Creating Atari 2600 Homebrew Games

Episode #2414


Who says the Atari 2600 is dead? Not when you can create your own games for this classic console. We also show you how to convert streaming audio into local files on your PC, use your cell phone's minute plan with your regular home phone, and turn an antique phone into a Bluetooth Wireless headset.

Tech Topics
Well, the main topic to lead off the show wasn’t exactly ripped from today’s headlines, but it was notable nevertheless: Kevin got in trouble with Google.com. Yes, when he gave away 4,000 free beta accounts to Google’s new Gmail on his Website (that’s kevinrose.com, by the way), it apparently flooded Google’s servers. “I have to say, ‘I’m sorry, Google,’” Kevin declared.

“Wait a sec, isn’t Google a huge company?” demanded Alex. “Couldn’t they handle it?” Alex therefore announced that he would contribute his own computer to aid Google’s servers the next time Kevin gave away any Gmail accounts – whereupon Kevin accused him of probably owning a cutting-edge machine like a Packard-Bell. “A Packard-Bell?” Alex asked, brow furrowed. “That name sounds weird just coming out of my mouth…”

Nevertheless, the guys promise to alert Google before they try any future Gmail giveaways.

TSS Live Calls

Call #1: “CT” of  Leawood, Kansas wants to replace the old DVD drive in his Xbox. How can he do it?

It’s not difficult at all, according to Kevin and Alex – but if your Xbox is still under warranty, you can kiss your coverage good-bye. But if your warranty’s already run out, then you have several new DVD drive options that can improve upon the speed of the original Xbox unit. LG and Samsung offer drives that will fit, and you can even shop on eBay for drives rigged especially for the Xbox. Putting them in is fairly simple: Just remove the torque screws under the rubber pads on the bottom of the Xbox, open the case, and unplug the drive unit.

“You also have to remove this warning label,” Alex said.

 “Labels don’t mean anything!” scoffed Kevin. 
“Remember: Don’t do this at home—it’s bad!” Alex added for good measure.

Call #2:
Wade from Edmonton AB keeps losing bandwidth on his wi-fi connection when people jump on his network. What can he do about it?

The first place to start is by turning on your security measures, which may seem obvious but some users aren’t always aware of them. According to Kevin and Alex, the basics include changing the default administrator passwords, using mandatory WEP encryption (newer routers use WPA encryption), and registering your devices’ MAC addresses.

For detailed instructions on securing your wi-fi network, read these articles:
Windows IT Pro
Tom’s Networking

Where It All Began: The Atari 2600
While many gamers are already yearning for the Playstation 3 or Xbox Next, Paul Slocum prefers to take a different path – a journey into the primordial ooze of console gaming, the Atari 2600. But he isn’t just a nostalgia-wracked collector -- Paul is actually a 2600 programmer, creating new games for the nearly 30-year-old console. He actually started designing games for the system in elementary school, and is now part of a community of programmers who homebrew their own games.

“I really did love it as a kid,” Slocum said. “It’s a really interesting machine to program for. It’s really flexible—it doesn’t have any video hardware, so it’s all done in software.”

“Can you fix a game like E.T.?” asked Alex.
“Somebody actually did – they made the holes not as deep so you could get around easier,” said Slocum.

Alex fired up one of Slocum’s creations, Marble Craze, which he said was the first two-player game for the 2600. Slocum also demonstrated the 2600’s abilities as a video-effect machine while inputting music from his own band, Treewave.

For more info on Paul Slocum’s projects as well as the Atari 2600, visit these sites:


Streamripping Made Easy
Although the guys made Dan stay late at TSS HQ to rip some radio streams overnight (causing some rather erratic behavior due to sleep deprivation), streamripping is actually an easy process these days. According to Kevin, you previously couldn’t even capture Internet radio streams onto your hard drive. But now there’s software that can automatically identify when streamed songs start and stop, thus creating individual MP3s – which means free music. (Even if Dan has a predilection for the songs of Hillary Duff.)

"Believe it or not, this is still legal to do!" said Kevin.

For more information plus links to a number of these programs, read this article by our own Scott Moschella.
Yoshi Mods His Bluetooth Headset to Look Bulky and Old
“It shouldn’t be done—so that’s the best reason to do it!” declares Yoshi of his latest creation – a Bluetooth headset inserted in an archaic telephone handset. Yep, your next wireless conversation can be really indiscreet with this monster. For full details, read Yoshi’s article.
Sarah’s Review: Cell Socket
As Sarah pointed out on the show, long cell phone conversations get can get sweaty (in an unappealing way) as well as worrisome when you think about the radiation zipping through your ear into your brain. Well, what if you could use your cell phone account on a regular, old home phone? “You’re competing with Yoshi,” said Kevin, but Sarah didn’t actually mod a phone so much as find a product that actually does it for you – if you own a Motorola cell phone. The Cell Socket allows you to use your bigger and thus more comfortable home phone set to make cell calls, and you don’t have to worry about pockets of bad reception. For Sarah’s full review, go here.

screen savers


Sarah's Review: Cell Socket Legacy Article Image
Sarah's Review: Cell Socket

How to run your cell phone account through your home phone.

Yoshi's Mod Tips: Project Old-School Bluetooth Legacy Article Image
Yoshi's Mod Tips: Project Old-School Bluetooth

Now your Bluetooth headset can sport that 20th century look!

Streamripping Made Easy

Download Internet radio streams directly to your hard drive.