ATARI 2600 FAQ
This FAQ is an evolving document. If you have any additions, suggestions or corrections, please email us. Last updated March 15, 2007.
What Usenet groups actively discuss the 2600?
What website forums actively discuss the 2600?
Are there any mailing lists that discuss the 2600?
Where can I find cart lists?
What magazines cover the 2600?
What magazines covered the 2600 in the 80s?
What books cover the 2600?
Any there any videos that cover the 2600?
Where can I view Atari TV commercials?
Where can I view Atari print advertisements?
What is irc, #rgvc and how do I get on them?
What happened to Atari?
But I still see games with the Atari logo. What's the story?
What scores were needed to earn an Activision patch?
What does the Atari symbol represent?
What does the word "atari" mean?
Where can I find Atari-like fonts?
What shows, events or gatherings cover the 2600?
Where can I find games for my 2600 or the consoles themselves?
Where can I download game instructions?
What are the best games for the 2600?
What are the most common and most rare games for the 2600?
What was Gameline and what games were available for it?
Which games use a lightgun?
Which 2600 games use the kid's controllers/keypads?
Which 2600 games use paddles?
Which 2600 games use the driving controllers?
Which 2600 games have voice?
Which 2600 carts do not work on the 7800?
What is the Starpath CD and can I still get one?
Have any new games been released lately?
What are some cheats and Easter Eggs?
What programming resources are available?
Where can I get solutions to the Swordquest series?
Is there a list of 2600 game programmers?
What are the different 2600 models?
What types of clones exist?
What companies made 2600 adapters for their own systems?
Are there any emulators for the 2600?
What 2600 hardware was announced but never released?
How do I hook up my Atari to a TV? / I've hooked up my system, but the picture is fuzzy.
How do I fix my paddles?
Where do I get my 2600 fixed?
How do I use an Atari joystick on a PC/Mac?
Which light guns work with the 2600?
What hardware peripherals exist for the 2600?
What are NTSC/PAL/SECAM and why should I care?
What is a TVboy and where can I get one?
What are the specs for the 2600?
How large do 2600 games get?
Are there any published 2600 technical articles available?
Power supply information?
How do I build a composite/audio/chroma/luma output interface for the Atari 2600Jr/2600A?
How do I build a video driver for the 2600?
I hate the two mods above. Does anyone have anything better?
How do I convert Sega controllers to Atari pinout?
How do I convert a Sega Master System lightgun to Atari pinout?
How do I convert an NES controller to Atari pinout?
Is there a general site that contains all this conversion stuff?
What is an Atari Game Recorder and how do I build one?
Q: What Usenet groups actively discuss the 2600?
A: There are several groups:
Q: What website forums actively discuss the 2600?
A: Both Atariage and Atarimania have a 2600 forum, and Digital Press also has a classic gaming forum that covers the 2600.
Q: Are there any mailing lists that discuss the 2600?
A: The Stella mailing list (also know as the the Atari 2600 Programming list) was for Atari 2600 programmers and those wishing to learn, but since April 2006 it's no longer supported. Here are the Stella list archives as well as the Stella archive excavation, which culls many of the interesting bits.
Q: Where can I find cartridge lists?
A: Atariage, AtariGuide, Atarimania, and Digital Press all have searchable lists that are updated frequently.
Digital Press produces the Classic Video Games Collector's Guide which covers the Atari 2600 and many other classic and neo-classic systems. They also maintain a searchable “Virtual” Online Guide database of over 40,000 titles from the original Odyssey right up through the Nintendo DS.
Dean Dierschow (firstname.lastname@example.org) maintains game lists for several systems including the 2600/7800. The relevant files are at2600.lst, at5200.lst, and at7800.lst. These lists are a good starting point for the new or general game collector; alas, these files have not been updated since Oct 94.
For those with UK interests, Steve Rich and Chris Hind are the authors of the Atari VCS/2600 UK Release List.
GameReset also maintains lists and images of European, Brazilian, and other cartridges.
Q: What newsletters cover the 2600?
A: The 2600 Connection is a bi-monthly Atari 2600 resource. This fanzine, published by Al Backiel, includes news, game reviews, interviews, and entertaining anecdotes. Rare and collectible games are frequently discussed. Classified ads in the Connection are relevant to all Atari game machines. Visit the 2600 Connection Home Page for more information.
Q: What magazines covered the 2600 in the 80s?
Q: What books cover the 2600?
A: Leonard Herman (email@example.com) publishes Phoenix: the Fall & Rise of Home Videogames. It covers the home video game industry in detail from the pre-classic days, through the early 80s and up to 1993. See the Rolenta Press home page for more information.
Another book is Zap!: The Rise and Fall of Atari by Scott Cohen. John Hardie sells licensed reprints, which can be ordered through his site.
Steven L. Kent wrote a book entitled First Quarter: The 25-Year History of Video Games, that has subsequently been released as The Ultimate History of Video Games. It covers quite a bit of history and includes some photos.
Halcyon Days: Interviews with Classic Computer and Video Game Programmers is an electronic book (html format) available from Dadgum Games. A review of the book and several snippets from it can be found in Issue #42 of the 2600 Connection. According to the review, only six of the twenty-eight programmers interviewed worked on the 2600, so much information contained in the book is not directly relevant to the 2600 world.
Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame Age 1971-1984 by Van Burnham covers the history of videogames in a full-color hardback book. See the Supercade web page for more information.
For comprehensive list of related material, see the Classic Video Game Literature List, maintained by Lee K. Seitz.
Q: Are there any videos that cover the 2600?
A: Once Upon Atari is a four part series exploring the early days of Atari. Produced by Howard Scott Warshaw, the series is a first hand look at Atari from the people who worked there.
Stella at 20: An Atari 2600 Retrospective is a series of documentaries from Glenn Saunders (firstname.lastname@example.org). Both Volume 1, Tales of Stella and Atari and Volume 2, The Game Designers or One Person, One Game are around 90 minutes in length and are available for $25 each or $40 for both + shipping. If you buy both videos, you can add the Stella Gets a New Brain CD for just $10 more. See the ordering page for more information. Volume 1 can also be purchased from Hozer Video Games.
Two videos, one documenting the 1998 World of Atari show and one documenting the 1999 Classic Gaming Expo are available from Mark Santora (email@example.com) for $25 + $4 shipping each or $50 (shipping included) for both tapes. Contact him directly to order or to inquire about international orders or PAL format tapes.
Q: Where can I view Atari TV commercials?
A: Both Digital Press and Atarimania have large collections. TV Spil is another site. The X-Entertainment site also has a few in its collection.
Q: Where can I view Atari print advertisements?
A: Digital Press maintains a huge advertisement gallery online.
Tom Zjaba (firstname.lastname@example.org) maintains a video game ad site that contains scans from various magazines and comic books.
Q: What is irc, #rgvc and how do I get on them?
A: irc is Internet Relay Chat, a global realtime chat network. #rgvc is the rec.games.video.classic channel. You can download an IRC client from www.mirc.com, and you will also find some general information and instructions there.
The Atari Gaming Headquarters site is the home of the #rgvc home page, which contains tips on irc etiquette, the #rgvc FAQ and a list of web pages and mail addresses of the regulars.
Digital Press also has a java-based IRC chatroom and is the home of the #vbender channel.
Q: What happened to Atari?
A: The Atari that everyone knew, loved and hated is gone. On July 30, 1996, Atari merged with disk drive maker JTS with more of whimper than a bang. Don Thomas (email@example.com) has written a short, insightful bit about the merger and the history leading up to it that asks more questions than it answers.
The story doesn't end there, however. On Feb 23, 1998, JTS sold substantially all of the assets of the Company's Atari Division, consisting primarily of Atari home computer games and the intellectual property rights and license agreements associated with such games (the "Atari Assets"), to HIACXI, Corp. ("HIAC"), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hasbro Interactive, Inc., for $5,000,000 in cash. Read the entire 8-K form that was submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding this transaction.
And the story continues. On Dec 6, 2000, Hasbro entered into a "long-term licensing agreement" with Infogrames, wherein the French company will acquire 100% of Hasbro Interactive (which includes the Atari bits). You can read all about it in the Press Release.
Q: But I still see games with the Atari logo. What's the story?
A: In 1984, Warner Communications sold off the home (console) and consumer electronics (computer) divisions to the Tramiel family. These divisions became Atari Corp., which later merged with JTS and whose assets were part of Hasbro Interactive and are now part of Infogrames. The update of Centipede came (in small part) from the ashes of Atari Corp. Interestingly, Hasbro has resurrected the Atari name and logo; many of their recent classic releases (Atari Arcade Hits 2, for example) appear under the Atari name.
You may have also seen the Atari logo for years in the arcades under the Time-Warner Interactive label (Atari Games). In 1996, TW sold Atari Games to WMS Industries (the Williams people), who turned around and spun off its Midway division (announced in 1997, completed (?) in 1998). Atari Games is now a subsidiary of Midway Games and was responsible for games such as Gauntlet Legends and Rush the Rock. You might also see the Atari logo for home conversions of these (and other) games under the Midway Home Entertainment label. In spite of this corporate shuffling, a few of the Atari veterans are still there including (as of Summer 99) Ed Logg, whose credits include the arcade versions of Centipede and Millipede as well as 2600 Othello.
The March 2000 Electronic Gaming Monthly reports that Midway has abandoned the Atari name, renaming Atari Games as Midway Games West. This is probably the end of the line for the Atari Games name.
Q: What scores were needed to earn an Activision patch?
A: Both Atariage and Digital Press maintain pages that show pictures of the patches as well as the scores needed to earn them.
Q: What does the Atari symbol represent?
A: The Atari symbol was designed by George Opperman in 1972. Pong was very big then, and the big letter A represented two opposing video game players with the center of the Pong court in the middle.
Q: What does the word "atari" mean?
A: The word atari comes from the game of Go, perhaps the world oldest board game. Several early 80's magazine references define atari as "you are about to be engulfed," but the rec.games.go FAQ denotes that word in this way:
atari : A group of stones is in atari if it has only one liberty left.
Q: Where can I find Atari-like fonts?
A: Digital Press has a zip file of most every classic gaming font. iconsplus has made available an Atari-like font (the Atarian System v. 1.0) for both Windows and the Mac.
Q: What shows, events or gatherings cover the 2600?
Q: Where can I find games for my 2600 or the console itself?
A: Besides Ebay, there are still several sources for new game cartridges, such as:
Jack Berg Sales
B & C Computervisions
Other sources for both new games, used games and consoles include:
Q: Where can I download game instructions?
A: Several sites offer manuals online, in text, html, and PDF formats:
Atari Manual Tome
Q: What are the best games for the 2600?
A: This can be a subjective matter, of course, but here are some of the most popular:
Q: What are the most common and most rare games for the 2600?
A: Commonality and rarity of a game depends upon many things, including geographical location, cart and label condition, label variation and personal experience.
Q: What was Gameline?
A: Gameline was a service offered by Control Video Corporation that admitted the downloading of games to the the 2600 over regular phone lines. The Gameline used a variable 800-2000 baud modem, according to Kevin Horton's no-longer-there Gameline Page. The Gameline Master Module originally sold for $49.95 and there was a one-time membership fee of $15. Charges were about $.10 a game or $1 for up to an hour of play. Contest games were $1 and there was a $.50 charge to enter a score. On your birthday, not only were you given free play for a day, but you also received a Happy Birthday screen, complete with cake, candles and music.
While the service did not last very long, the charred ashes of the service begat what is now AOL.
Q: Which games use a lightgun?
Q: Which 2600 games use the kid's controllers/keypads
Q: Which 2600 games use paddles?
Q: Which 2600 games use the driving controllers?
Q: Which 2600 games have voice?
Q: What 2600 carts do not work on the 7800?
A: There are known incompatibilities with some NTSC versions of the 7800 (PAL 7800s seem to be unaffected). Games that may not work include Robot Tank, Decathlon, Space Shuttle, Time Pilot, Kool-Aid Man and the Supercharger. 7800s manufactured in 1984 seem to be fully compatible, whereas those manufactured later have inconsistent incompatibilities.
Here is a compatibility chart:
Serial # Board part#
Deck# 72R4BR- Country Expansion port CO25233- Board Date
----- ------------- ------- -------------- ----------- ----------
1 AT 8 5037836 Taiwan Full port 001 REV A 84-25
2 A1 76 5904610 Taiwan Full port 002 REV A 87-17
3 A1 77 5951337 Taiwan Hole/no pins 002 REV A 87-17
4 A3 87 5139813 Taiwan No port 002 REV B 88-28
5 A3 07 5298641 China No port 002 REV B 88-30
Board part number/revision is taken from the underside of the board, just above the cart slot. The full number always begins with "CO25233." The boards' top side has a different part number, "CO25234," but no revision level is given. Board dates are also taken from the underside of the board, near the Atari logo. I changed the notation a bit to make sorting by date easier. They're really written like "2584" instead of "84-25," which would indicate the twenty-fifth week of 1984.
The carts tested were:
Results: "Yes" = cart works fine.
"No" = cart doesn't do a thing.
"Roll" = cart works, but picture rolls.
"Lock" = cart plays for a while, then locks up the system.
Cart 1 2 3 4 5
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
Decathlon 1 Yes No No Yes Yes
2 Yes No No Yes Yes
Robot Tank 1 Yes Roll Roll Roll Roll
2 Yes Yes Roll Roll Yes
3 Yes Yes Roll Roll Yes
Space Shuttle 1 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
3 Yes Roll Roll Roll Yes
4 Yes Roll Roll Roll Yes
5 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Supercharger 1 Yes No No No No
2 Yes No No No No
Food Fight Yes Yes Lock Lock Yes
IMHO, the manufacturing standards of deck #1 are better than the others. All the major chips inside are all socketed instead of being soldered directly to the board. Some of the other decks also have had some minor factory patchwork performed. They occasionally have resistors bridging points where they were clearly not originally intended to be, i.e. soldered directly to a chip pin or placed on the underside of the board.
Wondering if that 7800 deck sitting in the thrift store could be one of the fully-compatible ones? There are some very minor externally visible differences between my deck #1 and the others. I can't conclusively say these are 100% reliable indicators, but they are conspicuously different.
Some reports are that Superchargers may be permanently damaged when used on the 7800. Try Robot Tank first and then proceed only if that cart works.
Q: What is the Starpath CD and can I still get one?
A: The Starpath Supercharger Game Collection on CD, or Stella Gets a New Brain was a non-profit, long-awaited labor of love from the CyberPuNKs (Russ Perry Jr., Glenn Saunders, Jim Nitchals and Dan Skelton). This CD not only contains NTSC and PAL versions of most of the Supercharger games (PAL Survival Island is missing), but also development tools, a collection of Supercharger and Vectrex material, and several surprises (including SoundX and the UR Polo from Carol Shaw).
The Starpath CD can be purchased from Hozer Video Games.
Two notes on the new Stella cd: first, the makeup of the disk is different. Some things on the first disk were not included (e.g. the vectrex stuff, Polo) while other things were added. Second, you can purchase the "Stella Super Pack" which includes the Stella cd and volumes 1 and 2 of the Stella at 20 videos for only $50 (+ shipping and tax, if applicable).
For general information about the supercharger, see the supercharger FAQ / Cyberpunks FAQ which contains some interesting information about the Starpath company, the supercharger, and the Cyberpunks.
Q: Have any new games been released lately?
A: Over the past couple of years, many new games have been developed for the Atari 2600. Many of these can either be downloaded at Atariage, Atarimania, or Digital Press. Here is a partial list:
Q: Where can I find a list of cheats and Easter Eggs?
A: Digital Press maintains a list of Easter Eggs along with some screenshots on their Easter Egg page.
Q: What programming resources are available?
A: See Dan Boris' VCS page.
A fairly comprehensive page is Nick Bensema's 2600 Programming Page, complete with gobs of source examples and programming tools.
Bob Colbert (firstname.lastname@example.org) provides many development tools for the Supercharger on his home page. These tools are different than those found on the Supercharger CD.
Mac PowerPC users might wish to mosey on over to the Mactari site, which houses 2600 development tools for the Mac.
Atariage has a forum dedicated to programmers.
Q: Where can I get solutions to the Swordquest series?
A: Walton C. Gibson (email@example.com) maintains the SwordQuest Comic Book Archive which contains both the comics and the solutions. Unfortunately, the site appears to be down.
Q: Is there a list of 2600 game programmers?
James Hague (firstname.lastname@example.org) maintains The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers. The list is both extensive and not limited to 2600 programmers, so it may take a while to find 2600-specific information. Both Atariage and Digital Press have programmer information included in their software databases.
Q: What are the different 2600 models?
This list is incomplete:
Atari VCS CX2600 - Original model. Woodgrain and black plastic enclosure. Light and heavy weighted plastic. Six silver switches across the upper front panel. Bundled accessories included two CX40 joysticks, one CX30 paddle controller, AC adapter, TV switch and a CX2601 Combat game cart. Sample wording on label on bottom of unit:
Mfd. by Atari, Inc., Sunnyvale, CA. Serial # 048181.
Mfd. by Atari-Wong Ltd. in Hong Kong. Serial # 568213514.
Manufactured for Atari Inc. by TRU Electronic Components Company in Taiwan.
Model NO: CX-2600 Serial # 81281713"
Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade I - Same as above except external cosmetic differences (the "difficulty" switches are labeled "skill level", the switch panel is silver instead of black, and the woodgrain pattern is different.) Sample wording:
Mfd. for Atari Inc. by Dimerco Electronics in Taiwan for sale to
Sears, Roebuck, and Co. Serial # 82077230.
Atari VCS 2600A - Revised model. Externally it is nearly identical to the original, except there are four silver switches across the upper front panel instead of six. The difficulty switches were moved to the rear of the unit. Internally, the motherboard is a simplified one-piece design. Sample wording:
Mfd. for Atari, Inc. by TRW Electronic Components Co. in Taiwan.
Serial # 811510200.
Mfd. for Atari, Inc. by Atari Taiwan Mfing. Corp. in Taiwan.
Serial # 827030354.
Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade I(A) - Same as above except for external cosmetic differences. Sample wording:
Mfd. for Atari Inc. by Dimerco Electronics in Taiwan for sale to
Sears, Roebuck, and Co. Serial # 82299647.
Atari VCS 2600A (black) - Second revised model. Externally it is nearly identical to the 2600A, except the enclosure has a more modern looking "black out" treatment. The areas of woodgrain on the original models are now simply black plastic. Internally, the motherboard is a slight revision of the 2600A. Sample wording:
Mfd. for Atari, Inc. by Atari Taiwan Mfing. Corp. in Taiwan.
Serial # AT831150153.
Manufactured for Atari Inc. by Atari Ireland, Ltd in Ireland. Model No CX-2600 AP.
Serial 508 AI 0020153
Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade II - Entirely new model of the 2600 designed exclusively for Sears. Black wedge-shaped enclosure, with push button switches and LEDs on top panel. Essentially an Atari 7800 shell. Four joystick connectors on lower front panel with rocker switch. Internally very different from other 2600 models, but still uses the same basic chipset. Bundled accessories include two combination joystick/paddle controllers, AC adapter, TV switch and a Space Invaders game cart. Sample wording:
Sears, Inc. (Atari, Inc.) Serial # SV 392 005539.
Atari 2800 -- same as Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade II but with Atari label. Released only in Japan. Very rare.
Atari 2600 "Jr." - Third revised model. It is slightly larger than a VHS video tape case. Some versions have "Jr" stamped onto the bottom sticker. Large black buttons. Power and b/w switches slide, while Reset and Game Select are push buttons. Jet black with large metallic silver strip running lengthwise across the front with "Atari 2600" on it. Marketed as the "Under 50 bux, the fun is back!" machine. Bundled accessories include one joystick, AC adapter, TV switch box, and RCA connecting cable. Box is designed as a carrying case with handle and a white section which reads: "This Atari 2600 belongs to:". No bundled cart. The unit came in either a maroon or silver box. Sample wording:
Atari Logo Atari 2600
FCC ID: EBA72R2600
MADE IN TAIWAN
[FCC wording deleted]
S.N. A1 81 1494278
[Atari logo embossed in plastic] [made in taiwan in plastic]
MANUFACTURED FOR ATARI CORPORATION,
BY ATARI TAIWAN MANUFACTURING
CORPORATION IN TAIWAN
MODEL NO. CX-2600 JR.
COVERED BY US PATENT NUMBER
4, 122, 422 OTHER PATENTS, AND
S.N.|A1 873 412187 |
[ATARI & FUJI LOGO] MADE IN TAIWAN
Atari 2600 "Jr." - same as above except silver plate has a larger rainbow strip without an embossed border.
Kevin Dempsey (email@example.com) displays an all-black 2600 Jr. on his web site. This one doesn't seem to be listed in JerryG's clones and changers link below.
A few miscellaneous
All 6 switch Ataris had a large shield casing. There were at least two 6-switch versions:
(6-1) The original. The entire bottom half of the console was made of quarter inch thick plastic (~6mm)! Combined with the thick aluminum RF casing, this is the heaviest 2600 ever made. Also, this 2600 has no 2/3 channel select switch. There is a channel select hole in the case and it's marked Channel A/B, but there's no switch inside on the PCB. These consoles came with "01 combat". (1977 models only)
(6-2) The lighter 2600. No armor plating. Bottom half of console is made of thin plastic, like the 4 switch models. Channel switch now present. Thick RF shield still present. Plain ol' "combat" included.
The were also minor variations on 4 front switch, woodgrain panel models. On some, the difficulty switches are marked "Expert/Novice" (or was it "Advanced/Beginner"?) and others are marked only as "A/B".
Finally, a hodge-podge of facts that don't fit anywhere else:
Q: What types of clones exist?
A: Probably the most famous is the Gemini, an inexpensive clone 2600 made by Coleco. It sports an all black, box-shaped enclosure with six small slide switches (say that fast) on top of front panel. On the back panel, there is an RF modulator port and a power adapter port. Two joystick ports and difficult switches live on the front panel. Bundled bits include two dual-joystick/paddle controllers, a 9volt/500ma DC adapter, an RF cable, a TV switch and Donkey Kong and Mouse Trap carts. Sample wording:
Coleco Gemini VGS - Coleco Ind., Inc., Serial # AG0145189.
There is also the Columbia Home Arcade, which is essentially a rebadged Coleco Gemini.
Q: What companies made 2600 adapters for their own systems?
A: ColecoVision Expansion Module #1 - Black, 5" x 10", 1 3/4" high in front, sloping to 2 3/4" in back.
_____ a = expansion connector to ColecoVision
______|__a__|__ b = 2600 cart slot
| _____ | c = color/b+w slide switch
| |__b__| | l = left difficulty slide switch
|......... | r = right difficulty slide switch
| clr gr : | g = game select push button
|________:_____| r = reset button
^ ^ <---- joystick ports
Chips inside are: "COLECO 73192 E4002" (TIA clone?), SY6507, SY6532. Curiously, there is an empty space for a 14 pin chip and assorted resistors and capacitors on the right side of the circuit board. The space for a "Y1" indicates that this was probably intended to be a clock generator. (Could this board also be intended for standalone use, such as in the VGS?) There is also an adjustment hole on the bottom that turns a potentiometer [probably color control]. The reset button on the main ColecoVision console acts as a hard reset for the expansion module. The connection to the ColecoVision unit isn't very physically stable, at least not on carpet, resulting in flaky performance. Sample wording:
Model No. 2405
Coleco Industries, Inc., Amsterdam, NY 12010
Serial # A0065820 For service help call:
F.C.C. ID# BNV8432405 1+800+842-1225
Coleco Industries, Inc. (Nationwide)
Made in U.S.A. Printed in U.S.A. 74859A"
Intellivision System Changer - Made by Mattel, copyright 1983. White, roughly about 5-6" square and 2" high, with a piece sticking out of the left side that fits into the Intellivision cartridge slot.
___________ <-Top face.
| _____ |
__| [__a__] | a == Atari cartridge slot b == insert into Inty II
| b | c == Game Reset (square button)
|__ cdefg | d, f == left and right difficulty (toggle switches)
|_________| e == Color/B+W toggle switch
Front face had two standard joystick ports. Known to work with virtually all 2600 carts except those that don't work with other adapters (i.e. those like Space Shuttle and Starmaster that use standard 2600 hardware functions). Does not work with the "original" (2609) Intellivision Master Component without factory modification. Sample wording:
(one white label and one orange label) "Model No. 4610 FCC ID: BSU9RD4610
Serial No. 003255
Commodore VIC-20/2600 game adapter - Rumored to exist. Was advertised by Protecto in mail order ads in during the 1983 time frame. Plugged into VIC expansion connector and provided 2600 software emulation. Original price, emulation quality, and reliability all unknown.
The September 1983 issue of Electronic Games (page 41) shows an advertisement for Cardapter, a 2600 cart adapter for the Vic-20. The distributor was Cardco, Inc. in the US, LSI Distributors Ltd in W est Canada, Hobby Craft Canada in East Canada, and Audiogenic in Europe. Additional information on this bit would be interesting.
JerryG (firstname.lastname@example.org) maintains a list of both 2600 clones and changers.
Q: Are there any emulators for the 2600?
PC Atari (PCAE)
Q: What 2600 hardware was announced, but never released?
A: The short answer is quite a bit . Here are some examples:
Q: How do I hook up my Atari to a TV?
You will need either a manual switchbox or an RCA > Coaxial video adapter. This will allow you to connect the system to any cable-ready TV.
One way to hook up the Atari is:
If your picture is fuzzy, the most probable cause is that you are using an automatic RF switch (i.e. one that does not physically have to be switched between the "TV" and "game" position). Most (all?) systems starting with the NES use automatic RF switches. These will not work for the 2600/7800, as the signal is not strong enough to trigger the switch completely. A manual RF switch, available at any Radio Shack or equivalent, is the way to happiness. Another possible cause is that the TV is set to channel 3 but the Atari is set to channel 4 or vice versa.
A thick (well-shielded) RCA cable may also improve picture quality.
Q: How do I fix my paddles?
A: Dirty paddles are a cause of great frustration. To clean them, buy a can of Cleaner/Degreaser (available at Radio Shack, catalog #64-4422), open up the paddles and spray directly into the pot area. Close them up, give them a few twists and they should be good as new. Silicon spray, WD40 and TV tuner can also be used, although there are warnings about possible gumming with WD40, and possible plastic rot with TV tuner.
Q: Where do I get my 2600 fixed?
A: In general, it is usually more cost effective to buy another console.
Q: Do Bally Astrocade joysticks work on the 2600?
A: No. Even though they use the standard 9-pin connector, the pinouts are different. However, the Bally/Astrocade FAQ documents the proper rewiring scheme to allow them to work on the 2600.
Q: How do I use an Atari joystick on a PC/Mac?
A: Here are links to a few hardware hacks for the PC:
There is also the PC Competitor that allows two 9-pin joysticks to be connected to your PC for gobs of MAME (or other emulator) goodness. The hardware devices are hand made, so see the web page for availability, price and the like.
On the Mac side, there is the JoyPort ADB and JoyPort USB from www.kernel.com, which support not only 9-pin controllers, but also PC, Playstation and N64 controllers.
Q: Which light guns work with the 2600?
A: There is no light gun made specifically for either system. However, Atari's light gun (model number XG-1) that came with the XE-Game-System works well. Additionally, Best Electronics sells the Best Lightgun which supposedly works better than Atari's own. (comments?) Also, see the entry for rewiring a Sega lightgun elsewhere in the FAQ.
Q: What hardware peripherals exist for the 2600?
A: Note: This list is by no means complete.
Q: What are NTSC/PAL/SECAM and why should I care?
A: NTSC (National Television Standards Committee), PAL (Phase Alternating Lines) and SECAM (SEquentiel Couleur Avec Memoire) are different worldwide, generally incompatible television standards. Some short, not completely accurate information follows.
what where freq/frames/scan lines
---- ----- ----------------------
NTSC US/Japan 60hz/30/525
PAL Europe 50hz/25/625
SECAM France & many others 50hz/25/625
For detailed and accurate (but muddled) information, see the Worldwide TV standards page. Why is this information important? Different carts will exhibit different characteristics based on what kind of TV and console are used. For example, a PAL cart on an NTSC console and TV will roll the screen and exhibit a strange color scheme. An adjustable vertical hold is a must in these situations. The console compatibility FAQ details much of this information for the Atari 2600/7800 and other consoles as well.
Q: What is a TV Boy and where can I get one?
A: The TV Boy is a handheld-sized Atari 2600 (made by SystemA) with 127 built-in games that connects to your tv (it does not have its own screen). While it features a built-in Gameboy-like joypad and external 9-pin ports so one can connect one's favorite controller, it does not, alas, have a cartridge slot. Inside the TV Boy is a jumper marked "NTSC/PAL," so it appears that it will work on either type of TV.
Q: What are the specs for the 2600?
A: The information here is incomplete in some places, misleading in others, and possibly just plain wrong in still other places.
RAM: 128 Bytes, in VLSI
ROM: 4K max
Cpu Clock: 1.19 MHz
Graphics Clock: 1.19 MHz
Slot Config: Rom access only
CPU Avail: less than 50%
Notes: ROM specs are based on non-bank select scheme, the graphics clock is the master clock used to drive the video chips.
Q: How large do 2600 games get?
A: There are several 2600 games with 16K bytes (e.g. Road Runner). There are also games with 128 bytes of RAM on the cartridge (called the Atari Super Chip), such as Jr. Pac-Man. Supercharger games that do multiple loads may be even larger (which ones?; the Supercharger people should know.) Fatal Run is 32K. The 32-in-1 cart is 64K, 2K per game. The MegaBoy cart from Dynacom is also 64K, 16 banks of 4K.
Q: Are there any published 2600 technical articles available?
A: Here’s one from the March 1983 issue of IEEE Spectrum, titled: Design Case History: the Atari Video Computer System. It is quite an interesting read although it contains no code.
Q: What is the 2600 Joystick Pinout information?
\ o5 o4 o3 o2 o1/
\ o9 o8 o7 o6 /
pin # 2600 control 7800 control
1 WHT- Up WHT- Up
2 BLU- Down BLU- Down
3 GRN- Left GRN- Left
4 BRN- Right BRN- Right
5 unused RED- Button (R)ight (-)
6 ORG- Button ORG- Both buttons (+)
7 unused unused
8 BLK- Ground(-) BLK- Ground(-)
9 unused YLW- Button (L)eft (-)
2600 control (button)
pin 6 ORG(+) --------------()------------BLK(-) pin 8
7800 control (buttons)
/----------YLW(-) pin 9
Button L /
/---------()---| YLW splits
pin 6 ORG(+) -------| ORG splits 520 ohm |---BLK(-) pin 8
\---------()---| 520 ohm
Button R \ RED splits
\----------RED(-) pin 5
Note that some controllers have 620 ohm resistors rather than 520 ohm ones.
A standard 2600 cartridge contains the equivalent of a 2716 or 2732/2532 with one notable exception: the chip select line is active high, not low. The high order address line of the 6507 (A12) is used as the chip enable. There was at least one company that used EPROMs with a 74LS04 inverter to compensate for this. Note that numbers indicate left to right numbering.
Top Row Bottom Row
Slot 2716 CPU 2716 CPU
1 13 D3 1 A7
2 14 D4 2 A6
3 15 D5 3 A5
4 16 D6 4 A4
5 17 D7 5 A3
6 * A12 6 A2
7 19 A10 7 A1
8 NC A11 8 A0
9 22 A9 9 D0
10 23 A8 10 D1
11 24 +5V 11 D2
12 12 Shield Ground NC Ground
* to inverter and back to 18 for chip select
(Looking at the bottom of the cartridge -- i.e. edge connectors first)
D3 D4 D5 D6 D7 A12 A10 A11 A9 A8 +5V SGND
--1- --2- --3- --4- --5- --6- --7- --8- --9- -10- -11- -12-
GND D2 D1 D0 A0 A1 A2 A3 A4 A5 A6 A7
Dx = Data line x
Ax = Address line x
+5V = +5 volts
SGND = Shield Ground
GND = Ground
used Available EPROM Memory
A11 2048 2716 2K
A12 4096 2732 4K
A13 8192 2764 8K (needs support chips for banking)
A13 8192 2 x 2732 8K (most common of 8K config)
| 2716 |
A7 | 1 24 | VCC [+5 V]
A6 | 2 23 | A8
A5 | 3 22 | A9
A4 | 4 21 | VPP [Doesn't matter probably. +5V]
A3 | 5 20 | !Output Enable (always on) [GND]
A2 | 6 19 | A10
A1 | 7 18 | !Chip Enable (make high bit) [inverted A12]
A0 | 8 17 | D7
D0 | 9 16 | D6
D1 | 10 15 | D5
D2 | 11 14 | D4
GND | 12 13 | D3
| 2732 |
A7 | 1 24 | VCC [+5 V]
A6 | 2 23 | A8
A5 | 3 22 | A9
A4 | 4 21 | A11
A3 | 5 20 | !Output Enable (always on) [GND] / VPP
A2 | 6 19 | A10
A1 | 7 18 | !Chip Enable (make high bit) [inverted A12]
A0 | 8 17 | D7
D0 | 9 16 | D6
D1 | 10 15 | D5
D2 | 11 14 | D4
GND | 12 13 | D3
| 2764 |
VPP | 1 28 | VCC [+5 V]
A12 | 2 27 | !Program Strobe (no connection?) [+5V]
A7 | 3 26 | No Connection
A6 | 4 25 | A8
A5 | 5 24 | A9
A4 | 6 23 | A11
A3 | 7 22 | !Output Enable (always on) [GND]
A2 | 8 21 | A10
A1 | 9 20 | !Chip Enable (always on) [GND]
A0 | 10 19 | D7
D0 | 11 18 | D6
D1 | 12 17 | D5
D2 | 13 16 | D4
GND | 14 15 | D3
VPP was also set at +5V for the 2764.
Q: Power Supply Information?
Input: 120VAC 60Hz
Output: 9VDC 500mA
Polarity: Center +, Outer -
[ATARI FUJI LOGO]
PART NO.:CO 18084-319
INPUT: AC 240 V#50Hz 9W
OUTPUT: DC 9V 500 mA
BS415 [Polarity C+, O- diagram]
FOR USE WITH MODELS CX 2600
XEP 80 OR SX212
WB JUN-AUG 87
Q: How do I build a composite/audio/chroma/luma output interface for the Atari 2600Jr/2600A?
A: [The following mod is for SOME Jr's. Please see section end for 2600A update.]
File revision 1.1
After finding my entertainment budget disappear (poor university
student) I was forced to economize--I dusted off the Ole'2600.
I figured I would hook it up to my computer monitor, but to my
dismay there was no composite output on the beast (Atari).
Determined to overcome, I quickly disassembled it. After some
poking and prodding around I managed to locate the required
Benefits: No longer require a TV. You no longer require those
god-awful switch boxes. No more interference patterns
on the screen (from the RF cable being used as a bloody
antenna). No longer requires the 100' hookup RF cable.
Crisp clear audio etc;
Drawbacks: No longer get to see sister trip in 100' RF cable. No
longer get to fall asleep with psychedelic interference
patterns on screen.
Phillips screwdriver, a soldering iron, solder, a small piece of
wire, 2 or 3 patch cables and a small pair of needle-nose pliers.
* The following schematic is for the NEWER model which is sometimes
referred to as the "Atari Junior". The older model is much the
1-Simply unplug everything from your console, turn it over and
remove the 5 screws.
2-Remove the top and bottom plastic case pieces. When removing the
TOP piece carefully pull out the ribbon cable that connects it to
the main board.
3-You should now have the board (covered by a metal shield) in your
hands. Turn it over, you will see little clasps on the edge of the
shield that hold it in place. Straighten these with your pliers
and you can then remove 2 LARGE shields (One on Bottom of unit,
one on Top). The small shield remaining (On Top) covers the RF
4-Orient the exposed board into the position that it would normally
be in. ie: The way it is when you play (On/Off switch near Top
5-Look in the LOWER RIGHTHAND AREA of the TOPSIDE (front) of the
board. You will see a setup that resembles the schematic below.
TOPSIDE OF THE BOARD, | |
LOWER RIGHTHAND CORNER |O RF |
| MODULATOR |
------ TP5 (Luma)
_____ V ___
| | ||| o ||| | O |
|_____| RRR RCR |___|
R41 (Chroma) --- --- C19 (Audio)
Gold/Red/Grey/Blue Usually turquoise
NOTE: You can connect the Audio to EITHER side of the Capacitor,
the best results are obtained by placing it on the BOTTOM
of the Capacitor (as shown).
The Chroma *MUST* be hooked up to the BOTTOM of the resistor
(as shown). It will NOT work if you hook it to the top of
To gain Chroma/Luma/Audio output you will need 3 RCA patch cables
[the kind commonly used with stereos]. Simply solder the cables at
the required points (Chroma/Luma/Audio) as shown. Remember to GROUND
ALL cables! ie: solder the GROUND wire [the wire that wraps around
the inner wire] to any point that the board shield connects to.
To gain Composite/Audio output you need 2 RCA patch cables [the kind
commonly used with stereos]. Here it gets a little different than
above. Simply solder a "jumper" [a piece of wire] from R41 (Chroma)
to TP5 (Luma), then connect a patch cord to TP5 [Presto! you now have
composite]. Solder the remaining cable to C19 (Audio). Again, remember
to GROUND all cables. Do *NOT* GROUND the jumper!
Simply re-assemble the unit and you are done. You will find that it
is easier to have the newly installed cables exit through the joystick
port. Alternatively, you could cut a notch in the case for a separate
exit. Having the cables exit through the RF output is not recommended.
There will not be enough room (without pinching the cables) to hook up
the RF cable. Adjust your brightness/contrast. Enjoy!
If you ever wish to adjust your color (chroma) there is a "POT" that
you can tweak. It can be found near the OFF/ON switch. It is the only
pot on the left side of the board.
I can not, and will not, be held responsible for any damages that you
or your system incur. This document is provided for informational
Send all Questions/Comments/Cartridges you are no longer using to:
1 Hunt's Lane
St. John's NF, Canada
(C)1993 Thomas Clancy
This article is freely distributable so long as it is not modified.
It must be distributed in it's entirety.
chroma/luma output for 4 switch 2600
TIA pin 2 -----Sync
TIA pin 5 -----Lum 1 o 5V (TIA pin 20)
TIA pin 7 -----Lum 2 |
TIA pin 8 -----Lum 0 | +
R206(1K)/C208 Bottom ---Audio |---|(----,
C210/R210(6.8K) Top ----Color | 100uF |
| \/ GND (TIA pin 1)
| __________ `------,---/\/\/---,--|(--,
`---|1 | CR1 750 1.6K | 10 | + |
| 2|--|<]--/\/\/-, ,-/\/\/-` | \/ GND
TIA2<-----|3 CD4050 | 9.1K | | ___/-------` ..........
TIA5<-----|5 4|---/\/\/-----| | Q1 /|/c\ . RCA
TIA7<-----|7 | 4.7K |--|------(b| ) . Cables
TIA8<-----|9 6|---/\/\/-----| | \|\e/ 75 . __
,--|14 | 18K | | \-----,---/\/\/----Luma-O__
|--|11 10|---/\/\/-----` | 2K | . |
|--|8 | `-/\/\/-,--/\/\/--` . GND \/
| |__________| 5v o | 75 .
| | GND \/ .
\/ GND Q2 ___/ .
6.8K /|/c\ 75 . __
Top of C210/R210<-----/\/\/---(b| ) ,----/\/\/---------------->Chroma-O__
\|\e/ | . |
CR1 - low power silicon \----| 75 . GND \/
(glass) diode (RS 276-1122) `----/\/\/---, .
Q1,Q2 - 3904 or equiv. (RS 276-2016) | .
\/ GND .
1uF . __
Bottom of R206/C208<-------|(-------------------------------------->Audio-O__
+ . |
. GND \/
The CD4050 is a video buffer. It provides a sharper signal than just picking the signals off of the TIA, which is an unbuffered and open collector. The unused buffer inputs are tied to ground to reduce noise (pins 14&11). On the outputs of the buffer, the 3 Luma pins and Sync are combined into what will become Luma. Each Luma signal is supposed to be twice as bright as the previous one, so the resistance on each Luma pin is roughly 1/2 the previous one. If you cannot find the exact values, at least try to be within 10% or stack values to get close. The Sync signal is added in via a diode to protect the output of the buffer and is dropped slightly through a 750 ohm resistor.
Next, the combined Luma signal is connect to 5v & ground through resistors to reference the voltage for the base of Q1, our Luma amplifier. Its output is set to 75 ohm impedance (75 ohms is best but 70-100 ohms will work in the place of the 75 ohm resistors. The closest Radio Shack has is a 1/2 watt 82 ohm resistor 271-011 which works fine).
The Chroma signal is picked off the board at the junction of C210 and R210. Looking at the board, R210 is the 4th component from the right in the bottom row of resistors/capacitors under the shield. It connects to C210 (5th component from the right) at the top of both components, and this is where to solder the wire for the Chroma circuit.
The Chroma circuit is just a simpler version of the Luma amplifier. Again, the output is 75 ohm impedance.
The Audio circuit is simply a capacitor to filter out the DC offset on the audio signal. Pick the audio signal off the board at the junction of R206 and C208. R206 is the 4th component from the right in the 2nd row of components at the bottom. Solder the Audio wire at the bottom of R206 and/or C208 (3rd component from the right).
Be sure to solder the outer shield from the RCA cables to ground and connect the signal to the inner conductor. Also, do not disconnect any pins of TIA from the circuit (if the pins are lifted out of the socket or PCB, the open collector outputs will no longer function).
I used a small piece of perfboard from Radio Shack and hot-glued it into the 2600 case and made a small hole in the RF shield to run the wires to the new board. I ran the RCA cables (Chroma, Luma, Audio) out the hole for the RF cable.
I'd like to acknowledge Ben Poehland and Charles Cole whose Super Video upgrades are the basis for this project. When you complete this circuit, your 2600's picture quality will be comparable to a Super Video upgraded Atari 8-bit.
Q: How do I build a video driver for the 2600?
A: Parts list:
Video In -------+---^^^------| T1 | + C2 L2
| |\ |
| >>-+---|-------| |----nnn---- Video Out
> | |
R1 > > _ +
> R3 > - C1
| > |
| | |
This is a simple common emitter amplifier. It is a non-inverting current amplifier and serves here to allow the video signal from the game to drive a standard composite monitor with 75 ohm impedance.
In order to prevent the audio from interfering with the video signal, the mixing oscillator must be disabled on the main circuit board. On a 7800, remove the base lead of Q1. It is located near the RF modulator.
The audio doesn't need any extra buffering.
Places to get signals:
1. from RF modulator
pin 3 is video
pin 1 is ground
2. from Expansion Interface on 7800
pin 1 is ground
pin 2 is +5V
pin 3 is video
pin 17 is audio [note: this is wrong. Both Ben Jirou and Mark Graybill
agree that one cannot get audio from the expansion
3. from main circuit board
on a 7800, video and ground are across C7; +5V and audio are across C4
This circuit may not work or be required with all versions of the 2600. It is required for the 7800 and the Sears Video Arcade II version of the 2600. It is probably not necessary for a 5200.
Q: I hate the two mods above. Does anyone have anything better?
A: Yes. Besides Thomas Clancey’s mod and the CD4050 one, there is:
Nathan Strum has a nice comparison site of some of the various A/V mods.
Q: How do I convert Sega controllers to Atari pinout?
A: [Note: Based on a non-random sample of size 2, it was found that unmodified Sega controllers work fine on the 2600/7800, with B acting as the single fire button. As an aside, Sega Master System controllers (model 3020) work too, with button 1 as the fire button. Use the instructions below if you wish to have a truly 7800 compatible stick with 2 separate fire buttons.]
First the Disclaimer. I
am not responsible for:
1. Any damage done to your Atari 7800 or Atari 2600.
2. Any damage done to the Sega Genesis Controller.
3. Any errors in these instructions.
This design is free for you to make your own controllers or adaptors. If you make controllers or adaptors to sell to other people, I would like (no surprise here) a cut of the profits. The only other thing I ask is that if make your own, drop me an email so I get an idea of how many people are using my design.
I'm not going to give step by step instructions. I'm going to assume that the reader has some basic knowledge of electronics and can figure out what to do with the schematics and info presented here. I will, however, answer questions if asked.
This design works with the Atari 2600 as well as the Atari 7800. Also, any system that can use Atari 2600 joysticks, should be able to use this design. This design can be put inside a Sega Genesis controller or with the addition of two 9 pin connectors, it can be made into an adaptor. It works with any Sega Genesis controller including those with autofire.
For Adaptor only
Sega B button --> Atari Left Button:
____ Atari 6
1K | /
Sega 6 __/\/\/\/\___|V PNP
|_______ Atari 9
< 620 Ohms
Sega C button --> Atari Right Button:
____ Atari 6
1K | /
Sega 9 __/\/\/\/\___|V PNP
|_______ Atari 5
< 620 Ohms
Sega 1 -------- Atari 1 (Up)
Sega 2 -------- Atari 2 (Down)
Sega 3 -------- Atari 3 (Left)
Sega 4 -------- Atari 4 (Right)
Sega 8 -------- Atari 8 (Ground)
Sega 5 ___.
|---- Atari 7 (+5V)
Sega 7 ___|
Pins listed as Sega refer to the 9 pin male connector that the Sega Controller plugs into. Pins listed as Atari refer to the 9 pin female connector that plugs in the Atari 7800.
Q: How do I convert a Sega Master System lightgun to Atari pinout?
A: The Aug 1988 (Vol 7, Num 4) Antic Magazine contained an article called First look: Inside the XE Game System: Hardware surprises revealed. It described the conversion:
To modify the Sega gun for the Atari, you'll have to cut off the incompatible connector. The wires must be stripped back and soldered into an Atari joystick connector as follows:
SEGA GUN ATARI JOYSTICK PORT
Blue wire Pin 1 stick FWD
Gray wire Pin 6 trigger
Green wire Pin 7 +5 volts
Black wire Pin 8 Ground
Because of the close fitting connections for the XEGS ports, don't wire in a DB9 female connector that has "ears". Most joysticks don't have wires for unused signals, so cutting up an old joystick cable may not work. Specifically, an Atari joystick does not need the +5 volts, so there isn't likely to be a wire connected to Pin 7. However, you can find joystick extension cables at Radio Shack, which have all nine pins wired from male to female. Antic disclaims responsibility for any damages that might occur during improper implementation of this, or any, hardware modification project we publish.
Once it's all hooked up, you'll notice that gun fires when you release the trigger, which is annoying. The Sega trigger wiring is the opposite of what the Atari light gun uses. To rewire the trigger switch, remove the five screws (one is under the Sega logo on the side). Find the trigger micro-switch with three connections. Wire to the normally closed contacts.
Q: How do I convert an NES controller to Atari pinout?
A: See the following link for step-by-step instructions. You will need a 2600 controller connector cable to make this work.
There is also a mod to convert an NES controller to 7800 pinout.
Q: Is there a general site that contains all this conversion stuff?
A: Yes. Jay Tilton (email@example.com) maintains a page of various video, joystick and lightgun pinouts and conversions for the 2600, 7800 and many, many others.
Q: What is an Atari Game Recorder and how do I build one?
A: An Atari Game Recorder is a device that copies carts to cassette tape and also admits the playing of games from tape. Instructions and schematics are in the following issues of Radio Electronics (it's a three-part article):
Dec 84 vol 55 no 12 p. 69-72.
Jan 85 vol 56 no 1 p. 51-58.
Feb 85 vol 56 no 2 p. 69-72.
The article was written by Guy Vachon and David A. Chan. The construction of the AGR is not for the faint of heart, but if anyone does decide to construct an AGR, please mail Zube and provide details of how well it works and any problems encountered in its construction. BTW, the AGR as described in the article does not handle bankswitched carts.
Q: How can I make a glove controller for the 2600?
A: Eduardo has done this, you can see some pictures and general instructions here.
Q: How can I convert a mouse into a paddle controller?
A: Eduardo has done this, you can see some pictures and general instructions here.