Atari VCS
Atari 2600
Released:October 1977
Price:US $199.95
CPU:MOS 6507 @ 1.19 MHz
RAM:internal 128 bytes
Display:192 x 160 with 16 (out of 128) colors
Ports:1 cartridge slot
2 controller ports

Not considered an actual computer per se, but the Atari VCS is the first successful microprocessor-based hardware gaming system, with interchangeable cartridges containing the game code.

The success of the early Pong games created a demand for more and better video games to be played at home.
After $100 million in design and development, Atari released their new Video Computer System (VCS) in October of 1977.
The VCS was also available from Sears, as the Sears Video Arcade - internally identical to the Atari version, with minor external cosmetic changes to differentiate it.
Overall sales were slow at first, with less than 500,000 units sold in the first year. Sales eventually skyrocketed to over 8 million units per year in 1982, five years after being introduced.

The once-popular coin-operated video arcade uprights were eventually compressed into palm-sized cartridges that were compatible with the Atari budget-priced VCS units, and much to the delight of joystick-pushers everywhere, their favorite arcade games made the transition relatively intact.

Unfortunately, the limited capabilities of the VCS - it is over five years by this time - and developers rushing new games to the market, lead to many substandard games being dumped on the market.

The most well-known is the Atari release of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, based on the hit movie. Game-play was so bad, it is now considered by many as the worst video game of all time!

By 1983, many, if not most video game producers were going bankrupt due to supersaturation of the market with dozens of competing consoles and hundreds of mostly low-quality games.

At about this same time, Spectravideo released their CompuMate - a keyboard add-on expansion unit, allowing the VCS to be programmed in the popular BASIC computer language.

Internally, the VCS was very sparse, with only 4 integrated chips, not including the game chip which resides in the external cartridge.

This includes:
  • MOS 6507 CPU
  • Rockwell 6532 RIOT (RAM, I/O, timer)
  • custom Atari T.I.A. (Television Interface Adapter)
  • generic 4050 CMOS hex buffer

  • After the release of the new and improved Atari 5200 Supersystem game system, the Atari VCS was renamed as the Atari 2600.

    Screen captures from

    Related Links

  • Atari Age
  • Wikipedia
  • Atari Museum
  • David Ferguson's Atari 2600 VCS Legacy

  • Partial History of the Atari Computers

    • 196?: As an engineering student at the University of Utah, Nolan Bushnell liked to sneak into the computer labs late at night to play computer games on the university's $7 million mainframes.
    • 1972: Bushnell founded Atari with $250 of his own money and another $250 from business partner Ted Dabney. They then created and commercialized the world's first commercial video game, Pong. Bushnell was 27 years old.
    • 1976: Warner Communications buys Atari from Bushnell for $28 million.
    • 1977: Atari introduces the Atari Video Computer System (VCS), later renamed the Atari 2600
    • 1978: December - Atari announces the Atari 400 and Atari 800 personal computers.
    • 1979: October - Atari begins shipping the Atari 400 and Atari 800 personal computers.
    • 1979: December - Atari produces the first coin-operated Asteroids game machine.
    • 1981: May - Atari announces the 8KB Atari 400 is being discontinued.
    • 1982: January - Atari begins shipping all Atari 800 units with GTIA graphics chips, allowing three more graphics modes than previously.
    • 1982: December - Atari issues a US$55 rebate on the Atari 400, dropping its retail price to under US$200.
    • 1983: January - Atari introduces the 1200XL home computer.
    • 1983: May - Atari offers a US$100 rebate on the Atari 800, bringing its retail price to below US$400.
    • 1983: June - Atari introduces the Atari 600 XL.
    • 1983: June - Atari introduces the Atari 800 XL, with 64 KB RAM.
    • 1983: June - Atari introduces the Atari 1450 XL, with built-in 300 bps modem.
    • 1983: June - Atari introduces the Atari 1450 XLD, with built-in 300 bps modem and disk drive.
    • 1983: October - Atari begins shipping its XL computers.
    • 1983: - Atari cancels production of the Atari 1200XL, due to compatibility and other problems.
    • 1984: July - Jack Tramiel, President of Commodore International, leaves Commodore in January and buys Atari.
    • 1984: - Atari introduces the Atari 7800 ProSystem.
    • 1985: January - Atari introduces the 65XE, for US$120.
    • 1985: Atari introduces the 130XE, with 128KB RAM.
    • 1985: Atari introduces the 130ST for US$400.
    • 1985: Atari introduces the 520ST for US$600.
    • 1987: January - At the Winter CES, Atari announces a US$1500 laser printer.
    • 1988: September - Atari introduces the Atari TT.
    • 1989: - Atari Computer introduces the Portfolio, a 1-pound DOS-based PC, which runs on three AA batteries. Price: US$400
      Source: Chronology of Events in the History of Microcomputers

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