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Dastari Creel

2600 Questions

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Some of you may remember me jumping on the boards about a year ago and hanging out for a few months making comments and asking questions. Since then I've been reading video game histories such as From Pong to Pokemon: The Complete History of Video Games and Phoenix: The Fall and Rise of Video Games. I've also been procuring various books of game reviews, Ben Heck's Guide, Racing the Beam. My intention as before is to enjoy the 2600 as I did in the old days but also to gain a greater appreciation for it from both a hardware and software perspective. Ultimately I'd like to learn how to enhance its capabilities and utility and release at least one new game for it (I already have the nugget of an idea for something that I think is possible for the 2600's capabilities but I do not believe has ever been done on it). However, I do have some questions, each related to some of the projects that I have in mind or just to enhancing my enjoyment of the system overall:

 

1.) I actually had no idea that there were different kinds of 2600's. When I was a kid before the NES came out I never even heard of the systems that I've since read about (Colecovision, Intellivision, Bally Arcade). At least everyone that I knew only had the 2600 although I at least knew of the existance of the 5200 even though I'd never actually seen one. But it seems to me that everyone I knew had the six-switch version. Now its possible that some people had the 2600A and I just never noticed that it had less switches, all the ones I ever saw were definitely the kind with the wood finish and none of the other models that I've seen on the Atariage website. All that being said, I want to recapture my original experience of owning the system so I definitely want to get the six-switch version. I have no clue if my parents got the original version from Sunnyvale (this is entirely possibly as our family lived in California from 77-80) or the later version but I at least want a six-switcher even if I don't end up getting the one that I had as a child. Just to make sure that I'm clear on this when I hunt for a system, the "heavy sixer" is the original Sunnyvale version and the "light sixer" is the one that was made overseas. Is that correct?

 

2.) I am interested in the various modifications that I've learned about for the Atari. I know that a pause kit is sold from the Atariage store. I have also heard of a modification that gives you component output. However, the instructions that I found said that they were specifically for the 2600 Jr. Has anyone made the mod for a six-switcher and if so, does anyone know where I can find these instructions?

 

3.) Aside from the pause kit and component output mods, are there any other well-known mods for the 2600? I'm going to exclude the Ben Heck portable method although I realize this exists as well and I am interested in it and Longhorn engineer's project to create a 2600 board for "do it yourselfers". I just want to know if anything else has been done with the machine and has been reported on.

 

4.) I've read that the XE light gun can be used with 2 games for the 2600. One was released and the other is a prototype. Are either of these games worth playing?

 

5.) I've looked at the list of Atari accessories on this page. I've also gone to a lot of other Atari pages on the web and looked at the Atari accessories and there are a lot of omissions from what I read about in Phoenix: The Fall and Rise of Video Games. That book lists a Super Charger that allowed the Atari to play games loaded from cassette tapes. Did this really exist? There was also the PGP-1 which was like a Game Genie but for the 2600 and allowed you to hack games while you were playing them. Did this really exist? The final one is the CVC Gameline which was a modem that allowed you to download and play games over a modem. Did this exist? If they did, is the reason they are not listed on any Atari websites because these products were not made by Atari?

 

6.) If the devices mentioned above exist, are there any other non-Atari made products that aren't just new versions of things Atari made (like I know other companies made compatible joysticks) that gave enhanced capability to the 2600? I am interested in anything like that.

 

7.) Has anyone ever reproduced the functionality of the Supercharger, PGP-1, or Gameline with modern components?

 

8.) I am very interested in the Atari VOX. I note that it is out of production currently but a new one is being worked on. Are any details known of the new version such as when it will come out or what enhancements it will bring? Would it be possible to create something like the VOX that plugs into the cartridge port instead of the 2nd player port so that 2-player games and/or keypad games could be designed with enhanced sound?

 

9.) Are the physical dimensions of the Atari 2600 cartridges (not 3rd party) both inside and out available somewhere? I know we have some official schematic drawings of the 2600 on the website and it would be nice if Atari's official cartridge drawings were available as well.

 

10.) If I were to demonstrate the capability to create a new Atari product does anyone know of anywhere either on Atariage or another Atari related website where they could help me do a feasibility study/market analysis to see if the cost of production would be worth how much people would be willing to pay for it?

 

11.) I followed the thread about the number of original 2600 games. I know that the number was something like 418 original NTSC games, even though even that number is in dispute, but I could at least use it as a starting point for a collection. Does anyone have a list of PAL games that were never ported to NTSC? I would like to get to those eventually as well. Also is there a list anywhere that tries to be comprehensive and lists as many 2600 games as possible and preferably has notes if a game is really just a rebranding or slightly modified version of another game and such? Any information on such a list would be appreciated.

 

12.) I know this website tries to track hacks and that information is appreciated. However, has anyone tried to track 2600 homebrews and is there a list for these games? I realize that someone could create a homebrew that no one ever knew about but one presumes that if someone went through the trouble to create a homebrew, they would try to get word out. The Atariage store has a lot of them but I've also found other websites that have a few more and I presume that must be others that were never released on cartridge at all. Any information would be appreciated.

 

13.) Are there any 2600 games from post 1985 that someone would recommend as a "must play" game?

 

14.) I've heard that Warlords was fairly unique for its 4-player capability. What other Atari games allowed more than 2 players to play at once?

 

Any answers would be greatly appreciated.

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What a bewildering array of questions. I am less prepared to answer them than many on here, but I'll give it a go just to see how far off I am...

 

1. I don't believe that all h6'ers are necessarily Sunnyvale. Some were made outside of the country, I think.

2. Composite out from the 2600 should be doable; I think I've seen a few on ebay.

3. There are a few sound mods including "stereo" sound, but your source is mono, so that's not much of a big deal.

4. Sentinel and.. I forget the other one. Short answer, no. There may be a gun-enabled hack of 2600 crossbow worth playing, though.

5. The supercharger is real and not that hard to find. The Starpath and Arcadia models are identical in function (company name change). You can load off of the original Cassettes and any tape player, or off of a CD player with the "stella gets a new brain" cd, which includes I believe all of the Starpath games. They're pretty good, overall, with improved graphics and sound. The PGP-1 exists, not sure if it was released commercially or not. Wasn't popular.

6. The game brain, sort of - basically just a set of cartridge ports with switch so you can keep your games plugged in and just switch between them. Other things that added functionality were typically in-cart chips, game-specific.

7. There are plenty of superchargers around. The PGP, don't know. The gameline wouldn't be able to connect to anything right now. So not really.

8. Again I'd say yes in the sense that some games (notably pitfall 2) have enhanced attributes because they have specialized chips in them. Generally though you can't get more out of less, so if a system was designed that "upgraded" the 2600; it would only work with games designed or at least hacked to work with it.

9. how should I know? what's with all the questions! JEEZ!

10. This is a very small market and you basically just need to feel out the potential by talking to folks on here. How many Krok, Cuttle and Harmony carts have been sold? find that out, and you'll know the amount of people willing to shell out 100+ for a cool new atari accessory. Hint: not a ton.

11. ROM hunter can probably help you. Honestly, I believe our archive here is the best and most complete list of 2600 games. The wiki is good too. If you are talking multicarts, pirates, hacks and the like, especially in south america, then you're in the wild and woolies, and there's no good information.

12. If you find a game not listed here, submit it here!

13. Absolutely! California games, summer games, winter games, ghostbusters, river raid 2, kung fu master, rampage.. basically all activision titles are worth your time. Skip the Froggo's and you're fine.

14. Uh.. medieval mayhem? Heh. It would have to be a paddle game, of course. Party mix may have been intended to 'hand around'. Generally, no.

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11. You should find the infos you need on http://www.atarimania.com/ . And download Rom Hunter's rom collection here, it's the most complete collection of commercially released games you can find. Try the games in emulation before you buy them, there are a lot of rare turds out there.

 

12. I don't know of a list of homebrews but download the hacks and homebrews collection here. It's by far not complete but at least it's a good starting point to see what has already been done. For post 2009 homebrews check the homebrews section here on AA.

 

14. Casino and Blackjack are the only ones i can think of ATM but there might be more...

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Now let's see how I do looking things up instead of just doing it off the top of my head..

 

1. I guess I was wrong and you are correct? there are a lot of anomalies out there, though, people showing up on the boards with 2600's that might be frankensteins or manufactured during transitionary phases in stock that have serials that don't seem to match what we know about which types were produced where and when. Sunnyvale h6'ers are actually fairly hard to come by.

2. I guess it's just EASIER with the Jr. or better-understood.

3. http://www.cheeptech.com/2600mods/2600mods.shtml#themods has non Jr. video mods tested and collected by Nate strum

4. Sentinel yes and the unreleased one is atari shooting gallery. Actually, I bet it would be pretty hard to hack crossbow into a lightgun game; but if it could be done, then TONS of games could be hacked into lightgun games. missile command would be the next obvious one.

5.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starpath_Supercharger the wiki for the SC shows the model I own. As you may have figured out, it's possible to load ANY program via wave sound through this thing, which is sort of a modem in a way. You could convert all of your ROM's into WAVs, put them on a cd or maybe 78 RPM record, and load up the ol' 2600 with just a crank of your victrola. There's a little program called bin2wav or something to do this.

6. Wikigaming lists the kid vid voice add-on and the gamebrain as well as the foot craz and the MB "add-ons" which were really just glorified joysticks. There IS the good ol' booster grip, not listed there, which adds a second button! Even humble me has one of those.

7. http://www.digitpress.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1382 This old thread on DP seems to indicate that their were 12 PGP-1's made? And that they were sold only through the mail? It was made by answer, who did gauntlet and malagai, pretty hard to find themselves. Sounds like there are more than 12 to me, if there are two different models. Your best bet would be to try and track down someone who used to work for answer, if their list of employees is available, and see if they would enjoy the attention or not.

8. Not much of a hardware guy but I'd still say no after looking around for a while.

9. 97mm x 81mm x 20mm , someone posts somewhere. Internally, well, get out your calipers and your combat cart.

10. I just asked in the harmony forum how many have been sold. Keep in mind that the harmony cart is a Great product and very popular; a hardware add-on is not likely to be anywhere as popular, especially if it has limited game support or is expensive. Sales for the atarivox might be a better indicator, now that I think about it. Basically anything you do has to be a labor of love; you'll be very lucky if you make minimum wage on any project after all the time you put into it, then the cost of manufacturing a small amount of complicated electronics product for a niche market.

11. Wikipedia does; so do we. It lists "rebranding" at least, the zellers games

12. Hm. we have some, wiki has some... we don't really even have a standard for what constitutes an official homebrew release. does it have to be on cart? Do hacks count if they change a lot?

13. A LOT of good ones.

 

jr pac man - good

solaris - great

california games - great

kungfu master - good

midnight magic - good

river raid 2 - ok

cruise missile - bad

desert falcon - don't know

skate boardin - ok

realsports boxing - don't know

save the whales - ? didn't know existed

seahawk - bad

spiderdroid - bad

taskforce - bad

tomcat f14 - not my thing

off the wall - don't know

radarlock - good

roadrunner - don't know

secret quest - Really interesting, pretty good

bmx airmaster - good

double dragon - decent! people hate it but i find it quite playable

pete rose baseball - good!

rampage - good

xenophobe - ok

sentinel - never played

ghostbusters 2 - don't know

my golf - don't know

fatal run - don't know

ikari warriors - good

klax - good

motorodeo - good

 

note that motorodeo and ikari warriors were R10's for some time until a stash was discovered; they should be available relatively cheaply now.

14. Apparently there is a standalone that does four player atari football which is fairly hard to find. Hm.

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11. ROM hunter can probably help you. Honestly, I believe our archive here is the best and most complete list of 2600 games.

No it's not.

 

This is:

http://www.atarimania.com/atari-vcs-2600.html

 

The wiki is good too.

Nah.

 

If you are talking multicarts, pirates, hacks and the like, especially in south america, then you're in the wild and woolies, and there's no good information.

Yes, there is:

http://www.atarimania.com/atari-vcs-2600.html

 

8)

Edited by Rom Hunter

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11. ROM hunter can probably help you. Honestly, I believe our archive here is the best and most complete list of 2600 games.

No it's not.

 

Rom Hunter, you are awesome. I'm looking through your list now and this certainly helps for thoroughness.

 

Thanks!

 

3. http://www.cheeptech.com/2600mods/2600mods.shtml#themods has non Jr. video mods tested and collected by Nate strum

 

Thanks for the link but while there are some neat pictures here, the links to the more detailed information seems to be broken on most of them...many of them don't give a lot of information on what they are either, just "so-and-so's mod". I guess the next step if more information isn't available from another poster is to check on the hardware forums.

 

8. Not much of a hardware guy but I'd still say no after looking around for a while.

 

"No" as in no one knows when a new VOX will be available or "no" that it would be impossible to create something like the VOX that works off the cartridge port? While I understand your thinking that creating hardware that expands the capabilities of the system means that any game developed for that hardware would not have as much utility, I don't think invalidates it. After all, even the regular VOX is something where people have to code special hardware and there are a ton of games at the Atari store that have utilized it. I just think that if it were possible to do this through the cartridge port instead then even more games could be developed that would allow the 2nd player port to remain free.

 

 

9. 97mm x 81mm x 20mm , someone posts somewhere. Internally, well, get out your calipers and your combat cart.

 

Yeah unfortunately I need precise dimensions of every detail so I'd need whatever drawings they used to manufacture these from. Besides even the outside isn't completely smooth and I'd need those details as well. I'll keep looking. I seem to recall an old thread from last year where someone mentioned that someone on this forum has complete drawings for the Atari cartridges.

 

 

10. I just asked in the harmony forum how many have been sold. Keep in mind that the harmony cart is a Great product and very popular; a hardware add-on is not likely to be anywhere as popular, especially if it has limited game support or is expensive. Sales for the atarivox might be a better indicator, now that I think about it. Basically anything you do has to be a labor of love; you'll be very lucky if you make minimum wage on any project after all the time you put into it, then the cost of manufacturing a small amount of complicated electronics product for a niche market.

 

I'm not necessarily looking at making a ton of money. I would need to break even on materials though. Time I can give for free as a labor of love. :-)

 

 

11. Wikipedia does; so do we. It lists "rebranding" at least, the zellers games

 

I do appreciate the reference to wikipedia but it is not really a trustworthy source which is why I prefer looking at websites totally dedicated to Atari and with people who at least like to get respect from the Atari community at large who would therefore keep their information accurate.

 

12. Hm. we have some, wiki has some... we don't really even have a standard for what constitutes an official homebrew release. does it have to be on cart? Do hacks count if they change a lot?

 

When you say "we have some" do you mean that there is a list somewhere on this website of homebrews or do you just mean the ones you can buy on a cart at the store? I realize there's no offical status but it would be interesting if someone tried to track homebrews.

 

Thanks for all your help and I appreciate anything else anyone can tell me.

Edited by Dastari Creel

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1. Most heavy sixers were made in the USA. Most light sixers were made in Taiwan.

 

3. The best "mod" I can think of is the Harmony cart. It has a lot of cool features.

 

4. My experience with the XE light gun was not positive. It is not very accurate. You can get a better gun from Best Electronics or you can mod a Sega Master System gun to work with the 2600.

 

5. If you have a Harmony cart you can play Supercharger roms that have been converted. You don't need a Supercharger, and it's kind of a pain to use anyway (though I'm sure some people enjoy using it). I think there are very few (if any) PGP-1s out there. The Gameline did exist for a short time and people did use it.

 

6. Harmony cart.

 

10. It is difficult to make money on new 2600 hardware. If you're not doing it for the fun of it you will probably be disappointed in the economic results. There just aren't enough of us hobbyists to make a good market base for such products.

 

13. I would check out the reviews in the AtariAge store.

 

14. Medieval Mayhem is an improved version of Warlords. It has good reviews in the AA store.

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There was a lot less than 2600 questions in that list. I counted 14.

 

 

(pause for big laffs)

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"No" as in no one knows when a new VOX will be available or "no" that it would be impossible to create something like the VOX that works off the cartridge port?

 

 

I wonder if the Harmony cart has any spare i/o pins the AVox could be hooked up to.

 

It'd need 4 if you also want to use the EEPROM.

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Regarding the Supercharger, Bob Colbert developed a program called "Cheetah" which (when loaded) allows you to enter Game Genie-type codes onscreen before loading a legitimate 2k or 4k program. However, simpler means would be just to load an already-hacked program that provides the desired effect(s).

 

As mentioned by DNA...Starpath and Arcadia versions are identical. However, a particular unit itself may have been hacked to include a "read-only" switch - to allow games that accidentally trip the Supercharger's banking and crash the program usuable. This is commonly referred to as "modding" the Supercharger...and just as the above, it's not really necessary anymore (since you could just load an already-hacked version of a given program that has the error corrected).

 

It should be noted that a Brazilian version of Supercharger exists that differs from the Starpath/Arcadia versions in that it allows you to load 8k programs in addition to the 2k/4k library and Starpath's own creations. I don't know all of the banking schemes it supported, but Atari's "standard" F8 scheme was one of them (used by Asteroids, Ms.Pac-Man, etc).

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14. Street Racer had some 3 and 4 player variants, but with players acting as members of a team.

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From what I've seen, the Light 6ers were nearly a 50/50 as far as domestic and overseas production. I did a composite mod on one of mine with one of Longhorn's boards. Came out great! :D

post-25215-0-64205400-1304449907_thumb.jpg

post-25215-0-83827000-1304449941_thumb.jpg

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11. ROM hunter can probably help you. Honestly, I believe our archive here is the best and most complete list of 2600 games.

No it's not.

 

This is:

http://www.atarimania.com/atari-vcs-2600.html

 

The wiki is good too.

Nah.

 

If you are talking multicarts, pirates, hacks and the like, especially in south america, then you're in the wild and woolies, and there's no good information.

Yes, there is:

http://www.atarimania.com/atari-vcs-2600.html

 

8)

 

 

*Indy movie theme*

dun dund udn DUHHHH!

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3. There are a few sound mods including "stereo" sound, but your source is mono, so that's not much of a big deal.

 

Combat and Air-Sea Battle are in stereo. Some other games are mentioned in the "what 2600 games are in stereo?" thread.

 

That's really cool. A Lot of games, and it sounds like some pretty neat effects. Surely someone has modded a 2600 to include the "dual mono" speakers like the original intent of Atari supposedly was?

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3. There are a few sound mods including "stereo" sound, but your source is mono, so that's not much of a big deal.

 

Combat and Air-Sea Battle are in stereo. Some other games are mentioned in the "what 2600 games are in stereo?" thread.

 

That's really cool. A Lot of games, and it sounds like some pretty neat effects. Surely someone has modded a 2600 to include the "dual mono" speakers like the original intent of Atari supposedly was?

 

It would be annoying if it stayed on like Atari Video Pinball. A switch to turn it off and/or 1(maybe even 2 or 4) headphone jack would be cool. Sometimes I barely touch my VCS or the cart and it messes up so it would have to be done in a way where it doesn't rattle the VCS.

 

I would like to see someone open up the two circles for the two speakers, add in two little screens, and have Atari Video Music on the screens with one on each channel. Or an oscilloscope on one and a radar on the other. I rather have a light show coming out of it instead of sound.

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Re- Questions #2 and #3:

 

RF < Composite < S-video < Component < HDMI . . (this is a bit of an oversimplification but gives the general idea)

 

Please be careful with your terminology. Component video and composite video are very different things. Component video is two steps in quality above composite video. All of the mods I've ever seen on AA or elsewhere online have been composite video, or S-video (a.k.a. Y/C or Luma/Chroma). At the circuit level, the VCS produces a Luma/Chroma signal, which is the equivalent of S-video (one step above composite video). Thus, this is the highest signal quality that the machine is capable of.

 

That is not to say that a component video or HDMI mod for the VCS isn't possible, merely that it would not provide any picture improvement in the majority of situations.

 

To get any ostensibly higher-quality level output signal type such as component video or HDMI, would require an up-conversion, which is exactly what any television with the appropriate input jack will internally do with an S-video signal anyway. So, unless your TV has crappy circuitry and you use a very high-quality circuit for your up-converting component video or HDMI mod, there will be no visible improvement in quality when doing one of these mods versus an S-video mod. There will, however, be a very significant difference in price -- I estimate that a component video or HDMI mod would cost at least $50 more than an S-video mod, and possibly much more than that, depending on what is used to perform the up-conversion. There are several of us on the forums who are capable of modding a VCS for component or HDMI output but as far as I know, nobody's ever done it, because at this time it would be practically pointless, with no real benefit to justify the increased expense above an S-video mod. Perhaps sometime in the future if NTSC RF, composite video, and S-video inputs all become obsolete and no longer available on a large proportion of televisions, it might become worthwhile for those with significant disposable income to get their consoles modded for component, HDMI, or whatever the next new thing turns out to be. But that time isn't here yet.

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3. There are a few sound mods including "stereo" sound, but your source is mono, so that's not much of a big deal.

 

Combat and Air-Sea Battle are in stereo. Some other games are mentioned in the "what 2600 games are in stereo?" thread.

I believe stereo sound is one of the options on most versions of the Stella emulator, so you could try out games mentioned in the list above in emulation first, to better inform your decision on whether or not doing a hardware mod would be worth it...

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