Monday, November 18, 2019

Will a forty-year old Atari 2600 work on a modern HDTV?

The notion has been bugging me for a few years now: could my old Atari 2600 - technology that's fully four decades old - be made to work on a high-def television set?  Seemingly no easy task, what with the analog connector and antenna switch box and those screws on the back of the televisions of yesteryear (that had the antenna feed either with those C-shaped ends or just bare wire).  And yet, we are talking about the grand-daddy of all home video game systems.  The forerunner of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the PlayStation, the Xbox.  Marcus Fenix may hold his own against Locusts but he never had to face down the unstoppable Evil Otto, did he?

The Atari 2600 Video Computer System was there first.  And it deserves some respect and honor.  And I decided it was time to hook it up to my high-def television, for hopefully still more years of fun and frolic.  So tonight I went to experimenting...

It turned out that it was much easier to pull off than one might expect.  In the end it was only one small part (an RF TV coaxial F plug female adapter, found in various online outlets for three to five bucks) that was needed to modify the end of the Atari's cable so that it could be run into the HDTV's coax jack.  Then it was turning on the Atari absent any cartridges, having the TV re-scan for channels so that it only detected the one for the Atari, and then turning off the console and inserting a cartridge.  Total time: about 7 minutes.

The results?  Here's a video I made of the entire procedure, including that magnificent moment when the E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial game came onscreen!  Which might be the best-ever use of the E.T. game.



Game play itself was a bit wonky.  Pitfall Harry ran straight into the scorpions and my poor little ship kept getting smashed into cosmic dust by the asteroids.  And not every game cartridge worked at all.  I'm going to assume that the cartridges; internal board and the console's slot have accumulated some dust.  Blowing or vacuuming it out should fix that problem.  And the Atari joysticks weren't as responsive as I remembered.  Or maybe I'm the one not as responsive (hey, be kind! :-)  Still, it's a nice accomplishment and I'm rather happy to have pulled it off.

Maybe next time I'll figure out how to hook up a Nintendo Entertainment System.  And play Super Mario Bros. 3 in all its original glory.

3 comments:

Corie said...

There's Atari Flashback. Hundreds of Atari games on one console that plugs right into the TV. No having to hook up the original ATari. The gold one even has hdmi input. I've got Flashback 8 and it's a lot of fun!

Chris Knight said...

"No having to hook up the original ATari."

What would be the fun in THAT?!??

:-P

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