Lexikon's History of Computing

ATARI Standalone Clones

Brief Historical Notes.


Atari Standalone Consoles

Atari got its start in the consumer electronics side of home entertainment with its release of Pong for the home. Originally Atari had planned to build 50,000 units, however Atari was approached by Sears and ended up making 150,000 for the Christmas 1975 season. People stood in line for nearly 2 hours in the cold to sign up to be on the waiting list for an Atari Home Pong.

Atari continued its foray into the home consumer electronics market with various versions of Pong, then bringing home other popular Atari coin-op games such as Video Pinball, Stunt Cycle and even a hand held version of its Touch Me coin-op. Atari delved into the unusual with its Video Music console which created pulsating patterns on the screen in sync with an owners home stereo system. Other products were created which were Sears exclusives such as Atari Tank which was sold as Sear Tank. The joysticks from the home version of Tank eventually became the standard joysticks which were packed in with the Atari 2600 VCS (Video Computer System. The Joystick was created by John Hyashi and Kevin McKinnsey and sold over 60 million worldwide.) Another Sears exclusive made by Atari was Sears Speedway.

To use up its large inventory of chips for consoles such as Super Pong, Video Music, Video Pinball and others, Atari created the Atari Game Brain console to allow all of these games to come on cartridge and be used on the console, this console never made it to market. Later on Atari looked into the hand held and table top market and created hand held Space Invaders and Super Breakout which were never sold. Also the boldest experiment in home tabletop electronic games was shown at the New York Toy Faire in 1981, the Atari Comos. A 3D holographic game system which was the first of its kind, the entire project was cancelled shortly after the show and never to be seen again. So far the Atari Historical Society has the only known fully assembled and fully functioning Cosmos tabletop game with all of the holographic games.


Atari originally considered an IBM compatible system in 1983 and began work on a project called the Atari 1650XLD, according to Joe Miller, one of the engineers who built the prototypes "it was a system which was to combine an Atari 6502 based computer with an Intel 80186 CPU chip and using special software written both in-house and by Microsoft would allow the system to work in 6502 mode or switch to MS-DOS mode and use the same video circuitry."


In 1987 Atari Corp decided to try and enter the IBM PC compatible clone market. There systems were varied from an IBM XT clone up to a 386SX/DX clone and even a 386SX laptop computer (which was actually nothing more then an Epson/Sotec laptop in Atari clothing.) Atari failed to advertise properly, to get enough coverage and to strike up deals with dealers for counter space for demo systems. Most people never knew Atari ever made desktop PC systems and a laptop system. The only PC compatible system that was noticed was the Atari Portfolio palmtop.


Information Courtesy of the Atari Historical Society and the Atari Virtual Museum.


See also: Atari (in Glossary)

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