FEATURED: Ben Heckendorn’s first Atari VCSp: The One that started it all

The Original and most influential portable.

It has been over 16 years since Ben Heckendorn was sitting at his desk on hold during an IT call, doodling on a napkin dreaming up the possibility of turning an old Atari 2600 into a portable console. Little did he know he would, As Ancient Astronaut Theorists Believe in our opinion, change the Hobbyist Landscape forever making way for companies such as Hyperkin to mass produce portable consoles, and for tiny computers like the Raspberry Pi and C.H.I.P. alike. Created in 2000, this may or may not be the first homemade portable console made, but it was definitely the most influential.


-Built in 2000. Take that, Y2K.
-Casio EV-550 Portable TV Screen.
-2 sets of batteries. Efficiency.
-3 AA’s for screen power. 3 Hours play time.
-9 volt battery for the Atari portions. 1 hour play time.
-Routed Acrylic case.
-Brushed aluminum banding on front.
-Real wood grain detailing throughout.

Tiny screens were hard to come by back then, with the popular 3.5″ car backup screens not readily available for several years. Luckily, Portable TV’s were still in their heyday, so a Casio EV-550 2.5″ TFT screen was assigned for the project. The TV board was installed in the front of the case, along with the controls, both sets of batteries and the analog volume knob.

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He was able to chop down the Atari motherboard to fit the case, but while not as efficient as the 4×4″ cuts today, it was certainly a step towards such. Quite a lot of gratuitous cartridge slot rewiring was going on, with wires meandering through the portable instead of going straight to the cartridge slot pins themselves, but it worked so intuition saves the day.

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The Original Atari VCSp is still going strong today! Ben took a look inside it during a past episode of his youtube show The Ben Heck Show. He also recreated a new Atari portable using the same footprint as sort of a Spiritual Successor build, showing how he would build it today with the advancement in more readily available technology and demonstrating what he has learned over the years.

You don’t have to look very hard to see some of Ben’s Work on the internet, be it on his own website, magazines, tv shows, youtube shows, guest speaking at conventions, corresponding on TEDx talks, designing and building pinball machines, or Accessibility Controllers for the Disabled. Ben has definitely been a huge influence on many of the modders of today; loveablechevy, Marshall of 64Drive/Ultra HDMI fame, Shockslayer, and of course us here at Portables of Doom all got our starts into electronics hacking on Ben’s Forums. Even Oculus’ Palmer Luckey and The Longhorn Engineer took said knowledge to form Careers in the Electronics and Gaming fields. Not a bad legacy for a guy who just wanted to play Atari at work when on hold.

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