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 a TV work?

Well, I'll summarize here, but a much better job has been done by the people at HowStuffWorks.Com, so please take a visit if you want a little more depth - no use re-inventing the wheel!

What's important, in terms of thE Atari, is the scanning of a TV's electron beam.

The beam (three for color televisions) sweeps across the screen from top to bottom, left to right, only painting the screen when traveling from left to right.

The Atari generates video for the playfield, as well as the horizontal and vertical synchronization signals that are part of a standard television broadcast, which tells the TV exactly what to draw.

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
  • Atari power cable - takes household current (120 Volts, 50-60Hz AC in the US) and transforms it into 9 Volt DC, roughly equivalent to a 9 Volt battery.
  • 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!