Sunday, January 20, 2013

Atari 2600 Hackback?

I've had a clean 1980 Atari VCS CX2600A for a dozen years or so, with joysticks, paddles, power brick, and cartridges, but the video output was always terrible, and I couldn't get any useful image out for a few years.

I followed (one of) Ben Heck's instructions on getting composite video out, but while everything checks out circuit-wise, and I get some video output, it was dirty and I couldn't stabilize it. Not a surprise since it wasn't working well to begin with!

Reading about the Flashback 2 from a few years ago, it turns out there's a way to add a cartridge port to it for playing old games. Instead of turning the Flashback into something even smaller, I wonder about going the other way: transplanting the Flashback 2 into the original 4-switch VCS, using as much original hardware as possible. It doesn't look like anybody has gone in this direction, but thankfully the VCS is well documented online; even the original service manual in PDF.

"Atari Hackback" seems like an appropriate project name. Thanks to Craigslist, it took a day to find a clean Flashback 2, and this handy reference shows where the cartridge pins go. There are a LOT of signals to reroute, but I'd like to preserve the hardware's connection to the PCB, so will need to find other solder points for attaching leads.

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