Know Your Consoles: The Atari 2600

The history of video game consoles stretches back in a rich tapestry of failures and success, hits and duds. In this article of the weekly series, we’ll be taking a look at the Godfather of modern video game systems; the revolutionary Atari 2600.
Originally known as the Atari Video Computer System, the console was released in October 1977 by Atari, Inc. With the price of $199, accompanied by by two cartridges and the game Combat. However, due to an ongoing price battle between Atari Inc. and Channel F’s Video entertainment system, the Atari VCS sold poorly in it’s first year. Only 250,000 systems were sold.
Despite further losses in 1978, Atari Inc. managed to gain dominance in the video game market and due to programmers pushing the system’s hardware the Atari sold one million units in 1979. Incredibly, Atari systems are still being sold and games still being developed. Overall the Atari 2600 has sold over 30 million consoles and hundreds of millions of games.
Technical Stuff
The Atari system used microprocessor-based hardware, and it’s game cartridges contained their own game code. The system was limited to 4kB of external memory space, and ran on the MOS technology 6057 with 13 memory pins. At it’s time, it was credited as one of the most complex machines to program. It’s standard controller was a joystick, although the system supported the use of paddles and keyboards. This flexibility allowed players to have their own preffered set up.


Notable Games
  • Adventure
  • Pitall
  • Pacman
  • E.T. Extraterrestrial

Article contribution courtesy Michael of NinetyNinePercentGaming


  1. Alas, my parents never bought me an Atari, so I had to settle on playing at my friends’ houses. However, I did own an Intellivision, which I thought was better in many ways. Nice post!

      1. Yeah, it was a wheel, which was actually kind of innovative. Gotta love the wood panelling on both the Atari and the Intellivision, though! Lol!

  2. I’m officially old. I had one of these- played so much Space Invaders and Pitfall the joystick came apart.

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