Task: Purchase an Atari 2600 VCS Game Console
Needed: Web Browser
Time: 15-30 mins
The Atari 2600 Video Computer System (VCS) was my first gaming console. We purchased our 2600 in 1980 or 1981 and then upgraded to an Atari 400 computer a year or two later. I will always have an attachment to the 2600 and its hundreds of game cartridges. I picked up more than 20 of these systems and hundreds of cartridges for cheap back in the early 2000s when I was frequenting thrift stores and flea markets. I got rid of about half of the consoles a few years ago, but still have around 600 cartridges (~300 unique).
There are several models to consider as you make your purchase. The original 2600 which came out in 1977 had six switches, wood paneling, and a case with curved base when viewed from the front. This model was the heaviest due to the RF shielding and is now referred to as a “Heavy Sixer”. A lighter six-switch version came out a year later and was referred to as the “Light Sixer”. This was followed by a four-switch version in 1980 and an all black model (aka The Vader) in 1982 (see photo below). The final 2600 was much smaller and sleeker and was released in 1986 with a sales price of less than $50. This little one is called the “Junior”. All the different models with descriptions can be seen on Wikipedia.
Of all these models I recommend the black Vader as they are plentiful on eBay. It is also my favorite style. However, they all work great and you can’t go wrong with any model.
One thing to keep in mind is that the video is RF only. RF video is very difficult to convert cleanly to HDMI. The best approach is to connect your 2600 to a TV with a coaxial cable connector. I have previously posted about this. Another option is to connect to a VCR via coaxial cable. Many VCRs have composite or S-Video out with is much easier to convert to HDMI using something like the Retrotink. If you want clean HDMI your best bet is to go with a the Retron77 as a modern replacement for the 2600.
There are usually a dozen or more 2600s for sale on eBay at any given time. You should be able to pick up a Vader or one of the other models for around $50.
Another option is Goodwill which always has a number of systems. You can sometimes get one for less than $50.
Here are some tips for finding hardware locally which is always cheaper than online.
A 2600 is a must have for any Atari collection. I personally really like playing cartridges on original hardware. Very satisfying if you can a good video solution. Good luck!