Atari Videogame consoles (as opposed to Atari's earlier standalone single function consoles) got their start in 1977 with the introduction of Atari's VCS (Video Computer System). The VCS was originally ready to ship in 1976, however due to a legal clause in an earlier settlement between Atari and Magnavox over the release of PONG in 1972, Magnavox would own the rights to anything Atari produced for 1 year, so Atari delayed the VCS release so that Magnavox would not own the rights to it.
The Atari VCS was originally conceived in Grass Valley, California. The second iteration was done in Sunnyvale, CA. The Atari Video Computer System was initially going to be a new multipurpose console chassis with a single multi-programmable motherboard which would have its games installed internally into a ROM slot.
design was quickly dropped in favour of selling the same concept except making
the ROM slot external and selling the various games in cartridge form that
consumers would buy and plug into the console. Originally only 10 games were to
be designed for the console since it was designed to play games such as Pong,
Tank, Outlaw and various other simple challenge games. However designers had
unknowingly created a console who's hidden potential was quickly discovered by
programmers who created games far outperforming what the console was original
conceived to do. Then came Space Invaders for the Atari VCS, the first licensed
arcade title. The VCS took off and no one could stop is popularity and success.
new Super Game console chip set was now turned over to Atari's brand new Home
Computer Division and became the Atari 8 bit chip set. It would not be until
1982 that Atari's vision of a Super Game console would become a reality.
Basically, Atari took the 8 bit chip set and built an all new Super Game System
around it. Originally code named PAM, Atari's new Super Game System would almost
be called P.A.M. for Personal Arcade Machine, however Atari settled on its model
number: 5200. So it was born, the Atari 5200: Super System.
The console would have lots of expandability and several peripherals would be made available at launch. Peripherals included a dual joystick holder for games like Robotron 2084, Battlezone and so forth. A high Score Cartridge that could keep high scores for up to 65 different games. A computer CPU add-on module and a computer keyboard to turn the system into a beginners computer system that would be able to use existing Atari Home Computer Systems peripherals like disk drives and printers (software would not be compatible with the home computers.) For its bruised and battered Atari 5200 owners, Atari planned an expansion module called SLAM-PAM which was an Atari 7800/2600 compatibility module so Atari 5200 owners could use all of the existing 2600 software, plus all of the new Atari 7800 software.
console was ready, the first 5,000 units were on their way from the EL Paso, TX
manufacturing plant. Pre-release reviews were ecstatic, the console would
certainly be a success... Then it happened, on July 2, 1984 Atari was sold and
the Atari 7800 and its unannounced low cost brother the Atari 2600jr. were
shelved until 1986 when they were finally sold to a gaming public that had
nearly forgotten about Atari and was more interested in the new systems from
Nintendo and Sega.
Atari Lynx, far superior to all the other portable game systems with its slew of
add-ons like portable battery pack, carrying cases, sun visors, Lynx cables for
multi-user game play and its fairly healthy line of games just couldn't fare as
well as the other game consoles, but continued strong for quite sometime. In
fact today Songbird Productions has been releasing brand new software titles for
With a few shining stars such as Tempest 2000 and Alien vs. Predator the oncoming threat of the Nintendo 64 and the Sony Playstation quickly put an end to the Jaguar and to Atari's consumer electronics division as Atari folded into a reverse merger in 1996 with JTS a now defunct hard disk maker. The Jaguar console was heavily modified and installed into Atari Games Corporation Area 51 arcade video coin-ops and called the Co-Jag. Atari Games Corporation was a separate Atari company that split off from the Atari consumer division/computer division in 1984.
Atari Jaguar and the Atari Co-Jag were the last of Atari's video gaming
consoles. Today Atari Corp is owned by Hasbro and is called Atari Interactive.
They design and sell Atari classic gaming titles for PC's and other gaming
platforms. Atari Games Corporation is owned by Midway/Williams and has now been
absorbed into Midway and lost its own identity and exists no more.