The Glory and Fall of Old Game Systems

The seventh generation of video game systems is currently pushing its way to the gaming industry. In fact, Microsoft-produced Xbox 360 is the only video game system that has been released so far as far as the seventh generation of game consoles is concerned. Sony’s PlayStation 3, Nintendo’s Wii, and Evizions Computer Entertainment’s EVO: Phase One are all scheduled to be released at the last quarter of 2006. These video game systems have a long way to go and different game developers are on their way on creating the next generation of video game systems that will be released as soon as possible.

Beyond the new generation of video game systems, probably you already forgot its predecessors, particularly the first and second generations. Such generations became the ‘cream of the crop’ of the gaming industry during its early years, and facilitated the development of subsequent video game systems until the seventh generation. What we do not realize is that new video game system becomes old video game system soon, and is soon forgotten in a dusty corner.

That is what exactly happened to the old game systems. Once, they have been glorified because of the extraordinary entertainment that it provides to the gaming public. But now, they are just within the sidesteps of our memory, being demolished by new game systems which, as previously mentioned, will soon become old technologies once newer systems will be introduced to the market.

At this point, we need to refresh our memories and take ourselves back to the time when old game systems were at the pedestal of excellent recognition during the first stretch of video game systems and rediscover why we loved these game systems in the first place.

Atari 2600

The Atari 2600, which was released in October 1977, became the first successful video game system to use plug-in cartridges instead of the traditional built-in games. It was originally known as Atari VCS (Video Computer System), which was changed in Atari 2600 in 1982 after the release of the more advanced 5200. It is equipped with two conventional joystick controllers, a game cartridge, and an adjoined pair of paddle controllers.

The fundamental layout of Atari 2600 is similar to other game systems and home computer during the 80s. Its central processing unit (CPU) was the MOS Technology 6507, an 8-bit microprocessor capable of addressing 8 KB of game memory, which is considered to be a lot during the 70s era. It was running at 1.19 megahertz on the 2600 model. The game system contains 128 bytes RAM for runtime data, which included state of the game world and call stack. In the absence of a frame buffer (a video output device which drives a video display from a memory buffer that has an extensive data frame), the 2600 made use of 2 bitmapped sprites, single-pixel ball, 2 single-line missile sprites, and a playfield. On the other hand, its video hardware gave 2600 the reputation of being among the game machines in the world that is difficult to program.

Atari 7800 Prosystem

The 7800 Prosystem was released by Atari in June 1986, which is designed to reestablish the company’s market supremacy against two of the prominent video game system producer during that time (Colecovision and Intellivision) as well as to replace the unpopular Atari 5200. The 7800 Prosystem addressed the shortcomings of 5200, particularly the joysticks and the compatibility with 2600-enabled games.

The 7800 Prosystem was Atari’s first video game system designed by other company, particularly the General Computer Corporation (GCC). Since it was designed to be upgraded into a complete home computer, the game system made use of a keyboard which had an expansion port in addition to other peripherals such as printers and disk drives. Furthermore, GCC came up with a high-score cartridge, which is a battery-backed RAM game cartridge that is developed for saving high game scores.

However, the 7800 Prosystem faced a severe software drought that marked the crash of all Atari game systems. There were few title releases made by Atari and most of them were lacking in feature and was generally unpolished. There were also some 7800 games that were made which are already available in the previous Atari video game systems. It was also noted that there were no effort in recruiting third party game developers, aside from several game titles. Later on, Atari finally announced that they were formally abandoning the 7800 Prosystem.

These are just two of hundreds of old game systems which had been glorified on the early years of video gaming. Although most of them have sad endings, their contribution to the video gaming industry will be remembered and will serve as an inspiration for present video game system development.
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