Raspberry Pi Pico W adds Bluetooth to Atari 2600 for wireless controller support

Raspberry Pi
(Image credit: Reogen)

Many would argue that the best way to enjoy retro gaming is with the original hardware. However, there's a case to be made for those who like to experiment with modern equipment. Today we've got a clever Raspberry Pi project to share with you, created by maker and developer Reogen who has managed to create a Bluetooth adapter for an old Atari 2600. The new adapter enables support for wireless controllers and is called the PicoNtrol.

According to Reogen, he found the original Atari Joystick a bit uncomfortable to game with and decided to create something more versatile he could use for input. He opted to use the Pico for its Bluetooth support and wired it to the original Atari controller port. Reogen also explained that the port outputs 5V of power so an external power supply wasn't even necessary.

So far, the setup has only been tested on his old Atari 2600 using an Xbox Series X controller. However, there are plans in the works to test the hardware using other devices. If this project sounds intriguing, please be aware that a warning was shared by its developer. Should you choose to reproduce the PicoNtrol project for yourself, be extremely cautious, as it is possible to damage the console if you get your wiring wrong.

A regular Pico won't work for this project, a Pico W is necessary for the wireless support. In addition to the Pico, you'll need an old controller cable for the system you're creating the adapter for. The build process involves soldering the controller input pins to the GPIO on the Pico. 

Reogen was kind enough to make the project open source so anyone can recreate it or otherwise create a fork with a modification of their own. If you want to check out the code used in this project in greater detail, you can find it along with a few build instructions over at the official GitHub page.

Head over to Reddit to see a video shared by Reogen, demonstrating this Raspberry Pi project in action. Be sure to follow him for more cool projects as well as any future updates to this one.

Ash Hill
Freelance News and Features Writer

Ash Hill is a Freelance News and Features Writer with a wealth of experience in the hobby electronics, 3D printing and PCs. She manages the Pi projects of the month and much of our daily Raspberry Pi reporting while also finding the best coupons and deals on all tech.