Atari 2600

The Atari 2600, originally sold as the Atari Video Computer System or Atari VCS until November 1982, is a home video game console from Atari, Inc. Released on September 11, 1977, it is credited with popularizing the use of microprocessor-based hardware and games contained on ROM cartridges, a format first used with the Fairchild Channel F in 1976. This contrasts with the older model of having dedicated hardware that could play only those games that were physically built into the unit. The 2600 was bundled with two joystick controllers, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and a game cartridge: initially Combat,[5] and later Pac-Man.[6]

The Atari VCS launched with nine cartridges offering simple, low-resolution games in 2 KiB cartridges. Disagreements over sales potential of the VCS led Bushnell to leave Atari in 1978. The system found its killer app with the port of Taito's Space Invaders in 1980 and became widely successful, leading to the creation of third-party game developers, notably Activision, and competition from other home console makers such as Mattel and later Coleco. By the end of its primary lifecycle in 1983-4, the 2600 was home to games with much more advanced visuals and gameplay than the system was designed for, such as scrolling platform adventure Pitfall II: Lost Caverns, which uses four times the ROM of the launch titles.[7]

Atari invested heavily in two games for the 2600, Pac-Man and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, that would become commercial failures and contributed to the video game crash of 1983. The 2600 was shelved as the industry recovered, while Warner sold off the home console division of Atari to Commodore CEO Jack Tramiel. The new Atari Corporation under Tramiel re-released a lower-cost version of the 2600 in 1986, as well as the Atari 7800 that was backwards compatible with the 2600. Atari dropped support for the Atari 2600 on January 1, 1992, after an estimated 30 million units were sold over the system's lifetime.

Atari 2600
Atari 2600 logo
Atari VCS four-switch "wood veneer" version, dating from 1980 to 1982
Also known asAtari VCS (prior to November 1982)
ManufacturerAtari, Inc.
TypeHome video game console
GenerationSecond Generation
Release date
Introductory priceUS$199 (equivalent to $822.77 in 2018)
DiscontinuedJanuary 1, 1992[1]
Units sold30 million (As of 2004)[2]
MediaROM cartridge
CPU8-bit MOS Technology 6507 @ 1.19 MHz
Memory128 bytes RAM
Controller input
  • Joystick
  • Paddles
  • Driving
  • Keypad
  • Trak-Ball
Best-selling gamePac-Man, 7 million (As of September 1, 2006)[3][4]
PredecessorAtari Pong
SuccessorAtari 8-bit family / Atari 5200


Atari was founded by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney of which their first major product was Pong in 1972, one of the first successful arcade games.[8] It transitioned Pong into a home console version by 1975, helping to pit Atari against Magnavox, the only other major competitor for home consoles at the time. Bushnell recognized that this approach to home consoles has a drawback in that because it used custom logic burned onto the circuit board, it was limited to only one game and any variants, and would require consumers to buy another console to play a different set of games.[9] Further, while they could continue to take games they had created for arcade machines to home consoles, this development step cost at least US$100,000 and time to complete, and once on the market, had only about a three-month shelf life before being outdated, making this a risky move.[10]

In 1974, Atari had acquired Cyan Engineering, an electronics company founded by Steve Mayer and Larry Emmons, both former colleagues of Bushnell and Dabney from Ampex, and started Atari's Grass Valley Think Tank, where they were involved with coming up with new ideas for arcade games. Based on Bushnell's concern about single-game consoles, the Grass Valley team started working on how to achieve a home console with multi-game support. Mayer and Emmons recognized that to achieve a home console with multiple game functionality, they would need newly-invented microprocessors within the console, but at that time, such microprocessors cost US$100–300, far outside the range that their market would support.[9] In September 1975, Chuck Peddle of MOS Technology had created a low-cost replacement for the Motorola 6800, the MOS Technology 6502, which they introduced at the 1975 Wescon trade show in San Francisco. Mayer and Ron Milner attended the show, met with Peddle, and later invited Peddle to Cyan's headquarters to discuss using MOS's microprocessors for a game console. Mayer and Milner had been able to negotiate purchase of the 6502 chips for US$8 a piece, sufficient to begin development of a console.[10] Through their discussions, Cyan and MOS decided that the better solution would be the MOS Technology 6507, which was a more restrictive but lower-cost version of the 6502. Cyan and MOS also arranged to bring in Synertek, a semiconductor manufacturer whose co-founder, Bob Schreiner, was good friends with Peddle, to act as a second source for the 6507.[9]

By December 1975, Atari hired Joe Decuir to help design the first prototype around the 6502, which was codenamed "Stella", the name of Decuir's bicycle.[10] A second prototype had been completed by March 1976 with the help of Jay Miner, who had been able to squeeze an entire wire wrap of equipment making up the Television Interface Adaptor (TIA), sending graphics and audio to the television display, into a single chip.[11] The second prototype included the 6507, the TIA, and a ROM cartridge slot and adapter, each cartridge holding a ROM image of a game.[10] Believing that "Stella" would be a success, Bushnell acquired the entire Grass Valley Think Tank and relocated them into Atari's new headquarters in Sunnyvale, California by mid-1976, putting Steve Mayer in charge of the project.[10] Bushnell feared that once this unit was released, competitors would try to copy it, and preemptively made arrangements with all integrated chip manufacturers that had interest in the games market to deny sales to his competitors.[10]

Fairchild Semiconductor introduced its Fairchild Channel F home console in November 1976, which included ROM cartridge technology, beating Atari to the market. The company was pressured to finish the unit as fast as possible, but lacked the funds to do so. Bushnell had considered taking Atari public but instead decided to sell the company to Warner Communications for US$28 million, and subsequently Warner provided around US$100 million to Atari, allowing them to prioritize and fast-track Stella.[10] By 1977, the product had advanced far enough to brand it as the "Atari Video Computer System" (VCS) and engage Atari's programmers to develop games for it.[10]

The unit was showcased in mid-1977 at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show with plans for retail release in October.[10] However, Atari encountered a number of production problems during its first batch, with testing of each system complicated by the use of cartridges. Ultimately, the consoles were shipped to retailers in November 1977.[10]

Launch and success

The second VCS model has lighter plastic molding and shielding, and a more angular shape, than the 1977 launch model.
Beginning in 1980, the VCS had only four front switches.

At release in September 1977, the unit was originally priced at US$199 ($823 adjusted for inflation), and shipped with two joysticks and a Combat cartridge (eight additional games were available at launch and sold separately).[12] Atari sold between 350,000 and 400,000 Atari VCS units during 1977, attributed to the delay in shipping the units and consumers' uncertainty about the console compared to the dedicated Pong consoles.[13]

Production for 1978 was outsourced to Hong Kong, producing about 800,000 units; however, sales of the VCS were still seen as slow, with only 550,000 sold by year's end. This required further financial support from Warner to cover losses, ultimately leading Bushnell to leave the company in 1978.[13]

Despite Bushnell's retirement in 1978, Warren Robinett's invention of the first action-adventure game, Adventure, was developed the same year and changed the fundamentals of gaming as it unlocked a game with a "virtual space bigger than the screen".[14] However, the VCS still had gained a killer application to sell the console, and it had suffered the loss of programmers David Crane, Bob Whitehead, Larry Kaplan, and Alan Miller, the company's "Fantastic Four", who had programmed most of the successful VCS games to that point. The four left Atari disgruntled over Warner's oversight of the company and treatment of programmers in 1978, and formed the firm Activision, which would give rise to third-party software for the VCS.[13] While the VCS was the best-selling console during the 1979 holiday season with over 1 million units sold, Atari saw newfound competition from the Mattel Intellivision and Magnavox Odyssey², both systems that also used swapable ROM cartridges.[15]

Atari then licensed the arcade hit Space Invaders by Taito, which greatly increased the unit's popularity when it was released in January 1980, doubling sales to over 2 million units. The VCS and its cartridges were the main factor behind Atari grossing more than $2 billion in 1980.[13] Sales then doubled again for the next two years; by 1982, the console had sold 10 million units, while its best-selling game Pac-Man sold 7 million copies.[16] The console also sold 450,000 units in West Germany by 1984.[17]

In 1982, Atari launched its second home console, which it named the Atari 5200; to standardize its naming, the VCS was renamed to the "Atari 2600 Video Computer System", or "Atari 2600" for short, with the 2600 being derived from the manufacture part number CX2600.[18] By 1982 the 2600 console cost Atari about $40 to make and was sold for an average of $125. The company spent $4.50 to $6 to manufacture each cartridge and $1 to $2 for advertising, and sold it for $18.95 wholesale.[19]

Third party development

Activision, formed by four former Atari VCS programmers, started developing third-party games to be used on cartridge systems, including the VCS, starting in 1979. Atari attempted legal action to block sale of the Activision cartridges, but failed, allowing other third party game developers for the VCS to flourish.[20][21][22]

A similar situation involved Rob Fulop, who had developed the VCS version of Missile Command that went on to sell over 2 million copies.[23] Atari rewarded him with a certificate for a free turkey for this milestone, prompting him to leave Atari.[24] Fulop co-founded Imagic, with his first game for the company, Demon Attack, becoming a hit in 1982. Other VCS-focused game development companies that sprang up in the early 1980s include US Games, Telesys, Games by Apollo, Data Age, Zimag, Mystique, and CommaVid. Mattel and Coleco, each already producing its own more advanced console, created simplified versions of existing titles for the 2600. Mattel used the M Network brand name for its cartridges. Third-party titles competed with Atari's share of VCS games, only having about half of VCS game sales by 1982.[25]

Decline and redesign

Atari continued to acquire licenses for the 2600, the most prominent of which included Pac-Man—which critics slammed as "Flicker-Man"[26]—and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which was designed and programmed in six weeks.[26] Public disappointment with these two games and the market saturation of poor third-party titles are cited as triggers for the video game crash of 1983. In September 1983, Atari buried 14 truckloads of cartridges and other equipment in the New Mexico desert,[27] an event later labeled the Atari video game burial. Warner quickly grew tired of supporting Atari, and started looking for buyers in 1984.

By mid-1984 most software development for the 2600 had stopped except by Atari and Activision.[28] The 2600 was de-emphasized for two years after Warner's 1984 sale of Atari, Inc.'s Consumer Division to Commodore founder Jack Tramiel, who wanted to concentrate on home computers. He ended all development of console games.

In 1986 Atari Corporation released a redesigned model of the 2600, supported by an ad campaign touting a price of "under 50 bucks".[29] The same year, Atari also introduced the Atari 7800 ProSystem, a third generation console backward compatible with 2600 cartridges. With a large library of games and a low price point, the 2600 continued to sell into the late 1980s. Atari released a final batch of titles in 1989–90 including Secret Quest[30] and Fatal Run.[31] The final Atari-licensed release is the PAL-only port of the arcade game KLAX in 1990.

After over 14 years on the market, the 2600 line was formally discontinued on January 1, 1992,[32] along with the Atari 7800 and Atari 8-bit computers.



The Atari 2600's CPU is the MOS Technology 6507, a version of the 6502,[33] running at 1.19 MHz in the 2600.[34] Though their internal silicon was identical, the 6507 was cheaper than the 6502 because its package included fewer memory-address pins—13 instead of 16.[35] The designers of the Atari 2600 selected an inexpensive cartridge interface[36] that had one fewer address than the 13 allowed by the 6507, further reducing the already limited addressable memory to 4 kiB (212 = 4096). This was believed to be sufficient as Combat was itself only 2 kiB.[37] Later games get around this limitation with bank switching.[38] The maximum supported cartridge size is 32 kibibytes.[39]

The console has only 128 bytes of RAM for scratch space, the call stack, and the state of the game world.

The top bezel of the cast included either six or four (in later revisions) switches, which included the power switch, TV type selection, game selection, player difficulty switches, and game reset switches. The difficulty switches were moved to the back of the top bezel in later revisions. The back bezel also includes the ports for controllers, television output, and power adapter outlets.


The 2600 did not use a frame buffer. Instead the video device uses two bitmapped sprites: two 1-pixel "missile" sprites, a 1-pixel "ball", and a 40-pixel "playfield" that is drawn by writing a bit pattern for each line into a register just before the television scans that line. As each line is scanned, a game must identify the non-sprite objects that overlaps the next line, assemble the appropriate bit patterns to draw for those objects, and write the pattern into the register. Similar to its predecessor Pong, the right side of the screen is a mirrored duplicate of the left; to control it separately, the software may modify the patterns as the scan line is drawn. After the controller scans the last active line, a slower vertical blanking interval begins, during which the game can process inputs and update the positions and states of objects in the game world. Any mistake in timing produces visual artifacts, a problem that programmers call "racing the beam".[40]

A2600 Pitfall
Activision's Pitfall!, the console's most popular third-party game.

The 2600's video hardware is therefore highly flexible, but also challenging to program. One advantage the 2600 has over more powerful contemporary competitors such as the ColecoVision is that the 2600 has no protection against altering settings in mid-line. For example, although each sprite nominally has only one color, it is possible to color the rows differently by changing the sprite's color as it is drawn. If the two hardware sprites are not enough for a game, a developer may share one sprite among several objects (as with the ghosts in Pac-Man) or draw software sprites, which is only a little more difficult than drawing a fixed playfield. The Pitfall! screenshot demonstrates some of these tricks: the player is a multi-color sprite, one sprite is multiplexed for the logs and the scorpion, and the swinging vine is drawn by shifting the position of the "ball" on each scan line.[41] Warren Robinett, the programmer for Adventure, described numerous tricks that he had to do to complete Adventure to both fit it within the memory limitations of the Atari 2600, as well as creatively use the graphics capability to create a multi-screen maze for players to navigate, using the "missile" sprite to create the maze's walls.[42]

Atari established their system design in order to be compatible with the cathode-ray tube television sets in the late 1970s and early 1980s.[43] The Atari 2600 uses different color palettes depending on the television signal format used.[44] With the NTSC format, a 128-color palette is available,[45] while in PAL, only 104 colors are available.[44] Additionally, the SECAM palette consists of only 8 colors.[44]

A side effect of how graphics work on the 2600 is that all games are required to run at either 60 frames per second (NTSC) or 50 frames per second (PAL).


Standard CX10 joystick

The VCS originally shipped with two types of controllers: a joystick (part number CX10) and pair of rotary paddle controllers (CX30). Driving controllers, which are similar to paddle controllers but can be continuously rotated, shipped with the Indy 500 launch title. After less than a year, the CX10 joystick was replaced with the CX40 model[46] designed by James C. Asher.[47] Because the Atari joystick port and CX40 joystick became industry standards, 2600 joysticks and some other peripherals work with later systems, including the MSX, Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari 8-bit family, and Atari ST. The CX40 joystick can be used with the Master System and Sega Genesis, but does not provide all the buttons of a native controller. Third-party controllers include Wico's Command Control joystick.[48] Later, the CX42 Remote Control Joysticks, similar in appearance but using wireless technology, were released, together with a receiver which's wires could be inserted in the controller jacks.[49]

Atari introduced the CX50 Keyboard Controller in June 1978, along with two games that required it: Codebreaker and Hunt & Score.[46] The similar, but simpler, CX23 Kid's Controller was released later for a series of games aimed at a younger audience games.[50] The CX22 Trak-Ball controller was announced in January 1983 and was compatible with the Atari 8-bit family.[51]

Console models

Minor revisions

The all-black model that first used the Atari 2600 name (1982).

The initial production of the VCS was made in Sunnyvale, using thick plastic for the casing, and with all six console switches on the front panel. Production of the unit was moved to Hong Kong in 1979, where a thinner plastic was used for the casing, reducing the system's weight. These two versions are commonly referred to as "Heavy Sixers" and "Light Sixers" respectively, representing the six front switches.[52]

In 1980, the VCS was given an update in which the left and right difficulty switches were moved to the back of the console, leaving four switches on the front. Other than this, these four-switch consoles looked nearly identical to the earlier six-switch models. In 1982 Atari rebranded the console as the "Atari 2600," a name first used on a version of the four-switch model without woodgrain, giving it an all black appearance.

Sears Tele-Games

Sears rebranded the VCS as the "Video Arcade" for its Tele-Games line.

Atari continued their OEM relationship with Sears under the latter's Tele-Games brand, which started in 1975 with the original Pong. (The company Telegames, which later produced cartridges for the 2600, is unrelated.)[53] Sears released several models of the VCS as the Sears Video Arcade series starting in 1977. In 1983, the previously Japan-only Atari 2800 was rebranded as the Sears Video Arcade II.[54]

Sears released versions of Atari's games with Tele-Games branding, usually with different titles.[55] Three games were produced by Atari for Sears as exclusive releases: Steeplechase, Stellar Track, and Submarine Commander.[55]

Atari 2800

The design of Japan-only Atari 2800 was later used in the US for the Sears Video Arcade II.

The Atari 2800 is the Japanese version of the 2600 released in October 1983. It was the first release of a 2600 designed specifically for the Japanese market, despite companies like Epoch distributing the 2600 in Japan previously. It was released a short time after Nintendo's Family Computer, which became the dominant console in Japan, and the 2800 did not gain a significant share of the market. Sears released the 2800 in the US in 1983 as the Sears Video Arcade II packaged with two controllers and Space Invaders.[56] Around 30 specially branded games were released for the 2800.

Designed by engineer Joe Tilly, the 2800 has four controller ports instead of the two of the 2600. The controllers are an all-in one design using a combination of an 8-direction digital joystick and a 270-degree paddle, designed by John Amber.[56] The 2800's case design departed from the 2600, using a wedge shape with non-protruding switches. The case style was used as the basis for the Atari 7800's case designed by Barney Huang.[56]

Atari 2600 Jr.

The Atari 2600 in its 1986 cost-reduced version, nicknamed "2600 Jr.".

The 1986 model, unofficially referred to as "the 2600 Jr.", features a smaller, cost-reduced form factor with a modernized, Atari 7800-like appearance. The redesigned 2600 was advertised as a budget gaming system (under US$49.99) with the ability to run a large collection of classic games.[57] Though released after the video game crash of 1983, and after the North American launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the 2600 was supported with new games and television commercials promoting "The fun is back!" Later European versions of the 2600 Jr. include a joypad, which is also featured with the European 7800. Atari released several minor stylistic variations of the 2600 Jr. design: the "large rainbow" (shown at right), "short rainbow", and an all-black version sold only in Ireland.[58]


In 1977, nine games were released on cartridge to accompany the launch of the machine, including Air-Sea Battle, Star Ship and Street Racer.[59] Atari, Inc. was the only developer for the first few years of the VCS, releasing Adventure (often credited the first action-adventure game game),[60] Breakout,[61] and dozens of other titles.

Rick Maurer's port of Taito's Space Invaders, released in 1980, was the first VCS title to sell over a million copies—eventually doubling that.[62] It became the killer app to drive console sales. Versions of Atari's own Asteroids and Missile Command arcade games, released the following year, were also major hits.

Initially, each VCS game fit into a 2K ROM. Later games like Space Invaders, and even River Raid from 1982, increased this capacity to 4K.[7] The VCS port of Asteroids (1981) was the first game for the system to use 8K via a bank switching technique.[63] Some later releases, including Atari's ports of Dig Dug and Crystal Castles, were 16K cartridges.[7]

Two Atari published titles, both from 1982, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial[64] and Pac-Man,[65] are frequently blamed for contributing to the video game crash of 1983. To clear inventory and save money in wake of the crash, Atari shipped about 700,000 Atari 2600 games, including unsold lots of Pac-Man and E.T., to a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico in 1983. Until 2014, there was skepticism of how much Atari had buried there, in some cases estimates of millions of cartridges, creating an urban legend of an Atari video game burial. The legend was proven out in 2014 when interested parties were able to dig up a portion of a landfill, confirmed its contents of unsold Atari games.

A company named Mystique produced a number of pornographic games for the 2600. The most notorious of these, Custer's Revenge, was protested by women's and Native American groups[66] because it depicted General George Armstrong Custer raping a bound Native American woman.[67] Atari sued Mystique in court over the release of the game.[68]


Video Game Consoles Atari VCS
The Atari VCS on display at "The Art of Video Games" exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2012. Games shown include Pac-Man (top), Space Invaders, Pitfall!, and Combat.

The Atari VCS—and later as the 2600—was wildly successful in the late 1970s and early 1980s, to where "Atari" was a synonym for the system in mainstream media and, by extension, for video games in general.[69]

Jay Miner directed the creation of the successors to the 2600's TIA chip—CTIA and ANTIC—which were central to the Atari 8-bit computers released in 1979.

The Atari 2600 was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York, in 2007.[70] In 2009, the Atari 2600 was named the number two console of all time by IGN, who cited its remarkable role as the console behind both the first video game boom and the video game crash of 1983, and called it "the console that our entire industry is built upon".[71]

Clones and reissues

Modern Atari 2600 clones remain on the market. The Atari Classics 10-in-1 TV Game, manufactured by Jakks Pacific, emulates the 2600 console and includes converted versions of 10 games into a single Atari-brand-lookalike joystick with composite-video outputs for connecting directly to modern televisions or VCRs. The TV Boy includes 127 games in an enlarged joypad.

The Atari Flashback 2 console, released in 2005, contains 40 games (with four additional programs unlockable by a cheat code). The console implements the original 2600 architecture and can be modified to play original 2600 cartridges by adding a cartridge port, and is also compatible with original 2600 controllers.

In 2017, Hyperkin announced the RetroN 77, a clone of the Atari 2600 that plays original cartridges instead of pre-installed games.[72]

The Atari VCS microconsole, planned for release from Atari Interactive by 2019, is designed on a miniaturization of the Atari 2600, including the option for its faux wood paneling. This microconsole is designed to play several Atari 2600 games under emulation on a Linux operating system, as well as potentially other games for computers and other gaming systems.

Unreleased prototypes

Atari 2700

The Atari 2700 was a version of the 2600 using wireless controllers.

Atari 2000

An unproduced Atari 2600 variant, known by its production code "CX2000" and nickname "Val", was found as two 1982 prototypes at the New York and Sunnyvale Atari facilities, respectively.[73] The Atari 2000 was the result of an attempt to make a new version for the aging 2600. Its design, with two integrated joystick controllers, was the result of a human factor analysis by Henry Dreyfuss Associates, which ported some modifies to the standard console. However, the project never saw market production.

Atari 3200

Atari started work on a replacement to the 2600, called the Atari 3200. It was to be compatible with 2600 cartridges, and was rumored to be based on a 10-bit processor, although design documents show it was to actually be based around the 8-bit 6502. It was still unfinished when preliminary game programmers discovered that it was difficult to program. Atari cloned the Atari 3200 into the Sears Super Arcade II, but this was never released.[74]

See also


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External links

Unreleased prototypes

Adventure (Atari 2600)

Adventure is a video game for the Atari 2600 video game console, released in late 1979–1980. In the game, the player controls a square avatar whose quest is to explore an open-ended environment to find a magical chalice and return it to the golden castle. The game world is populated by roaming enemies: three dragons that can eat the avatar and a bat that randomly steals and hides items around the game world. Adventure introduced a number of innovative game elements to console games, including a playing area that spanned several different screens and enemies that continued to move even when not displayed on the screen.

Adventure was conceived as a graphical version of the 1977 text adventure Colossal Cave Adventure. It took developer Warren Robinett approximately one year to design and code the game, during which time he had to overcome a variety of technical limitations in the Atari 2600 console hardware, as well as difficulties with management within Atari. In this game, he introduced the first widely known video game Easter egg, a secret room containing text crediting himself for the game's creation. Robinett's Easter egg became a tradition for future Atari 2600 titles.

Adventure received mostly positive reviews at the time of its release and has continued to be viewed positively in the decades since, often named as one of the industry's most influential titles. It is considered the first action-adventure and console fantasy game, and inspired other titles in the genres. More than one million cartridges of Adventure were sold, and the game has been included in numerous Atari 2600 game collections for modern computer hardware. The game's prototype code was used as the basis for the 1979 Superman game, and a planned sequel eventually formed the basis for the Swordquest games. The Easter egg concept pioneered by the game has transcended video games and entered popular culture.

Alien (1982 video game)

Alien is a video game for the Atari 2600 published by 20th Century Fox in 1982. Based on the 1979 film, Alien is a maze game. It was the first officially licensed game of the Alien film series.

Alpha Beam with Ernie

Alpha Beam With Ernie is an edutainment video game released for the Atari 2600 by Atari in 1983. It was developed in conjunction with the Children's Computer Workshop. The game was programmed by Michael Callahan and Preston Stuart.

Atari 2600 hardware

The Atari 2600 hardware design experienced many makeovers and revisions during its 14-year production history. The system also has a large number of controllers and third-party peripherals.

Atari 2600 homebrew

An Atari 2600 homebrew (short for Atari 2600 homebrew game, where homebrew is synonymous with hobbyist-developed) is a video game designed for the Atari 2600 by an independent developer following the discontinuation of the console in 1992. The first 2600 homebrew was written in 1995, and since then over 100 titles have been released. There is an active community of Atari 2600 developers—the largest among classic video game homebrew communities.The majority of homebrew games are unlicensed clones of arcade games, personal computer games, and games from other consoles, but there are also ROM hacks and some original titles. Several games have received attention outside the homebrew community; some have been included in an Atari 2600 game anthology from by Activision.With severe resource limitations including only 128 bytes of RAM and no video frame buffer, the 2600 is a difficult machine to program. However, tools such as emulators, the batari Basic language, and a wealth of documentation, exist to assist the homebrewer.

Atari Vault

Atari Vault is a collection of one hundred video games that Atari had produced for arcade cabinets and its Atari 2600 home console system, dating from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The collection was developed by Code Mystics, who had helmed similar collections of Atari games to other platforms, to work on Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux via the Steam client. The games, where possible, have been updated to include modern-day features such as local and online multiplayer and online leaderboards.

BASIC Programming

BASIC Programming (Model# CX2620) is an Atari 2600 cartridge that teaches simple computer programming. It was released in 1979 and was one of only a few non-gaming cartridges designed for the console. The programming language is similar to dialects of BASIC. The Atari 2600's RAM size of 128 bytes restricts the possibilities for writing programs.

Blackjack (Atari 2600)

Blackjack is a video game programmed by Bob Whitehead and published by Atari, Inc. for its Video Computer System (later known as the Atari 2600). The game was one of the nine launch titles available when the Atari 2600 went on sale in September 1977. The game is a video simulation of blackjack. The objective is identical to the card game: to beat the dealer's card total, without going over 21, to win a bet. One to three players play the computer dealer.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (video game)

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (also referred to as E.T.) is a 1982 adventure video game developed and published by Atari, Inc. for the Atari 2600 video game console. It is based on the film of the same name, and was designed by Howard Scott Warshaw. The objective of the game is to guide the eponymous character through various screens in a cubic world to collect three pieces of an interplanetary telephone that will allow him to contact his home planet.

Warshaw intended the game to be an innovative adaptation of the film, and Atari thought it would achieve high sales figures based on its connection with the film, which was extremely popular throughout the world. Negotiations to secure the rights to make the game ended in late July 1982, giving Warshaw only 5 and a half weeks to develop the game in time for the 1982 Christmas season. The final release was critically panned, with nearly every aspect of the game facing heavy criticism. E.T. is often cited as one of the worst video games of all time and one of the biggest commercial failures in video game history. It is cited as a major contributing factor to the video game industry crash of 1983, and has been frequently referenced and mocked in popular culture as a cautionary tale about the dangers of rushed game development and studio interference.

In what was initially deemed an urban legend, reports from 1983 stated that as a result of overproduction and returns, millions of unsold cartridges were secretly buried in an Alamogordo, New Mexico landfill and covered with a layer of concrete. In April 2014, diggers hired to investigate the claim confirmed that the Alamogordo landfill contained many E.T. cartridges, among other games. James Heller, the former Atari manager who was in charge of the burial, was also at the excavation and admitted to the Associated Press that 728,000 cartridges of various games were buried.

Frankenstein's Monster (video game)

Frankenstein's Monster is a platform game developed for the Atari 2600 video game console, based on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It was released by Data Age in 1983.

List of Atari 2600 games

This is a list of games for the Atari 2600 video game console, totaling more than 565 games, divided into the following sections: games published by Atari and Sears, games published by third parties during the 2600's production run, and later homebrew releases. The Atari 2600 was first released in North America on September 11, 1977 and featured nine launch titles: Air-Sea Battle, Basic Math, Blackjack, Combat, Indy 500, Star Ship, Street Racer, Surround and Video Olympics. The final licensed Atari 2600 games released in North America were Ikari Warriors, MotoRodeo, Sentinel, and Xenophobe in the spring of 1991 , and the final licensed games released in Europe were Klax and Acid Drop in 1990 and 1992, respectively.

List of Atari 2600 prototype games

This is a list of prototype games for the Atari 2600 video game console, organized alphabetically by name. See Lists of video games for related lists.

List of Game Room games

Game Room, a service from Microsoft for its Xbox 360 video game system and PCs running its Windows operating system, allows players to stock their own virtual video arcades with classic video games from the arcades and from older gaming consoles. These games are made available in downloadable "game packs" from time to time.

This is a list of the games that are currently available for the Game Room service.

Pac-Man (Atari 2600)

In 1982, Atari, Inc. released their version of Namco's hit arcade game Pac-Man for its Atari 2600 video game console. Like the original arcade version, the player controls the title character with a joystick. The objective is to traverse a maze, consuming all wafers within it while avoiding four ghosts.

The game was programmed by Tod Frye. The technical differences between the Atari 2600 console and the original's arcade hardware—particularly the amount of available memory—presented several challenges. Given the popularity of the property, Atari produced about 12 million units (which was more than the estimated number of Atari 2600 consoles sold at the time), anticipating high sales.

It is the best selling Atari 2600 game of all time; it sold an estimated 7 million copies, and was the best-selling home video game of all time when it was released. However, critics have considered it among the worst video games of all time, criticizing its controls and visuals. Initially, the port boosted the video game industry's presence in retail. It was followed by Atari 2600 ports of Pac-Man's arcade sequels.

Second generation of video game consoles

In the history of video games, the second-generation era refers to computer and video games, video game consoles, and video game handheld consoles available from 1976 to 1992. Notable platforms of the second generation include the Fairchild Channel F, Atari 2600, Intellivision, Odyssey², and ColecoVision. This generation began in November 1976 with the release of the Fairchild Channel F; followed by the Atari 2600 in 1977; Magnavox Odyssey² in 1978; Intellivision in 1980; and then the Emerson Arcadia 2001, ColecoVision, Atari 5200, and Vectrex (all in 1982). But, by the end of the era, there were over 15 different consoles (see table below). It coincided with, and was partly fueled by, the golden age of arcade video games, a peak era of popularity and innovation for the medium. Many games for second generation home consoles were ports of arcade games. The Atari 2600 was the first to port a game in 1980, with Space Invaders, and ColecoVision bundled in Nintendo's Donkey Kong for the system when it was released in August 1982.

Built-in games saw limited application during this generation due to the invention of game cartridges by Jerry Lawson for the Fairchild Channel F, the first system of the generation, although some consoles, such as the RCA Studio II, still came with built in games, but also had the capability of utilizing cartridges. The popularity of the game cartridge grew after the release of the Atari 2600, and from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, most home video game systems used cartridges, before the technology was replaced by optical discs. The Fairchild Channel F was also the first console to use a microprocessor, which was the driving technology that allowed the consoles to use cartridges. Other technology was also improving during this era: screen resolution, colour graphics, audio, and AI simulation.

In 1979, gaming giant Activision was created by former Atari programmers, and was the first third-party developer of video games. By 1982, a glut of consoles, over-hyped game releases, and low-quality games from new third-party developers began to appear, over-flowing the shelf capacity of toy stores. An over-saturation of consoles and games, coupled with poor knowledge of the market, saw the video game industry crash of 1983 and marked the start of the next generation. Beginning in December 1982, and stretching through all of 1984, the crash of 1983 caused major disruption to the market, primarily in North America, and caused some developers to collapse and the market to not fully recover until the 3rd generation. Due to this, almost no new games were released in 1984. The second generation officially ended on January 1, 1992, with the discontinuation of the Atari 2600.

Spider-Man (1982 video game)

Spider-Man is a vertically scrolling action game written by Laura Nikolich for the Atari 2600 and released in 1982 by Parker Brothers. It was both the first video game to feature Spider-Man and the first Marvel Comics based video game.

Street Racer (1977 video game)

Street Racer is a racing video game developed for the Atari Video Computer System, later known as the Atari 2600. It was programmed by Larry Kaplan and released by Atari, Inc. in September 1977 as one of the nine Atari VCS launch titles. The game was also published by Sears for their Tele-Games product line as Speedway II.

Superman (Atari 2600)

Superman is an action adventure game for the Atari 2600 designed by John Dunn and published by Atari, Inc. in 1979. It was one of the first single-player games for the system and one of the earliest licensed video games. Superman was built using the prototype code for Warren Robinett's Adventure, and ended up being published before Adventure was finished. Retro Gamer credits it among action-adventure games as the "first to utilize multiple screens as playing area".

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