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Yurkie

Atari 2600 RGB mod

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So this seems to be the most concrete evidence that the RGB is a bit too dim. If I had one of these installed, I'd probably opt for the svideo out, which is reasonably adequate and doesn't seem to have the dimness issue.

 

Or composite/s-video is too bright.

 

But actually I think the deltas are due to the XRGB-mini. The calibration controls on the XRGB are not great, with no real contrast control. I could pull down black level to be accurate and white level would come down at the same time, but I couldn't adjust white level separate from black level. This is about as close as you can reasonably expect an XRGB-mini to be but a better processor might do, well, better.

 

I agree that s-video is quite a viable option with 2600RGB. It's reasonably sharp and bright. It's so much better than any other s-video mod I've tried. It's also very compatible with the XRGB-mini across a variety of games. As you can see from other posts from me about Warlords the XRGB-mini's RGB input is more sensitive to odd video timings than it's s-video input.

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In the opinion of anyone who would know, would there be any real, observable difference in video quality between a heavy sixer and (whatever else) if the idea was to install this mod to it? I do gather that there's a hypothetical difference when the video being compared is the regular RF. Hypothetical, because I have never seen comparison images showcasing the difference. But you can't argue against the better shielding I guess.

 

Tempted to bite the bullet on this, and if it means I don't have to hunt up a $120+ ca. 1977 bit of hardware right away, all the better.

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In the opinion of anyone who would know, would there be any real, observable difference in video quality between a heavy sixer and (whatever else) if the idea was to install this mod to it? I do gather that there's a hypothetical difference when the video being compared is the regular RF. Hypothetical, because I have never seen comparison images showcasing the difference. But you can't argue against the better shielding I guess.

 

Tempted to bite the bullet on this, and if it means I don't have to hunt up a $120+ ca. 1977 bit of hardware right away, all the better.

Since this RGB hardware mod is recreating the output signal it will look exactly the same on any system it is installed.

Heavy Sixers should not be modded. The RF is beautiful and rich.

Plenty of more common Atari models with lousy output to modernize.

 

My favorite system to mod is a Light Sixer because all the switches are around the cart and most usable.

 

Due to the low resolution it is argued games look better the way they were originally intended, a soft, analog, scan line CRT. What takes away most from RF is diagonal interference lines, any kind of interference, and weak washed out color output.

 

With this RGB mod you can start with the best RGB output or clean S-Video, and then through processors add back the scan lines and any other effects. (Meaning on LCD displays using RGB or S-Video. S-Video or RGB on a CRT will have scan lines naturally.)

Edited by iesposta
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Bumping for interest. I'm very curious how the 2600RGB is working for those who have installed it.

 

Am I understanding correctly that certain games aren't working perfectly via RGB (specifically the kings in Warlords are misplaced) and that S-video would be a better option in those cases?

 

Also, Yurkie when are you rolling our your 2600RGB mod service??

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specifically the kings in Warlords are misplaced

The kings were just fine, the XRGB-mini couldn't maintain a signal resulting in a black screen.

 

I took a look and saw something odd in the sync signal code, so I made a very quick hack to the ROM so collinp could see if that was the source of the problem. It was, but the quick hack caused the kings to be shifted over. The final fix includes minor changes to the king positioning routine which shifted them back to the original location.

 

More info in my blog.

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It's also a problem only occurring with the XRGB upscaler. I'm assuming it would have problems regardless of the type of signal used (Composite, Svideo, RGB). A CRT fed with RGB should be displaying Warlords without any problem.

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Hmm, thanks I'll read your blog on my break here in a bit. I'm concerned about the Framemeister not being able to keep a signal, as that's what I use and don't own a CRT...

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I'm concerned about the Framemeister not being able to keep a signal, as that's what I use and don't own a CRT...

 

No need to be concerned. Short summary of the problem - the Atari is unusual in that the game code totally controls the video signal on the Atari, and that includes the generation of the SYNC signal required to "start a new screen".

 

The problem is Warlords generated the sync signal like this:

sta VSYNC
sta WSYNC


While the proper way is like this:

sta WSYNC
sta VSYNC


It's super easy to fix if another problem game shows up. You'll just need something like a Harmony Cartridge to play the fixed version.

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It's super easy to fix if another problem game shows up. You'll just need something like a Harmony Cartridge to play the fixed version.

 

That's what concerns me as I prefer to play from my original carts and am not really interested in a Harmony cart.

 

I wonder if Tim tested the 2600RGB with the Framemeister. After all, it's pretty common with us retro gamers. And even if he did, surely he couldn't have tested every game so I wonder how many other carts won't work with the XRGB Mini.

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Hey all - rookie soldering question - trying my hand at this - it's fun learning but would hate to damage my vader...but may just get another one and keep the case if I do....anyway - anyone out there have a suggestion on how you desoldered the stella chip and the crystal/RF copper component? I got the crystal out barely, no luck with the crystal or the chip, using a solder wick, a solder pump...could be my skill set (a big COULD be lol...)...just ordered a desoldering tool (Hakko)...hoping that will do the trick...spent way too much time trying with the solder wick and pump. ok - any info definitely appreciated cheers!

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Solder wick should work just fine. Are you using flux? You need to submerge your wick and the point to desolder in flux so that the solder can be properly absorbed by the wick.

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That's what concerns me as I prefer to play from my original carts and am not really interested in a Harmony cart.

 

I wonder if Tim tested the 2600RGB with the Framemeister. After all, it's pretty common with us retro gamers. And even if he did, surely he couldn't have tested every game so I wonder how many other carts won't work with the XRGB Mini.

 

I've had the RGB mod installed for about a month now and played a lot of ROMs on it. The only two I've encountered issues with on the RGB input on XRGB-mini are Aquaventure and Warlords. I'm sure there are more ROMs with odd timings to be discovered, but it's definitely a minority. The XRGB-mini is much more robust at handling these ROMs with odd timings on s-video and composite so you can always use those inputs as a fallback.

Edited by collinp

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Hey all - rookie soldering question - trying my hand at this - it's fun learning but would hate to damage my vader...but may just get another one and keep the case if I do....anyway - anyone out there have a suggestion on how you desoldered the stella chip and the crystal/RF copper component? I got the crystal out barely, no luck with the crystal or the chip, using a solder wick, a solder pump...could be my skill set (a big COULD be lol...)...just ordered a desoldering tool (Hakko)...hoping that will do the trick...spent way too much time trying with the solder wick and pump. ok - any info definitely appreciated cheers!

 

Ooh, you've got a non-socketed TIA. That's pretty rare. Desoldering a 40 pin chip with just a wick or hand pump is challenging. If you've got a Hakko desoldering iron on order just wait for that to arrive. A proper desoldering iron can make the job shockingly easy. I haven't used the Hakko but I have used other brands and they make desoldering a breeze.

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I found a problem with the "extra button" used to switch the video modes. It is activated by pressing left and right simultaneously. If someone connects paddles to the joystick port (paddles use left and right for fire buttons) and presses both fire buttons, it will activate the "extra button" pallet switch.

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I've had the RGB mod installed for about a month now and played a lot of ROMs on it. The only two I've encountered issues with on the RGB input on XRGB-mini are Aquaventure and Warlords. I'm sure there are more ROMs with odd timings to be discovered, but it's definitely a minority. The XRGB-mini is much more robust at handling these ROMs with odd timings on s-video and composite so you can always use those inputs as a fallback.

OK, that's reassuring! But darn, Warlords is probably my favorite 2600 game! I'd say it's definitely my favorite multiplayer game of all time! (Edit: collinp, I saw you confirmed Warlords does work via S-video, just not RGB. In a post above, jarreboum suspected the Mini would have problems with any source.)

 

Good to know: have a backup output available like S-video or composite for the few games that won't work properly via 2600RGB. That might mean a Nintendo multi-out would be the best choice for installation. I wonder if that would look weird on the back of an Atari :)

 

@stardust - that does indeed sound like a problem as well, thanks for letting us know. That seems like a big oversight. I'm inclined to just leave off the 2nd joystick button altogether.

Edited by glazball

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So I've already ordered my six switch RGB mod and I'm waiting for it to arrive but the one thing that is still bugging me is the lack of 2 channel audio that is available in every other A/V mod I've seen for the 2600. I really liked the effect of the channel separation from the electronicsentamentalities mod I installed on another 2600. Is there any way to wire this up and retain the 2 channel audio output? If not, is it possible to use one of the other A/V mods just for the audio portion?

 

Am I the only one who would miss this feature?

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Ooh, you've got a non-socketed TIA. That's pretty rare. Desoldering a 40 pin chip with just a wick or hand pump is challenging. If you've got a Hakko desoldering iron on order just wait for that to arrive. A proper desoldering iron can make the job shockingly easy. I haven't used the Hakko but I have used other brands and they make desoldering a breeze.

I'm glad I read your post...oh man...when I read Tim's install instructions - I thought he was 'having a go' at us for basic desoldering and indicating 'if your TIA is socketed...'...yes, mine definitely was...this was a complete PITA using a wick and a de-solder pump...sad story - it seems I destroyed too many of the connections..

 

Here's a pic of 'what I done :( ' http://41.media.tumblr.com/5a53d0df708c49b3e1d3e58c2caabe8d/tumblr_nuqoc7uYxT1rk94jxo1_1280.jpg

 

Mind you I'm a relative noob so I didn't know any better and I assume someone with more experience would have avoided this...I ended up ordering and using the Hakko FR300. All the other trouble/difficult joints came out fine...(even the crystal and RF piece were MUCH easily removable) however it seems the damage was done on some of the connectors of the TIA I tried with the wick and generic pump (about 4 or 5 connects which had the socket lifted)... I found that none of these 'lifted' connectors had any actual leads on the bottom - so I thought I may be lucky...but after installing the dual IC wipe socket and soldering the connections that weren't damaged, and plugging in the TIA...things were not so good...(black and white images, messed up sound , flickering picture)

 

 

:-o :-o :-o

 

 

Sooo...I've assumed the worst...I have another Vader on order....Honestly with the Hakko FR300 available on the out-set, I imagine this to go a lot smoother.

 

If anyone is interested or capable in performing a repair on the unit I apparently ruined, I'd gladly pay for it (take a look at the picture, do you think it can be repaired? I think it's a matter of the upper-side solder making connection...those damaged on the bottom , that do not have any leads, do have leads on the top)...I was investigating a lead repair kit, but they were about $300....that's not feasible.

 

I'd hate to see for these 2600 units get ruined unnecessarily. I do feel this is a bit of a case of not having the full toolset available to properly remove the TIA chip but...alas I may have been a bit ambitious.

 

Fingers crossed for next install attempt using the Hakko exclusively for removal purposes.

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The FR-300 is an awesome device, I think it is even better than the 808, and even better, it is smaller. I have both, can't live without those, when you pull a lot of chips (like 40 pin POKEY's).

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I have a theory that it's the top connections I can't get to bridge due to the lifted/damaged bottom connections - I am thinking of creating a wire-bridge for the sockets that are lifted, for the top socket connection. A followup repair project for this noob :grin: . Other would-be modders/installers may want to take note of my woes, and encourage a quality desolder solution instead of a solder wick and pump. (or adequate experience /skillset)

Edited by funkwad

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Bummer. Next time try out some Chip Quik or something similar like this: http://r.ebay.com/LxAk1J

Its mainly for SMD work but it'll work with thru-hole stuff.. makes it super easy to get stubborn chips out without damaging any solder pads.

I'd try to salvage it as a learning experience, just follow those traces and solder in some short jumper wires..

 

I hope to get this RGB kit someday but probably not anytime soon, my av modded CV and EM#1 does the job for now. :)

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As long as you haven't destroyed the chip by cutting a leg short or frying it somehow, your unit is repairable. Solder a socket in, put your chip on it, and follow the traces / use documentation to know to what each pin is supposed to connect to. Use a continuity tester to check if the traces are damaged, then put a wire on those who are.

 

One of my first fuckup with soldering was similar. I wanted to change the BIOS of a Mega-CD, and I completely fucked up my desoldering, destroying the chip in the process. Some of the pins came out nicely, some others I burned the board badly, in the end I just cut all the remaining legs and used pliers and the soldering iron to take every leg out. After putting the socket and the new chip, the unit wouldn't even turn on! In any case after being very upset with myself, I decided to took the matter in my own hands. I downloaded the technical documentation containing the whole board map and systematically followed every pin to check if they were still connected. I identified three of them who weren't, and it turned out they were part of those I I thought I correctly desoldered, while the burnt ones were fine. I repaired the connection with a bunch of wires, and the console was resurrected, and lives a happy life to this day.

 

Don't despair, your unit can be repaired. Worst thing is maybe you damaged your chip, but you can order a spare one. Take some time to take it out of your system, maybe do the other VCS you ordered if that one is socketed. After a while you will be able to go back to this project and solve it yourself.

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As long as you haven't destroyed the chip by cutting a leg short or frying it somehow, your unit is repairable. Solder a socket in, put your chip on it, and follow the traces / use documentation to know to what each pin is supposed to connect to. Use a continuity tester to check if the traces are damaged, then put a wire on those who are.

 

One of my first fuckup with soldering was similar. I wanted to change the BIOS of a Mega-CD, and I completely fucked up my desoldering, destroying the chip in the process. Some of the pins came out nicely, some others I burned the board badly, in the end I just cut all the remaining legs and used pliers and the soldering iron to take every leg out. After putting the socket and the new chip, the unit wouldn't even turn on! In any case after being very upset with myself, I decided to took the matter in my own hands. I downloaded the technical documentation containing the whole board map and systematically followed every pin to check if they were still connected. I identified three of them who weren't, and it turned out they were part of those I I thought I correctly desoldered, while the burnt ones were fine. I repaired the connection with a bunch of wires, and the console was resurrected, and lives a happy life to this day.

 

Don't despair, your unit can be repaired. Worst thing is maybe you damaged your chip, but you can order a spare one. Take some time to take it out of your system, maybe do the other VCS you ordered if that one is socketed. After a while you will be able to go back to this project and solve it yourself.

 

Thanks...yeah that's the idea, tinker with a repair unit...I think the chip is fine...but another point to test...on a related note (if you anyone has it handy) I'd be interested in a board map of the VCS - assuming these are posted somewhere on this site (haven't looked yet). cheers

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I've received my RGB mod as well as the Component video board. I read over the 4 switch instructions and it seems pretty straight forward so I think I can adapted them to the six switch. Aside from my audio question (quoted below) I also have these questions I'd love input from before I begin.

 

1. Tim, Yuri, (or anyone else who can say authoritatively) do you have any idea how using the component video board would compare with using the RGB along with an RGB transcoder like the Audio Authority 9A60A? I was finally able to snag one since I needed it for the Sega Master System so I'm wondering if I should use the component board from the RGB mod or just feed both the Sega and the Atari through the 9A60A? Aside from picture quality they both have their merits so I'm undecided.

 

2. The instructions for the component video board show it on an NESRGB but I'm assuming on the AtariRGB it goes on the 5 L shaped pin headers just above the TIA headers?

 

Thanks!

So I've already ordered my six switch RGB mod and I'm waiting for it to arrive but the one thing that is still bugging me is the lack of 2 channel audio that is available in every other A/V mod I've seen for the 2600. I really liked the effect of the channel separation from the electronicsentamentalities mod I installed on another 2600. Is there any way to wire this up and retain the 2 channel audio output? If not, is it possible to use one of the other A/V mods just for the audio portion?

 

Am I the only one who would miss this feature?

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So I've already ordered my six switch RGB mod and I'm waiting for it to arrive but the one thing that is still bugging me is the lack of 2 channel audio that is available in every other A/V mod I've seen for the 2600. I really liked the effect of the channel separation from the electronicsentamentalities mod I installed on another 2600. Is there any way to wire this up and retain the 2 channel audio output? If not, is it possible to use one of the other A/V mods just for the audio portion?

 

Am I the only one who would miss this feature?

The audio from the TIA couldn't be any simpler.

Of course this has to be an NTSC TIA chip.

 

Bend out pins 12 & 13 so they don't go in the socket. You have to learn how to find pin 1.

 

Solder a wire directly to each pin, or maybe use a piece of socket.

Connect these to the 'not negative' side of a 10uf electrolytic capacitor. I say not negative because the negative pin is marked and the positive pin is not marked.

 

Then a wire from the capacitor to the Center wire of the White and Red audio RCA cables. The outer wire of the red white RCA cable goes back to the ground in the Atari.

 

Unless this RGB mod is taking the audio and processing it instead of passing it right out you should have a different sound channel on each of the audio leads.

Search for which pin is left and which is right so sound from games like Combat and Medieval Mayhem match the on screen action.

 

If the splitting is not acceptable, use the TV menu to change the TV sound to mono. Simple as that.

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