This is the first of a new series where we take it upon ourselves to go back in time and re-review retro gaming items from history. First up is the Marjac RomScanner Command Center, a fairly uncommon add-on for the Atari 2600 which when released in 1981 was the most elaborate amongst a group of similar peripherals which included the Videoplexer, Game Selex and Video Game Brain.
What is the RomScanner Command Center?
Firstly we must note that the peripheral is made to fit an old style VCS, namely the Atari CX2600 Heavy Sixer, CX2600 6 switch Woody, CX2600A 4 Switch Woody or 2600 ‘Darth Vader’ models. The unit itself comprises of a main unit and two sides of a ‘stand’ which the VCS sits on. The main unit (now referred to as RSCC) comprises of a fairly cheap feeling silvered plastic outer case with 10 cartridge ports, a row of port selector buttons, ‘stand by’ and ‘ready’ indicator lights and the on button (interestingly renamed ‘Activate’). Power is supplied directly to the unit via the Atari VCS PSU and is then transferred from the RSCC to the VCS via a supplied extension lead (see pic). The two stands slot into either side of the RSCC and then the VCS is placed on top of the stand with the main unit sitting above. This all requires simple assembly before you can connect your console. Connection to the VCS is via a short rubber coated ribbon connector which slots into the original cartridge port with the aid of metal clips. You are also supplied with sticky-backed velcro pads to hold your VCS in securely in place on the stand.
Once set up the idea is that you populate the 10 cartridge slots with your favourite games and it then (as it says on the box) “calls up any of your 10 favourite video games in less than a second with the touch of a button”.
Using the RomScanner
Does it work? Well, yes it does. But its not like this thing works by remote control. Now that would be useful, no more getting off the sofa to change carts. The main reason this fails so miserably as an add-on is that its just not needed. I mean how long does it take to change a cart in a VCS, 4 seconds? 5 maybe? So you save yourself a whole 4 seconds of valuable game time for what would have been a princely sum at the time of release (1981) of $49.95.
It is also just too cheap feeling to have a power supply fed into it. I expect mine to burst into flames any moment now. Also, if you aren’t careful the buttons fall out and/or 2 buttons stick down at the same time. And the slots for the stands seem to have been made with a chainsaw. Oh and did I mention that the buttons fall out? Yes I did.
This is one for the collectors really and has no real gaming use apart from novelty value and to make your already sizeable lump of Atari an even bigger lump. Saying that, I do love its kitsch look and it has great appeal as a techno curiosity. In fact a great addition to your collection if you want to make your VCS look like it belongs on the set of Space:1999. Just don’t leave it plugged in when you aren’t around…