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DaveC1964

Building the ultimate 2600 portable?

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Ever since Ben Heck made a 2600 portable out of a 2600 and pocket TV I wanted one.

 

So I got the AFP and well it is better than nothing. The emulation is not great as many games don't work or are glitchy, you get diagonal lines when games flash the screen, it doesn't support paddles, and that screen is tiny.

 

So what I wanted to do was build the best 2600 portable. It would use either real 2600 chips from a beat up 2600, or a PCB from an Atari FB2. The FB2 is not ideal because it doesn't support the bank switched games though. What I want is the best compatibility, paddle control built in and a screen that is big enough to not give me a headache. I also want the screen to be as clear a possible, that means no 2600 connected by RF to a pocket TV, I am looking for something more direct (like how the McWill screens work on Lynx, GG etc. .

 

The case part I can handle. I can CAD out the case and have it machined on a CNC router and/or 3D printed.

 

Does anyone have any suggestions? Should I go modded Atari FB2 or 2600? How to interface the screen? I see some of these on you tube but how they do the screen is not shown.

Edited by DaveC1964

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It'll be interesting to see how you interface the screen. And what you choose to run the games. There's RF for a TV. Or Composite for a monitor. I'm pretty sure the BenHeck stuff is just a repackaged composite monitor and VCS chipset. No real electrical engineering going on.

 

There's Stella 5 and you can likely run that on a single-board computer or SoC. Or you can make your own FPGA implementation. Or use some sort of compute stick. There's really a lot of possibilities.

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Ever since Ben Heck made a 2600 portable out of a 2600 and pocket TV I wanted one.

 

So I got the AFP and well it is better than nothing. The emulation is not great as many games don't work or are glitchy, you get diagonal lines when games flash the screen, it doesn't support paddles, and that screen is tiny.

 

So what I wanted to do was build the best 2600 portable. It would use either real 2600 chips from a beat up 2600, or a PCB from an Atari FB2. The FB2 is not ideal because it doesn't support the bank switched games though. What I want is the best compatibility, paddle control built in and a screen that is big enough to not give me a headache. I also want the screen to be as clear a possible, that means no 2600 connected by RF to a pocket TV, I am looking for something more direct (like how the McWill screens work on Lynx, GG etc. .

 

The case part I can handle. I can CAD out the case and have it machined on a CNC router and/or 3D printed.

 

Does anyone have any suggestions? Should I go modded Atari FB2 or 2600? How to interface the screen? I see some of these on you tube but how they do the screen is not shown.

Have you some pictures of your case design? Would be interesting. The case design should be small as a Nintendo DS with 3.5" LCD.

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It'll be interesting to see how you interface the screen. And what you choose to run the games. There's RF for a TV. Or Composite for a monitor. I'm pretty sure the BenHeck stuff is just a repackaged composite monitor and VCS chipset. No real electrical engineering going on.

 

There's Stella 5 and you can likely run that on a single-board computer or SoC. Or you can make your own FPGA implementation. Or use some sort of compute stick. There's really a lot of possibilities.

I was mostly thinking of hacking together existing hardware like Ben did but taking advantages of new technology such as 3D printing, CNC machining, and new screen tech (such as McWill) . I am more of a mechanical designer guy not an electrical engineer or programmer. So what benefit will this have for others? Well if I can get the methods of screen interface and case designed the methods can be released as well as models for the case and the parts list BOM. This will allow many to build one themselves or have someone do one for them. 3D printing is usually associated with low quality but when printed through services such as Shapeways you can get high quality (metallic plastic can be polished to a mirror finish and looks store bought, I have used it). As far as real plastic molds, that is expensive but is an option if there was demand.

 

I could go the emulator route too with something like a Raspberry Pi but I think there is something nicer about real hardware. I have done emulators to death, nothing wrong with them exactly but I wanted to try something different. There is something to be said about a dedicated system that you pick up and play that matches the style of the original hardware without the need to faff about with menus, keymaps, and configs and possibly a real cartridge port for collectors. The case can be designed with the look of the 2600 style which would be quite nice.

 

@ Mc Will,

 

I don't have pictures yet as I am still looking at what the internals will be. The case will have to be designed around the size constraints of the electronics. I have concepts in mind. Basically the case would be streamlined but retro styled to pick up on the flavor of the Atari 2600. (That is where I think the Portable fails, it looks like your average Chinese game player not a 2600). So think of the 2600 style slim lined into a portable form complete with dedicated hardware switches like a 2600 (low profile of course). If/when the electronics can be figured out then the design can begin.

 

Yes I know, this all sounds like a guy with an idea but will never come to anything. That may be right if I can't find a way to easily build the electronics part. I posted this here as I know there may be a lot of talent such as yourself that maybe interested in something like this. Otherwise it may end up as a one off like the Ben Heck portable. A collaboration of electronics and mechanical designer would make this more than a one off for me. I do have some real world experience doing this, I designed the case and controls for the Open Pandora handheld. The electrical guy already had the layout of the way the keys, positions of the controls and overall look (I guess they wanted a DS clone look). It went fairly well although they later decided to paint them (was originally going to be colored plastic) which cause a few issues due to paint thickness. With an Atari portable there would be more freedom of design for me.

Edited by DaveC1964

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Tiny CRT or GTFO. The whole point of an Atari 2600 is to be "racing the beam."

Well it wouldn't be all that portable but I get what you are saying. LCD is kind of a compromise. To get close to the CRT look in a portable, an OLED screen would be pretty close. If a 3.5" OLED screen could be found with an even integer of 160 x 192 pixels (or close to it with slight letterboxing etc such as 320 x 240) that would be a dream 2600 portable.

Edited by DaveC1964

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Ideas:

 

If you use original chips, be sure that the power supply is adequate and that the case design accepts things like double-enders and the supercharger and some of those out of tolerance cartridges that don't fit the heavy sixer.

 

Provide real DB9 connectors (wired in like the real VCS) so that special controllers can be used.

 

6507 and RIOT are still readily available I think, so maybe an FPGA replication could work here.

 

Be sure all 6 switches are present. I really hate half-assed implementations that eliminate the B/W switch. It shows short sighted thinking in that b/w televisions are no longer used. Duh..! But the switch is sometimes used in homebrews and games like Space Shuttle to activate extra functions. After, all, it's just a switch that's readable by the program - which then simply switched palettes. If programmed so.

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Have you some pictures of your case design? Would be interesting. The case design should be small as a Nintendo DS with 3.5" LCD.

 

And still accept a cartridge as big as itself?

 

---

 

It'll be even more interesting to see the 3 original chips + 2 power supplies and a 4 hour battery crammed into a DS sized case. Along with a durable cartridge connector. And an arrangement of controls that brings at least 90% compatibility to the table.

Edited by Keatah

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Yes, the size of a Nintendo DS and the original cartridge fits on the back of the game console.
When I planned a portable ATARI 2600 two years ago, I wanted to have original parts, so the portable ATARI 2600 would be 100% compatible and not just 99%. I also wanted to use LiPo accus, USB charging, internal speaker and a 3.5" LCD.
But I haven't finished it yet, because I am very busy with my LCD mod kits for the LYNX and GAME GEAR (also the design of NOMAD mod kit and PCE GT mod kit).
But I think I will do the PCB design in the future.

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Yes, the size of a Nintendo DS and the original cartridge fits on the back of the game console.

When I planned a portable ATARI 2600 two years ago, I wanted to have original parts, so the portable ATARI 2600 would be 100% compatible and not just 99%. I also wanted to use LiPo accus, USB charging, internal speaker and a 3.5" LCD.

But I haven't finished it yet, because I am very busy with my LCD mod kits for the LYNX and GAME GEAR (also the design of NOMAD mod kit and PCE GT mod kit).

But I think I will do the PCB design in the future.

 

So you are planning a complete Atari 2600 portable including the case? That would be great.

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Yes, I can do also the case.

I'll try to finish it until Xmas ;-)

That will be great, sign me up for one! (maybe two if I buy as gift). That will surely save me a lot of work and I am sure yours will be better than something I would hack together.

 

Will it have built in paddle control too?

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I also can install paddle control onboard. It's not a big thing. But uses extra space on the PCB.

That would be nice as some of the best games use the paddle. If for some reason the paddle being on board doesn't make the cut hopefully you can put easy to access solder pads for one so modders can add one somewhere.

 

When do you think we can see a picture or concept of it? I bet there will be a lot of interest here.

Edited by DaveC1964

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I also can install paddle control onboard. It's not a big thing. But uses extra space on the PCB.

Also of importance is that it should be tolerant of flash carts and the slight power requirement differences. For a portable having something like a Harmony cart will be pretty necessary for portability (dragging around a bag of carts is not desirable when on the go.) I am pretty sure you thought of this but it doesn't hurt to mention it.

 

Looks like marginal components can be strained:

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/267724-problems-with-new-harmony-cart/

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At present I'm very busy. But when I have some pictures of the PCB and the case I let you know.
I also planned flash onboard. Then you can insert the original cartridge and copy it to flash and select the games with a menu on the screen. So you don't need to take all cartridges with you.

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If I go to You Tube I see all kinds of 2600 portable hacks mostly on the FB2. I was just wondering, how are they all connecting these screens? They never tell you that in the videos.

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I guess they will connect it via composite. But composite is analog. A digital screen would be much better :grin:

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And it would require serious electronic engineering skill.

Yeah I might have to just go the Raspberry Pi rout when they get a simple snap together design or wait for McWills portable if/when that is a reality. I didn't want to do the emulator thing but that may be the only way to get a decent display. Composite is crap and I don't want that. I wonder if there is any interest in a collaboration of coders and electronics engineer that would want to make the ultimate Raspberry 2600 kit including screen connection (nothing smaller than 3.5"), any specific coding, and a case (I could do the case/controls)? If there was interest this would be the forum for that amirite?

Edited by DaveC1964

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