The Atari 2600 had a surprisingly long shelf-life. It went on sale in 1977 and was still on sale in the late 1980s, having outlived two generations of official replacements. Nowadays you can buy something called a 'TV Boy', which is essentially a 2600 in a small box with 127 games built-in, and a 2600 and a bunch of cartridges is sure to attract a crowd at parties.

This particular model is a 2600A, the third version of the console, on sale since 1980. Until the mid-1990s, the UK's console market was much smaller than that of America or Japan. The generation after the 2600, the Colecovision and so on, did not appear, whilst the generation after that, the NES and Sega Master System, were held off by the 8-bit home computers. Even the SNES and Megadrive had to compete with the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST. The success of the Playstation changed all that, however; there was no home computery competition to dispell the kiddie market, whilst grown-ups who owned expensive PCs were also tempted by the Playstation, so that they could play Wipeout as it was meant to be played.

THe 2600's ubiquity assured it a certain definitiveness that the original Playstation has latterly enjoyed - many of the old games are still quite good fun, especially with two players, just as 'Gran Turismo' on the Playstation will probably remain entertaining a couple of decades from now.

The 2600 had 128 bytes of RAM and the 6507 CPU ran at 1.19 MHz, which makes it less powerful than the average field mouse, and with a smaller useable memory than a grasshopper.

(c) Ashley Pomeroy 2001