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I've not done it, nor do I own such a console, so these are just some general bits of info, which you may have to research further:
According to http://www.hardwarebook.info/Atari_2600_Cartridge
it looks like a parallel-addressed ROM chip. One solution is to explore using a couple of SPI I/O expanders, e.g. maybe these devices:
(one for the address bus, and another for the data bus). That device is 5V compatible.
Or, build a general-purpose USB-to-cartridge adapter, using some ARM Cortex-M microcontroller perhaps. There's the beginnings of a project on hackaday.io,
but it is currently incomplete.
I don't see why any potential solution work not with retropie provided you read and dump the files in the correct format (I don't know what the format is, but it's likely just a raw binary dump). If you don't want the file persistent then you'd have to write a script or program to delete it afterwards, or use a file system residing in RAM (e.g. /var/tmp). If you go the general-purpose USB route then you can program the microcontroller to look like a flash memory drive in theory. In practice it may depend on the game size and microcontroller RAM.
Thanks for the feedback, I'm looking into those options now. I like the idea of connecting to the GPIO directly, as I could look at making a HAT for the Raspberry Pi to read Atari Cartridges, if I end up getting this to work.
Thanks for this, its perfect, and gives me a head start, I review the source code, and it wont be too hard to adapt to the Raspberry Pi, looks like I'll have to use the I2C expanders, but that should not be too hard, and ill have to learn how to write a driver for the hardware, and see if i can integrate into Retropie, did not think it would be too easy. But looks like its off to a good start.
On a side note if I get this to work on an Atari 2600 cartridge, could it be expanded to other cartridges?
After watching some recent video's I want to build my own portable Atari 2600.
Now what I am looking to do is using a spare Model B3 I have attached to the 7" touchscreen, to make this but what I want to do is to be able to plug in the 2600 cartridge reads its contents into memory and play the game, so I dont cut up my vintage 2600 which is still in working condition. Plus I DO NOT want to download rom's I want to use my original cartridges.
But I dont know where to start how do I go about connecting the cartridge to the Pi's GPIO pins, and reading the cartridge contents, and then to add, could i use retropie as the software??
I would appreciate some pointers on what i need to read up on so i can accomplish this.
I'm aware i'll need to use a level shifter for the 5v logic, and i'll have to bit bang the data. but what is the best way to bit bang the data out of atari 2600 cartridge?