Bicycle Trainer

Bicycle Trainer

Company: ExerVision
Model #:
Leonard Dorfman
Year: 1985
Found in 2021


In the years following the gaming crash, companies were looking into various ways to use the Atari 2600 for something other than gaming.  The logic was that millions of people had 2600's sitting in their homes collecting dust now that the gaming 'fad' was over and that maybe these old game consoles could be repurposed into something else.  Not only that, but 2600's could still be bought dirt cheap at closeout sales so companies could stock up on a cheap 'computer' in order to use it with whatever non-gaming use clever programmers could come up with.  Some of these ideas included a Golf Simulator Diagnostic Cart, a Television Test Pattern Generator, and even a home fitness pad years before Nintendo created their own version.

Leonard Dorfman and and his business partner Roy Robinson saw the potential of this market and decided to develop their own offering.  The two formed ExerVision, a company that would develop software and hardware that would allow an exercise bike to interface with the humble 2600.  Atari actually had the same idea a few years earlier with their Puffer project (using an Atari 5200 instead of a 2600), but that project was eventually cancelled.  Unfortunately for ExerVision it would appear that the world still wasn't ready for such a radical concept.

While the program has been found, the special hardware interface for the exercise bike has not.  This makes it incredibly difficult to get the program to actually do much of anything.  Without the exercise bike being plugged in the screen doesn't actually display anything.  To get the interface to appear the user must push down on the left joystick.  This brings up a screen with a bunch of stats and a nice little graph.  The abbreviations for these stats are a little cryptic and not all of them can be changed.

Beats Per Minute The users heart rate
Miles Per Hour How fast the user is going
Revolutions Per Minute How fast the bike tires are spinning
Calories Per Minute How many calories the user is burning per minute
Total Calories How many calories the user burned over the entire exercise time
Elapsed Time How much time has elapsed since the start of the program
Distance How far the user has gone (in miles)
Exercise time. The total time the user has selected for exercising.  The program ends when the ELT reaches the EXT.

From this screen the user can select one of three different graphs at the bottom of the screen (or even none at all).  These graphs represent the speed the user is supposed to maintain at various points in time.  The idea was that the user would speed up (peddle faster) and then ease up (peddle slower) in order to match the graph line.  This would give the user a balanced exercise experience.  The speed indicator goes from 0 to 30, but without an actual exercise bike hooked up it's almost impossible to get the program to register over 4 MPH so the users graph looks more like a straight line.  After pressing reset, the speed meter will switch over to the left side of the screen.  To actually start the program the user must push right on the left controller 20 times, this will start the exercise routine.

With the routine started the meter will slowly move to the right, leaving a graph line behind it based on your speed.  To increase your speed the user must constantly tap right on the left joystick.  Once the program has started the user must constantly press down on the left joystick to keep the screen visible.  This is because the 2600 is actually attempting to communicate with the non-existent exercise bike and will blank the screen if it doesn't receive some sort of feedback
.  After one minute and fifty one seconds the marker reaches the end of the graph and everything will stop until the reset button is pressed again.  The user cannot change the graph once the program has started and must turn the the 2600 off and on again to change it.  The user can also press up on the right joystick to increase the BPM.  Because of this it is assumed that the right joystick port would have been hooked up to some sort of heart monitor.

It's unknown in ExerVision actually submitted their work to any companies or if the program got further than the 'proof of concept' cartridge that we have today.  As it stands Bicycle Trainer is an interesting relic of a time when people were trying to do new and exciting things with the 2600.  While their exercise bike idea didn't pan out, ExerVision kept at the idea of using computers with exercise machines and eventually made software for indoor rowing machines.


Version Cart Text Description
Only known copy

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