Atari 2600 VCS - An Overview
The Atari 2600 was launched in 1977 as the Atari Video Computer System or Atari VCS. In 1982 the name was dropped in favor of just Atari 2600.
The console was a huge success, and an innovation of its time. It used a microprocessor and a cartridge slot to run different games that were burned into ROM chips on the cartridge. This format was first used by the Fairchild Channel F system in 1976.
When the Atari VCS launched, the ROM cartridges were 2KB in size, and the games were rather simple and low-resolution. The conversion of Taito's Space Invaders pushed the system to the masses. The VCS became hugely popular and lead to the founding of game developers like Activision and others. Later cartridges were using much more advanced graphics and used 8KByte ROMs.
Atari Heavy Sixer
The Atari heavy sixer is the earliest version of the Atari 2600 game console. It is more valuable to collectors than the later version of the system, as it is widely considered the original 2600.
The heavy sixer gets it's name from the fact that it has six pull-down style switches along the top of the unit, and a plastic case, that has a very thick edge. The case itself weighs more than 500 grams.
In later versions, first the case was re-designed to be lighter and cheaper, and after that the two difficulty switches (for left and right difficulty) were moved to the back of the unit, as most games did not utilize these.
Atari 2600 Joystick
The Atari 2600 came with a joystick that was especially designed for the unit. It is a four-directional joystick, with eight inferred directions. It was equipped with a single trigger button.
The joystick is digital and uses a 9-pin DIN sub miniature connector, that became standard on many home computers to come. Brands such as Commodore, Master System, Genesis and to some extent MSX, were compatible, and you could use the joystick on those systems as well.
Despite being outdated, and not the most ergonomic joystick, the atari 2600 stick has become a symbol of early video games and is often used to brand retro game merchandise.