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The PiTrex cartridge replaces the CPU of the Vectrex video game console with the modern processing power of a Raspberry Pi Zero single-board computer. With an ARM CPU running at 1GHz and 512MB of RAM, this system is capable of emulating vintage vector arcade games. It also provides an easier, and much more powerful, environment for developing new games. Plus it can run Vectrex game ROMs loaded onto the Pi's MicroSD card akin to a multicart, by running a modified version of the VecX emulator.
Open-source emulators and a couple of PC games have been ported to use the "Vectrex Interface" library that allows software running on the Raspberry Pi to control the vector display, sound, and controller inputs of the Vectrex via the PiTrex cartridge. This developer release aims to allow other Vectrex developers to explore this new platform, perhaps also helping to expand the development environment and port more arcade emulators or PC games.
A full release offering PiTrex cartridges in a custom-made case is planned for a later stage when the range of stable emulators and games has been expanded. Files to 3D print a case are available for download, and Graham Toal in the USA may be able to supply reproduction cases modified with a hole for the GPIO header socket that connects with the Raspberry Pi (posting only within the USA, not compatible with cartridges that have the DC socket).
Normally the PiTrex and Raspberry Pi Zero can be powered directly from the Vectrex. PiTrex cartridges fitted with the DC socket are also able to be powered from an external 5VDC regulated power supply with a 2.5mm centre-positive DC plug. This can be useful because it is physically difficult to connect to the power input on the Raspberry Pi while the cartridge is inserted in the Vectrex. By powering the Raspberry Pi externally, it is possible to keep the Vectrex turned off while developing in Linux with the Pi, turning on the console only when trying something out. This can save wear on your Vectrex during development.
For carts fitted with the DC socket, a jumper is installed marked "POWER FROM VEC." on the circuit board. When external power is used, this jumper must be removed. The power supply used must output regulated 5VDC, USB supplies connected via an adaptor cable are suitable.
Emulated arcade games running in the bare-metal environment, selectable from the PiTrex menu program.
Open-Source Linux vector game displaying on the Vectrex (video)