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Atari 2600
The console image for Atari 2600.
Manufacturer Atari
Active 19771992
Total Games 402 (144 present)
← (none) Atari 5200 →

Released in 1977, the Atari 2600 is the first successful video game console to use plug-in cartridges instead of built-in games. Originally called the Atari VCS (Video Computer System), the console's name was changed to "Atari 2600" (from the unit's Atari part number, CX2600) in 1982, after the release of the Atari 5200.

In 1975, Atari spun off an engineering think-tank called Cyan Engineering to research next-generation systems. Cyan Engineering eventually came up with the design of the Atari 2600 (the prototype was called 'Stella'), which used a MOS Technology 6507 CPU, a TIA chip for display and sound, and a combination of a RAM and I/O chip. Atari was then desperate for cash, and Nolan Bushnell sold the company to Warner Communications for $28 million in 1976.

Jay Miner, a chip designer for Atari, managed to squeeze an entire breadboard of equipment making up the TIA into one chip. The system was debugged and then ready for shipping. When it was released in 1977, the prototype development and system features cost Atari almost $100 million.

It was first released for $199 and had a library of nine titles. The system competed with Fairchild's Channel F, and both systems were now in the midst of a vicious round of price-cutting: Pong clones made obsolete by these newer and more powerful machines sold off their boxes to discounters for lower prices. Soon many of the clone companies were out of business, and both Fairchild and Atari were selling to a public that was completely burnt out on Pong.

Once the public realized it was possible to play video games other than Pong, and programmers learned how to push its hardware's capabilities, the 2600 rapidly gained popularity. Fairchild had by this point given up, thinking they were a passed fad, thereby handing the entire quickly growing market to Atari. The company then licensed Taito's smash hit Space Invaders, greatly increasing the 2600's popularity. Atari received more than $2 billion in profits in 1980.

Atari and its 2600 quickly faded during the video game crash of 1983, losing thousands of dollars and support almost every day. Warner Communications eventually grew tired of supporting Atari and looked for potential buyers.

The Atari 2600 was still extremely successful and contributed greatly to the rising video game market interest. The system was usually bundled with two joysticks, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and a cartridge game.

Pages in category "Atari 2600"

The following 144 pages are in this category, out of 144 total.