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This article is going to be a fairly brief overview of a mod I recently performed on my “Vader” Atari 2600. I may end up glossing over a few details but this is only because there is already a great wealth of information on the internet pertaining to these mods so I really just wanted to share my experience as a relatively novice solderer in performing these mods.

First off lets take a look at the Atari we will be modifying.

This is my four switch “Vader” Atari 2600. They call this model the “Vader” due to its all black case as opposed to the faux wood grain found on earlier four and six switch models. Personally I’m not a fan of wood grain so I tend to prefer the “Vader” models. This particular 2600 I bought at a Swap meet for something like $5. The guy said he didn’t know if it worked since he didn’t have a power supply. After giving it a look I also quickly notice the RF cord was completely missing and there was a round hole cut into the case where the RF cable would internally connect to the motherboard.

My best guess is that at some point the RF cable was severed so the previous owner cut this hole so they could directly connect a separate RF cable. After getting it home and digging out my 2600 power supply and a spare RF cable I tried this myself and thankfully the Atari powered up and played games fine though with a pretty terrible image quality. Now I’ve been hearing a lot about these $10 Atari RCA mods on eBay that add RCA jacks for superior and more convenient composite video as well as sound out of the a RCA jack for some time and I figured with this machine in the condition it was in it would make a perfect candidate for the mod. I also decided to do an LED power light mod since I was going to be messing around with the Atari anyways.

Finding these kits is super easy and just a simple search on eBay for Atari composite kits or Atari RCA kits will bring up tons of options. There are minor differences in some of the kits but they are all basically the same and sell for around $10. Keep in mind that you can find these kits preassembled for a few bucks more which is the option I went for rather then just getting the parts and assembling it myself. I figure it’s worth the less hassle for about $3-$5 more. The composite mod kit I bought came with its own LED but I opted to buy a second kit. The LED light kit was only about $3 and came with the wires presoldered onto the LED. I went with a purple LED light since I think that looks really slick with the all black 2600.

After getting the kits and assembling them (if you bought yours in pieces) it’s time to open the 2600 which is very easy and only consists of removing four screws on the bottom of the case.

So here is the motherboard to the Atari 2600. Keep in mind your board may look slightly different due to different revisions. This is also the four switcher so the six switcher and 2600 jr. will also look different. A quick Google search for Atari 2600 composite mod will find you many sites with instructions on performing the mod. Many of the eBay listings give links right in the item description.

We will start with the very simple LED light mod. You only need to make two easy solder connections with this mod as well as drill a small hole where you would like the LED light to go. Below is my purple LED light with the wires pre-attached.

Here is the spot on the motherboard your going to need to solder the two ends of the wires.

It should look pretty much the same on all 2600 motherboards. Were going to need to solder the wires to the two bottom legs coming out of that black block.

Most of these kits seem to use the same colored wires but double check your own. the black wire connects to the center leg and the red to the lower. That’s seriously it for the LED mod. I decided to place my LED light next to the power switch. If your also doing the RCA mod though don’t connect the LED to the case just yet. It should be fine just laying off to the side.

Next we need to remove that metal RF shield if you already haven’t.

After this we are going to need to remove a few parts. Namely one resistor and the little black tripod thing I’ve boxed below.

They should be able to desolder relatively easily and fall right off.

Next we need to remove the RF circuit and if your feeling so inclined the box.

The instructions suggest just cutting and/or snapping it off but if you want to be able to reverse the mod the best course of action is to desolder everything. I attempted this at first but the stubborn components would not come off. After awhile of trying and knowing the RF cable was missing off my unit anyways I finally gave in and just cut off the RF circuit and left the RF box in place. Ive read removing the box can help create less signal interference but mine just would not come off so I left it.

After making sure the holes are clear of old solder or broken off pins were going to need to start connecting our RCA video/audio circuits wires. As I said earlier some kits have different colored wires so be aware of this.

The black ground wire goes in the first hole, the red wire which I believe carries the sync signal connects to the third hole from the left and the yellow video wire connects in the hole next to it. Your audio wire, in my case green, connects to the leg of the transistor as seen in the image above.

Lastly were going to need to cut holes in the back of your case, or wherever you may want your RCA jacks and install them. following this your going to need to connect the yellow video wire to your video jack and your audio wire to your audio jack or jacks. some kits like mine come with two audio jacks but since the Atari 2600 is not a stereo system it really doesn’t matter if you use one of two jacks as they both will just output mono. lastly connect the black ground wire to all three jacks as so.

Replace everything carefully and test your system. hopefully if everything went well you should now have a nice looking LED light and composite video which I feel increases video quality greatly as well as makes hooking the 2600 up to more TV’s easy. There are S-video and even RGB mods for the 2600 but with such primitive graphics from these systems I don’t really feel going above composite yields much overall. I really like this mod because it’s very cheap, simple to preform and once done drastically improves playability of the 2600 system. If your just starting out soldering or doing system mods this is a great mod to try out.



I’ve likely mentioned it before on the blog that I’m a bit of a purist. I enjoy playing my games on original hardware so when clone systems come along I usually turn my nose up to them as a professional wine taster would a cheap wine in a box from the local grocery store. I recoil like a vampire from garlic at the site of Atari, Genesis and intellivision flashback consoles at the local Big Lots and even look on at the upcoming NES Mini console with indifference. Therefore I guess it may come as a surprise that I should endorse and even dare I say like the Atari flashback 2 console.

The Atari Flashback was released in 2005 and what makes the Flashback 2 different from the other Atari Flashbacks and for that matter most of the emulation boxes out there? Well first off it’s not actually emulating and is in fact actually more like a revision to the hardware you would find in an actual Atari 2600. Inside the Atari Flashback 2 is an actual single chip hardware reproduction of the TIA chip from the original console. What this means is that the flashback 2 can play 2600 games as they ran on the original hardware with a few exceptions. This works even to the point that one can modify a flashback 2 with a cartridge slot to actually accept and play original 2600 games, but we will touch more on that later.

So first lets have a look at the console and the packaging.


The box itself is a little reminiscent of console boxes of the 70’s and early 80’s with alternating images of a few games and people having way more fun they probably ever would with the console. opening up the box we get.


The flashback comes with the console itself, two Atari replica controllers and a power supply. I do not know if a manual was included. Mine did not come with one.


The flashback console itself is directly modeled after the original 2600 only smaller. The most obvious change other then the size is the replacement of the toggle switches of the original with large plastic buttons. The buttons look kind of cheap but they do the job well enough.


On the back of the unit we also have something very similar to the original console. We have the interesting inclusion of a switch to toggle between color and black & white displays like the original as well as the power jack. Instead of an RF coaxial cable wire built in we have a very welcomed composite and mono audio cable. It still looks pretty poor on a modern LCD HDTV but looks much better and is more convenient to set up on an older SD CRT set then RF. It even looks pretty nice on my Samsung HD CRT.

we have two controller ports which are the same standard 9 pin ports found on the original 2600 as well as many consoles and computers of the 80’s and early 90’s. joysticks from the original 2600 can be used without any issues on the Flashback 2 as well as the other way around with Flashback 2 joysticks working just fine on an original 2600. You can even use your trusty Sega Genesis controller if you’d like.


The controllers feel mostly identical though the Flashback controller seen on the right in the image above has some different branding and seems ever so minutely smaller the original.

moving on to the built in games. We have a 40 games split into various categories.


Adventure II, a sequel to Adventure that is built on its original assembly-based game code
Haunted House
Return To Haunted House, a sequel to Haunted House that is built on the original Adventure’s assembly-based game code combined with graphics from the original Haunted House)
Secret Quest
Wizard (unreleased prototype)

Arcade Asteroids (hack)
Arcade Pong (exclusive to the Flashback 2), a version of Pong which can use paddle controllers if attached
Asteroids Deluxe (exclusive)
Lunar Lander (exclusive)
Missile Command
Space Duel (exclusive)

3D Tic-Tac-Toe
Aquaventure (unreleased prototype)
Atari Climber (homebrew), released in 2004 as Climber 5
Combat 2 (unreleased prototype)
Dodge ‘Em
Fatal Run (only released in Europe)
Frog Pond (unreleased prototype)
Human Cannonball
Maze Craze
Off The Wall
Pitfall! (originally released by Activision)
Radar Lock
River Raid (originally released by Activision)
Save Mary (unreleased prototype)
Video Checkers
Video Chess
Caverns Of Mars (exclusive)
Quadrun (originally sold only by mail order through the Atari fan club)
Saboteur (unreleased prototype)
Space War
Yars’ Return (exclusive sequel to Yars’ Revenge built on its original assembly-based game code)
Yars’ Revenge
There are also two hidden paddle games included
Super Breakout
Overall this is a pretty good sampling of 2600 titles in my opinion and the list contains some classics like Yar’s Revenge, Missile Command and Pitfall!. The really nice thing though is the inclusion of a few homebrews, unreleased prototype games and even a EU exclusive. Some of the prototypes such as Aquaventure are excellent 2600 games.
Once you pick a category you just scroll down and choose a game.


One thing is there’s no way that I found to exit a game back to the select menu without powering the system off and then back on again.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that in 2010 a Atari Flashback 2+ was released that was mostly the same console with some games changed around. Pitfall!, River Raid, Wizard, Caverns of Mars and Atari Climber were removed and in their place a sports section was added with several 2600 Sports titles. Circus Atari was also added to the hidden paddle game menu. In my opinion the sports games aren’t worth it for the loss of some classics like Pitfall! but if your unlike me and into Atari sports titles the 2+ may be worth the tradeoff.

So lets take a look at the inside of the Flashback 2. Opening the console up is a simple matter of removing a few screws on the underside of the case.


As you can see in the image above the majority of the case is just and empty shell. Its really pretty amazing how small the motherboard has been refined to.



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Now as this is more or less a revision of the original hardware there is a modification available for the Flashback 2 that allows a cartridge slot to be added allowing the user to play actual 2600 carts. Originally the cart slot was going to be built in but was cut as a supposed cost savings measure. If your interested here is a link to a very good guide on performing the modification

I have read that due to some changes with the revised motherboard not all games will work with the cart port so your not exactly getting complete 100% compatibility.

So what is my opinion of the Atari Flashback 2? I don’t think it’s necessarily a good replacement for an original 2600. If your serious about getting into the 2600 library of games get an original model. They still aren’t very expansive and your assured full compatibility that you won’t quite get even with a Flashback with a cart mod. Also unless your good with soldering and electronics your likely going to have to pay someone to do the mod which is money that could be used to get a composite, S-video or better yet RGB mod done to an original 2600. If you do happen to find one cheap for under $20 though I would recommend picking one up. Not as a replacement for a original 2600 but for its collection of games you cant otherwise get such as the hacks, unreleased prototypes and Flashback 2 exclusives.


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