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About this blog

Stories on work done here at the ITC. Some of it might be interesting to some folks.

Entries in this blog

Player 2 auto triggering fire button...again!

I already touched on this in an earlier blog post not that long actually, but I will summarize again really quickly. Main issue is that in 7800 mode and games, one or both fire buttons might show as being pressed without a controller plugged in. Plug in a controller and everything behaves as it should but ultimate, the console shouldn't read anything actively from the ports without a controller plugged in. In my previous blog, I mentioned that an out of spec resistor located at R35 was

Atari 7800 Powering On / Off issues...

As stated in another blog, I have a few 7800 sent to me for repairs and eventual upgrades. This 7800 had an interesting problem where as soon as you plugged in the DC power to the console, it would immediately power on and would NOT turn off. While there are a few components in the mix that can cause, this, I've found really only two components well technically 3 that should be looked into as possibilities: The first component and the one most people already know about, is the power switch

Very dark and poor RF output? Look to the 74LS32 IC...

A few 7800s have been sent to the ITC for repairs and eventual upgrades. Before any upgrades are done, I always get the consoles back to fully working stock condition first. This 7800 was working but had very dark, fuzzy, and as such very poor RF output. Now yes, RF output doesn't look that hot on modern displays to begin with, but this was obvious something was wrong. After looking over the board for a bit, it became apparently that someone in the past had replaced or tried to replace the 74LS3

Weird Paddle 3 issue on a 2600 4-switch?!

I've seen something similar to this before although not in the way I was seeing with a recent 4 switch console I was servicing. As part of diagnostics I will use Paul Slocum's excellent Test Cart program as it should some primary colors, shows the current state of all switches minus power of course, but also has a basic graphical view of each controller and small block on the bottom that will move left/right when you plug in paddles to test those too. So all in all a nice utility to know that al

Atari 7800 - Self activating fire buttons?!

I received an A1 series 7800 main board in the mail recently where the owner stated it was working properly but was missing a pause button for some reason. Well, when I receive a 7800 system for services, one of the things I do is to pull up a test utility without any controllers plugged in. The reason for this is to ensure that the system controller ports are working properly. But you ask... "How does not having any controllers plugged in, help to know if the ports are working properly?" E

Just a simple but kinda cool project?

The 'Tower' was without power most of last week due to powerful storms on Father's day. As a result it put me behind a bit on console services and projects. Well last night as I've been working kinda constantly on console stuff to try and get caught up, I took a break and decided to do something I'd been meaning to try and implement for a while now. I'm sure many of you here are aware of the Atari Vox? In summary it is a small device that plugs into controller port 2 on the 2600 or 7800 sys

Loctite and ABS = Gallium and Aluminum...

So over the past few months, I've been trying to find ways of making the RCA jacks that I install into consoles more secure so they don't free spin over time. What I've been doing in the past that actually works 90% of the time far as I know...is that instead of using the small lock ring washer that typically comes with RCA jacks, I use inner star washers of the right diameter to do the same thing, but with more points of contact to lock into the plastic. It also has the advantage of holding the

Intellivision Consoles can be quite frustrating! - Black Screen of Death...

Seems to be lately that I'm getting in more and more Intellivision consoles that all arrive with the same similar condition. Basically what most might call a black screen when powering on the console but it is more like a dark grey screen with a few lines along the bottom of the screen of even lighter grey. Pressing the reset button does produce a full black screen that will flicker and come back to the same dark grey screen or sometimes it might do something different like an all fuscia colored

A New Challenger Approaches! - A7800 BackBit Pro Adapter has arrived at the ITC!

Received my BBPro 7800 adapter today and we have some really good things and some not so good that I'm hoping can be worked out in time. - First the good, is that the menu of course is easy to navigate working in the same manner - This might be the fastest loading flash cart for the 7800 with the exception of the older Mateos cart - Plays the many of the original released games without issues including both Commando and BallBlazer with properly balanced and proper sounding Pokey audio! Ni

We all make mistakes... Keep better track of the screws!

Won't got into too many details on this other than to state up front, that I try to be as transparent as possible with the work and services I provide. As a consequence of this, mistakes can and will happen. It is just a matter of when. One such big mistake happen to me this week while installing a very expensive DCDigital setup into a clients Dreamcast. I actually had the main installation done and was ready to test. However, in order for a DC to boot up, it requires that the cooling fan and GD

Atari 5200 BackBit PRO 4-port Soft Reset notes and modification

The BackBit Pro multi-system flash cartridge is quite amazing in all the systems it supports and the Atari 5200 is one of the newest systems to recently be added over the past few months. One cool thing that the BBPro cart has for the 5200 side of things that other similar devices do not have, is the ability to reset the console and go back to the game folder browser without having to power cycle the console. This feature works out of the box on the 2-port model 5200s by having a selector switch

The Ivory Tower 5200 got some TLC

I originally did most of the work on this 5200 about 8 years ago. It was also one of the first projects I did and to be honest, the wiring work inside wasn't that great. For some time I had wanted to redo it all similar to how I redid my 7800 about a year ago but just never got around to it. Well, now that I have a new BackBit Pro flash cartridge and it was designed to allow resets back to the game menu, I felt it was time to perform a small modification to allow this function of my BackBit Pro


CrossBow in Service Work Stories

5200 with very odd keypad / fire button issues

I've done a video on something similar to this but here is a rundown on what I was encountering: A 5200 sent in for services had a note stating that top fire button wouldn't work on the console. This is an issue I've run into before and in fact have created a video on it. It can be due to the controller having a broken trace of course on the flex circuit inside it. But... it can also very well be due to a faulty 4052 MUX chip inside the console located at U13 or A13 depending on the age of


CrossBow in Service Work Stories

Not all consoles are stock that I work on...

As part of a large project I've been working on for over a month now, one of the situations I encounter is when a console is sent in for services that has already had another tech's hands inside it. In most cases, it might be simple repairs like replacing an IC chip or some capacitors. But now and again, I get a console sent to me that I don't always know what to expect. In those cases, there can be undesired surprises waiting for me. Here is a 2600 that I would like to show as an example of wha


CrossBow in Service Work Stories

A 7800 that would only play 7800 games...?

I'm not going to provide a ton of pics on this one because it just isn't needed. But I had been fighting with a 7800 that I've been servicing for a total of just over 12 hours in trying to figure out why it would only play 7800 games? If you put in a 2600 game, it would only give a black screen and not much else. If I put in my Plus+ cart, I could barely make out the plus cart logo on the screen as it would flicker all over. This told me that the 7800 was in fact switching over to 2600


CrossBow in Service Work Stories

Quick update on the ITC

Just wanted to give those that might be curious, an idea on part of what my project has been lately that has taken up much of my time as of late. These photos show 13 different 2600s that I recently serviced and installed UAVs into along with all the needed AV jacks installed as required by the client. An no...these do NOT have two sets of audio outputs. The red/white on the left rear next to the 4-pin s-video mini din, is actually separate chroma/luma connections. This is handy for co


CrossBow in Service Work Stories

Installing a UAV into a heavy sixer

The process to install the UAV into a heavy or light sixer is pretty well known and documented. In summary you basically set the jumpers on the UAV for the 2600 setup and then solder a socket ontop of the 4050 IC chip and header pins into the UAV and plug it into the socket. Job done...  However, there is a caveat to this method that doesn't become apparently until you find yourself moving consoles around a lot. And when I mean moving the consoles, I mean as in them being packed up, stacked


CrossBow in Service Work Stories

Gamebox Systems GBHD consolizer kit:- Playing Gameboy - Gameboy Advance games on a big screen!

I bought this kit a few months back as a pre-order and had to wait since I wanted a different colored shell. But the kit allows you to use a donor GBA mainboard from a standard GBA and essentially turn it into a small console to play your games on a modern big screen display using an SNES controller. Here are thoughts on this: The small ribbon cable that has to be soldered to the GBA CPU is tricky and requires a lot of patience to get soldered into place. The pitch of the soldering is quite

ITC Temporarily Suspending Services to the Public

So as the title states, I'm temporarily suspending my console services for repairs, refurbs, and upgrades until about the fall timeframe. This is to ensure I have plenty of time to work on a large project that has a strict timeline. Anyone that has already sent their systems to me will still receive their service requests and will take priority to get them done quickly. But for others, I'd rather hold off and have them wait because I'm not comfortable with my client's systems sitting at the ITC

A new 7800 project... nothing major...

PCBs are designed, created, and already shipped headed my way as are a few components for me to populate the boards. I will go into more details once I have my PCBs and have been able to test and check out if my idea works the way I've planned or not. In the meantime, here is a pic of the PCB. If you are familiar with the UAV layout and install process needed for the 7800, then this should be obvious on what it is. While what you see here is rather large, in reality it is only about th

7800 Power woes... And it isn't because of the switch?

A 7800 I worked on over a week ago was sent to me for a 'No Power On' condition. There are many reasons for this and I have found over the years two main issues. First is simply a faulty power supply adapter. Given these things are nearly 40 years old it isn't unreasonable to think that the PSUs are nearing their end of life. In fact I've had another client send back their 7800 when it started to develop power on/off issues and found nothing wrong when they were sent back. Sure enough, it was du

More 2600 Technical Fun - Player 2 shoots constantly

Here is an issue that I've seen before in one form or another and I thought I would talk about it here while working on a earlier era 2600 heavy sixer last night. The system was sent in for refurbishment. In this case that is all the original electrolytic capacitors being replaced out, new DC power jack, new voltage regulator etc. But a problem was reported and confirmed during testing of the console. What was the issue? In this case it was an issue with the player 2 controls. Specifically,

The curse of the Saturn horizontal lines!

This story starts a few years ago when I powered on my model 1 Sega Saturn and played a game for a bit and then powered the console off and back on to switch to a different game. But to my horror I discovered some strange horizontal white lines scrolling upwards on the screen? I powered the console off/on again and the lines were still there only now there were a lot more of them and they were scrolling much faster. Additional power off/on cycles would only cause the lines to change thickness an


CrossBow in Service Work Stories

The strange case of the 2600 that wouldn't power on properly

This one was quite tricky and I'm still not 100% convinced this was the full cause. However, grab a snack and a drink cause here we go... An older 2600 heavy sixer was sent for just a refurbishment and no upgrades. Basically just replacing out the components that come in a standard console5 refurb kit. But I immediately knew someone was off about this console before I even opened it up due the bulging I could see in the front facia switch section near the left side of the cartridge port?


CrossBow in Service Work Stories

- ITC - Just how much work is sometimes required when working on previously upgraded consoles...

Here at the Ivory Tower, I get quite a few requests for console services. It might be an actual repair to get a console working back to full factory function or refurbishment of a working condole to ensure it works for another 40+ years into the future. But by and large most of my requests are to enhance a console in some way. Usually through audio/video upgrades etc. But on more rare occasions, I will be sent a system that has already had work done to it either by the original owner or from ano


CrossBow in Service Work Stories

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