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Interview with Marshall H. who built the Atari 2600 handheld Multari

Multari an Atari 2600 handheld, photo: Marshall H. Multari an Atari 2600 handheld, photo: Marshall H.

Marshall H. is a teenager from Kansas, USA, a real smart one. He is into retrogaming and customizing, hence Marshall’s last project aimed at customizing and converting an old Atari 2600 videogame console into a portable handheld. He took advantage of his father’s woodworks shop tools but of course built the whole thing himself and named it Multari. What Atari says to it and what future plans Marshall has? – He told Sajonara all about. Also see our gallery with all of Marshall’s photos of the development process and of the finalized Multari at the end of this article.

Alexander Trust

Where and when did you get the idea of customizing and converting an old Atari 2600 into a mobile handheld?


Marshall H.

I have been playing Atari games on a PC emulator for some time. I enjoy playing the games, and wanted to be able to play a variety of them in a handheld format, but didn’t want to carry around the game cartridges. Fortunately, I found the Atari Flashback 2, which is essentially the original Atari circuitry condensed into a very small, efficient PCB. By programming a Flash ROM chip with the data of about 32 games, I am able to switch between them.


What about Copyrights? Has Atari intervened yet?


I haven’t had any complaints or cease-and-desist letters. I don’t expect to get any, mainly because Atari is not a company in good enough shape to spend money going after enthusiasts like me. Now, if I was to produce several thousand of these using the Atari name and branding, that would be a problem.


Do you have any plans concerning a professional selling of your Multari?


No, the building process is far too labor-intensive and time demanding. It was mainly just a fun project.


Have you had some help with your work, or was it a real one man show?


I have been into building portables for about three years now. My first two were both Nintendo 64 portables. Fortunately I was able to use my dad’s woodworking shop to make the wood case mold, but I built the entire thing myself.


Can you imagine developing further games for a system like the Atari 2600 (Multari)?


I have looked into Atari game programming, and it is quite a challenge. Although I haven’t done any myself, there are some fantastic homebrew games being developed for the Atari. There’s a lot of good information over at AtariAge.


Do you think that creative potential like yours is underestimated by economy?


I didn’t have any problems funding the project. I already had most of the parts I needed from past projects. If I wanted to commericalize this somehow, maybe produce a Atari multicart with bankswitching support, that would not be a problem with the current economy. It is actually not that bad here, the news media makes it sound worse than it actually is, which is the case for a lot of other things too. But I digress.


What are your future plans? Which home console can we expect to be customized by you next?


My next plans are either a Dreamcast portable, or, more likely, another Nintendo 64 portable with a custom ROM cartridge I am designing. But currently my interest lies in working on cars.


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