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  1. Atari 2600 Teardown, Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 1, изображение 1 из 1
    • Atari 2600, with AC adapter and iconic joystick controller.

    • Does the 2600 have a hardwood finish? You are correct sir!

    • Video game consoles these days may not have a sense of home decor, but some computer companies still believe in the aesthetics of wood paneling.

    • At its release, the 2600 sold for $199. In today's coin, that's $696. In comparison, the launch model of PlayStation 3 cost only $599. Prices are coming down!

    • As soon as users figured out that the Atari 2600 could play more games than just Pong, the 2600 became massively successful. It went from selling 250,000 consoles in 1977 to 1 million units in 1979.

    The Playstation 3 comparison should include the fact that the 2600 came with controllers for two players (two joystick and two paddles) and a bundled game. Adding an extra controller and game would make the inflation-adjusted Playstation price nearly the same as the Atari.

    Jonathan Kagle - Ответить

  2. Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 2, изображение 1 из 1
    • From its release in 1977 until 1983, the Atari 2600 was officially called the Video Computer System, in response to Fairchild Semiconductor's Video Entertainment System. The console was later renamed after its model number, CX2600.

    • Instead of following the trend of building a limited number of games into the system like the Magnavox Odyssey 100, the Atari 2600 used removable cartridges to store games like Space invaders, Pac-Man and Pitfall!

    • Each player could select the difficulty of the game they were playing by simply flipping a switch from "A" to "B". Which one was harder is anyone's guess.

    In regards to the difficulty switches, switching to "B" was the easier setting and switching to "A" was the harder setting. Some examples:

    Missile Command:

    A: Make the missiles you launch slower

    B: Make the missiles you launch faster

    Space Invaders:

    A: Makes your base bigger (and most likely to be hit)

    B: Makes your base smaller


    A: UFOs appear

    B: UFOs does not appear

    Hopefully the information I provided here will help those confused with the difficulty switches.

    Jon Fukumoto - Ответить

    The "anyone's guess" comment was inappropriate. The system owner's manual mentions in section 5 that position "A" is generally more difficult than position "B". Every game instruction manual described exactly what the functions of the difficulty switches were for that game, if they did anything at all. There are a few games which were inadvertently made with difficulty settings reversed from the standard.

    ajfranzman - Ответить

    Dude. No one cares.

    Project Mayhem -

    I care deeply. But where is the switch? Is it underneath the console?

    helga.leske - Ответить

    On the console shown in this article, difficulty switches are on the back upper edge (visible above the cartridge port in the photo above at Step 2 of this guide). This puts each player’s difficulty switch just inboard of his or her controller port.

    On consoles with 6 silver-colored front panel switches, the switch nearest the cartridge port on each side is the difficulty switch.

    ajfranzman -

  3. Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 3, изображение 1 из 2 Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 3, изображение 2 из 2
    • There are four screws holding the upper and lower case together.

    • Hmm, these screws in the back are at an odd angle: almost 30 degrees off of vertical! Strange.

    • With such a large console, there must be a ton of awesome components inside...

  4. Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 4, изображение 1 из 1
    • ...Or not. Seriously? That's it? The case design team must have wanted to give lots of breathing room to the motherboard team, just in case. (Actually this is the third version of the internal hardware, the first took up much more of the case.)

    • Jay Miner was able to integrate the display and sound chip into a single IC, thereby reducing the footprint of the motherboard, but the case size still seems rather hyperbolic.

    • With a design that is unseen in just about any other electronic device, the motherboard is propped up and sits at an angle of 30 degrees inside the Atari. Now those case screws make sense!

    The case design seems unusual even when you consider the original, 6-switch model. See here: http://www.longhornengineer.com/Videomod...

    cityzen - Ответить

    The reason for the case being so large was that originally it included two speakers for stereo audio output. These were deleted at the last minute in favor of mono audio through the TV as a cost-saving measure, but the very earliest 6-switch consoles have circular-layout speaker slots in the top and support posts cast into the case bottom. In fact, it took Atari quite a long time to completely close off the speaker slots, as even some of the 4-switch models (like the one used here) still have them. I've even seen case tops with speaker slots on only one side!

    ajfranzman -

    Here's a much better picture of the insides of a 6-switcher: http://oldcomputers.net/atari-vcs.html

    I guess that the round tripods near the front of the case were for holding the speakers.

    cityzen -

    This photo should be replaced, as it shows incorrect routing of the RF cable (apparently someone has opened this console before). From the RCA socket on the motherboard, the cable should be placed thus: first, it should go toward the *front* of the console (from a player's perspective; i.e. "southwest" as the console is positioned in the present photo) alongside the main EMI shield, and between that shield and the RF modulator unit. Then it should turn 90 degrees toward the player's right and be pressed into the slot in the top of the fat round post. Then it should make another gentle 90 degree turn to head toward the rear of the console and be pressed in place between the small hollow post and the fin beside it, which supports the case top. Proceeding rearward, the cable may either be pressed between the pair of fins, or between the rightmost fin and the case side (as the pair of fins are actually a bit too close to one another) before winding around the remaining plastic bits to finally make its exit from the rear of the case.

    ajfranzman - Ответить

  5. Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 5, изображение 1 из 3 Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 5, изображение 2 из 3 Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 5, изображение 3 из 3
    • Finally, cables that are not soldered to the board! (Take note, Studio II.) The RCA cable is easily removed.

    • The motherboard easily lifts out, as there are no additional screws or clips holding it in place. The only thing securing it down were the angled screws we removed from the outer case.

    • The motherboard measures 9.75" x 5.25" and the lower case measures 13.75" x 9.75".

    • The case of the 2600 is 2.6 times larger than the motherboard!

  6. Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 6, изображение 1 из 3 Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 6, изображение 2 из 3 Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 6, изображение 3 из 3
    • The motherboard of the 2600 is dominated by an ominous metal box, likely the EMI shield covering the ICs.

    • Our efforts to access the brain of the Atari are temporarily thwarted by four metal tabs.

    • A few short twists with pliers and the EMI shield lifts free.

    • Atari gets a +1 on repairability for not soldering the shield to the motherboard, as some recent manufacturers have done.

  7. Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 7, изображение 1 из 1
    • Brains!

    • The Atari 2600 boasts:

    • 1.19MHz 8-bit processor

    • 128 bytes RAM

    • 192 x 160 pixel resolution

    • 128 colors, with max 4 colors per line

    • 2 channel mono sound

    • Unlike most earlier consoles -- where the games were stored on internal chips -- the Atari 2600 stored games in Read Only Memory (ROM) chips housed in external cartridges. This allowed for a potentially infinite number of playable games for the console.

    The three main chips are socketed (!) for easy replacement.

    Jonathan Kagle - Ответить

    Yes, socketing the chips DID make replacement easy. However, because they are of the DIP (Dual Inline Package) design, they have one annoying flaw: They tend to "walk" out of the sockets over time. Here's how it happens: When you turn the system on and off, the internal circuitry heats up and cools down. This causes expansion when heated, and contraction when cooled. Over a period of time, this causes the chips to "walk" out of the sockets, causing bad contact and the system will fail to power up. The solution is to open it up and reseat the chips back into the socket. This is one annoying thing about that design. The original IBM PC had a lot of sockets for its memory, and when the event I described happens, the computer would refuse to power up. That's the reason why SIMMs and DIMMs were introduced.

    Jon Fukumoto -

    It's interesting to note that the 6507 was a 6502 with some data lines deleted. This meant that the 2600 can only access up to 4K. However, some companies used a bank switching technique, so some cartridges had as much as 16K! That was quite a bit in those days, as memory was pretty expensive.

    Jon Fukumoto - Ответить

  8. Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 8, изображение 1 из 1
    • The top two chips are the 6532 Ram-I/O-Timer (RIOT) chip and MOS Technology's 6507 CPU (a slimmer version of the more popular 6502). By the current revision, they were manufactured by Synertek and Rockwell, respectively.

    • Atari's custom chip, the Television Interface Adapter (TIA) is the moneymaker of the 2600, as it allowed for multiple colors, increased graphic capabilities, and sound.

    • Because memory was so expensive during the 2600's design, the video processor has no external RAM. As a result the CPU must send video data to the TIA one line of video at a time.

    • There are six components of video that the TIA can create: The playing field, Two sprites (8 pixel lines), a "ball" (single pixel), and two "missiles" (two pixel lines). Combinations of these elements allowed for the complex video games witnessed in the 2600.

    Pretty sure that the 6507 in that picture has a MOS Tech mark on it, not Motorola. The chip on the bottom (which I think is the TIA, not 100% sure) appears to have a Motorola mark on it, though.

    Dennis - Ответить

    Indeed, Motorola did not make the 6502/6507, although they could have. The history is interesting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/6502

    cityzen -

    Oh, and the 6507 has a Rockwell logo on it. Rockwell licensed the 6502/6507 and eventually came out with their own versions. Synertek was another licensee.

    cityzen -

  9. Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 9, изображение 1 из 1
    • With the EMI shield removed, all the components of the motherboard are visible.

    • Color tint adjustment

    • Sound tuner

    • RF modulator

    • Cyan Engineering TIA custom chip (manufactured by Motorola)

    • MOS Technology 6532 RIOT (manufactured by Synertek)

    • MOS Technology 6507 CPU (manufactured by Rockwell)

    • Voltage regulator (manufactured by Texas Instruments)

  10. Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 10, изображение 1 из 2 Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 10, изображение 2 из 2
    • The back of the Atari 2600 Motherboard has exactly nothing interesting on it, except a great appreciation for through-hole soldering and hand drawn circuits.

    • This model was revision 13. How lucky!

    I think that the giant solder blob underneath the voltage regulator is kind of interesting. I'll have to keep that technique in mind when I need a DIY heatsink in my own projects.

    Also kind of interesting are the wrinkly traces. This is due to "hot air solder levelling" (HASL) where the traces were coated with solder before the solder mask was applied, which helped reduce corrosion and with wetting at nearby joints. During the later wave soldering process, the HASL solder would melt again under the mask, and wrinkle as it cooled down. You can see this on a lot of 1970s and 1980s PCBs.

    Curt Sampson - Ответить

  11. Atari 2600 Teardown: шаг 11, изображение 1 из 1
    • Behold the Atari in all five of its parts!

    • We give the Atari 2600 a big plus for repairability. Every component is attached via through-hole solder, so replacing a burnt out resistor or IC is quite feasible.

    • We're sad to say that we don't have parts for the Atari 2600, but we do have a brand new game console parts store to help keep your (slightly more modern) consoles running.

    • Keep an eye on our teardown page or blog for a detailed look at another retro game console tomorrow!

17 Комментариев

Your IC ID on this teardown is incorrect.

The Rockwell chip in the middle CO10745 is the 6507 CPU

The Motorola CO10444 is the TIA and the Synertek is the 6532 RIOT IC



The CPU Shack Museum


John - Ответить

Agreed, and I don't get how you guys came to the conclusion of "a great appreciation for [...] hand drawn circuits".

I see nothing but straight lines, which very well could be neatly hand drawn, but just as easily could be CAD'ed.

But otherwise I love your teardowns of classic hardware. Keep them coming!

Michael -

Perhaps they meant to suggest that the traces were laid out manually using a CAD program, as opposed to auto-routed?

cityzen -

Perhaps by "hand drawn" they meant "hand taped," the more usual method for circuit layout. While I have done small boards with a photo-resist pen on the copper or a marker on a mylar mask, it was more usual and easier to use a strong black tape on the copper or the mask. It came in varying widths, and you could also buy stick-on or transfer pads for through-holes and sets of pads for ICs. When taping out stuff it was definitely easier to do straight lines than curves!

Curt Sampson -

The 6507 isn't just "slimmer", it has a smaller address space and no interrupts.

mattack - Ответить

It is said to be a 6502 die inside of a smaller package without all of the pads bonded to pins.

cityzen -

Also, the TIA is not a 6505 as Step 9 states. According to Hyperlink (last image) the 6505 is only 28 pins (the TIA is 40), and according to Hyperlink the 6505 is a feature-reduced version of the 6502 CPU, much as the 6507 is.

ajfranzman - Ответить

Note that some of the 2600 consoles had (very slightly) different lengths of screws, and putting them in wrong would tear up the traces on the board. http://www.atarimuseum.com/videogames/co...

jrehwin - Ответить

The article you linked mentions "two sizes of self-tapping screw". Self-tapping screws were only used in the consoles with six switches on the front, from the first two production runs. The issue was resolved by the time those with four front switches were made, like the one used for illustration of this article.

ajfranzman -

Any one who laid out PCBs back in those days did it by cutting rubyliths or using press on black tape to clear mylar film hence hand drawn or laid. I did many of them in the early 1970s while working at Purdue or Magic Dot in MPLS.

Dave Colglazier orgwood@iaxs.net

orgwood - Ответить

Esa FUE mi primer consola y con esa aprendi ELECTRONICA yo la limpiaba y la reparaba …… Que buena epoca esa

Edgardo Alvayero - Ответить

Hi my Atari 2600 got modified to suit a digital HD tv but the background for the games on every console is either green, 3 vertical colours or snowy is it a console or cartridge issue what to do?

Mario - Ответить

Go to atariage.com, and ask question.

radiorob1 -

I had a 2600 when I was a kid I loved it

jhoneycutt323 - Ответить

Awesome! This console was the reason for my entrance into Electronics as a Technician.

Mike Niner Bravog - Ответить

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