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Antique Electric Dreams - The Atari Times

Antique Electric Dreams

Almost 30 years old, the 2600 is now an antique
by Jess LaFleur

December 28, 2005
With hardware reaching 30 years old the Atari VCS is the most important console ever released. Finally bringing computer technology into the homes of millions, Atari created an industry only to lose it six years later. And while the console saw official software releases all the way to the early 1990's, the machine continues to be supported by the fan and hobbyist communities in both software and hardware fronts. The majority of this group were the children who received a brand new Atari as a child or teen during the late 1970's early 1980's and have wonderful nostalgic memories of the machine.

By by the late 1990's just before the retroputing pop culture boom, there were already fans of the once console monarch who were much too young to have experienced the joys of the system in its heyday. One of these people is the writer of this very article. And so if not the nostalgia factor, there exists other reasons for its following.

The system compared to today's consoles is clunky, slow, simple and frankly an electronic antique. And so for those who are fans of cutting edge technology, without nostalgia there is nothing obviously alluring to the mind. And so you are presented with the charms of yesteryear that cause appeal to the mindful individuals too few in years.

Beginning with the humble controller. The classic one button, eight direction digital joystick design offers simplistic control and arcade feel, the alternative is the paddle controller, again a one button device, analogue control is brought to the users hands with a large knobbed potentiometer, allowing precise control at your fingertips. The singular button interface does not allow for highly complex control schemes but this was worked around with the use of two controllers, or simple keypad controllers. Thus, games are all simple to learn and do not require tutorials to get the basic hang of use.

The medium used by the 2600 is the ROM cartridge, a silicon chip encased in a PCB and plastic housing. Its basic shape allows the cartridge manufacturer in this case Atari, to feature classic artworks to inspire the imagination of the user. The pure durability of the cartridge in its solid state form has great appeal to a society that has a growing community using optical media as the personal storage option of choice. With cartridges the fear of media destruction is low.

BMX AirmasterAtari's Video Computer System itself was based of the 6507 chip, a low cost 6502 reduction further limited by RAM and ROM costs of the late 1970's. While the machine upon release was very modern and practically bleeding edge, within a year or two, microprocessor technology began its great boom and the system had begun its journey of being technologically left behind. Placed in durable thick plastic the VCS is the most solid home console ever released.

Both the cartridge format and the system itself will have an unknown but highly projected life expectancy unlike their modern counterparts.

Double DragonThe software for the console is the most intriguing piece in the 2600 puzzle. From the early releases of Video Olympics, Night Driver, Adventure and the venerable pack-in Combat, to the late releases (laughably competing with the likes of the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System) like Solaris, BMX Airmaster, Double Dunk, and Secret Quest, each game was simple to operate and featured something new out of the console. The first games had the programmers exploring the VCS and the late games pushed it to obscene limits featuring all types of incredible tricks. The VCS inspires many for idea that the system was able to continue to produce games far beyond what it was originally designed for, much to Atari's economic benefit.

And with modern day releases using new and fascinating advances to push the 2600 even further the interest can only grow in its age.

Reader Comments for Antique Electric Dreams

atari 2600 jr. by Cardell Landis on 2008-04-21 23:48:39
to whom it may concern. Hello my name is Cardell Landis, i own and atari 2600 jr.with 52 games and two controller and the paddle with the game breakawawy IV. I want to no does my game have any value to it if so can some one contact me at telephone number 1--- ~ --- ~ ---- my email address is www.cl77@yahoo.com thank you! Cardell Landis.
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