I recently purchased an Atari 600XL computer from a local game store for one iPod, Castlevania circle of the moon (in box) and $20. Needless to say, it was quick deal made. Anyway, I tried to power it on, and I got nothing. Well, not nothing, but very little… It was just a blurry screen. So I ventured on a quest to fix it. And today I recall that quest.
Open it up.
First step first, I opened up the Atari 600xl, and removed the shielding, which was screwed and bolted on. Let’s just stop to unpack this idea a little. This device is from an age where you did not only use screws–instead of plastic clips and glue like modern electronics–but you also bolted things together. Can I quickly note how impressed I am by this?
Adjust the knobs.
Anyhow, back to the mod. Once I had the console apart I was able to see the RF box where two knobs on the top were accessible by a screw driver. I fiddled with them until I was sort of able to see something that resembled a “Press Start” type text on the TV, but it was totally illegible. I proceed to open up the RF module of the Atari 600xl, and to my not so surprise, I found two more knobs to fiddle with to no avail.
Wire up the composite mod.
I decided to do some Google searches and found some people with similar problems, who fixed them with a little modification to output composite video. This would be perfect since it would let me display in higher definition than the poor RF signal could support. Even better, the mod required few parts, all of which I already owned. I proceed to collect parts for this little modification, assembled it, tested it, however it did not work. I expected this with such a simple mod–it was too good to be true.
Make a USB power supply.
More Google searching unveiled that the problem could possibly be that the power supply was not giving the right voltages. The idea that I may have fried the CPU of my Atari 600xl was more than disappointing, but I figured that testing it with my breadboards power supply would be easy enough. I tested the ingot power supply, and it tested at 6.6v which was definitely not the 5v the Atari was supposed to get. This part I did with no fancy soldering, but with my makeshift ways of holding parts together to try to make a temporary contact.
THE ATARI 600XL WORKS!
Once I got the system to work, it was inevitably time to play some PAC-MAN. Then I fit the whole mod inside the case to make the video output stay in place on its own with the use of solder to do so. I also read about an audio mod where you simply put it to an RCA jack on the back from the line going into the RF module for sound, which worked as well.
With the Atari in one piece again, I had to solve the power supply issue. I read with a multi-meter that the power supply takes 600mAH, and at 5v, that’s practically a USB port… So I cut the power cord and with a USB cable made the whole thing run on USB power.
The Atari 600xl is complete, so I have been using it to test the carts and program in Atari BASIC. I have a cassette drive (The ATARI 1010 to be exact), but my testing showed that the motor spins and the tape does not. Most likely a belt that has let go, but I will try to fix that for another time.
There is the story of my Atari 600XL. and my modifications to this mythical home computer. I wrote more about The Atari 600XL for Retro Tuesday, and have more coming since there is a lot to say! Hope you enjoyed this mod,