The true definition of the term, “classic gaming”.
This is where it all started for me with the Atari 2600 as this was the first home gaming console we ever owned, I’m pretty sure if you ask any old timey gamer their first gaming console that this would be the main one mentioned.
The Atari 2600 was originally released in 1977 and gave us our first taste of home gaming. First called the Atari VCS (Video Computer System) but adopted the Atari 2600 monicker after Atari released the 5200 in 1983. The 2600 would come bundled with 2 joysticks, 2 paddle controllers and a copy of Combat or later Pac-Man. Remember those days eh, when you got value for your money when you bought a console?
Combat along with eight other games were initially available at launch with over 525 “official” games released in total and even indie game developers still making games for the system now. It’s amazing the Atari 2600 is still “effectively” going (even if unofficially) after almost 40 years.
The 2600 went through several redesigns over the years from the original “wood finished” six switch to the later four switch model, a Sears exclusive rebranded version called Tele-Games 2600 which had a nice silver colour. There was even an all black “Darth Vader” model, plus a sleek Japanese version called the Atari 2800 and even a cost reduced Atari 2600 Jr.
It was such a great experience at the time to be able to play some of our favourite arcade games such as Space Invaders, Asteroids, Defender, Star Wars. Or even orignal and new games, and games that broke the mold when released like Raiders Of The Lost Ark
The Atari 2600 was the Nintendo Wii of it’s day and was very family friendly. I recall not only myself and my brothers playing on the system, but I also remember my Mom playing and loving Ms Pac-Man.
But while the console was family friendly, some of the games were not. With titles based on horror films like Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There was even a whole sub-genre of Atari porn games…yes Atari porn. These games would often be sold “behind the counter” in blank cases as to not offend and you’d have to ask specifically for them. As this was decades before the ratings board got into the games industry, there were no real rules to adhere to.
Speaking of pre-ratings, this was also before strict licencing laws we have today and if you wanted to, were able to and many people did. You could make your own Atari 2600 games and get them sold with relative ease. It was the birth of what we called “bedroom programmers” or what is now known as Indie game developers.
The Atari 2600 was a great piece of kit in it’s day and such a diverse and wonderful console pleasing the young and older generations in our family.
This console has a rightful place in gaming history and I urge any gamer to own one and play a few classics now and again.