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Keatah

When does your classic console become not worth repairing?

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The more I think about a/v modding classic consoles, the more I tend to say no.

 

I prefer to synthesize a fresh image intended for the digital displays entirely in the digital domain itself. This means FPGA or Software Emulation being output through HDMI. And this means including NTSC artifacting and CRT effects.

 

This DD synthesis can be still be done on original hardware as evidenced by some mods that replace a few key chips or the graphics chip itself with a custom ASIC/FPGA.

 

To do this on the VCS, you'd need a modern-day TIA implemented in an array.

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The more I think about a/v modding classic consoles, the more I tend to say no.

 

I prefer to synthesize a fresh image intended for the digital displays entirely in the digital domain itself. This means FPGA or Software Emulation being output through HDMI. And this means including NTSC artifacting and CRT effects.

 

This DD synthesis can be still be done on original hardware as evidenced by some mods that replace a few key chips or the graphics chip itself with a custom ASIC/FPGA.

 

To do this on the VCS, you'd need a modern-day TIA implemented in an array.

Agree with the first sentence, but picture is best viewed in the analog domain on a tube TV as intended by the original manufacturer. If it natively supports A/V output, that is a bonus, but by no means required. Many "tube" TVs manufactured BITD don't even support A/V or S-Video.

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I think a lot of people are looking to video mods to improve upon the crappy "vintage console + LCD" combo experience.

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I think a lot of people are looking to video mods to improve upon the crappy "vintage console + LCD" combo experience.

 

 

In my case it's to improve upon the shit-tastic stock Atari XL video circuit design. Bryan's new "UAV" boards seem great for that - I've got two in hand just waiting to install. One is going into my daily driver XL machine, the other is going into a 4-Switch Woody that has a dead RF modulator.

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People are not paying a wad of money for $3 worth of parts. Which is low balling it, unless you are using the cheapest crap components possible and snot soldering the whole thing on a garbage non-plated prototype board.

 

I guess anybody can grab a woodworker, plumbers or other soldering iron they have lying around and hack a mod into a system. Maybe they will get lucky and it will work...sort of

 

What people pay for is a professionally made/installed mod with quality components and a PCB specifically for the mod (this generally throws your $3 figure out right there).

When I install a mod, I also check to make sure all the other components in the system are good, change out troublesome components (Like replacing the 7805 regulator in an Atari 2600 when installing a longhorn mod to a newer 1.5A regulator), make sure any field change orders are done, and professionally mount the mod to ensure it stays in place and remains cool.

The service is preformed in a static safe environment with the right tools for the job by somebody who understands the electronics/systems involved.

 

It is like saying anybody can cheaply spray paint their car verse's going to an automotive paint shop to have it done right.

 

In response to the OP: To me, generally a board becomes a donor when more then 2 traces are cut/lifted, unless it is part of a mod.

 

Struck a nerve did I, hehe. Soooo quality components, chips are chips, resistors are resistors, ceramic caps are caps, electrolytics are about the only thing to actually look at. Given today's market of ~20 bucks gets you 10 PCB's shipped air mail, and a 7805 is like 25 cents yes people are paying for the installation, by a lot of "pro experts" who like to toss around a lot of marketing terms.

 

Any fool can mount a board where it doesn't move or manage to hot melt it on the hottest chip in the machine. I do it in a static safe environment, with proper tools, by a trained engineer... I do it for fun, I do it for usually a song and a dance, and im not trying to make a living doing it.

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Struck a nerve did I, hehe. Soooo quality components, chips are chips, resistors are resistors, ceramic caps are caps, electrolytics are about the only thing to actually look at. Given today's market of ~20 bucks gets you 10 PCB's shipped air mail, and a 7805 is like 25 cents yes people are paying for the installation, by a lot of "pro experts" who like to toss around a lot of marketing terms.

 

Any fool can mount a board where it doesn't move or manage to hot melt it on the hottest chip in the machine. I do it in a static safe environment, with proper tools, by a trained engineer... I do it for fun, I do it for usually a song and a dance, and im not trying to make a living doing it.

 

From one engineer to another , you do not sound very professional in that post.

 

Quality and specifications of components most certainly matter and as an engineer you should know that.

The difference between using cheapest carbon resistors one can find that may or may not be in tolerance even at 5% compared to using metal film 1% tolerance resistors from a reputable dealer/manufacturer is important.

 

Yes, all capacitor quality matters. Atari learned this with field change order 1A for the Atari 2600/2600A.

 

Why use a $0.25 regulator when for a bit more you could use an "A" series which has tighter tolerance on the output voltage. The whole reason for replacing it on the 2600 is because the stock regulator will heat up, especially with the added load from the longhorn mod, and effect the color output after a period of time.

 

Any old chip? There can be differences between revisions that can change the performance of the mod.

 

Not any "fool" can professionally mount the mod and harnesses in a clean professional way, unless your definition is something along the lines of hot snotting it wherever it is convenient.

 

What about wiring? Any old cheap cabling? What about proper shielding to ensure a clean signal especially with video signals?

 

Soldering quality is a big deal. Is both the through hole and SMD soldering done correctly and clean. How many mods have we seen that had the crappiest soldering without even minimal effort to clean up the excess flux?

 

$20 for 10 air shipped PCB in a market that is not high volume? Maybe if you are talking about an order much larger then 10 boards and are dividing out the cost.

 

I know, I know..All "marketing" talk right?

 

You did not "strike a nerve". This type of work is only one part of my business and not even a main part. I just cringe at some of the hack job mods/repairs I have seen and in some cases had to fix.

 

This did teach me one thing: Not to even bother. Don't worry, I wont bother you anymore with what you call "marketing terms", in the end none of this effects either of us. Enjoy whatever victory you think you have won.

 

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AV mod can also bypass shitty RF modulator. With Colecovision I always got slightly fuzzy screen no matter what cable I used or what channel I used. I don't have the ancient model with manual fine tuning ring so I don't know if that would help.

 

RF modulator do degrade over time and may need to be readjusted but that often requires tool that not everyone has access to like oscilloscope. When I did the AV mod on my CV system, the snow went away forever and I hadn't put the RF shield back on yet. I checked the RF out, still the same snowy shit.

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Enjoy whatever victory you think you have won.

 

wast trying to win anything, your tone sounds like you have something to prove, but enough derailing

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AV mod can also bypass shitty RF modulator. With Colecovision I always got slightly fuzzy screen no matter what cable I used or what channel I used. I don't have the ancient model with manual fine tuning ring so I don't know if that would help.

 

RF modulator do degrade over time and may need to be readjusted but that often requires tool that not everyone has access to like oscilloscope. When I did the AV mod on my CV system, the snow went away forever and I hadn't put the RF shield back on yet. I checked the RF out, still the same snowy shit.

Another thing to bear in mind is that each console kind of has it's own setting with RF. They can drift up or down a bit in frequency and your TV has to "lock in" to the signal which may be difficult if your TV is old fashioned and has manual set screws or otherwise doesn't autotune the channel. For instance, once I had the HDTV in our living room with the cable feed to the Genesis auto-switch. I flicked the power switch on the Genesis and got snowy black and white picture on the HDTV. I manually hit "04" on the TV remote and the snow went away instantly. Bright vibrant colors on Sonic 2. Later on I turned off the Genesis, and the cable signal was fuzzy, grayscale and full of static. Once again, I had to manually retune the channel by hitting "04" on the remote to get clean picture from the cable box. this later caused issues when I was playing Genesis and turned off the HDTV and game console. My mom later on turned on the TV and thought the cable was messed up. I solved the problem by fabricating my own AV cable out of a 5-pin MIDI and shielded RCA from RadioShack.

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Yah. That was one of my pet peeves back in the day. And since I was a kid I didn't really know that each individual console could be a little off-center. I always thought Channel-3 was Channel-3 and that was that.

 

In retrospect it was one of the reasons my Ultravision never worked reliably.

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I'm still stuck on the idea that someone has sentimental feelings about a [particular] video game console. I would attempt repair if it makes economic sense, but I'd replace a childhood thing in a moment if it were easy to do -- and with eBay, nothing is truly rare if you are willing to spend some money. I don't quite get the "this is THE Atari for me" idea. No wonder some people are so hung up on original hardware.

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When does your classic console become not worth repairing? Not economical to repair? What would be the dividing line and what would push it over the edge to the scrap & parts pile?

 

On the flipside, what are you willing to spend to keep it working? And how far would you go with repairs?

 

When repairing it takes too much time and too much efforts. Furthermore, the more ICs and components you have to desolder and then resolder, the higher the chance to cut a trace and makes things worse.

 

Sometimes repairing a Breadbin, as an example, requires several attempts and you end up going berserk and replace components till it works (it happened ;))

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im pretty paranoid about rust and corrosion. If I notice rust on irreplaceable parts that are likely to touch other parts (like cart pins) I tend to replace the item. No matter how well I clean something, I'm always concerned that I've missed some microscopic amount that will come back or spread like a germ.

 

Beyond that, I tend to work pretty hard (maybe too hard) at repairing an item before I begin to consider replacement.

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Rust doesn't work that way. Efforts would best be spent on cleaning with a quality contact/metal protectant.

 

Because without that, rust will come regardless if the item is replaced or not, spotless or not.

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Yup stuff will oxidize when exposed to oxygen. You can seal over rust and since its cut off from its catalysis it stops

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My SNES has a bit of rust specks inside the console where the RF shield is, also the shield surrounding the cart port and a few other spots. It does not affect operation at all. You are stupid if you throw away good hardware for slight cosmetic damage to the motherboard or shielding, that can't even be seen with the shell assembled.

 

Typically the pins themselves are not ferric materials, so are immune from rust but not from oxidation. Oxide is essentially the black material you clean off the cart pins. Fortunately many later systems are gold plated but sometimes the pins are not plated and you have to scrub the oxide off to get good contact. The oxide layers are nanometers thick so you aren't removing much material by routine cleaning and maintenance.

 

Extreme cases of corrosion (for instance, flood damage, or a storage for extended periods outside in the elements) might warrant gently lapping the connector pins with 1200-2000 grit sandpaper (you can find extremely fine grits at hobby shops; do not bother with your local hardware store) but such extreme measures are a last resort and typically not necessary. You'd be surprised at how much electronics can be salvaged by a simple deep cleaning. Generally with fresh water, there's a pretty good chance you can refurbish it, but sea water is typically a lost cause.

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My earlier post makes me sound a lot more paranoid than I am. I'd never throw away a functional game or console no matter how much cosmetic damage it has, but I do have a few controllers I don't use very often because their connectors are corroded. I'm pretty good at removing rust and corrosion, but what are your tips on preventing it from coming back on areas like cart pins that can't be sealed over?

I was thinking about the OP's question and I remembered the only game I've ever (indirectly) had to throw away. I bought a SNES game from the local used game store and was surprised when it didn't work. The previous owner had somehow spilled soda in it without ruining the label and several bugs had crawled inside and died. I tried it cleaning it but the PCB was full of small pits and it was totally non-functional. It looked fine on the outside so the store had taken it in without testing it. I returned it and showed them pictures of the inside and they immediately tossed it. I've never seen anything else like it.

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Leaving a thin layer of contact cleaner & lube on it will do the job.

Edited by Keatah

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