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How difficult would it be to produce an Atari clone?


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#1 kdgarris OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:26 AM

I was initially very excited at the idea of the Retron 77, because I thought it was basically and Atari 2600 Hardware based clone with modern TV output. I am wondering now, though, how possible it would be for a company to produce an actual hardware-based Atari clone in 2017. What would be the challenges of producing something like that?

#2 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 11, 2017 7:45 AM

You can use an FPGA which tries to replicate the original schematics as far as we know them. But certain details of the original hardware are still not fully understood.

 

This has been done already, you can google it. Not sure about the costs, put AFAIK significantly higher than emulation on common hardware. And updates are more complicated too.



#3 Swami ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 11, 2017 11:02 AM

I was initially very excited at the idea of the Retron 77, because I thought it was basically and Atari 2600 Hardware based clone with modern TV output. I am wondering now, though, how possible it would be for a company to produce an actual hardware-based Atari clone in 2017. What would be the challenges of producing something like that?

I think the main problem is that they don't make Stella IC, the TIA IC and a few others anymore, so you are left to scavenge them. This is Analog NT style, but more specific. Cannibalizing old Atari 2600's can also earn a lot of contempt from numerous retro fans.



#4 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 11, 2017 11:48 AM

Would an FPGA be able to emulate frying? I guess not easily because it itself has to be bootstrapped and have the VCS core loaded.

 

---

 

I must also emphasize that until all the VCS' circuitry and custom chip is 100% understood, updates will be an important part of doing business. Look at Emulator Stella, every few months a new version automagically appears on the internet. Each one typically better than the previous one.

 

And while from the end-user's perspective FPGA can be updated by flashing a new core, it's still a niche gig because very few devs (or just one) are there to make that new core. Whereas a software emulator seems to attract more talent. And that means bug fixes and upgrades are more likely to happen. Actually really honest-to-god git-R-done happen.

 

 

---

 

I suppose if one were to recreate the VCS in hardware, the circuit should use the same chips and parts and part values. The TIA would have to be done as custom remake. There should be real switches, and real connectors, real transistors, capacitors and resistors, real everything! And the same power supply requirements. Now you have to build manufacturing capabilities to make the old stuff.

 

It's a little more involved than a kickstarter with a 3D printed case.

 

And once you start using modern fabrication, manufacturing, and programming tools and techniques, you might as well reap their benefits and go all the way and switch to software emulation. Now you've got yourself a cheap SoC, with all the controls and connectors like a real VCS, but made for pennies on the dollar in quantity.



#5 mbd30 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 11, 2017 11:57 AM

Coleco was able to do it.



#6 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 11, 2017 12:11 PM

Coleco was able to do it.

They did it back in 1982, using the same off-the-shelf parts that Atari did. There's no proprietary code in the VCS as far as I know. 

 

Seems to me a big sticking point would be that we can't buy the same cheap chips anymore to make a 1:1 clone or replacement.

 

The system on a chip clones like the C64dtv and Atari Flashback 2 (and only that one, not the Flashback 1, or 3 thru 8) are the closest thing we've got outside of FPGA, and they were custom designed and not perfect. 



#7 Mr SQL OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 11, 2017 2:04 PM

Even Atari's own changes to reduce costs led to imperfect hardware based emulation like the models that can't play Kool-Aid man. 

 

Vendel's system on a chip could be dusted off and fixed if Atari was inclined but I think a CRT is also needed for full compatibiity with the systems output capabilities. The output could be composite as long as it is designed to leak chroma like the classic RF output; we can do some interesting things with that combination.



#8 napabar OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 11, 2017 7:29 PM

They did it back in 1982, using the same off-the-shelf parts that Atari did.

 

 

 

They still had to reverse engineer the TIA chip.  That was not off the shelf.



#9 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 11, 2017 7:59 PM

Fair enough. Does anyone have a link to that story? Seems like it could be an interesting read or interview.

#10 wongojack ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 11, 2017 8:07 PM

Before you get too excited about the Gemini, it doesn't run all the games.  At one point I wanted to set the Gemini up and use it as my main system because it is so small, but I ran into so many game incompatibilities that I had to put it away.



#11 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 12, 2017 8:46 AM

Is their Colecovision System Changer the same in terms of compatibility? Seems to me re-using hardware, especially a reverse-engineered custom chip, would have been smart back then.

#12 wongojack ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 12, 2017 9:00 AM

Is their Colecovision System Changer the same in terms of compatibility? Seems to me re-using hardware, especially a reverse-engineered custom chip, would have been smart back then.

Actually, I'm not sure.  I have one of those but haven't really used it very much.  <<added to ToDo list>>



#13 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 12, 2017 9:23 AM

http://www.the-liber...dware/index.htm

 

ColecoVision-Expansion-Module-No-1-Atari-2600-Adapter-008.JPG

post-27830-128856368748.jpg

010-Coleco-Gemini-Motherboard.JPG



#14 up2knowgood OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:10 AM

Before you get too excited about the Gemini, it doesn't run all the games.  At one point I wanted to set the Gemini up and use it as my main system because it is so small, but I ran into so many game incompatibilities that I had to put it away.


Like what? I use a Gemini as my main system and haven't had a problem yet.

#15 wongojack ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:20 AM

Activision games.

Space Invaders works, Kaboom doesn't etc.

#16 GoldLeader OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:30 AM

Maybe I'm having a memory lapse here, but aside from some Parker Bros games not fitting very well, I thought my Coleco Adam or ColecoVision plus expansion module played almost everything...I even have Actual Ataris that refuse to play Galaxian for instance...And with a custom cable for the ADAM it outputs A/V with no mods...

 

I think a combo like a Flashback 2 plus cartridge slot, plus (Ideally) some output options in HD would make for a killer system that could be accomplished if some company were so inclined...But I'm sure they have a million reasons to say I'm wrong...

 

Just let ME win The Powerball and I'll get it done!



#17 Metal Jesus OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:30 AM

I'm pretty sure this is what you are referring to. Uses FPGA but then outputs to HDMI for modern TVs. It plays every cartridge I've thrown at it!

 



#18 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 12, 2017 1:35 PM

Including Harmony cart?



#19 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 12, 2017 2:36 PM

http://www.the-liber...dware/index.htm
 
ColecoVision-Expansion-Module-No-1-Atari-2600-Adapter-008.JPG
post-27830-128856368748.jpg
010-Coleco-Gemini-Motherboard.JPG

My clueless self looks at those and says, yeah, maybe those 3 big chips are the same in both machines. The expansion module can skip the AV box since it rides on the Colecovision. I'm surprised Liberator says the same thing as me -- "off the shelf parts" but doesn't mention the custom TIA.

#20 up2knowgood OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 12, 2017 5:43 PM

Activision games.

Space Invaders works, Kaboom doesn't etc.

 

 

They seem to work fine on mine. 

 

gallery_45171_1585_2670059.jpg



#21 Mr SQL OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 12, 2017 5:46 PM

 

 

They seem to work fine on mine. 

 

gallery_45171_1585_2670059.jpg

 

Interesting, there must be  different revisions of the clone - I bet the other one has a much earler serial number.

 

I'm pretty sure this is what you are referring to. Uses FPGA but then outputs to HDMI for modern TVs. It plays every cartridge I've thrown at it!

 

 

 

Does it work with the SuperCharger?

 

Edit: If it does you could hook it up to another walkman to load the games :grin:


Edited by Mr SQL, Sat Aug 12, 2017 5:49 PM.


#22 up2knowgood OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 12, 2017 6:22 PM

Probably, mine is a Canadian model, probably made after many American ones.  I like it because of the controllers.  Love the dual controllers, having the joystick and paddle together in one controller makes it so much easier to play most games. 



#23 wongojack ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 12, 2017 8:30 PM

 

 

They seem to work fine on mine. 

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting, there must be  different revisions of the clone - I bet the other one has a much earler serial number.

 

 

 

Maybe something is wrong with mine.  It seemed to work fine and gave a nice strong and clear signal on the games that worked.  I think I used an Atari made power supply on it instead of the original.  Was the Gemini PSU different?



#24 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 12, 2017 9:25 PM

How about SaveKey & Atarivox?



#25 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Aug 13, 2017 1:21 AM

How about SaveKey & Atarivox?

Nothing too special here, they should work on every clone.




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