Retro computers: Atari 2600

Another addition to my series of retro computer posts. This time I’m writing about the Atari 2600 Rev A. Jr. made in 1986. Quote from

The Atari 2600 Jr. was introduced in 1986 with a new ad campaign and a new design for the aging system. This is almost identical to the first edition 2600 Jr. except that the Rainbow on the metal plate is wider. It came in a small silver box, and can also be found in a red box. Once again it has the same functionally as other Atari models, just a difference in appearance.

I don’t usually find genuine pieces of electronics or antique laptops with a unique design at a local flea market, but my last visit was very much worth it.

This is a genuine piece that I got for 10€ – the dude doesn’t even know what he’s selling, or don’t care. Usually with laptops I’d do a bit of a maintenance like cleaning and replacing a CMOS battery, but this is so simple and in a really good condition that I didn’t have to do anything, except for brushing off dirt.

To my surprise though, this thing was in a full package – PSU, controller and a game cartridge – I mean I was surprised because all of the antique laptops I find don’t have anything else with them. I grabbed this thing right away and ran home to check if it works.

When I got home, I saw the RCA socket and instinctively tried to plug it in. Of course it didn’t work and I thought that it’s defective, but then I saw a switch on the console that had 2 positions and “Channel” written on it with a selection “2” or “3”. Didn’t know what it meant, so I googled how to connect one of these things to a TV (a manual was missing :P) and it turns out you need to plug it where your TV antenna goes, and of course you need an adapter for that. You probably didn’t need one back in the day though :P

Fast forward a few hours and 4 electronic shops later and I finally connected it to my TV, did some fiddling to make it show a signal and BAM – I could finally play some games.

The console works in a simple way: it has 2 buttons – Select and Reset. First one iterates over different modes, levels or difficulties of a game, and second one starts the game up or resets it.
In addition it has an image mode toggle switch, that makes the image colored or b/w and a difficulty selection switch for both players, that appears to make the game faster (and more difficult because of that).
Weird part is that if you want to switch to a different game, you need to turn the console off then on again and it would load into a different game – this applies to cartridges with multiple games.

Most of the games on this cartridge are for 2 players, and I have just one controller, although I read that any controller that connects with this COM/Serial end should work with Atari. So next time I’ll be going to the flea market to search for a compatible controller :P

I also noticed that connecting this console directly to a TV doesn’t produce a clear image, and this is probably of the simple unshielded RCA cable and so the TV picks up a lot of noise. I will have to use some sort of a DVB-T filter to make the image crispy – I’ll post an update once I do that.

Update 2017.06.26: Apparently there are no such things available anywhere (even though I saw they exists on YT), but I was able to tone down the noise by simply replacing the RCA cable to a more quality-looking one and the difference is really visible, it’s not as I’d like it to be, but crisp enough. Besides, the noise adds +10 nostalgia.
Also at one electronics store I was told to try this “EMI RFI Ferrite core noise filter”, so I put it on one end, but I didn’t see any noticeable difference, but I left it on anyway.

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