The earliest video game console I ever had was an Atari 2600 Video Computer System. The very first home computer I ever owned was an Atari 800XL. Whenever I went to the local video arcade I always looked for video games with the Atari logo. When I was very young the word Atari meant video games to me.
I have a ton of memories associated with my VCS. I had multiple variants over the years. Today the one I own is the black “Darth Vader” model. I have also enjoyed some plug-N-Play versions from time to time. There is something beyond nostalgic when it comes to Atari for me. It’s simplistic design screams late 70s early 80s. And that’s fine. I get super nostalgic for that time period. However it goes deeper than that. Atari was a central figure in the early development of home video games, computer gaming, video arcade gaming and the rise of personal computers. The name computer was right there in the machine’s title too it was the Video Computer System, VCS for short. 2600 was a reference to it’s circuitry, it’s complicated.
I even bough myself an Atari Pong console on more than one occasion. My fondness for Atari is why I am so deeply interested in computers to this day. You could argue that for me the Personal Computer also means Atari.
My first personal computer that was *mine* that I owned and nobody else could use it, which was also the first computer our family brought into our house, was that aforementioned 800XL. I even had the tape deck and disk drive plus dot matrix printer to accompany the device. I didn’t have the correct monitor so I had to use an RF modulator to hook it up to my black and white CRT TV set. Not that it would have made any difference as it was the exact same TV set I had my then 6-switch Atari 2600 console hooked up to. It worked for me at the time.
I even remember reading PC magazines from the 90s all talking about Windows 95 and the cool state-of-the-art stuff computers could do during that period. I would flip through those magazines reading what modern computers could do while I gleefully and enthusiastically sat in my make-shift bedroom tinkering with that even retro for the time personal computer. My love of computers was manifested by my getting to play with a relic of the past. To me it was more than a relic. It was a piece of computer technology and was an extension of myself.
To this day my love of computers remains as vibrant as ever. There are days where I will lie in bed until well past midnight playing around on either my laptop or tablet computer just to be touching, interacting with a computer. I owe a lot of my love for video games, passion for computers and my interest in technology to those early Atari systems. I owned an Atari VCS when it was contemporary just before the famed Nintendo NES came out to replace it on the totem pole. I had that 8-bit desktop computer at a time when it had long been replaced by superior Windows 95 machines of the day. Even though my experiences with Atari are somewhat mixed as they are a jumble of old mixed with new, they are the experiences that shaped the person I am today.
Even now I woke up in the middle of the night, got out of bed and wrote this article simply because I was compelled to interact with my computer in a meaningful way. I love computers. I love technology. I love video games and I owe it all to Atari.