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Atari 7800 :- Controller remote pause function modification



This is something I've messed with on and off again over the years. After I discovered the controller pause modification you can do on the Sega Master System, it got me to thinking if something similar was possible on the 7800. And yes, it totally is as similar to the SMS, the pause line on the 7800 is always active and only when pulled low to ground does it trigger the pause. So I had played with it a bit using home made perfboard setups etc. But it wasn't really as useful or needed on the 7800 as it is on the SMS so I hadn't really invested much into it.

For those that might not be aware, the Master System also uses a 2-button controller like the 7800, but the SMS also has a pause button on the console itself just like the 7800. The difference it that many SMS games actually use the pause on the console as a 3rd button to pull up inventory or stats..etc. in quite a few games. As a result, playing those games can be a bother when you have to get up and press the pause on your console each time you want to access those extra functions in the game. So naturally a modification for the SMS was going to come about to allow a person to add a 3rd button to their controller and along with a simple logic circuit in the console, you can make impossible controller combinations trigger functions inside the system. In the case of the SMS it is using an extra button to trigger either an Left+Right direction combo, or Up+Down depending on how you wire it up. That in turn is fed to a logic OR gate so that when you press that button on the controller it sends that impossible combination to the chip and that in turn will trigger the reset function. 

The 7800 sharing essentially the same setup here can also be done in the same manner. However, due to the 2600 and 7800 internal logic regarding the paddles controllers; you can't use the Left+Right combo because it will confuse the console and sometimes thing paddles are plugged in. But aside from that, it is the same. 

Consoles Unleashed in the UK sells a lot of excellent quality modification and upgrade kits for various consoles. One of those they have the most kits for, is the Sega Master System. They provide their own pause button modification kit that is really well made and looks nice. Well, I ordered up a few several weeks back and got them in yesterday. I immediately went to work on installing one into my personal 7800 as I have 2 controllers that I've modified in the past to be able to use this setup. Here is what that looks like:


As you can see it is a tiny PCB that will fit in lots of places on the 7800 main board. Again, it is designed for the SMS but will work just as well in the 7800. In the pic above you can see that I'm getting power and ground from the bypass cap just to the right of the 6502. The Player 1 Up and Dn connections are at the top of those two resistors right next to that cap. So you have half of what you need right there in that spot. 


Above is where the rest of the connections in my setup are going. The small blue wire that runs by itself to that single point below the RIOT IC is the reset trigger. This is an unused via that is present on every single 7800 main board revision I've see and always in this same spot. I assume it was there for testing but is also makes a great place to attach the PB pad from that board to trigger the pause function. The other two blue wires are going into cleaned out unused vias so they pass back down on the bottom of the board to attach to a similar set of resistors for the player 2 Up and Down connections. I did it this way because I didn't want to trim the RF shielding. The resistors are outside of the shielding for the player 2 controller port next to the Reset switch.


And this is where the two wires come back through to the bottom of the PCB to attach to the resistors mentioned above. BTW, the Up and Down combo wiring attaches to Pins 1 and 2 on the controller ports.

And that's it! Now with this in place, I can use my modified controllers to remote activate the pause on the 7800 console from either controller port.

One thing to mention about using this kit from Console's Unleashed...

You have to wire both controller ports! The reason is because instead of using an OR logic in this setup, they are using a NOR logic chip. As a result, the controller ports are always registering high. If you don't connect up the second set of wires, then the logic on the pause board in the kit ends up triggering the pause constantly. It needs to see that +5 from the port pins in order to maintain the logic. So if you only wanted one port to activate this, you need to use a different logic IC. Also, the kits from consoles unleashed has extra stuff I don't normally need as it comes with additional small PCBs to mount a 3rd button to and provide as a template to drill the hole into your SMS controllers for mounting it. An excellent touch to be sure, but I don't like the SMS control pads compared to other controllers and wouldn't be using them on a 7800 anyway. But they aren't that expensive and I might need those boards in the future so who knows? I might go into details on what is required on the controller side someday for this modification to work as there is work required in the controllers. I think I've covered it elsewhere online but might do that as a follow up someday.

Here is a link to Consoles Unleashed in the UK and again, they have some excellent quality kits on hand to help modders and tech with making their projects look that more professional and easier to install.


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