ROM cartridge

A ROM cartridge, usually referred to simply as a cartridge or cart, is a removable memory card containing ROM designed to be connected to a consumer electronics device such as a home computer, video game console and to a lesser extent, electronic musical instruments. ROM cartridges can be used to load software such as video games or other application programs.

The cartridge slot could also be used for hardware additions, for example speech synthesis. Some cartridges had battery-backed static random-access memory, allowing a user to save data such as game progress or scores between uses.

ROM cartridges allowed the user to rapidly load and access programs and data without the expense of a floppy drive, which was an expensive peripheral during the home computer era, and without using slow, sequential, and often unreliable Compact Cassette tape. An advantage for the manufacturer was the relative security of the software in cartridge form, which was difficult for end users to replicate. However, cartridges were expensive to manufacture compared to making a floppy disk or CD-ROM. As disk drives became more common and software expanded beyond the practical limits of ROM size, cartridge slots disappeared from later game consoles and personal computers. Cartridges are still used today with handheld gaming consoles such as the Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, and the tablet-like hybrid console Nintendo Switch.

Due to its widespread usage for video gaming, ROM cartridges were often colloquially referred to as a game cartridge.

Star raider cart
A Star Raiders read-only memory (ROM) cartridge for an Atari computer.


The Fairchild Channel F was the first video game console to feature games on interchangeable ROM cartridges.

ROM cartridges were popularized by early home computers which featured a special bus port for the insertion of cartridges containing software in ROM. In most cases the designs were fairly crude, with the entire address and data buses exposed by the port and attached via an edge connector; the cartridge was memory mapped directly into the system's address space.

The Texas Instruments TI 59 family of programmable scientific calculators used interchangeable ROM cartridges that could be installed in a slot at the back of the calculator. The calculator came with a module that provides several standard mathematical functions including solution of simultaneous equations. Other modules were specialized for financial calculations, or other subject areas, and even a "games" module. Modules were not user-programmable. The Hewlett-Packard HP-41C had expansion slots which could hold ROM memory as well as I/O expansion ports.

WIKI TI-59 ROM Module 20161212
TI59 calculator with ROM software library module at right, showing gold-plated contacts.

Notable computers using cartridges in addition to magnetic media were the Commodore VIC-20 and 64, MSX standard, the Atari 8-bit family (400/800/XL/XE),[1] the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A (where they were called Solid State Command Modules and were not directly mapped to the system bus) and the IBM PCjr[2] (where the cartridge was mapped into BIOS space). Some arcade system boards, such as Capcom's CP System and SNK's Neo Geo, also used ROM cartridges.

The modern take on game cartridges was invented by Jerry Lawson as part of the Fairchild Channel F home console in 1976.[3] The cartridge approach gained more popularity with the Atari 2600 released the following year. From the late 1970s to mid-1990s, the majority of home video game systems were cartridge-based.[3] As compact disc technology came to be used widely for data storage, most hardware companies moved from cartridges to CD-based game systems. Nintendo remained the lone hold-out, using cartridges for their Nintendo 64 system; the company did not transition to optical media until 2001's GameCube. SNK still released games on the cartridge-based Neo Geo until 2004, with the final official release being Samurai Shodown V Special. Nintendo's handheld consoles, meanwhile, continued to use cartridges due to their faster loading times and minimal equipment for data reading being beneficial for playing video games in short, several-minute intervals.


ROM burner for the Nintendo DS.

ROM cartridges can not only carry software, but additional hardware expansion as well. Examples include the Super FX coprocessor chip in some Super NES game paks, The SVP chip in the Sega Genesis Version Of Virtua Racing, and voice and chess modules in the Magnavox Odyssey².

Micro Machines 2 on the Genesis/Mega Drive used a custom "J-Cart" cartridge design by Codemasters which incorporated two additional gamepad ports. This allowed players to have up to four gamepads connected to the console without the need for an additional multi-controller adapter.

The ROM cartridge slot principle continues in various mobile devices, thanks to the development of high density low-cost flash memory. For example, a GPS navigation device might allow user updates of maps by inserting a flash memory chip into an expansion slot. An E-book reader can store the text of several thousand books on a flash chip. Personal computers may allow the user to boot and install an operating system off a USB flash drive instead of CD ROM or floppy disks. Digital cameras with flash drive slots allow users to rapidly exchange cards when full, and allow rapid transfer of pictures to a computer or printer.

Advantages and disadvantages

The N64 used cartridges when most home consoles had shifted to CD-ROMs.

Storing software on ROM cartridges has a number of advantages over other methods of storage like floppy disks and optical media. As the ROM cartridge is memory mapped into the system's normal address space, software stored in the ROM can be read like normal memory; since the system does not have to transfer data from slower media, it allows for nearly instant load time and code execution. Software run directly from ROM typically uses less RAM, leaving memory free for other processes. While the standard size of optical media dictates a minimum size for devices which can read disks, ROM cartridges can be manufactured in different sizes, allowing for smaller devices like handheld game systems. ROM cartridges can be damaged, but they are generally more robust and resistant to damage than optical media; accumulation of dirt and dust on the cartridge contacts can cause problems, but cleaning the contacts with an isopropyl alcohol solution typically resolves the problems without risk of corrosion.[4]

ROM cartridges typically have less capacity than other media.[5] The PCjr-compatible version of Lotus 1-2-3 comes on two cartridges and a floppy disk.[6] ROM cartridges are typically more expensive to manufacture than discs, and storage space available on a cartridge is less than that of an optical disc like a DVD-ROM or CD-ROM. Techniques such as bank switching were employed to be able to use cartridges with a capacity higher than the amount of memory directly addressable by the processor. As video games became more complex (and the size of their code grew), software manufacturers began sacrificing the quick load time of ROM cartridges for the greater capacity and lower cost of optical media.[7][8] Another source of pressure in this direction was that optical media could be manufactured in much smaller batches than cartridges; releasing a cartridge video game inevitably came with the risk of producing thousands of unsold cartridges.[9]

An opened Game Boy cartridge with battery-backed volatile memory for game saves. Measures 2.2" × 2.56" × 0.32" (or 56 mm × 65 mm × 8 mm)

Electronic musical instruments usage

Besides their prominent usage on video game consoles, ROM cartridges have also been used on a small number of electronic musical instruments, particularly electronic keyboards.

Yamaha has made several models with such features, with their PSR keyboard lineup in the mid-1990s, namely the PSR-320, PSR-420, PSR-520, PSR-620, PSR-330, PSR-530 and the PSR-6000. These keyboards use specialized cards known as Music Cartridges, a ROM cartridge simply containing MIDI data to be played on the keyboard as MIDI sequence or song data. This technology, however, quickly become obsolete and extremely rare after the advent of floppy disk drive in later models.

Casio has also known to use similar cartridges known as ROM Pack in the 1980s, before Yamaha's Music Cartridge were introduced. Few examples are several models in Casiotone line of portable electronic keyboards.[10]

Cartridge based video game consoles

Nintendo Switch game cartridge.





Fairchild Semiconductor



Milton Bradley






Nikko Europe



Fisher Price

See also


  1. ^ Pollson, Ken (October 30, 2008). "Chronology of the Commodore 64 Computer". Archived from the original on January 18, 2010. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  2. ^ Hoffmann, Thomas V. (March 1984). "IBM PCjr". Creative Computing. 10 (3): 74.
  3. ^ a b "1976: Fairchild Channel F – First ROM Cartridge Video Game System". CED Magic. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  4. ^ NES Cleaning Kit manual
  5. ^ Cook, Karen (1984-03-06). "Jr. Sneaks PC into Home". PC Magazine. p. 35. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  6. ^ Trivette, Donald B. (April 1985). "Lotus 1-2-3 For IBM PCjr". Compute!. p. 63. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  7. ^ "The SNES CD-ROM". Gamer's Graveyard. Archived from the original on July 4, 2008. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  8. ^ Isbister, Katherine (2006). "Interview: Ryoichi Hasegawa and Roppyaku Tsurumi of SCEJ". Better Game Characters by Design: A Psychological Approach. San Francisco, California: Elsevier Inc. p. 99. ISBN 978-1-55860-921-1. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  9. ^ "Who You Pay to Play". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Ziff Davis (82): 16–18. May 1996.
  10. ^ "Casio ROM Packs".

External links


The APF TV Fun is a series of early Pong clone consoles manufactured by APF Electronics Inc. and built in Japan starting in 1976. The systems were among the first built on the General Instrument 'Pong on a chip', the AY-3-8500, that allowed many manufacturers to compete against the Atari home pong.

The TV Fun package is the first excursion of APF into the video game market; APF was formerly a calculator and other small electronics developer. It was sold at Sears under the name Hockey Jockari. TV Fun was followed up by the 8 bit APF-MP1000 in 1978 and then APF Imagination Machine in 1979. These were made to compete in the 2nd generation of early ROM cartridge consoles, namely the Atari VCS.


Acornsoft was the software arm of Acorn Computers, and a major publisher of software for the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron. As well as games, it also produced a large number of educational titles, extra computer languages and business and utility packages – these included word processor VIEW and the spreadsheet ViewSheet supplied on ROM and cartridge for the BBC Micro/Acorn Electron and included as standard in the BBC Master and Acorn Business Computer.

Acornsoft LISP

Acornsoft LISP (marketed simply as LISP) is a dialect and commercial implementation of the Lisp programming language, released in the early 1980s for the 8-bit Acorn Atom, BBC Micro and Acorn Electron computers.

Atari Microsoft BASIC

The Atari Microsoft BASIC and Atari Microsoft BASIC II variants of the BASIC programming language were ROM cartridge or floppy disk packaged versions of the Microsoft BASIC dialect ported to the Atari 8-bit machines.

Atari originally licensed Microsoft BASIC for use in their 8-bit computers, but were unable to fit it in an 8 KB ROM cartridge, the largest cartridge size available at the time. They outsourced to another company, Shepardson Microsystems Inc. (SMI), who had similar problems fitting the language onto an 8k cartridge. SMI proposed creating an entirely new version of BASIC for the new platforms, and built Atari BASIC instead.

Atari Microsoft BASIC, unlike Atari BASIC, didn't allow abbreviations for keywords; keywords had to be fully spelled out. Syntax checking occurred after running a program, not immediately after entering the line. Also, arithmetic operations with integers resulted in an integer result.

Atari Microsoft BASIC came in two packages:

Floppy disk – CX8126

ROM cartridge – RX8035. Since the cartridge could only hold 16 KB, the remaining 11 KB file was included on an "extension" disk. The cartridge version was called Atari Microsoft BASIC II.Although more feature filled than Atari BASIC, Microsoft BASIC never had the popularity that Atari BASIC had. The biggest problems were:

increased memory needed (at least 32 KB)

disk drive required

performance (faster than Atari BASIC, but slower than Turbo-Basic XL and BASIC XL)

not compatible with Atari BASIC

added costThe cartridge version eliminated the first two requirements, but a disk drive was needed for all of its features.

Bee Card

A Bee Card (ビーカード, Bī Kādo) is a ROM cartridge developed by Hudson Soft as a software distribution medium for MSX computers. Bee Cards are approximately the size of a credit card, but thicker. Compared to most game cartridges, the Bee Card is small and compact. Because of the card's size, Atari Corporation also adopted it for the Atari Portfolio, a handheld PC released in 1989.

It was also used by some Korg Synthesizers and workstations as external storage of user content like sound programs or song data.

Only a small number of MSX software titles were published on Bee Card. In order to accept a Bee Card, the cartridge slot of the MSX had to be fitted with a removable adapter: the Hudson Soft BeePack. The first mass-produced Bee Cards, however, were EEPROM telephone cards manufactured by Mitsubishi Plastics; these were first sold in Japan in 1985. The trade names Bee Card and Bee Pack derive from Hudson Soft's corporate logo, which features a cartoon bee.

Cart (disambiguation)

Cart usually refers to a two-wheeled vehicle or device designed for transport

Cart may also refer to:

Shopping cart

Golf cart

Baggage cart

Fidelipac, a type of audio tape cartridge used in broadcasting

ROM cartridge, a removable component of an electronic device

River Cart, a river in Scotland

Carts (film)

Cart (film)

Cassette Vision

The Cassette Vision (Japanese: カセットビジョン, Hepburn: Kasetto Bijon) is a home video game console made by Epoch Co. and released in Japan on July 30, 1981. There is also a redesigned model called the Cassette Vision Jr.

The term cassette is a contemporary Japanese synonym for ROM cartridge, not to be confused with the magnetic cassette tape format. In terms of power, it is comparable to the Atari 2600. The Cassette Vision has unusual controls: four knobs built into the console itself, two for each player (one for horizontal, one for vertical); plus two buttons per player.

The system originally retailed for 13,500 yen, with games priced at 4,000. The Cassette Vision sold around 400,000 units, and was the best selling video game console in Japan before Nintendo's Family Computer. It received a successor called the Super Cassette Vision. As a 1984 machine, the Super Cassette Vision was more comparable to the likes of the Famicom and Sega's SG-1000 line. The SCV was also sold in Europe, but with little known success. The Super Lady Cassette Vision, a version of the Super Cassette Vision that was aimed at a female market, was released exclusively in Japan. While the specs were exactly the same, the plastic was pink in color and included a carrying case and the "Milky Princess" game.

Commodore MAX Machine

The Commodore MAX Machine, also known as Ultimax in the United States and VC-10 in Germany, is a home computer designed and sold by Commodore International in Japan, beginning in early 1982, a predecessor to the popular Commodore 64. The Commodore 64 manual mentions the machine by name, suggesting that Commodore intended to sell the machine internationally; however, it is unclear whether the machine was ever actually sold outside Japan. It is considered a rarity.

Software was loaded from plug-in cartridges and the unit had a membrane keyboard and 2.0 KiB of RAM internally and 0.5 KiB of color RAM (1024 × 4 bits). It used a television set for a display. It used the same chipset and 6510 CPU as the Commodore 64, the same SID sound chip, and compatible ROM cartridge architecture so that MAX cartridges will work in the C-64. The MAX compatibility mode in C-64 was later frequently used for "freezer" cartridges (such as the Action Replay), as a convenient way to take control of the currently running program. It was possible to use a tape drive for storage, but it lacked the serial and user ports necessary to connect a disk drive, printer, or modem.

It was intended to sell for around 200 USD. Although the MAX had better graphics and sound capability, Commodore's own VIC-20, which sold for around the same amount of money, was much more expandable, had a much larger software library, and had a better keyboard—all of which made it more attractive to consumers.

Unlike the C-64, the MAX never sold well and was quickly discontinued.

Epson PX-8 Geneva

The Epson PX-8 a.k.a. Geneva was a small laptop computer made by the Epson Corporation in the mid-1980s.

It had a Z80 compatible microprocessor, and ran a customized version of the CP/M-80 operating system as well as various applications from a pair of ROM cartridge slots which were treated as drives. For file storage, it had a built-in microcassette drive.

The PX-8 did not have any internal disk drive, and instead allowed either memory to be partitioned into application memory and a RAM disk, or an external 60 KB or 120 KB intelligent RAM disk module to be attached (64K and 128K internally but some used for the processor). The intelligent RAM disk module had its own Z80 processor with a backup battery.

The PX-8 had an 80 column by 8 line LCD display, which was monochromatic and non-backlit. It used an internal nickel-cadmium battery, and had a battery life in the range of 6–8 hours when using word-processing software. An additional battery provided backup for the internal RAM.

There were a number of proprietary accessories available including a portable printer, bar code reader, and an early 3.5-inch diskette drive, the PF-10. The disk drives from the HX-20 could also be used. For the ROM cartridge slots a number of applications were available: Basic, CP/M utilities, Portable WordStar, CalcStar, Scheduler, dBase II and Portable Cardbox-Plus.The PX-8 was not initially a commercial success, especially compared against the TRS-80 Model 100 portable computer but achieved some increased success after a large number were sold discounted in the United States through the DAK Catalog. The PX-8 combined some of the features from its predecessors, the HX-20 being portable, battery operated and the QX-10 being CP/M compatible.

In 1985, Epson introduced the PX-4, combining features from both the PX-8 and the HX-20.

Grandstand (game manufacturer)

Grandstand (also known as Grandstand Leisure Products) was a video game console and electronic game manufacturer and distributor. It was based in the United Kingdom and New Zealand and was active in the 1970s and 1980s.


The HuCard (Japanese: ヒューカード, Hepburn: HyūKādo) is a ROM cartridge in the form of a card, designed by Hudson Soft for NEC's PC-Engine and PC Engine SuperGrafx video game consoles, which premiered in 1987 and 1989, respectively.

The HuCard is an evolution from an earlier Hudson Soft technology, the Bee Card, which it developed in the early 1980s as a distribution medium for MSX computer software. The Bee Card is an EEPROM device that is slightly thinner than the HuCard. It has 32 connectors whereas the HuCard has 38. Most video game cartridges have a large plastic housing to protect the PCB while providing enough space inside for radiant heat and, less often, a button cell. The PCB in a HuCard or Bee Card is protected by a rigid, glossy polymer that conducts heat; since the PC Engine and TurboGrafx-16 leave one side of the card partially exposed while inserted in the console, heat disperses with less obstruction.

Hudson Soft, NEC, and other vendors published seven HuCard titles specifically for the PC Engine SuperGrafx. Hudson Soft called this enhanced medium the Super HuCard.

In the United States, where the PC-Engine was marketed as the TurboGrafx-16, the HuCard is alternately called the TurboChip. Video game developers published new titles on HuCard/TurboChip until 1993.


The J-Cart is a special ROM cartridge developed by Codemasters for the Sega Genesis console. It held not only the game data but also came with two additional gamepad ports. This effectively allowed four players to play simultaneously without any adapters or workarounds. The first J-Cart game, Tennis All-Stars, was released in early 1994.Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament also allowed up to eight players to play simultaneously using up to four gamepads, each player using only the D-pad or face buttons.

The J-Cart came relatively late in the life cycle of the console. In addition, Codemasters never licensed the technology to other publishers. Thus the number of games released as J-Carts was limited.

List of Coleco Adam games

Below are a list of Coleco Adam games compatible with the Home Computer system or the ColecoVision Expansion port 3. Some of these games are exclusive only on the Coleco Adam, while others are released for both the Coleco Adam and ColecoVision. In this case, the Coleco Adam version may have additional features or use more memory for more advanced graphics. An example of this would be Alcazar: The Forgotten Fortress. The Coleco Adam has a total of 43 games, 24 only being playable on the Adam, 19 being superior ports of ColecoVision titles.

List of Macross video games

This is a list of Macross video games. Even though some of these games have only been released in the Japanese domestic market rather than abroad (where the Macross franchise has also been licensed by Harmony Gold as Robotech) they extend the franchise with noticeable key elements such as original animation scenes, characters and mecha known as Valkyries.

Due to the vast number of platforms, this list sorts video games by chronological order instead of systems, supports or genres. Official crossover video games are part of the list, yet unofficial hobbyist-made freeware applications and licensed non-game applications are not listed.

The following list is presented as such:

original release date, international title, (platform)(original title, pronunciation help), maker, publisher, support

short description of the game with genre, related series and story.


Project64 is a Nintendo 64 emulator written in the programming language C for Microsoft Windows. This software uses a plug-in system allowing third-party groups to use their own plug-ins to implement specific components. Project64 can play Nintendo 64 games on a computer reading ROM images, either dumped from the read-only memory of a Nintendo 64 ROM cartridge or created directly on the computer as homebrew. Project64 is considered one of the top performing emulators used today. The program is licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2, and is free and open source software.

Starship Command

Acornsoft's Starship Command is a computer game released in 1983 for the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron. It was available on cassette as well as 5.25" disc for the BBC and ROM cartridge for the Acorn Electron Plus 1 expansion module. The game was written by Peter Irvin who, along with Jeremy Smith, went on to create the complex arcade adventure Exile.

ZX Interface 2

The ZX Interface 2 is a peripheral from Sinclair Research for its ZX Spectrum home computer released in September 1983. It has two joystick ports and a ROM cartridge slot, which offers instant loading times. The joystick ports are not compatible with the popular Kempston interface, and thus do not work with most Spectrum games released prior to the launch of the ZX Interface 2. In addition, the pass-through expansion bus provided was stripped, only allowing a ZX Printer to be attached.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.