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CatPix

A look into an early 2600 clone : Dar Yar

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I recently found a 2600 clone! My first one, not counting the very not Atari-looking Akor Super TV Boy.

I almost even ignored it because at first glance, it looked like an Atari 2600. Then I decided to check it, just in case there would be interesting games or accessories. And oh boy it became interesting very fast.

 

So the clone is a "Television Computer System" manufactured by Dar Yar; model is 2600B-160. It is... quite descriptive. It is indeed a PAL B* system with 160 build-in games.

It came with two joystick, both made in Taiwan, I assume from Day Yar as well.

 

*PAL B here is unrelated to the unfamous NES A and B zones, here, B is for the technical video system used in msot of Europe, PAL B/G. UK used PAL I, France used SECAM L, Eastern Europe used SECAM D/K. With the exception of SECAM L, it's mostly a sound carrier issue.

 

What caught my attention is the the outside is really well done. I could swap the shell for a genuine Atari 2600 and most people would be totally fooled.

But let's have some picture so you can see it by yourselves :

 

XK6Q2Zg.jpg

 

Big bonus for the plastic insert with the list of games. Very rad with that late 80's theme, hard to lose and impossible to destroy. Great job!

 

HuJqHnf.jpg

 

Of course they couldn't copy the name and all. But still, looks very genuine. The "Game Select" button confused me for a bit, until I found the answer to that odd labelling later... On AtariAge :)

 

rfy9dZ2.jpg

 

The back is the part where a trained eye would spot odd things. Of course the biggest clue here (ignoring the sticker) is the "Dar Yar" embossed in the plastic. Still, remove it and it still look genuine.

 

Now, let's take a look at the joysticks :

 

nE6HMnY.jpg

 

vhG3TBA.jpg

 

Can you tell the real deal from the clone?

 

For the nayed eye, they are hard to tell apart, but when you hold them... You can tell them more easily. I suppose those clones were made long before the consoles itself and they didn't took as much care to make them as they did for the system. The plastic, while still decent, is much thinner and hard, making it feel brittle.

Two things to note here : one, they aren't shy of slapping "made in Taiwan" on their products. And second : They moved the cable exit, so that the rubber pads can be put more in the corner of the shell, making it a bit more stable than the original Atari design.

 

The biggest changes are inside. Dar Yar completely redesigned the joystick.

 

84DHAfU.jpg

 

fAH7dyD.jpg

On one hand, the Taiwanese design is better than Atari's original. Those metal strips can be easily fixed and are reliable. Atari's use of those cheap clicker metal things isn't really a nice solution, requiring a PCB, then a layer of sticky tape to held those down, and those kind of clicky metal things flattens with use and don't work properly anymore.

On the other hand, the downfall of the Dar Yar Joystick is the use of that cheap, hard plastic. As you can see in the second pic, a bit of strenght on it and it just snaps. Atari used soft plastic that bend and avoid such failure.

 

Now let's go back to the system and do some comparisons with a Darth vader model...

 

Ps5PLXS.jpg

 

I mean, either they managed to get their hands on the original Atari molds, or they managed to copy them to a surprisingly good degree.

 

lakMXCB.jpg

 

1prZAmt.jpg

 

kxEdAo5.jpg

 

With a genuine system to compare, little details appears that shows that it isn't an original factory model.

 

One thing that appears clearly on the upper shell are the hole for the joysticks, power supply and difficulty switches, have all been redrilled, apparently by hand.

My best guess is that the molding process wasn't perfect and plastic partially obtured the holes.

For some reason, extra holes have been hand drilled on the bottom. I say for some reason because I see no reason for this, there is absolutely nothing under those. The hole for the RF cable is bigger too, but this time, there is a neat explanation : Dar Yar used a proper RCA plug, unlike Atari, so it couldn't fit through the original hole :)

Also of notice is that Atari-made stuff is absolutely void of mentions about who and where it was made. Hah!

 

Let's take a screwdriver now...

 

TRxV4Le.jpg

 

Well, now you can easily tell the fake from the real deal.

Some of you may know better than me so if you do, tell about it. But my guess is that Dar Yar only got their hands on the outside molds of a Darth vader or didn't wanted to pay for the inside part, and they simply recreated it by hand or "molded" it from an existing shell. I'd go for the molding because they copied everything from the original.

 

Tho you'll notice that they added two plastic legs, that support the console PCB where you insert the cart, reducing stress on the PCB. Now I never heard of an original Atari PCB cracking or having contact issues because of this, but once again, we see that despite making a clone, Dar Yar attempted to improve the original Atari design. That's actually very cool :)

 

4yst1Tg.jpg

 

Same "unproper finish" on the clone. But as an added bonus, they added "Dar Yar" inside.

 

SpiZ9iF.jpg

 

They were really proud of their work I assume! And frankly, I can see why.

 

And now, maybe the most interesting part :

 

Mbkz0Fh.jpg

 

I didn't had a proper Atari 2600 Jr to compare, but since it's a Darth vader shell... (don't mind the wires on the bottom of the original PCB, it's something I added to do a mod).

 

Another good surprise : this is a proper, clean design! Not a single wire to patch a mistake, no botched hand soldering. If I had been given this PCB without any infos, I would never say it's a clone! Very impressive. The only giveaway (save from the lack of Atari markings) is the generic big chip.

 

And, while I looked for a PAL Jr PCB, I found this :

 

Important quote :

Quote

 

The Color-B/W switch is a spring loaded slider that selects the games

in the currently selected rom chip out of the 4 installed.

 

So, now that explain why on this clone system, the B/W switch is called "Game Select". Tho, no this console, the switch does nothing.

 

Here is a pic of the original Atari 128 games PCB :

 

Mainboard.jpg

 

And the Dar Yar :

S7LkaRp.jpg

 

The most mind-blowing thing, however, are the two main chips.

 

They are the same used in both console, from the same manufacturer. If I looked right, the "generic" chip is the TIA, which kind of make sense as it's the only part Atari could sue (erm, at least, as far as electronics are concerned) and UMC probably didn't wanted that.

It's noteworthy that various components on the board bear date codes of 89 and 90, so that clone was made and maybe sold while the Atari 2600 was still for sale.

 

I didn't took any pic of the menu, for it's just 3 numbers you roll to select a game. Game display is correct so they took care of using PAL roms.

Edited by CatPix
Multiple typos
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Great find and great description. :thumbsup:

 

Have you checked the games? Anything unusual?

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I haven't checked all games yet. But all the ones I tried so far played and looked genuine, I can tell that much. I also tried an original cart and my Harmony cart and both worked flawlessly as well.

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Thanks for sharing.

Any games on it that don't ring a bell?

Xevious is Espial, right?

8)

 

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Thanks for sharing.

Any games on it that don't ring a bell?

Xevious is Espial, right?

8)

 

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Thank-you for the wonderfully detailed description of an obscure piece of hardware!  

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It would be cool if this could be dumped. At least the game select menu would be interesting.

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Unfortunately I have absolutely no knowledge on how to do that. I know a friend who may be able to do it, but he's busy with personnal projects (including building a beefy 8 bits computer, and building his own Vectrex console from scratch from a regular B&W TV).

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Can you post a screenshot of the menu? Even if it is dead simple we might spot something. 

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Did they really have European/World electronics experts to back-engineer the TIA and other Atari designs in order the make these things?

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2 hours ago, chewy said:

Did they really have European/World electronics experts to back-engineer the TIA and other Atari designs in order the make these things?

I was recently made aware of a Bit Corporation patent (in Taiwan) for a TIA clone. A .pdf of the patent (Chinese language, with diagrams/schematics) can be viewed on Google Patents.

 

hallyVORC tweet at https://twitter.com/hallyvorc/status/1212455271055839232

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Well as you can see, the original Atari JR, made "by" Atari, sold by Atari, alreacy contain a 65c02, TIA and I/O chip made by UMC, so they didn't even had to reverse-engineer them : they got the plans from Atari themselves!

 

 

Also : I wish 3-D printing was advanced enough that it externally looks like the real deal :)

Edited by CatPix

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Hello CatPix, if you can please post a picture of the menu screen. Also, does it play a tune? Actually a video would be even better.

 

Without seeing it I am guessing it is the existing menu screen we have dumped before. However there are at least 3 variants of it and only 2 have been dumped. I am curious if this is a 4th variant.

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I have just came across one of these console wondering if anyone can tell me what they are worth?

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I picked up an NTSC some time ago, can't recall the price (maybe £25.00), thought it was a good idea at the time.  The construction is not up to Atari's, so feels flimsy the way the main board is supported, which you notice when you plug in the contollers.  Whith some extra support added it would be perfect as a VCS substitute for the built in games, or with original cartridges which it plays well.  The only downside was it does not play the Uno Cart,  didn't test my Harmony on it. 

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