How to Set Up an Atari 2600

Updated April 17, 2017

The Atari 2600 remains an iconic entry in the pantheon of retro gaming consoles and was the machine that played host to medium-shaping titles like "Space Invaders," "Pac-Man" and "E.T." If you've just come into possession of one of these old machines, you may be wondering how to get the device up and running so as to explore the games that paved the way for today's hits. Setting up the 2600 is a simple process.

Connect the power adaptor to the socket in the centre of the console. Plug the other end into a power socket.

Connect the RF plug at the end of the game cable (which extends from the lower left of the rear face of the console) to the antenna plug on your television.

Insert a game cartridge into the slot on the top of the 2600. Set the Channel Switch on the front of the Atari 2600 to "3" and turn the machine on.

Turn your television on and open the "Tuning" controls. (These are usually located in the "Tuning" or "System" section of the machine's menu). The console is designed to broadcast a third of the way up the UHF band. On most televisions, the easiest way to find the console's signal is simply to cycle through all available frequencies until the TV locks onto the console's image.

Connect both controllers to the console and press "Fire" on the first controller to begin single-player games or on the second controller to start two-person play.


If your television doesn't have an RF input, a coaxial-to-RCA adaptor will allow you to plug the console directly into the "Video" socket of your television. These can be purchased from an electronics retailer.

Things You'll Need

  • Atari 2600
  • Game cartridge for Atari 2600
  • Power adaptor and video cable for 2600
  • TV with RF input
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About the Author

Nick Grimes was first published in 1998. Since then his work has appeared in the New Zealand Listener, Evening Post, City Voice, Turbine,, and Gamesradar. He has a master's degree in creative writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington, New Zealand.