The Atari 2600 was released in 1977, the year after the Faichild Channel-F.
It has the distinction of probably being the most popular home video game
system ever, with over 700 cartridges planned for release by various
companies at one time or another, though a good number of these never made it
to production. Atari itself planned nearly 250. Eventually there was
even a computer add-on available for it, dubbed the CompuMate and released
by Spectrovision. It added 16k ROM, 2k RAM and Basic to the 2600. It's
interesting to note that most of the popular game consoles of the period,
including the ColecoVision, Intellivision, and Bally/Astrocade, all
eventually had expansion options to turn them into simple computers. There
were even reports of a computer keyboard and cartridge BASIC being developed
for the Vectrex, though it was never released. The 2600 itself used the 6507
cpu running at 1.19mhz.
Including being released as the Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade, there were
a total of 9 different variations of the console released, including the 2600
jr. and the 2800, which was the 2600 released in Japan. The earliest version
had a casing which was black with woodgrain covering some of it and had six
silver switches, 3 on each side of the cartridge slot. Most of the other's
were variations on this, such as reducing the number of switches to four.
Atari was bought out by disk drive manufacturer JTS Corp. on July 30,
1996, and production of it's computers stopped. On February 23, 1998 JTS sold
it's Atari division to Hasbro Inc. for $5 million, forming Atari Interactive Inc.
Atari Games, the coin-op division which remained seperate from Atari Corp. and
was later known as Time-Warner Interactive, became a subsidiary of Midway Games Inc.
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