In 1991 the Atari Panther was
going to be the first new Atari console since the launch of the 7800 by
Atari Inc. in May of 1984. Although Atari Corp. had re-launched the 7800
in 1986 along with the redesigned Atari 2600 (internally called the
Atari 2100), the company had done only a small amount to reinvigorate its games division,
with the majority of its R&D spending being devoted to it's computer
business. To increase software in its 8-Bit XE line, in 1987 Atari
did introduce the Atari XEGS. GS being for Game System. It
was essentially a repackaged Atari 65XE but with pastel buttons on top
and a first for the 8-Bit Atari computer line - a Detachable Keyboard.
With the keyboard attached the XEGS would boot into BASIC, without it,
it would boot into Missile Command. It was a nice shot in
the arm for the 8-Bits but it was nothing ground breaking in the Video
Games realm. Atari would later acquire the "Handy" from EPYX and
would rename it the Lynx. That little powerhouse handheld,
designed by some of the former Amiga engineers was a remarkably powerful
handheld, but Nintendo would again win the day with a horrid little B&W
LCD handheld with a killer app game - Tetris.
By 1990 however, Atari were already making moves to
begin a new assault within the console games market, which was growing
faster than ever before with Sega and Nintendo ramping up their
Atari, seeing the growth of Nintendo
and Sega, began in earnest to design a new video game console.
to the Panther decision, Atari was looking at an ST based video
game console, but by this time, such a console would technically have
not been competitive with the newer
consoles now dominating the market.
designed a new 32-Bit chip running at 32Mhz which was capable of showing
7,860 colors on the screen at 320 x 200 pixels. It also allowed
zoom scaling which was similar to Nintendo's famous "Mode 7" on it's
Super Nintendo system.
The Panther would have
competed directly with the Sega Megadrive (Genesis) and the Super
Nintendo - it would have been much later to market than those systems,
but Atari felt it could still compete with its proposed superior hardware
specification, which on paper was at least 2 or 3 times more powerful
than the current Sega and Nintendo systems. Panther was very close to
actually going into production, but was shelved at the last minute as a
parallel project which Flare Technologies/Konnix had shown Atari which promised much more
power - that project gave birth to the Atari Jaguar nearly 2 years
For many years it was thought
the unusual prototype "Mirai" might have been one of the proposed
designs for the Panther, although it's pastel shaded buttons were from
the 1987/88 period, which more resemble the design of the Atari XE games
console. Now, over 10 years later, the Atari Historical Society
(www.atarimuseum.com) has found the actual drawings for the casing of the Panther.