Task: Identify and remove dangerous Atari power supply units and label the safe ones
Needed: Labels and pen
Time: 15-60 mins
If you are like me and have a number of different Atari home computer models and peripherals then you also have a large number of power supply units (PSUs). As I have been rediscovering my collection I am also learning about the differences between the different PSUs. I certainly didn’t appreciate these differences back in the day because I only had one computer and several peripherals. It is important to know the differences because the wrong PSU could cause your Atari to malfunction or even shorten its lifespan. Some PSUs can fail and destroy your beloved Atari.
Fortunately, there are some resources on the web that spell all of this out making it easy to figure out what PSUs you have and how they match up to different hardware. A good place to start is the Atari 8-bit FAQ on power requirements for Atari computers (see Section 6.2). Not only do they explain how the PSUs work but they list each difference model number and what their specifications are. There is also a good discussion of PSU on the Best Electronics website. They also sell PSUs. There are a few threads about this on the Atari Age site but many of these posts leave out key details for those not in the know.
Pull out all your PSUs and attach a small label to each that lists the model numbers (e.g. 400, 410, 800, 810, 800XL, etc.) that the unit is compatible with. Use the FAQ linked above for the necessary information. This might take longer than the 15-60 minutes indicated above depending on many PSUs you have. Having these labeled will take the guesswork out of finding the right PSU the next time you want to power up a computer or peripheral. It will also help reserve the lifespan of your hardware. A worthy exercise.
A important note of caution. There is one particular PSU for the XL/XE series of computers that is known to fail often and when it does it runs the risk of taking your computer with it to the great beyond. This particular PSU has model number C061982 and shipped with the 600XL and 800XL. It is compatible with the 600XL, 800XL, 65XE, 130XE, and XEGS. The model in question is black, has a black label, and is heavier than the other PSUs because the unit is filled with epoxy. I had two of these in my collection and have since e-disposed of them. Below is a photo I took of one of them. These are sometimes called the “ingot” or “boat anchor” because of their weight and utility.
There are several others with this model number that are all ok. There is a large black unit and one that is white that both have vents matching the vent design on the the XL series. I have a couple of these and they are ok to use. There is also one about the size of the ingot above but that has a silver label and a slightly different case design. These are also ok. I have one with the silver label (photo below).
I have a variety of PSUs including some from vendors other than Atari. It was helpful to compare the voltage and amperage of each to know what they are compatible with. The most common PSU I had was the C017945 that is compatible with the 400/800/1200 and 810, 822, 850, 1010, 1020, and 1050. A good multipurpose PSU. I have included a photo below along with my label. The process of labeling all these PSUs is tedious but well worth it once you have finished.