* * *
It didn't have 3D graphics. Games didn't last more than a couple hours. There was no multiplayer (unless you count playing with your brother).
All the Atari 2600 really had was a joystick and two buttons, but it meant you could play games such as “Pitfall,” “Pac-Man” and “Asteroids” at home.
The Atari — the first widely adopted game machine that allowed players to switch out games — celebrated its 35th birthday last week.
Later Atari models, the Nintendo Entertainment System and countless other consoles followed. Today, video games are a $10-billion-a-year industry.
Millions of the consoles were sold, and many, many Omahans had them. Our readers let us know about their Ataris and their favorite games.
“I still have one! I actually have a 2600 as well as a 5200. I'll be hooking the Atari back up in the corner of my new (recording) studio... It's a little bit of fun nostalgia for everyone, but it's also great because it's simple and a lot of games can be wrapped up in anywhere from five to 20 minutes, keeping down the convolution of today's gaming systems.”
— Jeremy Garrett of Omaha
“The first game I ever got was 'Space Invaders.' That was my favorite game early on and, to this day, my dad tells me how good I was at that game. I remember playing 'Football' with my dad a lot. Really fun game — only a three-man line on both teams with a QB and two receivers. You would have to curve the ball through the line to get it to your receiver.”
— David Backhaus of Omaha
“It was the first gift I remember having. I think I was 5 at the time. I remember my mom taking mercy on me and she called school to say I was sick the day after 'Pac-Man' was released. Unfortunately, the game was so bad that I got bored with it during the first 10 minutes of game play.”
— Sean McCarthy of Omaha
“I'm relatively sure I still have mine and all my games: 'Combat,' 'Moon Patrol,' 'E.T.' (worst game ever), 'Tron: Deadly Discs,' 'Journey Escape' and, of course, 'Pac-Man.'”
— Karl Houfek of Omaha
“My grandmother had one. All I remember was it had four 'different' games, which were all pretty much just re-skins of 'Pong.'”
— Keith Reagan of Omaha
“Me and my best friend went through all the Atari consoles, Intellivision, Nintendo, but this was always a favorite. I was 10 when it came out.”
— Wayne Brekke of Omaha
We asked readers on Twitter and Facebook about their favorite Atari games. The top five:
3. “Adventure,” “Pac-Man” and “Space Invaders” (tied)
Other reader favorites: “Hockey,” “Frogger,” “Kaboom!,” “Defender,” “Yars' Revenge,” “Crackpots,” “Moon Patrol,” “Tron: Deadly Discs,” “Pong,” “Journey Escape,” “River Raid,” “Keystone Kapers,” “Megamania.”
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ATARI 2600
1975 — Atari releases “Home Pong,” a home version of the popular game.
1976 — The first console with interchangeable games, Channel F, is released.
1977 — Atari releases the Atari VCS (also known as the 2600) with an initial crop of nine games.
1980 — “Space Invaders” is released for Atari and helps the console kill the competition.
1982 — Atari releases “Pac-Man” and “E.T.,” which are both critical flops. “E.T.” is widely considered one of the worst games of all time and one of the biggest commercial failures in the history of video games. Thousands if not millions of copies of the game were supposedly buried in a New Mexico landfill.
1983 — The video game industry crashed. Revenues went from $3.2 billion in 1982 to $100 million in 1985. Atari 2600 consoles were still plentiful and inexpensive and continued to sell well.
1985 — The Nintendo Entertainment System is released in North America and revitalizes the video game industry. Atari sells more than 1 million 2600 consoles.
1989 — Atari ceases production of 2600 games.
2011 — Atari releases an iPhone app with 100 of its classic games.