The Atari 2600 is a historical enigma in many ways. On one hand, it was the most popular gaming console of its era, but it was also at the center of the video game crash of 1983 due to the poor quality of its games at the time. It is a fascinating system in many ways that are still relevant today, especially when it comes to pushing hardware much farther than it was designed to go. [nicole] brings us a project that overcomes some of the limitations in its hardware to provide a more modern video output.
At the heart of the Atari is a custom chip called teh Television Interface Adapter (TIA) that generates the console’s video signal as well as handling controller information and a few other tasks. It was designed at a time where memory was expensive, and essentially trades programmer effort to reduce memory requirements. Interestingly, it separates luminance and chrominance information much like S-video does, so that’s where [nicole] focused their efforts. Thanks to some help from an adapter board, the video signals can be intercepted and reprocessed for the S-video standard instead of using RF modulation to send video data out, although this does involve some soldering and modifying of the original Atari hardware. In [nicole]’s case this was a little more involved due to the differences of the 2600jr compared to more standard versions of the console.
While S-video isn’t modern in the strictest sense, as a standard from 1987 it is a huge step forward compared to the available video output methods available in the 1970s when the 2600 was first produced. Plenty of older consoles and other hardware like VCRs and the like used S-video, so if you have a retro gaming setup complete with a CRT you might want to take a look at this 12-input A/V switch to keep everything managed.
Classic gaming aficionados who prefer to play on real hardware know the struggle of getting their decades-old consoles connected to a modern TV. Which is why many gamers chose to keep a contemporary CRT TV around for when they want to take a walk down memory lane. Unfortunately those old TVs usually didn’t offer more than a few A/V ports on the back, so you’ll probably need to invest in a A/V switch to keep them all hooked up at once.
That’s the situation [Thomas Sowell] found himself in, except he couldn’t find one with enough ports. Rather than chain switches together, he decided to build his own custom 12-port console selector. With an integrated amplifier to keep everything looking sharp, a handsome walnut and metal enclosure, and a slick graphical interface that shows the logo of the currently selected console on a Vacuum Fluorescent Display (VFD), the final product is a classic gamer’s dream come true.
To switch the audio [Thomas] is using a pair of ADG1606 16-channel analog multiplexers, while video is shuffled around with four MAX4315 8-channel video multiplexer-amplifiers. The math might seem a bit off at first, but he’s using one ADG1606 for each stereo channel and since the switch is for S-Video, each device has a luminance and color signal that needs to be handled separately. The multiplexers are flipped with a ATmega2561 microcontroller, which is also responsible for reading user input from a rotary encoder on the front of the case and displaying the appropriate console logo on the 140×32 Noritake VFD.
You may be surprised to find that [Thomas] considered himself an electronics beginner when he started this project, and that this is only the second PCB he’s ever designed. Was this a bold second project? Sure. But it also speaks to how far DIY electronics has come over the last years. Powerful open source tools, modular components, and of course a community of creative folks willing to share their knowledge and designs, has gone a long way towards redefining whats possible for the individual hacker and maker.
To the best of our knowledge all of the Ambilight clones we’ve covered over the years have one thing in common. They need a computer to do the image processing. This one is different. The PCB seen on the left right is all you need for the video processing. The project is called SCIMO and is the handiwork of a hacker named [Keiang].
There are only few times that the DRM built into the HDMI standard has pissed us off. This is one of them. Because of HDCP and licensing issued revolving around HDMI [Keiang] didn’t use HDMI pass through. Instead he uses an HDMI to S-Video converter. This board acts as an S-Video pass through, analyzing the signal using an STM32 ARM chip before the video signal continues on to the television. It still produces a respectable picture, but wouldn’t it have been cleaner if he could have gone with the HDMI standard?
UPDATE: Thanks for the comments on this. It looks like the TV is getting an HDMI signal. The board is fed by the HDMI to S-Video converter which itself is getting HDMI in parallel with the television thanks to a splitter.
Where other examples use Boblight on a PC for processing this manages to do so as a standalone embedded system. It also offers quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to choosing the LEDs, supporting pixels that use DMX512, WS28xx, or TM18xx protocols.
Everyone’s favorite open source game console, the Uzebox (also cloned as the Fuzebox), just got a new feature hacked into it – a video player. At reduced quality (8-bit color), the Uzebox was able to play ‘The Matrix’ off an SD card @ 30fps plus the audio @15kHz. That’s a pretty impressive feat when one considers it is running on 4096 bytes of RAM. The video file had to first be converted into a series of pictures through a Photoshop macro in order to be playable. A Uzebox can be built with little more than a few resistors in addition to an overclockedATmega644P, and AD725 (which has been skirted in certain incarnations).
[Ben Heck] posted this writeup about getting S-Video/composite out of an Atari 2600. This is actually the hack of [Longhorn Engineer], who showed it to [Ben] at a recent event. If any of you have tried to play these classics on a modern TV you may have found it to be quite difficult. If you manage to get it physically connected, through adapters and such, you may still have video issues. This alleviates that issue completely. After you solder this in, your Atari has native composite/S-video. As you can see in the video after the break, it seems to work pretty well.