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Alive 5
On the Launch of www.Atari7800.Com

It was the first breakdown of the "new market" to happen and even though it
wasn't as bad as the breakdown of the internet-hype, it shook a young market
almost to death: The breakdown of the video game market 1984.

1984 was the year Atari was going to introduce a new video game system to
more or less replace the luckless Atari Supersystem (also nicknamed PAM),
VCS 5200, that could not compete successfully against the Mattel Intellivision,
and the CBS ColecoVision.

The solution to Atari's problems was called Atari 7800 ProSystem - which in
the end turned out to be about as luckless as the 5200 as it was not capable
of preventing the whole market to collapse.

However, it was not really the fault of the 7800 after all. In contrast to
the Atari 5200 it was compatible to the Atari 2600 - still the market leader
in video games. It wasn't half as bulky as the 5200 and not simply an Atari

8-bit computer in disguise with fuzzy analogue joysticks, the Atari 7800 was
maybe not a unique but intelligent design.

It had an 1.79 MHz 6502 (which was switched down to 1.19 MHz when the graphics
chip accessed RAM) and 4K of RAM. May sound little according to today's
standards, but usually, video games do not rely on the RAM as heavily as
computers because most of the data is stored in the cartridge ROM, which could
be, without additional devices such as an MMU, up to 32 KB in size.

The MARIA-graphics chip in the 7800 was capable of displaying 320x200
pixels and it featured 256 colours in total. The only weak point in the
7800's design would have been the sound-chip which was basically
non-existant - sound was generated by a part of the TIA (Television
Interface Adapter) and since this was already part of the 2600, sound
quality was rather poor. However, any cartridge could feature additional
hardware so if required, a decent soundchip could simply be implanted in the

The Atari 7800 was about to be introduced along with an adapter for the
5200 to make it 7800-compatible (nicknamed "SLAM-PAM") - obviously, the
5200 was slightly more powerful than the 7800. But due to the collapse of
the market and Atari's concentration on the home-computer market made the
7800 sell quite badly. The early 7800-games were mainly old-school video
games with a great past but little future, such as Ms.Pac-Man, Centipede,
Pole Position etc.

When Jack Tramiel bought Atari, Sam Tramiel took over the video games
department and kicked out the 2600 in a slim and cheap new case in 1986 to
reestablish it as an entry-priced console. The 5200 was abandonded more or
less and the 7800 was not really supported well. The strategy was rather to
have a video-game system fully compatible to the 8-bit computer series and was
released as XE-GS. It took some time until Atari finally saw that the XE
game-system flopped as well and in 1987, Atari started to have another look
at the 7800. Slowly, but surely, it was reintroduced and even in europe, in
1989, it was back on sale as an inexpensive video game system.

Maybe to just clear out the stocks.

Maybe to have something on sale next to the freshly presented Lynx.
It failed nonetheless.

And now, as obscure as it sounds, in 2002, the Atari 7800 ProSystem is on
sale again. An online-store named has the 7800, peripherals,
game cartridges and everything you need to enjoy the 7800 again on sale.
Also, they plan to sell Lynx-gear and accessories. All is advertised as
either new or refurbished, thoroughly tested, shrinkwrapped, equipped with
newly written manuals and sold with a 2-year warranty.

So in case you lack an Atari 7800 ProSystem in your collection or want to
enjoy some unique games not available on any other system or are interested in
rare gems of the 7800-cartridge list like the Pit-Fighter preview, this
seems like the online-shop for you.

Or doesn't it.

To be honest, it doesn't.

Having a closer look at their internet page that requires Macromedia
Shockwave-compatibility for the menus - which serve no other function than
displaying a picture - and was obviously only designed for a certain size of
your browser window - it looks rather twisted in some resolutions - the
careful reader gets a bit confused.

New or refurbished ? Shrink-wrapped ? New manuals ? 2-year-warranty ?

New or refurbished, that does not really sound like the company does actually
produce 7800s themselves. And they never state that on any part of their
page. The pictures of the 7800 consoles on the page also feature a box of
blocks right over the part of the 7800 where the "Atari"-logo would be.
Why, if they really tried to re-introduce the 7800, don't they imprint their
own logo on the console ?

Obviously, their plans to re-introduce the 7800 are rather based on a large
pile of either used or old 7800s that were playing stock-heater somewhere
for a long time. I do not doubt that they cleaned and carefully tested every
"Atari 7800 they offer, but is that all ?

Maybe not, so let's have a look at their list of 7800 cartridges on sale.
They do have some rare gems, but again, the point that they are being sold
shrink-wrapped together with a new manual prove that it's rather used or
left-over cartridges they sell instead of really new stuff.
In addition, their prices are ridiculous. An ProSystem costs,
without any extra gear, $199. That's right, 200 bucks for a video game
system that is, by now, 18 years old. You can get a Nintendo Game Cube for
or a Sega Dreamcast with 2 or 3 games for this price. Classics may have
their value but this is ridiculous. Same goes for the games and the
peripherals they sell. An joypad - you remember these ugly and
very unprecise 2-buttoned joypads that you could put a mini-joystick on
because as a digi-pad, they were too lousy - for $29.95 ? I bought 5 of
them, unused and shrink-wrapped for 0.5 Euro a piece. An RF-switch for
$29.95 ? You can even buy these at TV shops for less than 10 Euro.

Finally, game cartridges vary from $24.95 to $119.95. I see the point that
some of these games may be rare, but pardon me - charge the price of a PSOne
for one measly 8-bit game that was lost in some large retailer's stock for a
few years ?

Sorry for sounding negative, but this is just way over the top. If you think,
Jacky of ACF was too expensive when charging 80 Euro for Worms on the
Jaguar or Lemmings on the Lynx (, check
Personally, i think it's just a few people that invested some money in
left-over 7800s, bought some used ones and some broken ones, repaired them
as good as possible, also bought a large pile of games and peripherals that
lacked package and manual - and instead of selling them cheaper because of
that on ebay, they decided to play pro, form a company, write the manuals
themselves and consider this then a "re-introduction" of the ProSystem" 
instead of selling left-over stocks.

A used 7800 costs about 20 Euro on a yard sale and if you buy one on
ebay and if it's in good shape, you might have to spend 40 Euro. Games for
the 7800 keep popping up from time to time and even though you might not get
rare games easily, they too appear on internet auctions or yard sales once in
a while. Charging $29.95 for the joypad is simply a bad joke when you can
still get them from a large electronics retailer in Germany (Conrad) for
less than 1 Euro per pad. And some little retailers specialised on selling
left-overs from large stocks like or Thimo Graef have a
permanent catalogue of 7800 games - Personally, i just bought Ballblazer
for the 7800 for 9.50 Euro, not $39.95. New. Boxed and shrink-wrapped.
With the original manual.

On the internet-page of they say "If you don't want to spend
$200 on a classic video game system, then don't ;-)".

I'm pretty sure the majority of potential customers follow this advice.

The Paranoid


         of the Lunatic Asylum

            think you can handle it ?!

Alive 5