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Note: This is a repost of a blog that I wrote last year.  I thought the members of this community would appreciate it.  Enjoy.
The blog can be viewed in its entirety at: http://zopingo.com/dans-blog/atari-2600-vcs-repairs

As a kid, I grew up on the Atari VCS system (a.k.a. Atari 2600).  I was fortunate that my Dad owned a hobby shop/toy store when this came out in 1977 and was one of the first of my friends to have one (along with many of the games that play on it). In 1985 when I was departing for my time in the Air Force I was unloading a storage unit of my things and the truck driver was very interested in my Atari so I gave it to him making for one very happy family.

Here I am over 30 years later and interested in retro-gaming so I picked up an old Atari VCS  from a seller on Ebay a year or so ago not knowing the condition.  I actually only purchased it for photographs with my Mini Atari Project.  The price was right for the gamble so I did it.  As it turns out, it did not work (powered on but no picture) so I had been trying to decide what to do about it. 

One resource I found was at www.atari2600.com where they will repair any Atari 2600 console for $24.95 plus parts.  I was considering this option but have always wanted to tackle a small-ish electronics repair job so I figured I would give that a try.

 

After scouring the internet I found one YouTube video particularly useful.  It is titled Atari 2600  Repair - No Power (Dead Voltage Regulator) and the author does an excellent job of explaining with high-quality video so you can really see what he is doing.  Even though you can do your own repair with this information, the video only covers replacing the voltage regulator and I am going for a full refurbishment with a kit from www.console5.com.

 

Please note that this link goes straight to the kit for my 'Light Sixer' unit, there is another page with a kit for the 4-switch units.

 

c5-parts.jpg.81c2424be57cc06bf0e6209b5770ff42.jpg

 

The 'sixer' units come with 2 boards, a main board and a switch board.  I will be doing modifications to both of them. I did not get pictures of the boards before removing components, but it will be clear what I replaced.  

 

2boards.jpg.9b54eb314d7ab9a800ec6ab95c0ab6b3.jpg

My instructions assume that anyone attempting this repair knows how to remove the boards from the case so I will not go into that here.

 

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MAIN BOARD REPAIRS

atari-vcs-repair-mod-main-board_orig.thumb.jpg.c62b97f16e5e476f995e4406aca9d77a.jpg

 

NOTE: In some cases I am using radial in lieu of axial type capacitors because that is what came in the kit.  It does not make any difference for functionality but do be aware of polarity on these capacitors when installing.

 

Repair #1 - Replace the original axial type capacitor with a new 4.7µF 50V radial type capacitor at location C201. 

4-7uf-cap_orig.thumb.jpg.c8e255111d17b3ade211b1eba5531160.jpg

 

Repair #2 - Replace the original pair of styrene caps with 820 pF MLCC capacitors at locations C206 & C207.  These capacitors are related to audio issues which I don't know if I have but since they are in the kit and I have all the soldering tools out I got them installed.

  old-audio-caps-c.jpg.8c1d515089b33dcb85756ee791688248.jpg  new-audio-caps-c_orig.jpg.42580b6640887fde0b29c148f5bc1d2a.jpg

 

Repair #3 - Replace original diode/capacitor assemblies with new zener diodes and .1µF capacitors at locations C236 & C237.  Solder the capacitor across each diode as shown in the picture.

diode-cap.thumb.jpg.c981d4e0817ef3f3581dac23fd67fb29.jpg

 

Repair #4 - Replace the DC Power Jack.  They tend to get broken, dirty, or lose tension over the years. (no picture needed)

 

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SWITCH BOARD REPAIRS

atari-vcs-repair-mod-switch-board_1_orig.thumb.jpg.b825d64349f6f1727e8b0e5300ebd59d.jpg

 

Repair #1 - Replace the original capacitor with a new 2200µF 16V axial type capacitor as shown.

2200-cap.thumb.jpg.0e149fd78e739ec41c7b2b7de9fe33e7.jpg

 

Repair #2 - Replace the original 7805  voltage regulator with a new unit rated for 1 Amp service. The originals were rated at 1/2 Amp and have been know to fail (mine was a failed unit).

Remember to use new thermal compound (included in kit) to properly dissipate the heat generated by this unit.

 

7805vr.jpg.13d251a3f6f985c2f66e71ce3134bc18.jpg

 

The repair kit even includes a bolt and nut for units that had the VR installed to the board via rivet.  Fortunately mine was just a screw.

 

Repair #3 - Replace the .22µF "chicklet" capacitor with a non-electrolytic type.  The "chicklet" type  sometimes cause 'sparkles' in the video when they fail.

chicklet-cap.jpg.229ab99be4e3f5aa51c11d5ddddb02c6.jpg  non-electro-cap.jpg.3bf61273a2b8ce105a06e22b6602b364.jpg

 

Repair #4 - Identical to repair #1 on the Main Board.  Replace the original axial type capacitor with a new 4.7µF 50V radial type capacitor.   Note polarity before removing old capacitor.

 

SUMMARY

In the end, this repair went quite well.  Once I got all the components installed I was able to fire it up and have a working unit.

 

working-unit_orig.thumb.jpg.7da3a22db264bb785924775b04739685.jpg

 

After this repair I installed a composite video modification to get better quality video and eliminate the RF modulator.

 

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