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Atari 7800 Expansion Module Nears Completion

posted Jul 23, 2010, 6:22 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Jul 23, 2010, 6:26 AM ]
Curt Vendel of Legacy Engineering is spearheading efforts to develop an Atari 7800 Expansion Module that would greatly expand the capabilities of the 7800. The module plugs into the cartridge slot atop the 7800 and adds the following features:
  • 128K of program area RAM in 8K segments to allow larger game programs to run on the Atari 7800.
  • The module will free up the MARIA and improve performance.
  • A Pokey sound chip (used in the Atari 5200 and 8-bit computers) for enhanced audio of games that implement its use.
  • The Pokey chip will also be wired to an SIO port to allow for future use of Atari 8-bit SIO computer peripherals.
  • A DB9 Port is also added for potential keyboard input.
  • Built in High Score Cart capability
  • An onboard BIOS is being developed to control certain functions and aspects of the module
  • A second, more advanced audio processor is being examined to possibly be implemented into the module for even greater audio capabilities.
Games are currently in development to take advantage of these new features, and test boards are presently being built. Cost is expected to be $79-$99 USD with a professional plastic enclosure, packaging and technical documents. Expected release date will be sometime around Fall 2010 if the development schedule continues at its current pace.

The 7800 Expansion Module is a collaborative effort from the hardware and software talents of GroovyBee (Mark), OpCode (Eduardo), Legacy Engineering (Curt), along with some advice from Steve Golson formerly of GCC (original developers of the 7800). It was decided early on in the project to incorporate input from game developers to ensure that the enhancements were tailored to what 7800 developers were looking for to allow them to expand their coding projects on the system.

We'll have the first public demo of this new 7800 Expansion Module in our booth at the upcoming Classic Gaming Expo, taking place at the end of July. You can view a rendering of the 7800 Expansion Module in our Atari 7800 Forum. If you're interested in learning more about the development of this new 7800 hardware, you can read this year-long thread on the subject in our forums.