jdoolin
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jul 25, 2016 2:53 pm

Help and Ideas for Atari VCS Case Project

Mon Jul 25, 2016 3:59 pm

I'm using a Raspberry Pi as an HTPC and Retro Gaming station (OSMC and RetroPie in the same install) and decided it needed a proper case. I got the idea of using an old gaming console like an NES or Atari VCS. I googled and found projects just like this. So I found a non-operational VCS on ebay and took it apart. It's nice and roomy in there for what I want to do.

Anyway, I'm looking for help and ideas on solving a few small problems as well as for some "what else could I do"? ideas.

I've got a Pi 3, a powered USB hub, a 2TB external drive, a USB wireless mini-keyboard, Logitech controllers and of course the VCS components. I already de-soldered the four switches (two DPDT, two momentary), the DB9 connectors and the cartridge socket (I need to glue it into place so I don't have a gaping hole in the top of the case).

I've ordered a ControlBlock from petRockBlog so I can have a power switch but also for other potential "What else could I do" additions, such as NES/SNES controllers. I've also ordered panel mount female to male cables that I can run from the Pi to the external "ports" of the case. I got two dual USB port cables, an RJ-45 and HDMI. They all look something like this:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/371609805714

So far my plan is to cut holes in the front of the VCS for the USB ports but then adapt the pre-existing holes in the back for the HDMI, RJ-45 and Power ports. The old "Channel 2/3" switch hole looks like it's going to be almost perfect for the HDMI port already. I'm thinking I can expand the hole for the Power port for the RJ-45. I'm planning to re-mount the DB9 connectors in their original places with possible future use in mind (maybe get the original Paddles working?).

I'm also planning on using the original Power switch wired up with the ControlBlock as well as the addition of a green power indicator LED (green seemed appropriate).

So, issues to solve.

1 - Power. I've got the ControlBlock for the switch. Since I already need to supply power to the USB hub I could technically power it directly from this. But I don't want any wires permanently part of the case. I was thinking of getting a female DC barrel connector, cutting off the male connector from the hub's current adapter, then using it to connect the female connector to the USB hub inside. Then I would just get another male connector to splice back onto the adapter. But before I do that, does anybody have any other suggestions?

2 - Mounting the old switches. I've included a photo to illustrate what i mean. The VCS switches were mounted to the motherboard which sat at an angle inside the case. I couldn't keep the motherboard so I de-soldered them. However I'm not sure how to go about mounting them. Ideally I'd like to mount them to allow a small amount of space between the case and the switch. Whatever I do needs to be able to stand up to the switches being used regularly. As far as the uses for the switches, I'm planning on using the Power switch for power and the Reset and Select switches to possibly go to GPIO ports that will emulate a keyboard press that corresponds to the Atari emulator's Reset and Select function. So when you play Atari 2600 games, those switches behave as usual. Who knows, maybe I can change the keyboard map for other emulators to do something similar. But what should I do with the BW/Color switch?

3 - Mounting the USB hard drive. The hub is easy, I just took it out of its enclosure and I now have 2.5M screw holes. But I can't do that with the hard drive. It's smooth. Aside from not mounting it inside at all, any ideas here?

4 - Not really a problem, just thinking out loud. My plan was to mount the Pi at the bottom of the VCS case such that I can dremel a hole allowing me to access the SD card. I was also going to dremel the holes in the front for the USB ports. Can anyone foresee any issues with this? I would think I could do so with plastic cutting disk and clean it up with a hobby knife or whatever.

5 - Any good sources on 3M black bolts/nuts that I could use for mounting the HDMI/RJ-45/USB ports? I was thinking the black would look better than chrome/nickel. I found them on Amazon, but just checking with everyone here.

6 - The fun part. What else could I do? The Pi's USB ports will be taken up by the dongle for the wireless mini-keyboard, the USB hub and I'm thinking two of the external USB connectors. The USB hub has seven ports. Two of them will be used by the other two external USB ports and a third by the hard drive. That leaves a total of 4 open USB ports on the hub. I'll have the two DB9 connectors. Like I said, it would be cool to use the original paddles if possible. I'll also have 32 GPIO pins on the ControlBlock.

So, any thoughts out there?

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jdoolin
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jul 25, 2016 2:53 pm

Re: Help and Ideas for Atari VCS Case Project

Mon Jul 25, 2016 11:07 pm

I've solved Problem #2, mounting the old switches. It also solves the problem of having to glue the cartridge slot in place. I used a dremel to cut a 1 inch wide strip of the old motherboard where the switches and cartridge slot were soldered. Yes, that means I spent an hour desoldering components for no reason, as I'll just be putting them right back on. But as luck would have it, this part of the motherboard is the same strip that has the screw holes that attach it to the case. I may have to cut some traces but otherwise that part is done.

jdoolin
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jul 25, 2016 2:53 pm

Re: Help and Ideas for Atari VCS Case Project

Mon Aug 01, 2016 12:49 am

Well, I've either solved or will be attempting to solve all of the issues I first posted.

The Power problem (#1), I'm going to attempt to solve by adapting my USB hub's power supply. I bought a package of DC male barrel connectors and a package of the same for female. I'm going to cut off the end of the power supply cord, which has its own, much smaller connector for the USB hub. That will connect to the hub as usual, but the wires will be soldered to a barrel connector panel mounted on the VCS case. Then I'll put a new connector on the end of the cord.

The hard drive problem was solved. Instead of using an external drive I'm going to use an internal laptop hard disk. I found a Cinolink USB->laptop SATA adapter that works beautifully as long as it's plugged into the powered USB hub and not the Pi.

I'm going to forge ahead with my suggested solution for problem #4, the front USB connectors and the SD card access hole. I'm going to try to do my best dremel cutting work and trim them with a hobby knife.

I've hit up amazon for a few sets of black 2.5M and 3M screws that I'll use for the panel mount HDMI, RJ-45 and USB jacks.

But I'm still open to any other possibilities for what could be done, especially that Color/Black&White switch and extra GPIO ports. It does occur to me that I'll be using all seven of the powered USB hub ports. Two for the SATA hard drive adapter, four for the four front USB connectors and one to power the Pi itself. That leaves two USB ports on the Pi itself open for whatever might be possible.

rn43x
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2014 12:38 pm

Re: Help and Ideas for Atari VCS Case Project

Sun Oct 15, 2017 7:43 am

Hi J,

I ran into this thread when tryin to use the Atari 2600 case, too. I saw it in the museum of computer games in Berlin and thought, man, I just got to have it for my Pi!
I finally found one in a garage sale (after the ones on ebay were just too expensive to just rip it apart),
So here's what I did:
This is the Atari in it's original state:
1.jpg
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Opened it and removed the original hardware, the blank case:
2.jpg
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Then I cut a hole in the back (on the top left) to place extensions for tHDMI and a USB.
I also had to remove the left big plastic part inside (that's where the power supply will go later)
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Last edited by rn43x on Sun Oct 15, 2017 7:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
"To the rational mind nothing is inexplicable, only unexplained ..."
(Robots of Death, 1977)

rn43x
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2014 12:38 pm

Re: Help and Ideas for Atari VCS Case Project

Sun Oct 15, 2017 7:46 am

5.jpg
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Then I did another cut on the left side. I wanted to place a blu ray drive there.
I glued a pieces of wood to the case so I could cut along it using a dremel.
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Last edited by rn43x on Sun Oct 15, 2017 8:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
"To the rational mind nothing is inexplicable, only unexplained ..."
(Robots of Death, 1977)

rn43x
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2014 12:38 pm

Re: Help and Ideas for Atari VCS Case Project

Sun Oct 15, 2017 7:53 am

Then I started placing the parts into the case.
8.jpg
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and with blu ray:
9.jpg
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Power supply and hub are fixed to the bottom using cabel ties through holes that I had to cut.
The Pi itself is still in it's old Lego case. I thought it might better to protect it from all the cables in there.
For the SD slot I also use an extension so I can switch between OSs quickly. I used the existing hole for the left controller,
10.jpg
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"To the rational mind nothing is inexplicable, only unexplained ..."
(Robots of Death, 1977)

rn43x
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2014 12:38 pm

Re: Help and Ideas for Atari VCS Case Project

Sun Oct 15, 2017 7:57 am

And this is what it finally looks like:
11.jpg
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I didn't put the original switches in (yet), not sure about it. I just placed some black plastic there.
The river raid cartright is shortened to 1/3 of it's original length. I thought this looks better.
12.jpg
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One hole is for the receiver of the remote control (for Kodi)
13.jpg
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And that's it. At first I wanted to place a HD in there, too. But then there just wasn't enough room due to all the cables. I can still connect a HD to the back (which is also activly powered by the hub). Keyboard/mouse and receiver for a logitec gaming contoller are inside.
I'm using the machine to watch television (Zattoo on Kodi) and also for some retropie gaming.
"To the rational mind nothing is inexplicable, only unexplained ..."
(Robots of Death, 1977)

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