ROM cartridge

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A Star Raiders read-only memory (ROM) cartridge for an Atari computer. Star raider cart.jpg
A Star Raiders read-only memory (ROM) cartridge for an Atari computer.

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.

Memory card electronic flash memory data storage device used for storing digital information

A memory card, flash card or memory cartridge is an electronic flash memory data storage device used for storing digital information. These are commonly used in portable electronic devices, such as digital cameras, mobile phones, laptop computers, tablets, PDAs, portable media players, video game consoles, synthesizers, electronic keyboards, and digital pianos.

Read-only memory non-volatile memory used in computers and other electronic devices; class of storage medium used in computers and other electronic devices

Read-only memory (ROM) is a type of non-volatile memory used in computers and other electronic devices. Data stored in ROM can only be modified slowly, with difficulty, or not at all, so it is mainly used to store firmware or application software in plug-in cartridges.

Consumer electronics Electronic equipment intended for everyday home use

Consumer electronics or home electronics are electronic equipments intended for everyday use, typically in private homes. Consumer electronics include devices used for entertainment, communications, and home-office activities. In British English, they are often called brown goods by producers and sellers, to distinguish them from "white goods" which are meant for housekeeping tasks, such as washing machines and refrigerators, although nowadays, these would be considered brown goods, some of these being connected to the Internet. In the 2010s, this distinction is not always present in large big box consumer electronics stores, such as Best Buy, which sell both entertainment, communication, and home office devices and kitchen appliances such as refrigerators.

Contents

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.

Speech synthesis is the artificial production of human speech. A computer system used for this purpose is called a speech computer or speech synthesizer, and can be implemented in software or hardware products. A text-to-speech (TTS) system converts normal language text into speech; other systems render symbolic linguistic representations like phonetic transcriptions into speech.

Static random-access memory Semiconductor memory

Static random-access memory is a type of semiconductor memory that uses bistable latching circuitry (flip-flop) to store each bit. SRAM exhibits data remanence, but it is still volatile in the conventional sense that data is eventually lost when the memory is not powered.

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 gaming consoles such as the Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, and the tablet-like hybrid console Nintendo Switch.

Magnetic tape medium for magnetic recording

Magnetic tape is a medium for magnetic recording, made of a thin, magnetizable coating on a long, narrow strip of plastic film. It was developed in Germany in 1928, based on magnetic wire recording. Devices that record and play back audio and video using magnetic tape are tape recorders and video tape recorders respectively. A device that stores computer data on magnetic tape is known as a tape drive.

Floppy disk disk storage medium

A floppy disk, also known as a floppy, diskette, or simply disk, is a type of disk storage composed of a disk of thin and flexible magnetic storage medium, sealed in a rectangular plastic enclosure lined with fabric that removes dust particles. Floppy disks are read and written by a floppy disk drive (FDD).

CD-ROM pre-pressed compact disc

A CD-ROM is a pre-pressed optical compact disc that contains data. Computers can read—but not write to or erase—CD-ROMs, i.e. it is a type of read-only memory.

Due to its widespread usage for video gaming, a ROM cartridge is often colloquially referred to as a game cartridge.

History

The Fairchild Channel F was the first video game console to feature games on interchangeable ROM cartridges. Fairchild-Channel-F.jpg
The Fairchild Channel F was the first video game console to feature games on interchangeable ROM cartridges.

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 space.

Home computer class of microcomputers

Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977, that started with what Byte Magazine called the "trinity of 1977", and which 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 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.

Bus (computing) communication system that transfers data between components inside a computer

In computer architecture, a bus is a communication system that transfers data between components inside a computer, or between computers. This expression covers all related hardware components and software, including communication protocols.

Edge connector

An edge connector is the portion of a printed circuit board (PCB) consisting of traces leading to the edge of the board that are intended to plug into a matching socket. The edge connector is a money-saving device because it only requires a single discrete female connector, and they also tend to be fairly robust and durable. They are commonly used in computers for expansion slots for peripheral cards, such as PCI, PCI Express, and AGP cards.

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.

TI-59 / TI-58

The TI-59 is an early programmable calculator, that was manufactured by Texas Instruments from 1977. It is the successor to the TI SR-52, quadrupling the number of "program steps" of storage, and adding "ROM Program Modules". Just like the SR-52, it has a magnetic card reader for external storage. One quarter of the memory is stored on each side of one card.

HP-41C

The HP-41C series are programmable, expandable, continuous memory handheld RPN calculators made by Hewlett-Packard from 1979 to 1990. The original model, HP-41C, was the first of its kind to offer alphanumeric display capabilities. Later came the HP-41CV and HP-41CX, offering more memory and functionality.

TI59 calculator with ROM software library module at right, showing gold-plated contacts. WIKI TI-59 ROM Module 20161212.jpg
TI59 calculator with ROM software library module at right, showing gold-plated contacts.

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), [1] 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 [2] (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.

Commodore VIC-20 Home computer

The VIC-20 is an 8-bit home computer that was sold by Commodore Business Machines. The VIC-20 was announced in 1980, roughly three years after Commodore's first personal computer, the PET. The VIC-20 was the first computer of any description to sell one million units. The VIC-20 has been described as "one of the first anti-spectatorial, non-esoteric computers by design...no longer relegated to hobbyist/enthusiasts or those with money, the computer Commodore developed was the computer of the future."

Commodore 64 8-bit home computer introduced in January 1982

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 10 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.

MSX home computer

MSX is a standardized home computer architecture, announced by Microsoft on June 16, 1983. It was conceived and marketed by Kazuhiko Nishi, then vice-president at Microsoft Japan and director at ASCII Corporation. Nishi conceived the project as an attempt to create unified standards among various home computing system manufacturers of the period.

The modern take on game cartridges was invented by Jerry Lawson as part of the Fairchild Channel F home console in 1976. [3] 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. [3] 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.

Design

ROM burner for the Nintendo DS. Intelligent-Systems-Nintendo-DS-Nitro-Burner.jpg
ROM burner for the Nintendo DS.

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.

Advantages and disadvantages

The N64 used cartridges when most home consoles had shifted to CD-ROMs. N64-Console-Set.jpg
The N64 used cartridges when most home consoles had shifted to CD-ROMs.

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. [4]

ROM cartridges typically have less capacity than other media. [5] The PCjr-compatible version of Lotus 1-2-3 comes on two cartridges and a floppy disk. [6] 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. [7] [8] 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. [9]

An opened Game Boy cartridge with battery-backed volatile memory for game saves. Measures 2.2" x 2.56" x 0.32" (or 56 mm x 65 mm x 8 mm) PokemonSilverBoard.jpg
An opened Game Boy cartridge with battery-backed volatile memory for game saves. Measures 2.2" × 2.56" × 0.32" (or 56 mm × 65 mm × 8 mm)

Electronic musical instruments usage

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 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. [10]

Cartridge based video game consoles

Nintendo Switch game cartridge. Nintendo-Switch-Cartridge.jpg
Nintendo Switch game cartridge.

Amstrad

Atari

PlayStation

Bandai

Coleco

Fairchild Semiconductor

Magnavox/Philips

Mattel

Milton Bradley

NEC

Nintendo

Sega

SNK

Sony

Nikko Europe

Nokia


LeapFrog


Fisher Price

See also

Related Research Articles

Neo Geo (system) cartridge-based arcade system board and home video game console

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 a computer device that outputs a video signal or visual image to display a video game that one or more people can play.

Tandy 1000

The Tandy 1000 was the first in a line of IBM PC compatible home computer systems produced by the Tandy Corporation for sale in its Radio Shack and Radio Shack Computer Center chains of stores.

Atari 8-bit family series of 8-bit home computers

The Atari 8-bit family is a series of 8-bit home computers introduced by Atari, Inc. in 1979 and manufactured until 1992. All of the machines in the family are technically similar and differ primarily in packaging. They are based on the MOS Technology 6502 CPU running at 1.79 MHz, and were the first home computers designed with custom co-processor chips. This architecture enabled graphics and sound capabilities that were more advanced than contemporary machines at the time of release, and gaming on the platform was a major draw. Star Raiders is considered the platform's killer app.

Family Computer Disk System add-on for the NES video game console

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 data storage. Through its entire production span, 1986—2003, 4.44 million units were sold. Its name is sometimes shortened as Famicom Disk System or simply Disk System, and abbreviated as FCDS, FDS, or FCD.

LaserActive video game console

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 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, due to financial and legal complications.

ROM image

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, 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 computer firmware are copied to ROM files on modern computers and can, using a piece of software known as an emulator, be run on a computer.

Cheat cartridge

A cheat cartridge is a device that connects to any sort of cartridge-based video game system. It allows a user to input special cheat codes to manipulate a game in a way not permitted by its original programming. Usually the effect is to gain infinite lives, ammunition, unlock secrets, or do things that would otherwise allow an unfair advantage. Some games have codes to activate unreleased levels, weapons, or items that may not have been available normally, and some even have codes to access debug menus used by programmers. Equivalent non-cartridge devices have been released and sold for modern game systems that use optical media instead of cartridges to store games.

1984 saw many sequels and prequels and several new titles such as Tetris, Karate Champ, Boulder Dash, and 1942.

Homebrew (video games)

Homebrew is a term frequently applied to video games or other software produced by consumers to target proprietary hardware platforms that are not typically user-programmable or that use proprietary storage methods. This can include games developed with official development kits, such as Net Yaroze, Linux for PlayStation 2 or Microsoft XNA. A game written by a non-professional developer for a system intended to be consumer-programmable, like the Commodore 64, is simply called hobbyist.

A dedicated console is a video game console that is dedicated to a built in game or games, and is not equipped for additional games, via cartridges, discs or other media.

Family BASIC 1984 video game

Family BASIC or Famicom BASIC is the consumer product for programming Nintendo's Family Computer video game console of Japan. Family BASIC was launched on June 21, 1984 to consumers in Japan by Nintendo, in cooperation with Hudson Soft and Sharp Corporation. A second version titled Family BASIC V3 was released on February 21, 1985, with greater memory and new features.

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.

Twin Famicom

The Twin Famicom is a video game console system 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.

Game backup device

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.

A home video game console, or simply home console, is a video game device that is primarily used for home gamers, as opposed to in arcades or some other commercial establishment. Home consoles are one type of video game consoles, in contrast to the handheld game consoles which are smaller and portable, allowing people to carry them and play them at any time or place, along with microconsoles and dedicated consoles.

Atari Jaguar CD peripheral for the Atari Jaguar video game console

The Atari Jaguar CD or Jag CD is a CD-ROM peripheral for the Atari Jaguar video game console.

References

  1. Pollson, Ken (October 30, 2008). "Chronology of the Commodore 64 Computer". Archived from the original on January 18, 2010. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  2. Hoffmann, Thomas V. (March 1984). "IBM PCjr". Creative Computing. 10 (3): 74.
  3. 1 2 "1976: Fairchild Channel F – First ROM Cartridge Video Game System". CED Magic. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  4. NES Cleaning Kit manual
  5. Cook, Karen (March 6, 1984). "Jr. Sneaks PC into Home". PC Magazine. p. 35. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  6. Trivette, Donald B. (April 1985). "Lotus 1-2-3 For IBM PCjr". Compute!. p. 63. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  7. "The SNES CD-ROM". Gamer's Graveyard. Archived from the original on July 4, 2008. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  8. Isbister, Katherine (2006). "Interview: Ryoichi Hasegawa and Roppyaku Tsurumi of SCEJ". Better Game Characters by Design: A Psychological Approach. San Francisco, California: Elsevier Inc. p. 99. ISBN   978-1-55860-921-1 . Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  9. "Who You Pay to Play". Electronic Gaming Monthly . Ziff Davis (82): 16–18. May 1996.
  10. "Casio ROM Packs". www.crumblenet.co.uk.