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Atari 5200 4-Port - Simple Care Rules

Atari 5200 Guy

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I've seen lots of newbie Atari 5200 owners complain about the spark from connecting the RF cable to the automatic Switch Box that comes with the 4-port 5200 model.  Usually by that step most people have the power supply plugged in to the wall AND the RF Switch Box.  So...for newcomers to the world of Atari 5200 gaming I thought I would write a post on how to properly connect the 5200 to the RF Switch Box and to the TV.  If you get the spark then it's being hooked up wrong.  That's why I keep these:




The one on the left is for 4-port models and generally came with unmodified (for VCS adapter) 4-ports.  The one on the right came with most other 5200 systems.  We are going to use the one on the left.  Ready?




This is the first step.  Simply attach the Atari 5200 4-port's RF Switch Box to the back of your TV.  Simple enough, right?  Wrong.  Make sure you connect ONLY the Switch Box, do not have anything else connected to it and make sure the power supply is unplugged from the wall.  We haven't made it that far yet and plugging everything in before you connect the Switch Box to the TV is jumping the gun.  Slow and steady wins the race!




See?  Now we can connect the Atari 5200 to its Switch Box that should be connected to the back of the TV.  Also, make sure the switch on the Switch Box is in the NORMAL position.  We're almost finished...hang in there.




This is why I say it was done wrong if you get the spark.  See that WARNING section?  It says "Verify that the Game Cable is plugged into the TV Switch Box before plugging the Power Adapter into the TV Switch Box."  Yep...it's that way for a reason.  Not only to avoid the spark but to also avoid a sudden jolt going to the system and/or the TV it's connected to which could lead to either one or the Switch Box failing.  Remember, this system is almost 40 years old now.  It was this way before and it has been this way for many years.  It still works and is the best practice to keep in order to maintain a fully functioning Atari 5200 setup. So now connect the power supply to the Switch Box.

After doing this step simply plug the power adapter into your wall outlet. You should hear the Switch Box make a click sound.  That's normal.  If it's making a constant clicking noise immediately unplug the system and check to make sure the right power adapter was used.  The Atari 5200's power adapter looks just like the same power adapters used on most Atari 400/800 computers and accessories, and it's easy to get them mixed up.  If the wrong adapter was used, or if for whatever reason the Switch Box made that constant clicking noise, I recommend replacing the Switch Box to be safe.

And now on to something else.  Most gamers know that the Atari 5200 has a controller storage area.  For as long as I could remember I always thought those holes on the sides were for air, you know, to allow for things in there to "breathe."  It took me until a few years ago to finally realize what those were for.  To start this conversation off let's start with a page out of that same owner's manual I posted above.




See that?  Atari wanted you to wrap the controller cable around the joystick handles and then put them away.  They couldn't think of anything else to do, right? I've flipped through this manual and the other manual and not a one of them mentions what I'm about to share with you.

It's probably safe to say that most Atari 5200 owners do well to have one working controller.  It's rare to have a 5200 with two working controllers and you might as well be looking for dragons in the wild if you expect to see a system with all four working controllers.  So...why not leave the controllers connected?  Yes, you can do that and you don't even have to wrap the cables around the handles.  What you will do is place controller 1 on the right side of the Controller Storage area and controller 2 on the left side of the Controller Storage area, both face down like Atari says.  Now, run the cords through those dips, or holes, I was talking about earlier.  Now close the lid.  Easy as pie!  You can store your controllers AND keep them connected so they are ready to go, all you have to do is pick them up.

I really recommend not wrapping the cables around the handles any more because these things are nearly 40 years old at least.  The cables have very thin wire strands in them.  Bending them over time can cause them to break which can result in controller failure and/or short circuits.  And the less damage that can be done the better.  It is only a recommendation to help prolong the life of the 5200 and its parts including the controllers.  How you care for your 5200 is up to you.  These are simply precautions to consider as an Atari 5200 owner.  It's all about sharing the knowledge.


⬇️ 4-Port & 2-Port PDF Owner's Manuals Attached Below ⬇️


Atari 5200 2-Port Owner's Manual.pdf Atari 5200 4-Port Owner's Manual.pdf

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Yes I only ever noticed it the first time I received my new/old 5200 package, didn't even think about it but afterwards I was always sure to hook up the RF FIRST when digging it out of storage and never seemed to repeat it. I love my original 4 port, I specifically wanted the original. 

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On 8/20/2020 at 9:23 PM, Atari 5200 Guy said:

Cool thanks, the nice 5200 package I received years ago had some games, manuals and overlays but no owner's manual. 😎



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