Atari 7800 refurb and mod: pt. 1 the refurbish

all closed up
All refurbished and modded

About a month ago I got an Atari 7800 off eBay for about $7.00. It had no power supply and the case had several cracks but it did come with two 7800 joysticks. I was taking a chance getting an untested 7800 with no power supply but I was willing to take a shot since I was only paying $7.00.

Here is the Wikipedia article on the Atari 7800.

When I got the 7800 I noticed that the bottom had cracks all through it. It looked like someone had dropped the machine at some time. So I opened up the Console and started making an inspection on the case.

open up with shield
Opened case with shield over motherboard

There are 5 screws on the bottom holding the case together. Just unscrew those screws and the top of the case will life off. The motherboard, shield and all will lift out easily after the top has been removed. Then I went about twisting the many tabs to lift the shielding off. The shielding covered the top and bottom. I discarded the shield as it just got in the way of the composite mod and it really wasn’t useful.

back crac
Big crack and piece missing on back, left

Cracks are not uncommon on the 7800. the plastic that Atari made the case out of was really sub-standard. It is thin and very brittle. There was a crack on the back left and right with the pieces missing. There was also two cracks in the front and some on the sides but with no pieces missing. Also the shaft with the front middle screw had broke off. Well, I couldn’t do anything about the two cracks in the back  with the pieces missing (actually, later, I did cover the right crack with the plugs for the mod) but they were small and in the back so not too noticeable. But all the other cracks throughout the bottom worried me about the structural integrity of the base. So I first filled and reinforced the cracks with modeler’s glue, bad idea. Within a couple days the glue was cracking off. So I scrapped off all the modeler’s glue and then re-glued everything with super glue. This worked but it did leave a slight white residue on some of the inside.

fix cart guide
clamped and glued cartridge slot

Another error from Atari (on the early models) was the cartridge guide was too small to accept some 3rd party 2600 cartridges. What people tended to do was just shove the cartridge in to make it fit. This would, eventually, crack the cartridge guide; which it did on this console. (In the mod blog I will show how I modded the cartridge slot to accept the larger cartridges). As you can see from the picture above I glued the cracks in the slot then braced it with a modeler’s clamp till it cured.

The next thing I looked at was the joysticks. I opened the sticks up and one was in real good shape while the other one had a bad fire button that I couldn’t fix. One of these days I might mod that broken stick with micro-switches and fix (somehow) the fire button. But that will be a different blog.

While I was repairing the case I was also seeing if the motherboard worked.

mb jer rig power
My wonderful rigging of the power socket

I had no power supply for the 7800. One off eBay was from $15 to $40. I really didn’t want to spend that much money on something that, potentially, wasn’t working. Now I knew that a local Goodwill had a box of various power supplies, for $2.00 each, and I also knew that the 7800 was 9 volt, 1 amp. So I went to the Goodwill and sat on the floor and went through all of their power supplies looking for a 9v 1a. I got some funny looks. But, I did find a 9 volt 800 ma power supply, which I was determined was close enough. In testing, with no load, the power supply turned out to produce over 1 amp anyway.

The power connector on the 7800 is of a proprietary two prong design. To make matters worse the connector on this system was bent up and I couldn’t get it back into place. So to get power to the system, I took two clip leads and attached them to the bayonet connector of the power supply. Then I attached the other ends to the prongs of the power connector. I shoved a piece of paper between the clip leads to keep them from shorting. Then I tuned the console on. To my relief, it started up fine. (In my mod blog I will discuss how I replaced the power connector with a standard connector).

At this point I had a refurbished case and a working motherboard. Next blog I will go into the several mods I did to the system; a composite mod, cartridge slot mode and power connector mod.

Till next time,

Field Mouse


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