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disjaukifa

A Brand New Atari 2600 Clone Project

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Hey,

 

I posted this question in another thread that got off topic and Al said I should start a new thread for it so I am ;).

 

How difficult would it to be just design and build an Atari 2600 clone. I mean we have the members here who designed the Harmony, which in my mind is WAY more complicated than the 2600 . . . but I might be wrong about that. I just wonder if its possible to be a new Atari 2600 and go ahead an incorporate the better sound and better video. I think most of the parts would be cheap and easy to get and the board is not all that complicated . . . I don't think.

 

Just wondering what ya'll thought?

 

-Disjaukifa

 

*EDIT* I just realized how misleading my title is. If a mod or someone could change it to "Would a New Atari 2600 Clone Project be possible?" or something like that, it would be great! *EDIT*

Edited by disjaukifa

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It's already been done - it's called a Flashback 2.

 

No no no no . . . I mean a 100% working clone of the 2600, meaning it accepts Cartridges and everything. The Flashback 2 does not have a cartridge port unless you modify it and its not a 100% compatible with all games that came out for the 2600.

 

-Disjaukifa

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A few years back, there were several "Atari on a chip" projects to implement an Atari 2600 on an FPGA. I don't know if any of them were completed, as nothing has been posted about them for a long time. An alternative would be just to run an Atari 2600 emulator in software on a fast ARM processor, but this would feel a bit like cheating.

 

Chris

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I hope somebody around here with skills will create an Atari 2600 clone with all new parts that takes cartridges and has modern hookups. No emulation, no Flashback 2 hacks, this would be a new Atari 2600 clone that works exactly like a real Atari 2600. If a cartridge works with an old Atari 2600, it will work with this Atari 2600 clone too (no exceptions).

 

I'd love this new Atari 2600 clone to have more controller jacks (at least 4). You could have two joysticks and two sets of paddles plugged in at the same time. It would probably have some kind of switch that users would flip to tell the Atari 2600 clone which jacks to use. No more plugging and unplugging controller cables! Just pop in a game, flip the controller switch to the correct setting, turn on the Atari 2600 clone and start playing.

 

I'd also like to have a portable Atari 2600 clone with an extra-large screen.

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Wow, this thread died pretty fast. People may not be interested in this right now, but if I would win 10 million dollars and could pay a team to create and produce a new Atari 2600 clone (a home version and a portable version), I bet a lot of people would be tripping over themselves to buy one.

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Wow, this thread died pretty fast. People may not be interested in this right now, but if I would win 10 million dollars and could pay a team to create and produce a new Atari 2600 clone (a home version and a portable version), I bet a lot of people would be tripping over themselves to buy one.

 

Start buying lottery tickets, and put me on the list of beta testers. While you are at it, make it a 7800 clone, so we can add a the 7800 library to the list of compatible carts.

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Heck yeah, I'd be interested in a new console fully compatible. Looks like the clone makers are uninterested in making them though :( As for your Idea of two sets of controller ports to plug in two controller types at once, well, the 2600 doesn't "detect" what is hooked up to it, so you could just have two parallel ports for each controller, and you'd just use whichever controller the game calls for. Shouldn't be a problem....unless a game detecting a paddle interferes with the joystick working or some such (could I suppose) But that sounds like extra unneccessairy parts to me.

 

Still, if I could buy a new 2600 (or like the poster above said, a 7800, which if fully compatible would work with about 99% of the 2600 library anyways) I'd be all over that, at least, up to about $100 (though if a clone maker made one, it'd probably cost closer to $50

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if you make a remake NES, then why not an Atari 2600?

 

that would be the first question i would ask them.

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if you make a remake NES, then why not an Atari 2600?

 

that would be the first question i would ask them.

Makes me wonder if the 7800 can be developed just a bit further-- double the ram of a 7800, slightly faster (I mean very slightly, like .05Mhz faster) processor or whatever is available, and Euro styled control pads. There was another thread kinda related to this.

 

But I'd be all over a $100 system with controllers in it. The one thing I would request of any manufacturer is that it has cables that plug in and no cables that hang off the system. Like the 2600Jr and 7800-- never did like that cable coming from my 2600, I'd much rather have it seperate.

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The one thing I would request of any manufacturer is that it has cables that plug in and no cables that hang off the system. Like the 2600Jr and 7800-- never did like that cable coming from my 2600, I'd much rather have it separate.

Since it would have modern hookups instead of the old interference fuzzy vision, you could bet money that the cables wouldn't be permanently attached. And you never know when some pet might bite through it, so being able to easily replace a cable is a necessity.

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The one thing I would request of any manufacturer is that it has cables that plug in and no cables that hang off the system. Like the 2600Jr and 7800-- never did like that cable coming from my 2600, I'd much rather have it separate.

Since it would have modern hookups instead of the old interference fuzzy vision, you could bet money that the cables wouldn't be permanently attached. And you never know when some pet might bite through it, so being able to easily replace a cable is a necessity.

 

Random . . . the Atari 2600 wasn't permanently attached . . . you could take apart the system to replace them :P

 

-Disjaukifa

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Random . . . the Atari 2600 wasn't permanently attached . . . you could take apart the system to replace them :P

The average person doesn't have the time or desire to do that. Plug and play is the way and makes the gray skies go away.

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Random . . . the Atari 2600 wasn't permanently attached . . . you could take apart the system to replace them :P

The average person doesn't have the time or desire to do that. Plug and play is the way and makes the gray skies go away.

 

ehhh you have a point . . . it would be nice to have a brand new 2600 clone that was done right. I know alot of people like the Flashback 2 . . . but I just don't consider it an Atari . . . it doesn't have a game slot.

 

-Disjaukifa

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I would like to see it happen but I don't know if it ever will due to the fact that over 30 million 2600 consoles were sold and most of them that survived this long without being relegated to the trash pile are still working. If it does happen it will be because some hardware guru has the money, time, and desire to see it through.

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I would like to see it happen but I don't know if it ever will due to the fact that over 30 million 2600 consoles were sold and most of them that survived this long without being relegated to the trash pile are still working. If it does happen it will be because some hardware guru has the money, time, and desire to see it through.

 

Yeah I totally agree with that, I'm wanting to learn more about hardware, its something I never got into but now I wish I had. Thinking about going back and taking some classes on it at the local Community College, its fascinating stuff!!!

 

-Disjaukifa

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I would like to see it happen but I don't know if it ever will due to the fact that over 30 million 2600 consoles were sold and most of them that survived this long without being relegated to the trash pile are still working. If it does happen it will be because some hardware guru has the money, time, and desire to see it through.

 

Yeah I totally agree with that, I'm wanting to learn more about hardware, its something I never got into but now I wish I had. Thinking about going back and taking some classes on it at the local Community College, its fascinating stuff!!!

 

-Disjaukifa

That would be the best thing for you to do imho, you get a really deep understanding of how the hardware does what it does and how much it is capable of. Very fascinating! Since you're already a student at Ataiage U you'll be able to wow them with how a paddle works :thumbsup:

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I suspect that, between the Flashback 2 and those 2600 consoles produced by Atari which are still in existence, there is enough hardware out there already for the minority of people who play 2600 games and aren't satisfied with emulation. In my opinion, in order to be really interesting, a new clone would have to offer more than merely a recreation of the original 2600 chipset. At minimum, it would have to solve one of the biggest problems related to gaming on classic consoles: the rapidly widening gulf between the relatively primitive audio/video technology of 1977, for which the 2600 was designed, and the technology commonly found in modern home entertainment centers.

 

In my (admittedly limited) experience, classic consoles just don't look as good as they should on new televisions. At the resolutions offered by modern digital displays, the pixels generated by the 2600 should look like the perfect rectangles one would see inside an emulator running on a PC. Instead, the effect produced by the analog-to-digital conversion seems to leave them looking almost "melted" together, and the difference in the aspect ratio on widescreen displays distorts the image even further. Video mod kits have done a lot to bring the 2600 up to modern analog standards, but a clone should take it a step further and produce a native digital signal for both audio and video. It should also include a "16:9 / 4:3" switch--similar in function to the black-and-white switch on the original 2600--which would shrink the pixels horizontally in 16:9 mode to produce a letterboxed image, preserving the original aspect ratio on widescreen televisions.

 

Unfortunately, if I understand the 2600 correctly, this would probably require a completely redesigned TIA circuit, which can output a digital signal while retaining complete backward compatibility with the original analog TIA. Given the extent to which 2600 programmers exploited every idiosyncracity of the TIA, designing such a circuit would be nontrivial, to put it mildly. If I recall, the Flashback 2 engineers had a hard enough time using modern fabrication technologies to simply recreate the original TIA design, and they only had to make it compatible enough to play the games they planned to bundle with the Flashback 2.

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And for goodness sake give us 40 bits for the playfield instead of 20!

Great idea!

 

But that brings up another complication with designing a new 2600 clone: do you recreate the limitations of the original hardware, or do you go to the trouble of adding new features (more playfield, more sprites, more sound channels, more RAM, etc)? The problem with the latter is that no 2600 games could use the new features unless they were designed specifically for the new clone, and in that case, they're really not "2600 games" anymore. Why would anyone bother with the new features if the market for games that could use them is so limited?

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Given the massive amount of working hardware, I would think adding a few things would make sense.

 

On my list would be:

 

Double speed CPU, R/W line on cart port, component video output. Those things would make a significant impact. There would have to be a CPU switch, obviously. The R/W line would permit some nice hardware in the carts, and lots could be done with that. Maybe include a video / audio line in to sync up and overlay the TIA. Perhaps that's the way to add features and leave TIA alone, with nothing but easier RAM and a bit faster CPU access to it.

 

The whole point of the thing is the special feel the games have. Those came from the design of it. Adding to that, in the spirit of the original design, isn't an easy task!

 

IMHO, something like that would not dilute the market for existing hardware, while letting some people do new things.

 

Still, I can see not giving a rip about stuff crammed into the cart slot that makes things too easy, or that do not have the VCS feel. Lots of systems to game on, all of which do those kinds of things. Then there is the issue of carts not fitting older units.

 

So then, just a nice component video out. That would work with a whole lot of new displays.

 

Edit: Yep, I would add a nice video out and call it good. If people want to game in new ways, there is a ton to choose from. For me, part of the buzz surrounding the VCS, is plugging a cart into the old machine and being surprised.

 

Nix the features. Do nice video. So then, just figure out how to quickly do nice video for the machines we have... sigh.

Edited by potatohead

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Great idea!

 

But that brings up another complication with designing a new 2600 clone: do you recreate the limitations of the original hardware, or do you go to the trouble of adding new features (more playfield, more sprites, more sound channels, more RAM, etc)? The problem with the latter is that no 2600 games could use the new features unless they were designed specifically for the new clone, and in that case, they're really not "2600 games" anymore. Why would anyone bother with the new features if the market for games that could use them is so limited?

I look at it this way: Atari should have given it 40 bytes for the playfield in the first place.

Edited by accousticguitar

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Instead of getting off into all kinds of crazy stuff that might scare away anyone with the skills to make a clone, I'd be happy with an updated console that has modern hookups, more controller jacks, and hopefully a pause button. The ability to save would be nice, but it's not that big of a deal.

 

And I'm not talking about some kind of worldwide production that needs to attract the average mouth breathers on the street. More like a few hundred or a maybe a few thousand instead of close to a million. Sure, make more if the demand increases, but I doubt the need would rise above 3,000 units. Even if most Atari 2600 lovers wanted to buy more than one (along with Harmony Carts) for friends and relatives, would the number get any higher than the low thousands?

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I look at it this way: Atari should have given it 40 bytes for the playfield in the first place.

 

It'd be nice if Atari had done any number of things but it is very easy to lose sight of just how expensive all of this stuff was back in 1977. They were trying to hit a price point of less than $200 in 1978 dollars. Remember how expensive the XBox360 was at launch? This is what Atari and everybody else getting into this market was contending with. Every feature in the machine had a tangible cost that would impact the bottom line. It wasn't like today where the equivalent of $10 1978 dollars will buy you a well featured single board computer.

 

Contrast the 2600 feature set with the A8's feature set. That was designed a year later and was originally intended for a follow on console before being re-imagined as a Home Computer. Even a 400 cost something just shy of $500. And we're talking about something that corrects all the 2600 deficiencies as Atari saw them.

 

Considerable cleverness went to producing even what the 2600 could do and still be affordable enough to stick under a Christmas tree.

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...cartridge-based, backward compatible (hardware and software) with 7800, 2600, Supercharger, AtariVox et al...built for arcade perfect ports and fresh new audio/graphic rich titles...built FOR developers and therefore built for gamers...

 

It needs a name - I propose The Cheetah

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