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The Atari 2600 VCS

 

The popularity of the Atari 2600 VCS is what really began the video game movement. Developed by Atari and led by Nolan Bushnell, the Atari 2600 was released in 1977 after Atari merged with Warner Communications.

But the story really begins in 1975 when Atari sold about 150,000 Pong units through the Sears sporting goods department. This deal generated millions in profits for Atari. Money they would put to use developing the next big thing: The Atari Video Computer System, later renamed the Atari 2600. (Now you can imagine why Sears marketed their own version of the 2600 and games!)

Even after the 2600 was launched in 1977, it wasn't a huge success. It took the conversion of a phenomenal arcade game, Space Invaders, to really convince kids that they needed one.

Due to the popularity of its heyday, 3rd party developers sprung up to write games for the 2600. Activision is widely regarded as the world's first 3rd party developer for a programmable video game system, with Imagic following closely behind. Activision is responsible for such stellar (and well-known) titles as Pitfall!, Chopper Command, River Raid, H.E.R.O, and Space Shuttle. Imagic, of course, is best known for the games Demon Attack, Atlantis, Cosmic Ark, and Dragonfire.

Not all was sunshine and roses for the 2600. To this very day, dreadful games such as Pac-Man, E.T., and Raiders of the Lost Ark are brought up as examples of the worst video games ever. (And no, the landfill where these games are rumored to have been dumped has never been found.) By the time the steam had run out of the video game market in 1984, the 2600 had made Atari the second most recognized name in the world (behind Coca-Cola.)

Other than the aforementioned, other great 2600 games include: Adventure (voted the best Atari game ever), Asteroids, Missile Command, Frogger, Pitfall II, Millipede, Warlords, Defender 2 (aka Stargate), Ms. Pac-Man, Tapper, Crystal Castles, Super Breakout, Yars' Revenge, Moon Patrol, The Empire Strikes Back, BMX Airmaster, and dozens of others.

Interestingly enough, the Atari 2600 was sold in retail outlets until around 1991. Which makes it the only video game system marketed in three decades (70's, 80's, and 90's.) No other system can lay claim to that feat.


Double Dragon

Rampage

Kung Fu Master

Commando

Ikari Warriors

Road Runner

Track & Field

Xenophobe


The Atari 2600 6-switch

Atari 2600 Specs:

Processor: 6507 (8-bit @ 1.19 MHz)

Sound: 2 channel

Resolution: 160 x 192

Colors: 16 colors onscreen + 8 levels of brightness (California Games displays 128 colors onscreen)

Memory: 128 Bytes

Original 1977 Price: $199

Special Features: First video game system with a CPU, Faux woodgrain finish on early models, 1-button joystick, 16K games using bankswitching techniques, enduring legacy.


The Atari 2600 Jr.

2600 Reviews

2600 Features

2600 Previews

2600 Guides

2600 News

2600 Press Releases