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When Did Atari Come Out? Flashing Back to the Past to Discover Its Roots

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Ataris are one of the original game stations. Recently, a friend asked us, "when did Atari come out?" Though we knew in a broad range, the question intrigued us so we did a flashback to discover the roots of Atari. If you, too, have been wondering, "when did Atari come out?" then read on to find out.

When Did Atari Come Out?

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image via: pixabay

So when did Atari come out? The original Atari home console, called the 2600, came out in October 1977. Pioneering in the home game console business kept Atari on the top of the industry for years to come with famous game titles such as Pong, Asteroids, and Pac-Man. The retro-revival led to an Atari rebirth announced in 2017.


With such a long-standing history from 1977 to 1993, what happened to this home entertainment giant? Our flashback into Atari history shares wins and losses and the stellar accomplishments only they have earned in the industry.

How Many Atari Consoles Have There Been?

atari console

image via: pixabay

When answering the question "when did Atari come out," the first follow-up question should be "which one?" Believe it or not, there have been several releases throughout the entertainment giant's reign. Some of these were in the video industry, but Atari also delved into the computer realm for a short time. Though none have ever come close to the original, a couple of the others have enjoyed a decent degree of success.

sears telegames atari 2600
  • sears telegames atari 2600 console

This original console seems to be what most people remember when they think of the name Atari. With the joystick controllers, wood-grained console, and games like Asteroids, Pong, and Pac-Man, millions of units took the world by storm. Without question, this was Atari's greatest success.


Aside from the financial success enjoyed by the company, the Atari 2600 created an industrial movement never matched since. The system housed the best graphics and sound to date and brought the concept of changing out games with cartridges to life. The 2600 holds the record for the longest running manufactured console after 15 years on the production line.

Atari technicians and programmers were mid-stream on their next release/upgrade to the 2600 when the home computer revolution took root and exploded. This led them to a quick regroup and redirect into the home computer world.

The 800 and 400 were both such units, one only smaller than the other. In 1980, the Atari home computer was released to moderate acceptance and success. However, Atari could never quite leave the video game image behind or compete in the rapid-paced computer world.

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Atari 5200 - Video Game Console (System)
  • Thr original Atari 5200 Video Game Console (System)

When the Atari 5200 came out as the second generation Atari game system in 1982, it very much undersold its predecessor. With a modernized cabinet, computer hardware, and an upgraded joystick, the 5200 had a short two-year run and only sold about a million units.

The early demise of the 5200 is believed to be due to the home PC revolution and its lack of adaptability in playing cartridges from Atari's previous model. With a few glitches in the joystick and lack of backward game mobility, the 5200 didn't have much of a chance.

Wondering when the Atari 7800 came out? Well, in 1986, the 7800 debuted with new technological backward mobility for most of Atari 2600 games. Despite the improved graphics and compatibility, the 7800 could not gain traction against their competitors Sego and the Nintendo ES system. With sales estimated at only 100,000 from 1986 to 1990, the Atari 7800 could never come back to the fame of the 2600. Atari's demise seemed imminent.

Wondering when the Atari 7800 came out? Well, in 1986, the 7800 debuted with new technological backward mobility for most of Atari 2600 games. Despite the improved graphics and compatibility, the 7800 could not gain traction against their competitors Sego and the Nintendo ES system. With sales estimated at only 100,000 from 1986 to 1990, the Atari 7800 could never come back to the fame of the 2600. Atari's demise seemed imminent.

Atari VCS

Announced in 2017 is what will be the first Atari sold in 20 years once it gets to market. Delayed because of a processor upgrade, this hybrid of game console and gaming PC is set to hit the market in late 2019. If all the hype and pre-sales are any indication of the Atari VCS success, children years from now will talk about this unit when asking "when did the Atari come out?" Pre-sales have exceed $3 million and counting. When the VCS hits the market later this year, we'll all be flashing back to the past as we soar into the future.

What's All the Hype about Nostalgia and the Atari VCS?

With the retro movement in clothing, gaming, decor, and more, Atari is set to benefit from society's trip down memory lane. Nostalgia is a strong driver of behavior and the combination of this with new technology has potential for huge success.

Game cartridges

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Atari Nostalgia


We've heard a lot of questions lately in chat rooms and forums about the nostalgia surrounding the Atari game system. Not only are people asking, "when did Atari come out?" but they are asking about the experience of playing it as well. Most likely, people are referencing the Atari 2600 which held worldwide domination for many years.

This was the gaming console that recreated a new industry and led to what now has become a commonplace occurrence (running someone off of a game system). Atari enjoyed many years at the top of the helm due to creating something that had not been done before.

For many years, the console was a part of children and family entertainment as well as the creator of memories. The original wood-grained cabinet is as much a part of Atari as the games themselves.

Atari VCS - Reality or Hyperbole?


When it comes to the 2019 Atari VCS release, there is much anticipation. From the first hint of a new Atari in June 2017, gamers have not been asking when did the Atari come out, but instead, when will the Atari be out? The initial images brought back memories to millions who spent their youth attached to a similar console and they are eager to get their hands on this one.

Atari has guarded all the details carefully. There are a few announced and/or expected details that gamers are excited for.

  • Ability to play classic games
  • Use of the Linux operating system
  • Affordability
  • Nostalgic add-ons

Atari Classic Games

With the name Atari on a game system, all gamers have certain expectations. Who wouldn't want to play the classics? Namely Pac-Man, Asteroids, and Pong amongst others.

Though no guarantee has been announced on which games will be included, this is one of the most desired features for the Atari game system. Besides, it would be a great touch to combine the nostalgia and modern gaming.


Using the Linux Operating System


When the new Atari comes out with the Linux operating system, there are immediate benefits to the end user. Using an open source operating system allows for improved security. However, the best benefit of using open source is that there are likely to be more games, more developers, and an overall better product. Using Linux has great potential to expand the life of the Atari VCS and, therefore, our ability to stroll down memory lane in the modern world of gaming. It's just a win-win situation!


How Affordable Will the Atari VCS Be?


Anytime new technology marries up with nostalgia there's the potential for price gouging and unaffordability. However, estimations put the new Atari VCS at under the $300 line, depending on what accessories and add-ons buyers select.

At this comparable price point, the VCS may bring Atari back into the market and make them a household name once again. After all, there are a lot of gamers out there who want to see what all the nostalgia is about and why parents are prone to swoon at the mention of the Atari name.


What Nostalgic Add-Ons Will Be Available?

Atari would not be Atari without the option of the classic joystick. Supposedly, the beloved joystick will be available in the wood grain so many of us came to love and expect. Of course, Atari isn't holding back from coming into the modern age. They will also have updated modern controllers as options and likely a cabinet as well.

The absolute best part of the nostalgic touch for the Atari VCS will surely be the games. We are assured the console will come with 100+ classic Atari games pre-loaded with potential for so much more. That means Centipede, Pong, Missile Command, Pac-Man, and more. One thing is for sure, there is a lot of nostalgia and new fun to be had when this new Atari hits the market.


So, When Did Atari Come Out and When Will It Again?


Beginning in 1977 and coming full circle back to 2019 is an impressive range for any game system or other electronic entity. Will 2019 be the year the pioneer is reborn? Only time will tell. But, we're sitting on pins and needles waiting to find out. The next time you hear some of your gaming buddies asking about when did Atari come out or talking about that old fogie, tell them "let's wait and see," because 2019 may be their best year yet.


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