I bought my ATARI 2600 (4 Switches) in the year 2003 on an international auction for 30 dollars. At this time I was obsessed with getting all the 8 bit music systems possible, Commodores, Ataris, Nintendos, FM Chips… Without paying too much attention I bought the unit thinking that it was a NTSC system, so I bought the only game I was ever need, SYNTHCART…
This music game or software was made in PAL and NTSC, so I bought the NTSC version for proper compatibility. I tried it and the unit was showing in a normal PAL TV but with black and white colors only… Anyway for what I used it you don´t even need a TV.
I played several gigs back in 2006 with it, but not a big deal and then in one of those gigs the ATARI stopped working… It´s being collecting dust since then…
Now in the year 2014, 11 years after I decided to get my friend the 2600 and try to fix it, give it a clean and of course!!! it´s modding time!!! :)
Atari Video Output:
The ATARI 2600 comes with an ugly old-school RF type connector, the ones you used to have to tune, and fine tune, until you get something acceptable… The cable comes out of the unit without chance to unplug it, so the unit its far from transportable. The other problem is that this kind of connection is obsolete, and many moderns TVs or Flat screens don´t even allow it anymore, so hooking the device might be not even possible in the first place to many people.
For a long time I wanted to try to change the Video Output and use a Composite Video instead. There are numerous Kits available online ranging from super simple to more complex ones, that even add Super Video connections.
There are many tutorials depending on what exact version you have, NTSC, PAL, 4 Switch, 6 Sitch… In my case I found the best one after searching online before buying in this link from CoolRetroProjects.
Composite Video Mod:
There are basically two mods around, one very simple and the other one more complex. Both are available in ebay but they are both 20 to 30 dollars. Although it seems like a cheap, safe and quick option, I though to look around and match the components of the more simple one.
- R 2k2
- R 3k3
- Transistor 2N3904
- 3x RCA Connectors.
Open the ATARI unit and localize where the original RF cable plugs in to the PCB and remove the cable (image 1). It looks like a normal RCA connector (image 2).
Next to it, on the bottom right corner, there is a small metal box with a small PCB coming out of it, that is the RF Module, in order to remove it you must “cut” the 5 pins that connect to the main PCB with 90º type pins (image 3). You can just cut them and leave the module there, I decided to remove the whole RF module instead (image 4).
For picture quality improvement (Not necessary) remove the Transistor that is found near to the red plastic cylinder, labelled as Q201 or Q202 (image 1 and 2). Remove aswell the Resistors shown (image 4), on my case this were R209 – R222 – C205. In order to remove the metal plate and access the PCB you must “bend” the small pads. It´s possible to put it back so be carefull not to break them (image 3).
Depending on your ATARI Model, prepare the new composite video PCB and solder the cables to the right points of the circuit. Basically you must solder the new video connections to the old RF Module 5 pin connector.
After that you just need to add 3 new RCA (Yellow, white and red) on the back of the unit, where we will solder or new Video and Audio outputs.
Sound is mono so just link both RCA on the connector. Test before closing the unit!
Once you know that the unit it´s working normally again, proceed to close the case and be amazed by it´s new appearance :)
If it doesn´t work at the first time, don´t panic, check first other TVs around if you have the chance. I´ve noticed that different TVs reacted differently to the ATARI´s signal, some of my screens wouldn´t show any image, then I changed to an old school TV we have around and it worked fantastically.
All in all I´m quite impressed by how good this modification turned out, I spent 0€ thanks to the fact that the few components are easy to find in any old Electronic device… Never dispose Electronic rubbish!! …
Hope you found it interesting and helpful!!