2600 hertz is the frequency of a Captain Crunch cereal prize whistle that motivated nerdy kids of the 1960's to hack telecommunications systems. What a perfect call sign for the machine that defined a generation of video gaming by defying its own limits and inspiring some of the most creative programming efforts ever. Though subtle, the numerology of the console's name is significant: leaning on the hacking edicts of "White Hat" vs. "Black Hat" hacking activity. How about making millions of people smile, motivate them to spend time at home together, increase their skills of perception / hand eye coordination and standards of entertainment? That is the "White Hat" of Atari, thankfully flagshipped by the 2600.
Of course, they didn't give the beast a name until they upgraded it. Early "6 switch" models were just called the Atari VCS (Video Computer System). When the company attempted to trump their own engineering with the 5200 model (1983), they added the number, foolishly thinking that the earlier version would fade into obscurity. While the 5200 boasted a more powerful platform and upgraded games, there was one thing that would always pull the 2600 through, even into the late 1980s: Market Saturation. Nearly 500 individual titles were available for the VCS, and believe it or not people are still creating cartridge games for the platform today.
A diversity of hardware options kept the spectrum of entertainment interesting. In my humble collection are joysticks, paddles, driving controllers, keypads, touch pads and accessories. The marriage of hardware and software became an important element in Atari success. Second generation developments by industry legends like Activision, Imagic and M*Networks kept the pulse beating. There is always something else to buy.
Wikipedia lists the top ten Atari games as Pac Man, Missle Command, Pitfall, Demon Attack, E.T., Atlantis, Adventure, River Raid, Kaboom and Space Invaders. However, many less popular games bore a huge impact on the burgeoning gaming environment of the time. Warlords may be one of the greatest 4-player home adaptations ever, though Atari could never compete with Colecovision for arcade emulation. Other significant titles for the consideration of posterity: Bachelor Party (an early 'adult' game), Video Olympics (the perfect evolution of pong!), Pole Position (the beginning of complicated control usage), Pele's Soccer (reflecting the strains of sports on the physical strain of joystick usage...the carpal tunnel inducing early Wii fitness idea I suppose...) and so many others.
In summary, there would be no modern video game platform without the innovations and opportunities of the 2600. Long live Atari!
I've spent most of my life getting paid to teach, mostly young children. Obsessed with the ancient world, I studied Classics with a focus on Roman poetry, contributing to my degree in English from … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.
The Atari 2600 is a video game console released in October 1977. It is credited with popularizing the use of microprocessor-based hardware and cartridges containing game code, instead of having non-microprocessor dedicated hardware with all games built in. The first game console to use this format was the Fairchild Channel F; however, the Atari 2600 is credited with popularizing the plug-in concept among the game-playing public.
The console was originally sold as the Atari VCS, for Video Computer System. Following the release of the Atari 5200, in 1982, the VCS was renamed "Atari 2600", after the unit's Atari part number, CX2600. The 2600 was typically bundled with two joystick controllers, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and a cartridge game—initially Combat and later Pac-Man.
The Atari 2600 was wildly successful. During the 1980s, "Atari" was a synonym for this model in mainstream media and, by extension, for video games in general