Triple Blast from the Past

While laying down a while ago giving my sore arm a rest, been hurting a week now, I got thinking about old Atari stuff and recalled I had and old Antic magazine in a box I seen a while back.  So I got up and did a quick look for it.

Surprisingly my memory seems to work some days, and in very good condition, the October 1988 issue on Antic magazine!  YAY!  But not only that, I found an store promo ad for an Atari PC, and the topper, the original owner’s manual for my old Atari 2600 I had way back then, also in very good shape!

 

What can I say, but glad I found these three gems safe in a box of old papers and books, also found the manuals for my TRS-80 model 1, and Texas Instruments TI-57.  But left them in the box, the Atari papers on on my other desk, and will fine a nice safe place for them later.  The only surprise was the manual for the 2600 was for a 4-switch, and for some reason I thought it was a 6 switch I had before.  But I have a 6 switch now:)  My arm still hurts, but I’m in a better mood now at least.

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Homemade game switch

We all need to connect our games to a TV to play, unless your  Atari has been modded, this mean you need a switch box.  Back in the day, the consoles came with a little metal box with a slide switch, that had the RCA jack for the game and the twin flat lead to connect to the old style 300 ohm TV input.  No TV made in the last decade or two have had twin lead inputs on them, everything went to the screw on 75 ohm coaxial cable (“F” type connector) since that type of cable has far lower signal loss.    I’ve seen people put a adapter on the flat twin lead from a switch box to change it back to a 75 ohm connection.  It works, but it is a bad way to do it since there is signal loss, meaning a fuzzier picture.  Those old switch boxes already are taking the 75 ohm output from the Atari and changing it to 300 ohm twin lead with a matching transformer in side the switch, that’s fine if that’s the type of TV you have, but if it’s a modern TV, you end up switching it back loosing more signal.

 

Since the Atari output is 75 ohm coaxial and the modern TV use the same input, no signal matching is needed, just a switch.  There were some made back in the 80s and 90s, but not as common as the 75 to 300 ohm switches.  So I decided to make my own.  It’s a very simple project requiring basic soldering skilled, a power drill and a few inexpensive parts.  Two F type connectors, one RCA connector, a double throw switch, a metal box, and some wire.

 

For my project I used the case of an old cable converter and painted it red.

 

I simply connect the output to the TV to the common center connections of the switch, and the RCA to one side, the other F connectors to the other side of the switch.  Super simple, and works great!   If you are able to make your own, go for it, if not, look for a manufactured one, it will be far better then then a switch and an adapter for the old twin lead stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

Happyness is a warm joystick

As I said in my last post, I ordered switches yesterday that the specs were a match to what was in my Atari 2600 Jr.  They arrived today, I quickly open the box and got to work.  I replaced the power, color/B&W, and channel selection switches.  The only real difficulty was with the channel switch.     When I removed it, the center circuit trace on the parts side of the board came up with the switch.   Not good…

 

Some careful straightening of the trace and some tricky soldering got the new switch in place.  I had one extra switch that I had thought about replacing the left difficulty switch also, but given the issue with the channel switch, I decided to leave the original as long as it seemed to be working ok.   So I have a spare right angle switch, maybe I’ll need it some day.

The end results, the Atari 2600 Jr has three new switches in it, and working properly.   The next project will be the mod for composite video and audio outputs.  Which I know kind of makes the replacement of the channel switch redundant, but it was so gross from the damage caused by the previous owner it just had to go..

 

Original switches while still installed

 

New (left) and old power switch (right)

 

With the 3 new switches installed.

Saga of my Atari 2600 Jr continues

As I reported in my last post, the Atari 2600 Jr I recently bought was working ok, but after it sat a while, the power switch got a bit flaky again.  I’m guessing there was some contact cleaner still in it at first that helped make it work right.  But after sitting over night it had become stiff again and I had to fiddle with it a bit to get it to turn on.

 

So I decided to replace the switch completely,  the 2-3 channel switch is also a bit suspect.  Even though I could just solder a permanent jump for channel 3, I decided to replace it also.  Then came the fun part, trying to find the switches.  So I looked on feebay, no exact match, but a few close ones from China, but I also know the quality of stuff like that is questionable.  So I spent 3 hours looking through the specs of most every slide switch sold on a major parts supplier.  And finally found switches that match both the power and channel switches:)  I just finished ordering them and should have them in a day or two if they send them as fast as they did with my last order of parts for a ham, radio project I was building.

 

So in a few days I should have the 2600 Jr restored.  I’m debating replacing the old 3.5mm power jack with a more modern coaxial power connector more commonly used today.  Not that the current jack is bad, just that the coaxial design doesn’t short the power supply when it’s plunged in or unpluged from the console.  I don’t have an original power supply for it, so it’s not like I’m cutting of an original plug.  I’m a bit torn between keeping it as original as possible and a bit of an update.   There’s also the fake those power supplies with 3.5mm (1/8 inch) plugs could accidentally be plugged in to an audio jack on a radio or sound card and that could be very bad.  So not having that around might be good.  Also, keep in mind I also plane on do a composite  video output mod to it also in time.  And leave Atari 2600 6-switch (light) un-modded.

 

A little history

A little history to start off with..  I was in my early teens when the Atari 2600 first came out.  I remember going to Sears and playing whatever they had running on the console in the store, of course that was the Sears version of the 2600.  Eventually, after a lot of begging, my mother bought me an Atari 2600.  I had a hand full of game cartridges, but over time lost interest after getting my first computer, a TRS-80 model 1.  Eventually, the 2600 got sold when I need money, something I always regretted.  By the way, I still have that old TRS-80 and it works fine and looks good.

Fast forward to about a year and a half ago, the need to have an Atari again got to me, and I bought a used 6-switch model that came with 10 games, power supply and game switch:)  I did end up having to take it apart and clean it out.  Lot’s of carpet fiber inside, and the switches were glitchy.  So I cleaned them and greased them and got them working good as new.  And that was enough to make me happy just having it again.  don’t play it a lot, just good to have it around again.

Lately I’ve lost interest in online gaming and virtual 3D world chat rooms that I have been doing in recent years with the ever increasing number of cheaters and twits, so I’ve been getting my Atari itch again, and watched a few videos of other collectors and realized I wanted to to get more into the Atari.  So I found a local store that sold used games and picked up Tron Deadly Discs and Pole Position and had a blast playing them when I got home:)

I also bought a few more games on feebay and picked up a 2600 Jr a few days ago.   The was a fair price, but not a great bargain, but I wanted it since it’s compact and would fit on the table by the couch better then the 6-switch.

Well then I got it home..  The seller said it was working, yada yada..   The switches were making poor contact and stiff, so after seeing a video about cleaning them decided to take it apart and have at it.  Soon as I opened the case I realized the real reason the guy was selling it.. The inside were covered in dried, sticky pop..  The channel switch was un-moveable, power switch hardly worked, voltage regulator section was covered in goo and so on…  So I began the cleaning, and having seen the video on youtube, knew it could take some fairly rough cleaning.

I ended up spraying it with contact cleaner, then soaking the main board in a sink for of dish soap, scrubbed with tooth paste, rinsed with water, flushed with rubbing alcohol, then just blasted with more contact clearing then finely dried in the oven at low temperature.  The case also got a complete cleaning too.

 

 

Put back together and tested, it’s working fine now, the switches work right and it runs as it should and looks pretty good to, epically considering how it was abused.  I still have to get it a new power supply, I’m using the one from my 6-switch for now, and another joystick would be good too.

So the plan is now to collect more games at I fine them, both games that are for play and for collecting in general.  Maybe get  another variation of the 2600 if I find a heavy 6 or vader for a decent price.  So that’s my ramblings for for now…

 

 

First Post…

Ok, the obligatory first post to make sure this is working…

I created this blog as a place to ramble on about Atari related gaming stuff.  Even though I’m also a ham radio operator, I don’t think too many of the hams I talk to are interested in classic video games, so this will be my outlet.  If people choose to read this or not is up to them.. umm you..  So it’s just a place to blurt out ideas, thoughts and pics..