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What was the small (cheap?) Atari-2600 compatible personal computer (not legal?) called, that you could program games for the 2600, in the 80's?

  • I assume people would try and sneak it through the post
  • It was made in Asia
  • I think that games you made, were saved on cassette, and then played on the 2600 using a cassette-player-to-cartridge adapter, through I am not sure?
  • Maybe the Starpath Supercharger (cassette-player-to-cartridge adapter) may have been made to also make this possible for home programmers, even though it seems to have been made to sell Starpath's own games on cassette.

(Please see this related question as well)

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    The only one I know are two 2600 compatible Chinese developments of the late 1990. Also, they were not primary made to do 2600 games.
    – Raffzahn
    Mar 23 at 1:56
  • My searching found it, the Bit 60 by Bit Corporation
    – dntknw
    Mar 23 at 2:01
  • I can no longer find any evidence that you could make games with this machine and play them on a 2600
    – dntknw
    Mar 23 at 2:38
  • dntknw, I'm assuming, provided you stuck to the 6507 and 2600-hardware rules, you could assemble 6502 code and burn it into ROMs that you could then put in a cartridge. Can't see why that wouldn't then be playable on the original console. In any case, the reason for this may have been to run VCS cartridges rather than develop them. I think that's unlikely myself as BitCorp released quite a few of their own titles.
    – paxdiablo
    Mar 23 at 4:30

1 Answer 1

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The Bit 60 and Bit 90, from the company BIT CORPORATION, were said to be able to accept VCS 2600 (hereafter called, simply, VCS) cartridges but there's scant information out there about them.

The Bit 90 was more targeted at ColecoVision and it may have been only able to run VCS cartridges by using the same method the ColecoVision itself did (Expansion Module #1).


enter image description here enter image description here

PICTURES SOURCED FROM OLD-COMPUTERS.COM


That's certainly possible in that they used the 6502 CPU. The 6507 used in the VCS is a cut-down version of the 6502 (fewer exposed address lines reducing maximum memory, and certain other signals not being exposed).

That means you could probably develop for the VCS on this machine, assuming you had a 6502 assembler available, and enough knowledge of the VCS internals to adapt.

And, assuming the cartridge slot (and machine itself) was compatible with the VCS, you could run cartridges on the system as well (being built for the 6507, they should probably run fine on the "super-set" 6502).

This would probably have required some "trickery" to make it look like the VCS, such as disabling address lines and ensuring certain memory accesses were intercepted for the RIOT/TIA addresses.

I have no idea if the Bit-60 had those capabilities but, if it claimed to be able to run the cartridges, it would probably need something like that.


In tracking down information about this computer, I found a dated auction for one with the following images posted.

enter image description here

The first image (above) appears to be the second iteration of the Bit-60 as it no longer has the chiclet keyboard. The fact that it contains an actual VCS cartridge lends credence to the probability that it could actually run them. I'd be more sure if it had screen shots but, alas, not the case.

enter image description here

The memory map above seems to support my contention that it could have had two modes (real computer mode, and VCS work-alike or game mode).

The fact that the low memory has RAM, I/O, & A,V CONTROL would sit well with the VCS RAM, RIOT, and TIA equivalents. The address ranges don't fully stack up but it's close.

I'll add the remaining images from the auction for completeness so anyone can ascertain further details:

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here


Additionally, the following advert for this machine has the first bullet point stating:

Fully compatible with the Atari VCS 2600.

enter image description here

I know adverts aren't delivered under oath or pain of perjury so it may be a blatant lie to shift product. But if true, that alongside the earlier pictures seems to be an indication that it would play the cartridges okay.


A translation of the text from this page states:

The Bit-60 was a typical Asian replica that, with few resources and no license, was intended to serve as a money printing machine. Bit Corporation therefore relied on VCS compatibility, which of course was not what Atari wanted. However, Bit Corporation was not the only company to do this, several other companies from Korea or Hong Kong were happy to reach into the pockets of other companies.

There were two variants of the Bit-60, which differed only in the positioning of the connectors. In addition, there was a later version with a real typewriter keyboard, which made working with the system much easier.

However, in 1983, the interest in such a system collapsed as the video game crash took place at that time and much more powerful computers conquered the market. A year earlier, the system would certainly have been worth a second look.

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    If the downvoter would like to let me know how the answer is deficient (I have no idea how it could possibly be considered not useful in its current form), I'd be happy to improve it,
    – paxdiablo
    Mar 23 at 6:45
  • (No, I didn't downvote, just abstained from otehrwise upvoting because) It might be due the answer holding mostly speculation - in text and as well in citation - better to be cut/left out, as they do not really add
    – Raffzahn
    Mar 23 at 17:53
  • It's probably very difficult to run VCS code in a 6502 system as the partial address decoding in the 6507 which had of consequence that the memory was shadowed several times in the address space was used intensively. TIA was in $00-$7F, RAM was from $80 to $FF in zero page. This was shadowed in page 1 which allowed to use stack operations for faster operations,p.ex. Mar 24 at 8:39
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    @Patrick, I concur, a generic 6502 system would probably have trouble. But there's nothing stopping you from disabling the top three address lines and intercepting specific regions for the TIA or RIOT. This latter bit is, after all, what the VCS did. Whether Bit60 did that, I don't know, but the fact that RIOT was a standard MOS chip would make it doable. The TIA may be trickier, I have no idea whether it was as well documented back then as now. In other words, all you need is some extra hardware. As a primarily software guy, I love making that assumption :-)
    – paxdiablo
    Mar 24 at 10:06
  • You would probably have to put the computer into a "VCS" mode that would allow playing cartridges (activating TIA/RIOT and blocking A13-15 and whatever else is needed) and probably reboot to get back to normal but that doesn't seem too onerous. Still, supposition on my part, it's fun to speculate but I have no detailed knowledge of the Bit60 hardware. I'll adapt the answer based on your comment.
    – paxdiablo
    Mar 24 at 10:08

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