Retro Forum

Topic: Atari 2600, a lookback at the legendary console.....

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BSlyTheGamerGuy

1. Posted:

I have really been wanting to do something special in remembrance of the ol’ Atari 2600 (or VCS if you’re a hipster) so I decided to sit down today to write out a detailed history about the first successful video game console the world has ever seen. I’m going to call it, “Bleep n’ Bloop” after some of the sound effects the games on the 2600 made during play. Not a bad name, eh?

Some reading this may already know about the rich history of Atari and this piece of writing may be nothing more than a brush up for them, while others may be new to the subject and are looking for as much information as possible. Maybe you’ve been a 2600 fan and collector all your life and still don’t know the interesting details of the consoles life, or maybe you know more than even I do about what happened during the company’s life. Whatever the case may be if you decide to sit down and read this then allow me to thank you for taking the time to do so and please get comfortable and enjoy the history lesson.

A long time ago in a galaxy far away (the early 70’s) a guy named Nolan Bushnell created a game known all over the world as Pong. As simplistic as Pong was, it would help to launch the arcade movement and eventually bring electronic video games into the public eye. After founding Atari in 1972, Bushnell decided that Pong was going to be the company’s first major foray into what would be known as “video games” and launched Pong into a few remote locations in hopes that people would pay to play it. It was a heavy risk for him to do seeing as how the company wasn’t making a ton of money at the time but eventually people would begin to pour cash into Bushnell’s Pong machine. The game began to bring in a steady income for Atari and eventually Bushnell and the rest of his Atari crew released the machine into more locations and eventually manufactured a home unit of Pong in 1975 that would go on and become fairly popular with consumers.

Once Bushnell saw that there was a market for playing video games inside of a living room and not just in bars and restaurants he went to discuss with his team that there may be a market for a machine that could play more than one game at a time. Nolan thought that maybe they could create a console that would play individual games that people could purchase to play on the unit. It didn’t take long before things were rolling and the “Atari VCS” (Video Computer System”) was born. Something of a strange fact, the VCS was internally known as the 2600 though Atari marketed the unit as the VCS, but eventually the console would be known to consumers and collectors as the 2600 even though it was never marketed that way until the “2600 Jr” hit stores in the late 80’s (after Atari’s popularity).

Now, the VCS wouldn’t be the first home video game machine to play cartridge based games, that would go to the “Fairchild Channel F”, a console that went on sale about a year previous to the VCS but lacked a solid library of games and a user base. The Fairchild saw a very limited release and had an even more limited selection of games and the company behind the unit quickly faded after the machine went to market. Atari knew they had already won over consumers with Pong and that they could change the way that people spent time with each other in their living rooms and Nolan wanted to release a machine that would launch a revolution. After a year or so of messing around with demo units and production kits Atari finally finished the project and released the VCS in the Fall of 1977.

For more check out the link in my signature. :)

Did you guys love the Atari 2600 as much as I did?

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AlGator

2. Posted:

I got my Atari VCS (as it was called back then) in the summer of 1979, along with a handful of games (Combat [obviously], Air Sea Battle, Canyon Bomber, Surround, and one other that I don't remember). We'd just moved to the USA. Great memories indeed!

When I try to look at your blog as shown in your signature, blogspot says it's been removed.

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the_shpydar

3. Posted:

I absolutely love the 2600, and I still play it regularly to this day. I can't remember when we got it way back when, it was probably 1978 or 1979, but definitely not later than 1980. The amount of hours I have put into playing Atari games over these 30+ years must be insane. I don't know if kids + people today really understand how huge Atari was in the late 70s and early 80s — "Have you played Atari today?" was more than just a marketing slogan back then, it was a legitimate question that was almost invariably answered with 'YES!"

@BSlyTheGamerGuy One note on your post above — Bushnell didn't create Pong. Al Acorn was the developer, under Bushnell's direction.

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BSlyGamerGuy

4. Posted:

I was the same way between 1984-1988 until I got my NES, I played the 2600 almost nonstop and loved every second of it. I found one at a flea market sometime in 1994 after not owning one for several years and bought it along with 10 games for $30 and never looked back. Now I've got over 120 games for it and the collection is continually growing year after year.

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MAB

5. Posted:

Untitled

You would think that having just one button would mean easy games aimed at casuals but nowadays it seems that more buttons make games easier... All hail the mighty one button joystick of a billion frustrating deaths and curse words ;)

HERO would have to be in my list of fave games of all time.

Edited on by MAB

MAB

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Mr_Nose

6. Posted:

I still play, and love it. I can only go so long until I NEED to hear those classic sound effects, and see those graphics. As pecking orders go, I actually put the 2600 above the NES. It's got way more games that I actually still love the sights, sounds, and game-play on.

I will never forget when a friend of mine spent the night, and brought his 2600 and Adventure over. It was literally a window into a new world for me. We played until the sun came up. I knew I had to have the console after that, but it would be a long while until I could actually afford one, and in those days, some parents thought it would make your TV explode, so I wasn't going to get one as a gift.

Edited on by Mr_Nose

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MAB

7. Posted:

@Mr_Nose I don't know about the TV exploding but my mouth exploded enough F-bombs to make NWA tell me to calm down ;)

Untitled

Edited on by MAB

MAB

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supermario182

8. Posted:

we almost had an atari once, but either it didnt work or my dad couldnt figure out how to hook it up right. too bad cuz i was really excited for donkey kong and mouse trap! that was in the late 80s, and it wasn't until a long long time later that we finally got our nes.

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RancidVomit86

9. Posted:

Atariboy wrote:

BSlyTheGamerGuy wrote:

The game began to bring in a steady income for Atari and eventually Bushnell and the rest of his Atari crew released the machine into more locations and eventually manufactured a home unit of Pong in 1975 that would go on and become fairly popular with consumers.

Fairly popular? It was a huge success at home that spawned several followups from Atari, started home videogaming, and led to dozens of dedicated Poing clones from other manufacturers before reprogrammable consoles took over the market several years later and left dedicated systems behind until the plug and play concept revived them a decade ago.

BSlyTheGamerGuy wrote:

Something of a strange fact, the VCS was internally known as the 2600 though Atari marketed the unit as the VCS, but eventually the console would be known to consumers and collectors as the 2600 even though it was never marketed that way until the “2600 Jr” hit stores in the late 80’s (after Atari’s popularity).

Actually, it was the CX2600 which was part number for the system. The VCS was renamed the 2600 publically in 1982 to differentiate it from the upcoming Atari 5200.. Here's a system box of the "Darth Vader" edition of the 4 switch design. Manufacturing of this started in 1982 which is the year the 5200 launched in.

Untitled

BSlyTheGamerGuy wrote:

Once Bushnell saw that there was a market for playing video games inside of a living room and not just in bars and restaurants he went to discuss with his team that there may be a market for a machine that could play more than one game at a time.

That wasn't the impetus behind its development. All these dedicated consoles were discrete logic. They weren't microprocessor based running software code. So each revision required expensive new hardware to be designed and retooling their manufacturing lines for the next game.

The reason behind the dream of the 2600 was to produce a console that stayed the same. Only what you inserted had to be changed. This was hoped to get them 2-3 years out of hardware instead of a few months. But unbeknownst to them, it really took off after Space Invaders finally made it a huge hit in 1978 or 1979 and it stuck around until officially being discontinued in 1991.

And it has never really left thanks to compilations, downloads, clones, and modern plug and plays.

BSlyTheGamerGuy wrote:

Did you guys love the Atari 2600 as much as I did?

Did? I still do.

Wikipedia much?

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RancidVomit86

10. Posted:

@Atariboy Calm down. I was just asking,

But it's strange. I prefer the Odessey 2 over the 2600. Not sure why maybe it's because of The Quest for the Rings. That and my Odessey 2 collection is all CIB.

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Ryno

11. Posted:

I loved it before I got a NES. As soon as I got a NES my 2600 started collecting dust. Within the last couple years I have actually tried to bring it out annually and play some River Raid.

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WaveBoy

12. Posted:

I've played a total of only 3 Atari 2600 games, with Pitfall being the standout. :P Instead i got my hands on he Commodore 64(G.I.J.O.E anyone?) during the NES era aside from the NES. I really need to fork down the cash already and get a 2600 one of these days, it looks absotootly' FABulous.. Sigh, anybody else miss the days when video game consoles/games had their own distinct sound and visuals. The Atari 2600, NES, Commodore 64, Sega genesis....Yeah, even blind folded you could tell every one of those apart just by how the music sounded.

Now everything sounds and looks the same. I actually prefer being limited and forced to make the best use out of a particular unique sounding sound chip. That uniqueness has been shattered, and these days we're left with games that look and sound the same. But that's what happens when you are no longer limited, it's now all about what path the developer chooses to take....and when you look at the Stale Station 4 & BroBox 1, the path is bleak & decimated with loads more of realistic BroShooters and ZombieSmashers for all the modern day kiddies to enjoy.. ;)

Edited on by WaveBoy

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King_Koop

13. Posted:

Very good writeup, and I'd like to expand a bit on what CountWavula said: I think the appeal of retro gaming is that the designers had to be extremely creative to work around their technological limitations.

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BSlyGamerGuy

14. Posted:

Thanks for enjoying the article, guys! The 2600 is a bit of a passion of mine, almost as much as the NES was/is and my memories with the console will live with me until the end of my days. In fact, someday soon I plan on doing some 2600 game reviews for the blog as well as more articles based around the console, it seems that people really appreciate what it's done for gaming and still enjoy it today as much as they did 30 years ago.

Viva La Atari!

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AlGator

15. Posted:

Many of the old 2600 games can be played on the DS/3DS through excellent (legal) emulation. Look for the Atari Greatest Hits Volumes 1 and 2, and if you've got an older DS with a GBA slot, Activision Anthology (although that last one runs maybe 10% slow compared to the original games). The two Atari titles will give you a total of around 80 of the 2600 games (plus some arcade classics), and the Activision one over 40 more. Unfortunately the non-Atari IPs are missing, so no Space Invaders, Pac-Man, etc. Volume 2 even includes an Atari 400 emulator, although without the ability to save on a disk it's not very useful. (My old Atari 800 still works perfectly, even the disk drive.)

Don't confuse the Greatest Hits with the "Retro Atari Classics" which should be avoided IMO. However, if you like these old classics, consider Intellivision Lives, which successfully uses the touch screen to emulate that classic controller with its overlays, making it the first really playable collection of Intellivision games.

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Ootfan98

16. Posted:

My favourite game was Frostbite, I loved that game, so addictive

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7th_lutz

17. Posted:

While Intellivision II was the system I wanted for Christmas in 1983 or 1984 because I saw it in the Christmas catalog, the Atari 2600 was the system that got me hooked on video games in the late 1980's. I didn't get a NES before 1991. When I got the NES in 1991, I was entering my teenage years.

The fact is I wasn't into video games from 1983 or 1984 to late 1987. Atari 2600 games is something I do go back at times on my Atari 7800. Atari 2600 is where I my first developed taste of liking shoot'em ups from. I got over 200 Atari 2600 games. To me the Atari 2600 and the NES are two different animals in types of games.

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BinaryFragger

18. Posted:

I love the Atari 2600 and play Pitfall and River Raid once in a while. Even Pong is still fun.
What I love about old games in general is the creativity. These days, game designers have nearly-unlimited resources, which are used for impressive graphics and cutscenes. If the game becomes too big, no problem, just make it a multi-disc game. I do enjoy modern games, but so many focus on eye candy. Back then, game designers and programmers had to cram their games in only a few kilobytes.

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BSlyGamerGuy

19. Posted:

I've decided to beef up my 2600 collection recently and started picking up more and more games for it. I pretty much had everything I had as a kid as well as some games that were considered classics for it, but I've since gone out and added a slew of games that I researched on YouTube and have been playing it quite obsessively as of the past several days.

Great fun!

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BSlyGamerGuy

20. Posted:

There is just something about changing out the carts in my 2600 that add to the classic experience, getting a Harmony cart (as cool as it is) just wouldn't cut it for me. The 7800 is a wonderful console that is backwards compatible that looks sleek and plays well, I urge people to grab one for collectors purposes and got gaming purposes to let your 2600's rest easy in retirement within your collection.

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