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Atari 2600

The Atari 2600 (or Atari VCS before 1982) is a home video game console by Atari, Inc. Released on September 11, 1977, it is credited with popularizing the use of microprocessor-based hardware and ROM cartridges containing game code, a format first used with the Fairchild Channel F video game console in 1976. This format contrasts with the older model of having non-microprocessor dedicated hardware, which could only play the games that were physically built into the unit.

The console was originally sold as the Atari VCS, an abbreviation for Video Computer System. Following the release of the Atari 5200 in 1982, the VCS was renamed to the “Atari 2600”, after the unit’s Atari part number, CX2600. The 2600 was typically bundled with two joystick controllers, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and a game cartridge: initially Combat, and later Pac-Man.

ManufacturerAtari Inc.CPUMOS 6507 @ 1.19 MHz
Year Introduced1977RAM128 bytes (4KB ROM)
Introductory Price$199 StorageNone (ROM Cartridge only)

While not considered a “personal computer”, thanks to a third party manufacturer, Spectravideo, it was possible to write programs on a 2600 in BASIC, and even save and load programs from/to cassette tape.  The Spectravideo CompuMate provided a 2600 form factor cartridge with an attached keyboard which included jacks for audio tape connections.

Additional Resources

WikipediaAtari 2600
atarimuseum.comAtari 2600 "Video Computer System"
WikipediaSpectravideo CompuMate for Atari VCS
  1977  /  Atari  /  Last Updated May 25, 2017 by Curator  /