“Our 1st Retro Repair: Project Atari 2600”


“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring



Pull up a chair by the fire, dear NPCs, as I weave a tale of a time long passed, of magic and of memory.

Our story begins years ago with a friend of mine discovering a relic. The word inscribed on it was dead, Atari, an artefact from the pre-Nintendoan age. This shard of gaming history, seemingly constructed from ancient rubber and dead wood, was unearthed from the dusty labyrinth of a stranger’s abode and since its previous owners had no use for it, nor indeed did they know what it was, the thing passed into the hands of my friend. But he was no collector or museum curator. The machine of antiquity passed from one dark chamber to another in solidarity, for it seemed the power supply had been severed. What wizened sage had rendered the machine inanimate, and for what reason, we could not know but the arcane device, for all its buttons and levers and old world charm, could not be operated. The door to the past remained shut.


Fast forward the garbled VHS tape to our modern HD era. With a reputation for having versed myself in the old ways of interactive electronic classicism, my friend brought the device to me. I quite leaped with a start at the sight of it. My spryness hadn’t left me yet but more importantly, I had never lain eyes on such a thing before. The device only rendered itself to my memory through the curled scrolls and faded tomes over which I poured. Upon inspection, I could indeed verify that the thing was powerless. Whether because of the whims of a madman or because my friend suspected something truly sinister in its secrets, he entrusted the ancient machine to me.

In my care it remained for half a decade, confined to the cold darkness of my innermost sanctum, away from the prying and curious eyes of a younger and more reckless generation, away from aught of the electrical power that might turn the device on outside of my control. And thus stayed I busy about my work of restoring that which is lost. Years passed in their own irresistible way. Seasons slipped slowly by.

Then came my friend again to my door. Not only was his appearance sudden but he came with a remedy for that old device which sat quite out of mind in my collection. I lay my eyes upon the cord of redemption, that sweet, scarlet cable of resurrection which held out the faintest of promises of knowledge, the gnosis of the Greeks. How my mind reeled at that bauble held aloft, desirous to the lump of flesh that hammered within my breast.


Alas! Confound and be-strangle this enigma from time immemorial! That fairest promise did fly from me like the vapor of a dream with the coming of morning! The machine sat silent once more.


Still more time passed and now my sleep refused me its respite, my mind tormented by the fevered ravings of curiosity. The artefact was a relic no longer. O thorn in my side! It had become a Sphinxian riddle, a draconian and calcified monstrosity no physical spear could pierce and no steely sword could conquer. Violence, however torn towards it my soul was pulled, could not rob the machine of its secrets. Thoughts of the sight of it filled my vision, even with my eyes opened to the true world. In my incoherent state, I could almost hear its voice, the voice of that ancient instrument, calling to me not in the darkness but through it. Its very memory burned my belly as if I had swallowed a searing iron ball.

Not even the dawn could cure me. I might have suffered an eternity before wasting away, my great work unfinished, if my friend had not again returned to me like the coming of the Archangel himself to spite Leviathan. Behold! That great gift, the cord of life! Then came the siren song out of the deep and I, Odysseus, was bound no more…


…How benign that image after so long without sleep. How arduous I sought it, how pure its delight. The relic! The fount! I could not have been more joyous had I been given the touch of Midas! It incited my bones to sing, my very flesh to weep with euphoria. Vengeance upon a thousand of my enemies be spared in mercy! Exultation! Ecstasy! [Other words denoting happiness]!


And that is the story of how I played E.T.the Extra-Terrestrial on my very own, fully functioning, second generation Atari 2600 on an LCD flatscreen. Yes, that’s a horrific game but experiencing a piece of history like that is unlike anything else.

With great pleasure, I need to thank Mister Bruce Sabatoni for assisting me in this matter, for giving me the 2600 purely on the integrity of his charitable soul, and for fixing it himself both by Mickey Mousing it and by purchasing a new power cable. Thanks, sir! For that, I’m making you an honorary mage: the Magenta Martial Arts Mage!


Ring on, you unsung hero.

So, now that I have a working Sears “Video Arcade” Atari 2600, I could use some recommendations! This is now the oldest console out of my baker’s dozen and I’m excited to go back this far in time. I often see bundles of miscellaneous games being sold for the system so I may just pick up one of those boxes sometime. I currently own BreakoutSorcerer’s ApprenticeJourney Escape, Video ChessDragster, and E.T.the Extra-Terrestrial. Slip out of the cracks with your recommendations, ye retro-gamers! My opinion of Atari is very slowly changing, thanks to games like Black Widow, for example.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

-The Well-Red Mage


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28 replies »

      • You’re welcome! Frogs and Flies is an odd one… I didn’t even know it existed until my husband and I were going through a bunch of his sibling’s Atari games one day and that was in the pile. Of course we snatched it up and I’m glad we did!

        Isn’t that the way luck goes sometimes?! There used to be a great Flea Market about an hour away from the town I used to live in, and they closed down a couple years ago. They always had great video games and some of them were so cheap, but ever since they closed down I haven’t been able to find a comparable place!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. This is awesome man! I love the feeling of taking an old beat up console and making it look good and playable again. I almost got to add an Atari 2600 to my collection recently. The price was 15 freakin bucks, I drove 30 minutes out of my way after work and the guy at the last minute when I was stuck at a train track told me not to come because he couldn’t find it. I was one minute away from his place so that was understanably pretty frustrating lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That was indeed an epic and Looping tale, but you surmounted all of the Pitfalls in your Adventure, letting no Asteroid nor Dragon stand in the way of your Quest 🙂

    Hopefully my ridiculous and punny comment is entertaining. Those would be my recommendations (just connect the last two for Dragon Quest).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad at least that the library for this console is closed! I couldn’t get into Warlords but Yars’ Revenge is one I’ve seen batted back and forth. Tac-Scan is a new one by me and Berzerk seems to be highly recommendable. Thanks for the suggestions!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Warlords was Mario Party before there was Mario Party. What I mean by that, is 1.) You really need to play it 4-player for the best experience, and 2.) Like Mario Party after a few beers, everyone will begin swearing at each other when they lose. It can become pretty competitive.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I finally figured out how to hook my Atari 2600 up to my modern TV last summer. I honestly couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on in E.T., haha. I highly recommend Pitfall!, Defender, and Adventure. Those are the favourites in my collection 🙂 .Adventure even has a hilarious easter egg from a disgruntled programmer in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s surreal to see these images one modern screen, isn’t it? Thank you very much for the recommendations! Adventure is high on my list as a big influential game and I vaguely remember playing Pitfall! I’ll need to look up Defender. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. loved reading this. I loved how you put so much effort and was almost driven to insanity it seemed just to play one of the worst games ever, E.T.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I generally dislike writing factual, journey-entry style posts and since I did that recently with the facelift post I decided to have some fun with this one instead. I made sure to read “Telltale Heart” to get in that hyperbolic Poe mode. Haha this was one of the more enjoyable writing sessions for me because I just let loose without worrying too much about structure. And yes all to just play E.T.! Haha! Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My favourite games for the Atari 2600 are Berzerk, Adventure and Space Invaders! It’s awesome to see that you’ve brought back life for the Atari.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks! I appreciate your recommendations. Adventure was definitely a game that I’ve been wanting to get my hands on but I didn’t even think of Space Invaders. I’ll need to look up Berzerk, as well. Thanks again, friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man!

      Liked by 2 people

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