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bjbest60

Displaying / leaving a 2600 powered on for a very long time

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Hello all,

 

I'm happy to share that my experimental game High Score Screen Burn Slow Burn will be exhibited as part of a gallery show this coming fall. The game isn't necessary a game as much as an experience where you watch a square randomly traverse a screen and occasionally pick up an object for some points. There are some hidden-ish uses for a joystick, but they're not necessary, and a joystick won't be included in the exhibit.

 

I plan to display the game with a real 2600 and CRT TV. My question: what sorts of problems might I encounter if I turn on the game / TV and leave them on for six weeks or so? The game is meant to be "played" over a long stretch of time--something on the order of months rather than minutes--so I'd like to leave things run for as long as possible, and I'd also prefer to not have to go through the hassle of having everything turned on / off every day. I'd also really like to avoid emulation or a new clone console.

 

Am I in danger of destroying the 2600? Is something likely to catch fire? Is some model more likely to be robust than the others?

 

I'm willing to risk sacrificing a console, but I don't want to have to anticipate buying a new one off eBay every week, either. Destroying the TV is fine (especially screen burn, as the title implies) as long as it doesn't destroy anything else.

 

I'd appreciate any advice anyone has about presenting a 2600 and TV in a museum-type setting with the intention of keeping the system and screen constantly on.

 

Thanks!

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I am not an expert, but if the electronics are otherwise sound then heat would be what you need to look out for. I am assuming that you aren't enclosing the tv and 2600 inside a display case that might not have good air circulation. If you are, it's important in general for the electronics to have some airflow so that the heat doesn't build up. Internally to the console, potentially you could open up the 2600 and install a new voltage regulator with a beefy heatsink and thermal compound. After 30+ years the heat transfer away from the 2600's voltage regulator is bound to be quite poor.

 

Not quite the same thing, but I have a 7800 with a recently replaced voltage regulator and recently replaced thermal grease and I have had it on continuously for the last 6+ weeks with no issues.

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Posted (edited)

Who's to say how long a VCS would stand up to 24/7 usage these days. Some of them have parts that are 42 years old! So, go with a late model jr. or a recently made clone. Or better yet, emulation.

Edited by Keatah
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When I was a kid I left my 2600 on for a day or two sometimes without issue. Mind you I didn't do it on purpose, I was just a kid not paying attention when left on that long. I'd turn off the TV and forget to turn off the Atari.

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Destroying the TV is fine (especially screen burn, as the title implies) as long as it doesn't destroy anything else.

I'm eager to learn how this goes. Please come back and update us when the exhibition closes! I suspect the Atari will be fine but you'll get some burn-in on the monitor, as you anticipate.

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There is no guarantee with such old hardware and id say the 2600 would crap out before the CRT. I had wrote a very simple "screensaver" for kicks that actually kinda stresses the hardware. It's not overly intensive however it's always calculating and turning playfield pixels on and off every 60 frames. Was basically a novelty project

 

screensaver.bin

 

post-30687-0-70189900-1555511409_thumb.png

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Thanks, all, for the thoughts. I'd be willing to try a clone but I'd really like to keep the CRT. And going from the HDMI of a Retron 77 to RF seems a bit silly. Basically, I'd like the physical cart to be shown inside a functional system--any other recommendations for clones? If not, I roll the dice with a fresh-looking Jr. off of eBay. Thanks!

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Most of the Atari Flashback systems prior to 2017 used standard definition connectors, meaning composite video which would work on a (newer) CRT or (older) LCD. No cartridge slot on them though, unless you solder your own onto a Flashback 2.

 

I think the original, vintage systems will be more likely to run for ages without a reboot. My assumption: less code, fewer bugs.

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At least one 2600 has survived being left on for a month:

 

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/138228-video-chess-level-7/?p=3524766

 

 

I've frequently left the Atari on for a few days at a time to finish a game of Video Chess on level 4 which still takes an hour or two to finish, can take a couple of days to fit it in.

Sometimes I'll leave it on after playing Defender or another game because the display starts the color cycling and it looks cool - does anyone else do that?

The exhibit and the long-term game concepts sound really interesting - looking forward to hearing more about them.

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The only thing I would be concerned is the power brick being plugged into the outlet for a long time.

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To my understanding some Atari can burn because manufacturing bugs and lack of proper ventilation (like putting it over the carpet)

 

But as far as I can say only I've saw one (ONE) Atari damaged, while I've seen tons of Intellivision model 1 burnt. (The model 3 is more solid).

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Posted (edited)

Atari 2600's don't burn and there's no concern if you were running one on a carpet.

 

It's an Atari 2600, not a Xbox One. I wouldn't worry about ventilation since it's not going to get hot, doesn't have a fan circulating air inside of it, doesn't have vents that I've ever noticed in the varieties that I own, etc.

 

I believe if there's a weak spot in your plan, that frankodragon called it.

Edited by Atariboy

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Makes me wonder how well a 7800 could last turned on, or other consoles like NES or TurboGrafx16.

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The only thing I would be concerned is the power brick being plugged into the outlet for a long time.

 

Is the concern that it would become too hot / melt something over time? Or is it something else?

 

I have a new-in-package off-brand power supply (Gemini) that's from 1987. But, as it notes on the back of the package, "It is recommended to unplug the adapter from wall outlet when not in use to prolong its life."

 

If heat is the issue, do you think somehow affixing a heat sink would help?

 

Thanks again.

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Is the concern that it would become too hot / melt something over time? Or is it something else?

 

I have a new-in-package off-brand power supply (Gemini) that's from 1987. But, as it notes on the back of the package, "It is recommended to unplug the adapter from wall outlet when not in use to prolong its life."

 

If heat is the issue, do you think somehow affixing a heat sink would help?

 

Thanks again.

I've had several non-atari adapters fail by being plugged in for too long. Usually it's the smell of burning plastic, popping noise or both. I would also recommend using a power bar with a surge protector and plug the brick into one of those than straight into the outlet.

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The only thing I would be concerned is the power brick being plugged into the outlet for a long time.

 

I left both my Atari and NES power supplies plugged in for YEARS on end without cooking them.

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Posted (edited)

 

I left both my Atari and NES power supplies plugged in for YEARS on end without cooking them.

 

Electronics have varying degrees of quality so consider yourself lucky. So this is a complex question. In the case of an original Atari 2600 the electronics are simple so more likely to last longer. BUT the big elephant in the room is the power supply. Old power supplies or any modern cheap power supply should NEVER be plugged in unsupervised and can go faulty and cause a fire. Also older ones have a tendency to go bad and fry the electronics. For example the original C64 power supplies are notorious for just frying the computer. Getting a modern C64 power supply is always recommended.

 

For the Atari 2600 I highly recommend getting a new power supply like the one below. But these are generally poor quality so I also suggest like frankodragon..."using a power bar with a surge protector and plug the brick into one of those than straight into the outlet."

 

3rd Party AC Power Adapter (Atari 2600)

https://www.amazon.com/3rd-Party-Power-Adapter-Atari-2600/dp/B00469YOFI

Edited by thetick1

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Well, the Atari is installed and the game is running!  I wound up with a Vader.  I think it looks pretty good in a gallery setting.  Fingers crossed for a failure-free show!

 

large.IMG_0927.JPG.afc91c9a5c537b1fadf0b6be75ef634e.JPG

large.IMG_0929.JPG.da85261a7652ca88de6b2d62bcd61461.JPG

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now that I can see what you have on the screen, you biggest issue will be screen burn in on the CRT tube itself. Do you have the entire background rotate colors as well as the graphics on the sides? Even the score would need to be made to shift from left to right over time to try and mitigate the burn in.

 

But the 2600 itself could have been bulletproofed with a DC-DC regulator installed to replace the linear 7805. That would give you the +5 voltage regulation needed with no heat from that section of the console. As for the power supply, I would have just gotten a newer adapter to make sure it could handle being on for so long. BTW...the comment above about unplugging the adapter when not in use...well this Atari is never turned off and the Atari is always doing something, so technically it is never in a state where it isn't being used. But I think the Atari setup you have will be fine as is and really it is the TV and burn in from the graphics to be more worried about.

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19 hours ago, bjbest60 said:

Well, the Atari is installed and the game is running!  I wound up with a Vader.  I think it looks pretty good in a gallery setting.  Fingers crossed for a failure-free show!

 

large.IMG_0927.JPG.afc91c9a5c537b1fadf0b6be75ef634e.JPG

large.IMG_0929.JPG.da85261a7652ca88de6b2d62bcd61461.JPG

Which gallery?

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It's the Bliss gallery at Carroll University, Waukesha, Wisconsin.  The show doesn't open until the end of the month, but it's cool to see the game and TV in full operation.

 

I powered it up on Tuesday, and I'll be back on Monday for a first review of things.  I'm actually hoping some of the screen burn does occur over time, as the game's title promises.  Should be an interesting experiment.

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On 8/15/2019 at 9:35 PM, bjbest60 said:

It's the Bliss gallery at Carroll University, Waukesha, Wisconsin.  The show doesn't open until the end of the month, but it's cool to see the game and TV in full operation.

 

I powered it up on Tuesday, and I'll be back on Monday for a first review of things.  I'm actually hoping some of the screen burn does occur over time, as the game's title promises.  Should be an interesting experiment.

 

Good 'ol Waukesha. The only claim to fame there is birthplace of Les Paul. And spring water. Even though the springs are all dried up and the remaining water is full of radium. But mostly Les Paul.

 

And man do they really cling to that. Can't throw a rock without hitting something with his name or a guitar mural/statue. 

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