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Gamasutra - History of Gaming Platforms: Atari 8 Bit

by Magerette, 2008-08-01 18:26:59

Gamasutra continues their series profiling the history of gaming platforms with this look at the Atari 8-Bit computer, complete with Atari 's company history, game cartridges and photos that will take you back in time: 

When many thirty-something gamers in the U.S. hear the words "8-bit computer," they likely picture a Commodore 64 (C64) or an Apple II. The word "Atari" is forever associated with the arcade and the Atari VCS (aka 2600), the latter of which was covered in an earlier entry in this series.

However, Atari also released a smorgasbord of 8-bit personal computers, collectively known as the Atari 8-bit computer series...

Release Year: 1979
Resolution: 80 x 192
On-Screen Colors: 16
Sound: 4 Channels, Mono
Media Format(s): Cartridge, Cassette, 5.25" Floppy Disk
Main Memory: 48KB 

 Here's a snip on some of the software:

Games such as Datamost's 1983 platformer, Mr. Robot and His Robot Factory, made excellent use of the Atari 8-bit systems' color options. While the Atari 8-bit's colors are noticeably muted in comparison to other contemporary platforms and can be difficult to manipulate, in the hands of skilled programmers, the results could be impressive.

Unlike Apple, Atari was secretive about the inner workings of their systems. Often, no one would know something was even possible until Atari itself used the technique in a game or grudgingly divulged the information.

This "trade secret" approach sometimes left a quality gap between first-party and third-party games. Nevertheless, clever programmers eventually found ways around Atari's corporate policies to make impressive games of their own. 

Rampant piracy almost killed Lucasfilm's entry into the software market before it began, but a name change to LucasArts and dozens of games later, the company is still going strong. Titles such as the 1986 classics Rescue on Fractalus (pictured) and Ballblazer got the company off to a great start. 

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