The Atari 2600, branded as the Atari Video Computer System (Atari VCS) until November 1982, is a home video game console developed and produced by Atari, Inc. Released in September 1977, it popularized microprocessor-based hardware and games stored on swappable ROM cartridges, a format first used with the Fairchild Channel F in 1976. The VCS was bundle with two joystick controllers, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and a game cartridge initially Combat and later Pac-Man.
Atari 2600 was successful at creating arcade video games, but their development cost and limited lifespan drove CEO Nolan Bushnell to seek a programmable home system. The first inexpensive microprocessors from MOS Technology in late 1975 made this feasible. The console was prototype as codename Stella, by Atari subsidiary Cyan Engineering. Lacking funding to complete the project, Bushnell sold Atari 2600 to Warner Communications in 1976.
The Atari VCS launched in 1977 with nine simple, low-resolution games in 2 KB cartridges. The system’s first killer app was the home conversion of Taito’s arcade game Space Invaders in 1980. The VCS became widely successful, leading to the founding of Activision and other third-party game developers and to competition from console manufacturers Mattel and Coleco. By the end of its primary lifecycle in 1983–84, games for the 2600 were using more than four times the storage size of the launch games with significantly more advanced visuals and gameplay than the system was design for, such as Activision’s Pitfall!.