Atari 2600 Harmony Cartridge

Last weekend before heading down to the Retro Computer Museum I finally had chance to check out my new Harmony Cartridge for the Atari 2600 (see previous post https://stiggyblog.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/harmony-cartridge-for-the-atari-2600/ ) and thought it might be cool to populate the cartridge and take it down with me to show the fella’s.

Would you believe it, my new (old) Atari 2600 refused to work and wouldn’t even power on 😦

Pressed for time I packed up the the Atari, Harmony cartridge and my netbook containing the rom images and headed to the museum in the hope that A) I could figure out what’s wrong with my own console and B) If it has died, at least be able to see the cartridge in action on another console.

At the museum and after further testing it looks like the problem is withactual insoles mains adaptor and a loose wire. Sadly, these PSU’s are an all-molded affair so getting inside them to repair is very difficult. They’re easily replaceable so i’ll have to look online. At the moment a piece of strategically placed electrical tape appears to be doing the job!

The second problem I had that I’ve also got a dodgy power switch on the console itself. Again, repairable but in the meantime, Andy gave me another 2600 VCS to take home with me…cheers Andy!

Getting the actual Harmony Cartridge up and running wasn’t as straight forward as I’d thought, but this was mainly due to my netbook and not the cartridge itself. The Harmony Cartridge is built in the US therefore is shipped by default with a NTSC bios file. No problem when playing games on modern LCD TV as most support the NTSC format, but the old CRT TV we were using to test out the cartridge was a standard European PAL TV. With the default NTSC bios the picture on the TV screen rolled and was unuseable.

Replacing the Bios file is very easy and the detailed instruction manual supplied with the cartridge are easy to follow. Simply download the development software from Atari Age and connect the Harmony Cartridge to a PC via the mini USB socket.

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Here’s were i had a few issues though. Despite the software being compatable, i couldn’t get it to show under Windows 7. Following the instructions, I had to download a set of virtual comm port – USB driver and for some reason they didn’t work the first time i tried it (bizarrely, by switching the Harmony Cartridge to another USB port on my Netbook fixed the issue).

With the software loaded and the Harmony Cartridge detected, I could reprogram the cartridge and load any one of the three regional Bios files – NTSC for US/Canada, PAL50 for European or PAL60 for Brazil etc. It only takes a few minutes for the transfer of file.

This time the menu remained stable but it disappeared after a few seconds 😦

Refering back to the manual, it indicated that this may be normal on some older TV’s and advised to reboot the Atari and set the toggle switch from Color to Black and White.

Much better on this attempt time and the menu remained stable (and in color) and we were able to use an attached Joystick to browse through the games I’d copied to the SD card.

Moving the Joystick left or right enables you to scroll per page and holding the fire button in addition to moving the joystick increases the scroll speed. Two very handy features for very long file lists.

The game list is in a bit of a mess at the moment because I’ve dumped everything in the root directory (folders are supported). In time I’ll group these into separate folders such as Games, Homebrew, Prototypes etc etc. File names can be quite long, but the menu will only display the first 26 characters per file.

Back home, the electrical tape fix has failed so I’ve not been able to use it since to get some more photos.

During this week I’d ordered a new PSU and it arrived today. I’ve only had time for a quick test this evening and now that everything is working as it should I’d be back at the weekend with more pictures and maybe a video or two.

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