R-Zone was a head-mounted game system from Tiger Electronics in 1995.
Ranger_Lannier sent me several cartridges to dump. I was unable to find the cartridge pinout on the web, so I opened several carts, the head unit and the hand controller.
The head unit just has the cart connector, 4 LEDs and a speaker. The controller has 14 buttons, 2 potentiometers (volume and brightness), a cap, a resistor, battery holder and a blob. It looks like the blob just takes the buttons as parallel inputs and sends them to the cart as serial data, much like the Nintendo controllers. It might be a little smarter than that, because START acts a little differently. The cable from the controller to the head unit has 7 wires: +3V, ground, brightness, volume, and 3 wires are used for the controller data - clock, data and sync. The clock line is repeatedly toggled 13 times by the cart, with sync low on the first clock. The buttons are each assigned one clock - if a button is pressed, the blob sets the data line high for the corresponding clock bit. The first clock bit is for the ON button, then UP, RIGHT, LEFT, DOWN, A, B, C, D, SOUND, SELECT, OFF and PAUSE. Pushing START causes a long pulse after the 13th clock. Maybe that resets the cart? Pushing START again does nothing. Even when the unit is turned off, the sync line is still pulsed at about once per second, probably to check to see if you hit the ON button.
I can't see anything on the cart's LCD looking at it naked eye, but I played with lighting and focus on the microscope and was able to see the segments. I took pics of the LCD screen from the cart Jedi Adventure. Here's the same pic with B&W inverted. I just threw the pics into Microsoft ICE to composite, but it didn't align the tiles correctly, so I had to adjust it in Photoshop. That's why the geometry looks weird, so later I will composite the pics better. You can see pads on the upper and lower edges that connect to each segment.
I also took some pictures 1 2 3 of the head unit with Jedi running. The images are backwards because you are supposed to look at the reflection in the eyepiece, not directly at the LCD screen. You can see where the 4 LEDs are located - they should have used more, smaller LEDs or a better diffuser.
The chip on the cart is covered with an epoxy blob, so I used Decap on 3 of them to clean it off. It worked OK on one of the dice, but the other 2 are still covered in goo. Here's a pic of Indy 500
I assume they didn't create an entirely new MCU for these games, so this is probably a derivative of some 90's MCU. The only identifying mark I see on it is the text "KMS1022".
The block in the lower right is ROM, and the 2 on the left might be registers and RAM? I expect most of the pads are I/O to control the LCD segments.
Update: looks like the MCU is probably a Sharp SM510, similar to the TI TMS1000, but with built-in LCD controller.
Here's the R-Zone patent, showing parts and net list. There are also a couple of design patents for the headgear and the later handheld package.
Paul has a web site with lots of SM510 info, an assembler, and an emulator for the Watchman.
back to Decap page
back to Arcade Games
back to Home page