Microvision FAQ

Version 0.08

Copyright (c) 1994, 1995 Joseph M. Huber

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The data contained herein is provided for informational purposes

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Please mail additional information, opinions, and comments to:

Joe Huber - huber@tribe.enet.dec.com


Last update: October 27, 1995.


JH) Joe Huber

01) David Belter

02) Rik Morgan (rik@metronet.com)

03) Will Chose

04) Jerry Greiner

05) Bruce Tomlin

06) Barry Cantin

07) Joey McDonald

08) Gregg Woodcock

09) Rich Kim


1.0) What is Microvision?

2.0) Microvision Specs

3.0) Cartridge List

4.0) Trivia

5.0) Tips, Hints, and Cheats

6.0) Instructions

7.0) Programming the Microvision

8.0) Repairing the Microvision

8.1) LCD screen

8.2) Keypad

9.0) Microvision Dealers

1.0) What is Microvision?

Microvision was introduced by Milton Bradley in 1979. Designed by Jay

Smith (who later designed Vectrex), Microvision combined the cartridge

interchangability that was propelling Fairchild and Atari into the

forefront with the portability that had helped Coleco and Mattel sell

millions of hand held games. While the idea was fine (witness the success

of Gameboy and Game Gear), the timing and support were not. After some

initial success (grossing $8 million in its first year of production,

and boosting Smith Engineering into a million-dollar operation), and an

initial release of seven cartridges (including Block Buster, which came

with the unit), Milton Bradley rolled out just two new cartridges in 1980,

and a final two in 1981. With a small library, no tie in to a home unit,

and a screen resolution that provided little ability to produce meaningful

graphics, Microvision soon became little more than a memory.

Still, the Microvision was a pioneer, overcoming the limitations of the

light-emitting-diode displays that were standard for hand-held games at the

time. For all the limitations of the unit, many of the games produced were

quite good. - JH, 02, 05

2.0) Microvision Specs

Resolution: 16 x 16 LCD

CPU: TMS1100 (on cartridge)

Bits: 4

Speed: ?

RAM: ?

Video Display Processor: ?

Sound: ?

Cartridge ROM: 2K masked

The original game units used two 9-volt batteries, but it was discovered

that not only could Microvision run on one 9-volt battery, but Microvision

owners would sometimes put one of the batteries in backwards. Later

units only provided terminals for one battery, with the second spot

marked "spare battery storage". The single battery model also sported

a larger control knob, and apparently on some models a volume control

(on the lower left side of the system). - JH, 02, 07

3.0) Cartridge List


Year - Year of Release

Number - Part Number

Rarity (relative) -

C) Common

U) Uncommon

R) Rare

VR) Very Rare

ER) Extremely Rare

Rating -

1) Awful

2) Poor

3) OK

4) Good

5) Very Good

Format: Rating/# of people rating.

For example, 3.5/4 would mean 4 people had rated the

cartridge, with an average rating of 3.5.

Name Year Number Rarity Rating

======================= ==== ====== ====== ======

Alien Raiders 1981 4176 VR 4.5/4

Baseball 1980 4063 U 3.0/3

Block Buster 1979 4952 C 4.2/5

Bowling 1979 4972 U 2.3/3

Connect Four 1979 4971 R 4.0/3

Cosmic Hunter 1981 4177 VR 4.5/4

Mindbuster 1979 4976 R 3.0/3

Pinball 1979 4974 U 2.7/3

Sea Duel 1980 4064 VR 5.0/3

Star Trek Phaser Strike 1979 4973 U 4.0/3

Vegas Slots 1979 4975 R 1.7/3

4.0) Trivia

Robert Hoffberg programmed Connect Four and Cosmic Hunter, as well as

assisting on Sea Duel and Baseball.

Cartridge programming was done at Milton Bradley in East Longmeadow, MA,

Texas Instruments in Dallas, TX, and in Santa Monica,CA.

There are at least two different boxes which the Microvision unit was

packaged in. One lists only the six original carts; the second adds

Baseball and Sea Duel.

Cosmic Hunter and Alien Raiders, the last two releases, have "control"

numbers which don't match the part number on the box (MB8106 for Cosmic

Hunter, MB8107 for Alien Raiders).

The original units did not include an anti-static shield. These shields,

which fit above the LCD screen, were included with cartridges and also sent

out with repaired units.

Merlin, a handheld, but not programmable, comtemporary of Microvision,

included a game very similar to Mindbuster.

Two different static shields exist - one is copper in color, the other


Star Trek Phasor Strike has two label and manual variations. At some point,

the words Star Trek were replaced with drawings of two small space ships

flying by. The manual with the space ships has a revision date of 5/80.

5.0) Tips, Hints, and Cheats

Alien Raiders -

There is a cheat that will allow anyone to play Alien Raiders forever



WITHOUT CHEATING! Turn back now or forever ruin this game!

OK, here it is. Due to a programming oversight, the code that adjusts

the speed of the ship's motion in relation to the length of the "beam"

you shoot (when you are shooting; if you aren't shooting, your ship's

speed is constant), you can speed up your ship whenever you want. This

dependance is needed so that your ship will be slowed down enough that

your beam can extend to its full length in your current position before

you are forced to move to the next row. The problem is that they forgot

to take out this relationship for the negative case (when you can shoot

your beem to full extension faster than it takes for you to move 1 row).

So what you do to take advantage of this factoid is turn your knob all

the way down so that your beam is as small as possible. Then wait for

the alien raiders to get to the column that your beam extends to and

shoot them. If they are too far away, you can increase your speed by

about 30% (gross estimation) by holding down your fire button


Even at the highest levels, there is always enough time to speed your

ship into position before a raider can get past you. There are never

more than 4 raiders at once and no more than 2 are ever in the same

column at once. Since you can travel 1/2 the length of the screen

faster than the fastest raider can advance 1 column (using the "always

firing" method), you can never lose. I have played for over 6 hours on

1 game before I gave up. The only problem is that you can't use the

"always firing" method too frequently or the game will make you "run out

of gas" and you won't be able to fire at all and the game will end. I

haven't quite figured out the rules for how much firing is "too" much

but within a few games you can get a good feel for how far you can push

it; besides, if you only use it when you need too, you will never "run

out". This cheat works equally well for all the game variations. - 08

Block Buster -

There are (at least) 2 (not counting mirror images) positions in Block

Buster that will allow the ball to remain in play without needing to

turn the dial. This creates, in effect, a pause switch since the game

can be left unattended. One of them is as follows and the other is quite

similar but I can't recall (it uses the end of the paddle, not the middle).


| ***************|

| * -> * |

| * * |

| * * |

| * * |

| * /|\ * |

| * | * |

| * * |

| * * |

| * * |

| * * |

| * * |

| * * |

| ** |

| * |

|=== |


There are similar patterns in Pinball, too, but after a certain number

of repeated patterns, the computer will cause the ball to "break the

rules" of how it is supposed to bounce and cause the ball to break out

of the pattern. I guess they learned their lesson from BlockBuster! - 08

(Editor's note: the ball actually does break the rules on BlockBuster as

well. This is necessary; otherwise, you couldn't hit all the blocks.

The problem is that, in the position shown above, breaking the rules

doesn't get the ball out of the trap.)

Sea Duel -

In Sea Duel, you can park your sub in any of the four corners of the

playfield, and the computer destroyer can't touch you. It keeps depth

charging, but it always comes up short. - 09

6.0) Instructions

BLOCK BUSTER (and unit):

(Two battery version)

Operating Procedures

Inserting the Batteries

1. Turn the console over. Using a fingernail, lift up the locking tab on

the battery compartment cover and lift it off. See Fig. 1.

(Fig. 1 - The back of the Microvision unit, showing the contrast knob above

the battery compartment.)

(Fig. 2 - The back of the Microvision unit, with the battery compartment

open and two batteries inserted.)

2. You need two 9 Volt transistor batteries to operate Microvision.

Alkaline batteries are recommended for batter performance and longer

life. Make sure they are fresh and strong as even new batteries may

be defective or weak and may cause unsatisfactory operation.

3. Insert the two batteries as shown in Fig. 2 matching the charge

marked on the battery symbols indicated on the inside of the


4. Replace the battery cover and turn the console face up.

Inserting the Cartridge

1. First, check to sure the On/OFF switch is down in the OFF position.

Then, holding the cartridge at an angle, slide the top of the

cartridge into the slot at the top of the console. See Fig. 3.

(Fig. 3 - Front of Microvision unit with cartridge being inserted.)

2. Then, press down, snapping the cartridge into place.

3. To remove the cartridge: Make sure the power is off. Grasp the sides

of the cartridge at the grooves, squeeze slightly, and pull up. (DO

NOT FORCE.) Then, gently slide the cartridge out.

Contrast Knob

1. When you turn the game on, you may notice that the screen contrast

needs adjustment.

Note: The contrast has been factory adjusted to room temperature

(approximately 70 degrees)

2. Locate the contrast knob on the back of the console (refer to Fig. 1).

Insert a dime (a fingernail, etc.) into the groove in the knob and

turn it until you achieve the desired contrast.

Special Cautions

1. It is recommended that you use and store you Microvision console and

cartridges at temperatures ranging from 32F to 104F.

2. The liquid crystal display is sensitive to direct sunlight, abrupt

temperature changes, high humidity or dampness, and dust. It is

best to avoid using your game in areas where the above conditions

are present.

3. Do not press down on the screen area or subject your game to impact

or shocks.

4. Do not handle the contacts at the top of the cartridge.

5. If you will not be playing the game for a day or more, it is

recommended that you remove the cartridge from the console.

6. If you leave the power on for an extended period of time with the

cartridge in the console, permanent damage to the display will occur.

Battery Replacement

1. When the batteries are losing power, the screen may blank out or the

display could appear erratic.

2. Turn the power off, remove the battery cover, and replace your old

batteries with fresh 9 volt (alkaline type) batteries.


Turn the power off when not playing the game. Microvision will alert

you periodically with a signal if you leave the power on when you are

not playing the game.

Game Play for Block Buster


Knock out all the blocks in the 3-layer wall using a ball & paddle.

1. Slide the ON/OFF switch up to ON. The option screen will appear.

2. Press the BALLS key to select the number of balls that you want to

play (1, 3, 5, 7, or 9).

3. Press the SPEED key to select the speed of the serve (Fast or Slow).

4. Press the PADDLE key to select the width of the paddle (Triple or


Note: The Double width paddle, because it only allows for diagonal

play, requires a greater degree of skill to master.

5. Press GO and the score screen appears. Press GO again and the wall

and paddle appear on the screen.

Note: If you do not press another key on the keyboard within

approximately 10 seconds, the game will signal you and will

display the score on the screen. This is to remind you that

the game is still on.

6. Turn the Control Knob on the console to move the paddle from side to


7. Press GO to serve the ball. Bounce the ball off the paddle into the

wall. When the ball hits the wall, it eliminates a block. Try to

volley the ball as many times as you can. If you eliminate all the

blocks, a new wall appears and the same ball is still in play.

8. When you miss a ball, your score and the number of balls you have

left appears on the screen.

9. Press GO to show the wall and paddle. Press GO again to serve the

next ball.

10. If you have the speed set on Slow, the pace quickens when you hit

a block in the top row. If you have the speed set on Fast, the rate

will remain fast at all times.

11. When you have played all the balls chosen at the beginning of the

game, the game is over and you will see your score.

12. Press GO to return to the option screen. Press GO to show the score

screen. Press GO to show the wall and paddle. Press GO again to

serve the ball.


You get 1 point for each block you hit in the bottom row, 2 points for

each block in the middle row, and 3 points for each block in the top

row. Each complete wall totals 96 points. (After reaching 999 points,

you must and 1,000's to the score that shows on the screen.)

Remember - Turn the power off when not playing the game.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

(One battery version - instructions and figures remain exactly the

same except as follows)

Operating Procedures


Alkaline batteries are recommended for better performance and longer life.

Make sure they are fresh and strong as even new batteries may be defective

or weak and may cause unsatisfactory operation.

Inserting the Batteries

1. Turn the console over. Using a fingernail, lift up the locking tab on

the battery compartment cover and lift it off. See Fig. 1.

(Fig. 1 - The back of the Microvision unit, showing the contrast knob above

the battery compartment.)

(Fig. 2 - The back of the Microvision unit, with the battery compartment

open and two batteries inserted - the one on the left marked "functioning

battery", the one on the right marked "spare battery storage".)

2. Only ONE 9 volt transistor battery is needed to operate Microvision.

We suggest you buy two alkaline batteries, use one to operate the

unit and keep the other as a spare in the easily accessible Spare

Battery Storage area [remember the spare is always there when you

need it!]. See Figure 2. for the proper positioning of the

functioning battery and the spare battery.

3. Make sure the functioning battery is inserted properly. To make the

proper connection, insert the terminal heads as shown in the detailed

diagram on the bottom of the battery compartment in the console,


4. Now insert the spare battery in the Spare Battery Storage area right

next to the functioning battery.

5. Replace the battery cover and turn the console face up.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =


STAR TREK Phaser Strike

Try to hit as many targets as you can.

1. Slide the ON/OFF switch up to ON. The option selection screen appears.

2. Press SIZE key to select the width of the target (4, 3, 2, 1, or C).

Note: C stands for changeable. Your targets will be of different

lengths randomly selected by the computer.

3. Press SPEED key to select the speed (Fast, Slow, or Changeable) of

the target.

Note: With C, the speed of each target is randomly selected by the


4. Press TARGETS key to select the number of ships to be sent against

you. (The number (1-9) you chose is multiplied by ten to give you

the total of targets that will flash across the screen.)

5. Press GO to start the game -- the first target will appear.

6. Try to hit the target with your phaser cannon. Press the bottom row

of arrow keys to fire your phasers.

7. The left arrow shoots a missile diagonally across the screen to the

upper right corner. The middle arrow shoots a missile straight up.

The right arrow shoots the missile diagonally to the upper left

corner of the screen.

8. You'll hear a signal when you score a hit. (There is no reaction

when you miss a target.)

9. After all your targets have been launched, your score will appear on

the screen.

10. To start a new game, press GO to choose your options.

11. Press GO again to begin launching the next set of targets.

Remember to turn the power off when not playing the game.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

7.0) Programming the Microvision

Programming the Microvision is complicated by the fact that, unlike nearly

every other cartridge based system, the CPU for each Microvision cartridge

is included on the cartridge. Furthermore, the game code is included on

the same chip. - 02

The LCD driver chip is a 40 pin chip located in the Microvision base unit.

The lines are Pwr, Gnd, 32 outputs to the LCD, 4 inputs from the

microcomputer, strobe input and latch input. The LCD driver chip is very

primitive. Screen contents must be latched 4 bits at a time, with a

total of 8 packets making up one screen. After all 8 packets have been

latched, they must be strobed in to complete one multiplex. Up to 12

multiplex levels are possible. Finally, the voltage on the LCD must

be inverted by turning the latch on, then toggling the strobe, and

finally the shutting the latch off. The voltage must be inverted

roughly 35 times per second, or the LCD glass will be etched with


Be forewarned, when working with Microvision cartridges, that they (or, more

specifically, the built in CPUs) are very susceptible to electrostatic


8.0) Repairing the Microvision

8.1) LCD screen

(To be added.)

8.2) Keypad

(To be added.)

9.0) Microvision Dealers

Microvision units and cartridges are nearly impossible to find. When

they are available, it's usually at a premium - I've seen asking prices

as high as $30 for a cartridge, $75 for a unit. However, even as a

dedicated fan or garage sales, thrift stores, and flea markets, I've

only once come across any Microvision equipment, and at that it didn't

come cheaply.

Given the relative scarcity of Microvision products, few dealers can

keep an inventory of such items. Therefore, while the following dealers

have been known to sell Microvision products, there is no guarantee that

they currently stock any items.

Note: the following are listed alphabetically. Inclusion on this list

carries with it no recommendation, either positive or negative, about

the dealer. Additional dealers who sell a line of Microvision products

via mail order will be gladly added to the list.

JerryG Visionaries

Snail Mail: 14700 NW Bonneville Loop

Beaverton, OR 97006

EMail (preferred): jerryg@hevanet.com

Steven J. Tucker

Snail Mail: 9897 York Road

North Royalton, OH 44133

EMail: dh395@cleveland.Freenet.Edu

Video Magic (Frank Polosky)

Snail Mail: P.O. Box 9542

Pittsburgh, PA 15223

Phone: (412) 781-2241

Gregg Woodcock

Snail Mail: 2930 Dukeswood Drive

Garland, Republic of Texas 75040-8770

Phone: (214) 684-7380

EMail: woodcock@bnr.ca

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