Super Classic Videogames

Atari 2600




ATARI 2600 Video Computer System (VCS) – 1977


Processor speed: 1.19 MHz
Color capacity:
Memory: 8 kb/ 256 bytes in carts
Resolution: ????

Format: NTSC, PAL

Software type: cartridge



The Fairchild Channel F beat the Atari Video Computer System to the market, but Atari eventually surpassed the volume of sales.  This was due to many factors, third party supporters and a more structured approach on staying the course in a difficult market.  Released in 1977 to the masses, Atari struggled to be profitable.  It was not until 1980 when the market really took off for the VCS series, which eventually became to be known as the Atari 2600.  Atari stayed the course early on, and eventually the system ported some of the well-known arcade games of the time to the home videogame systems.  By brining in the arcade variations it helped make the Atari popular.  When Space Invaders was released to the home system; sales soared.  The arcade scene was bustling during this time and the timing was just right for the home console systems.  People felt that it was reasonable and convenient to just outright own the game and play it at home, rather than feed a machine quarter after quarter. Atari’s success was ultimately its downfall.  Once there was a critical mass of Atari consoles sold, a huge number of third party programmers decided to get into the gaming business.  The market was literally flooded with developers selling cartridges for the Atari 2600 (as well as other systems).  Most of the cartridges were of poor quality and poor programming.  The game play suffered.  The market grew tired of spending money on poor quality games.  It wasn’t even just the start up companies that were putting out a sub-par product.  Atari itself is guilty of this crime since they put out some lame products.  Anyone who has played Pac Man or E.T. for the Atari 2600 knows exactly what I am talking about.  There was absolutely no reliability in the programming and trust of the consumers fell to a pathetic low.  Due to the saturation of the market with poor quality games, the demand to purchase games fell. Investments were lost, and the market was saturated even more when companies went bankrupt and unloaded their inventory at bargain prices for a loss.  It’s known that video games were crushed and buried during these lean years due to the market pressures.  It taught the video game industry a huge lesson.  In order to be successful, there needs to be a quality control mechanism for a company who wants to bring software onto the market.  You just can’t let any company with a desire to produce software to enter into the business. Too many companies producing poor quality software will hurt the supply and demand curve.  There needs to be checks and balances and if the product is not good enough then it shouldn’t be released.  Letting unrestricted software sales hurt the videogame industry during this time period and this lesson was not forgotten. 

What is interesting about the Atari 2600 is the many variations of the console that has been released throughout the years.  It still lives on today as a dedicated console that has recently been re-released with built in games as a retro game.  The original Atari game was produced in the United States.



Varieties of the Atari Console (Not a complete listing):

1. Atari VCS CX2600 (1977).  Six button console and made in Sunnyvale, California
     It is also known as the “Heavy Sixer” due to its weight and 6 button configuration.

2. Atari VCS CX2600 (1978-1979).  Six button but made in Hong Kong. It’s lighter than
    the original version. 

3. Atari VCS CX2600A (1980-1981).  Four switch model

4. Atari 2600 (1982).  Four switch model.  All black. It’s referred as the “Darth Vader”

5. Atari 2600 Jr. (1986) Smaller than all others.  Variations include the “small rainbow”
    and the “big rainbow” version.     

6. Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade Systems

7. Columbia Home Arcade

8. Coleco Gemini        




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