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Interest Check - 5200 Trak-Ball mod to play 2600 TB games


BigO
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I've been tinkering off and on with a mod to my 5200 Trak-Ball that lets me play the 2600 games that were recently modified to support real trackball input (not joystick emulation).

 

I've boiled down the work to a replacement wiring harness that makes available several types of trackball signal plus all of the original 5200/CX-53 functionality.

 

This is done with no modifications to the controller enclosure and no modifications to the circuit board. No soldering to the original board. Restoring to 100% original would consist, essentially, of re-installing the original cable.

 

All of the signals are brought out to a 25 pin DB connector. Selection of interface is accomplished by plugging an adapter cable into the DB-25 cable end. I have built connectors that let the 5200 Trak-Ball controller work as:

  1. Original 5200 CX-53
  2. Straight quadrature encoded signal (like the ST Mouse)
  3. Direction+clock style (like CX-22)
  4. Could easily make an adapter to make it act as an Amiga mouse.

 

Though tested only with the 2600, there's no technical reason that the controller wouldn't work with various vintage computers that have trackball games.

 

I don't have a solid price in mind yet, but I don't want to source parts if nobody's interested. It's so labor intensive, that I don't think there'll be any profit in it.

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Isn't it a DB15?

 

Do you have it outputting to DB9 so it'll work on a 2600, an A8, an ST or Amiga, etc? Throw in the 7800 and you've got all your Atari DB9 bases covered!

 

As cool as this sounds - and it is indeed cool - it'll mean generating a lot of interest in the CX-53 for non-5200 gamers which is kinda a shame on the other hand.

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Isn't it a DB15?

All of the signals are brought out to a 25 pin DB connector.


Do you have it outputting to DB9 so it'll work on a 2600, an A8, an ST or Amiga, etc? Throw in the 7800 and you've got all your Atari DB9 bases covered!

 

Selection of interface is accomplished by plugging an adapter cable into the DB-25 cable end.

I'm not interested in doing anything with this at all if I have to lock it down to work with only one system. I'm also not interested in having a bunch of additional cables coming out of the controller. One cable with one adapter per system/function sits well with me.

I prefer to expose the additional signals and make them available to do other stupid tricks with later, e.g. joystick emulator, robot controller, 2600 keypad controller, connect to MAME machine, whatever goofy thing "somebody" might want to experiment with.

As it stands, I can use it with a 5200 (original functionality), a 2600 (trackball, keypad) and with a PC as a mouse (using a "Premium Adapter" ;)) . It should work as a trackball with other vintage computers that directly read trackball signals. I don't have any trackball games for the XEGS or I'd test it there. It would probably work with an arcade machine, though I'm not sure why anybody would do that.

Amiga mouse is a simple adapter that I didn't have any need for.

As cool as this sounds - and it is indeed cool - it'll mean generating a lot of interest in the CX-53 for non-5200 gamers which is kinda a shame on the other hand.

 

I'm assuming there are people out there who already own CX-53's who might be interested in using them for other systems while retaining the ability to use them with 5200's. But, I'm satisfied being a loner. I never was big on following the crowd. :)

 

 

 

Thanks, for the feedback.

I'll take that as one "not interested".

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By the way…have you ever considered hacking one of those Golden Tee stand-alone TV Units into exporting gray CX-80 code?

Yes. I saw those things at Goodwill week after week...until I started looking for one.

I was going to try to build a trackball controller for a friend to whom I've gifted a console, Harmony cart, etc. over the years. Whether he wanted one or not. :)

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Doing this the way I wanted it for myself, a complete drop-in replacement wiring harness, requires more than $25 in parts.

 

If you end up paying as much for this mod as just buying a CX22, why not just buy a CX22?

 

I'll see what alternatives I might be able to come up with. I still want it to be user installable.

I'm really not a fan of having multiple cables coming out of the console, but could live with that for the sake of being practical.

With an alternate design for adapters, I think I can blend new signals with the existing DB15 without modifying the original controller or wiring in any way.

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I'd hate to ruin a working 5200 TB.

So would I.

 

Myself, I even fix non-working 5200 Trak-Ball controllers. I have four of them and don't know a single other soul in my real life that would have any interest in playing multi-player trackball games with me. I hardly ever even play 5200 games.

 

Not really sure how I could more emphatically state that the controller will continue to work with the 5200 and, in addition, will now work with TB capable 2600 games.

Absolutely no modifications are made to the circuit board. No modification is made to the wiring or enclosure of the CX53.

No insulation is stripped, no soldering is performed, no drilling takes place, no gawdy paint job is applied, no explosives are set off inside of the controller.

Screws are removed. Wiring harness is installed, screws are put back in. I'm not even voiding the warranty. :D

 

I switch mine back and forth between 5200 and 2600 by unplugging it from the 5200 (adapter) and plugging it into the 2600 (adapter).

I switch mine back and forth between 2600 ST Mouse compatible and CX22 compatible games by swapping out a cable that plugs between the CX53 and the 2600 console.

Just for grins, I built an "adapter" to use my modified CX53 as a USB mouse. In theory, this could let the CX53 be used on a MAME machine.

For fewer grins, I built an adapter to use my modified CX53 as a 2600 keypad controller.

Then I plugged it back into the 5200 and played Galaxian.

 

There's no reason to believe that the controller won't also work with Atari computers and other vintage equipment that speaks trackball.

 

I have intentions of building an active adapter for myself which will let my CX53 play 2600 driving controller games (all one of them).

I have intentions of building an active adapter for myself which will let my CX53 play 2600 joystick games. (as an academic exercise, 'cuz who really wants to play games that way?)

I have intentions of adapting the "two buttons to ground" scheme to let the two buttons work separately if used on a 7800 console for some 7800 specific trackball game that doesn't yet exist.

Then I will plug it in to the 5200 and play Pole Position.

 

No harm comes to the CX53. It just gets to make new friends.

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So would I.

 

Myself, I even fix non-working 5200 Trak-Ball controllers. I have four of them and don't know a single other soul in my real life that would have any interest in playing multi-player trackball games with me. I hardly ever even play 5200 games.

 

Not really sure how I could more emphatically state that the controller will continue to work with the 5200 and, in addition, will now work with TB capable 2600 games.

Absolutely no modifications are made to the circuit board. No modification is made to the wiring or enclosure of the CX53.

No insulation is stripped, no soldering is performed, no drilling takes place, no gawdy paint job is applied, no explosives are set off inside of the controller.

Screws are removed. Wiring harness is installed, screws are put back in. I'm not even voiding the warranty. :D

 

I switch mine back and forth between 5200 and 2600 by unplugging it from the 5200 (adapter) and plugging it into the 2600 (adapter).

I switch mine back and forth between 2600 ST Mouse compatible and CX22 compatible games by swapping out a cable that plugs between the CX53 and the 2600 console.

Just for grins, I built an "adapter" to use my modified CX53 as a USB mouse. In theory, this could let the CX53 be used on a MAME machine.

For fewer grins, I built an adapter to use my modified CX53 as a 2600 keypad controller.

Then I plugged it back into the 5200 and played Galaxian.

 

There's no reason to believe that the controller won't also work with Atari computers and other vintage equipment that speaks trackball.

 

I have intentions of building an active adapter for myself which will let my CX53 play 2600 driving controller games (all one of them).

I have intentions of building an active adapter for myself which will let my CX53 play 2600 joystick games. (as an academic exercise, 'cuz who really wants to play games that way?)

I have intentions of adapting the "two buttons to ground" scheme to let the two buttons work separately if used on a 7800 console for some 7800 specific trackball game that doesn't yet exist.

Then I will plug it in to the 5200 and play Pole Position.

 

No harm comes to the CX53. It just gets to make new friends.

 

Kenfused hacked 7800 Centipede to use a CX22 in native Trak-Ball mode. If you search for it in the 7800 forums, you'll find the ROM [it might be called 7800 Centipede-TB]. Blue Azure has also been hacking variants of 7800 Centipede-TB in these past few couple of months and posting ROMs for them as well.

 

Truth be told, commercial 7800 Centipede has code in it for the Trak-Ball GCC created for the console but was never released. GCC made a bunch of modifications to the CX22. Dan Kramer looked at the schematics for GCC's work earlier this year and said he didn't think it would've been economical for 1984 and wasn't really convinced on it being better than the CX22.

 

A lot of us had hoped there'd be fervent Trak-Ball hacking in the 7800 scene but it hasn't transpired like the fever that's caught on with the 2600 games lately. At the very least, the 7800 light gun games really need Trak-Ball hacks. Crossbow with Trak-Ball support would rule. And Crack'ed would be awesome as well, although the Trak-Balls themselves would need to be modded to support a second fire button for that game to truly shine with it.

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A lot of us had hoped there'd be fervent Trak-Ball hacking in the 7800 scene but it hasn't transpired like the fever that's caught on with the 2600 games lately. At the very least, the 7800 light gun games really need Trak-Ball hacks. Crossbow with Trak-Ball support would rule. And Crack'ed would be awesome as well, although the Trak-Balls themselves would need to be modded to support a second fire button for that game to truly shine with it.

That brings up something that's been a little bit of a sticking point for me on this CX53 hacking. I haven't yet worked out how to make the two buttons on the CX53 work like the 2600 compatible buttons on the 7800 controller. On the CX53, both buttons connect to ground. That works fine for the 2600, but not for the 7800. Without internal modification to the controller, I can't separate the buttons from ground. So, to make the CX53 hack be more 7800 friendly, I need to figure that out. I don't think I can do it with just passive components.

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That brings up something that's been a little bit of a sticking point for me on this CX53 hacking. I haven't yet worked out how to make the two buttons on the CX53 work like the 2600 compatible buttons on the 7800 controller. On the CX53, both buttons connect to ground. That works fine for the 2600, but not for the 7800. Without internal modification to the controller, I can't separate the buttons from ground. So, to make the CX53 hack be more 7800 friendly, I need to figure that out. I don't think I can do it with just passive components.

 

That would be one mod. The other would be adding a third fire button so that A8 3-Base Missile Command could be supported on Atari 8-Bit computers and the 5200 if it's ever ported. Well, I shouldn't count my chickens before they hatch…it needs to be released first on A8… :)

 

I think I've posted in a different thread you were participating in on how the 3rd fire button works from Dan's quotes.

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You make an interesting point.

 

I understand how the additional fire button would work using the paddle line. It's how the two fire buttons work on the 7800, in 7800 mode. The 2600 keypad controller uses the same sort of trick, as does the Omega Race Booster Grip.

 

I'm not sure how one would/could go about accomplishing that while still having the controller remain compatible with both 2600 and 7800. I suppose if you had all 3 fire buttons on the controller anyway, it would just be a matter of using the right button. It would no longer be necessary to have that compatibility on that particular controller.

 

It would also be really easy to add another button to the CX53 that would be visible to 5200 software without any external cabling changes. However, any such mod would require more or less permanent changes to the internal wiring. If you're hacking a hole in the controller to add a button, I suppose you're well past being concerned about the "all original" condition of the controller anyway. :) When it comes to cars, I'm more "resto-mod" that "all original" so that kind of thing doesn't really bother me. I've tried to stay in the middle of the road with this CX53 modding: make it do new things without "destroying" the original condition of the controller.

 

Personally, I think it could be a tough sale to release a piece of software that requires a modded controller. Though, a classic like Missile Command and the Dan Kramer back story could make it a success.

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You make an interesting point.

 

I understand how the additional fire button would work using the paddle line. It's how the two fire buttons work on the 7800, in 7800 mode. The 2600 keypad controller uses the same sort of trick, as does the Omega Race Booster Grip.

 

I'm not sure how one would/could go about accomplishing that while still having the controller remain compatible with both 2600 and 7800. I suppose if you had all 3 fire buttons on the controller anyway, it would just be a matter of using the right button. It would no longer be necessary to have that compatibility on that particular controller.

 

It would also be really easy to add another button to the CX53 that would be visible to 5200 software without any external cabling changes. However, any such mod would require more or less permanent changes to the internal wiring. If you're hacking a hole in the controller to add a button, I suppose you're well past being concerned about the "all original" condition of the controller anyway. :) When it comes to cars, I'm more "resto-mod" that "all original" so that kind of thing doesn't really bother me. I've tried to stay in the middle of the road with this CX53 modding: make it do new things without "destroying" the original condition of the controller.

 

Personally, I think it could be a tough sale to release a piece of software that requires a modded controller. Though, a classic like Missile Command and the Dan Kramer back story could make it a success.

 

All true.

 

I tried finding a pic of the CX-22 modded with 3 extra [cherry] switch buttons belonging to the folks behind the 5200 Podcast. They did that specifically to play 3-Base Missile Command on A8 while maintaining compatibility with regular A8/2600 games. It probably isn't set up to play dual fire button 7800 games though.

 

As for adding a 3rd independent fire button to the CX53, I totally believe you on how "easy" it is for software to recognize it. After all, one of the popular mods out there is to create a Paddle out of a 5200 Joystick and the mod usually includes adding a toggle switch to it to serve as the gear shift for Pole Position. It's using Trak-Ball coding because Dan's 5200 Steering Wheel Controller was going to piggy-back off the CX53 code which is why GCC went ahead and added the code into the game at Dan's request. Seems the GCC folks went ahead and added Trak-Ball code to most of the 5200 games if Dan requested it and without having to get Atari management involved.

 

By the way, if Missile Command+ is halfway as good as 3-Base Missile Command, then waste no time in playing it. Playsoft ported it to the 5200 a few months ago and I think he used one of the keypad buttons as the 3rd fire button. It's in a thread around here somewhere. And I think someone else ported it separately a few years previously too...

Edited by Lynxpro
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  • 3 weeks later...

Yes. I saw those things at Goodwill week after week...until I started looking for one.

I was going to try to build a trackball controller for a friend to whom I've gifted a console, Harmony cart, etc. over the years. Whether he wanted one or not. :)

Finally saw a Golden Tee again at Goodwill yesterday. But, $13 was more than I wanted to spend even if it was in the original packaging. Looking online, maybe $13.00 wasn't too bad a price after all. Still too much for me to hack up when I know I'll find one for $5 somewhere.

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Real job had a delay in starting a system upgrade today. Gave me enought time to build and test quadrature adapter with the new 9 pin cable. Looks good.

I think I've got a decent strain relief method figured out. Need to do an install from scratch in my like-new CX53 to verify. Then find a guinea pig to test installation in their own controller.

 

I guess I'll go ahead and order the 9 pin extension cables that I'll need to make a few units.

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Looking for a decently priced source for at least the female end, 9 pin cable that will plug into a 2600: "earless" or whatever the right term is.

No problem if I have to cut an extension cable, I'll just have a bunch of spare parts when I'm done.

 

[Edit]: parts ordered.

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I'm interested in this project. Sounds like you have some great ideas for how to use the 5200 TB.

Thanks. I hope to have something release worthy for the few interested people in a week or two. Seems like it's taking forever with real work and home projects eating into my play time.

 

Have to get a few parts in and do a test build with those specific parts.

 

I"ll probably have my non-electronics-inclined wife try to do the install on one of my TB's and document first draft installation instructions from that experience.

 

Once the basic drop-in cable with CX22 style adapter is ready, I'll see if anyone's interested in other options. (2600 joystick emulator is one obvious but apparently unpopular possibility :)).

 

With about two or three people interested, it shouldn't take long to achieve total market saturation.

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  • 1 month later...

Took a hiatus from this project for a while. Stupid real world...

 

Today, I built an assembly jig to help with one very annoying part of the build. I hope to test the jig this week by making a main cable.

 

There's one other really awkward part of the build that I'm thinking I'll probably build another jig for. I like process improvement as much as tinkering with old video game hardware so I get enjoyment out of this part, too.

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