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Definition: Atari

A video game manufacturer founded in 1972 in Sunnyvale, CA, by Nolan Bushnell, who named the company after a word used in the Japanese game of Go. Atari offers video game consoles and a portfolio of more than 200 games. After more than half a century of company changes, Atari products are offered by Atari SA in Paris and Atari, Inc. in New York.

It Started with Pong
Atari became famous for Pong, a video game that simulated table tennis in game arcades and on home TVs. In 1976, Atari was sold to Warner Communications which came out with a game computer dubbed the Atari Video Computer System. In 1978, Atari 400 and 800 home computers were introduced and widely accepted. Later came the 600XL and 1200XL models.

The ST Challenge
In 1984, Atari was sold to Jack Tramiel and investors, which introduced the ST personal computer line in 1985 to compete with the Macintosh. STs were advanced machines available into the 1990s, but although popular, there was limited application support (see Atari ST).

Atari also made a failed attempt at offering IBM-compatible PCs. In late 1992, it introduced the Falcon multimedia computer but soon shut down its R&D. At the end of 1993, the Jaguar game console was introduced, and more than 50 game titles followed.

From Atari to JTS to Haspro to Infogrames
In 1996, the company merged with hard disk manufacturer JT Storage (JTS), which sold the Atari name and IP to Hasbro Interactive in 1998, creating the Atari Interactive subsidiary. In 2001, Infogrames Entertainment (IESA) acquired Hasbro and created the Atari Interactive division. IESA was renamed Atari SA in 2009.

Ping Pong on the TV
What seems terribly crude compared to today's video games, Pong nevertheless kept people fascinated for hours in the 1970s. Like regular table tennis, the single object is to hit the ball with a paddle back across the net (center line on screen).

Atari 400
Sporting 16K of RAM and 8K of ROM, the 400 was used mostly for games contained in ROM cartridges. However, Atari computers helped spearhead the personal computer revolution in the early 1980s. (Image courtesy of Kevan's Computer Bits.)

Atari in the 21st Century
Available online, the Atari 2600+ supports Atari 2600 and 7800 cartridges. The console connects to wide screen TVs via HDMI. (Image courtesy of Atari, Inc.)