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Vintage Computers Any vintage computer systems, calculators, video games etc., but with an emphasis on 1980s and earlier equipment.

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Old 10th Dec 2018, 4:39 pm   #1
Mikey405
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Default Atari 2600 R.I.P.

Hi all.

I think this is the first time I've ever posted in this section but I'm hoping somebody might be able me with a problem.

My much-beloved and much-played Atari 2600 game console passed away today. It had been becoming a little temperamental of late (requiring several power-resets before it would work) but now it has completely stopped working.

Depending on what cartridge is installed, the screen just shows a jumble of coloured vertical-lines (or nothing at all) or makes peculiar noises and tones through the speaker. The buttons along the top don't make any difference to anything but I guess they're just software-driven so it's not too surprising.

I'd really like to get the old girl working again but of course none of the three main chips (socketed) are available and I don't have either of the two test cartridges either so I'm a bit stuck. (I do have the service manual however.)

Does anyone have any ideas?

Many thanks everyone.

Kind regards.

From Mike.
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Old 10th Dec 2018, 4:50 pm   #2
TonyDuell
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

At least start with the 'obvious' :

Check the contacts on the cartridge connector are clean, not bent or shorting

Check the +5V line (I assume) and other supply lines. Correct voltage? What about ripple?
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Old 10th Dec 2018, 5:47 pm   #3
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

Hi Tony.

Many thanks for the reply.

I should, of course, have said that I've checked the supply (voltage and ripple), the oscillator amplitude, reset and ready lines (where indicated) to each of the 3 ICs. The contacts on the cartridge socket seem fine, although it's not terribly clear how to retension them if required.

Thanks Tony.

Kind regards.

From Mike.
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Old 10th Dec 2018, 6:13 pm   #4
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyDuell View Post
At least start with the 'obvious' :

Check the contacts on the cartridge connector are clean, not bent or shorting

Check the +5V line (I assume) and other supply lines. Correct voltage? What about ripple?
I have half a dozen of these 2600 units and as Tony says the cart connectors are notorious for needing a clean , even the slightest bit of grot is enough to make the unit squeal and coloured lines appear.

8x out of 10 its a slot fault , I don't think ive ever had a 2600 unit fail on me in all the years ive collected and used them.

I do actually own a very rare Atari 2600 Test console myself which is usefull for checking joysticks and other bits n bobs.
They were issued to the retailers/service depts. so not on sale as such.
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Old 10th Dec 2018, 6:41 pm   #5
Mikey405
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

Hi ElectronicSkip.

Many thanks for the assistance.

If it's not a silly question - How do you remove the black plastic "surround" to get to the contacts? There are a pair of screws which can be removed but the plastic doesn't seem to want to come away. It looks like it should just pull-off but I don't want to apply too much pressure and break something. Am I just being too wussy or is there some secret to getting the black cartridge "surround" off?

Thanks again ElectronicSkip and Tony.

Kind regards,

From Mike.
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Old 10th Dec 2018, 8:21 pm   #6
Outrun_uk
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

A quick method without taking the console apart is to put a small amount of contact cleaner onto the contacts of a cartridge and plug it in/out a few times. Also may be worth cleaning the cartridges, some contact cleaner on a cotton bud works just fine.

HTH

Kev
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Old 10th Dec 2018, 8:24 pm   #7
electronicskip
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikey405 View Post
Hi ElectronicSkip.

Many thanks for the assistance.

If it's not a silly question - How do you remove the black plastic "surround" to get to the contacts? There are a pair of screws which can be removed but the plastic doesn't seem to want to come away. It looks like it should just pull-off but I don't want to apply too much pressure and break something. Am I just being too wussy or is there some secret to getting the black cartridge "surround" off?

Thanks again ElectronicSkip and Tony.

Kind regards,

From Mike.
These two Atari stripdown clips should help you with that Mike.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAeXVazgUXc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMeFTVPsSX8
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Old 10th Dec 2018, 8:37 pm   #8
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

Hi Kev and ES.

I've tried cleaning the contacts using the method indicated but that doesn't seem to have made much difference. I do have a cartridge circuit board (without a case) so I can measure the connections.

Re the videos, I think my unit must be the earlier kind as there are two separate boards. And alas neither video showed how to get the plastic 'surround' off the contacts. I'll have a look tomorrow though to see if I can work out a way of getting it off.

Thank you both for the thoughts.

Kinds regards.

From Mike.
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Old 10th Dec 2018, 11:42 pm   #9
winston_1
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

Also "exercise" the three main chips in their sockets.
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Old 11th Dec 2018, 12:10 am   #10
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

I confess that I'm not familiar with this machine and it may not be any help but maybe check the power supply and any electrolitic capacitors if you haven't already done so. I've had problems with other units that display similar symptoms.
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Old 11th Dec 2018, 1:48 pm   #11
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

I have a spare main circuit board for one of these if you want it. It was removed from a physically damaged machine a few years ago, but tested OK shortly after.
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Old 11th Dec 2018, 1:59 pm   #12
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

Is it an original (Sunnyvale) USA built heavy 6xer or the later 4 switch Japanese built version?
Sorry I just saw the picture, its a 6xer. which is much heavier than the later ones due to a lot more RF shielding.
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Old 11th Dec 2018, 5:43 pm   #13
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

Wow. That's brilliant Graham. Thank you. I'll send you a PM.



Kinds regards.

From Mike.
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Old 11th Dec 2018, 9:31 pm   #14
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

If its not resetting properly I would look for:
1) Bad solder joints around the IC's
2) Replace any electrolytic capacitors, in particular C201 (4.7uF) that connects to pin 1 of the 6507 - if this cap goes bad and shorts it will hold the processor in reset. But any of these capacitors can cause problems - the electrolytics in most 70s 2600s are well past their best before date... My 2600 had terrible video until I broke open the modulator casing and replaced the electrolytics. If I was doing it today I would just remove the modulator and make one of the composite mods that are found online because analog TV's are getting rarer.
3) As others have said, use a piece of folded up stiff paper soaked in contact cleaner to give the cartridge contacts a good clean, check there aren't pieces of debris stuck in there.

Failing the above I'd also recommend posting your question on the AtariAge forum because there's a lot of very knowledgeable people on their who are actively keeping the Atari community alive!
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Old 14th Dec 2018, 1:02 pm   #15
Mikey405
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

Hi Slothie.

Many thanks for the reply.

I think you're right about those electrolytics being past their prime. I have checked the supplies to each of the ICs though and they're fine with no ripple. The clock and reset lines are as they should be, likewise the "ready" lines. The contacts on the cartridge slot have now been cleaned to within an inch of their life but alas still no go. GrahamN has very kindly donated me a board which I will use for the time being, and then get to the bottom of the existing board once it's all removed.

One thing I have noticed is that both the address bus and data bus lines are changing (as would be expected if the device were working) but the amplitude instead of being 5V and 0V (or there abouts) is only about 5V and 4V - so something amiss there I think. One of the ICs possibly holding both lines high. I have found a couple of suitable ICs on eBay so I will replace those first before moving on.

Thanks Slothie.

Kind regards.

From Mike.
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Old 14th Dec 2018, 9:07 pm   #16
John123
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

If any of the IC's are socketed, you could try removing and re-seating them as the action sometimes helps to clean up the component legs. Just be slow and careful levering them out, especially if you don't have a dedicated IC puller.
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Old 20th Dec 2018, 3:19 pm   #17
Mikey405
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

Hi all again.

(Thank you John for your suggestion BTW.)

Graham N's board turned up and, although I couldn't seem to get much out of that, there was a happy ending anyway as it revealed the CPU was dead in my original board. So once again I can happily play my prehistoric games console.

Thanks Graham for the board and everyone for their suggestions. Much appreciated.

Kind regards.

From Mike.
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Old 20th Dec 2018, 6:08 pm   #18
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Default Re: Atari 2600 R.I.P.

Good to hear Mike.
I love my old Atari stuff 2600/7800/5200/jaguar consoles.
Theres just something about the clunky graphics that's addictive.
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