• Type: Video game console
  • Released: 1977
  • Discontinued: 1992
  • Units sold: 30 million
  • Manufacturer: Atari
  • Generation: Second generation
  • Introductory price: US$199 (equivalent $786 in 2016)
  • Media: ROM cartridge (max 6 KB)
  • CPU: 8-bit MOS 6507 @ 1.19 MHz
  • Memory: 128 bytes RAM
  • Controller: joystick, paddles, driving controller, track-ball, keypad
  • Best-selling game: PacMan (7 million)
  • Predecessor: Atari Pong
  • Successor: Atari 5200

Released 1977: The Atari 2600 (or Atari Video Computer System before November 1982) is a home video game console by Atari, Inc. Released on September 11, 1977, it is credited with popularizing the use of microprocessor-based hardware and ROM cartridges containing game code, a format first used with the Fairchild Channel F video game console in 1976. This format contrasts with the older model of having non-microprocessor dedicated hardware, which could only play the games that were physically built into the unit.

Atari was split on two in 1984, were the “home consumer” part was bought out buy Commodore fonder Jack Tramiel who just had left Commodore, and in only about six months created the 16 bit computer Atari ST 520 that was released it in 1985, bearing the Commodore Amiga 1000 with a few months. The other part of Atari, named “Atari Games”, continued on with most of their current employees, making arcade machines.

In 1986, the new Atari Corporation under Tramiel released a lower-cost version of the 2600 and the backward-compatible Atari 7800, but it was Nintendo that led the recovery of the industry with its 1985 launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Production of the Atari 2600 ended on January 1, 1992, with an estimated 30 million units sold across its lifetime.

My Atari 2600 (VCS): Mine is the second 2600 model, sometimes referred to as the “Light Sixer”, which has lighter plastic molding and shielding, and a more angular shape, than the 1977 launch model, the “Heavy Sixer”. I was lucky to get one in very good condition, looks almost like new and worked right away, no repair necessary.

My Atari 2600 running the 1982 game E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

I bought the legendary game “E.T.” at a sales-stand at an retro-game exhibition. The game is legendary for being known as “the worst video game ever made”. It’s of course not true at all, the game is actual average for the platform, and many owners even had it as their favorite game. The game requires the user to read the instructions though. I think one of the reasons for its very bad reputation today, is that it was released in late 1982, right before the “Video game crash of 1983”. Revenues for video games had peaked at around $3.2 billion in 1983, then fell to around $100 million by 1985 (a drop of almost 97 percent). Atari printed maybe around 3 million cartridges of the game, and could only sell around 500.000 of those.

I spotted this Atari 2600 at an exhibition.
I spotted this Atari 2600 at an exhibition.

I also got an Atari VCS four-switch “wood veneer” version of the console, dating from 1980 to 1982, only had to get a cheap general power supply for it, as the original was missing. Also got original joysticks and paddles, 30+ games and a “game center” box to keep the games. The “game center” is a “cool” box, that match the “wooden” design of the console.

Atari 2600 jr.

Atari 2600 (VCS)

Remi Jakobsen

I'm collecting classic computers and video games, stretching from the 70's into the 90's. Restoration, history, usage ...

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