Philly Fixers Guild Will Teach You How to Fish

One crisp Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, the Philly Fixers Guild held its second Repair Fair. Not second annual, mind you; the first fair was held in September. People came from miles around, hauling with them basement and attic treasures that needed, well, fixing. [Fran] is one of the Guild’s volunteer fixers, and she shot some video of the event which is waiting for you after the break.

The Philly Fixers Guild aims to promote sustainability in the surrounding community by teaching interested parties to repair their possessions that might otherwise end up in a landfill. The fairs are not meant to be a drop-off repair site—attendees are expected to stay and learn about what’s wrong with their item and how it can or can’t be fixed.

The Guild is open to volunteers who are interested in teaching people how to fish, as it were. Expertise is not limited to electronics repair; guild members are just as interested in teaching people how to sew a replacement button on their winter coat or building that thing they bought at IKEA.

Nowhere near Pennsylvania? Several groups like the Philly Fixers Guild have already been established in a few larger US cities. If you’re not near any of those either (and we can sympathize), you could do worse than to start your own. If you’re part of a ‘space, creating such a guild would be a good way to spread the word about it and the gospel of DIY.

In the video, [Fran] discusses an Atari 2600’s control problem with its owner. She re-seats the 6532 RIOT chip and explains that this may or may not have solved the problem. If not, [Fran] is confident that new old stock chips are available out there on the hinterwebs. There might still be some landfill carts on ebay if the owner gets it up and running. [Fran] also fixes the controls on a Peavey amp and gets some Pink Floyd to issue forth from a previously non-functioning Zenith portable AM/FM radio that’s old enough to have a snap cover.

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Atari Video Game Burial Hits Ebay

1983 was the year of the great video game crash, and after the chiefs of Atari realized they had produced more copies of Pac-Man than consoles sold, these games, along with other ‘treasures’ were loaded into trucks, shipped out to the desert, and buried in a New Mexico landfill. Last year, these consoles were rescued. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Tularosa Basin Historical Society, these cartridges are for sale again.

Want to grab your own copy of E.T., Asteroids, Star Raiders, or Centipede rescued from a landfill in a desert? Here’s a link to the seller on eBay, with the highest auction being E.T., in box, going for $400 with nine days left. The auction comes with a certificate of authenticity from the city of Alamogordo.

This is only the first batch of cartridges and boxes rescued from the dump, with the Tularosa Basin Historical Society putting at least another 700 items up for sale if this batch goes well.

With the rousing success of this bit of dumpster diving, we must point out another techno-archeological myth/legend: there are several thousand Apple Lisas in a Utah landfill, just waiting for someone to come in and pick through the remnants of an Apple tax writeoff.

Atari 2600 has a Raspberry Pi hiding under the hood

raspberry-pi-2600

Seriously, the drawer pull on this Atari 2600 is not stock. Don’t they know this voids the warranty? The thing is, you won’t actually find any of the original internals anyway. When building this portable emulator housed in a 2600 case [Linear Nova] was careful to ensure that everything could be restored to its original condition (except for two hinges mounted on the back) sometime down the road. That’s a good goal to set for yourself. We think the build is the fun part of most projects and often wonder what to do with them when they’re done and our interest has waned.

A seven-inch LCD screen was attached to the underside of the lid using Velcro. When tilted up it’s at a nice viewing angle for the player. [Linear] prefers to use a Wii remote as the control this portable video game emulator. It connects to the Raspberry Pi over Bluetooth using a USB dongle. The advantage of this is that you just throw the remote inside the case too. For now there are two power cords, one for the RPi and the other for the LCD screen but he plans to add a power hub in the future to narrow this down to one. We wonder it that would also be a good time to add his own rechargeable battery pack option? There should be enough room for an RC style pack.

 

 

Retrotechtacular: How I wrote Pitfall for the Atari 2600

how-I-programmed-pitfall

This week we’re taking another departure from the ordinarily campy videos featured in the Retrotechtacular section. This time around the video is only two years old, but the subject matter is from the early 1980’s. [David Crane], designer of Pitfall for the Atari 2600 gave a talk at the 2011 Game Developer’s Conference. His 38-minute presentation rounds up to a full hour with the Q&A afterwards. It’s a bit dry to start, but he hits his stride about half way through and it’s chock-full of juicy morsels about the way things used to be.

[David] wrote the game for Activision, a company that was started after game designers left Atari having been told they were no more important  than assembly line workers that assembled the actual cartridges. We wonder if any heads rolled at Atari once Pitfall had spent 64-weeks as the number one worldwide selling game?

This was a developer’s panel so you can bet the video below digs deep into coding challenges. Frame buffer? No way! The 2600 could only pump out 160 pixels at once; a single TV scan line. The programs were hopelessly synced with the TV refresh rate, and were even limited on how many things could be drawn within a single scan line. For us the most interesting part is near the end when [David] describes how the set of game screens are nothing more than a pseudo-random number generator with a carefully chosen seed. But then again, the recollection of hand optimizating the code to fit a 6k game on a 4k ROM is equally compelling.

If you like this you should take a look at an effort to fix coding glitches in Atari games.

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The teensiest Atari 2600 ever

[Dablio] sent in an awesome console mod he made. It may just be the smallest Atari 2600 ever (Portuguese, here’s the Google translation).

The build began with a Dynacom MegaBoy, from the same company that put out many less-than-legal 2600 clones. The MegaBoy PCB is an exercise in parsimony consisting of only a single IC, a crystal, and some resistors and caps. [Dablio] made a new PCB board based on the schematic he reverse engineered and this thing is tiny. It’s much smaller than even the smallest [Ben Heck] 2600 console build.

[Dablio] now needed a case for his new console. He had originally planned to mount the whole thing in an Atari controller like this commercial product. Serendipity intervened and he realized the entire system (sans cartridge port) fit inside a plastic tube of m&m minis.

Currently, [Dablio] has two ports on his ‘Atari tube of m&ms’ – the largest is the cartridge slot, and a small VGA port sits in the lid of the tube. This VGA port carries the power supply, controller, sound and video signals to and from the console.

[Dablio] sent in a bunch of pictures of his build which are in a gallery after the break. Now for the million-dollar question: anybody know where to buy one of these Dynacom MegaBoys?

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Atari 2600 recreated in an FPGA

Behold [Retromaster’s] field programmable gate array implementation of an Atari 2600. The processor and video chip have both been built in the 100,000 gate Spartan-3E FPGA, with connectors for audio, video, and a Sega controller. The output signals are generated using two DACs made from R-2R resistor ladders, much like the project we saw in August. [Retromaster] included functionality for the system switches (difficulty and select) in the controller itself. There is VHDL code and board details available if you want to make one of your own. To help in making that decision we’ve embedded video of it after the break. Continue reading “Atari 2600 recreated in an FPGA”

Add pause button to the Atari 2600

We’re sure that if there had been a pause button on the Atari 2600 people would never have moved on to next-generation systems. Now you can dig the gaming relic out of the closet and pause your Atari games for some good old om nom nom.This hack is from the same person who pulled off the Atari 2600 jukebox. By reverse engineering the signals used on the Onyx Jr., which has a pause button, the halt method became clear.

The problem is that the Onyx Jr. uses a different processor than the 2600. A different processor means a different pin-out, and now the clock signal needed to synchronize the pause cycle was missing. But eureka, an abstract source was found. The ready signal from another chip can be used to judge the state of the processor. The small PCB above now interfaces with the Atari 2600 in order to patch in the pause circuit.

[Thanks again Yuppicide, keep ‘em coming!]