Friday, May 24, 2013

The Atari 2800 Saga

 I made a pretty nice pic up on Yahoo Auctions last week: my very own Atari 2800!!!

That is correct, Atari 2800 and not Atari 2600.

The Atari 2800 was Atari`s abortive attempt to export a version of the 2600 to Japan.  They were a bit late to the game with it though, releasing it in 1983 just as the Famicom was about to hit.  That meant it was a total failure in a commercial sense and they only sold a handful of them.

That, in turn, means that these consoles are extremely hard to find today.  Until this one arrived in the mail in all of my years of combing retro game shops I had never seen one with my own eyes before.  I think they are about as close as you can get to a holy grail of retro Japanese consoles (sadly this fact was reflected in the price I paid for it, but I think it was worth it).

When I got it in the mail a few days ago I was so psyched, but I was in for one big shock when I tried to plug it in.  This is probably old news to most people, but I hadn`t realized that new flat screen TVs don`t take RF input.  During all my years in Fukuoka collecting retro games both of the TVs in our house were old-school analogue ones so it never came up.

When we moved we got rid of those and I bought a brand new flat screen.  I had been using my AV Famicom to play games up until now so I hadn`t noticed that it didn`t take RF until the Atari 2800 just wouldn`t work on it.

So I went back onto Yahoo Auctions, found an awesome 1989 Sony Trinitron 14 inch TV for about ten bucks and picked that up.  Today it arrived:

I had a hell of a time trying to get it to work, but eventually I did.  The console came with four games (Space Invaders, Night Driver, Baseball and Missile Command) so I decided Space Invaders would make a good game to break it in on.

I don`t have any furniture to keep the TV on (it is in our spare bedroom now) so it is just sitting on a box for the time being, which is actually kind of a cool way to set up a mini retro-console station.  I love how hard it is to play, I have to fiddle with the RF switch for ages just to get a reasonably clear picture and then when I play the game I am never sure when the slightest move will cause the screen to go completely blank.

Oh and bonus thumbs up to old-school TVs for having the ability to have game consoles placed on top of them, thus saving space.  That is one cool thing future gamers will miss out on with these damn flat screens.

True old school.  This is how retro games are meant to be played.  Old system on an old TV that barely works.  Should keep me busy for a while!


  1. That is super cool! It looks like the cart labels are the same as Western ones. No, super alternative artwork, then?

  2. Thanks Wil!

    Yeah, the Atari 2800 cart labels are the exact same as the 2600 carts. They only released about 30 of them in Japan. The good thing (for me anyway) is that I can play the vast library of 2600 games on it.

  3. Another rare gem! Well done! I'm just glad to hear it can play ALL 2600 games, as being limited to only about 20 or so wouldn't be fun.

  4. Thanks Skyrunner, I`m glad about that too - it gives me another thing to collect:)

  5. Totally ghetto, BRIK, totally ghetto. But in a totally good way.

  6. Wonderful! I love the color of the TV, do I detect a hint of fake wood texture on it? :)

  7. Thanks, sadly there is no faux-wood on it, I did mainly chose it for that red color though:)

  8. Great find, I'm jealous. It is little wonder you had problems with getting it to work though, Japanese NTSC televisions use different frequencies than ours do so their channels do not correspond to ours. With older TVs that you can adjust the tuning though you can usually get things working, although I imagine a Japanese VCR with AV output would work much better.

    For those who aren't aware the Sears Video Arcade II is the exact same console, it just has a different name plate and since it was sold in the US it is much easier to find one.

  9. Thanks!

    I actually live in Japan so both the TVs are Japanese!

    That is true about the Sears Video Arcade II, I wonder if they used extra unsold units from the Japanese market.