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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Despite being outdated, and not the most ergonomic joystick, the atari 2600 stick has become a symbol of early video games and is often used to brand retro game merchandise.

By Atari CPU MOS 6507 @1.19MHz Memory 128 Bytes RAM Sound 1 channel Sprites Atari Player Missile Graphics (PMG) Display 160x192 128 color (4 color per scanline) Display Chip TIA Sound Chip TIA CPU Class ALL Developed by Atari
Related Systems
Atari Game Systems
Atari Handhelds
Atari Game Systems
Atari  2600 VCS
Books & Publications
Programming and other books for the 8-bit Atari line (400/800/XL/XE) of computers.
Books for the Atari ST computers
Magazines & Serials
A.N.A.L.O.G. Atari Newsletter And Lots Of Games
Antic Software and merchandise Catalog, later rebranded to just The Catalog
Antic was a magazine devoted to the Atari 8-bit family of home computers and the 16-bit Atari ST.
Manuals & Catalogs
A collection of technical and service manuals for the Atari 5200 game system.
Software Catalogs for the Atari computers
Software & Game Manuals
A collection of Game Manuals for the Atari 5200 game system.
World Wide Web Links
Play some of your favorite Atari 2600 games for free online!
Active group that creates HomeBrew Atari Games that push the old Atari 2600 to the max!
WikiPedia list of Atari 2600 Games
A library of classic Atari 2600 games, all playable online.