The Handheld Museum: A tribute to the early history of handheld gaming

Atari Cosmos - An Interesting history

Atari Cosmos (1981, LED, AC only, Model# EG500)
U. S. Patent # 4,421,317
Invented by: Roger Hector and Harry Jenkins, Jr. (according to the patent)

Atari Cosmos is a prototype game that was pretty much finished, but Atari decided to scrap at the last minute. (Partly (if not mainly) due to the fact that it really does suck as far as a game is concerned. :) They claimed it was 3-D or holographic, when in reality it was just a small grid of LEDs (7x6) with a dual-image hologram used as a background. There were two lights inside of the game shining on the hologram at different angles, and that would cause one of two images to light up (in the case of the Space Invader game, there was a constant background, and when you died an image of an alien shooting you would appear). Eight games were developed (along with the holograms), and all of them were programmed into the base unit. A series of tabs on the 'cartridge' told the base unit which games to play. 5 Cosmos units are known to exist today, and 3 of those 5 are only empty shell mock-ups (although Atari made hundreds of the empty shells, it isn't currently known if these were destroyed/thrown away, or if they are waiting to be in a warehouse or garage somewhere...). One of the two working prototypes (and at least one of the mock-ups) belongs to Curt Vendel of the Atari Historical Society (these are his pictured, photographs taken during Philly Classic 2001, thanks again Curt for letting us play with this elusive game!). The only other known working prototype is still in the hands of a former Atari employee. If you want more info on this system, check out the Atari Historical Society at

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