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Do the plastic molds for the 2600 still exist?


sloth-machine
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Molds do have a life cycle. They have to be retooled in order to stay sharp on edges, etc. I would imagine many of the molds were sold to the Taiwan clone companies many, many years ago. When their marketability was gone, I would imagine they were destroyed or remilled into other things.

 

It would be possible to remake the molds with a CNC machine but the bigger picture is where would you find a big enough injection molder to make case halves. I bet that machine would be the size of a truck! Your local fab lab won't have that lying around!

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Might be neat to have new motherboard and case done up. Motherboard would have the 6 switches, cartridge port, controller ports, S-Video, Composite & Stereo RCA jacks with sockets for a 6507, TIA and RIOT from a donor 2600.

 

Nice, compact, "modern" AV connections and 100% compatible.

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Might be neat to have new motherboard and case done up. Motherboard would have the 6 switches, cartridge port, controller ports, S-Video, Composite & Stereo RCA jacks with sockets for a 6507, TIA and RIOT from a donor 2600.

 

Nice, compact, "modern" AV connections and 100% compatible.

 

Cool. Yes. Economically feasible...tough to say. How many people would be willing to take apart a vintage 2600 to load up a new one? Yes, some would. Unfortunately a fairly significant number of people would need to purchase the product to make the cost reasonable.

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Molds do have a life cycle. They have to be retooled in order to stay sharp on edges, etc. I would imagine many of the molds were sold to the Taiwan clone companies many, many years ago. When their marketability was gone, I would imagine they were destroyed or remilled into other things.

 

It would be possible to remake the molds with a CNC machine but the bigger picture is where would you find a big enough injection molder to make case halves. I bet that machine would be the size of a truck! Your local fab lab won't have that lying around!

Yup! Now, in the OP's defense...I am guessing SoCal Mike has (or has access to) a large enough injection machine but yes, even if the mold is found that would generally be your first major hurdle. Not really something a hobbyist owns, and large companies will not give you the time of day until at least 5k is on the table with HIGH minimum runs.

 

I notice some of the Brazil clones have very similar (if not the same) shape so Brazil might be a good place to start looking for the original :)

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I think someone found the molds for the Commodore C64C (there's a kickstarter about it), so anything is possible. I'd guess we'd be more likely to find the 7800 or 2600jr molds rather than the 4 or 6 switch models simply due to age.

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Molds for the VCS would be really big and I assume would have been scrapped a long time ago because while owned by Atari I assume would have stayed at the factory and they can't have unclaimed molds piling up. But who knows.

 

Molds for carts are way smaller but same deal...I assume they'd stay at the factory and be scrapped.

 

I can tell you making a mold for a cart back in early 80's was a huge deal. I think the cost was $20k, and you might have to make several because the first ones weren't right. So the real cost was $50k+. The mold for something as large as the VCS...don't know. I do know today a small mold for a part the size of a thumble is $800-1000 in China.

 

I think the molds had to be made a tiny bit large to produce the desired size because the plastic shrank as it cooled. If the wall in one area was a little too thin or thick the part might twist as it cooled, etc... Huge pain. More art than science to make a mold. But smaller the part the more forgiving. So I assume if you used a current VCS to create a template that the end product wouldn't be the right size. Also I assume you'd loose a lot of the texturing...copy of a copy. The texture in the mold was cut into the mold by hand and was done only after a few runs were done as proofs.

 

Plus not sure how a current VCS could be used as a template. Sand cast would have pretty much no detail. Ceramic mold would need a wax copy first, so more detail lost.

 

IMO these old plastic parts are more like how art prints are made. Only so many per mold and once the mold is gone you can never reproduce those objects again. You can get close, but that only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. What makes them collector items.

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  • 3 months later...

I'd rather see someone create an accurate CAD file of the top and bottom halves of a heavy sixer, so they could be CNC machined out of a block of aluminum. Imagine an Atari 2600 that you could jump up and down on without even putting a dent in it, and which would make an actual heavy sixer seem like a lightweight in comparison. Then it could be powder-coated black with a texture similar to the original plastic texture, like so:

 

sr3o6Uj.jpg

 

I've always thought that the design of the 2600, especially the heavy sixer, made it look like a piece of industrial equipment, like you might find in a factory somewhere, and making it out of metal would enhance that effect. It looks right at home beside an old Metcal for example (note the similar ribbing, angular lines, and utilitarian appearance), which was used in countless PCB factories, including the one I worked at:

 

vFmg2xy.jpg

 

The Metcal has a powder-coated aluminum case with ribbing on the front and heatsink fins on the back, and a plastic cover on top. It is 4.5" x 4.5" x 8.625" and weighs 7.25 lbs. (compared to about 4.5 lbs. for the physically larger heavy sixer). Another thing that the Metcal and the heavy sixer have in common is: they both have RF output and heavy RF shielding inside. The 2600's RF output carries a video and audio signal of course, while the Metcal's RF output is used to heat the tip cartridge to ~700 degrees F in under 10 seconds. It does so through a standard F connector like you'll find on the back of your TV, which is connected to the handpiece via a very flexible, heat-resistant (silicone-based insulation) coaxial cable.

 

And look at the color of the letters in the Metcal logo; very similar to colors used for the text on the Atari's switch panel. I wonder if the designer of the Metcal (which came out in the late 1980s) had the 2600 in mind, perhaps subconsciously.

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Just take apart your Atari 2600 and DOOB the halves:

 

youtube.com/watch?v=fSXq0vGSiDA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSXq0vGSiDA

 

youtube.com/watch?v=ZYKPKsKlxko

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYKPKsKlxko

 

It won't be long before you'll be able to buy a life-size version, so it might be more fun to DOOB yourself holding the halves. :D

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Can you imagine if the ancient Egyptians had 3D printers? Plastic mummies and plastic pyramids everywhere.

 

I am going to pile all of my Atari carts into a pyramid shape someday. Then when I go my wife can wrap me in VHS tape and put me in the pyramid.

Edited by SIO2
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