Inside the Cartridge: The New Atari 2600 PCB
When Atari was creating games in the 70’s and 80’s, every title was programmed to work with a specific configuration of processors and memory that were called “Mappers”, and over the years, these configurations changed as developers pushed the Atari 2600 hardware to the absolute limit of its capabilities.
When we started the Atari XP project, we recognized that re-releasing a wide variety of titles would require making PCB with many different configurations. From a manufacturing perspective, this wasn’t ideal because it would add complexity and likely make procurement even more difficult than it already is due to global supply chain problems.
Our solution for this was to make a multi-mapper that could handle the discrete hardware demands of almost any Atari 2600 game. The multi-mapper replaces five variations of three existing mappers, so we can manufacture one board rather than 15+. Now, we are able to make all of our games from a single PCB.
The integrity of the product is our biggest focus, and we wanted to ensure that these new internal components would delight both old and new Atari fans. We used some new techniques to recreate 40 year-old technology, and manufactured to exacting standards. Some highlights include:
- The board has identical dimensions to the original
- The board uses a CPLD to recreate the original mappers
- All parts are 5V tolerant, and are 100% safe to use on all 2600 hardware
- The board uses Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold with 3U" gold thickness
We are very proud of this new board, and wanted to show it off before it gets hidden away inside of the cartridge. The photos below show the front and back of the new sample PCB that recently arrived, still connected by the sprue.
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