How to get Composite video out of the older Atari 2600, 2600A, 2600JR, 5200 and 7800 consoles.

Composite video is just about an industry standard on most modern Video (LCD, LED, Plasma TV's, Video players and Current State of the Art Video game consoles) equipment now a days.  But when the Atari 2600 consoles were first conceived close to 30 years ago, the composite video standard was not used widely for stand consumer based video products and may have been only used in very high end and very expensive type of industrial Video equipment. 

Back when the Atari 2600 consoles were released, RF (Radio Frequency) TV Broadcasting (TV grade broadcast Signals) thru the open air, was the industry standard for broadcasting TV RF signals to US TV's.   If you are older, you will remember most US houses back in that era had a standard Metal TV antenna on the top of the roof.  These RF TV metal antennas would collect the RF TV Broadcast signals in the open air at the house Roof level and thru a twin lead wire hook up connect to the back of the standard US TV VHF (Very High Frequency) Input on the back side of Black + White and later Color US TV sets.  Now a days, most of those old House TV metal antennas are being replaced with direct Satellite Dish's or Direct High Speed Cable connections from a Media provider.

The newer (or back when it was released) Composite Video Standard was considered a better video connection because is took the older RF signals and changed them into a single Composite Video Signal (less subject to the RF Interference and video problems and video distortions) and a Mono sound output.  Newer composite video equipment has an added feature of Stereo (left and right or more) sound outputs jacks.

If you search the Internet and sites like E-Bay you will find hacker type kits (requires soldering, internal components added, cuts + jumpers added to the motherboard and extra boards added to the Atari 2600, 5200 or 7800 motherboard) so you can install a composite video output to those Atari consoles.  Now you will find even newer S-Video kits for the Atari 2600, 5200 and 7800 consoles.

In most cases these video upgrade kits seem to work fine, but are not for the average Video game owner who can not solder.   We at Best have been giving the following free Atari Tech to our Atari customers for over 12+ years now.  The easiest and most cost effect way to get Composite video out of your old Atari 2600, 5200 or 7800 consoles (without any internal changes or hacks) is to connect them up to an old VCR, Video CD Player or older DVD player.  All of this older type of video equipment has an RF in connection (usually a Coax /  Antenna In) a Composite video and audio out and Coax to TV Output connections (this out to TV connection not used or needed for the Composite tip).

Connect up your Atari 2600, 5200 or 7800 console Via a Cable Ready TV switch box (make sure the little slide lever on the top of the TV switch box is switched to game position) to the VCR Coax In / Antenna in connection of your VCR or old Video equipment.  Then connect up a RCA to RCA Male to Male cable to the VCR's Composite Video out and a second RCA cable Audio out (you may have to try both audio Left or  Right if you have more than one before you get a good audio out connection) connectors and then connect the other RCA male ends to your input composite video and Audio input connectors on your LCD, LED, Plasma or high end Display. 

Turn on your Atari console with a game cartridge installed, again check the Cable Ready TV switch box lever on the back of the VCR, turn on the old VCR or other Video equipment.  Now depending on the exact era the VCR or other video equipment was made, it might auto detect the Atari Game Console TV channel 2 or 3 RF channel broadcast signal and auto lock on to it (and give you a clear composite output video signal) or you may have to go into the old VCR's set up menu and to a new TV Channel scan (like most of the newer Cable ready TVs have to have done, before it can lock onto the Atari console exact RF broadcast signal and put it into it Channel memory chip) before you will get a good composite video and audo output to your newer LCD, LED or high end display.

You should be able to pick up an old VCR, Video CD or DVD Players for next to nothing now.  Most electronic recycling centers have tons of them and should give you one for next to free.

A frequent comment we get here at Best. 

Q.   I love my Atari 2600, 5200 or 7800 console connected up to my high end larger display.  But the video display is not like my other newer Media devices displays?

A. This is normal.  You must consider you are taking an old 25+ year TV device that was designed to display so many hundreds lines or pixels across an older 12, 15, 19, 25 inch TV screen and you are now trying to input it into a current High Def. display that has 10X or maybe 100X more screen resolution.   So you will see a little more larger pixels (from the older Atari Consoles) on your modern display (compare to a High Def. display) simply because that is the only fixed screen resolution an old Atari game console can broadcast at.  Most cost effective modern Video equipment will not scale up (change / convert the lower pixel count up) the lower input screen resolution.  Most will display the lower resolution in the same display space with just larger pixels.


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This page Last modified: September 15, 2010
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