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Atari the Jedi

So how did you get your first 5200?

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I got mine at a yard sale in big bear California. I dystictly remember it was $25 with seven games later went back and got a few more. My favorite games from when I was a kid were 1. Dig Dug, 2. Popeye 3. Pole Position 4. Star Trek and Star Raiders. Big difference then was I got games based on if they were good or not, today ill buy a crappy game simply because I do not have it. The younger me would think of me as kind of nuts for that. But back then I only had 14 games now I'm up to 46 of the 69.

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Mine was free. it was a 2 port that only worked a few minutes before dying. :(

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I got mine for Christmas '82. (still have it.) I don't remember exactly what I got first but I think it was Space Invaders. My friend got his sometime around October. It was the first week it came out whenever that was. I think he got Pac-man first. We pretty much bought everything that came out the first year. I remember calling up Atari all the time and asking what games were coming out. That was fun. Tempest? Really? It never came out. :( It was great getting AtariAge magazine as well. You would skim through it first just to see if there was any news of new 5200 games. Zookeeper? Really? Never happened. :( Of course they only announced Atari games so you had to go to Child World to see if there was any third-party games. That was fun as well but a big let down when there was nothing.

 

Allan

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I got mine in a yardsale in the mid-90's. Controllers didn't work (shocking) and I threw my back out picking it up. We've been enemies ever since.

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The 5200 was the very last of the Atari systems that I acquired. I ignored it for years because I figured that I could always play the games on the Atari 8-bit computers instead, and that satisfied me for a long time. I finally broke down and got a pristine four-port "asterisk" unit from another AA member a year or two ago. The "barriers to entry" were significant, more so than any other system I've owned: before I could really enjoy the 5200, I had to install an A/V mod and a power mod to get rid of that funky RF box, I had to get a set of refurbished joysticks from Best Electronics, and I had to get an Ultimate SD cartridge from AtariMax. Nevertheless, I'm glad I finally did it. However flawed their execution, it's clear that Atari put significant effort into making the 5200 as "luxurious" as they could. The system just has style, of a kind that we never saw again in quite the same way in any of the post-crash systems.

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A seller threw a bare 4-port in for free when I bought my second 7800.

Like jaybird said... damn those barriers. Took about a year for me to collect all the necessary bits, and even now, my only game is Space Dungeon & I don't have a controller coupler. At least it had the controller door/cover and the bit you wind the cord around.

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Santa Claus, Christmas 1982. We stayed up till midnight Xmas eve (we had done that for as long as I can remember), and after opening the other gifts (mostly crap as I recall, each one becoming more depressing because it was starting to look like I wasn't getting what I wanted!), my uncle walked outside, and came back in with it in hand. My parents never wrapped it, they just bought it and kept it at my uncle's house (it was TOO big to hide anywhere in my house lol!)

We had a houseful of family, and it was the center of attention. Even my mom and dad played some (Super-Breakout, ugh!). I remember we got Space Invaders and Galaxian. Me and my older brother literally stayed up until well after 3am playing Galaxian, dozed off on the couch, and woke up at 7am when my parents got up to start prepping the turkey (hey, they never bought a bird smaller than 25 lbs, so that sucker had to start cooking early). We started right back off on Galaxian and played that sucker almost all day, only taking a break to play Space Invaders, and at some point we played Super Breakout.

I still remember my uncle, smart-ass that he was walking in the house saying "Hey instead of playing that "old" Atari (we of course had a 2600 already) you guys want to try out MINE?

Can't believe 40 years later I'm still playing that system all the time (no not the same one, I lent it out to my brother many years later and his ex-wife took it along with a lot of other stuff!).

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I asked for it, therefore I got it. It was not a contest.

 

Wow, cool story, thanks for sharing, :P the one time I actually would of appreciated your long winded detail I am disappointed.........

Edited by OldSchoolRetroGamer

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Can't believe 40 years later I'm still playing that system all the time (no not the same one, I lent it out to my brother many years later and his ex-wife took it along with a lot of other stuff!).

I think you mean thirty years ago. The 5200 came out in 1982; it is now 2012.

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I think you mean thirty years ago. The 5200 came out in 1982; it is now 2012.

 

Uh....I was um...testing to see who was paying attention. You win a cookie!

 

 

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I got mine on ebay about 10 years ago. Boxed 2-port with four games. I think they were Defender, Berzerk, Pac-Man (with copied instructions), and I forget what the other one was.

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Spotted my 4-port at a garage sale a couple years ago.There it was with two stock Atari sticks, track ball, two Wico sticks, Wico y cable, and five games. Laid down $10 and it was mine.

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Wow, cool story, thanks for sharing, :P the one time I actually would of appreciated your long winded detail I am disappointed.........

 

There is little to tell regarding how I got my 5200. I hadn't gotten anything electronic or expensive for a while, and thus this purchase was almost overdue. A non-event, to be sure. We checked the budget, got into the car, drove to the store, made the purchase, drove home, and wired it up. Truly this was much like a trip to the grocery store.

 

There is much more excitement and intrigue surrounding the acquisition of some of my other classic hardware, more specifically the Apple 2 series, TI-59, TRS-80 Pocket Computer PC-1, and a few other special calculators like my Unitrex 800D. One of which has still retained the exact smell inside when it was new.

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I bought it off a dude in a trailer park, for $70 which included 3 separate 5200 machines (one 4 port, two 2 ports) plus about 20 games AND a 7800 with a stack full of games. A great deal IMHO. Too bad two of the 5200 didn't work... DOH!

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This young fellow moved in just down the road from us and would come by to help out on the farm in exchange for a hot meal. His name was Charles. He had a 5200 at his house, which for some reason, he brought to our place and left. We borrowed some games from my dad's friend Richard and enjoyed the system for a few days. That's where I got my first taste of Bounty Bob Strikes Back.

Later on, my dad acquired a second 2600 in exchange for doing some electrical work for another friend. In 1998, I was stationed here in Oklahoma City with a special forces unit. I was 22. I got quite a bit of my "stuff" from my dad's place where it was stored, and both systems were among it. There were no games and no 2600 controllers (those were given to me later). All the hookups were present for both systems, and there were two working 5200 controllers. I found copies of Frogger and Pac-Man at Bargain Thrift Store over at 16th and Meridian. They had a TON of 2600 games on a rack. If I'd only known that was the golden age of collecting, I'd have cleaned house.

That 5200 was lost sometime between 1998 and 2004. The 2600 console was lost in 2004 along with most of my childhood 2600 collection.

 

Fast forward to 2006 or so. A J Franzman had just repaired a 4 port 5200 console and its controllers and listed it in the marketplace. I purchased it and modded it with a standard power brick and AV connection. I played it until the flex circuits broke apart in the controllers. Even the best technicians can't make these things immortal, but I have been building my collection since then.

Edited by shadow460
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Hm. I don't remember exactly, but I think I picked up my 4 port for free from one of the members here: non-functional. Then, to fix it, I bought a massive pile of parts-only machines from JC at Atari2600.com since I'm local and didn't have to pay for shipping. (Fixed my machine and gave parts to other people and still have a pile so was worth the price.)

 

I remember doing a bunch of shuffling around of RAM to find out which chip was bad. Then I had to replace a 4066 or 4052 or whatever analog switch is in there. Oh, then I had to build some custom controllers to even play the thing...didn't want to invest in rebuilding the stock units.

 

Gave away my prototype controller that I liked most and "sold" the other one I built to an AtariAge member. But, I don't think it really counts as selling when they never pay you. So, I haven't played the 5200 in a long time.

Edited by BigO
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I bought mine used in late 1982 or 1983 from someone through a free-ad newspaper (that doesn't exist anymore, at least around here) called the "Tradin' Times". I paid $100 for the 5200 and 8 games (don't remember which ones). I had just moved to Mountain View CA and got it while visiting my folks. When I got back home I called Atari in Sunnyvale and drove over (which apparently nobody hardly ever did) and got free replacement controllers, which still work, by the way. No receipt or anything required.

Edited by fiddlepaddle
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I got my first 5200 a few days ago. I was at Game Exchange and I saw someone trying to trade in a 5200 and some games. Because Game exchange pays only store credit for old Atari games, and he wanted cash, he was ready to walk out with the 5200. I offered him $8 and he took it. I got a 4 port 5200 with no controllers or hookups, 6 common games, as well as 18 2600 games he couldn't trade in either.

 

Unfortunately, I've never had a 5200 before, so I realized when I got home that hooking it up isn't quite that simple (or cheap). I know that I need a switchbox, power adapter, and at least one controller to make it usable. I have a couple of questions if anybody could help me out:

 

-Once I have the switchbox, do I need another cable to connect the 5200 to the TV? Or, does the wire from the switchbox connect directly to the TV? I already have a coaxial (F-type) to female RCA adapter which I use to connect my Colecovision.

 

-I've read that the 5200 can use an Indus GT power supply (which I have). Is this true?

 

Unfortunately, my impulse purchase may end up costing me more than if I just bought a complete 5200 setup. I don't really have the money right now to buy the pieces I need, but if you guys could tell me exactly what I need, I'll keep a lookout for them.

 

Also, it appears that the tape was never removed from the silver "Atari 5200" panel on top of the unit. I scraped some off with a razor, but it left a dry residue behind. The old tape is yellowing and cracked, and I'd like to take it off if I can get rid of the 30 year old residue underneath.

 

As far as the 2600 games, I already have 12 of the 18. However, since I would gladly take store credit at Game Exchange, I'll trade in the duplicates there for a few bucks to offset my outlay.

Edited by redsox2012
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I would be careful trading in games unless you know what exactly you got. A few carts (games) are worth alot and sometimes those places will give you pennies and then sell for tons more. Check the net to ensure you do not have a Holy Grail of a game first. I am not sure about the switch box since my machine is a two port which uses another set up.

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The reason (in retrospective thinking) I say my 5200 acquisition was a non-event was, because, I just started getting into the 400/800 series big time then. Hella deal on an 810 disk drive sold to me by a deceased neighbor. The PointMaster joystick, buddies with wAReZ, all of this came right around the 5200 purchase time. With the PointMaster stick I was unbeatable in Defender. I'd sit their with my stick pointing at all angles and sometimes contorting so much I was holding it upside down. Well that's a story for another time. In fact this 400/800 stuff (mostly 800 by now) had eclipsed my interest in Apple 2 series for some time. And even more oddly, I delegated the old 400 as a StarRaiders only machine. Somehow StarRaiders felt just right on the 400. The 800 less so. And a no-go on the 5200. I have no explanation why. So for the longest time I'd go through the trouble of getting the 400 hooked up just for that one game. Man it was cool, I had a log-book going and practiced daily. I filtered the sound through some low-pass filters and ran it to the guitar amps in the garage. Great times! Even built a cockpit out of Chiffon margarine shipping crates/boxes. Mind you, it was little more than a big box glued and nailed together but it was immersive at the time.

 

I had the 400/800 right away when they first came out, but did little more than StarRaiders, and Basic, and a few other games. When I got the 5200 I eventually saw the 8-bit similarities. And soon enough I kinda felt a little jipped-out because I was (would be) essentially be repurchasing my games I had already got from the neighbor's kids - they were even more into BBS warez then me! And all too happy to give me stuff if I did favors like finishing rigging up motors to their go-carts. Great stuff. That and unreliability of the controllers. But nevertheless I built an extensive library and enjoyed the system in my own way. I did not like the analogue-ness of the controllers sometimes. I especially liked the futuristic look of the case. So much that I got prototype blue LED's, at like $70 bucks a pop from a classmate's dad that worked in R&D at a semiconductor materials lab. And that was at a steep discount because they were cosmetic rejects! Rejects to be sold as mockup or demo samples. Ohhh my!

 

Well, I made a strip of black plexiglass and mounted them along the back edge, feeding the ultra-thin speaker-coil wires I used though the hinge area; and I also put one in each of the 4 joystick connector areas. It was one damned fine look'n console I tell you. And I used it more for decoration than actual playing, I just got too used to the 400/800 keyboard and the ability to put carts on disk and do mods to the games. When I did the LED lighting mods I was super careful to only use Elmer's School Glue so that it could be completely undone and left totally stock. I was really anal about that. And It paid off in keeping my Apple 2 series hardware in decent shape. Other than soaking my Grappler+ interface card in Urethane Bond and a good portion of one of my Disk II drives in motor oil. The shit **still** works. But I have no clue as to why I would do that. I had a valid reason back then I'm sure no doubt. I sort of remember the Urethane bond might have been a conformal coating of a sort, because sockets sucked for reliability and I wanted to seal the atmosphere gasses out. And I think I soaked up the Disk II just to keep it running. It still works today, but I have since degreased it and put on the proper amound of lube.

 

Back to the 5200, I suppose the thing that made me lose interest in it completely was that I kept hearing the comment several times from many sources that it was basically a 400/800 computer with no keyboard and a stripped down bios. So eventually It fell into dis-use and sat in the closet.

 

Like I say, though, the actual purchase was a simply curiosity. I didn't get a hard-on over it, not like Combat and Slot Racers and Video Chess on the 2600. I had already built up a massive infrastructure around the Apple 2 series already (and integrated the 800 into the environment already). Had a PFS database going and everything. Had monitors cross-wired, and the Apple 2 controlling complex game sequences. And with Voice Recognition viabile on the 2 series I would talk into the microphone and the Apple would send a command to the 800 to activate shields or do hyperspace. I did all this without cutting up the 800. And the Apple 2 had a snap-on lid to access everything. So much of the pioneering spirt was already spent and invested in those hardware platforms, that absorbing the 5200 into my sphere was getting to be too much. At the same time I had my C-64 going, too. But I never had room in my head for 5 different versions of Basic so I never grew in the 64 like a lot of folks did. But I liked it for what it was. Games. Eventually it, too, like the 800, became an appendage of my 2 series sprawl. And I got as far using a SuperSerial Card to connect to the C-64. And I used the C-64 as a terminal to sign-in to my BBS from across the room.

 

After the crash and the end of the middle years of BBS'ing began waning - my interested was almost rekindled the 5200 by seeing Cloak & Dagger. How cool! Secret spy stuff in a game cartridge. And Tempest in a box on the shelf in the store. After that I'd make it a point to ask about those games every time I went to a store. And I got madder and madder that it wasn't coming out. But I wasn't into smashing systems and breaking stuff yet. So the system "got lucky" and stayed intact. I don't recall exactly how/when I got rid of it. I might have given it away in trade for something Apple 2 related. I might have taken it apart for parts for my model rocket weather station. A very cool project, and was one of the last uses of my 1st heavy-sixer plastic base - a model rocket launch pad filled with lead shot. Or I might have sold it outright for money for something Apple 2 series related. Or even some electronics' project kit or "something"! Probably the latter. But I believe it was the first time that vaporware pissed me off. Little did I know how bad it would get with the Amiga shit. Amiga brought a whole new meaning to the term "vaporware". If there was any machine that deserved the bench grinder, the Amiga was it. And not the Intellivision unit which I tried downsizing significantly by grinding away all the excess plastic trimmings till a box not much bigger than the PCB itself remained. The purpose of this was for me to get one of each console and disassemble it and re-build them into a 1-machine-plays-all. Like the UltraSystem. Another ill-fated project in which the host systems didn't live long afterwards. To many shoddy solder jobs and the whole thing shook itself apart after the three of us hauled it into the living room for a holiday demonstration.

 

How I managed not to "blow-up" all my Apple II stuff was a minor miracle in and of itself. But it was not without casualties. Aside from the oil and Urethane glue episodes, which luckily didn't break my first "experiments" this next one did. In attempt to fix my first of 4 Mountain Music System sets. This is what happened. I had removed all the sockets and chips with a big-ass 100 something watt Weller soldering gun. The ones that weighed like 2 pounds and made a hum when you pulled the trigger. I was intending to put back all the chips, without sockets, because I knew that sockets were unreliable. I learned that "bit of knowledge" from my hypodermic needle tap for my poor-man's sound synthesizer. So I took out the chips and quickly discovered I had no idea how to put them back in, where did they all go?? I furiously searched through pictures and shit to re-build the layout and figure out where each chip went, and I thought I had everything right. I plugged it into my II+ and promptly blew up the power supply. This was no ordinary supply, it was a modded one to run off of the 12V car battery so I could play games at the beach and in the motorhome. Well the supply blew, but the motherboard didn't except for something near the power connector itself. I had one of my buddies fix that right up for me. I bet I did get everything right, but the Wes-Craven-Shocker-style soldering iron left solder bridges or the buzzing EMF and non-grounded AC power blew the chips. I threw the boards out and had to save a whole fucking week to get a new one.

 

You might be curious (or not) about the needle soundcard mod. It was simple. You get the biggest amplifier you can find. And you solder a wire (or tape it) around a safety pin or heroin needle and this one wire connects to the amplifier input. You stick the needle in-between the pin of an IC and its socket contact. Like having 2 wires in one socket hole. If you got a good ground loop going this wire picks up all the logic noise and shiftings of voltage levels within the circuit it taps into. And voila! Everything you do on your computer makes some kind of noise, mostly a blaring and grating buzz, but hey! It's something! I discovered that moving the needle around to different chips made different sounds and I did up a chart with which games combined with which connection works best. Soon enough I found my II+ wouldn't work anymore and had to replace a lot of the sockets that got their contacts over-squished, this was about 15 sockets on a 100+ chip board. I had one of TV guys that fixed the antennas do it. I had to pay $7.00 for the 14 and 16 pin sockets, $10 for the 24-28 pin sockets, and $12 for the 6502 40-pin socket. I still have the receipt. It was easy, though, because I made a chart of which games needed which socket to be stabbed. Soon enough I figured out we could do it non-invasively with an am radio or telephone pickup coil. It wasn't as defined and it was more muddied, but it was still kinda neat. The TPC incidentally is a kick-ass troubleshooting tool. Like a steth-O-scope for electronics!

 

One outgrowth of this experiment was two fold. We got a monster-size speaker, like 2000 watts big, and used the Apple to send these clicks and resonatic buzzes to our newfound portable guitar amp. We'd launch bugs into the air and break glass and all sorts of shit. I remember the best time was putting all this along with 9 car batteries into the RadioFlyer and riding our bikes down the boulevard at 1 am. We had taken apart one of the speakers and welded it to a garbage can (they were real metal back then), and we made this un-earthly scream as we pedalled around. I also had a valve controlled by a switch that let air out from a tank and into a blast horn. Sci-fi sounds abounded! We also did a spud gun and that too made a racket. We graduated into various other loud and harmless explosives soon enough. The cops did come over (as they often did) and gave little more than a warning not to do it anymore. One old-fart copper, (officer greyguy we unimaginatively and affectionately called him) found it amusing and just went through the motions. We didn't give a shit back then, but I think, now, he probably had some sort of home computer himself because he always came in the garage-cum-lab to see what was up. Great stuff. Great times!

 

We got tired of the screaming wagon and converted it to a distro wagon. This was more serious. And we'd fill it up with all sorts games and shit and trek across town to our sleepovers, and 5200 carts were always included becuase of their perceived durability. They just looked cool. And our buddies had custom controllers, yep, even back then. But they had it hooked to once of them Heathkit projection TV sets and that was awesome. Otherwise the wagon was full of Apple 2 games and 400/800 games. There were times we'd be riding so fast I was afraid the the oxide would vibrate off the disks. But I still have these disks today and they all read fine.

 

But as you can plainly see, getting a 5200 SuperSystem was a non-event in our household, there was so much other classic stuff going on and too many science experiments underway, and I already had a hardware platform that was very much like the 5200 to begin with. The 5200 couldn't compete with all the fun we were having with the 400/800 and Apple 2. Especially the Apple 2. The one lesson I learned from the 5200 was it taught me to look at platforms from the same company with more scrutiny. And thus I held off on getting a //c because it was so much like a //e. And rightfully so. I did eventually get a //c though. Repackaging, re-badging, downsizing, simplifying. So that's what it was all about. I was still too young and naive to understand the intricacies of corporate cost-cutting. I was more interested in calling the Voyager 2 Spacecraft with my Hayes MicroModem. I did have an extensive setup going for that project. I know the Apple-Cat would have been a better choice what with all the programmable registers being available and higher baud rates, whereas the MicroModem was more firmware oriented and obviously less capable. But I liked the soft tick of the relay and red glow of the off-hook light. Much like the 5200. And while the Apple 2 was crunching away at that (or running my BBS) I would then do gaming on the 800. The 5200 would have been a choice, but since it was the same thing as the 800 I just stuck with the computer.

 

So you see, everything surrounding the 5200 was a non-event. Some things I liked and disliked about the 5200:

 

LIKED - big mofo of a system, with nice styling

LIKED - controller storage area

LIKED - overlays

DISLIKED - custom switchbox (sometimes there's such a thing as too much minimalism)

DISLIKED - similarity to the 400/800 series (diversity would be nice)

DISLIKED - introduced me to vampireware, never had the problem till then.

DISLIKED - controller reliability

LIKED - 4 ports and trackball

LIKED - one wire power/RF connection but I hated the custom switchbox

DISLIKED - no diversity other than 400/800 games being factory modded for analog controls sometimes

DISLIKED - wimpy BIOS size

LIKED - the general silver/blue theme of Atari branded labeling, consistent, nice, tight.

LIKED - the silky smooth controller cabling and initial controller heft

LIKED - Man sized cartridges. Lots of room for secret spy plans or more custom hardware. I used one for a piggy bank once.

LIKED - not too much frivolous shit released. All of it was seemingly important.

DISLIKED - Programming tricks not used often. Defo not like the 2600!

DISLIKED - lack of expansion peripherals, well it was a console anyways.. so..

DISLIKED - Custom chips not used to their full potential, not like the those demo groups can do!

 

LIKED & DISLIKED - I sometimes feel that it was the pinnacle of 8-bit consoles. Not computers, but gaming-only consoles. The 7800 and nintendo and other 8 or 8/16 systems were the beginning of the second era of the 4th coming of the 11 iteration of console design; and thusly were not competition. Marked by a sudden increase in sprite usage and excess memory that programmers didn't know how to use, this this trend bought a whole slew of authors and programmers that didn't have a feel for anything in the gaming market. Then began the Slow Years. That's an opinion, and opinions are like assholes - we all have them. Just that some are bigger than others.

 

So as you can plainly see, there was too much other stuff going on for me to seriously get into 5200 gaming.

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Picked one up on ebay years ago. I had a friend who had one back in around 1986 and I fell in love with Miner 2049er, Qix, and H.E.R.O. Recently, I went to play my 2 port and all I got is a green screen

Edited by AtariBrian

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