Category Archives: VCS

The box to find under the tree in 1977

The 40th Anniversary of the Atari VCS/2600

While not the first programmable home game system, the Atari Video Computer System (VCS), later renamed the 2600 after its model number, was definitely the console that put home video games into the public consciousness. Released in 1977 and bundled with the cartridge Combat , it had a rocky beginning, with production problems and lacklustre sales haunting its launch. Things got so bad that Atari co-founder and CEO Nolan Bushnell dramatically stood up during an Atari/Warner stockholder’s meeting and suggested that the 2600 have its price slashed and be discontinued by the company.  It remained in Atari’s catalog, but Bushnell was pushed out of Atari in 1978.

Image of the prototype for the Atari VCS/2600, 1977

First VCS prototype, assembled in 1975

With the home licensing of Taito/Midway’s arcade smash Space Invaders in 1980, the 2600 went on to become one of the most successful home video game consoles of all time. So wide was its installed base with users that two companies sprang up to become major third-party suppliers of games for the system. Both Activision and Imagic produced some great games, but only the former was able to survive the big video game crash of 1983 – 1984 by pivoting to the home computer market, eventually becoming one of the largest video game manufacturers and remaining so to this day.

The VCS/2600

VCS/2600

The 2600 itself fought off all comers, including game machines from Magnavox and Mattel, until the 1982 release of the ColecoVision usurped the throne with powerful arcade-like graphics. Still, the 2600 held on in budget form as the $50 2600 Jr., until eventually discontinued by Atari in 1991. The system is truly one for the history books.

For more information on the Atari VCS/2600, consult your local Dot Eaters Bitstory entry.

Alan Miller serves an ace

Activision Puts One Over the Net

Alan Miller was an early game designer for Atari and their 2600 (then called the VCS) console. One of his games for that platform was Basketball in 1978, featuring a trapezoid court that startled a lot of people with its illusion of depth. Miller pushed the then-known programming limits of the 2600, and subsequently went on to become one of the founding members of Activision, the first third-party publisher of 2600 games.

While at Activision, Miller would take the trapezoid court of Basketball and rotate it vertically for this game, 1981′s Tennis. When it came to making great sports games as real as they could be on Atari’s flagship video game console, Alan Miller had no reservations.

For more information on Alan Miller, Activision and the Atari 2600, consult your local Dot Eaters bitstory.

Tennis by Activision, for the Atari VCS 1981