Web Surfer for the Atari 2600
Yeah--I GIMPed it.

Atari 2600, browsing the web with its Web Surfer cartridge.

So Close to True

2600 VCS Fun

There's so much the 2600 did do, you almost believe it could browse the web. If there had been a web by 1986, it would have!

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I Blame Lack of Sleep.

OK, so there is no Web Surfer cart for the Atari 2600 VCS. But dangit there should be!

The conversation on the StellarVue forum just sort of sparked the idea. It was late, I was tired and stupid, so I stayed up working on this obsessively when I should have been sleeping.

The Making of Web Surfer for the Atari 2600

The part about taking a picture of my Atari browsing the StellarVue web site was pretty easy. Well, not as easy as I thought it would be, but that was the part that seemed like it would be easy before I actually tried it.

I got a screenshot of the StellarVue home page on my Mac, then pulled it into the GIMP where I reduced the resolution of the image down to something close to 320 x 200 (more than the actual 2600 could do, but hey, it's just a joke, right?) Then I reduced the color map to 8 colors or something like, and played around with it till I was happy with it. Of course, this leaves out the hour or so I spent playing with filters and other things while trying to settle on the final look.

Atari 2600 Web Surfer cartridge box.
Any Good Atarian Recognises the Defender Box.
Click for a closer look at the edited box scan.

Can't Just Have a Loose Cartridge

At first, I considered just making up a fake label for a "Web Browser" cartridge to have in the 2600's slot for the picture. But then I thought that might be a bit too subtle. So I decided to have a game box in the picture, too. I went through my boxes, and decided Defender was the one. I chose it because I figured it's name would be easiest to morph into "Web Browser." While I was editing the letter "W", it occurred to me that I thought the name "Web Surfer" had more of that 2600 game feel, so I headed that direction instead. The first letter that gave me real trouble was the "S". I was looking for another blue Atari box with an 'S" in the game title to scan when I realized I could scale up the "S" in "System" then flood fill with the correct color. It was a pain to blend in the background, but that ended up working out.

I also realized I could have done the same with the "M" from above the game title, flipping it over to make a "W". But, upon reflection, I decided I liked my "W" better. It was built out of the Defender "D". I think it's just a little wide, but I think it matches the look of the rest of the font better than the original "M" and "W". Plus, it's sort of a clue that something's not right here. ;)

I lifted the title off the finished box to make the label, flood filling the background with black and laying in the grey rectangle. Originally I planned to make a physical label on the printer to put on a spare Joust cartridge, but in the end I decided to just GIMP the label in, too.

Setting Up the Shot

So then I went out to the video game cabinet, which is set up to let three different video game systems hook up to a single TV while storing all three, their cartridges, and peripherals. I pulled the 2600 out of its drawer to put it up in the top center position where the Atari 7800 usually goes. I pulled out a CX-40 joystick, then saw the Atari 2600 keyboard and thought, "perfect!", so I plugged that in, too.

I stuck the MacBook in the drawer underneath with its video adapter, put the picture of the website up on it and selected that drawer's input on the TV.

Then I took about 5 shots with my camera, and went to GIMP to do the edit.

Edited and Unedited Versions of the Image:

Atari 2600, browsing the web with its Web Surfer cartridge. The original images I GIMPed into the Web Surfer image.
Click an image to see a larger version.

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