Atari 2600


The Atari 2600 (Known as Atari Video Computer System or Atari VCS until 1982) is the console that popularized video games at home thanks to the use of interchangeable ROM cartridges .


What is the Atari 2600?

The Atari 2600 is a video game console released in 1977 by Warner . Its interchangeable cartridge system and adaptation of arcade games made it the most popular system until the early eighties.

  • Story
  • Atari 2600 Features
  • Technical specifications
  • Connections and Ports
  • Atari 2600 Models
  • Cartridges
  • Accessories
  • Atari 2600 Featured Games
  • Curiosities


In 1976, Pong sales declined due to the rise of video game manufacturers and Pong clone consoles. Thus Atari began the development of its next console under the code name “Stella” but the lack of resources forced one of its developers, Nolan Bushnell , to sell the company to Warner with the promise that Stella would be concluded. The Atari VCS (Video Computer System) was the resulting product released in 1977.


Originally, the console was sold at a price of $ 200 and included two controllers and the Combat game . The Channel F (Formerly known as Video Entertainment system or VES ) of Fairchild was the direct competition since both had the interchangeable cartridge system both ended the console market Pong.

The real success of the console occurred in the year 1980 when they converted Space Invaders from an arcade game to a cartridge game. However, the company did not give enough recognition to video game creators, so some created their own developer company, Activision , the company that produced the most popular games for the Atari VCS.

In 1981, the console was renamed the Atari 2600 and featured the Missile Command . Later, it launched the video game that would be the best-selling in the history of the Atari, the Pac-Man . The release of ET the Extraterrestrial , a game developed in 6 weeks, caused a great disappointment. In addition, due to the launch of copies of the console due to lack of patents for the hardware, the company was sold in 1984 to Jack Tramiel , who ceased production of consoles to focus on the development of home computers.

Atari 2600 Features

  • It was the first console with interchangeable controls.
  • It sold 30 million units.
  • Wooden design on the front.
  • Switches for independent difficulty control for each player.

Technical specifications

  • CPU : Processor MOS 6507 of 1.19 MHz.
  • RAM : 128 bytes.
  • Screen resolution : 192 x 160
  • Colors : 128 (Maximum of 4 per line).

Connections and Ports

  • Input: 2 DE-9 ports for controls.
  • Output: RCA connector for audio and video.

Atari 2600 Models

  • CX2600 “Heavy Sixer” : the first model on the market, characterized by its radio frequency reflective aluminum casing and thick plastic (12 mm) in the lower half.
  • CX2600 “Light Sixer” : Launched in 1978, it differs from the previous version by a thinner plastic on the bottom and an angular design to reduce its weight.
  • CX2600-A : From 1980, it was the first of the “four switch” models , as the difficulty switches were moved to the rear.
  • Atari 2600 : The first console under the fame from 1982. The first console to not have the wooden front design. It was nicknamed the “Darth Vader”.
  • Atari 2600 Jr .: Released in 1986, after the decline of the Atari, it was a redesigned version of the low-cost ($ 50) Atari 2600.


The Atari 2600 ROM cartridges had a maximum of 4 Kb, although later they were expanded up to 32 Kb, contained all the information of the game and were manufactured separately in NTSC, PAL and SECAM versions. The games were not compatible with consoles from another region and were not encrypted, which allowed the development of games by third parties.


Most of the Atari 2600 accessories were variations of the classic joystick, specialized for certain types of games. Among them are the trackpads, which consist of a sphere that was rotated to choose the direction and pressed to execute the action, and the driving controllers , made up of a knob and ideal for racing games.

Atari 2600 Featured Games

Among the list of famous games for the Atari 2600 are:

  • Adventure : The first action adventure game, recognized for its easter egg , whose purpose was to recognize the authors of the games.
  • Space Invaders : The game that made the Atari 2600 famous. Conversion of the classic arcade game.
  • Pitfall! : The first Activision game. It was the second best-selling game in history.
  • Pac-Man : The best-selling game for the console. It got a bad name for being developed and released very quickly.
  • ET : Produced in 6 weeks after Atari bought the license for more than 20 million dollars. Its hasty development made it the worst game in console history and contributed to the downfall of the industry in 1983.


  • The original name, “Stella” , is the same name of the bicycle of one of its engineers.
  • While Channel F started the trend for ROM cartridges, it was Atari who popularized their use.

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