The Atari 2600, released in October 1977, is the video game console credited with popularizing the use of microprocessor based hardware and cartridges containing game code, instead of having non-microprocessor dedicated hardware with all games built in. The first game console to use this format was the Fairchild Channel F. However, it was the Atari 2600 that made the plug-in concept popular among the game-playing public.
Originally known as the Atari VCS—for Video Computer System—the machine’s name was changed to “Atari 2600” (from the unit’s Atari part number, CX2600) in 1982, after the release of the more advanced Atari 5200. The 2600 was typically bundled with two joystick controllers, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and a cartridge game—initially Combat and subsequently Pac-Man.
The Atari 2600 was wildly successful, and during the 1980s, “Atari” was a synonym for this model in mainstream media and, by extension for video games in general similar to “Nintendo” and “PlayStation” in the 1980s and 1990s.
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