A to Z Challenge: (A)tari

AtariSince I chose to base my challenge this year around video games, I thought it only fitting that I start off the month by talking about the first video game console I ever owned: the Atari.

Now, I’m going to be honest: the history of this console is a little complicated, to the point that I’m not even 100% certain which version of the system it was that I had. The original console, as created by Cyan Engineering to be able to play the then four arcade games made by Atari Inc, was called the Atari Video Computer System, or “VCS”. Later, when the Atari 5200 was released, the VCS was renamed to the Atari 2600. A lot of selling off of rights and fighting between companies occurred over the years, and eventually the Atari 800 and 400 were created as well. The 5200 itself was unsuccessful because of a lack of backwards compatibility with 2600 games, as well as a small number of its own games.

Now, it’s difficult to remember because I was so young when we had the Atari, but based on photos I’m pretty sure that what I had was the 2600 model. My first ever game console had only four buttons on the machine itself – Power, TV Type, Game Select, and Game Reset – plus a slot into which one would insert the game cartridge. The controller was nothing more than a joy stick and a single big, red button. To look at it now you might wonder how much fun you could possibly have with such a simplistic system, but when I was a kid it was one of the greatest things ever. One of my favorite games was Mouse Trap, which was basically Pac Man with a cat and four mice instead of Pac and the four ghosts. Then there was the ridiculous (but addictive) Plaque Attack, which was a Space Invaders clone in which you played a tube of toothpaste trying to protect a mouth full of teeth from approaching burgers, sodas, and sweets.

Look at it. Look at it and despair.
Look at it. Look at it and despair.

And of course there was always PitFall, the game where you fed your little 8-bit man to ponds of hungry alligators (*ahem* I was never very good at PitFall).

If I seem a bit nostalgic it’s because I remember the Atari very fondly as a wonderful part of my childhood. Unfortunately when I eventually upgraded to my first Nintendo console my mother gave away the Atari system and I never saw it again. As a bit of a video game hoarder, this remains the only system that was a part of my life that I don’t currently still own, and that makes me sad. Someday I will reunite with this system and my old games, and on that day I will inevitably rage-smash PitFall against the wall because nostalgia can only take you so far.

Are you old enough to have played the Atari 2600? If so, what was your favorite game? And on an unrelated note, do you now harbor a deep hatred of alligators? Please share!

Enjoying the A to Z Challenge? Why not check out some of these other participating blogs:

S.L. Hennessy @ Pensuasion
C. Lee McKenzie @ The Write Game
Joy Campbell @ The Character Depot
Susan Gourley @ Susan Says
John Holton @ The Sound of One Hand Typing
Lisa Buie-Collard, Author
Insecure Writer’s Support Group
Julie @ Empty Nest Insider
Writing Off The Edge
Warped Nerdiversity

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30 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: (A)tari

  1. You’ve set the bar high! You started off with the most nostalgic system. I loved space invaders and pitfall. Same as you, when we upgraded to Nintendo we gave away our Atari. I want it back.

    • lol Wow, that sounds amazing! I want to say I remember the Angry Video Game Nerd doing a video on that once, but he has so many videos that I’m not 100% sure. I’ll have to look it up!

    • Thanks for dropping in! Physical play was a big part of my childhood as well. It was a fine balance, really. In retrospect I don’t know how I managed to spend so much time playing outside while also spending so much time with my games. I think I must have mastered bending space and time as a kid. lol

      I’ll be sure to visit your blog as soon as I catch up on everyone else’s! ^_^

  2. We used to have an Atari system, and spent countless hours playing on it! My brother and I used to get up in the middle of the night and stuff blankets under the door so my parents wouldn’t know we were still playing! My favorite was Space Invaders, but we loved Pitfall and Donkey Kong, too…

  3. Ooh, interesting! I’ve never played the Atari, but my husband, who is more of a gamer than I am, might have at some point. He loves video game history, so I’ll let him know about your blog! Happy A-Zing!

    • Thanks for dropping in! Some of my posts will be about newer stuff, but there’s going to be a fair bit of “history” over the month as well, so maybe your husband will get a kick out of my posts! ^_^

  4. We had two Atari’s – the first was stolen in a break-in in the early 80s (in fact I think they broke in specifically for the game system). I got a second many years later, after the NES came out when the price dropped to peanuts.

    Loved PitFall, Dig Dug, Donkey Kong and Empire Strikes Back. You’re making me want to go back and play those again!

  5. Omigosh, you have triggered so many memories for me! I loved my Atari, and all of the women in my family had a game they could “turn over” (get the score so high it went back to zero); mom’s was Ms. Pacman, mine was MegaMania, and Grandma’s was Space Invaders. One of my best Christmas presents ever. We found my old console and games when we were cleaning out my Grandma’s house after she died, but alas it no longer worked. I was kind of heartbroken. A few years ago I found a PS2 game that featured all the retro Activision games, and both my daughter and I loved to play it. I may have to dig it out again this weekend. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  6. Funny that you mention it, I do hate alligators! There was this other game too where a wolf would come out and try to break your house and you had to keep adding bricks…. I think this is why I’m a cat person now haha.
    Solar Fox and Maze Craze were my favorites. Recently found an old school version of solar fox for android but it isn’t the same without a joystick.
    Great post!

  7. I got into consoles later in life, so no Atari for me… which means my friends always were (and still are) much better than me at platforming type games and things like that – the sort of thing you see on an Atari or a Nintendo!

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