Sunnyvale-EastCoast began as a result of watching an online video of some kid blowing up his father’s Atari 2600 “Heavy Sixer”, simply because it wouldn’t power on anymore. Anyone who knows a little about the Atari 2600 will probably know that the “Heavy Sixer” was the first in a very long line of consoles sold in the late 70’s. It introduced us to a whole new world that would shape the home gaming industry as we know it today. And this kid completely destroyed one that was probably easily fixable.
In my early 50s now, I look back at our first childhood Atari with quite a few good memories. It was the first home video game system we would own, and the one that would be around for the longest amount of time. Myself, younger brother, and younger sister would in time burn quite a few hours while we worked to burn out three consoles over the years. Looking back at it, all three would probably have been easy fixes with what I know now 🙁 But they all eventually made it into the trash. 3 more consoles that would be forever lost.
So, it was out of boredom in August during the Pandemic lockdown that had me looking back with nostalgia, to find that there are so many of these consoles that simply don’t work anymore and people just want to get rid of. Many of those end out suffering the same fate our three original consoles did but, thanks to eBay, yard sales, and a new found interest, they don’t have to. I spent hours reading up on all the issues these old consoles have now, watched every repair video I could find, and finally purchased this:
Nickname: Atari Zero – This machine I found on eBay, broken and beaten. It was filthy, the switches were seized and even once they were freed up, the console wouldn’t even try to power on. It was time to get my hands dirty. I took everything I had learned about these machines and how to diagnose them and got started. I broke in a brand new soldering iron and used up a few replacement components before finally getting the machine to power on. Its RF signal was grainy but passible and after replacing many of the components that are prone to failure, I decided to give it an advantage over other machines of its age. I removed the old RF modulator which was tired, and replaced it with a basic composite video upgrade. Then I added a simple LED power indicator to help prevent incidents of the machine accidentally being left on for hours/days as we had done to ours a few times. The results of this work:
A console that felt and looked new to me. “Atari Zero” was only the first and was not what I would consider common. Every single machine since has had its own level of damage, problems, challenges… that would force me to continue to learn. The one thing that I absolutely learned working with the next 17 consoles: they are very fixable and when needed for the really bad ones, upgradable.
So I decided to keep it up. I enjoy the work and even more so enjoy sending a freshly restored machine off to a new home. Granted, I’ve dumped a ton of money into equipment and parts but I do plan to break even somewhere around the 50th console. LOL! The most important part, I’m having fun and in doing so am helping to keep these consoles from becoming out of reach rarities or worse, nothing more than a memory. This is what makes it worth all the work invested:
What I now do: I am still seeking out non-working machines that are in danger of being destroyed or discarded. I break them down and clean them then, diagnose what was wrong that took them out of commission and repair it. If the machine is acting like new at that point, I sell it to someone who would like to own one. If it is still in need of help to be put back into daily use, I give it a leg up with a couple of modern upgrades to give it an edge in households of 2021 and beyond. Some don’t approve of upgrading but in most cases, it either receives an upgrade and a new shot by becoming a new/old console or it continues to collect dust in a closet or worse, be tossed in the trash. I don’t alter them all but a great many need the help.
So, keep an eye on my listings if you are hoping to find a new/old classic console for yourself. Or you can reach out to me if you have found one you would like to have refurbished or upgraded and we can work something out. I’m not aggressively seeking the work but if it means helping to save another “Stella” from permanent retirement, I’m all for it.
Jeff ~ Sunnyvale-EastCoast