Atari 2600 recovery

So, this weekend I decided it was time to take my dead Atari 2600 off the shelf.  now it wasn’t scrap ready yet. it booted.. occasionally, but the when and why were magic.  So Saturday evening while my friend played GTA-V on the xboxone and drank bear I sat at my bench and probed away.  power fine… clock, fine…interesting…. things all seem good.  are the chips working…. yup.  oscilloscope shows the clock pins firing in time, good clean power… hrm.  well maybe something from the cart to the chips.  nope all good.  well I went about probing the board for well over 2 hours, and could find NO reason what-so-ever that we were not getting an RF signal.

At this point (around 2am) my friend is done playing and has taken back several beer.  He’s tired and not drunk, but definitely mentally slowed some.  Well he asks, “Did ya check the RF?” “OF COURSE I EXCLAIM”.  I know I did… it was checked when I first pulled this all apart..  well it’s late and he’s had a few.  Time to take him home and pack it in myself.

Next day I’m having coffee with my Uncle Dave as we do every Sunday to keep up on the family/etc and talk Electronics and I mention that I’ve resurrected this project.  He suggests a few things to check so we do..  are we getting video data from the chips….  well well well… it sure LOOKS like we are on the scope, but we have no way to “decode” this analog signal on my computer (likely because I’m not smart enough to do that).  Ok, we can hook the Audio to the scope an Analog Discovery 2 and have the scope output the sound.  Well what we got sounded a WHOLE lot like the Atari 2600 Morse coding a “let me die in peace”.  Well well.. that tells us its doing SOMETHING….  lets find an easy way to feed the signal to the TV.  Turns out there is a super simple circuit that crops the analog signal for composite output which i found here.  and of course I have the parts in my supply.  Oh wait.  I dont have any IC Leg clip connectors… but I have the parts… So Dave shows off his mastery of Soldering and quickly makes a couple Jumper style connects.  we get it all wired up (Figure 1), I’m crossing my fingers, I’m positive Dave is looking around for an extinguisher and we throw the switch.  it’s ugly… its messy…  but wait.. theres SOMETHING on the screen….  and it made an agressive BLIP noise.  (Figure 2).  Ok.  its something… its dirty but its there.. this is good.  Was it a fluke, was it decided to be nice and start this time…. Power cycle.  still there… again, again, again.   at least 5x as I stare in disbelief… OMG It’s working… Well Well Well.  Now I owe my friend a sorry… I’d buy him beer but i bought what he was drinking already so we’re gonna call it square.

ok, now for the meat.

Figure 1

Figure 2


Anyways folks, Thats my entry for this week.  Hope to see you next week.

Information & Sources:

Analog Filter (Composite Mod for Atari 2600)
Atari Field Service Manual

Raspberry Pi -> ATmega328p

So, I found this neet litle mini NES case for a Raspberry Pi to 3D print on thingiverse by user DaftMike and decided that I needed to print one.  the print went well and there was no problems getting it assembled.  But even before I opened his website (linked in the thingiverse) I wanted to make my own button control board and have the PI be able to control the LED.  So I started this project..

The 3d printed board in the project is this by user Greystone and has been useful many times.  I always intended to re-work the model to include a place to seat the AVR Dragon, but never got around to it.

Anyways back on topic.  in the image you see the AVR Dragon connected to the Atmega328p (no arduino code here) along with a Power supply via an LM7508.  There is also a tiny little interface PCB I made to connect the AVRDragon to the breadboard and apparently I was to lazy to dig out my ribbon cable so made my own.  on the far side the small red logic level board from Sparkfun which will be connected between the ATmega328p and the Raspberry Pi to protect the GPIO.  More on this project as things come along and there will be a GIT for all code and schematics.

Whats still missing:

  • LED for display
  • Buttons (Power/Reset)
  • Connection to GPIO for Serial Comm and Power
  • Schematics
  • Code

As always I welcome any and all feedback/comments.


Where have I been

Well that didnt go so well. Life, Kids, Sports/etc… things get in the way.  but lets fix that now.  I have been playing around with a Mimas V2 for a short while trying to learn FPGA and i’m doing well I think.  Recently I decided to try and learn how to drive the VGA.  although far from a proper working solution I can get the driver to work on my multisync monitor.  I have reached out to a fellow FPGA/Mimas V2 blogger (Alexander Lang) and he’s agreed to help me figure things out.  of course I’m always interested in information/assistance from my readers as well so heres the GIT.

Pics, etc will be available soon, unfortunatelly posting this from the office right now.  I also promise to try and get back into the weekly postings again and I’ll share more on my projects (I have several on my bench right now).

as always stay well and don’t forget your towel!

— James