Bally Professional Arcade \ Astrocade
Type Console Developer Bally Technologies, Astrovision
Release Date 1977-Dec Region(s) North America
Initial Price $299 USD Games Released 49 (retail)
     by Dark Watcher
The Bally Professional Arcade (a.k.a. Bally Computer System, a.k.a. Bally Astrocade) was initially made available through mail order catalogue in December, 1977 in order to compete with the Atari 2600.  The console was designed by their Midway Games division (funny to know that the makers of Mortal Kombat once made a videogame console ).  With a small keypad built into the console, the unit was capable of writing very simple basic programs, as well as playing it's cassette shaped games.  The Astrocade also came with 4 built in games (Gunfight, Checkmate, Calculator, Scribbler).

The Bally Astrocade had other unique innovations that set it apart from other consoles of its time.  Rather then using different controllers for different games like it's competitor Atari, the Bally Astrocade decided to create a single controller with a variety of game play options.  This controller was truly ahead of its time.  It resembled the pistol grip of a gun, and even featured a trigger-like action button.  A small joystick rested on the top of the pistol grip for normal game play.  The joystick also featured a twistable knob that could be used for paddle games such as Pong or Breakout.  Essentially the Bally Astrocade controller was both an analog and digital controller.  The Astrocade was also one of the first consoles to have 4 controller ports.
Bally Professional Arcade logo
Even though the Astrocade seemed to have more to offer then the Atari 2600, it was another victim of Atari hogging all arcade licensing rights.  Although they lacked the licenses, many of the Astrocade games are actually clones based on some Atari titles, and many are considered to be of better quality.  Unfortunately, the "Great Videogame Crash of 1983" killed off the Astrocade as well as many other videogame consoles.

FACT: An interesting note about this system was its appearance in the movie National Lampoons Family Vacation.  While Clark mapped out the family's route on the family computer, Russ was somehow able to chase the family car Pac Man style....
"Russ, don't eat the family Truckster."
*Alien appears and shoots the Pac Man-esque figure that is chasing the Truckster*
"Thank you Audrey".
     Officially licensed releases
Originally marketed as the Bally Home Library Computer, the system was also named The Bally Professional Arcade, the Bally Computer System and finally the Astrocade.  Technically, all models are identical though the console does have many variations involving the packaging, button colors and the front graphic used on the plastic top cover.
Bally Home Library Computer
Bally Professional Arcade
Astrocade Professional Arcade

Bally Professional Arcade - Detailed Images
Courtesy of DigiBarn Computer Museum
     Non-licensed hardware releases
No clones were released for this system.
     by Marriott_Guy
Consoles are rated based upon the available technology at the time of its release.  A 10 point scale is utilized, with 10 being excellent.

Console Design 04 The Astrocade is a pretty girthy console, sporting the wood trim that was so prevalent in the 1970s.  The tiny buttons of the built-in keypad are crowded and difficult to navigate.  The plastic top that covers game storage is cheaply constructed and prone to cracking.  Like some other systems of that era, the controller ports are located at the back of the unit, necessitating gamers to be extra careful during heated gaming sessions. 
Console Durability 03 These systems are notorious for over-heating, even when placed in a well ventilated environment.  The cartridge slot can be finicky at times, requiring the gamer to reinsert the game a couple of times for the system to recognize the cart.
Controllers 08 I am not usually not a big fan of this type of controller, but I have to admit that Bally hit it out of the park with the design and functionality of their pistol-grip controller.   Though odd looking at first glance, this multifunction device fits comfortably in your hand, with an easy to access trigger button and 8-way directional mini joystick at the tip of the controller.
Graphics 07 Compared to the competition, graphics are well presented providing a flicker-free gaming experience.  Animation is smooth and minimal slowdown even during heavy graphical on-screen  activity.
Audio 08 The Astrocade blows away the competition in this department.  Sound effects are crisp and varied, a nice contrast to the monotonous 'chirps' by most of the competition.
Media 05 Coined the Videocade, the cartridge is the same size as a tape cassette.  Though this compact design is welcomed, organizing them is truly a pain since the game title is only listed on the front of the cart.
Game Library 04 Since Atari had the exclusive rights to many of the popular arcade titles of the day, the game offerings for the Astrocade primarily consist of clones of existing titles.  Though these knock-offs are done quite well (many better than the original), the rest of the small library is rather weak.
Gamer Value 04 Games for the most part are relatively affordable, but the system itself is pricey.  Though the game play is excellent for the top titles, the same basic experience can be had on one its competitors (Atari 2600, Intellivision) for a considerably less investment.  The system does have some games/apps embedded within the hardware (which is a nice touch).
Collector Value 07 Though the system was produced for nearly 5 years, their were not a great deal of systems produced during its lifespan.  A solid, functioning system is somewhat difficult to obtain and will run you more that you would expect.

     Interesting facts on software for this system
Software for the Bally Professional Arcade \ Astrocade was distributed on ROM cartridges, termed Videocades, which strongly resemble a cassette tape.  Two basic packaging were utilized.

Bally first distributed games in a plastic shell that was glued to the front of a cheap cardboard rack-style display.  The front of the multi-fold directions served as the cover art.

Once Astrovision became involved, titles were published in cardboard game boxes, roughly the same size as those utilized by Mattel with their Intellivision.  The front of the box had a large open cavity to display the instruction manual, which once again doubled as the cover art.  There are many variations within this design, with some featuring the Bally name while later releases display Astrocade.
applemctom's Games that Defined Compiliation

Bally Professional Arcade Game Boxes

     Captured in-game images
280 Zzzap
Amazin' Maze
Artillery Duel
Astro Battle
Bally Pin
Bingo Math
Blast Droids
Cosmic Raiders
Demolition Derby
Galactic Invasion
Grand Prix
Incredible Wizard
Letter Match
Panzer Attack
Pirate's Chase
Red Baron
Sea Devil
Sneaky Snake
Solar Conqueror
Space Fortress
Star Battle
Tornado Baseball
Treasure Cove
     First and third party system emulators

MESS (Multi-Emulator Super System) is a DOS based emulator capable of running many
 systems including this one.  It has a Windows based GUI and is extremely user friendly.
     For the hardware enthusiasts out there - all the detail you\we love.
Processor Type  Processor Speed  Other Processor Information RAM \ Video RAM
Zilog Z80 1.789 MHz None 4K (expandable to 64K)
Screen Resolution Color Palette Polygons \ Sprites Audio
160 x 102 up to 320 x 204 8 colors N\A 3 Voice + Noise & Vibrato
Media Format Media Capacity Games Released Other Supported Formats
Cartridge 8 KB 49 (retail) Data Cassette (with
optional tape drive)
Internal Storage External \ Removable Storage Game Controllers Other Game \ Peripheral Devices
8K None Pistol-style with Trigger button and 8-way directional joystick mounted on the top Keyboard (ZGRASS), Memory Modules
Controller Ports Network Ports Other Ports Audio \ Video
Four (4) None Light Pen port, Expansion Port RF
Power Supply - Hardwired Adapter Other Outputs  Other Details \ Notes
Input: AC 120V, 60 Hz, 12W
Output: DC 13.5, 700mA
None None
Bally Home Library Computer Owners Manual (PDF) - 2.65 MB
Bally Professional Arcade Owners Manual (PDF) - 3.63 MB
Bally Professional Arcade (Astrovision) Owners Manual (PDF) - 0.68 MB

     Peripherals, Promotions, Commercials, Brochures, Etc.
Television Commercials

Print Flyers & Promotions

Optional Keyboard \ ZGRASS Peripheral

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