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A ROM cartridge, usually referred to simply as a cartridge or cart, is a removable memory card containing ROM designed to be connected to a consumer electronics device such as a home computer, video game console or, to a lesser extent, electronic musical instruments. ROM cartridges can be used to load software such as video games or other application programs.
The cartridge slot could also be used for hardware additions, for example speech synthesis. Some cartridges had battery-backed static random-access memory, allowing a user to save data such as game progress or scores between uses.
ROM cartridges allowed the user to rapidly load and access programs and data without the expense of a floppy drive, which was an expensive peripheral during the home computer era, and without using slow, sequential, and often unreliable Compact Cassette tape. An advantage for the manufacturer was the relative security of the software in cartridge form, which was difficult for end users to replicate. However, cartridges were expensive to manufacture compared to making a floppy disk or CD-ROM. As disk drives became more common and software expanded beyond the practical limits of ROM size, cartridge slots disappeared from later game consoles and personal computers. Cartridges are still used today with handheld game consoles such as the Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, and the tablet-like hybrid console Nintendo Switch, although sometimes referred to as game cards.
Due to its widespread usage for video gaming, a ROM cartridge is often colloquially referred to as a game cartridge.
ROM cartridges were popularized by early home computers which featured a special bus port for the insertion of cartridges containing software in ROM. In most cases the designs were fairly crude, with the entire address and data buses exposed by the port and attached via an edge connector; the cartridge was memory mapped directly into the system's address spacesuch that the CPU could execute the program in place without having to first copy it into expensive RAM.
The Texas Instruments TI 59 family of programmable scientific calculators used interchangeable ROM cartridges that could be installed in a slot at the back of the calculator. The calculator came with a module that provides several standard mathematical functions including solution of simultaneous equations. Other modules were specialized for financial calculations, or other subject areas, and even a "games" module. Modules were not user-programmable. The Hewlett-Packard HP-41C had expansion slots which could hold ROM memory as well as I/O expansion ports.
Notable computers using cartridges in addition to magnetic media were the Commodore VIC-20 and 64, MSX standard, the Atari 8-bit family (400/800/XL/XE),the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A (where they were called Solid State Command Modules and were not directly mapped to the system bus) and the IBM PCjr (where the cartridge was mapped into BIOS space). Some arcade system boards, such as Capcom's CP System and SNK's Neo Geo, also used ROM cartridges.
The modern take on game cartridges was first unveiled as part of the Fairchild Channel F home console in 1976.The cartridge approach gained more popularity with the Atari 2600 released the following year. From the late 1970s to mid-1990s, the majority of home video game systems were cartridge-based. As compact disc technology came to be used widely for data storage, most hardware companies moved from cartridges to CD-based game systems. Nintendo remained the lone hold-out, using cartridges for their Nintendo 64 system; the company did not transition to optical media until 2001's GameCube. SNK still released games on the cartridge-based Neo Geo until 2004, with the final official release being Samurai Shodown V Special. Nintendo's handheld consoles, meanwhile, continued to use cartridges due to their faster loading times and minimal equipment for data reading being beneficial for playing video games in short, several-minute intervals.
ROM cartridges can not only carry software, but additional hardware expansion as well. Examples include the Super FX coprocessor chip in some Super NES game paks, the SVP chip in the Sega Genesis version of Virtua Racing , and voice and chess modules in the Magnavox Odyssey².
Micro Machines 2 on the Genesis/Mega Drive used a custom "J-Cart" cartridge design by Codemasters which incorporated two additional gamepad ports. This allowed players to have up to four gamepads connected to the console without the need for an additional multi-controller adapter.
The ROM cartridge slot principle continues in various mobile devices, thanks to the development of high density low-cost flash memory. For example, a GPS navigation device might allow user updates of maps by inserting a flash memory chip into an expansion slot. An E-book reader can store the text of several thousand books on a flash chip. Personal computers may allow the user to boot and install an operating system off a USB flash drive instead of CD ROM or floppy disks. Digital cameras with flash drive slots allow users to rapidly exchange cards when full, and allow rapid transfer of pictures to a computer or printer.
Storing software on ROM cartridges has a number of advantages over other methods of storage like floppy disks and optical media. As the ROM cartridge is memory mapped into the system's normal address space, software stored in the ROM can be read like normal memory; since the system does not have to transfer data from slower media, it allows for nearly instant load time and code execution. Software run directly from ROM typically uses less RAM, leaving memory free for other processes. While the standard size of optical media dictates a minimum size for devices which can read disks, ROM cartridges can be manufactured in different sizes, allowing for smaller devices like handheld game systems. ROM cartridges can be damaged, but they are generally more robust and resistant to damage than optical media; accumulation of dirt and dust on the cartridge contacts can cause problems, but cleaning the contacts with an isopropyl alcohol solution typically resolves the problems without risk of corrosion.
ROM cartridges typically have less capacity than other media.The PCjr-compatible version of Lotus 1-2-3 comes on two cartridges and a floppy disk. ROM cartridges are typically more expensive to manufacture than discs, and storage space available on a cartridge is less than that of an optical disc like a DVD-ROM or CD-ROM. Techniques such as bank switching were employed to be able to use cartridges with a capacity higher than the amount of memory directly addressable by the processor. As video games became more complex (and the size of their code grew), software manufacturers began sacrificing the quick load time of ROM cartridges for the greater capacity and lower cost of optical media. Another source of pressure in this direction was that optical media could be manufactured in much smaller batches than cartridges; releasing a cartridge video game inevitably came with the risk of producing thousands of unsold cartridges.
Besides their prominent usage on video game consoles, ROM cartridges have also been used on a small number of electronic musical instruments, particularly electronic keyboards.
Yamaha has made several models with such features, with their DX synthesizer in the 1980s, such as the DX1, DX5 and DX7 and their PSR keyboard lineup in the mid-1990s, namely the PSR-320, PSR-420, PSR-520, PSR-620, PSR-330, PSR-530 and the PSR-6000. These keyboards use specialized cards known as Music Cartridges, a ROM cartridge simply containing MIDI data to be played on the keyboard as MIDI sequence or song data. This technology, however, quickly become obsolete and extremely rare after the advent of floppy disk drive in later models. [ citation needed ]
Casio has also known to use similar cartridges known as ROM Pack in the 1980s, before Yamaha's Music Cartridge were introduced. Few examples are several models in Casiotone line of portable electronic keyboards.
The Commodore 64, also known as the C64 or the CBM 64, is an 8-bit home computer introduced in January 1982 by Commodore International. It has been listed in the Guinness World Records as the highest-selling single computer model of all time, with independent estimates placing the number sold between 12.5 and 17 million units. Volume production started in early 1982, marketing in August for US$595. Preceded by the Commodore VIC-20 and Commodore PET, the C64 took its name from its 64 kilobytes(65,536 bytes) of RAM. With support for multicolor sprites and a custom chip for waveform generation, the C64 could create superior visuals and audio compared to systems without such custom hardware.
The Neo Geo, stylised as NEO•GEO, also written as NEOGEO, is a cartridge-based arcade system board and fourth-generation home video game console released on April 26, 1990, by Japanese game company SNK Corporation. It was the first system in SNK's Neo Geo family. The Neo Geo was marketed as 24-bit; its CPU is technically a 16/32-bit 68000-based system with an 8/16-bit Z80 coprocessor, while its GPU chipset has a 24-bit graphics data bus.
A video game console is an electronic or computer device that outputs a video signal or visual image to display a video game that one or more people can play through some type of game controller. These may be home consoles which are generally placed in a permanent location connected to a television or other display device and controlled with a separate game controller, or handheld systems that include their own display unit and controller functions built into the unit and can be played anywhere.
The Family Computer Disk System is a peripheral for Nintendo's Family Computer home video game console, released only in Japan on February 21, 1986. It uses proprietary floppy disks called "Disk Cards" for cheaper data storage and it adds a new high-fidelity sound channel for supporting Disk System games.
The IBM PCjr is a home computer that was produced and marketed by IBM from March 1984 to May 1985, intended as a lower-cost variant of the IBM PC with hardware capabilities better suited for video games, in order to compete more directly with other home computers such as the Apple II and Commodore 64.
A regional lockout is a class of digital rights management preventing the use of a certain product or service, such as multimedia or a hardware device, outside a certain region or territory. A regional lockout may be enforced through physical means, through technological means such as detecting the user's IP address or using an identifying code, or through unintentional means introduced by devices only supporting certain regional technologies.
The LaserActive is a converged device and fourth-generation home video game console capable of playing Laserdiscs, Compact Discs, console games, and LD-G karaoke discs. It was released by Pioneer Corporation in 1993. In addition to LaserActive games, separately sold add-on modules accept Mega Drive/Genesis and PC Engine/TurboGrafx 16 ROM cartridges and CD-ROMs.
The Mindset, released in spring 1984, was an Intel 80186-based MS-DOS personal computer. Unlike other IBM PC compatibles of the time, it had custom graphics hardware supporting 16 simultaneous colors, and hardware-accelerated drawing capabilities including a blitter which allegedly allowed it to update the screen 50 times as fast as a CGA adaptor in a standard PC. The basic unit was priced at US$1,798. It was conceptually similar to the more successful Commodore Amiga released over a year later.
A ROM image, or ROM file, is a computer file which contains a copy of the data from a read-only memory chip, often from a video game cartridge, or used to contain a computer's firmware, or from an arcade game's main board. The term is frequently used in the context of emulation, whereby older games or firmware are copied to ROM files on modern computers and can, using a piece of software known as an emulator, be run on a different device than which they were designed for. ROM burners are used to copy ROM images to hardware, such as ROM cartridges, or ROM chips, for debugging and QA testing.
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Homebrew is a term frequently applied to video games or other software produced by hobbyists and amateur developers targeting proprietary hardware platforms that are not typically user-programmable or that use proprietary storage methods. Homebrew can include software made using unofficial, community maintained toolchains or games developed using official development kits such as Net Yaroze, Linux for PlayStation 2, or Microsoft XNA. A non-professional developer for a system intended to be consumer-programmable, like the Commodore 64, is simply called a hobbyist.
A dedicated console is a video game console that is limited to one or more built-in video game or games, and is not equipped for additional games that are distributed via ROM cartridges, discs, downloads or other digital media. Dedicated consoles were very popular in the first generation of video game consoles until they were gradually replaced by second-generation video game consoles that use ROM cartridges.
Import gamers are a subset of the video game player community that take part in the practice of playing video games from another region, usually from Japan where the majority of games for certain systems originate.
The Twin Famicom is a home video game console that was produced by Sharp Corporation in 1986 and was only released in Japan. It is a licensed Nintendo product that combines the Family Computer (Famicom) and the Family Computer Disk System (FDS) into a single piece of hardware. Sharp removed most Nintendo branding from the system, even going as far as to remove the "Nintendo" branding from the Famicom Disk System startup, replacing it with the same "FAMICOM" logo used on the system itself.
The Apple Pippin is a defunct open multimedia technology platform, designed by Apple Computer, and marketed as PiPP!N. According to Apple, Pippin was directed at the home market as "an integral part of the consumer audiovisual, stereo, and television environment."
A game backup device, formerly usually called a copier and more recently a flash cartridge, is a device for backing up ROM information from a video game cartridge to a computer file called a ROM image and playing them back on the real hardware. Recently flash cartridges, especially on the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS platforms, only support the latter function; they cannot be used for backing up ROM data. Game backup devices also make it possible to develop homebrew software on video game systems. Game backup devices differ from modchips in that modchips are used in conjunction with systems that use generally available media such as CDs and DVDs, whereas game backup devices are used with systems that use cartridges.
The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is an 8-bit third-generation home video game console produced by Nintendo. Nintendo first released it in Japan as the Family Computer, commonly known as the Famicom, in 1983. The NES, a remodelled version, was released internationally in the following years.
Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977 and became common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers as affordable and accessible computers that, for the first time, were intended for the use of a single nontechnical user. These computers were a distinct market segment that typically cost much less than business, scientific or engineering-oriented computers of the time such as those running CP/M or the IBM PC, and were generally less powerful in terms of memory and expandability. However, a home computer often had better graphics and sound than contemporary business computers. Their most common uses were playing video games, but they were also regularly used for word processing, doing homework, and programming.
The Atari Jaguar CD or Jag CD is a CD-ROM peripheral for the Atari Jaguar video game console.
Nintendo 64 Game Pak is the brand name of the consumer ROM cartridge product that stores game data for the Nintendo 64, released in 1996. As with Nintendo's previous consoles, the Game Pak's design tradeoffs were intended to achieve maximal system speed and minimal base console cost—with lesser storage space and a higher unit cost per game. Integrating a CD-ROM drive, with its expensive and slow moving parts, would have drastically increased the console's base price by 50% and reduced its performance.