposes: it selectively couples, under
MPU control, the output of the DAC current/voltage converter to one of 4
places and is used to selectively couple the inputs from the joystick
pots to the voltage comparator IC LF353.
Production # Name (Notes) [Size or NR=Not Released]
VT 3000 Minestorm (built-in game; Asteroids clone) [4K]
VT 3000 Minestorm/II (bug free version in cart form) [4K]
VT 3101 Cosmic Chasm (1st home game ported to arcade) [4K]
VT 3102 Rip Off (Cinematronics arcade port) [4K]
VT 3103 Scramble (Konami arcade port) [4K]
VT 3104 Solar Quest (Cinematronics arcade port) [4K]
VT 3105 Space Wars (Cinematronics arcade port) [4K]
VT 3106 Starhawk (Cinematronics arcade port) [4K]
VT 3107 Star Trek (AKA Star Ship in Europe) [4K]
VT 3108 Web Wars (AKA Web Warp in ?????) (best game?) [8K]
VT 3109 Star Castle (Cinematronics arcade port) [4K]
VT 3201 Hyperchase (very bad driving game) [4K]
VT 3202 Blitz! Action Football [8K]
VT 3203 Heads-Up Action Soccer (Soccer Football in Europe) [8K]
VT 3204 Spinball (Flipper Pinball in Europe) (has PAUSE!) [8K]
VT 3205 Pitcher’s Duel -OR- Batter Up Action Baseball [NR]
VT 3206 Pole Position (Atari/Namco arcade port) [8K]
VT 3301 Armor Attack (Cinematronics arcade port) [4K]
VT 3302 Berzerk (Stern arcade port; high levels crash) [4K]
VT 3303 Clean Sweep (Pac-Man clone) [4K]
VT 3304 Fortress of Narzod (great shooter) [8K]
VT 3305 Bedlam (“inside-out” Tempest derivative) [4K]
VT 3306 Spike (It talks; well it sort of does 🙂 [8K]
VT 3307 Dark Tower (ONLY 1 PROTOTYPE EXISTS!) [12K=8K+4K]
VT 3308 Polar Rescue (Good sub hunt game) (has PAUSE!) [8K]
VT 3600 Light Pen (Hardware; required for 360X games)
VT 3601 Art Master (light pen) (pack-in game) [4K]
VT 3602 Melody Master (light pen) [8K]
VT 3603 Mail Plane (light pen) (100% completed) [NR]
VT 3604 Animaction (light pen) [8K+2K RAM]
VT 3630 3-D Imager (Hardware; required for 363X games)
VT 3631 3-D Pole Position (3-D) (completed?) [NR]
VT 3632 3-D Minestorm (3-D) (pack-in game) [8K]
VT 3633 Narrow Escape (3-D) (same color disk as CC) [8K]
VT 3634 Crazy Coaster (3-D) (same color disk as NE) [8K]
VT ???? Test Cartridge (issued to repair centers only) [4K]
VT ???? Tour de France (100% completed) [NR]
VT ???? HangMan (Touch Screen) (pack-in game; complete) [NR]
The liquor company, Mr. Boston, gave out a limited number of
customized cartridges of Clean Sweep. The box had a Mr. Boston sticker
on it. The overlay was basically the regular Clean Sweep overlay with
the Mr. Boston name, logo, and % proof/copyright info running up either side.
The game itself had custom text, and the player controlled a top hat rather
than a vacume. [6/99]
Newport Cigarettes at one point commisioned a customized version of Web Wars.
It just featured “Newport Cigarettes Presents” on the title screen and trophy
room screen. Bill Hawkins finished the coding which was sent to Newport, but
it isn’t known whatever happened with that, if anything. [10/00]
The following games and accessories were planned but never released:
Art Master II
Art Master III
Art Master IV
Exploring the Solar System
Hangman (game developed for use with Touch Screen)
Pole Position (for 3-D Imager)
Touch-Sensitive Screen (prototype known to exist)
Computer Adapter with BASIC (prototypes rumored to exist)
Disk Driver/Wafer Tape Drive
Create Your Own Video Game
Art Program in LOGO
A company called Roy Abel & Associates also commercially exploited the
Vectrex by using it as a text terminal (which is about the worst thing
it can do) to perform the “Luscher Color Test” after you put a quarter
into a coin device which activated the unit. You would pick colors in
the order that they appealed to you (again, why did they use a black and
white display for this job?), and it would tell you about your
personality. Actually, no matter what you picked it would tell you
something that you could identify with; all of the statements were
pretty vague. The guy that programmed it did not understand the
hardware; the text scrolled up the screen, but lines popped on at the
bottom and disappeared near the top instead of scrolling on and off from
offscreen. Roy had GCE’s permission and blessing to do the project. In
fact, some former WT personnel (Sidleys and others) as well as Lee
Chaden (big guy at GCE) were at Abel & Associates at the time.
Dark Tower (GCE)
Vector Vaders (1996, John Dondzila)
Vectrex Pong (Chris Salomon)
Patriots (John Dondzila)
All Good Things (John Dondzila)
Spike’s Water Bottles
23 Matches (hidden)
Rockaroids Remix (John Dondzila)
Frogger (Chris Salomon)
Spike Hoppin’ (John Dondzila)
Omega Chase (Christopher L Tumber)
Omega Chase Deluxe
Omega Chase Infinite Lives (limited edition cart)
Moon Lander (Clay Cowgill, some code by Chris Salomon)
Vecmania (John Dondzila):
Star Fire Spirits
Disc Duel Demo
Birds of Prey
Rockaroids Remix (3rd rock)
Vector Vaders Remix
VectRace/Vaboom! (Ronen Habot)
Polar Rescue (early version)
Star Trek (alternate version)
Tour De France (GCE)
Spike Goes Skiing (Andrew Coleman)
Lunar Lander (Tom Landspurg)
Untitled (Martin Balazs)
Pop (Christopher L Tumber)
Vix (Christopher L Tumber)
Vector-Patrol (Kristof Tuts)
SAW Graphics Demo (Christopher L Tumber)
Vectrexians (Kristof Tuts)
+various graphics/sound demos…
Utilities for DOS:
Vectrex Programming Tutorial (Chris Salomon)
Vectrex C Compiler (Chris Salomon)
VecSound .YM to Vectrex Binary Converter (Chris Salomon)
V-Model (Christopher Tumber)
Robert Stickles (email@example.com) explained it very well like this:
The 3-D imager spins a disk which is 1/2 black and 1/2 colored bands
that radiate from the centre (Usually red, green and blue) between your
eyes and the vectrex screen. The Vectrex is synchronized to the
rotation of the disk (or vice versa) and draws vectors corresponding to
a particular color and/or a particular eye. Therefore only one eye will
see the vectrex screen and its associated images (or color) at any one
time while the other will see nothing.
A single object that does not lie on the plane of the monitor (i.e. in
front of or into the monitor) is drawn at least twice to provide
information for each eye. The distance between the duplicate images and
whether the right eye image or the left eye image is drawn first will
determine where the object will appear to “be” in 3-D space. The 3-D
illusion is also enhanced by adjusting the brightness of the object
(dimming objects in the background). Spinning the disk at a high enough
speed will fool your eyes/brain into thinking that the multiple images
it’s seeing are two different views of the same object, and voila!
Instant 3-D and color.
Robert Stickles (firstname.lastname@example.org) answered this very well like this:
Probably not. There are problems with the basic design of the imager as
implemented. When the imager displays red objects, especially those
that are to appear in the foreground, it’s very difficult for your eyes
to resolve the two images and you end up seeing double. Two things
contribute to this: When your eyes naturally try to focus on an object
that is supposed to be in the distance the objects close up become out
of focus. This makes games that have 3-D objects deep “into” the screen
(such as Narrow Escape) have double images for the foreground objects
(such as your ship).
The second factor is the “ghosting” created by red (and oddly enough,
only red) images seen through the imager. For example, the red tracks
in Crazy Coaster are hard to visualise because my eyes can see white
ghosts of the image intended for the opposite eye, and consequently you
interpret the jumble as two different objects and not one. I am not
completely sure what causes this, but it may be due to inaccuracies in
the synching of the wheel. I do believe that the reason why the 3-D
Minestorm color wheel is different from the one used for the other games
(it has little red and the sync hole is slightly offset) is to show off
the imager at it’s best, with lots of green and blue (or maybe the
coders just wanted lots of green!). I will make a homemade color wheel
similar to the CC/NE one, but with different colors to determine for
sure if the color red is the problem or it is a sync problem. The 3-D
Minestorm wheel differs too much from the other wheel to make a good
I have found two ways to remedy this problem:
1) The further your eyes are away from the screen, the easier it is to
resolve the double images. So sit waaaay back and enjoy. This helps
the focusing problem.
2) Using an overlay on the screen tends cut down on the red “ghosting”.
I use a Spinball/Flipper pinball overlay , but any of the single color
overlays (Berserk, Blitz, etc) will work just as well. This seems to
cut down the the intensity of the ghosts (and using the brightness
control wouldn’t hurt either)
I now really enjoy playing Narrow Escape as it was intended (sort of a
head-on Zaxxon) and play this game more often than Web Wars or Armor
Attack. I’m not as thrilled with Crazy Coaster as it seems to have an
unpolished feel to it. Besides, it looks *nothing* like the screen
Probably not. The 3-D games all start out by trying to spin up the 3-D
wheel so before an image is displayed so that it will look 3-D right
away. They send power to the motor and then check they sync pulse to
see how fast the wheel is spinning. If it isn’t spinning fast enough,
it increases the voltage to the motor gradually until it is. If the
voltage gets maxed out and the wheel still is not spinning fast enough,
the game will try to run but at a reduced frame rate. If there is no
3-D imager attached then there is no sync pulse and the speed of the
wheel will always be interpreted as zero. The game will not run until
it sees a sync pulse of some kind.
William Howald (email@example.com) did find a way to get 3-D games
to run without the imager though. If you plug a controller into port 2,
and bash away at the 4 button, after 1-2 minutes (be patient) the game
will start running but -s l o w l y-. Every tap on the button will
“flash” one frame on the screen and the sound if playing will advance to
the next step. The wire for the 4 button is the one hooked up to the be
hooked up to a optical sensor that reads light through the hole in the
disk which is used as a sync pulse. I think you could build a
oscillator(about 10 Hz?) and pulse the 4 button to “play” without
As we all know, the very first Vectrex units were shipped with a flawed
version of Minestorm. Evidently nobody ever though that any player
could ever get to, let alone survive wave 12 so they only included data
for 12 waves. Predictably, most players found that their game crashed
after wave 12 (the “wave 13” bug) because the software indexed off the
end of the table which contains the information about what items were to
exist on each wave. It reads in garbage which usually causes the game
I have in my possession a cartridge that originated from a private owner
on the East Coast of the USA (who was recently identified) which has a
fully produced label that says “Minestorm”. The title screen of this
game says, “Minestorm II”. This is a bug free version of Minestorm as
you can easily play past wave 13 (I will read in the ROM data as soon as
I can). It would seem that if you contacted GCE/WT about the bug,
instead of swapping out the Executive/Minestorm ROM inside the Vectrex
unit, they simply sent you a production Minestorm cart. Evidently the
cart did not come with a manual or box all the other games in this
private collection still had these things. If you want to see what it
looks like, there is a JPEG in the archives.
Fred Taft (firstname.lastname@example.org) explained it to me very well like this: Each
level of Mine Storm is described by an entry in an array of structures;
the array entry described such details as the types of mines at the
level, etc. Unfortunately, the array was only defined to contain 13
entries! That’s why the first 13 levels work as expected. However,
once you got past level 13, the game ran out of array entries, but
because it did not check for this, it simply used the next block of code
after the array, as the information describing the next level. The code
was smart enough to skip levels if there were no valid mines; that’s why
it occasionally skips levels.
As for sometimes jumping back to the startup screen after you’ve
completed a level, that is also a ‘feature’ of the code. Once a level
is cleared, it jumps to some code which looks to see if any buttons are
pressed; if they are, then it assumes the user wants to start a new
game; this is code which should have only been executed when a game was
over, but it gets checked after completing a level also. Keep in mind
that this is the very first release of the Minestorm and later versions
had various portions of the bugs patched out.
There were at least 3 versions. Two with the “Wave 13” bug which are
different in that waves 2 and 3 are swapped and one with the bug fixed.
The test cart checksum will give a different value for different ROM
versions so this is a way for you to check.
Here is a list of most of the extra stuff that isn’t a cart, overlay,
box or regular manual…
* Orange 5″x3.75″ sheet notifying us of GCE’s change of address
* “IMPORTANT SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS” addendum to Owner’s Manual
(No. 98722-072). This listed 17 things you shouldn’t do
* Canadian addendum to Owner’s Manual for warranty info (pg. 11/12)
* Manual for the Control Panel (Joystick)
* White 5.5″x3″ manuals for the Light Pen and 3-D Glasses
* White 3″x4″ 3-D Imager addendum describing how to work the color disk latch
* White 3.5″x4.5″ 3-D Crazy Coaster addendum telling how to survive underpasses
* White 4″x6″ Minestorm addendum (P/N 140028-1) describing wave 13 bug
* White 2.5″x2.5″ addendum to the Star Trek manual describing self-play bug
* A catalog of games (same size as regular manuals) from “Triton”
* A catalog of games (same size as regular manuals) called “Passport”
* A 7.5″x3.5″ pamphlet listing HW and games called “High Performance Machine”
* Vectrex unit warranty registration card (and Owner’s Club form)
* Electronic Games Magazine subscription form (44% off for Vectrex players)
* Custom Designed Accessories for your Vectrex Arcade System order form
listing a collapsible carrying case ($14.95) and a vinyl dust cover
* carrying case for the Vectrex
* protective dust cover for the Vectrex
* Service Manual
* Test Cart
* The first (and only?) issue of the Owner’s Club magazine “Passport”
* Vectrex Store Display Cabinet [6/99]
The ftp Vectrex information archive is at ftp.csus.edu (126.96.36.199) in
the pub/vectrex directory. It is maintained by John F. Sandhoff
There are binary listings (2 flavors; pure binary from the ROMs, and
Motorola “S-format” dumps) for most of the games along with instructions
on how to burn EPROMs. There are several commented examples of code
demonstrating how to write both music and graphics. There is also a
copy of the service manual and much more. Almost all of the stuff is
bundled into a compressed file called “vectrex.tar.Z”. There are plenty
of experiments to keep an eager hacker busy including schematics of the
3-D goggles (very simple circuit to build). Recently, some GIF/JPEG
files were added showing some of the screen overlays (there are also
GIFs of the 2 color wheels). Also, text files of the manuals for most,
if not all, of the games are there.
David Wright (davewt@NCoast.ORG) will be putting the Vectrex stuff up on
his Email server. If you don’t have FTP access, this may work for you.
If you want to try and get at it, the Email server is at
“impinfo@Prism1.COM”. If your site doesn’t like that, try
“prism1!impinfo@NCoast.ORG”. To receive a list of the files available
place “send vect.index” in the message body. You can also add “send
help” to get a complete set of instructions. Be aware that some of
these files are huge and may push you over your mailbox or disk space
If the system is “dead” then no money is lost by making copies of
something which otherwise would never be available. Even so, it is a
fuzzy matter and technically the answer should probably be, “YES.”
Fortunately, Smith Engineering [Jay Smith] has given permission to make
copies of all Vectrex related materials (manuals, games, overlays, etc.)
as long as it is not for profit.
The even pin numbers are on the top while the odd are on the bottom.
one and two start on the right side (or near side as oriented when cart
is inside the base unit), and 35 and 36 are on the left (or far) side.
No; I mean, Yes, er… There are several people making multi-carts
for resale on the net but the best ones (by far) were being made by Mark
Woodward. He has sold out of the original batch and it was such a
headache that he will not be doing it again. Instead, I have taken over
the project and am working on getting the images to some unreleased, yet
completed games. They are Tour de France and Mail Plane (and perhaps
another “goodie” that isn’t really a game but a silly in-house project
never meant for release).
—- Removed Woodward cartridge info
After the woodcock multi-cart there came the Sean Kelly multi-carts. They
are still in production and going strong at:
Other multicarts are on the drawing board, and Ronen Habot has released a
tutorial for making one like the one he made:
Simple, read the manual. WHAT; you don’t have a manual? OK then, read
the screen overlay (it lists the functions of all the buttons). You
don’t have the screen overlay either? In that case most (maybe all by
now) of the manuals have been transcribed into text files and made
available via ftp. YOU DON’T HAVE FTP EITHER? OK, I’ll tell you what;
in the spirit of Smith Engineering’s generosity, I will volunteer my
services as Vectrex copy shop.
—- Removed Woodcock manual offer
Brian Holscher (email@example.com) has designed a flexible way to
convert a Sega Genesis controller for use with the Vectrex. He will
build one for you for a small fee or if you check the archives, you will
find a file describing how to build one yourself (it is more complex
than you will probably be expecting).
The Brian Holscher article can be found here:
Jay Tilton’s Atari to Vectrex conversion article is here:
Autofire circiut instructions are are here:
BUYING CONVERTED CONTROLLERS
With the advances made in the past 2 years in color scanners, copiers
and printers, it is now possible to make a near exact duplicate with the
push of a (few) button(s).
0. First you need an original overlay, preferably one with little fading.
1. If you want a “rough” copy, simply get a good high end color
photocopy onto acetate (those overhead projector plastic sheets).
2. If you want a better copy, you scan the image, preferably in color.
I think 150 DPI is okay though some people may want to go for
3. Then you need a good paint program, I used Adobe Photoshop to do some
preliminary clean-up work, but I have a feeling it would take quite
a bit of work to make a perfect overlay.
4. Printing–the critical part. You need a color printer that can do
acetate (animation cel) printouts. Unfortunately, no color printer
can work on thick sheets, which brings us to 5.
5. You need go to a hobby shop and get a piece of .045 thick clear
sheet of [poly]styrene. Its pretty cheap.
6. The only part I haven’t worked out, bonding the acetate overlay to
the styrene. It is probable that there are some mucho expensive
color printers that professional print shops use that can print onto
any thickness sheets but I haven’t done much looking.
Thanks to Noel (NOEL@UMBC2.UMBC.edu) for this info.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for an overlay scan for a particular game. [6/00]
Here is what Daniel A. Muntz (email@example.com) said helped
him: The noise isn’t digital in nature and it closely follows the
video. It also isn’t a power supply problem; isolating the audio input
of the amplifier from the sound circuit revealed no noise at all. It
seems the noise is generated in two ways:
1: By induction; Moving the audio cable around makes the noise less or
more prominent. It is at minimum when the cable is placed in its
original manufactured groove. Good design since that’s farthest from
the CRT yoke.
2: By ground impedance; Although all supplies are clean the hum is still
present in the modulated DC difference between the two boards.
A definite improvement can be achieved by doing the following:
1: Rewiring the ground between the digital and video board.
2: Shielding audio circuit and changing cable to volume pot to a better
A tutorial on how to reduce the buzz in your Vectrex is here:
John Dondzila has noted that placing a piece of clear tape over the speaker
grill can also reduce the buzz. [6/99]
You can’t make it “good-as-new”, but you can repair it so that is is
usable again. You must first get past the sticker on the top of the
joystick to get at the 5 screws that hold it together (4 are about 3/8″
in from the sides and 1/2″ from the top/bottom and the last is about
1/2″ to the right of the cable). Just feel around and you should be
able to find where the holes are. You can either try to peel off the
sticker (difficult to do without damaging it but possible if you are
careful) or simply punch 5 holes in it so you can remove the screws
(leaving most of the sticker intact). Now that you have the joystick
open, remove the broken spring that used to center the joystick.
You then have 2 choices that work equally well.
(1) Sean Kelly (firstname.lastname@example.org) came up with another great
method. If you are technically inclined, you can open the potientometer
and replace the spring with a spring out of an Atari 2600 cartridge.
The spring that’s used to push down the “protective” cover on 2600 carts
fits nicely. It needs a little bending, but I’ve replaced several
broken ones with them and they work great…
(2) Use the core from the largest available guitar string to replace the
spring you just removed. If you snip off one end you can remove the
(usually gold) wire wrapped around a core wire by pulling on the gold
wire. Credit goes to Dan Muntz once again for this clever solution and
to Mike Packard (email@example.com) for details about the screws.
There is 1 common problem that will cause this symptom. Inside the unit
there is a 4-wire power connector connecting the side board to the
bottom board. Often units with no picture have bad solder joints on
this connector. Try resoldering the pins and see if that helps.
YES! (Vectrex had cheats back when they were still known as bugs):
ARMOR ATTACK: If you crank the brightness all the way up, you are able
to see the helicopter’s position as soon as you hear it (even though it
is off the screen). [Also, there are certain corners where you can hide with
little or no chance of being hit, especially if one player parks himself on
top of the other player, each one covering a different direction. 6/00]
BEDLAM: You can see a special author title screen that proclaims,
“PROGRAMMED BY WILLIAM HAWKINS GT 1982” if you follow the instructions
found in the “STAR CASTLE” entry below. I discovered this by trying the
“original” Star Castle trick on other games that I knew Bill wrote.
This screen is different from all the similar ones in that it plays
music too! You are treated to the chorus line of “Dixie” (Bill hails
from the South). The screen ends when the tune finishes and releasing
buttons has no effect.
BERZERK: The hunt for this egg began thanks to Pete Rittwage
(firstname.lastname@example.org) who first reported it but could not reproduce it.
Even after confirming the trick with Chris King, the programmer of the
game, nobody was able to find it because Chris had forgotten exactly
what was required to activate it! Then along came net.hero Fred Taft
(email@example.com) with the answer after disassembling the object
code. Before your man stops flashing when you kill your last man, press
and hold down only the 1, 3, and 4 buttons on the player 1 control
panel. When the “GOT YOU HUMANOID” summary screen appears with your
score, there will be the programmer’s initials in the lower right corner
(“CMK”). This screen will stay for about 90 seconds before going back
to the game select screen and you cannot get out of it by pressing
BLITZ!: If you get a 1st and inches (1 and 0 to go), as long as you
stay on the 0 yard line, you keep getting first downs. Thanks to Adam
Fox (firstname.lastname@example.org) for this one.
BLITZ!: On player 1, game 1, get the kickoff around the 15 yard line
then run the ball back down the middle of the field, and wait for a
while and let the blockers hold the other team. Then go to the far
right of the field (almost out of bounds) and there is a small gap
between that final free defensive player and the out of bounds. You run
down screen, thru that small gap, and you can return the ball from
kickoff to about the opponent’s 20 yard line. It’s pretty cool because
you can do it over and over, because in the one player game, the
computer’s team always kicks off to you. Thanks to Craig
(email@example.com) for this one.
COSMIC CHASM: You can see a special programmer title screen that
proclaims, “PROGRAMMED BY WILLIAM HAWKINS GT 1982” if you follow the
instructions found in the “STAR CASTLE” entry below. I discovered this
by trying the “original” Star Castle trick on other games that I knew
FORTRESS OF NARZOD: If you can somehow manage to kill the “Mystic
Hurler” (you know, the BossAtTheEndOfTheWave guy that looks like a
gorilla) at the same time he kills you, your lives remaining will turn
into the infinity sign (oo) and you will have 255 lives. It is not
known for sure if your lives in reserve value has to be zero for this to
work (probably so since this bug is most likely due to an accidental
underflow from 0 to -1 which presumably would trigger the software to be
in virtual infinite play mode to aid play/beta testing). The author
takes credit for this one!
MINESTORM: The brightness trick allows you to see the “invisible”
RIPOFF: You can see a special programmer title screen that proclaims,
“PROGRAMMED BY WILLIAM HAWKINS GT 1982” if you follow the instructions
found in the “STAR CASTLE” entry below. I discovered this by trying the
“original” Star Castle trick on other games that I knew Bill wrote.
SPACE WARS: Either ship is invincible after being hit, while pieces are
in the air. This may not sound like much, or maybe this was
intentional, but I’ve played against people who make this their entire
strategy. They skim the edge of the Star in the middle, just to knock
off a tail section or something, and then while they are invincible,
they fly right into you. Not nice, but it works very well. The time
window is surprisingly long.
SCRAMBLE: A quote from Paul Allen Newell, developer of the game: “I
remember going thru long discussions with management about giving the
programmers credit on the games. Western Technologies and/or GCE didn’t
approve it and most of the programmers hide their names somewhere in the
games. My ‘Easter Egg’ can be located in ‘Scramble’ by doing the
following. If you have two controllers with joystick and buttons, put
them both in; otherwise, use the single one in the usual position.
While ‘Scramble’ is displaying its ‘game # player #’ section, move the
joystick so it is ‘down’. When ‘Scramble’ starts, keep it in this down
position so your plane crashes on the floor BEFORE THE MOUNTAINS START.
Do this for all your ships; DO NOT PUSH ANY BUTTONS TO FIRE BOMBS OR
BULLETS. When it is over, the display ‘end’ will come up. WITHOUT
TOUCHING ANY BUTTONS, unplug the main controller and move it to the
‘player two’ plug (if you have two controllers, this step is not
necessary). Then, with the ‘player two’ controller, PUSH ALL FOUR
BUTTONS SIMULTANEOUSLY. They must all go down at the same time. Repeat
until you get all four down at the same time. You’ll know when you see
the word ‘end’ change into something else. This is the first time I
have documented the method, having only mentioned it to friends or
hinted to others. Enjoy!” (Thanks a LOT to Stefan Herr
(Steve@lioness.okapi.sub.org) for digging up this one-of-a-kind gem).
SPIKE: If you position the door ALMOST all the way to the right of the
screen, then jump into it, so as to be jammed between the door, and the
little space that is left; the game freaks out, you will be pushed
forward about 47,000 points, and the difficulty will be increased
STAR CASTLE: This is the most extravagant egg in all the Vectrex games.
The designer put in his own title screen which brazenly proclaims
“PROGRAMMED BY WILLIAM HAWKINS GT 1983”. A quick caveat; this only
works on a cold restart (i.e. the first time you turn the game on) and
will not work if you start the game over by pressing the reset button.
However, it will work with the software selectable muticarts if Star
Castle is the first game you select after turning the game on. To get
the screen to appear you must push the 1, 2, and 4 keys on the player 1
control panel before the Star Castle title screen music finishes
playing. If those 3 buttons are down when tune ends, the programmer
title screen will appear. It will last for about 2 seconds or until you
release one of the buttons. It is my guess that the GT stands for
Georgia Tech and the 1983 is the year the software was written. (MANY
thanks to Fred Taft (firstname.lastname@example.org) for discovering this after
disassembling the object code).
WEB WARS: You can see a special programmer title screen that proclaims,
“PROGRAMMED BY WILLIAM HAWKINS DUNCAN MUIRHEAD PATRICK KING GT 1983” if
you follow the instructions found in the “STAR CASTLE” entry above. I
discovered this by trying the “original” Star Castle trick on other
games that I knew Bill wrote. This screen is different from all the
similar ones in that the font size is about 3 times as big.
A. Thanks a lot to Stefan Herr (email@example.com) for the
following information he dug up while researching an article for a
European gaming magazine. If you have any additions or corrections,
please contact both of us. Thanks also to Chris King who sent me
personal email to fill some gaps.
End 1980/Spring 1981: The development of Vectrex starts with an idea
from staffers (probably Mike Purvis and John Ross) after brainstorming
about how to use cheap CRTs that were found in a small liquidators’
surplus store. The idea took flight and form under the skilled
cultivation of Jay Smith, head of Western Technologies/Smith
Engineering, guiding his talented staff. The small, vector scan table
top game was originally known by its working title of “Mini Arcade” but
was later officially renamed when the time came to begin making
marketing decisions. A brainstorming session yielded a short list of
final choices and among those was “Vector-X” suggested by Tom Sloper.
This was felt to be too 50’s B sci-fi by GCE so it was contracted to the
catchy name we all know and love.
Spring 1981: The Mini Arcade idea is optioned to Kenner (known for
their “Star Wars”, “Care Bears”, “Batman” and “Batman Returns” figures).
At that time it was planned to have a 5″ black and white tube.
06/1981: Paul A. Newell is hired by Western Technologies to join the
“Atari reverse engineering project” group (aim: be able to write games
for the VCS 2600) which at that point consisted of Mark Indictor and
07/1981: Kenner declines to pursue the Mini Arcade.
08 or 09/1981: The Mini Arcade concept is licensed by GCE (General
Consumer Electronics). GCE’s president Ed Krakauer had the vision to
see the great potential of the system. To enhance its appeal, GCE asks
that the screen be increased to 9-inches.
Autumn 1981: The Atari project is canceled and the three Atari people
(M.I., P.N., J.H.) start work on the Vectrex project. John Ross
designs the hardware, Gerry Karr works together with John Hall on the
system ROM (called “The Executive”). In the beginning it is planned to
use a 6502 processor which turns out to be too slow. For this reason
the 6809 was finally used.
Jan 1982: Bill Hawkins and Chris King join the Western Tech. They were
both students at Georgia Tech at the time and are hired by Ed Smith as
“Cooperative Education” students. They are supposed to work for three
months and then go back to school. Duncan Muirhead joins a week or two
afterwards. He had just dropped out of a Physics PHD program at UCLA.
??: A strict timetable demands that the first 12 games and the hardware
should be ready in June 1982. The Vectrex name is subsequently chosen,
as already described.
??: John Hall later exclusively works on “Mine Storm” while Gerry Karr
works on The Executive alone. Gerry starts over from scratch and
changes the name to the RUM (Run Time Monitor). In the end, a number of
people contribute to the RUM, most notably Duncan Muirhead who handled
most of the heavy trig stuff.
04/1982: Paul Newell finishes “Scramble”. Mine Storm, Berzerk,
Scramble, Rip Off, and Star Trek were all completed at the same time.
06/1982: The Vectrex is introduced to the public at the Summer CES in
Summer 1982: Mark Indictor, John Hall and others are directly hired by
GCE to write more games. Paul Newell and Duncan Muirhead leave Western
Technologies to join Simutrek, a company developing arcade laser disc
games (“Cube Quest”). Chris King leaves 6 months later. Noah Anglin
(former vice president of Atari) was hired by GCE as a consultant to
watch over the development of Vectrex. It was a good deal for him since
he recruited the core of the software guys for his new company,
Simutrek, from Western Technologies. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough.
Simutrek died on the vine.
??: Mark Indictor and his family move about two hours out of Los
Angeles and he writes games in the seclusion of a pine forest at 5,000
feet. He even has an NBC news crew come up and interview him for a news
show on weird computer hackers and their life styles.
Late summer 82: Start of mass production.
11/1982: Vectrex is available in the USA for $199. Very positive
reviews in the magazines. Paul Newell’s “Scramble” gets the “Arcade
Award” of the “Electronic Games” magazine for the best “Mini-Arcade
game” (a category which is founded exclusively for the Vectrex).
Spring 1983: GCE is acquired by Milton Bradley (MB).
03/1983: Vectrex is announced in the German “Telematch” magazine for
the first time in Germany.
Summer 1983: Distribution begins in Germany and many other west
European countries by Milton Bradley (German office located in Fuerth).
Summer/Fall 1983: Jeff Corsiglia, having left WT to join Datascan,
produces some additional games for GCE, including 3-D Narrow Escape,
programmed by Richard Moszkowski. (Not all of the Vectrex games were
produced by WT).
1983: Several efforts fail in developing a color Vectrex. One obvious
project is to use a color TV tube; however, this is always too
expensive. Another is to use a projection TV with three vector scan
tubes. It works well but is commercially impractical. Yet another
effort is to use two layers of color phosphor on a black and white type
TV tube. By varying the high voltage level, the electron beam would
excite the bottom layer or the top layer. However the high voltage
cannot be changed rapidly enough to keep up with the scan.
02/1984: “Artmaster Lightpen”, “Star Castle”, “Polar Rescue”,
“Animaction” and “Pole Position” presented on the “Nuernberger
Spielwarenmesse” (Germany’s most important show for the toy industry).
around 02/84: 3-D Imager is presented at the Winter-CES in Las Vegas.
31/03/1984: End of Vectrex in Germany: MB in Fuerth announces stop of
sales on this date.
Rest of 1984: Vectrex is phased out as Hasbro buys Milton Bradley and
video game fever comes crashing down (probable causes: home computer
fever, too many mediocre and downright terrible games flooding the
market, fallout from the arcade videogame crash of about a year
earlier). Rummage sales in Germany (mainly in stores of the
METRO-chain, which had bought the rest of MB’s stock) close out Vectrex
equipment at bargain prices.
1988: Western Technologies/Smith Engineering tries to resurrect Vectrex
as a handheld unit. It is to be based on the Sinclair flat TV tube,
which has fast static deflection at low power consumption and low cost.
However, the impending introduction of GameBoy (1989) eventually causes
the idea to be scrapped.
10/1993: A feature about the 10th anniversary of the Vectrex is
published in the German “Video Games” magazine. Contains technical
descriptions, pictures of Jay Smith and Mark Indictor, a Vectrex history
and a list of games and accessories. The article is based on
information collected by the author (Stefan Herr) from the Usenet
Vectrex newsgroup, various FTP archives, many Emails from several former
Vectrex developers and a historical overview about the development by
There is not very much evidence of the existence of a computer keyboard
with a BASIC cartridge (or something similar) for the Vectrex. The only
known hints are from an article in an old issue of “Creative Computing”
magazine (in the first couple of pages they do a ranking of computers’
speed based on some simple benchmark. There is an entry for the Vectrex
in it using Vectrex basic) and an article about new computers starting
on page 114 of the October, 1983 issue of Popular Science. A chart in
the article indicates that the keyboard was to include 16K of RAM,
expandable to 64K. The article goes in to great detail about the
computer add-on. Thanks to Joshua See who can be reached at
It is the issue that reviewed the original Macintosh (1984?).
The Popular Science and Creative Computing articles can now be read at:
Q. How can I play the games if I don’t have a Vectrex? [6/99]
DOS programs do exist that allow you to play the games (in
computer file form) on a modern PC. In general, programs that do this
are referred to as EMULATORS. There are two Vectrex emulators:
DVE: This program was begun in 1996 by Keith Wilkins and later continued
by Chris Salomon. The two versions of the program that you are likely to
encounter are 1.40 and 2.0 beta 9. The 2.0 version has a built-in graphical
interface and is very polished. The two programs simulate a real Vectrex,
complete with simulated overlays.
MESS: This program is currently at version 0.36 (as of October ’99)
and plays just about all games with overlay support and
excellent 3d game support. Be sure to try it. In addition
to DOS, other operating systems will be supported like Macintosh, Unix, and
To give DVE or MESS a try, visit http://www.classicgaming.com/vectrex, click on
“Emulation”. You’ll find the emulator downloads there as well as
“getting started” guides.
Brett’s Vectrex Preserve
(Technical Aspects/New Projects/Forum)
Raven’s Retro Nest (Info archive, emulation, reviews, etc. No longer updated)
Chris Salomon’s DVE 2.0 Emulator Official Page (always the latest DVE version)
Official MESS Emulator Homepage
John Dondzila’s Videogame Creations (new vectrex games)
Vectrex Programming (Omega Chase, VIX, programming info, etc.)
Kristof’s Vectrex Page for New Games
My Vectrex – Ronen Habot (new games)
Fred’s Vectrex Page (new Minestorm, 2D Narrow Escape variations)
Wintermute: Vectrex/Vectrex_Dev Mailing List, etc.
Vectrex_Dev at eGroups.com
Classic Videogame Station Odyssey
(Fascinating site, in Japanese, with pictures and sounds
from the Japanese version of the Vectrex)
The Vectrex Resource Center
Vectrex (Martin Balazs’ site with a game demo and tech info)
…also you may need Altavista Translations to convert the page to english:
Sean Kelly’s Multi-Cart-O-Rama (Vectrex multicart)
Manu’s Programming Site (page for WIP games)
Good Deal Games (Tuts/Dondzila/Salomon/Cowgill interviews)
Angrybunny Australian Scans
Nicolas Sapin’s Vectrex Scan/trade Page
Mark’s Video Game Manufacturing (New Vec Cartridges)
Vectrex Game Development – Jonathan Velasco
(new version of Star Castle)
Richie’s Vectrex Multicart Page (UK)
Atarian’s Vectrex Page
The Vectrex High Score Page
Walt’s Vectrex Overlays (The source of most overlays)
DVE Official US Mirror (not the latest 2.0 beta, no longer updated)
Viva Vectrex! (reviews)
Clay’s Vectrex Stuff (moon lander)
Deathskull Laboratories (Controller Modifications)
Vectrex FTP Archive
rec.games.video.classic and #RGVC (EFnet)
or to view it in your browser:
History of Home Video Games (click on 1982)
Tom’s Vectrex Page (luner lander demo)
Vectrex Picture Gallery
Vectrex Developer Links
Anal Retentive Retro Games – Vectrex
Musician hired to write game sounds and title tunes
Did finishing touches to Bedlam
Product Manager for numerous projects [10/99]
Main game designer
Designed 3-D Crazy Coaster
Designed 3-D Narrow Escape
Designed and coded Minestorm
Designed Cosmic Chasm
Designed Clean Sweep
Quit WT in 1982 to go work for Datascan
(contracted with GCE to do Vectrex games)
Designed many, if not most, of the colorful overlays
Now works for Mattel
John Hall (*)
Worked on The Executive
Designed and coded Mine Storm
Coded Fortress of Narzod [6/99]
Coded Dark Tower [6/99]
Coded 3-D Minestorm
Coded 3-D Crazy Coaster
Coded Cosmic Chasm
Coded Lenny Carlson’s Greatest Bits (never intended for release)
Coded Rip Off
Coded Star Castle
Coded (with Duncan Muirhead) Web Wars
Mark Indictor (*)
First duties during development:
Software for communication with the ICE (In-Circuit-Emulator)
for Western Technologies:
Designed and coded Star Trek
Designed and coded Spinball
Designed and coded Polar Rescue
Designed and coded Mail Plane (not published, for use with Lightpen)
Designed and coded Tour de France (not published)
Took over The Executive project after John Hall concentrated on Minestorm
Designed and coded Hyperchase
Patrick King (*not* related to Chris)
Designer of Web Wars
Went on to work for Sega
Ronald J. Logsdon
Designed and coded Melody Master
Digitized the Scramble landscapes
Beta-tester (mainly for Scramble)
Richard “The Mouse” Moszkowski (“The Mouse” is a nickname, nothing more)
Programmed game watches prior to Vectrex work
Involved with Vectrex since its inception
Coded 3-D Narrow Escape
Coded Art Master
Coded Clean Sweep
Died by his own hand in October 1995
Joined WT at the end of 1981 (or beginning of 1982)
Coded (with Bill Hawkins) Web Wars
Co-designed Vectrex external case 1-2 years before the Macintosh!
Paul Allen Newell (*)
Vice President at WT during Vectrex era
From there went to Sega, then Revell, and as of 1996 is with Galoob
Developer of the hardware
Came up with “Vector-X”
Started out at WT as a modelmaker and then designed watch and
Played arcade games for programmers since he could “beat” most of
them After WT, worked for Datascan, Sega, Rudell Design, Atari Corp.
and finally ended up at Activision (since 1988) where his title now
is “Senior Producer”
Ed Smith (Jay’s brother)
Manager of engineering during early development
Before Vectrex, he worked at Harris in Orlando and frequently used GA
Hired a bunch of ex-Harris guys to work at a new Western Technologies
branch office in Orlando where a number of games were written
Founder and president of Western Technologies/Smith Engineering
Model builder; co-designed the external case 1-2 years before the
(*): These persons worked on the “Atari reverse engineering” project.
Only one of the three games that were created by that group was released
(the one written by Paul Newell). Anyway, the whole project was
canceled later because the competition (e.g. Activision) was too big.
Other people involved (this list does not claim to be complete) were
David Blair, Alan Cobb, Ed Faris, Joel Hassell, Don Herndon, Ed Horton,
Bill Hudson, Kevin Hudson, Nolan Johnson, Steve Marking, Lori Pearsall,
and Bob Rutkowski.
Sources: Electronic mails from Mark Indictor, Paul Newell, Chris King,
Ronald J. Logsdon, Bill Hawkins and Tom Sloper, personal letter from
Jay Smith, several articles from “Electronic Games” magazine (provided
by Paul Newell), article from “Creative Computing” magazine (provided by
THANX…Gregg [phone ommitted] night UNLIST/PUBL TEXAS NOT CANADA!
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
*CLASSIC VIDEOGAME COLLECTOR BUY/SELL/TRADE NON-COMPUTER (ARCADE/HOME)*
“If you quote me on this I’ll have to deny it; I won’t remember because
I have such a bad memory. Not only that, but my memory is *terrible*.”
BaronVR would like to thank Gregg Woodcock, John MacDonald (the brief
2nd maintainer of this doc), John Dondzila, Chris Salomon, Mathis Rosenhauer,
Brett Walach, Robert Mitchell, Joe Britt, Fred Taft, Sean Kelly, all the
new programmers and techies, and all who contributed info, corrections,
and suggestions for this FAQ.