Live Robot Hack Session
DJ Sures

Atari 600xl - Another retro game night hack

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Related Hardware Raspberry Pi

Last minute notice of my hack - and something a little different.:) I'll be adding a Raspberry Pi 4 to an Atari 600xl with Retro Pie. The keyboard will be reverse engineered and an Arduino Micro Pro will be used to emulate a USB keyboard HID device. The original joystick ports will be emulated as USB game controllers with another Arduino Micro Pro. This will be a lot of fun and hopefully get some pole position going tonight:D

I grew up with an Atari 600xl along side my Apple ][, Fairchild channel F, NES, Coleco, Intellivision, Atari 2600, C64, etc... I believe this hack completes my retro consoles that I grew up with. So far I've hacked all of these consoles with Pi's and Arduinos over the last year. My collection is pretty awesome - I don't complain on cold or rainy days! Lots to do staying inside!!

Source code for the arduino firmware can be found here:

Let's take a look at my current hacked retro console library :D... The Atari 600xl will make a fantastic addition! User-inserted image

Here's the final version:


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Hi DJ, I like these retro builds and thought I would share a story. When I was about 13 years old the first computers we being stocked at Radio Shack. Remember that tech mogul of a company that would never go away. They just started stocking the TRS-80 and they had a rack of books talking about programming it. During my weekend bike ride down there where I would buy resistors and diodes without even knowing what they did. I would figure it out. TV's and radios had stuff like that in them and I wanted to build that kind of stuff. Oh, and bring in my free battery card for a battery. I saw the computers, picked up a book and got to it. Right there in the store for 2 hours before they politely kicked me out. Rest assured, by the time I left I had learned;

10 Print "Perry is cool" 20 goto 10 run

I was hooked and came back in two days and sat on the floor reading and dog-earing the books and trying to write programs as the staff would eventually shuttle me off. I wore out many a welcome there. Eventually they told me I had to bring a parent which kinda put an end to it.

No happy ending where they hired me or sent me a refurbished computer or something. It was a 4 year hiatus until I could buy a high powered Commodore 64 at a garage sale.

It is a memory I will take to the grave because there was such a spark there. I can still remember the clothes I wore the first day.

So that's why I like these retro builds. Most likely there is a kid out there staying after school to play with a JD going through something similar.


That's really awesome story - I'm glad you shared it. Some people send me messages on youtube because they're upset that I take these computers apart and hack them. They say i should be restoring rather than removing.

But the way I see it - there's a lot of people restoring. But they're restoring hardware, not restoring software. What I do is replace the guts with an emulator so the software can be restored and used. The emulators allow me to have every single disk, cartridge and tape ever made for the computers work. And they work with the original joysticks and keyboards. That's my initiative. In the evenings we turn on these hacked machines and have access to thousands of games and programs to play with.

The atari 600xl hack from last week is finally done. I'll post an update tomorrow. One day i'll have to give a demo of all my machines and how they work. Because playing games with the original joysticks and keyboards is magical - even if the internal guts have been updated:)


Haha, nice. I remember those early days back at my local shack. I was attending a trade school for electronics, when I turned 16 my parents asked what I wanted, I had the choice of the TRS-80 Model I or a car. I picked the computer of course. Even brought the computer into school to demo it in front of the school board because they were just starting to think about computer classes ( the early Apple computers complete with early robot arm). Then it would be some years later that I purchased a Coleco Adam, the the Commodore 64 and C128 which i used to learn about interfacing to a home built robot arm.  My first real computer (dos) just a few years later was a Pentium 386 tower from Zeos (now Micron). It is fun seeing how far advanced the computers have come along, and brings back some great memories when I see the old relics can still turn on :-)


Nice stories guys! I remember my first PC computer , I had a teenage friend older than me that took electronics in school and I mentioned I wanted to buy a new PC but had no money for it. So my friend took me to a computer discount parts store where people traded or sold used and new PC parts,like a Flee market. He showed me what I needed to buy in parts to build my own PC. He said they are really easy to make once you build your first one! He was right,he helped but showed me how to do it. I put together an Intel Pentium 60 PC ! It was strong enough to play games in DOS like a Floppy version of Starwars Tie Fighter or games like Duke Nukem 3d or Quake(The original Quake had the Trent Reznor sound track in game)You never forget your first build like that! It did Freeze up a bit too much,likely had a bad Ram module but after that I must have built a hundred more since.


Here's the final version of the Atari 600 xl hack:)


Hi, I saw your Atari 600XL hack on Youtube.  Great video.  I'm trying to get an 800XL keyboard to work with a mini computer that I'll be building into the 800XL case.  I made the mistake of buying an Arduino Micro instead of the Micro Pro to do the project.  The pin numbers on the Micro don't match the ones on the Micro Pro.  Is there an easy way to change the coding to make my board work?  The regular micro doesn't have pins 14, 15 or 16.  It does have pins 11, 12, 13.  I tell people that I couldn't program my way out of a paper bag, but I can build things.

After I get the computer up and running I plan on showing it off by starting off in an 8-bit emulator and then switching it into Windows 10.  I'm also going to build a wireless mouse into a game cartridge since the 800XL didn't use a mouse.  I may also follow your lead and make a joystick adapter.

I'm getting ready to retire in less than two months and need some projects to work on.


Well I guess I can, at least, program a hole in my paper bag.  I changed the coding from 14, 15 & 16 to 11, 12 & 13.  It works.   Most of the keys worked with the keyboard but the ones corresponding to 13 and 14 on the keyboard grid weren't working.  Just on a hunch I tried the keyboard from my other Atari 800Xl and it works fine.  Now I'll have to go back through the video and rewatch the part dealing with taking the keyboard apart and cleaning and checking it.  If it weren't for this video I would be totally lost now.


Awesome to hear! Cleaning wasn’t difficult and I used rubbing alcohol - which is so difficult to find these days:(


I did take the keyboard apart and cleaned the mylar with alcohol.  I was able to get trace 13 working but not 14.  Now it gives the "d" key with all of the characters except "d".  The "d" key doesn't do anything.  I'm guessing that the trace may be broken where it folds over.  I visually examined it but could'nt see anything obvious.  I did see a replacement mylar online or an entire keyboard assembly.  The entire keyboard is about $15 more than the mylar.

I may start working on the wireless mouse while I try to decide what else to do with the keyboard.

I'm still working every other week, so start back on Wednesday.  I'm an OR Rn.  The closest I come to a robot is our Divinci surgical robot.


I finally got the keyboard working.  I think I was tightening the screws too much.   I have most of the parts to put the mouse together.

I may try to do the other project and get my old Atari joystick to work with the PC.  I noticed the Arduino code mentions either a Micro Pro "or Teensy".  I have a Teensy 2.0.  Would that work.  I tried copying the code into Arduino IDE and it wouldn't compile.  It didn't work when I tried it under the Micro either.  Any idea what I'm doing wrong?