December 29, 2009 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili
Using data recovered from Atari's original reel-to-reel tapes sent to chip design firms decades ago (pictured), Atari Museum's Curt Vendel has been working to reconstruct several of the company's proprietary chips such as the GTIA (used in Atari's 8-bit computers and 5200), the MARIA (Atari 780), and the TIA (from the Atari 2600).
"The effort has been successful for the most part and several of Atari's proprietary chips are coming back to life in simulation," says Vendel. "Now we need to see if they can be recreated in a [chip frabricator] at a reasonable cost. What is the potential of this? Doing the chips in smaller SMT packaging, and potentially bringing back to life some of the later CMOS designs of combo chips which could lead to a SoC - System on a Chip."
I don't understand all the technical details of Vendel's achievements, but he explains, "The future just got a little brighter in terms of preserving and continuing the legacy of Atari's custom IC chips." You can follow the discussion about reconstructing the chips at the Atari 8-bit Computers Forum, where you'll also see several high-resolution images of the chips (resized versions included after the break).