My earliest days of gaming were much more basic and left more to the imagination than the new games of today. Some of the best Atari games are so basic in concept that they couldn't have been more perfect for a youngster at my age in the early 80s. My fondest memories started at my babysitter's house with my first introduction to the Atari home Pong machine.
The Atari Pong machine was the first home videogame I ever played. This is what started it all, and started my 20+ year hobby of playing videogames. I'll admit I sucked at Pong in the beginning but after a few days of fierce competition I was competing, and beating some of the older kids that had played the game for a much longer time. I was able to grasp the concept so quickly I had a hunger for more games.
Shortly after my summer before Kindergarten I met a new friend in my neighborhood who owned the now legendary Atari 2600. I was astounded that a stack of little black plastic boxes (cartridges) contained some of my favorite arcade games at the time. My favorite Atari 2600 games of that time were Phoenix, Warlords, Ms. Pac-man, Joust, Demon Attack, and Moon Patrol.
We would play Joust, Phoenix and Warlords all the time and the Atari 2600 was played on a regular basis over the course of my school year in 1987, and the summer thereafter. Now I know, I approached the 2600 late in the game. Luckily my family and all of my friends at the time didn't have an NES yet. The Atari 2600 got a good 2.5 years of my appreciation before Mario and Duck Hunt even entered my life, or my mind for that matter. My parents did a good job of concealing the NES from me until a few years after it's launch.
The 2600 was great but the real deal was Atari Arcade games. Some of my earliest favorites were Asteroids and Centipede. My dad worked at a restaurant that had these games and I would play them all the time. I could just barely reach the controls with an arcade step/booster.
Thankfully my dad was a fan of arcade games in the 80s. We normally visited our local Portland Oregon "Mt. Tabor Theatre Arcade" many times during my childhood. We would also go to "Chuck E. Cheese" that was owned and started by Nolan Bushnell in it's early years(He was Atari's Main man along with Ted Dabney in the beginning, and was the front man for Atari from 1972-1978).
There was something about the atmosphere at the old arcades that was magical. The sounds of the machines, Journey and REO Speedwagon blaring on the stereo, and just the sheer amount of games that were in arcades back then. It was a different time where a game that you played in the arcade may have been better than home game system translations. Nowadays Kids have the games with the best graphics at home right away. This has slowly made arcades obsolete in more recent years.
By the time I got the NES in 1989 I wasn't interested in the Atari home systems until years later. I didn't own a 2600 through all of those years but in the late 90s my interest was refueled. In 1998-99 I started playing an atari 2600 emulator that ran under DOS (PC Atari) and it sparked the nostalgia bug for me.
Now I own about 50 games again, 3 atari 2600 Systems, and an Atari 7800. Below are some pics of the more known atari 2600 system variations. There are a few revisions that were produced for each version pictured below. Visit atariage.com or atarihq.com for some great info on the old Atari systems and home computers from the 80s.
Common Atari 2600 System Variations
Well, break out that old Atari and have at it. It's a classic system that usually brings back great memories for anyone that grew up during the 70s or 80s. There are homebrew cartridge games being programmed for it to this day (check the atariage.com store if interested), and it has one of the strongest followings of any classic system.