47 Facts About Atari VCS


Atari 2600, initially branded as the Atari Video Computer System from its release until November 1982, is a home video game console developed and produced by Atari, Inc Released in September 1977, it popularized microprocessor-based hardware and games stored on swappable ROM cartridges, a format first used with the Fairchild Channel F in 1976.

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The Atari VCS was bundled with two joystick controllers, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and a game cartridge—initially Combat and later Pac-Man.

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Atari VCS was successful at creating arcade video games, but their development cost and limited lifespan drove CEO Nolan Bushnell to seek a programmable home system.

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Atari VCS launched in 1977 with nine simple, low-resolution games in 2 KB cartridges.

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The Atari VCS became widely successful, leading to the founding of Activision and other third-party game developers and to competition from console manufacturers Mattel and Coleco.

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In 1982, the Atari VCS 2600 was the dominant game system in North America.

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Amid competition from both new consoles and game developers, a number of poor decisions from Atari VCS management affected the company and the industry as a whole.

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Atari VCS's downfall reverberated through the industry resulting in the video game crash of 1983.

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Atari VCS, Inc was founded by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney in 1972.

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The competition along with other missteps by Atari VCS led to financial problems in 1974, though recovering by the end of the year.

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Atari VCS engineers recognized the limitation of custom logic integrated onto the circuit board, permanently confining the whole console to only one game.

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The increasing competition increased the risk, as Atari VCS had found with past arcade games and again with dedicated home consoles.

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Atari VCS had opened negotiations to use Motorola's new 6800 in future systems.

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In October 1975, Atari VCS informed the market that it was moving forward with MOS.

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The Motorola sales team had already told its management that the Atari VCS deal was finalized, and Motorola management was livid.

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Atari VCS was still recovering from its 1974 financial woes and needed additional capital to fully enter the home console market, though Bushnell was wary of being beholden to outside financial sources.

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Atari VCS obtained smaller investments through 1975, but not at the scale it needed, and began considering a sale to a larger firm by early 1976.

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Atari VCS was introduced to Warner Communications, which saw the potential for the growing video game industry to help offset declining profits from its film and music divisions.

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Negotiations took place during 1976, during which Atari cleared itself of liabilities, including settling a patent infringement lawsuit with Magnavox over Ralph H Baer's patents that were the basis for the Magnavox Odyssey.

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However, Atari VCS encountered production problems during its first batch, and its testing was complicated by the use of cartridges.

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Atari VCS sold 1 million consoles in 1979, particularly during the holiday season, but there was new competition from the Mattel Electronics Intellivision and Magnavox Odyssey², which use swappable ROM cartridges.

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In 1982, Atari VCS launched its second programmable console, the Atari VCS 5200.

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Activision, formed by Crane, Whitehead, and Miller in 1979, started developing third-party Atari VCS games using their knowledge of Atari VCS design and programming tricks, and began releasing games in 1980.

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In 1980, Atari VCS attempted to block the sale of the Activision cartridges, accusing the four of intellectual property infringement.

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Atari VCS produced an estimated four million cartridges, but the game was poorly reviewed, and only about 1.

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Atari VCS reported a loss for 1983 as a whole, and continued to lose money into 1984, with a loss reported in the second quarter.

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Atari VCS Corporation released a redesigned model of the 2600 in 1986, supported by an ad campaign touting a price of "under 50 bucks".

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The final Atari VCS-licensed release is the PAL-only version of the arcade game KLAX in 1990.

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The designers of the Atari VCS 2600 selected an inexpensive cartridge interface that has one fewer address than the 13 allowed by the 6507, further reducing the already limited addressable memory to 4 KB .

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Atari VCS 2600 was designed to be compatible with the cathode-ray tube television sets produced in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which commonly lack auxiliary video inputs to receive audio and video from another device.

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Atari developed the Television Interface Adaptor chip in the VCS to handle the graphics and conversion to a television signal.

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In 1982 Atari VCS rebranded the console as the "Atari VCS 2600", a name first used on a version of the four-switch model without woodgrain, giving it an all-black appearance.

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Atari VCS continued its OEM relationship with Sears under the latter's Tele-Games brand, which started in 1975 with the original Pong.

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Atari VCS 2800 is the Japanese version of the 2600 released in October 1983.

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Atari VCS released several minor stylistic variations: the "large rainbow", "short rainbow", and an all-black version sold only in Ireland.

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Atari VCS determined that box art featuring only descriptions of the game and screenshots would not be sufficient to sell games in retail stores, since most games were based on abstract principles and screenshots give little information.

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Atari VCS outsourced box art to Cliff Spohn, who created visually interesting artwork with implications of dynamic movement intended to engage the player's imagination while staying true to the gameplay.

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Spohn's style became a standard for Atari VCS when bringing in assistant artists, including Susan Jaekel, Rick Guidice, John Enright, and Steve Hendricks.

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In 1980, Atari VCS released Adventure, the first action-adventure game, and the first home game with a hidden Easter egg.

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Atari VCS, Inc was the only developer for the first few years, releasing dozens of games.

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Atari VCS sued Mystique in court over the release of the game.

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Atari VCS 2600 was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York, in 2007.

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In 2009, the Atari VCS 2600 was named the number two console of all time by IGN, which cited its remarkable role 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".

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In November 2021, the current incarnation of Atari VCS announced three 2600 games to be published under "Atari VCS XP" label: Yars' Return, Aquaventure, and Saboteur.

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Atari VCS microconsole was released by Atari Interactive in 2021.

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Atari VCS 2700 is a version of the 2600 using wireless controllers.

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Atari VCS cloned the Atari VCS 3200 into the Sears Super Arcade II, but this was never released.

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