Intro: Atari 2600 Power on Led Indicator.
Ever look at your Atari 2600 and just feel it's missing something, as if it's dead even when your using it's cpu to the fullest to battle space invaders? I have and I realized it's missing what most every game console since the NES has and thatis a power on led indicator. Luckily, this is a quick and easy mod that takes no more than an hour from start to finish with the proper tools and materials. Well worth the effort if you ask me so lets get to it shall we?
Step 1: Dig Out That Old Atari & Gather Up the Tools & Materials You Will Need.
Tools & Materials needed:
Soldering iron & solder
Drill & drillbits
Hot glue gun & hot glue stick
150 ohm resistor (varies what you will need here depending on voltage rating of your particular LED)
Wire (be sure to use enough wire to have slack when console is apart, each of my 2 wires are about 8 inches long giving me enough length to allow upper case to be flipped over out of the way when apart).
Now that you've got that 2600 ready for surgery and tools gathered up, it's time to decide just where you want to place the led. In this case I opted to have it right beside the power switch. Seemed like the most appropriate spot to me.
Step 2: Ready the Led by Adding the Right Resistor.
LED of your choice (I chose red since it seems appropriate for 1980 and fits the Atari 2600 style).
Resistor. My red led called for no more than 2 volts & since I'm tapping into 5 volts from the 2600's voltage regulator I'm using 150 ohms of resistors. (I used a 100 ohm and 47 ohm since I didn't have a 150 ohm. Actual resistance on my multimeter read 153 ohms. I used online resistor calculator to make it easy to figure out what resistance I needed).
Step 3: Remove 4 Philips Screws From Bottom of 2600.
Flip the 2600 over and on the bottom you will see 4 philips screws. Remove them and flip the 2600 back over holding it together as you do so. Then life the upper casing off starting with the woodgrain part and tilting it up so as the back part will clear the various ports and switches.
Once apart look to the bottom left side of the motherboard and you will see the voltage regulator. It's the square black piece with a screw holding it down to the board and 3 legs coming out of it. The middle leg is the ground and the leg to the right (toward front of console) of it is the 5V. You will be tapping into the 5V by soldering the positive side of led to the voltage regulator leg. The negative wire from your led must be soldered to the middle leg of the voltage regulator. Solder your 150 ohm resistor in between the positive leg of led and the +5V leg of the 2600's voltage regulator. It was easier for me to put a bit of solder on the legs of the voltage regulator first and a little on the wires that are going to be soldered to it.
Step 4: Drill the Hole for Your LED & Install.
Next, drill the hole where you want to install your LED. Be sure you have a long enough length of wire so as there's enough slack to open the Atari housing without issues. Start out with a small bit to drill a pilot hole & then use a bit that's the same size as your LED. The LED should fit firmly into the hole. Once in be sure the resistor/LED legs are bent up and separated from each other and out of the way. There's quite a bit of room in the 2600 housing so this should be no issue.
Step 5: Hot Glue Everything in Place.
Next, hot glue the wires down to the board out from the voltage regulator as well as around the legs of the voltage regulator where the wires are soldered on. This serves to not only keep your solder points secure but also as an insulator to prevent any possible short. Be careful not to get any hot glue on the voltage regulator itself because it heats up. Now put some hot glue around the LED as well as below it around the wires leading up to it to keep everything nice and secure. Reassemble the 2600 & I found it easiest to place the motherboard back in the upper case with everything flipped upside down so as all the motherboard ports can be slid into the upper housing easily. There's two little tabs the edge of the motherboard rest upon opposite the ports. Once you get ports in place in upper housing simply tilt the motherboard down where the edge is against those tabs. You will see the 2 screw holes lined up when in proper position. Keeping it upside down place the bottom of casing back on and reinstall the 4 screws starting with the 2 that travel through the motherboard.
Step 6: Plug It Up & Behold the Light.
If all went well you Atari 2600 should no longer envy the NES's led. I decided to fire up Ms. Pacman to give it a thorough test. Game on!