HOMEBREW My Atari 2600 Portable
By Benjamin J. Heckendorn
Items such as the bulky metal box RF modulator
(the thing that creates the channel 3 signal to connect to the back of a TV) could go because modern pocket TVs use different types of signals. I
removed the game switches and joystick ports and
rewired them as built-in controls on the front of the
unit. By the time I had finished, the 10"x5" mother-board had been reduced to just a 4"x4" square.
A big challenge was getting the Atari 2600 to output a modern composite video signal that a pocket
TV could use as an input. (Composite video is the
kind that’s found on the yellow video cables you
might use with your DVD player or VCR.) There
were a few tutorials on the internet for doing this,
but they didn’t work quite right, so in the end I used
some of the info I’d gleaned, along with a few additions of my own (like adjustable dials to tune in the
correct color/levels) to get good-looking results.
Now that I’d shrunk the motherboard and got the
video to work, the next step was to design a custom case. I measured all the parts (including the
batteries, controller buttons, and the Casio 2.5"
pocket TV I used for a display) and then modeled them on Adobe Illustrator. This allowed me
to move everything around and change the layout until A) things fit properly, and B) the unit
Once the case was designed, I cut it using
a CNC (computer numerically controlled) ma-
chine. Using a variety of drill bits, the machine
automatically carved the case out of solid pieces
of acrylic (basically, inch-thick plexiglass), based
on the computer drawings I had done. I painted the
case and stuffed it with the Atari guts, the game con-
At the end of 1999, I wandered into a used game trols (directional pad and trigger), and the pocket TV.
store and noticed they had quite a selection of Atari Then I screwed the case parts together. I designed
2600 games. I asked the clerk if people still bought the graphics to describe controls and decorate the
that old stuff. He informed me that yes, indeed, it was unit, and thermally printed them on the package.
still quite popular. Finally, I applied thin, adhesive-backed woodgrain
Upon learning that I wasn’t the last Atari 2600 fan to add that 1970s-era touch!
on the planet, I though it’d be cool if I built a project to Since building my original portable Atari 2600 vid-
honor the old system. After some internet research, I eogame system, I have also built portable versions of
learned that the guts of the 2600 were quite simple. the NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, and both PlayStation
I decided to make a portable version. 1 and 2 using these same techniques.
The first step was to cut off any unneeded portions
of the motherboard. I followed the circuit board traces Do you have your own Homebrew story to share? Send it to
to determine what could and could not be removed. us at firstname.lastname@example.org.