If you’re anywhere near my age (or older), you probably remember the old Atari systems. Perhaps you’ve even owned one. I was five when my parents bought me one back in 1982. Having played some of my favorite games for hours on my Atari 2600, I remember thinking nothing could top it – until technology improved and better game systems were developed. Now, as a current owner of a Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, and a Xbox 360, not to mention a past owner of a myriad of expired game systems sitting in a box in my attic (filled with my old NES, Nintendo 64, Genesis, Playstation, Playstation 2, Panasonic 3DO, GameBoys, a SEGA Game Gear, etc.), I never really considered going backward as technology has advanced. However, old meets new on an episode of ‘The Ben Heck Show’ when Benjamin J. Heckendorn and element14, a collaborative social community and electronics store for design engineers and electronics enthusiasts, come together to combine a 1977 Atari console with an Xbox 360 laptop system.

In this episode, Ben works on a custom mod for Atari to create an Xbox 360 portable laptop with the look and feel of a 1970s Atari console to help support the debut of new games based on iconic titles, including Yar’s Revenge and Star Raiders. Ben takes viewers through the entire build process, including designing the system with Adobe Illustrator, routing each piece of the new casing, re-wiring and connecting the Xbox 360 components, and prepping the circuit board inside the new LCD screen and backing panel to ensure the electronics fit properly.

“I was thrilled when Atari approached me to build this unique gaming system – this is the most ‘Ben Heck’ type project I could possibly build,” said Ben. “It was a great experience taking consoles from two completely different eras and combining them, not only from a mechanics standpoint, but incorporating the design features to replicate an old Atari. That’s what art’s all about!” 

Throughout the design and build process, Ben takes careful consideration to incorporate elements from the original Atari system such as wood paneling, sharp, contoured edges and Atari’s classic metal switches. He even combines graphics from the original Atari joystick with the “ring of light” required by the Xbox system. After powering up the machine for a quick game of ‘Street Fighter IV,’ Ben concludes the project a major triumph.

“We are thrilled with the final build of Ben’s custom Xbox 360 1977 Edition system,” said Lee Jacobson, SVP of Licensing and Digital Publishing, Atari. “Ben clearly had a lot of fun and it’s great to see how the classic, retro Atari design is incorporated. The system completely exceeded our expectations and we’re sure that any Atari enthusiast would be thrilled to use this unique system.”

Show fans are invited to visit element14 to register for a chance to win one of Ben’s recent builds, submit videos of their own builds or to throw Ben a challenge for a future episode.

“In this episode you can see just how much fun Ben has on his modding projects – from gleeful laughing as he takes a blowtorch to a circuit board, to making a point to include the classic components inherent of the original Atari system,” said Alisha Mowbray, senior vice president of marketing, element14. “As usual, Ben’s humor and the ease in which he explains his building process make for another fun and informative episode. And, this latest creation is sure to become yet another one of Ben’s highly coveted builds.”

‘The Ben Heck Show’ is a bi-weekly online television series aired in English that’s dedicated to the science and art of system and hardware modding with a global audience of design engineers, students and electronic enthusiasts. Sponsored exclusively by element14, each episode spotlights Ben’s mods of popular electronic devices while educating viewers on the underlying technology powering each project. It can be seen here at www.element-14.com.