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Thread: Problem: Vectrex doesn't show any picture when a cartridge is inserted

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    Default Problem: Vectrex doesn't show any picture when a cartridge is inserted

    Hi,

    I have recently bought a Vectrex from a German retro store and a VecMulti cartridge from vectrex.biz. MineStorm, the builtin game, plays fine but when I insert the cartridge my Vectrex doesn't show any picture. I just hear the buzzing sound but not that loud as when it displays some graphics.

    The guy from the vectrex.biz site sent me another cartridge with a preformatted MicroSD card in it. He wrote me, that the cartridge works on both of his Vectrex consoles, just like the first one he sent me which I have sent back now. On my Vectrex, either of the two cartridges work so there has to be a problem with the Vectrex itself. The VecMulti cart with the preformatted MicroSD card is my only Vectrex cartridge now.

    I have looked up for my problem but didn't find any help, so I hope that somebody can help me here. I hope you understand my problem, English isn't my first language.

    Thanks.
    My consoles
    Atari2600, Dreamcast, Gameboy Advance SP, Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Vectrex, Xbox, Xbox360

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    There's probably some cracked solder joints in the unit, they would need to be reflowed. Check if any other cartridge game can play in it, if not your system needs to be repaired.

    Your problem sounds similar to what happened to my console, the screen went blank and the sound just stopped(not counting buzzing). I sold off my collection and I later heard the system was fixed by a TV repair store, it was full of bad solder joints.

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    I've tested it with two cartridges and I had the problem with both of them.
    I'll contact a TV repair store, thank you for your help.

    If anyone else has an advice, feel free to tell me.
    My consoles
    Atari2600, Dreamcast, Gameboy Advance SP, Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Vectrex, Xbox, Xbox360

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    In addition to solder joints, I would also check IC202 and IC203. They are used to sense when a cartridge is inserted.

    If you take it to a shop, the schematcs are in the service manual, which is available online. The section detailing the relationship between the cartridge, CPU, and built-in ROM is fairly simple and should be easy for any competant shop to troubleshoot.

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    Thank you, I'll print the service manual out and tell the shop about the ICs.
    I'm pretty busy at work right now but I'm sure I'll visit a TV repair store next week.

    Update (Edit): A friend of mine said that he could also do the repair, so I gave him the service manual and the datasheets for IC202 and IC203. He'll get new ICs to exchange them with the other ones in my Vectrex next week.
    I'll post again when he has done the job for the result.
    Last edited by Infinite; 02-09-2011 at 12:50 AM.
    My consoles
    Atari2600, Dreamcast, Gameboy Advance SP, Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Vectrex, Xbox, Xbox360

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    We have exchanged IC202 and it is working now, thank you very much!
    My consoles
    Atari2600, Dreamcast, Gameboy Advance SP, Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Vectrex, Xbox, Xbox360

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    Glad to hear it!

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    Bumping an old thread b/c I think maybe I have a similar problem?... looking for more expert advice.

    Richard (vecmulti guy) pointed me here to see if perhaps the trouble I'm having is similar, or perhaps someone will recognize the trouble.

    I purchased a vecmulti cart as well, but it's not working on only some games. I suspect my vectrex has either some kind of fault with memory or the cpu's ability to address higher memory addresses? Just a wild guess based only on the symptoms. I have no idea how the actual vectrex hardware works beyond knowing just the basics that it likely mimics most electronic devices from the last 30 years (so, I know what caps, resistors, IC's are, but no specific knowledge of the vectrex).

    Richard had been very helpful with me as well. He sent a second cart for me to try, but it works about the same as the first one. I am going to send one back here in the next day. I'm definitely keeping one.

    All of the OEM carts I have play just fine. The alignment of graphics elements on screen is as correct as it ever was new (no weird skew, etc...). Many of the games on the vecmulti play just fine as well (the OEM stuff and some of the homebrew stuff). It's only when I start trying to play some of the homebrew stuff that's larger than a typical OEM cart that I run into issues.

    For instance, many of the larger games will get to their splash screen and then when you try to start playing (hit '1' to play, etc...) the screen goes black. Other times, the screen will display garbled images (sometimes with garbled sound)... after which I shut the unit off.

    Sometimes, the games will actually start, but graphics will sometimes be garbled (like, your 'ship' or 'man' will be mis-drawn).. and then gameplay won't be correct (every time you move, you blow up, that sort of thing).

    I can occasionally get some of these larger games to play. ProtectorYASI works about every 10th try when I put it on the microSD card all by itself and rebuild the menu. That, to me, indicates perhaps a loose 'something' somewhere?.. or a semi-working circuit/chip/cap/resistor?

    I bought my vectrex new back in the day, and it has sat in a closet for the last 15 to 18 years. It wasn't abused at all, I took very good care of it. I only discovered this whole 'homebrew' scene very recently quite by accident. It's been great finding out about it, and outside of this weird behavior with the larger homebrew games, I've enjoyed the vecmulti for letting me play OEM games I never was able to purchase.

    I pulled the back cover off to dust the insides. Wasn't too bad, but there was some dust. What I did notice was that one of the pins on the cartridge header leads that meet the logic-board appeared to have a larger than normal solder-blob on it. I want to say it was pin 26 or 22. I think I saw a schematic that showed this was output D6. Just an abberation from sloppy manufacturing?.. or a clue?

    As well, I see what appears to me to be some solder traces on the power-board that are 'wrinkled'. I imagine this is from heat damage?.. is this typical?

    edit: I did load up the 'test rom' to see if I could use it to figure this out. It gets to the splash screen, plays the little music, then the screen goes black like the machine has locked up... even pressing reset won't bring it back, has to be powered off (this actually happens on some of the big homebrew games too... have to hard-boot to recover).


    Any help or pointers would be greatly appreciated!,

    -James
    Last edited by jamesohoh7; 03-10-2011 at 07:03 AM.

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    If I'm reading your post correctly, you're actually only having this problem with the Vecmulti, right? You're not having trouble with dedicated homebrew carts, only homebrew games loaded via the Vecmulti?

    My first test would be to check that the voltages are correct. Take your measurements from the digital chips, not the power connector (+5 is the voltage of main concern). I would assume that the Vecmulti has higher power requirements than a regular cart, and could be pushing things out of spec.

    Quote Originally Posted by jamesohoh7 View Post
    What I did notice was that one of the pins on the cartridge header leads that meet the logic-board appeared to have a larger than normal solder-blob on it. I want to say it was pin 26 or 22. I think I saw a schematic that showed this was output D6. Just an abberation from sloppy manufacturing?.. or a clue?
    If D6 was bad then no carts would function correctly, but reflowing the cart connector pins is easy, and if you've got a marginal connection then the added load of the Vecmulti could push it over.

    Other simple things to do would be to clean & reseat the CPU and any other socketed digital chips, like IC201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 207, and maybe even 208 (some or none of those may be socketed, depending on the revision).

    If it is a bad connection, you could use something non-conductive to give things a poke test and see if it crashes. I use a chopstick for this.

    This advice is a bit generic. I've fixed totally dead Vectrex units before but haven't had an intermittent one like this yet. You might search old posts on rec.games.vectrex for hits, too. Intermittent typically means a connection problem, or voltage that's teetering on the edge of tolerance.

    Quote Originally Posted by jamesohoh7 View Post
    As well, I see what appears to me to be some solder traces on the power-board that are 'wrinkled'. I imagine this is from heat damage?.. is this typical?
    That's pretty normal.

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    Hi, Thanks for the advice! I'm going to try all of that out in a bit (been watching the quake news from Japan all morning, horrible!). It wouldn't surprise me a bit to find something has shifted out of joint...the way the thing is behaving, it makes me think something is indeed 'loose'.

    I have not tried any other dedicated homebrew cartridges, I wasn't clear in my post.. my apologies. What I've tried is the original GCE carts I have (about 10), and then the vecmulti. The VM runs many games just fine, including some of the homebrew stuff (birds of prey for example). It appears my vectrex has the most trouble with the larger homebrew games (and I mean larger by the image-size of the binary file).

    However, I am able to run some of the larger games, like protector/yasi... though I have that one loaded up on a micro-SD card all by itself that I swap in just for testing. Both of its games play fine when it loads up. Sometimes, it takes a few start/stop cycles to get it to load.

    The more I think about it, the more it sounds like something is out of joint. I'm going to go poke around in there and see what I can figure out.

    Thanks again!, I'll update this later when I get somewhere!

    -James

    I'll see about getting video of the errors and things, maybe that will do a better job of explaining than I am able to do.

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    It seems like there must be something different between an original cart and the vecmulti, be it voltage draw, slight differences in PCB thickness or edge pin alignment, cart case tolerances, etc.

    On a simpler note, have you given the cart connector & Vecmulti a thorough cleaning?

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    I'd ask if you've run the patcher on the problematic ROMs, but seeing as you've spoken to Richard, then I'm sure he would have already asked you that and ruled it out. It's possible you might have bad dumps, but if you've gotten them online, that might not the case either.

    I helped Richard test the VecMulti and my three machines played everything I threw at it, and I have dumps of everything ever released (some of them made by myself because they don't exist online). So to me it suggests either a few bad files, or something curiously wrong with your Vectrex.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mayhem View Post
    I'd ask if you've run the patcher on the problematic ROMs, but seeing as you've spoken to Richard, then I'm sure he would have already asked you that and ruled it out. It's possible you might have bad dumps, but if you've gotten them online, that might not the case either.

    I helped Richard test the VecMulti and my three machines played everything I threw at it, and I have dumps of everything ever released (some of them made by myself because they don't exist online). So to me it suggests either a few bad files, or something curiously wrong with your Vectrex.
    Yeah, I've re-written and patched stuff a few times, tried different micro-SD cards. I sure it is not the VM cart.

    I think it's my machine. I went and did just a bit of poking around, re-seating the socketed IC's and a few more things started working better. A few of the IC's made that 'crunch' sound when I pushed on 'em, like they were loose.

    I'm convinced it's just lots of little stuff like that, and I'll need to fix that wonky looking cart-header solder joint. I'm on the right track though.

    Thanks for all the help, folks!

    -James

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    James,

    Have you been able to resolve your VecMulti issue? I have a very similar issue with one of my Vectrex's using the VecMulti. The menu is fine at first, I can start a game and play it for while, but when I hit the reset button to go to another game, the menu/text comes back garbled. If I try to select another game at this point, the game may come up, but the graphics and sound are all messed up. It then may just go black and the buzzing sounds stops like it turned off. If I shut the vec off and try again, I am in the same state. I can shut it off for about 20 minutes and the cart is usable once again. I do not see this issue with Sean's Multicart, Home Brew carts nor original carts, just the VecMulti has this issue. My other vec with the VecMulti cart, I can use for hours and hit the reset button to continue onto another game without issue.

    Thanks

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    I too have to turn off the Vectrex completely to switch to some games. The reset button is sometimes not enough.


    Quote Originally Posted by skits25 View Post
    James,

    Have you been able to resolve your VecMulti issue? I have a very similar issue with one of my Vectrex's using the VecMulti. The menu is fine at first, I can start a game and play it for while, but when I hit the reset button to go to another game, the menu/text comes back garbled. If I try to select another game at this point, the game may come up, but the graphics and sound are all messed up. It then may just go black and the buzzing sounds stops like it turned off. If I shut the vec off and try again, I am in the same state. I can shut it off for about 20 minutes and the cart is usable once again. I do not see this issue with Sean's Multicart, Home Brew carts nor original carts, just the VecMulti has this issue. My other vec with the VecMulti cart, I can use for hours and hit the reset button to continue onto another game without issue.

    Thanks

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