The Atari 2600 game console, that iconic device that allowed us to play such arcade favorites as Space Invaders and Asteroids in our own homes, turned 35 on October 14th. Along with the Commodore 64, this little machine helped define my youth in the 80’s.
The console was introduced in 1977, but we bought ours around 1981 in what was probably my family’s first case of “keeping up with the Jones’s.” When we got home from school, we fired up the Atari and played until it was time to do our homework. When we met up with our friends the only question was which house we were playing Atari in.
The 2600 came with the game Combat included in the box and our first game purchase was Space Invaders. If I remember correctly, by pressing the Game Reset button while turning the power on, you were able to play Space Invaders with rapid fire. Every other week or so my brother and I would go to our local department store’s video game section and browse for our next purchase. Many of the Atari game boxes and cartridges had incredible painted artwork that could have easily been the covers to science fiction paperbacks.
Looking back, the games we enjoyed the most were Missile Command, Asteroids, and my all time favorite Defender. But the one game I played more than any other was Pitfall. When I think back about the games we had at that time, I’m really puzzled why Pitfall took up more of our playing time than any other game considering it was much simpler in play and graphics.
To this day, I still prefer these older Atari games (and Commodore 64) to current video games. A couple of months back, Microsoft and Atari released online versions of eight classic Atari games. I couldn’t stop playing Asteroids the night I discovered this, and it made me want to break out the old 2600 again. I still have our original console and game cartridges, but unfortunately the controllers didn’t make it past the 80’s. One of these days I’ll have to buy a pair off of eBay and fire up the old machine for a game of Defender!