The Atari 2600PC boots rapidly and has no problem running the various emulators and CyberLink’s included PowerDVD player. If connected to a computer monitor, the Atari 2600PC could easily be used for traditional PC tasks, such as surfing the web. sending and receiving email, and word processing, all without noticeable lag.
The system is connected to my home wireless network, which makes it a snap to load updated emulators and new game ROMs onto it. When I play DVDs, which uses a fair amount of computational power, the system gets pretty hot. However. I have yet to experience any problems with overheating. Cooling features could always be retrofitted to the project, if necessary.
FINDING AN ATARI 2600
The Atari system itself doesn’t need to work, since we won’t be using the actual circuitry — we’re just hacking some of the switches and connectors.
During my frequent visits to flea markets (another obsession of mine). I picked up four Atari 2600 systems — one working six-switch model for $20 and three four-switch models for $5 and $1.
The key is that the case be in good physical condition and look nice. Also. I made sure that the switches on top (two toggle and two momentary for the four-switch, and four toggle and two momentary for the six-switch) moved properly and that the connectors in back were not cracked or damaged in any way. If you live in an area without decent flea markets or computer surplus stores, buying a used Atari 2600 online is the next best option. eBay (ebav.com) and Yahoo! Auctions C uctions vc:; iuu.com) are both good starting points, as are vintage game specialists such as AtariAce (atariace.com) and 8-Bit Classics (8bitclassics.com). You shouldn’t have much trouble finding a system for $5 to $50.
My main concern is that the wireless keyboard/ mouse, now that it has been modified, has a range of only about one foot compared to the original six feet it had before modification. This could be due to electrical noise or the fact that the receiver is blocked by the thick plastic Atari housing. So.
I’ve resorted to using a wired USB keyboard and mouse at certain times, unless I’m directly in front of the system.
As a final touch, you could pick up a new. old-stock original Atari dust cover (model #CB101188-GL) from Best Electronics (best-electronics-ca.comV It is brown vinyl with a gold Atari logo.This way. the unit won’t get too dusty when it isn’t in use. and the dust cover looks cool. too.
Enjoy your new retro PC!
STUFFING PCS INTO VIDEOGAME SYSTEM CONSOLES
There has always been something cool about creating a usable computer system from an old videogame console. The following list has a few of the interesting ones that other people have worked on:
NESPC mini-itx.com/projects/nespc Atari 800 ITX mini-itx.com/projects/atari800 AnimaISNES mini-itx.com/proiects/animalsnes PlayStation PC mini-itx.com/projects/playstationpc PlayStation2 PC mini-itx.com/proiects/ plavstation2pc
Dreamcast P C mini-itx. com/projec ts/dreamcastpc Saturn PC mini-itx.com/projects/saturnpc
TOOLS FOR ATARI 2600 HOMEBREW GAMES
By Simon Carless
Even though the Atari 2600 is one of the oldest game consoles around, it has a vibrant homebrew scene. These coders produce a remarkable amount of new material, with everything from RPGs to bi¬zarre puzzle games to altered updatings of classics. Best of all. the Atari 2600 scene seems to exist in an atmosphere of harmony and mutual understanding, with no beefs, group wars, or other shenanigans.
How can you create new game levels for the 2600? Good question.
Atari Age runs a series of excellent contests in which you can create new levels for games under development. Often, the finished and produced homebrew cartridge will include the winning levels. More importantly, entrants often make their tools available after the contest closes.
In particular, the Indy 500 XE Track Designer. atariage.com/features/contests/lndv500XE. is a lot of fun if you’re a wannabe race driver. The “easy- to-use Windows-based track editor allows the easy creation of new tracks, loading and saving of tracks … and the ability to generate a binary so you can immediately test your creations.”
The Combat Redux Playfield Design tool. atariaKe.com/features/ contests/CombatRedux. works similarly. It’s a whole lot of fun to block out a level and then test it straightaway in an emulator.
These two appear to be the only fully featured level design tools currently available. Other tools require complex, time-consuming binary hacking, such as atari :;orii/software_hacks.htriil. How¬ever. it looks like the development community may produce further advanced tools, with an Adventure dungeon editor under serious development as we write — and more tools are planned.
The exhaustive Atari Age even has the last word with regard to coding resources, with an excellent codingpage that links to Kirk Israel’s superlative 2600101 basic tuto¬rial.
As for already produced homebrew titles, go to Atari Age’s 2600 search page, pick Homebrew from the Rarity drop-down menu, and hit the Search button.
RECORD YOUR MATERIAL. RECORDING IN PERSON
On a laptop. If you’re just recording yourself or conducting an in-person interview, you can use a laptop and a microphone. You’ll need an audio application. If you already have one you like, then great — stick with that. Otherwise. I recommend Audacity, a free, open source, cross-pi at form audio recording and editing tool. Download Audacity and take some time to familiarize yourself with it. Try recording and importing WAV and MP3 files, and cut¬ting and pasting sections around. Also, see if you like how your microphone sounds.
RECORDING REMOTELY OVER SKYPE OR ICHAT
Using Skype. This free internet telephony applica¬tion is a great way to conduct remote interviews and conference calls for podcasting (and I use it now for most of my regular phone calls as well). Download, install, and sign into Skype. If your interviewee has done the same, the call is free: otherwise you can pay 2 cents per minute to call their regular phone, anywhere in the world.
Using iChat. On the Mac.
Skype/iChat recording on the Mac.
1. Download and install Soundflower and Lineln.
Restart after installation. Optionally, you can also download and install Soundflowerbed. which adds a handy menu item for quick switching.
2. Open System Preferences/Sound. Set Output to Playback and Input to your microphone or headset.
3. Launch Skype. In Preferences/Audio, set Audio Output to Soundflower (2ch) and Audio Input to your microphone or headset.
4. Launch Lineln. Set Input From and Output to your recording app (e.g. Audacity). Then click Pass Thru.
5. Call Echol23. Skype’s testing service, and make sure you hear the test message and your own voice through the speaker.
6. Launch Audacity. Under Preferences/Audio I/O. choose Soundflower (2ch) for both Playback and Recording Device.
7. Call (or continue talking to) Echol23 in Skype, and start recording in Audacity. If everything works, you’ll capture all the audio.
Skype recording on Windows.
On the PC (Windows XP). we’re also going to use Skype and Audacity. See the On the laptop section (previous page) for Audacity setup (it’s the same for PC and Mac). What’s different is how to configure Skype and route its audio. Note that the recipe below, which uses XP’s Control Panel/Sound Properties window, works for many systems. But with the PC’s zillion possible configurations, sound cards, and audio drivers, your mileage may vary.
1. Launch Skype and Audacity.
2. Open XP’s Volume Control Properties by double-clicking the volume icon on the task bar.
3. Call Echol23. the Skype testing service.
4. Click Playback and select Microphone in Vol¬ume Control/Options. Raise microphone level and click OK. Then click Recording and select Stereo Mix.