The Atari 2600 wasn’t the first console my family owned, that honor went to a Pong-clone system. Still, the Atari VCS or 2600 was the console that I remember wanting. I saw it on TV. I circled it in shopping catalogs, and I begged my parents to buy it for me. It took a bit, but eventually I had one, and I continued to play it for years after its peak.
I always had an older TV on hand when I have played it over the years, but I have always been interested in using it on my HD television. It didn’t take me long to figure out what I needed from Radio Shack at the time to make that work. Now for over a decade I have had the option of running my TV through the larger screen in my living room. I even learned to modify one of my Atari consoles so that I wouldn’t need any extra adapters.
Over the years, I have had several people ask me how they might play their old or newly acquired classic Atari 2600 on their TV. So I put together this very simple guide to get you started. It is based on an older article that had been on the site, but I had to update it.
Get yourself a working Atari 2600.
Head over to Amazon
Find these 2 items: F-Connector (Coax) Male to RCA (Phono) Female and an RF Interference filter (optional)
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.
(Optional) Screw the RF Interference Filter onto your brand new Atari 2600 Coax cable.
Screw the other end of the RF Interference Filter or if you don’t need a filter, just hook your F-Connector straight into your TV.
Turn on channel 3.
Relive your childhood.
Repeat step 8 as necessary.
Your life will be much improved by adding an Atari to your living room. If you are old enough, you can relive your childhood, but if the Atari 2600 predates you, it will act as a time machine.
Just put in a cartridge and you and your family or friends will be translated back in time. Suddenly you will be interested in installing thick brown carpet, voting for Ronald Reagan, and adding wood paneling to your walls.
What is the game that you should play first? Video Pinball.
It was an obsession in my home when I was growing up. Easy enough for anyone to learn, but endlessly challenging. We would keep a piece of paper next to the TV with high scores on it.
One day I was surprised to come home to see my sisters and mom playing it while my grandmother patiently watched while smoking on the couch. The Atari is a social console. It simplicity brings people together. So hopefully adding it to your living room will bring people to the couch to enjoy some old school gaming magic.
That beige Atari joystick in that photo is from the Atari XE Game System (or what the Internet now calls the Atari XEGS). If you haven’t seen one before, I recommend looking it up. It’s the most aesthetically pleasing console / computer Atari made in my opinion. Very 80s looking with beige white case and pastel coloured buttons.