Atari 2600 Guitar Stompbox

Stompbox In Use

So here's one of those projects that sort of randomly materializes while rummaging through old stuff in the attic. I was looking for an enclosure to build a sort of "multi FX analog stompbox" for my guitar rig, when I found an old broken Atari 2600 in all its faux-wood-trimmed glory. Immediately the wheels started turning and I began taking it apart to see how much room was in there. Turns out there's quite a bit of space, so I took to fitting a Line6 power supply PCB I'd recently scored on eBay into the bottom, and fitting the guts of a TU-2 tuner pedal, A/B switch, tremolo, and tube screamer clone into the top. Never has the Milwaukee rotary tool seen so much action.

Wiring up the power supply - 1 of 3 Wiring up the power supply - 2 of 3 Wiring up the power supply - 3 of 3

Unfortunately my original design was full of fail because the power transformer ended up right next to a bunch of unbalanced, guitar-level signal wires. So the thing buzzed like crazy when I put it together, and no amount of shielding trickery could eliminate it. The next thing to try, then, was moving the supply into an external enclosure. For this, I found an old failed network hard drive (actually the little mainboard is fine, just one of the drives failed... don't get me started on the stupidity of RAID-0) and gutted it. After adding a fuse and properly tying the enclosure to ground, I ran 8 discreet 9-volt DC lines out of the enclosure via CAT5 cables and added an RJ45 jack to the back of the Atari.

External Wiring and Power Enclosure - 1 of 3 External Wiring and Power Enclosure - 2 of 3 External Wiring and Power Enclosure - 3 of 3

The next iteration will likely incorporate two or three more pedals in the Atari, since there was plenty of room in there when I was done. What I'd really like though, is to grab the guts out of a newer-generation 2600 and mount them in there too, so it still functions as a game system.

After a hectic day of finishing this project up, I used the set up at a gig that night (the Repeal Day Brew Fest in Sharon, PA) and I was really pleased. The pedals, unlike my previous wall-wart-powered rig, were totally noise-free. The only annoying thing is that it's a little difficult to turn the tuner on and off using my feet (since it's turned on and off via the original Atari switches). Some sort of additional foot-friendly momentary button may need to be added at some point.

Modified Wednesday, March 24, 2021