After five years of focusing on the Atari Flashback 2, I had the great opportunity to acquire the Atari Flashback 2 and the Atari Flashback Portable original prototypes.
There is a bit of a story behind how I came about these two priceless (to me) Atari Flashback-related pieces of hardware. Over the last five years, I had the opportunity to speak with two people that I think were unusually kind, unusually supportive, and in general exceptional.
When I first began selling modded Atari Flashback 2’s, I received an email from a random person inquiring if I could provide a front load modded Flashback 2. When the email from Joe Decuir showed up in my inbox, needless to say, after years of Atari-related obsession, it was a bit of a shock to see the name of someone that couldn’t be considered anything less than a legend in the Atari world. Joe is far too accomplished for me to list all of the amazing things he’s done in his life so please click on his name and you can get a reasonable subset of the highlights. I found Joe to be kind, generous, and just a normal guy. I shipped Joe one of the early front load modded Flashback 2’s (of course!).
During my time learning about the Flashback 2 I looked for every scrap of information I could find about it. I consider the Flashback 2 to be a fantastic implementation of the Atari 2600. It’s NOT a perfect implementation, but many people consider it to be the last true Atari 2600, and I think there is a good reason for that.
During my research, I reached out to the person most responsible for the design and the success of the Atari Flashback 2, Mr Curt Vendel. Curt is a legend in the Atari world. His accomplishments and contributions are very significant to the Atari community. Curt realized the importance of the original Atari and he took steps to preserve that history. Curt had a great deal of wisdom indeed. When I (just another Atari fan) reached out to Curt, Curt was immediately ready to support my efforts as I delved into collecting Atari Flashback 2 information. Curt was kind, happy to share, and highly supportive. He was quick to freely offer information when I had questions concerning PCB revisions and how to identify fake Flashback games and his speculation about how the fake Flashback 2’s made it to the market.
My last conversation with Curt consisted of me asking for any engineering related information that he may have. Curt let me know that he was still setting up his office and it would take time for him to get organized. It worked out well because I was still building this website. Getting basic information online was the current priority with posting more detailed information later. I left Curt alone to get organized and I went on with my tasks of developing this website.
I left Facebook during this time (to reduce stress levels for myself and I’m also just not a fan of Facebook). During the downtime, I redesigned the Atari Flashback 2 mod kit, I made it a lot better. I decided to make 10-20 mod kits and return to Facebook because I enjoy the Atari (and other vintage hardware) groups.
I discovered that Curt had passed away. This came as a bit of a shock at first of course. Not because Curt was to be a great source of information, but because Curt was a good man, he was a great husband, a great father, and a great engineer by all indications. I was NOT personal friends with Curt, I did NOT know him very well. I knew him from my interaction with him as it relates to the Atari Flashback 2. From what I could tell though, Curt was a good man and I’m sorry that he passed away at such a young age (53).
I don’t think it’s a secret that Curt had some heart issues over the years and that ultimately took his life. Due to Curt’s medical history, he was not able to maintain life insurance. If you’re reading this, please consider following this link to offer some support to Curt’s wife and daughter. Medical issues can bankrupt families, sadly and if anyone has earned the support of this community, it’s Curt for sure.
After my return from taking the time to redevelop the Atari Flashback 2 mods, I decided that I was terribly unhappy with the original front load mod kit. I was appalled that I had sent one to someone like Joe Decuir. The design and the quality, while acceptable to those that purchased them, we no longer acceptable to me. I reached out to Joe to see if he was interested in a more modern and improved Flashback 2.
The one thing I’ve noticed about Joe, he gives a lot more than he takes. Joe is a gentleman and much like Curt, Joe has earned the street cred to be arrogant if he chose to be. Instead of being arrogant and unhelpful though, both Curt and Joe take the completely opposite path and act like normal guys with a love for the Atari products and community. I ADVISE everyone to research Joe and his accomplishments over the years, you will be impressed.
Joe had an interest in having an improved Flashback 2, not just one, but several. If I remember correctly, Joe asked me if he had anything that I could use. Joe had mentioned to me that he had purchased the Prototypes for both the Flashback 2 as well as the prototype for the Flashback Portable that Curt had worked on some years back (this is NOT the device that became the Flashback Portable). Joe had his own ideas for a portable that he was hoping to develop.
After many emails (mostly Joe educating me on many engineering topics), Joe asked me if he had anything I would like to have. I jokingly said, “Well, those Flashback prototypes would be fabulous in my collection!”. Honestly, I wasn’t really serious, while Joe is a kind and giving person, I didn’t really expect him to agree to that. I’ve since learned that Joe is 100% about passing on information and knowledge to those coming up behind him. Joe now commits his time to teaching and educating people.
Without getting into the details, due to the kindness and generosity of Joe Decuir, I now have both prototypes in my collection. I do NOT believe items such as these should remain hidden away in a room (albeit, with a LOT of other cool vintage hardware), the pictures and knowledge, and information should be shared with the community.
The photographs below are various pictures of the Atari Flashback 2 that went on to sell 800,000+ units. I have downloaded the eeprom to a bin file that can be played on Stella. It’s available here.
This is a video of the eeprom running on the Prototype (joystick not fully functional).
Please enjoy the pictures, if you have any questions, or you can offer any information related to this topic, please don’t hesitate to send me an email. I’m happy to share anything I know.