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Atari 7800: A Brief History

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Atari 7800: A Brief History


   Atari released a new generation of the video game consoles in 1986 after their last model, the Atari 5200, was met with less-than-great reviews.  Unlike earlier models, this was the first console from Atari Inc. which was designed by an outside company: General Computer Corporation.  They attempted to correct several of the marketing mistakes of the Atari 5200, such as not making the new console compatible with the previous console’s games and overpricing the unit. The 7800 was designed to be backward compatible with the Atari 2600, and was the first console to do so without additional modules.  Also, it was seen as highly affordable with a price of just $140 when released.

   At the time of its release, 13 game titles were announced: Ms. Pac-Man, Pale Position II, Centipede, Joust, Dig Dug, Desert Falcon, Robotron: 2084, Galaga, Zevious, Food Fight, Ballblazer, Rescue on Fractalus! and Track & Field.  Many of these titles were wildly popular and expanded on for years after the console’s release for other consoles as well, despite the humble reception of the 7800 system.  As time went on, eleven more titles would be developed by third party companies.

   Though the plan was to aggressively push the Atari 7800 in time for Christmas that year, the marketing budget of the Atari 7800 was severely limited at only $300,000.  Additionally, several key features of the original design were left out, including a high score cartridge and extra pieces, such as a keyboard and disk drive, that could have converted the product into a home compute.  By the end of 1986, only 100,000 units had been produced and sold, underperforming their competition of the Sega Master System at 125,000 and the Nintendo Entertainment System at 1.1 million.

   The console remained active in the market until 1992 when Atari Corp. announced production of the Atari 7800, the Atari 2600, the Atari 8-bit computer line and the Atari XE Game System would stop.  At this point in the market, Nintendo had control of 80% of the North American video game market with Atari only claiming 12%.  A common criticism of the Atari was the limited game titles and the long release periods for new games to come out.



ATARI 7800 - Model: CX-7800


   Original Release - This model includes two joysticks on the lower front panel and a side expansion port for add-ons.  It also comes with several bundled accessories such as two proline joysticks, an AC adapter, a switchbox, and RCA connecting cable and Pole Position II.


ATARI 7800 - Model: CX-7800


   Variation #1 - This version is has a revised motherboard which includes an added timing circuit.  In addition, an expansion port connector is removed from the motherboard. The Shell has an indentation of the previous expansion port spot.


ATARI 7800 - Model: CX7800


   Essentially the same as the previous model, but includes a blemish where the expansion port used to be on the shell.


  • Unit Lifetime:  1984 - 1992
  • Units Sold (Worldwide):  3.5+ Million
  • Games Released (Worldwide):  90+
  • Backwards Compatibility:  Atari 2600
  • Media Type:  Cartridge
  • Resolution:  160 x 240 or 320 x 240
  • Colors Available:  256
  • Colors on Screen:  25
  • Sound Output (All Models):  2 Channel
  • Power Requirements (All Models):   9 v - 1 amp
  • Best A/V Cables Available (All Models):  External Phono Cable w/Gold Plated "F" Jack to Phono Adapter

(If you see anything incorrect or that you want added, feel free to comment below and the posting will be edited to reflect the corrections.)

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