2600 CE - Handheld Atari VCS Home

What is the 2600 CE Project?
The making of the case.
The making of the guts.
The making of the guts.
Current status of the project.
Game of the Week.
Frequently Asked Questions.
Files of interest.
Links to other sites of interest.
About me.

How does an Atari VCS work?

Atari VCS beauty shot from product catalog

How does the power supply work?

The wall warts that we all know and hate serves a very important function - it takes the current running through our homes and converts it into something that smaller devices can handle.

I'll use US standards, though the principles are exactly the same where 230-240 volt current is used.

Most US wall outlets carry 110-120 volts, 15 amperes, at 50-60 Hz AC (Alternating Current) - which means that 15 amperes of electricity will actually reverse flow 50-60 times per second with a pressure of 110-120 volts.

And what most electronic devices need is 12 or fewer volts, generally at 1 or less amperes DC (Direct Current) - which is normally equivalent to several batteries connected together.

The magic is performed by a combination of capacitors, rectifiers, resistors, and transformers (which are neither Autobots nor Decepticons - :) )

The power supply takes the AC and turns it into DC by clever arrangement of rectifiers and capacitors.

The power supply then knocks down the voltage and amperage to the desired levels with combinations of transformers and resistors.

The process normally gives off heat, which is why it's good to have the power supply away from the device (wall warts), or have it well cooled (desktop computers).

The resulting current is accepted by the device, in this case, the VCS console, and it then has the right amount of power to do what it needs!

Look at another section of how an Atari 2600 works:

  • Atari 2600 console - processes controller input and cartridge instructions to create video and audio which are output to the TV
  • Controllers (joysticks, paddles, keyboard controllers, etc...) - Transform human movement into signals the console can understand.
  • RF cable and switch box - Sends the signal from the console to the TV's tuner as if it were a broadcast channel
  • Television - The only way to see and hear what the console is producing
  • Cartridges - Contain programs that are "run" by the console, which in turn, determine the sights and sounds generated by the Atari.

Comments? Questions? Answers? Email me!