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Nathan Strum

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Nathan Strum last won the day on May 15 2019

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About Nathan Strum

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  1. Yep, but I guess that's to be expected with 40-year-old hardware that was built to last a couple of years and then be replaced. The 2600 has an amazing life span. I need to open my own 2600 back up now too, and see about fixing it's odd problem. I'm hoping a simple chip swap will fix its issue. Everything is socketed, so it shouldn't take long to find out. I've had a few others inquiring if I'd be able to fix/mod their consoles. Sorry - but this was a one-off to help out James and the ZPH show, as a thank-you for their support of the homebrewing community. I'm happy to answer questions, but I really don't have the time to get into the console fixing/modding business. And besides, nobody would want to pay what I'd want to charge. You're welcome! I hope this one lasts, as we never did find out what caused the original mod to fail, and the mod's designer hasn't responded to inquiries yet. I've been using a fresh 2600 power adapter from Best Electronics. I'd suggest if you don't already have one, you might want to order one. And plug it into a really good surge suppressor (not a power strip). Tripp-Lite makes excellent ones I've been using at work (and home) for years. I've also been meaning to point out that Darcy did a really good job at soldering the original RGB mod. Whatever caused the mod to fail, it wasn't that.
  2. Nope. The PVM is actually one I'm borrowing from my office at work. Once things resume more normally there it'll go back (it's still in use as a production monitor, from time-to-time). I wouldn't mind having one here permanently, because the picture on it is excellent. But it's hard to justify the space it takes up. Plus, you have to be pretty close to it to see anything, so I can't kick back on the couch to play games on it. I play most of the time on a 46" Sony Bravia LCD HDTV.
  3. THE END!! Did it work? Did it blow up? Did I fake its death and keep it for myself? Well, why not click the thing below and go read it or whatever.
  4. Let's do this! Chapter 14: THE END! (Except for boxing it up and shipping it back to Canada. And James hooking it up and using it. But otherwise, it's The End!) We left off with Molex connectors, and so we pick back up with... Molex connectors! This time, the ones that get connected to the 2600's guts. Same process, except now we're adding the other side of the connectors. I'm not going to get into the whole male/female naming convention of connectors because it's just... weird. Who came up with that idea, anyway? Must've been some really lonely engineer. Anyway... I started with the component video and audio connector, just because there are fewer wires. Here they are, all terminated and ready to be... um... inserted. And the completed connector, next to its... uh... mate. You'll note the one red wire is a little short. I had to re-do that terminator, so I lost a little wire in the process. I added some more heat shrink tubing to the wire bundles before installing the connectors, but didn't shrink it in place. I just wanted it there as a way of keeping the cables together, but with enough flexibility to move things around. (Handy tip #27. But who's counting? I'm not. 27 is a guess.) Next up, the 8-pin Framemeister and "Extra" Palette button wires. You'll note there are only seven wires for the Framemeister though. I never hooked up the +5v output from the mod, since it isn't used by the Framemeister. I'd occasionally hold the two connectors together as I was working, so I could double-check that the wire colors matched. I didn't snap them together at this point though. The less wear and tear, the better. And done! This finally completes all of the 2600's wiring! I'm going to have a glass of milk and some Junior Mints to celebrate. Be back in a minute... Ah... that's better. So, let's wrap this up! Assembling this should be a breeze now! First, I installed the main motherboard section of the 2600. Then I connected the Molex connectors. The component + audio... ...and the Framemeister + palette button. See? There is a method to the madness. This will make future disassembly dead-simple. The Molex connectors snap together. It's a pretty tight fit, which is the whole point - it's a solid electrical connection ("It isn't just for computer power anymore"). To get them apart, you press the release lever on the top, and (with some effort) can pull them back apart (pulling on the housings only - never the wires!). I wouldn't recommend doing this a lot though, because these aren't rated for a lot of plugging/unplugging. I then attached the switch circuit board. Since this board actually sits flush on the bottom of the 2600, I couldn't run the wires underneath it - they'd get pinched. I thought about running them along the sides, but found I didn't need to. They're behind it. I had to allow clearance for the wires under the main circuit board (see Chapter 12). This turned out to be a little tricky, because I had to install the black cardboard backer around the joystick and power ports, slide it under the circuit board, and over the wires. This picture doesn't show that, because it was precisely after I took this picture that I realized that I'd forgotten to do that. So I had to take this back out and do it over. There was plenty of room beneath the switches for the wires. This kept them out of the way, and also meant they wouldn't be rattling around in the 2600 case during shipping. Bonus! Same thing on the other side. I just had to make sure they didn't get pinched between the plastic standoffs (that the case screws go through) and the switch board. Okay - before the final button-up, one last chance to test! I mentioned in the previous chapter that I wouldn't be able to test continuity for the main motherboard's Molex connectors. The reason is that with the RF shield in place, I can't get to the other end of the wires anymore. So if this didn't work, I'd have a fair amount of backtracking to do. But since the case's connectors all tested out fine, I felt pretty confident that the ones coming from the motherboard were good to go. So, were they good? Or was this all for naught?? If it worked, should I just lie to James and tell him it blew up, and keep his 2600 for myself?? Yes, no and nah. In that order. Pretty sure I couldn't get away with that. I took these pics right after power up, so you can see the monitor displaying the input source. I'm nerdy like that. These only caught every other scanline (I didn't use Cortex Camera), but in the real world they all look perfectly fine. And yes, there's audio, too. First, RGB. Pac-Man: Harmony Cart: Harmony Encore: Uno Cart: And now, component. Pac-Man: Harmony Cart: Harmony Encore: Uno Cart: Everything worked! Although it could all just be Photoshopped. Just one final thing to fix. The adhesive on the foil static shielding (page 3-5, Atari 2600 Field Service Manual), was shot. It just wouldn't stick to anything, and the foil had also been torn. Nothing a little double-stick tape couldn't fix. Now, I don't know how important this actually is, but Atari says it should be there, so back it went. Then, I capped 'em off with the felt discs. It's the details that matter. So with that, it was time to put the lid back on (and I only lost one screw!). Here's the beauty shot: From the back: As an aside, the reason I labeled the 8-pin port "Framemeister" and not RGB, is because it's no longer carrying only RGB. It's now also carrying audio, using the Framemeister pinout. Here's a look at the Framemeister cable plugged in. Nice and neat. And component + audio. And yes - the Palette button works. Funny story... when I was first testing component video earlier in this chapter, the picture was way, way too bright. I couldn't figure out why, because in all previous tests it was fine. I thought maybe I'd bumped the Palette button while unplugging the Framemeister cable. So I pressed it a couple of times to change the palette (which it did). But that didn't fix the problem. The picture looked familiar though... like unterminated video (from back in my old analog video days). A quick check of the back of the monitor, and sure enough, I'd plugged a couple of the component cables into the output connectors by accident (to be fair - the monitor is right up against a wall). A quick replugging later, and all was well. Anyway, with that, James' 2600 is hereby fixed! And re-modded. And even a little upgraded. Just one little addendum - James mentioned that at one point he'd done this mod to his 2600 as well. But that wasn't present on the 2600 when I got it, so it's possible he removed it during earlier troubleshooting. We decided not to reinstall it, since when I tested my copy of Stay Frosty 2 on his 2600, it worked just fine. Besides, it's an easy-enough thing to add if he needs to do so later. Hopefully though, this will just keep working for many more episodes of ZeroPage Homebrew to come! Now... I guess I should find a box or something to mail this in. But in the meantime, there's no reason I can't put it to some good use.
  5. It's not the final chapter... but it's almost the final chapter! The final chapter will be posted later tonight!! Can you stand the suspense?? I can. I know how it ends. But I can experience it vicariously through others, I suppose.
  6. We're in the home stretch now! I actually did most of this part last night, but didn't have time to write it up until now. Chapter 13: The Penultimate Chapter!* When we last left the ZPH 2600, I had just globbed a whole bunch of epoxy into it, to try and patch up a hole left from the previous RGB mod installation. It actually turned out pretty well. This is just as it looked after peeling the tape away. I'm not going to do anything else to it cosmetically. The epoxy is a nice dark gray, and anything I did to it (like paint) would just look like an attempt to hide a bad repair. This way, it's obviously a patch. It is what it is. That said, I needed to do some work to the hole, since I intentionally made it smaller than I needed. This way I could fit it to the 8-pin jack precisely. So... more tools! And after a little careful work, I have a perfect fit. Including one flat side on the hole, so the jack won't spin. Incidentally, the line running horizontally across the bottom of the hole isn't a crack. It's a line from where the pieces of tape overlapped. The inside... not so pretty. But perfectly functional. And with the jack and "Extra" button installed. From the back, the patch is hardly noticeable. And underneath. Right - so with that done, time to wire this puppy up. My plan is to use Molex connectors so that the 2600 can be completely taken apart without having to remove any jacks or wiring. This turned out to be the most difficult part of the entire project, because the connectors I'm using are really tiny and hard to work with (and I refuse to buy a $400 crimp tool). The preinstalled wires coming from the 8-pin connector are so thin, I had to double them over to be able to crimp the terminators onto them. There's no scale there... I suppose I should've put something in the photo next to it. But if you know your wire gauges, that's a 26 gauge wire, with the stripped end doubled back on itself. The rest of the wire that I used worked fine as-is (22 gauge), although I still had to use the smallest die on my not-$400 crimp tool. After awhile though, I got the hang of it, and got the first Molex connector installed. This one carries all of the 8-pin signals, plus the wiring for the "Extra" button. The little silver dots on there are just reference makers I put on, so that I knew where I was putting wires as I was hooking things up. Up next, it was time to do the component and audio jacks. And of course, this meant drilling! Here are the holes laid out, along with the parts for the Molex connectors. And now... DRILLING!! And then it was over. It was only two holes y'know. And despite the ridiculously huge drill bit, I drilled very slowly and carefully. More carving than drilling. I was pretty fussy about positioning, too. I made sure that the distance to the top of the case was as close as possible for both holes. I was within 1/64". Not too shabby. Sorry James... almost forgot. Here's metric. Here they are from the outside. Nice, clean look. And inside. Since both jacks look identical from the outside, I guess James will just have to refer back to the pictures above when plugging stuff in. The component jack is on the right from the inside. From the outside, it's on the left. But that's only if you're looking at it from the back. If you're looking at it from the front of the console, it'll be on the right from the outside. Look... I'll just label it, okay? And just in case he needs reminding... "Extra" doesn't make as much sense as "Palette/Pause", since that's the button's actual function. So I had to add a Molex connector to the component and audio jacks next. So here are the wires with all of the terminators installed. Then they just press-fit into the plastic connector. And it's a one-way deal, too. Removing them trashes the connector, so at that point you just cut the wires and install a new connector. To test everything, I had to attach a tiny wire to my multimeter to fit into the connector. Then I'd plug in the appropriate cable (or connector) on the other end and check continuity. I've done this throughout the whole installation. But I wouldn't be able to test after this. That will have to wait for the next chapter though. But at this point, the wiring in the bottom half of the case was done! The jacks were installed and Molex connectors attached and tested. I'd also like to point out how clean the inside of the case is now. This would be my last chance to get rid of all of the dust, dirt, grime and revolting filth that had built up over the decades. Okay... it was actually just a little dust. So I used a soft artist's paint brush to clean it out. Gotta use 'em for something since I went digital years ago. Up next: The Final Chapter!* *Unless there are more later.
  7. Well if I told you now, it wouldn't be a teaser, would it?
  8. Another teaser... this time with twice as much teasing!
  9. Not enough time to put together an entire chapter before the next show starts tonight... but there's always time for a teaser! Why not... let's make it a two-for-one!
  10. Another console repair update! Is it done? Is this the final chapter?! Have you never heard of "click bait"?
  11. What number are we up to now? Oh, right: Chapter 12: Figuring out where stuff goes Well, time to put things together! One tricky part of installing mods, is figuring out where to run the wires. More to the point - how to get them out of the shielding that surrounds the main circuit board. For my own mod, I ran wires out through one of the holes in the top. But this makes disassembling it a pain. Plus there are a lot more wires in the RBG/component mod, and they're thicker, too. So I decided to run the wires over the front of the board and underneath it - which is how James' mod had been installed originally. First, I had to tape the wires flat, into groups, so I could snake them through the narrow gap between the board and the RF shield. Then I could carefully run them past the mod, around the edge and under the board. And no - there was no way I could take a picture of this in-progress. Not enough hands. But here's the end result. The heat-shrink tubing is there to keep everything separated, so I don't mix up the wires. Next, after some test fitting of the bottom shield, I flat-taped the wires again, and placed them where the gaps are that I wanted them to run through. And here it is with the lower half of the shield in place. I don't quite know why Atari put those gaps there (probably to prevent shorting), but they're sure handy. Thicker wire wouldn't have made it through. You'll notice that the wires are angled pretty steeply to the sides. This is because as I was progressing through the installation, test fitting things as I went, I discovered that there's a shelf on the back of the 2600 case that part of the circuit board sits on. This means the wires would be pinched between the board and the shelf, if they ran straight out. So to avoid that, they had to bend rather sharply. It's a really tight fit. All of the audio and video wires are stuffed through on one side, and the "Extra" button is the only thing on the left. The only reason I'd planned to do this, was because that's where things were in James' original installation. There was a problem with this though - the original RF passthrough hole was still there, and just about where I wanted to drill the hole to add the component video jack. Plus, the existing hole for the audio jack would need to be enlarged. So I was concerned that I'd be turning the right side of the 2600 into Swiss cheese. Besides, there's already that giant, honkin' hole that was cut out for the original 8-pin jack. More on that shortly. At this point, I decided to change plans. I'd put the component and audio jacks on the left (enlarging the old switch hole), and move the "Extra" button to the old audio jack location, next to the 8-pin jack. This meant re-running the wires under the shield. But that was okay, because I had another reason for taking the shield off again. There was some metal flashing sticking out on the inside of the top of the shield, and I wanted to file it down. It was around that disc next to the hole near the middle of the photo below. It had at least a good 1/16" of jagged aluminum sticking up around the edge of it. This is "after". Sorry, I didn't take a "before" pic. So, why bother? Well, when I had it together the first time, I noticed there was effectively zero clearance between the shield and the top of the relocated TIA. If you look in the nearest hole in the photo below - that's the top TIA. Right up against the shield. So that's why I wanted to file that metal down - to keep it from gouging up the chip. (I don't know if the mod designer planned it to be that close, or ended up just being lucky. But that clearance is ridiculous.) Right. So with that done, time to put it back together again, and run the wires in different directions. This will address a few things. First, it makes the wires less bunched up. It also gives me plenty of space on the left side to install the new component and audio jacks. And it will make adding the Molex connectors easier, too. I plan to use two connectors: an 8-pin and a 10-pin. I went with two to simplify things, and made them different sizes so they can't be mismatched. So the 8-pin will have the component video and audio, and the 10-pin will have the 8-pin Framemeister connector and "Extra" button. I added some more heat-shrink tubing to keep everything organized. Neat and Tidy™. Now to fit the "Extra" button into the old audio jack hole. The hole was actually larger than needed, but it worked to my advantage. In the previous installation, the threads were only deep enough to barely catch. But the new hole is big enough so that the shoulder at the base of the switch actually fits inside the hole. So now, there's plenty of thread protruding to securely mount the switch. With a lock washer. I didn't have to do anything to the hole for the 8-pin, because that already fit. Mostly. The problem was, there was no space on the left to add the washer and nut. It was drilled right next to the plastic standoff that supports the top of the 2600. So... time to get out the hammer!! No wait, not the hammer. What's the other thing? Right. The saw!! This is an X-acto Razor Saw. If you do any hobby work with plastic, you need one. Anyway, on with the surgery! A little careful cutting and filing later, and I now have the clearance I need. There's enough left of the standoff to support the 2600's top. As long as, you know, nobody repeatedly slams the Reset switch or something. BTW - I'm going to guess that the reason the original hole for the old 8-pin jack wraps over the corner like that, is that originally they wanted to install it on the underneath of the console. Then they realized they couldn't plug a cable into it and had to install it on the back. But that's just a guess. But even after fitting the jack, there was a problem. So much plastic had been cut away for the old jack, there was almost no support underneath. Now, I could just leave it. It'd probably hold up fine. But if you've been reading this whole thing, you'd know by now I don't roll that way. So, first, a little bit of tape... Then, a little more tape. And from the inside... We now have a mold! For this stuff: I'm going to replace the lost plastic with epoxy. How good is this stuff? Well, check out one of my favorite YouTube channels. It may not be pretty from the inside, but with a little filing I should have decent support for the jack. But I've got about six hours before it cures, so I guess I'll go order a pizza, and we'll continue this in the next chapter. Up next: Finally we get to drill holes in stuff!
  12. He probably offered Fred some money. Atari likes it when people offer them money. I'd bet that almost anyone could "exclusively license" games from Atari for a rival, speculative console for a few bucks. Let's bring back the RetroVGS!! Who's with me? (Mike Kennedy) "I've got a Jaguar shell!" (John Carlsen) "I've got some electrical tape!" (Steve Woita) "I've got an old Super NES!" (Chris Cardillo) "I've got a brand!" C'mon gang - let's put on a console!! And every single one of them have created more games than "Atari" itself has.
    1. McCallister


      Are you confirming Jason Momoa for SF3?  

    2. Nathan Strum

      Nathan Strum

      If Jason Momoa can't inspire an idea for SF3, then who can?

  13. In a tragic COVID-19-related turn of events, my barber of 15 years... moved to Utah.

    Okay... it's not all that tragic, relatively speaking. Besides, he's been planning it for years. But now I have to get a new barber.

    Although my hair looks so bad right now, I could have the neighbor kid cut it with a weed-whacker and it would only improve it.

    1. Show previous comments  2 more
    2. Nathan Strum

      Nathan Strum

      I don't have the 'stache to be rockin' the Flowbee like that.

    3. KaeruYojimbo
    4. GoldLeader
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