Atari 2600/7800 Arcade Cabinet

Playing Space Invaders for the Atari 7800. Published by Atari Age

Playing Space Invaders for the Atari 7800. Published by Atari Age

This project began as a cabinet to house an Atari 2600 with a Harmony multi-game cartridge. While searching for a donor Atari 2600 unit I ran across an Atari 7800 to use as the brains and I couldn’t resist. This would allow for a larger library of games, but would make the build slightly more complex.

The Atari 7800 console was an underdog that never really got a fair shake against Nintendo. The 2 year delay of the console may have been the reason that Nintendo was able to get such a good foothold in the console market. This console was capable of graphics similar to the NES, but was lacking in the audio department due to the use of the TIA chip that was also used in the original Atari 2600. This can be overcome by adding a Pokey chip to the game cartridge itself, but this increased the cost of the game cartridge making it uncommon.

Changes

Because I used the Atari 7800 for the brain of the system I was able to include Atari 7800 in the library of games, but building in the paddles became to complex to permenitly wire into the system. In the future I would like to add a DB9 port to allow for the use of all Atari controls with this system.

Hardware Mods

I modified the Atari 7800 in several ways to make it feel at home in the arcade cabinet. I added an aftermarket component/s-video mod to remove the interferance that you typically get with the RF output. I also hardwired the Power, Pause, Reset and Select buttons to Arcade Quality buttons mounted just under the display. The front mounted power button allows for power cycling of the console to select a new game from the multi games cartridge.

Construction

This cabinet is my first real attempt at working with wood, so fortunatly I still have all my fingers. Since the completion of the project I have learned many skills, fixed old mistakes and I will be much more confident with my future wood working projects. *cough* MAME Cabinet *cough*

The primary building material in this cabinet is 3/4″ MDF, of which I have used two 8’x4’x3/4″ and a single 8’x4’x1/2″ boards. In addition I used 2×1 for screw strips  and 1/4″ piece of plexiglass.

Paint

4 - Painted

I have learned a lesson on the paint step of this project. Don’t use Latex Paint. It peels far to easy.  Otherwise the Onyx Black paintjob makes this cabinet look like the real thing. A temporary black mask has been added to the screen until the printed graphics show up.

Nearly Finished

Nearly Finished. Updates will include T-Molding, Decals and the addition of paddles or DB-9 ports.

Nearly Finished. Updates will include T-Molding, Decals and the addition of paddles or DB9 ports.

The Atari Arcade Cabinet is nearly finished. I plan on adding a few cosmetic updates to the cabinet. The first update I will make will be T-Molding, possibly black or Red. In addition I’m think about adding brushed aluminum with decals symilar to the orignal console system decals to the sides of the arcade.

Additional functionallity I would like to add would be built in paddles or DB9 ports that could accomadate additional controllers such as paddles, drive control or light guns. Finally I would like to add a coin slot that will function as the reset button. When these are added I will post an update.

Planned updates to the Atari 7800 hardware are planned as well. I have pre-ordered the Atari 7800 XM expansion module, which adds the ablility to save high scores, adds additional RAM and a Pokey sound chip. Also, I would like to add the Harmony 2 multigame cart to the system when it’s released.

The addition of the Harmony 2 cart will allow the cabinet to be used as originally designed, without having to swap out game carts for the 7800 games. Currently you can play all the Atari 2600 games from a single Harmony multi-game cartridge, but playing Atari 7800 games requires you to change cartridges. Because of this I have just left the back panel off. When the Harmony 2 is released this will become just a service panel.

Conclusion

This arcade Cabinet is capable of playing hundreds of classic Atari games. In the above gallery I have included pictures of the cabinet playing Classics such as Asteroids, Combat, Joust and Space Invaders. It will continue to hold a place in the family room for years to come.

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