How to play your Atari 2600 on a modern Television

The Atari 2600 was the first console I ever played. I was but a wee tot then and had no idea what that console would eventually lead to for me. It holds a special place in my heart as the only video game system I ever played with my grandfather and my father. All of that being said, I haven’t touched one since I was seven years old. All of the other consoles got in the way from the NES onward. I am 30 now and things have changed a bit. I have a fairly sizable game collection and many of my childhood consoles. There was one glaring omission, however.

A couple of weeks ago, I was subbing in on 1 More Castle’s podcast, 1 More Podcastle. The listener question was multi part but the part of importance here was: “What console don’t you have that you wish you had?” I looked around my room at my collection, thought on it, and remembered. It all came back to me in a flash and I answered with the Atari 2600. During a break in the recording, one of the co-hosts mentioned that he had an extra one. A few short days later, there was a box at my door with one of the last missing pieces of my childhood collection.

I’d like to tell you that I plugged it in immediately and everything worked great. This would be a short piece if I did. Frist issue was that it was missing the power supply. That was an easy fix. I hopped on eBay and had one winging my way in no time. The next issue was a bit trickier. My version of the 2600 is the “2600 Jr”. It was released in 1985 and it was meant for 1985 televisions. Would you like to know what I don’t have? A 1985 television. I do have the original giant box RF switch that was included with the unit. That doesn’t work so well on my TV. What’s a boy to do?
With a little crafty engineering, I was able to get this done. Here’s how:

1. Find a Radio Shack
2. Be surprised that Radio Shack is still in business.
3. Find these 2 items: F-Connector (Coax) Male to RCA (Phono) Female, part #278-276 and RF Interference filter, part #1500025
4. Take the black wire that is supposed to go from the Atari 2600 to the RF modulator, and slide the F-Connector onto one end, thereby giving you a coax cable coming out of your 2600.

step-4

5. Screw the RF Interference Filter onto your brand new Atari 2600 Coax cable.

step-5

6. Screw the other end of the RF Interference Filter onto your TV.
7. Relive your childhood.
8. Repeat step 7 as necessary.

Finally, I was able to play my memories again. I am still missing the paddle controllers, likely until I hit my retro game shop later today, but I have two joystick controllers and that enables me to play a lot of the games I had picked out as soon as I knew the console was coming. 23 years later and I finally am reunited.

I have seen videos of animals reacting to seeing their owners after years apart. The animal is always so happy and elated, as if this was the greatest moment of its life. I never really understood that until the moment I flipped the power switch on. 23 years suddenly disappeared as the joyous booping and beeping of 2600 games filled my ears and my eyes were treated to sights I hadn’t seen in two decades.

What, you ask, is the game that I chose to break this unfortunate streak of Atari neglect? Video Pinball. THE official game of my family for many years. We would have high score competitions that a tiny version of me would never win. It was fun. It brought us together over something. As I played, waves of memory and emotion returned faster than I could process it all when suddenly, I noticed something had happened. Something that served as another reminder of why I love retro gaming so much in the first place. Something that gaming fails to do more often than not now. I was smiling. Ear to ear. I was smiling because I was genuinely having fun. I was smiling because I was with an old comfortable friend. The friend that introduced me the whole world of video games in the first place had returned to remind me why I love gaming so much. Welcome back, Atari 2600. It’s been too long.

video-pinball-atari-2600

Tom Hall

I like to play video games and chew bubble gum; and I'm all out of gum. If you enjoy my work here, I encourage you to check out my work for Video Gaming Hard Corps, 1 More Castle, and my own site ocarinaoftom.com.

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