Atari Video Computer System (2600)
Type Console Developer Atari, Inc.
Release Date 1977-Oct-14 Region(s) North America, Europe, Japan
Initial Price $199 USD Games Released 418
DW FACTS
     by Dark Watcher
The Atari VCS (Video Computer System), later called the 2600, was released in 1977 and became the dominant console in the 1970s.  The system boasted amazing specs for its time and amassed a huge library of games.  The popularity of the 2600 grew even further when the arcade game Space Invaders was ported for the first time to a console.  The success was also in part to the many arcade and movie licenses acquired by Atari.  These licenses gave Atari the marketing edge over other consoles of the time.  The console introduced an enormous variety of games and controllers and was the console of choice well into the early 80s even when graphically out performed by newer consoles.

The success of Atari spawned many console redesigns.  One example was the reduced sized Atari 2600 Jr., released in 1986 as part of a campaign to rekindle the console's success.  Also the Atari 2800, which essentially was the same build, but offered 4 controller ports instead of 2.  The controllers were also redesigned to be a hybrid of both a joystick and paddle.  The 2800 model was sold in the US under the Sears label Tele-Games II.  This model was also the first official Atari released in Japan in 1983 and retailed for 24,800 Yen.
The success of Atari 2600 also triggered its fall from glory.  The console spawned numerous clones and adapters (these adapters allowed 2600 software to be played on other consoles).  The Atari 2600 cart format also contained no restrictions, which allowed anyone to make their own 2600 games.  These factors contributed to the fall of Atari in early years and played a role to the Videogame Crash of 1983.

FACT: The Atari 2600 was the first console to play adult type games such as Bachelor Party and the infamous Custer's Revenge.
 
MODELS
     Officially licensed releases
There were many officially licensed models of the 2600, with most being manufactured by Atari.  Beginning in 1977, Sears purchased the rights to distribute the Atari 2600 throughout their chain of stores. They rebranded the console as the Video Arcade. There were several models released, each reflecting the changes that Atari implemented with the original line.  Sears would do the same with various 2600 games, which are all branded with the Tele-Games logo.
Atari VCS CX-2600
"Heavy Sixer" (1977)
Atari VCS CX-2600
"Light Sixer" (1978)
Atari VCS CX-2600A
(1980)
Atari 2600
(1982)
Atari 2800
(1983 - Japan)
Atari 2600 Jr. (Rainbow)
"Rainbow" (1986)
Atari 2600 Jr. (Black)
(1987)
Sears Video Arcade
(1977)
Sears Video Arcade II
(1987)

Other Officially Licensed Models (not a complete list)
CCE Super Game VG2800
 Brazil (1982)
CCE Super Game VG5600
 Brazil (1983)
Dactar Video Game
Brazil (1983)
Dactar Video Game II
Brazil (1984)
Dactar 2600 Compatible w\Case
Brazil (1983)
Polyvox Atari 2600
Brazil (1983)

Atari Video Computer System (CX-2600) - "Light Sixer"

Atari Video Computer System Prototypes
Atari 2000 (Prototype)
Atari 2200 (Prototype)
Atari 2500 (Prototype)
Atari 2700 (Prototype)
Atari 2700 (Prototype)
Atari 2700 (Prototype)
Courtesy of the Atari Historical Society
 
CLONES
     Non-licensed hardware releases
The Atari 2600 had a ton of clones during its glory years and beyond, including those with games built directly into the hardware.  The following lists just a few of the more obscure units.  Please check out Pong Picture Page for even more Atari 2600 clone images.
Coleco Gemini
North America (1982)
EDU Video Computer 2600
Argentina (1985)
Funvision Home Video Game
Spain (1986)
Gracia TV Game 2600
Europe (1980)
Matra 3600
Italy (1989)
TV Game 2600
Italy (1979)
CONSOLE RATINGS
     by Marriott_Guy
Consoles are rated based upon the available technology at the time of its release.  A 10 point scale is utilized, with 10 being excellent.  The following is based upon my experience with the VCS CX-2600 (Light Sixer) model.
CRITERIA RATING NOTES & COMMENTS
Console Design 08 In my opinion, the classic wood grain chassis of the VCS is timeless.  The front switches on the face of the console provide easy access to system and game functions.  Placing the controller ports on the back of the system is somewhat puzzling, but other than that I really have no complaints.
Console Durability 08 These systems are well manufactured and as durable as they come.  I have not had any issues with my console in the 15+ years I have owned it.
Controllers 06 I like the joystick and paddle controllers that are included with the system.  Both are rather fragile (especially the joystick), so best have a couple of back-ups handy.  Third party peripherals are supported, and for the most part are better constructed.
Graphics 08 Early game entries featured very blocky graphics and suffered from varying degrees of screen flicker. As the system aged, developers became more proficient in programming to fully take advantage of the 2600 hardware.
Audio 07 Ditto the above when it comes to sound effects for this system.  Overall pretty average but grew in variety over the course of the system's lifespan.
Media 10 Atari 2600 cartridges are well designed featuring easy to read labels and a plastic housing that may rival the strength of titanium.
Game Library 08 With over 400 titles, the Atari 2600 offers a great variety of games that are sure to please any gamer. You have to be a bit careful since there are many crap titles that are mixed in with the true classics the system offers.
Gamer Value 09 It truly is hard to beat the 2600 when it comes to getting an excellent bang for your buck.  Games, along with the system are relatively inexpensive and easy to acquire.
Collector Value 07 Any serious gamer needs an Atari 2600 amongst its stable of systems.  The first run models (Heavy Sixer and Light Sixer) are the most desirable units.

FORMAT, PACKAGING & GENERAL INFO
     Interesting facts on software for this system
Software for the Atari 2600 was distributed on ROM cartridges, with various designs utilized for both cart graphics and box cover art.

The boxes themselves are typically designed using a flimsy, cheap cardboard that provides very little structural integrity for the carton.  Early versions advertized the number of game variations on the front cover to both educate the consumer and convey 'excellent value' in the purchase.

There was very little brand control when it came to third party distributors in game quality as well as packaging.  Atari was a part of this problem as well, changing their base casing design more than five times and releasing some truly horrific titles.

The nice thing about Atari 2600 games is that you can usually score a good sized lot of loose games on the cheap.  95% of all garage sales usually have a bin of these carts located somewhere in the mess of everything else they are trying to peddle.
applemctom's Games that Defined Compiliation

Launch Games for the Atari Video Computer System (2600)
Atari 2600 Air-Sea BattleAtari 2600 Basic MathAtari 2600 BlackjackAtari 2600 CombatAtari 2600 Indy 500Atari 2600 Star ShipAtari 2600 Street RacerAtari 2600 SurroundAtari 2600 Video Olympics
 
SCREENSHOTS
     Captured in-game images
Adventure
Air-Sea Battle
Asteroids
Atlantis
Battlezone
Berzerk
BMX Airmaster
Burgertime
Centipede
Commando Raid
Defender
Dig Dug
Donkey Kong
Frogger
Galaxian
International Soccer
Laser Gates
Maze Craze
Millipede
Missile Command
Montezuma's Revenge
Pac-Man
Pete Rose Baseball
Pitfall!
Pole Position
River Raid
Space Invaders
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Super Breakout
Super Challenge Football
Tomcat F14 Fighter
Vanguard
Video Pinball

 
EMULATION
     First and third party system emulators
Stella

Multi-platform Atari 2600 emulator that is our favorite.
 
SPECS & MANUALS
     For the hardware enthusiasts out there - all the detail you\we love.
Processor Type  Processor Speed  Other Processor Information RAM \ Video RAM
MOS Technology 6507 (8-bit) 1.19 MHz TIA (Television Interface Adaptor)
running at 3.58 MHz
128 bytes \ None
Screen Resolution Color Palette Polygons \ Sprites Audio
320 x 200 128 Total Colors
(16 colors x 8 variations)
N\A Two Channel, Mono (1-bit)
(handled through TIA)
Media Format Media Capacity Games Released Other Supported Formats
Cartridge up to 4 KB 418 None
Internal Storage External \ Removable Storage Game Controllers Other Game \ Peripheral Devices
None None Joystick with one (1) Fire button Paddles, Racing Wheel, Keyboard, Touch Pads, etc.
Controller Ports Network Ports Other Ports Audio \ Video
Two (2) None None RF
Power Supply - External Other Outputs  Other Details \ Notes
Input: AC 120V, 60Hz
Output: DC 9V, 500mA ( - + - )
None None
Manuals
Atari VCS (Video Computer System) Owners Manual (PDF) - 0.88 MB
Atari VCS (Video Computer System) Model 2600 Manual (PDF) - 0.66 MB
Atari VCS (Video Computer System) Model 2600A Manual (PDF) - 1.44 MB
          Atari 2600 Owners Manual (PDF) - 0.47 MB
Atari 2600 Jr Owners Manual (PDF) - 0.41 MB
Sears Video Arcade Owners Manual (PDF) - 2.69 MB
Sears Super Video Arcade Owners Manual (PDF) - 9.18 MB
Coleco Gemini Owners Manual (PDF) - 6.00 MB

OTHER MEDIA
     Peripherals, Promotions, Commercials, Brochures, Etc.
Various Atari 2600 Television Commercials

Various Atari VCS \ 2600 Advertisements

 
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