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As we all sit at home, patiently waiting for the latest news in the word that is the RetroN 5, there are some people out there that have already been looking for alternatives. In addition, there are also some people that are looking for additional ways of playing retro games on a modern console that can utilize the now standard HDMI. A new project called the “EMU Station”, that utilizes the Raspberry Pi in combination with an Atari 2600 shell, allows you to hook up a new emulation-based console to your television set, that can take advantage of 12 different platforms.

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The concept is the creation of Venezuelan gamer Carlos Gil, who along with his brother Gustavo Gil, had wanted to replay some video game classics on a television set, using original controllers when possible. Carlos told us at Retro Game Network:

“We wanted to give the Raspberry Pi a good use, why not trying to run an Intellivision emulator… Then as we looked for more information, more ideas came, and with the ideas, more complexity and more things to do. We added more emulators to the list, and so we did.”

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The EMU Station has the ability to emulate a variety of video game consoles and retro computers from our gaming pasts. (Just look at the box art and cartridge above! The cartridge actually does serve a purpose, as it acts as a “key” to get the product running.) The EMU Station can emulate the Atari 2600, Intellivision, Sega Genesis, Nintendo NES, Neo Geo, and TurboGrafx 16. On the computer side, it can emulate retro PC games, Apple II, Commodore Amiga and the ZX Spectrum. Add to that emulators for arcade cabinetry via MAME, as well as the SCUMM video game engine, and we have a total of 12 different opportunities! (Although the Gil brothers did have some help along the way, in particularly by Andy Hoy, who worked on the Intellivision controller adapter firmware, as well as Joe Zbiciak, who wrote the Intellivision emulator program called “jzIntv”, which was used on the EMU Station.)

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The Raspberry Pi 32GB SD card holds all the software that is needed to get the device up and running. This includes the operating system, emulator programs and ROM images needed to get the system working. All one would have to do is copy the new ROMs to an USB flashdrive, and then plug it in one of the USB ports found on the back of the console. A automatic process moves the newly added ROM images to the appropriate destination directory. This documented process is from of EmulationStation, which is the base software that is being used to integrate all of the emulators found within this new project.

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As far as controller ports are concerned, while you will not get ports for non-standard controller types such as the NES and TurboGrafx 16, what you do get are a total of 6 male 9-pin connections, which can be used for such standard controllers as the Sega Genesis, Intellivision II, and various Atari 2600 controllers, including joysticks and paddles. For additional standardization, you also get 2 USB jacks in the rear, where you can plug in a standard PC gaming controller, joystick or flight stick, as well as for a mouse or keyboard for the computer based systems.

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You currently have two different options for connecting this emulator collection to your television set. In addition to offering standard composite connections, the EMU Station also offers gamers an HDMI output as well, as the Raspberry Pi offers HDMI output by default. However, the EMU Station doesn’t upconvert to HDMI standards.

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Let’s take a look at the guts of this thing! Attached to the bottom of the Atari 2600 shell, you will find the Raspberry Pi itself, along with a cooling fan. You’ll also find a 7 port USB hub for using traditional USB controllers, and the associated dongle. In addition, you will also find an infrared remote control receiver, which is used in conjunction with a PC remote control. This is used to change emulators, as well as select, start and change games. Also found on the bottom of the shell is a WiFi switch (with dongle), which the Raspberry Pi uses to obtain OS updates and other maintenance. In addition, you also find the HDMI and video/audio out jacks (standard composite connections), power supply and input, and finally the power switch.

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Attached to the top of the VCS, you will find the controller port connections as well as the USB interfaces for the 9-pin controller connectors, alongside of the button panel connectors on the top of the system. In a unique function, you also find the cartridge master switch. This is a unique function of the EMU Station, in which the console will actually turn on when the specially designed Atari 2600 cartridge is inserted into the slot. Not only is this a different idea, it also gives the cartridge slot a purpose!

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“It was a 2 months weekend project, but we are very happy with the outcome, we are have our time machine, a way to bring back some good childhood memories.”

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There are currently no plans to mass produce the EMU Station to the masses, however once the finished product has been completed, it’s creator would like to offer the complete details about how it was accomplished to the retro video game community. Right now however, the brothers Gil are giving the machine some final touches, tweaking and configuring it to get the smoothest experience possible. Schematics will then be made available, and they not only encourage those interested to build one for themselves, but they also hope that the public will help with the project by making any improvements that they possibly can. When the final schematics are published, we at Retro Game Network will certainly relay the details.