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Video Games :: 2600 VCS

Atari didn't release the first home video system, which may come as a surprise to some of you reading this (1972 Odyssey) - but what Atari did achieve is mass-market appeal for the very first generation of home-video game systems.

With many companies experimenting with video-electronics in the early seventies, (Trivia: U.S. Army engineers accidentally realised that the blip on the radar screen could actually be manipulated and moved on their monochrome screens, spawning Pong perhaps?) it was inevitable with the success of Pong and other Arcade machines, that the electronics would be scaled down into a smaller more reliable system, perfect for the home consumer market.

In 1974, Atari had released it's first home systems, these were the many popular pong variations, Stunt Cycle etc.  The VCS (Video Computer System) was dreamed up at Atari's Grass Valley think tank facility, where engineers could work away from the bustle of Silicon Valley - With the introduction of microprocessors hitting the market at more affordable prices, it was engineers like Joe Decure, Harold Lee and Steve Meyer that were at the cutting edge of the Atari VCS design.

Atari wanted to produce the system and get "back in" to the home video market.   Pong-a-likes had saturated the U.S. market, and Atari was being left behind.   Atari had one small problem before they could perfect and market the new VCS - lack of money.  The VCS would require millions of dollars to produce, so Atari began looking for a serious investor.  Many large corporations talked to Atari, including Disney and Universal Studios, but there was another company which hadn't even been realised as a potential investor, and that was Warner Brothers.

Warner were also looking for a new "hot-product", and cash-rich Warner negotiated for 4 months and Nolan Bushnell made $28 Million, of which he personally pocketed $15 Million.

Warner invested over $100 million into Atari, a huge sum even by today's standards.  And by 1977 Atari's VCS had gone into full production with over 400,000 units.  Although Atari under Warner had little success from the launch of the VCS initially (which upset a number of board members at the time), Taitio of Japan came to the rescue with Space Invaders.  Before the Space Invaders craze, consumers weren't buying the Atari VCS in the numbers originally predicted - but that soon changed, when Atari bought the rights to produce the game for it's console.  By Christmas 1978, Atari were "rationing" the VCS to stores all over the United States - everybody wanted to play Space Invaders at home.  Soon, more and more Arcade "conversions" were programmed for the VCS, and Atari were on a roll.

Assemby line - 2600 VCS

The Atari 2600 was manufactured until 1991.


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