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 increasing presence.

Atari, seeing the growth of Nintendo and Sega, began in earnest to design a new video game console.  Prior 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. 

Atari 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 later.

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 ( has found the actual drawings for the casing of the Panther.




The unit is much smaller than a stock Jaguar, and as you can see above, it has ports for 2 joysticks/controllers, 2 slide buttons possibly for reset, power etc, and the same sculpted "air duct" like lines on its side panels, which are also seen as the rear of the Jaguar.  The Cartridges would be manually inserted flat into the front of the Panther like a front-load VHS tape recorder (or for those who have used a NES, a similar approach).





On the back of the Panther there is what seems to be a built in TV connector/UHF box (with Hi/Lo switch for NTSC markets), 4 circular connectors on the right side, possibly audio left/right and video, and a curios "mini-din" like sized connector beside those.  To the left there is a removable panel which would possibly house an expansion connector.  On the right side, 2 further circular connectors or ports can be seen, again, it's possible these were for "other" peripherals or maybe a ComLynx system as detailed in the official specification sheet (see further down this page to read the specification in full).



As you can see from the overall Panther design, it is very similar to the Falcon Power Pad above (which would also be used as the Jaguar Controller).  We are pretty sure, although we have no proof at this point, that this controller would have been designed in conjunction with the Panther project.  The STE and Falcon used enhanced controller ports as did the Panther (and later, the Jaguar).




Netlists, PLA's and PAL's Panther HW Documents Flare II Production Schematics Development Schematics Dev Sources Dev Sources PC


:: Internal Atari Official Panther Cancellation Memo ::



Atari Panther Development System