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Atari PONG Screenshots
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Atari PONG
Released January 1976
In 1973, after the success of the original PONG coin-op, an Atari engineer by the name of Harold Lee came up with the idea of a home PONG unit. Since the PONG coin-op that Alan Alcorn designed was nothing more than the game board connected to an actual television set, he thought it would be possible to scale it down a bit and modify it for use at home. This would be a new direction for the fledgling Atari consumer electronics. If they could pull it off, they would be one of the pioneers of using high tech custom integrated circuits in the consumer industry.

In 1975 it was decided Sears would sell PONG under it's own specially created Tele-Games label, and production was initially projected at 50,000 units. This was soon raised to 150,000 for the 1975 Christmass season. Atari agreed to give Sears exclusive rights for the following year, and would continue to make custom Tele-Games versions for any future consoles. This was the beginning of a long relationship between Atari and Sears, which would continue even after Nolan Bushnell sold Atari to Warner.


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Atari Super PONG Screenshots
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Atari Super PONG
Released November 1976
Atari's sales of the Home PONG console were phenomenal to put it mildly. Atari would continue to cash in of the PONG franchise by releasing yet another home version of one of its arcade game assets. This time it would be Super PONG. Now home players could select for 4 different variations of PONG games to delight and entertain them for countless hours.

Meanwhile numerous knock-off PONG-type consoles were hitting the market. However, because of Atari's now well known presence in the coin-op market, its name recognition helped it stand out. Also Atari's unusual Pedestal design helped Atari stand out in the Sears Retail Stores as well as other stores who were now carrying Atari products.

When compared to the plethora of bland and boxy "Me-Too" consoles by so many other companies, the Atari PONG line of consoles simply stood out. Atari's consoles had eye catching rainbow colors and a deep and ear catching PONG sound from their built in speaker. Most other consoles were still far behind playing catch up with Black & White displays, flimsy controllers and some even without sound.


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Atari Super Pong Ten Screenshots
Atari Super Pong Ten
Released December 1976
The Atari Super Pong 10 added 6 new variations of games, plus the ability for up to 4 players to participate in the games. Atari would introduce something entirely new for their home console line. The addition of hand held external Paddle controllers. Video game players were no longer bound to sit up close to the console, bumping elbows with their fellow gamers. Now two additional players could sit with some comfortable space between them and play the various Pong games.

The Paddle controllers would introduce a shape and a trend that would follow into many other generations of controllers throughout Atari's designs. Their wedged shape design would influence Atari controller design for consoles such as the unreleased Atari 2700 remote control joysticks, the Atari 5200 joysticks and the Atari 7800 ProSystem joysticks. All of the controllers having the same basic wedged shaped design.


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Atari Game Brain Screenshots
Atari Game Brain
Released January 1977
The Atari Game Brain was an unreleased dedicated video game console by Atari. Intended to be released in 1977, it would only have played 10 different games. All of the planned games would have been ports of games from all of Atari's previously released dedicated consoles, such as Pong, Stunt Cycle, & Video Pinball. Its controllers were built onto the system, and included 4 directional buttons, a paddle, and a fire button. Games would be inserted in the top of the system by opening a door, and the door had a small instructions booklet on top of it.

The system was never supposed to be a huge seller for Atari. Instead, the system was just their way of clearing out their CPUs from their unsold dedicated consoles. Unfortunately by the time the Game Brain was finished, dedicated consoles were becoming obsolete against consoles with programmable ROMs, such as the already released Fairchild Channel F, the RCA Studio 2, and Atari's own 2600. Noting this, Atari cancelled the Game Brain. Today, only 3 Game Brain consoles are known to exist, as well as 5 prototype cartridges.


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Atari Video Pinball Screenshots
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Atari Video Pinball
Released February 1977
In 1977, Video Pinball appeared as another Atari coin-op to stand-alone home console translation by bringing the game Breakout to home players. Offered first in the late 1970's Atari "first edition release" standard wood grain (also to be used on the Atari 2600) and then a second edition white molded plastic model. Bumper controllers on the sides or a dial on the front were used to control the games depending on the game selected. There were three game types - Pinball, Basketball, and Breakout.

Interestingly enough, Atari did follow up with an actual Video Pinball coin-op, two years after the release of their home console. It was a unique hybrid between video game and pinball technology that still has not been duplicated to this day. While some before and after tried using the video game part as a game within the game or simply to display unique animations (such as Baby Pacman, or the more recent Star Wars pinball hologram effect model), this was the first to actually use both technologies as an integral part of the game play.


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Atari Stunt Cycle Screenshots
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Atari Stunt Cycle
Released March 1977
All the thrills and chills of real stunt motorcycle riding right in your home living room, so much fun Evil Knievel must have had one! (Well... maybe). Stunt Cycle originally was an Atari arcade coin-op, then made into a stand-alone console shown here.

The original coin-op had been released in 1975 to take advantage of the then popular motorcycle stunt man Evel Knievel. Originally a motorcycle salesman who began doing stunts to draw attention to his store, by the early 70's he was a household name. Atari's coin-op attempted to capture the feel and fun of the stunt jumping Evel Knievel was famous for, and was a mild success.

Stunt Cycle gave the player a first person feel of riding a motorcycle, even though the image on the screen wasn't first person. You could jump cars and buses, if you played with the controls just right you could jump right off the screen, lots of fun!


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Atari Video Pinball Model 2 Screenshots
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Atari Video Pinball Model 2
Released April 1977
This is the later (beige) version of the Atari Video Pinball game console. It basically played the same games as the earlier (wood grain) version. The Pinball and Basketball games in this version were slightly updated.

Atari eventually released their Video Pinball as a cartridge game for their 2600 VCS system.


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Atari 2600 (VCS) Screenshots
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Atari 2600 (VCS)
Released October 01, 1977 for $199.00
The Atari 2600, released in 1977, is the first successful video game console to use plug-in cartridges instead of having one or more games built in. It was originally known as the Atari VCS, for Video Computer System, and the name "Atari 2600" (taken from the unit's Atari part number, CX2600) was first used in 1982, after the release of the more advanced Atari 5200.

The initial price was $199 with a library of 9 titles. In a play to compete directly with the Channel F, Atari named the machine the Video Computer System (or VCS for short), as the Channel F was at that point known as the VES, for Video Entertainment System. When Fairchild learned of Atari's naming they quickly changed the name of their system to become the Channel F.

Atari expanded the 2600 family with two other compatible consoles. The Atari 2700, a wireless version of the console was never released due to design flaws. The Sleek Atari 2800 released to the Japanese market in 1983 suffered from competition from the newly-released Nintendo Famicom.


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Atari 400 Screenshots
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Atari 400
Released October 1979
The Atari 400 was announced in December 1978, but didn't actually start shipping until late in 1979. Designed primarily as a computer for children, the Atari 400 has an "advanced child-proof design featuring pressure-sensitive, wipe-clean keyboard". It featured a single cartridge port under the front cover.

The Atari 400 boots-up into "Notepad", the only built-in program. Any other programs will have to run from cassette or cartridge - this includes BASIC, or any other programming language. Game cartridges can be inserted into the cartridge slot in front, starting instantly with no fuss. Many games were versions of actual video arcade hits, others were original or copies of other popular (or not) computer games of the 80's.


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Atari 2600 (Vader) Screenshots
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Atari 2600 (Vader)
Released August 1982
In 1982, a new version of the Atari 2600 console was released without woodgrain. They were nicknamed "Darth Vader" consoles due to their all-black appearance. These were also the first consoles to be officially called "Atari 2600", as the Atari 5200 was released the same year.

Also in 1982, Atari released E.T., a licensed game of the incredibly popular Spielberg film. The game cost around $125 million to develop, largely due to the licensing costs of the game. The game designer was Howard Scott Warshaw, who had received nothing but praise and adulation for his game Raiders of the Lost Ark.


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Atari 5200 Screenshots
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Atari 5200
Released November 1982
The Atari 5200 is a video game console introduced in 1982 by Atari. It was created to compete with the Mattel Intellivision, but it also competed with the Colecovision shortly after the 5200's release. In some ways, it was both technologically superior and more cost efficient than any console available at that time.

The Atari 5200 was in essence an Atari 400 computer without a keyboard. This made for a powerful, proven design which Atari could quickly bring to market. The system featured many innovations like the first automatic TV switch box, allowing it to automatically switch from regular TV viewing to the game system signal when the system was activated.

The initial release of the system featured four controller ports, where all other systems of the day had only two ports. The system also featured a revolutionary new controller with an analog joystick, numeric keypad, two fire buttons on both sides of the controller and game function keys for Start, Pause, and Reset.


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Atari 7800 Screenshots
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Atari 7800
Released January 1986
The Atari 7800 was Atari's chance at redemption in the video game market. Atari Inc. spent a good part of 1983 interviewing thousands of people on what they wanted and didn't want in a video game console. Atari Inc. through Warner Communications, then worked with General Computer Corporation who earlier had lost a lawsuit with Atari regarding a "Speed-up" board for Atari's Missile Command.

The all new graphics chip called MARIA (Also the code name of the 7800 Project) with almost 100 independent sprites, better color palette on screen, and other powerful features would not only allow game designers the ability to code new and exciting games, but the chip also allowed an original Atari TIA processor to co-exist side by side with MARIA so that the new console could also play all of the original Atari 2600 games as well.

The Atari 7800 was designed to be flexible and expandable and even had an expansion port for future peripherals to tap into the system bus and video circuitry.


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Atari 2600 Junior Screenshots
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Atari 2600 Junior
Released March 01, 1986 for $49.99
In 1986 the Atari 2600 was re-released as the 2600 Junior. They retailed for $49.99 and came with a controller, RF switch and power cord but were absent of a pack in cartridge. They were made to match the 5200 and 7800 of the same time and some of the Juniors actually sported a JR stamp on them.

The switches are the same as the CX 2600 A except that they are now sliding buttons rather than switches. The switches on the top of the unit were On/Off, Black and White/Color, Game Select, and Rest. Game Difficulty could be switched on the back. The system was much smaller and could conserve space much better than it's predecessor. The RF lead was not attached to this system.

Competition in the video game industry was at an all time high, the Atari 2600 Junior would be a simple low cost Atari 2600 packaged into a small "lunch-box" carton with appeal to younger gamers.


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Atari XE Game System Screenshots
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Atari XE Game System
Released October 01, 1987 for $199.00
It was the 1980's, and the Atari 7800 release fails to attract attention in a market dominated by the Nintendo N.E.S. So the folks at Atari came to a decision to market another system. Oddly enough it was a step back in time.

Atari introduced the XE Game System in 1987. The XEGS was merely a console remake of their 8-bit Atari 65XE computer. For $199 you got the console, a standard joystick, a light gun, and a pack in game called Bug Hunt (light gun game).

The marketing strategy was to take advantage of the back stock of Atari computer cartridges (10 years worth). Some Atari 5200 games were also remade since the architecture was quite similar.

Even though it looks like a console, the XEGS is a true 8-bit Atari computer system. It offered the convenience of a detachable keyboard, compatibility with any standard Atari 8-bit computer peripherals, while offering 64K RAM. When no cartridge was inserted it would also start up with a built-in version of Missile Command.

Of course the XEGS could not compete with the likes of newer systems and Atari pulled it from production after a short time.


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Atari Jaguar Screenshots
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Atari Jaguar
Released November 1993
Competing with Sega and Nintendo's 16-bit consoles, the Jaguar was said to be 64-bit. Back then, bit width was a big deal in the gaming industry, just as polygon-pushing power is today. The Jaguar did not work off of a solitary 64-bit processor, but instead it had a collection of processors with bus widths ranging from 16 to 64 bits. The bit width of the Jaguar is still a source of considerable debate today, but consensus exists among those who are familiar with the system hardware that, because Jaguar's main data bus and some of the processors are 64-bit, the entire system can be considered 64 bit. It would otherwise be considered a 32-bit console.

Nonetheless, it was technically superior to the leading 16-bit consoles at the time. Unfortunately, this last ditch effort by Atari to find room in the console market failed. A relatively small number of games were developed for the system, but Atari pulled the plug altogether in 1996.


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Atari Jaguar CD Screenshots
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Atari Jaguar CD
Released March 1995
Late in it's life span, Atari released this long-promised CD-ROM unit. The device sat atop the Jaguar console, plugging into the cartridge slot, the physical design of the system sometimes compared to a toilet. The drive had its own cartridge slot to allow cartridge games to be played without removing the CD drive. There was a separate "Memory Track" cartridge for storing saved game position and high scores.

The Jaguar CD unit featured a double speed (2x) drive and built-in VLM (Virtual Light Machine) software. The VLM, which provided a sophisticated video light show when an audio CD was played in the machine, was as popular among buyers as the games themselves. Packaged with the drive were two games (Blue Lightning and Vid Grid), a music CD (Tempest 2000 soundtrack), and a Myst demo disc.

The drive was manufactured for Atari by Phillips in the United States. The initial shipment was 20,000 units. With the JT Storage reverse takeover looming just a few months away, it is possible that those 20,000 drives were the only units ever produced.


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Atari Flashback Screenshots
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Atari Flashback
Released October 2004
The Atari Flashback was released in 2004. The console resembled an Atari 7800 in appearance, and came with a pair of controllers which resembled those of the Atari 5200 but were slightly smaller. The system had twenty games built-in, all originally developed by Warner Communication's Atari Inc. and Atari Corp. for the 2600 and 7800 game systems. The games which originally required analog paddle controllers were made to work with the included joysticks.

It was designed by Atari veteran Curt Vendel, whose company Legacy Engineering Group designs other home video game and video arcade products. Atari Inc. gave Legacy Engineering ten weeks to design the product, produce its games, and ready it for the 2004 Winter holiday season. The Atari Flashback was based on "NES-on-a-chip" hardware, not resembling either of the Atari systems which the Flashback was supposed to represent. As a result, the games it contained were ports and differed in varying degrees from the original games, and therefore the Flashback was unpopular with some purists.


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Atari Flashback 2 Screenshots
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Atari Flashback 2
Released April 2005
The Atari Flashback 2, the successor to the original Atari Flashback console, was released in 2005. It has forty Atari 2600 games built-in. A few of the included games are homebrews which were created by enthusiasts in recent years, and two of the games (Pitfall! and River Raid) were originally published by Activision.

The appearance of the Atari Flashback 2 is reminiscent of the original Atari 2600 console from 1977. It is roughly two-thirds the size of the original, and much lighter in weight. The Flashback 2 console has five buttons (power, reset, left and right difficulty toggles, and select); on the back it has a color/black-and-white slider switch and two ports for the included joysticks. The joysticks bear very close similarity to the original Atari 2600 joysticks from 1977, and are compatible and interchangeable with them. The Flashback 2 does not come with paddle controllers, but original paddle controllers can be connected to it and used with its paddle-based games.

The console also includes two hidden titles which require the use of paddle controllers. The Flashback 2 does not come with paddle controllers, so these games cannot be played unless the user has an original set of Atari 2600 paddle controllers. To access the hidden paddle game menu, the user must press up on the joystick 1 time, pull down 9 times, push up 7 times, and pull down 2 times (this represents the year 1972, in which Pong first appeared). The code must be entered steadily and without pauses (enter it too quickly and it won't work).


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Atari Flashback 3 Screenshots
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Atari Flashback 3
Released September 01, 2011 for $39.99
In 2011 Atari licensed out Legacy Engineering's Flashback concept and name to AtGames for the "Flashback 3". The Flashback 3 includes 60 built-in Atari 2600 games, 2 joysticks, and a case design that is similar to the Flashback 2/2+ design, except for front-based joystick ports, no B/W switch, and a different curvature. Internally the Flashback 3 system uses emulation running on an ARM-based processor instead of Legacy's "2600-on-a-chip" and is not hackable to add a cartridge port for reading original Atari 2600 cartridges. Original 2600 joysticks and paddles will also work on this system however.

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