After Hours

Play Atari classics on your PC

Before the Wii, Xbox, and PS3 was the Atari 2600. It defined the home gaming console. Now you can play some of the classic Atari games right on your PC.

Before the Wii, Xbox, and PS3 was the Atari 2600. It defined the home-gaming console. Now you can play some of the classic Atari games right on your PC.

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In a previous Classics Rock post, I pointed out what state-of-the-art gaming looked like on a microcomputer in 1979 with the Dancing Devil for the TRS-80 Model I. Much like today, however, even then if you wanted to have the best experience with computer gaming you were better off with a dedicated console rather than a general-purpose computer.

State-of-the-art gaming at the end of the 70s and early 80s was epitomized by the Atari 2600. Starting in 1977, Atari sold millions of these consoles. They served as the first experience that many people had with computer games. The Atari had the benefit of sound and graphics that microcomputers of the time couldn't hope to match, at least not at the price point.

Where TRS-80s, Apple IIs, and Commodore 64s were selling above $500, the Atari 2600 debuted at $199 and wound up costing $50 by 1984. Until the sector collapsed due to over competition in the mid-80s,  Atari ruled the home game market.

Atari in action

If you're under 30, you've probably never seen an Atari game in action. For those over 30, the mention of an Atari 2600 probably brings back memories of childhood Christmases and hours wasted at friends' houses watching large square dots move across a TV screen.

We've already shown what the inside of an Atari 2600 looks like in our Atari 2600 Cracking Open gallery. But I found a spot on Atari's Web site where you can actually play some of the old games.

Atari Play has only a miniscule subset of the Atari games that were available. However, you'll find plenty of classics there, such as Missile Command, Asteroids, and Centipede. The games are all Java based, so you'll need to have a Java runtime for your browser. After that they'll run just fine -- but probably a lot faster than you remember them being on the original equipment.

9 comments
tcavadias
tcavadias

.. course Ms. Pacman was on the Atari 5200 - My what wonderful graphics that had over the Atari 2600. :D Pong anyone? ;) -Tammy :-)

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

In Classics Rock, I pointed out that you don't need an old Atari to play some of the classic Atari 2600 games. You can play then right off of Atari's Web site: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/classic-tech/?p=185 We didn't have an Atari when I was little. (I was so deprived.) But my best friend in high school had one. I don't remember what my favorite game was, but I sure remember the worst: ET. What was your favorite (and least favorite) classic gaming console game - Atari or otherwise?

marie.truman
marie.truman

I loved playing pitfall, my mom finally had to take it away as I was playing too much. Second favorite would be Asteroids, which surprisingly I'm actually not to bad at. We have Atari Classics for the PS2 and I can really beat my boyfriend at it, though he gets me back with Combat. :D

n3v3rtool8
n3v3rtool8

At that time, I liked them all....Dig Dug, Pitfall, Ms PacMan, etc....but now? lol... There is a download that consists of over 100 classic games (some of them are multiple formats) from those eras that has the same graphics and are able to play on the PC. Brings back memories....

Ziskey
Ziskey

There's a long list of favorites, but the ones that stand out are Missle Command, Maze Craze (great for two players), Adventure, and Pitfall.

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

Though like yourself, my school friend had one. I used to love playing Pole Position. Fortunes reversed when I got my Amstrad Schnieder 128K and he used to come to my house every day to game instead. :D

The Altruist
The Altruist

Before there was 1942, there was River Raid. BEST. GAME. EVER.

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