I think a pawn shop might be a better option than Best Buy.
December 27, 2010 5:12 PM   Subscribe

How do I hook up an Atari 2600 to a modern HDTV?

So over the holiday, I scored two consoles: a slimline PS2 and my late grandfather's Atari 2600. I have a modern plasma display. I'm pretty sure I can get the PS2 hooked up via component video with one of these,* but I'm kind of stumped on getting the Atari going.

I've got an ancient switch which will let me plug my cable input and the Atari into the TV's antenna port, but I don't really want to do that, as it'd mean manually switching between the two, and I'm pretty sure I'd take a pretty big hit on the quality of my TV signal. I'd rather get it into the available composite video ports.

I thought about an RF modulator, but that seems go to the wrong way, i.e. you put in composite video and get out coaxial. I want to go the other way.

Can anybody help me get my retro gaming on? A solution using composite video would be ideal, but I'm open to other suggestions.

*Sub-question: do the PS2 and PS3 really have the same video output connector?
posted by valkyryn to Technology (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can help you with the PS2/PS3 video output connector: yes, they do have the same connector. A friend gave me a spare set of PS2 component cables that work wonderfully with my PS3.
posted by Servo5678 at 5:22 PM on December 27, 2010

Best answer: yeah, you want an RF demodulator - basically a TV tuner without the TV...

you can get one for ~$80 (here, here) but that's probably overkill for what you want... the atariage forums night be a good place to ask, (though the answer may well be "use an old VCR")...

I keep wanting to say "just run an emulator", but yeah I know that's not the point...
posted by russm at 5:30 PM on December 27, 2010

I'm assuming your problem is that you are using an antenna to get digital HD TV via broadcast and don't want to share that input it with the Atari.

and I'm pretty sure I'd take a pretty big hit on the quality of my TV signal.

A good analog RF switch is either or. It shouldnt affect your signal. The problem is that your TV is set to get digital signals but that Atari will output in analog. When you're switched to the Atari's signal you'll need to set the TV to handle analog channel 3 or 4. When you want to watch TV you'll need to switch back to digital TV.

A RF to component solution will cost you a lot more than that Atari is worth. You may want to look at emulation from a PC via MAME instead of running a real Atari.
posted by damn dirty ape at 5:31 PM on December 27, 2010

oh, cool... if you're fine with making a hardware mod. to the console, you can get it to output composite videodirectly...
posted by russm at 5:37 PM on December 27, 2010

Add my vote to "use an old VCR".
posted by XMLicious at 5:38 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're willing to be a little handy with a soldering iron, there is a mod to the atari to make it output composite video - this is one such kit, more are but a google away. There is also s-video mods, but these require a lot more soldering and replacing resistors and what have you.
posted by jaymzjulian at 5:38 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Old VCR. Free everywhere. There are 3 laying around here, as an example.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:03 PM on December 27, 2010

Response by poster: So it looks like I'll be getting one of these and scrounging my local pawn shop/TV-repair joint for an old VCR.

Hadn't thought of that, honestly. Thanks!
posted by valkyryn at 5:37 AM on December 28, 2010

for maximum "vintage" compatibility it should be a beta toploader, but you'll just have to pretend that you can't put the 2600 on top of it since that would interfere with the tape eject...
posted by russm at 5:58 AM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Why do you you think that you need a composite to "F" connector ? I don't think this is necessary. Atari RF into the VCR , composite out to the Plasma.

Also, Freecycle for a VCR.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:37 PM on December 29, 2010

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