I have 2 Atari 2600s.

I got them both at a garage sale. I plugged them both in with a coaxial adapter. No sound, no video.

I opened them up, didn't see any shorts, the boards looked good. There was some corrosion on the RF module. (Or at least I think that's what it was) I'm at a complete loss with these Ataris.

Any advice?

Model numbers: NO.637.99743 NO.CX-2600A

  • First of all, how are you plugging them into your TV? I'm assuming that you're in America, and I don't entirely know how things work there, but you'll need a TV with an analogue tuner, and I believe you need to use either VHF channel 2 or channel 3 (someone from America correct me if I'm wrong here). You'll need to plug it into the antenna input on said TV. Corrosion on the RF shielding can tends to be quite normal, the material they used on that seems to rust quite easily. I wouldn't worry about that.
    – Muzer
    Nov 23, 2016 at 9:41
  • I have it plug into a coaxial adaptor, I have it plugged into the antenna/cable input. Iv switch between channels 3 and 4 because the atari could be set to either of them.
    – Justin
    Nov 23, 2016 at 13:01
  • From my Googling the Atari 2600 uses 2 and 3 rather than 3 and 4.
    – Muzer
    Nov 23, 2016 at 13:35
  • I actually don't have a channel 1 or 2, my TV goes straight to ch509 once I go below ch3
    – Justin
    Nov 23, 2016 at 14:19
  • I guess try setting the channel selector on the back of the unit to the other option and try channel 3 again? As I said, I don't know that much about how the US does this sort of thing (we in the UK were much simpler, just using channel 36 for everything!), so I might be barking up the wrong tree.
    – Muzer
    Nov 23, 2016 at 16:33

1 Answer 1


The Atari 2600 needs to go through an RF modulator before it will display any video or play any audio on your TV. You mentioned that you have an coaxial adapter. Some of those adapters actually do a good job separating the audio/video signals. Some, are just pass-throughs and aren't suited for real RF modulation.

If you have an old RF modulator box like from a NES or Coleco then that might help a little.

In my experiences, the Atari 2600 is very finicky with modern TV's. Despite modern TV's still having coaxial inputs. On CRT TV's, you could be very lenient on the NTSC specs and they still (mostly) worked. But many modern TV's will just show a blue screen if the NTSC signal is out of spec...even by a small margin.

My advice is to go to Goodwill and buy a $5 CRT TV. Older the better. One with knobs for the channels are best for Atari.

Next, get a proper RF modulator. Probably another $3 from Goodwill or eBay.

Finally, if you have the means and know-how, you can check the voltages inside the 2600 after you power it on. Oh, I assume you have the right power supply?

I had a Sega Master System that wouldn't power on and it turned out to be a bad 7805 voltage regulator.

Point is, try the Atari on an old TV if you can with a real RF modulator.

Oh, if you buy a CRT and decide you don't want it any more...please don't discard or recycle it. Take it back to Goodwill. People like me buy them all the time to play retro consoles on.

  • I have 2 CRT at home, one has the knobs on it, idk if there's a coaxial port on it, the other is a newer colored tv. I'll be headed there in a few hours. I have the orignal (think it's the orignal rf adaptor) it had to two wires the screws into the old knob tvs. It didn't work so I assumed it was bad. Is a rf modual going to be mandatory to test these ataris?
    – Justin
    Nov 23, 2016 at 20:41
  • The RF modulator with the two wires like you talked about is really the same thing as the coaxial. It should work. The Atari 2600 doesn't output any signal other than RF unless you solder in a composite mod. So, yeah, you will need some type of RF modulation to your TV. But it sounds like you have that. My next suggestion would be to bounce over to AtariAge forums. Those guys are absolutely experts in all things Atari.
    – cbmeeks
    Nov 23, 2016 at 21:17
  • If your Atari 2600 has a channel select switch, that means the RF modulator is built in and you do not need another. All you need is a switch box, or a straight-through adapter that will convert the 75 ohm RCA output from the 2600 to a 75 ohm F connector (also known as a coaxial cable connector). If the TV you are using has 2 screw terminals for a 300 ohm antenna connection rather than the coaxial cable connector then a switch box with is a better choice because they are easier to find with 300 ohm connectors.
    – Ken Gober
    Nov 23, 2016 at 23:48
  • 1
    I LOVE YOU GUYS! I actually got some vedio from pack man, it's really discolored and the ghost kinda flash around, but it's a huge improvement. I'm hoping the game is just dirty.
    – Justin
    Nov 24, 2016 at 1:38
  • 1
    I don't understand this, why would you need an RF modulator? Doesn't the 2600 pretty much always have one in already? And yeah, as for Pac-Man, @Justin, there's a reason it's generally considered to be one of the causes of the great video game crash of 1983. It's not a very good port, at all. The flickering is supposed to be there, and the colours are supposed to be terrible.
    – Muzer
    Nov 24, 2016 at 9:21

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