» Manufacturer: Atari Inc » Year: 1977 » cost: $199 (launch), £25+ (today)
When designing the Atari 2600, there was so little precedent that Atari had almost no guidance as to what a games console could or should look like. The result was so influential that it’s still recognisable for its purpose over four decades later, while clearly being a product of its time – the black plastic and woodgrain effect panel is a combination that could only have been applied to Seventies technology. Still, there are peculiarities. The bank of metal switches on the front of the console is indicative of a time when in-game options menus just didn’t exist, and the decision to put the control ports at the rear of the machine is unusual. The Atari 2600 (or VCS, as it was known during its early years) went through a number of design revisions over the years while still retaining its recognisable form factor. The early ‘Heavy Sixer’ models had six switches on the machine and a very thick plastic base, and the much more common ‘Light Sixer’ is what you see here. Later models cut six switches down to four, and the ‘Darth Vader’ revision replaced the woodgrain with a black panel. The classic model was finally superseded by the Atari 2600 ‘Junior’ in 1986.