Gamasutra - History of Gaming Platforms: Atari 2600 VCS
Gamasutra posts its latest article on the history of gaming platforms, focusing on the Atari 2600 Video Computer System:
Although not the first video game console and astonishingly primitive by today's standards, the Atari 2600 Video Computer System (VCS) became a fundamental part of Eighties culture and remains one of the most revered 8-bit gaming platforms ever designed. However, the explosive growth triggered by the 2600 led to The Great Videogame Crash of 1984, which toppled the industry and threatened the future of electronic gaming in America...
The first systems, known today as "heavy sixers," featured dense internal RF shielding (giving the system its weight) and six chrome selector switches for power on/off, color/black and white, player A difficulty, player B difficulty, select, and reset. The design featured sharp angles with black plastic and the famous wood-grain styling.
In 1978, Atari released a revised model with lighter RF shielding and a slightly streamlined case. The last VCS revision, released in 1980, moved two of the six switches to the top of the unit. In 1982, Atari released the Atari 5200 SuperSystem. To standardize the product line, the VCS officially became the Atari 2600 Video Computer System, or simply Atari 2600. This design was streamlined like the previous revision, but with an entirely black exterior...
Atari's success peaked in 1982, after which a glut of poor third-party game titles and bad licensing decisions caused heavy losses throughout the industry. Product dumping, with high volumes of poor-quality games sold at or below cost, caused full-priced, high-quality game sales to suffer.
In 2003, to take advantage of the well-known name, France's Infogrames Entertainment SA, itself a software development and publishing company dating from the 1980s, rebranded its global operations as "Atari." It acquired the rights to the name after purchasing Hasbro Interactive. This new entity established itself as a major software publisher for consoles, portables, and computers.