Monday, October 22, 2007

Atari 2600 -- 1982


Home console video games have come a long way since I was a kid. My first experience with a home system was at a friend's house in 1982. He had a ColecoVision and he and I were allowed to watch his older play "Pong," a stick and square ball version of tennis. His brother wouldn't let us play because he was a big, bad, game-hogging 8th-grader! Some things never change! LOL

It wasn't long after that I got my own game system, the legendary Atari 2600. It was the ultimate in home video game systems, complete with 2 joysticks, reset button, B&W or Color settings and wood-grain trim for the classy touch!

What is interesting to me is that in 1982, an Atari 2600 cost $200 and came with 2 controllers and 1 game. The game was either Pac Man or Combat, depending on the release date of the system. Also, the best games in those days would set you back about $50.

Guess what? The PlayStations of today cost around the same and so do the games!

My favorite Atari game was Pitfall, which was made by Activision (Activision was a group of disgruntled programmers who saw value in selling aftermarket games that fit the Atari platform ... this practice is still done today and is the main reason graphics and gameplay are so much better; competition breeds creativity and quality kids!).

I also enjoyed Space Invaders, Yar's Revenge and Centipede. My Dad and I were fans of the Pro Baseball, which had built-in crowd cheers when you hit a homerun! In addition, you had 2 team choices: Red or Blue. We would have some pretty heated battles. One of my favorite quirks about the Atari baseball was when a ground ball was hit to the 3rd baseman. You'd think it would be best to throw the ball directly to first base for the out, but with the slow processors of the day, that was a fairly involved command, therefore slow, and the runner always beat the throw. It was much faster to throw the ball from the 3rd baseman, to the second baseman, and then to the first baseman. For you sports fans, that's ruled a 5/4/3 "single out."

You could also throw a "wicked" slow curve ball in that game, and a fairly decent, and quite literal "changeup," by starting the ball fast by pulling "down" and then just before the pitch got to the batter, you yanked the stick "up" to slow the pitch down. I got that one past ole' Dad a few times!
Some comparisons....
Interesting note #1. There were no memory cards in those days to "save" your game. The only way to completely beat a game (we called it "flipping" the game) was to beg your parents to leave the Atari on overnight until the next day when you could resume play. There was also no "pause" feature, so you'd have to find a place in the game, like Pitfall for example, where the character could be left standing/sitting/squating and not be in danger. Crazy huh?
Interesting note #2. Most of the games back then gave you 3 "lives" and that's it. There was no "finding health" like in today's games.
Interesting note #3. There were no "easy" or "hard" modes. The game was the game. We were real men back then I tell ya!
Interesting note #4. If a game wouldn't load, you blew warm air (breath) into the cartridge to get it to work --Same as with the more modern games for Gameboy! The lesson there must be that a little hot air can fix anything.
Interesting note #5. In 1982, if you couldn't get through a certain difficult section or level of the game; it was because something was wrong with the controller, not you! (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) In 2007, I play games with my kids, and have found that the controller is still at fault everytime I can't beat a level! LOL

What was your first game system and what was your favorite game(s)?

4 comments:

Bonds756 said...

The ATARI 2600, total old school 80's. You forgot to mention the classic game, ASTEROIDS!!! This game was sooooo "rad" with the little spaceship chippin away at the huge moving asteroids!!! Donkey Kong and Kung-Fu always kept me on the edge of my seat.

Bryan said...

It's crazy how far we have come. I remember a few games, asteriods, space invaders, a game with tanks. When NES game out I thought that was video game technolgy at it's best. Never thought it'd get better than that. Good Post.

David said...

Haha, the ATARI 2600 was the first game console I played in my childhood. It was fun and PacMan is always my favorate. I've also added a PacMac Widget on my facebook's wall :)

Thanks! Great article.

Joshua R said...

LOL Al, did you ever play Pitfall II for the 2600? It was awesome like the first one. Some other games I enjoyed were Frogger, Spiderman, Combat of course, Keystone Cops, Freeway, and E.T.!