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Qix Raiders

Console upgrades and controller repair kit questions

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Hello everyone!

 

Sorry to start one of these threads, but as I searched through the existing ones it became hard to tell if information was still accurate or not and I didn't want to make any costly mistakes : )

 

I am hoping to get one of my 5200s out of storage and back to playable condition. I have both a 2 and a 4 port, with the 4 port using the super cool auto RF switch.

 

My first question is which system is a better candidate for a video upgrade?

 

My second question is what is the recommended video upgrade?
(From my research it would appear to be a Composite/S-Video output, but I guess I am curious if component video is an option as well.)

 

Next, these systems have been in storage for about 25 years because the Start buttons stopped working on the controllers. The side buttons could be problematic at times, but the number pad and sticks were great. (I never understood all the frustration, I guess I must naturally auto center :P)

 

I see a lot of controller repair kits on ePay, but they seem really expensive and it is hard to trust unknown sellers.

 

Is there a preferred source of 5200 controller repair kits here at AtariAge?
(From my reading it sounds like Dr.Venkman manufactured kits are amazing, but he appears to be out of stock for the foreseeable future.)

 

Thank you for your time and please do not hesitate to educate me on anything I might have gotten wrong or missed!

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Posted (edited)

i cant speak to console mods because i do not want to make things worse

 

 

but to controllers there seems to be 4 things that can go wrong \

#1 the harness fails in some way often from tightly winding as per atari instructions or slamming it in a drawer there are 14 wires in that cable and if any one breaks you are done either a row will go out on the keypad a direction stops working or a button doesnt work

 

#2 the flex circuit if a trace breaks you are done often it will be just one button on one side but still its game over for a "working controller" also the tin can get oxidied and turn a dark grey and not conduct so well combined with the carbon dots you may have a meg of resistance you can clean them with a pencil eraser i prefer using the white softer type but a new pink can do good just polish them up and test with a penny or paperclip to make sure its not a circuit path  failure.   on one controller i put little vaseline on each of the contacts and so far so good but who knows what its doing to the dots so eh its probably doing no good

 

#3 the potentiometers they can get old and become jammed or jittery and good luck finding that type good news is im my experience it is rare for a pot to fail in the controller sometimes its just a missaligned pot arm and you can reset them to the right position with missile command  knowing center is 6 oclock and 9 oclock

 

#4 the carbon dots they can dry out or become gooey if they get gooey you are done get a new sheet of buttons if they are dry you can do litte skidmarks on a piece of paper  with them and they often will conduct again

 

 

Edited by bohoki

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On 7/3/2020 at 12:34 PM, bohoki said:

i cant speak to console mods because i do not want to make things worse

Was there some drama I missed somewhere in regards to this?

 

But I will answer the console upgrades question having done quite a few 5200s myself.

 

There are at least 3 different AV methods known to me:

- Simple composite output mod (Similar to the 2600/7800 composite mod)

- UAV (Ultimate Atari Video mod kit provides composite and excellent s-video outputs)

- Sophia video upgrade board (Provides a DVI output or VGA can't recall right now) that is essentially RGB output

 

If you have a 4-port unit, there of course exists the very popular Power conversion upgrade. This removes one component from the 4-port units power circuit and replaces it with a few others so that you can install a standard DC barrel jack onto the back of the console and still use the same 5200 power supply that used to plug into the 4-port RF switchbox and allow you to plug it straight into the back of the 5200 like most normal consoles. The RF still works doing this but then requires the use of a standard switchbox or Coax-F adapter to plug the RF into the coax or ANT in on your TV to use RF. The power mod really makes it easier to use the 5200 even if you do have an extra cable plugged into it in the process.

 

The 2 port units can also use the same video upgrades mentioned above but do not really require any other modifications or upgrades save one. That is swapping the original 2-port BIOS from the console and putting in the 4-port BIOS instead. This will restore full compatibility to all 5200 games on the 2-port unit.

 

Naturally there is a nice SD flash cart available for the 5200 and you can also get corrected versions of the games that don't work on a standard 2-port in ROM format that you then can play on a stock 2-port console.

 

@bohoki already mentioned the controller side of things but even with rebuild kits etc, there are sometimes issues that can crop up on the 5200 that cause controller issues as well. Namely the controller MUX IC chips in the system.

 

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6 minutes ago, -^CrossBow^- said:

Sophia video upgrade board (Provides a DVI output or VGA can't recall right now) that is essentially RGB output

The current SOPHIA version C supports either DVI or switchable RGB/YPbPr. You have to select the output resolution when you order but not all TVs and monitors accept the various settings so when it works, it's awesome from what I've seen, but I've also seen some frustration when people's TV's aren't working with it.

 

The upcoming SOPHIA 2 will support independent RGB/YPbPr/VGA and DVI outputs at the same time and a bunch of selectable output resolutions and color palettes, though I believe you have to write to hardware registers to select these (might mean it's not ideal for 5200 use without the ability to easily run arbitrary code to set options. I don't know. If someone orders one and puts it into a 5200, hopefully that will get figured out. 

 

14 minutes ago, -^CrossBow^- said:

there are sometimes issues that can crop up on the 5200 that cause controller issues as well. Namely the controller MUX IC chips in the system.

 

Those mux chips are necessary for keypad functionality and being CMOS chips, they are subject to static damage. I've had to replace more than one of them on my 5200's. They are also used for keyboard mux on the A8 computers and the same thing can happen there. 

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30 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

The current SOPHIA version C supports either DVI or switchable RGB/YPbPr. You have to select the output resolution when you order but not all TVs and monitors accept the various settings so when it works, it's awesome from what I've seen, but I've also seen some frustration when people's TV's aren't working with it.

 

The upcoming SOPHIA 2 will support independent RGB/YPbPr/VGA and DVI outputs at the same time and a bunch of selectable output resolutions and color palettes, though I believe you have to write to hardware registers to select these (might mean it's not ideal for 5200 use without the ability to easily run arbitrary code to set options. I don't know. If someone orders one and puts it into a 5200, hopefully that will get figured out. 

 

 

Those mux chips are necessary for keypad functionality and being CMOS chips, they are subject to static damage. I've had to replace more than one of them on my 5200's. They are also used for keyboard mux on the A8 computers and the same thing can happen there. 

Yeap, I need to order a few replacements from console5 soon as I think I only have one more 4052 on hand and as you said, they are very static prone. It also makes sense they are used for the 8-bit line since on Pete's test cart and maybe the official diagnostics carts, the keypad presses correspond to actual ascii keys on the 8-bit keyboard as you see the alpha characters come up when testing the keypads on the 5200 controllers.

 

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If you gave an RGB setup, I would recommend the Sophia video mod.  Best quality picture of the different mods.

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Posted (edited)
On 7/3/2020 at 9:10 AM, Qix Raiders said:

Next, these systems have been in storage for about 25 years because the Start buttons stopped working on the controllers. The side buttons could be problematic at times, but the number pad and sticks were great. (I never understood all the frustration, I guess I must naturally auto center :P)

 

I see a lot of controller repair kits on ePay, but they seem really expensive and it is hard to trust unknown sellers.

If cost is a high consideration, like it is for most of us, I would prioritize basic functionality of your console before opting for various video upgrades for your 5200 boards. . . get the controllers working and achieving good graphical and audial output.  The reason for this is that when most of these old 80s electronics sit around dormant for extended periods of time, all sorts of things can go wrong, especially with this one. . . logic-chips fail, capacitors deteriorate, etc.  The only thing I've had to replace on them are some logic-chips, and these are relatively easy to procure. . . so far.  But, really, it's sad that these chips fail as often as they do.  Anyway, the stock controllers were complete junk from the get-go, due basically to the carbon-dot contacts on the button-overlays.  Unless the controllers have suffered a lot of abuse, the flex-circuit beneath the buttons should be okay.  Gently, and I do mean gently, very gently, clean the contacts on the flex-circuit with Deoxit or something.  Make sure whatever cleaning solvent you use is safe on polymers.  It doesn't have to be perfect, if you get OCD with cleaning these contacts, they'll tear up, and they do tear up easily.  Next, you'll want to either A.  adhere conductive copper foil over the carbon contacts beneath the keypad overlays and trigger-buttons or B.  purchase some modded keypads/buttons from your favorite supplier.  Either way, as long as there is good contact between the buttons and the flex-circuit, you're good-to-go. 

 

I should interject at this point that a copy of the 5200 Field Service Manual is very useful. . . I would actually say necessary.  I think it's still available in a stickied post on this forum.  It's pretty easy to read, and fairly well organized.  It also has some incredibly useful troubleshooting flowcharts.

 

Test your handiwork with the Missile Command cartridge.  If the buttons are responsive, and the cursor moves fluidly and smoothly, everything's probably good.  If cursor-movement is erratic or completely unresponsive in one direction or the other, use the diagnostic troubleshooting flowcharts and schematics in the field manual.  If the controllers have been subjected to moderate, normal use chances are that the logic-chip on the system-board has went kaput, and probably needs to be swapped out.  But also, just to be sure, check the wires on the controller, run some traces, use an ohm-meter to gauge potentiometer output, etc.  However, before going through all this, leave your unit plugged in and turned on for several hours or longer. . . you'd be amazed how many problems this can fix, especially issues of an intermittent nature.

 

If you don't want to go through all this, there are folks who rebuild 5200 controllers and sell them; I remember a long time ago an Ebay merchant, rolccone, did this; my spouse bought them for me for birthday or Christmas or something:

 

image.thumb.png.248bd575a59f630f02a9c000cc49aea0.png

 

 

He did a really good job, and was honest about his technical proficiency.  $65.00 bucks/controller, which at the time I thought was reasonable.  The system and controllers bought from him still work fine today, although I had to replace a chip for one of the controllers in the PCB last year I think.  Best Electronics used to also do this, and may be a viable option.

 

But here's the thing, even if a controller is rebuilt, it may not be reconditioned.  And what I mean here is there are two parts in the controller that need to be reconditioned, and these are the X and Y potentiometers.  Now, in the past you could just replace these if they went bad.  But, as far as I know, I can't find replacement potentiometers of this sort; they are proprietary in their design.  So, it's important to keep them in good condition.  What happens is that the rotary contact of the pot slowly effaces the incredibly thin conductive carbon layer on the pot-wafer.  There's no help in the field manual re. this, it simply recommends to swap them out, which isn't an option.  It's not hard to recondition these.  Use a jeweler's flat-head screwdriver and push out the four retaining clasps on the pot, lift out the arm-mechanism, and lubricate the wafer-surface with a conductive lubricant; I like the DeoxIT Fader Grease for something like this. And then reassemble.  That's it.  Make sure to notate which wires connect to the relevant terminals on the pot before taking apart the pot.  Even if the controllers were working before, after these pots are greased, you'll notice a positive, marked difference in movement.  Also add a little grease or lube to the small cup that holds the stick of the controller, as this area also handles a lot of action.

 

Like I said, there's a lot that can go wrong with some legacy electronics; it's also important to not that manufacturing standards for these Atari consoles seemed to go downhill throughout the 80s. . . just plain shoddy, right down to the board-chips and other components.  However, if you found a Heavy-sixer circa '78-'79 in a barn-loft today, and plugged it in, it'd probably work.   So, even after the interface is working smoothly, you can have color, sound, sprite/character display, ROM, RAM, and other issues.  And it's nickels and dimes all along the way.  You can just replace the 5200 system boards, but these have probably been sitting around somewhere just as long as the ones you have, and I don't even know whether these replacement boards are still available.  For example, I bought a 4-port SB from Best last year, and already I've had to replace a controller-chip in it.  So, it's something to think about, especially when investing in modifications for it.

 

Ok, well, good luck, and I hope things work out well!

 

 

Edited by patroclus99
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Wow, thanks for the detailed write up patroclus99! It is good to know that the pots can be reconditioned.

 

Sadly I didn't find my Atari 5200s on the trip home. There were lots of little things to do for my mom, and I foolishly waited until my last morning to start going through all the stuff in storage.

 

I quickly discovered that there must have been a water event at some point in the past year, as all my boxes were wet. This means over 6 inches of water must have intruded at some point, as I had everything elevated on plastic pallets in order to avoid this situation.

 

While many things were protected against the worst with heavy duty plastic box liners, quite a bit was ruined. I only got through a few boxes before it was time to leave and the fates of the 5200s are not yet known.

The Jaguar didn't fair so well. At least the boxes and manuals. The stacked boxes were completely stuck together. Thankfully AvP was high enough that it didn't get damaged, but all this stuff was mint or near mint :(

Jag.jpg

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I'm really sorry to hear about you Jag; that's really heart-sinking.

 

However, this could be an excellent opportunity to avail yourself some electronics repair-tech education, should you not already possess it.  This is one of these cliche lemonade-from-lemons situations.

 

The really good news here, is that the console wasn't powered-on upon water-exposure.  I'd take everything apart which I could (console, power-supply, controllers, CD-ROM, etc.) , and dry everything out as much as possible:  Gently wipe/swab all visible moisture out, blow-dry, spray components down with isopropyl alcohol to extract additional moisture (especially minuscule spaces like controller ports, etc.), let components dry for a couple of days, then spray all conductive surfaces down with electronics-cleaner (I like Chemtronics), let components dry for another couple of days, put everything back together, and see what happens.  Looks like it has one of those cheap-ass RF-shields like on the 5200. . . so annoying.  I really wish these consoles preserved the RF-shield mounting specs like on the Heavy-sixer.

 

If capacitors have maintained a good seal, they should function properly.  I've never repaired a Jag, but I watched a decent repair-video on YouTube; it looks like all the logic and memory chips are soldered-in.  If any of these need to be replaced, you'll get to learn some very delicate soldering techniques because some of these chips are incredibly super-fidgety small. . . looks like Console5.com sells a lot of these chips.  That Jag board looks like a really nicely designed board conducive to making repairs a little easier. . . stuff isn't all mashed together; I was surprised, really clean design. . . as far as I can tell.  Although, I can't for the life of me figure out how game-developers for that system drove the game-logic with that strange processor scheme.  Anyway, I'm sure you can probably find some cheap 'parts'/'as is' consoles with intact boards on Ebay or some other e-bazaar too.

 

You can find some nice game-cases at retrogamecases.com for Atari sytems; I think they are reasonably priced.  They are actually better than the original boxes in my opinion. . . at least for the older systems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Funny you mention the electronics knowledge. While I am no expert, one of the tasks that kept me from getting to the storage area until it was too late was addressing why my mother's range hood was not working. After inspecting the main board I noticed that a cap was leaking. Rather than spend $200 on a new board I looked up the cap on Mouser, ordered it, and now the range hood is working for less than $10! (Really, less than a dollar, but there was shipping :P)

Thanks for the words of encouragement, I am actually more looking forward to putting your advice to use in cleaning the 5200 pots. Just have to wait until December to get back home. That is the worst part!

 

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