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Atari 2800 A.K.A. Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade II


During its astonishing 10+ year lifespan, the Atari 2600 console went though several product designs.  The early woodgrain clad versions from 1977-81 are the ones that many of us are most familiar with.  1982's machine was still the same shape, but in all black plastic.  This console was the first Atari unit to actually bear the name "2600" (though fans refer to it as a "Vader").

2800portraitIn 1983 Atari created the 2800; a sleek wedge-shaped version of the 2600 for the Japanese market.  The unit has soft touch face controls, lots of red LED's, and unusually shaped controllers that serve as both joystick and paddle.  The unit didn't sell very well in Japan, this being at the dawn of Nintendo's Famicom juggernaut.

Back in the US, the 2800 was marketed by Sears as their "Video Arcade II".  Atari re-used the 2800's design for their more advanced 7800 game system in 1984 (which didn't hit store shelves until '86).  Atari then introduced a low-cost VHS sized 2600 "junior" console as an alternative to the increasing number of game systems in the late 80's. 

While the cool look and the comfortable controllers of the 2800/Arcade II do make it a worthwhile addition 2800controllersfor the serious video gamer, it also shows an Atari desperate to stay alive in the mid 80's.  For Atari to remain relevant when faced with the specter of new kid Nintendo, they probably should have concentrated on creating better games instead of just putting a new coat of paint on their old warhorse.


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