Atari 7800 (Platform)

Logo for Initial version

The Atari 7800 ProSystem was released a full two years after it was designed and tested. The console was Atari's attempt to compete with the NES and Sega Master System. Following a massive research project focused on determining exactly what consumers were demanding from a video game platform, Atari knew what it needed for its next generation system. They selected the General Computer Corporation to design new a graphics chip. "Marie" was what they named it. It provided a greater spectrum of colors and an endless number of sprites.

There was also one extra feature Atari added to the Marie chip. In an effort to combat third-party game manufacturers from taking a huge chunk out of their potential software profits, Atari installed an encryption algorithm (like a coded lock) into the Marie Chip. The 7800 would only allow cartridges containing a 960-bit encoded "key" to activate its state-of-the-art graphics and sound capabilities. If a cartridge did not include the proper coded authentication, the system remained in its default mode and could only run games made for the 2600.

With the 7800, Atari attempted to correct all of the shortcomings inherent to the 5200 platform. As stated above, the 7800 was compatible with 2600 cartridges. They had even designed an adapter (later discarded upon release) which would let the 7800 play 5200 cartridges, giving Atari across-the-board compatibility with all previous software. To make the system even more attractive to consumers considering purchasing a home computer, Atari promised an optional keyboard add-on.

While size of the 7800 console is much smaller than the immense 5200, the major improvement was made in the joystick design. The 7800 controller was made more in the tradition of the 2600. It is sleek, simple and, most importantly, durable.

In 1983, the Marie project was a courageous attempt to bring Atari back as the preeminent name in video games. Atari poured their best available personnel into the project. The system was ready and waiting to ignite the stagnant video game market.

Unfortunately timing was working against the proponents of the 7800. In 1984, Warner Communications sold Atari to Jack Tramiel. He wanted to focus on the company's computer line, and the Atari 7800 was shelved.

The video game market awoke with a roar in 1985. Nintendo had released the NES game system to American consumers. Videogame sales skyrocketed and soon Sega premiered its Sega Master System. Seeing there was money to be made, Atari scrambled to get onto the playing field and released the Atari 7800 in 1986 with only three games: Ms. Pac-Man, Joust and Asteroids.

With a paltry $300,000 advertising budget Atari gave the system a half-hearted release. Sales for the platform were good, but Atari was also trying to market a computer/console hybrid called the Atari XE and a remodeled version of the Atari 2600. All three platforms remained far behind Nintendo and Sega's offerings. By the time the Atari 7800 started to build up a substantial library of games, it was too late, and the system disappeared from store shelves.

Release dates:
1984-6-14 (NA)
Third generation
Introduction price:
Atari 7800 ProSystem
Operating SystemCPUAtari SALLY 6502 @ 1,19-1,79 MHz
Memory4KB RAMStorage4KB BIOS Rom, 48KB Cartridge ROM
Online serviceOutputS-Video
Supported Resolutions160x240, 320x240Connectivity

Games released on Atari 7800

Release Date
Ms. Pac-Man
December 31st, 1981 (38 years ago)
Atari Lynx / PC DOS / Commodore C64/128 / Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) / Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) / Game Boy Advance / ZX Spectrum / Sega Game Gear / Arcade / Atari 2600 / Atari 7800 / Sega Master System / Atari 8-bit / Atari 5200 / Texas Instruments TI-99 / Sega Mega Drive/Genesis / Commodore VIC-20 / Apple II
Dig Dug
April 19th, 1982 (38 years ago)
Wii U / Nintendo 3DS / Wii / FM-7 / Sharp X1 / PC-8801 / Family Computer Disk System / Xbox Live Arcade / Arcade / Atari 7800 / Atari 5200 / Apple II / Atari 2600 / Atari 8-bit / Commodore C64/128 / Game Boy / Game Boy Advance / Intellivision / MSX / Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) / PC DOS / Texas Instruments TI-99 / Commodore VIC-20
Impossible Mission
December 31st, 1984 (35 years ago)
Wii / Sharp X1 / Commodore C64/128 / ZX Spectrum / Atari 7800 / Sega Master System / PC-8801 / BBC Microcomputer System / Acorn Electron / Apple II / Amstrad CPC
November 1st, 1979 (40 years ago)
PlayStation / Mac / Game Boy Color / Game Boy / Arcade / Atari 2600 / Atari 7800 / Atari 8-bit / Apple II / PC (Microsoft Windows)
Donkey Kong Jr.
August 1st, 1982 (37 years ago)
ColecoVision / Family Computer Disk System / Intellivision / Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) / Nintendo 3DS / Arcade / Atari 2600 / Atari 7800 / Atari 8-bit / Wii / Wii U
Mario Bros.
July 14th, 1983 (36 years ago)
Wii / Commodore C64/128 / Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) / Game Boy Advance / ZX Spectrum / Nintendo 3DS / Arcade / Atari 2600 / Atari 7800 / Atari 8-bit / Atari 5200 / PC-8801 / Amstrad CPC / Wii U
September 1st, 1981 (38 years ago)
SG-1000 / Sharp X1 / Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) / MSX / Arcade / Atari 7800 / Sega Master System / FM-7 / PC-98
December 1st, 1986 (33 years ago)
Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) / ZX Spectrum / TRS-80 / Commodore C64/128 / Atari 8-bit / Apple II / Sega Master System / PC DOS / Atari ST/STE / Atari Lynx / Amstrad CPC / Atari 7800 / Amiga / Arcade
May 1st, 1985 (34 years ago)
Intellivision / PC DOS / Commodore C64/128 / Amiga / Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) / ZX Spectrum / MSX / Arcade / Atari 2600 / Atari 7800 / Atari ST/STE / Commodore Plus/4 / Commodore 16 / PC-8801 / BBC Microcomputer System / Acorn Electron / Apple II / FM-7 / Amstrad CPC
Donkey Kong
July 9th, 1981 (38 years ago)
Virtual Console (Nintendo) / ZX Spectrum / Commodore VIC-20 / Texas Instruments TI-99 / PC DOS / Family Computer Disk System / Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) / MSX / Intellivision / Commodore C64/128 / ColecoVision / Atari 8-bit / Atari 2600 / Apple II / Amstrad CPC / Atari 7800 / Arcade