Considered the granddaddy of all home video game consoles, the Atari 2600 pioneered microprocessor-based hardware with interchangeable ROM cartridges for games stored on it. First released in 1977, its success quickly skyrocketed due to faithful arcade adaptations such as Space Invaders.
Mangia, released by Spectravision in 1983, challenges players to either eat the pasta that their mother keeps making or throw it to their pets. Due to poor sales and its unpleasant ending, this game has become one of the rarests out there.
Considered the founding father of modern video game consoles, the Atari 2600 (originally known as the Atari VCS) introduced home gamers to an arcade-like experience right at home. Although initially less-than-successful in 1977, the console soon found a home with faithful translations of arcade classics like Space Invaders and Asteroids; by the early 80s, Atari became one of the world’s best-known names.
The system’s initial cartridges featured both action and educational games for children to play. Youngsters could pit their skills against friends in Combat, save the planet in Space Invaders, outwit ghosts in Pac-Man, or enjoy Frogger – quickly becoming billion-dollar toys! Americans quickly spent billions on these new toys.
Atari’s success was driven by affordable third-party cartridges, which provided depth and variety of gameplay, as well as clever programmers recognizing its inherent power. While early cartridges were limited to 4KB of memory space, later games often used bank-switching techniques to increase memory capacity further and add interesting graphic effects.
The Atari 2600 set a high bar for video graphics quality that other companies would try to match. Its relatively high color fidelity allowed multiple objects to be shown at once on one screen for an engaging gaming experience that far surpassed earlier monochrome displays. Furthermore, its sound capabilities proved impressive; over time, developers learned how to harness its power in order to produce realistic sound effects and harmonized music using this system.
Though Atari occasionally faced legal disputes with competitors over arcade Pong rights, these were usually resolved quickly by paying a one-time fee and focusing on providing quality products rather than on technical details of their design.
Today, Atari remains the market leader for classic video games. They produce both remastered versions of classic titles as well as brand-new releases on retro consoles such as the Atari 2600+ – an updated slimmer version from their initial 1977 release that supports old carts but can also accept new ones – and will sell at $130 price point with many titles being made available once shipping begins in November.
Paddle controllers feature a round paddle wheel that moves up and down to control movement on-screen. They plug into two joystick ports for multi-player play of games like Pong and Breakout; furthermore, its paddle wheel can also be rotated in one direction like an analog steering wheel, similar to Atari console driving controllers.
A paddle controller features an easy-to-press fire button. However, unlike later D-Pads and analog sticks, paddle wheels do not permit free spins but instead feature fixed maximum rotation points in each direction.
The paddles are connected to a controller by wires that lead to potentiometers – sensors that produce voltage output in response to the paddle knob angle relative to a reference position. As soon as a wheel is pushed to rotate, the potentiometer reads out its voltage output level and sends this information onward to video circuitry.
Most Atari paddles can become jittery with time, making them difficult or impossible to use. This jittering is caused by dirt or dust accumulation on the potentiometer and its connections, rendering it less responsive to player input. Therefore, regular cleaning of this element of gameplay should help avoid this jittery behavior, and there are various methods available to achieve that end goal.
One option for cleaning potentiometers is using contact cleaner or degreaser, spraying only a light mist of cleaner and waiting until it dries completely before plugging back in the controller cable to Atari and testing; if everything works fine, then step 2 may need to be taken.
Another method is to disassemble and clean out your controller in order to access and clean out its orange paddle and black switch mechanisms. To do this, first remove the front orange button by grasping both hands around it and pulling it straight out from its housing. Next, locate and seat your black switch so its wire connectors straddle the registration peg inside your housing while its spring action exerts pressure against this registration peg and holds it securely in place.
The Atari 2600’s distinctive wood finish is what draws most people’s attention first and foremost. While its designers did not intend for it to have this characteristic look, it gives the model an authentic 1970s aesthetic and looks fantastic! Wood paneling stretches around its front edge, featuring white Atari logo printing atop.
The console’s sides and back are made up of one panel that slides onto Technic runners for assembly. This design feature adds extra substance while making assembly more straightforward; dark orange and reddish brown plates were used to form these panels, with 1×2 inverted slopes decorated by offset tiles. Technic connectors are integrated into its construction as switches, while four small studs at its base prevent an AV cable from becoming trapped inside it.
A black stand resembling the base of a TV set keeps my console secure while two controllers and a game cartridge complete its look. Although too short for my taste, it does give the console plenty of support.
Fans of the original Atari 2600 console were overjoyed at this announcement, though some expressed reservations regarding compatibility with Atari 5200 cartridges. Atari has assuaged these concerns by assuring them that its new console will be backward compatible with all original cartridges.
Atari was the pioneer of cartridge-based home gaming systems, popularizing Pong in arcades and homes before looking to reinvent it with the 2600. While the system proved popular initially, shovelware such as E.T. tie-ins eventually led to its demise, resulting in the video game crash of 1983.
The Atari 2600 makes an obvious comparison with the 71334 Nintendo Entertainment System and looks stunning when displayed together. Their colors pair beautifully, and the Atari logo sits proudly atop its wood paneling; an olive green carpet completes this retro feel; however, I found its box artwork somewhat lackluster, though its contents more than make up for its minor flaw.
The Commodore 64 (C64) was a trendy console in its day. With such an avid following came an extensive library of C64-specific titles released for Atari 2600/2800/2800-compatible platforms such as NES/Sega Master System/IBM PC compatibles as well.
Pac-Man, Lode Runner, and Space Invaders remain cornerstones of arcade video game design and represent its pinnacle. However, there is also an impressive variety of easy-to-play classic titles like Circus Atari and Super Breakout available within its library that remain timeless classics.
Even with its limited graphics capacity, the Commodore 64 was capable of offering a vast selection of action-packed games and captivating adventures that made playing this system enjoyable. Few can resist its charm!
As an added benefit, the Commodore 64 featured fantastic sound and music, making gameplay an immersive experience. Furthermore, it was one of the first consoles to use MIDI technology, making it one of the best-sounding systems ever produced by any console manufacturer.
A great thing about the Commodore 64 was its extremely flexible software development environment. Programs written for it could easily be written using BASIC, which allowed many different people to write programs for it.
The Commodore 64 featured multiple expansion ports that made adding peripherals such as joysticks and gamepads simple, and it could connect to televisions of almost any size, featuring its built-in speaker system. Furthermore, its top bezel featured six switches for power, TV type selection (color or black and white), game selection, player difficulty setting, and reset.
The Commodore 64 saw its popularity soar until Nintendo’s NES hit shelves in 1985 and transformed the industry. By the early 90s, 8-bit systems had all but been driven from the market, and production had stopped on the Commodore 64 itself.