Game Console Reviews – Atari 2600

Game consoles are one of the best ways to entertain you, your family and your friends. However, these things wouldn’t be possible if not for the first-ever made console called Atari 2600. This article will be discussing this primitive gaming product, and will show you some of its impressive features 30 years ago. This will help you learn how game consoles evolved and how technology has brought our gaming experience to a whole new level.

This video game console was released in 1977 and with its hit game Pac-Man, Atari 2600 rapidly gained popularity in the gaming world. Atari 2600 uses a dedicated hardware that has all the games built inside the console. Although micro-processors were already available during that time, it was only Fairchild Channel F that uses this technology. Atari 2600 brought gaming to the world and is the most popular form of entertainment during that time.

Unfortunately this console is only available in pubs and arcades wherein you need to insert tokens in order to play games. This product is normally bundled with two joystick controllers and a conjoined pair of propel controllers, with a built-in game inside the machine, which allows two gamers to play at the same time.

The outline of Atari 2600 is quite similar with most video gaming consoles and home computers during that time. This only uses 128 bytes of RAM which allows it to read games and display video using the built-in screen. Having a frame buffer inside during that time is almost impossible, because the needed RAM for it will be very expensive and impractical.

Although it may seem lame for us today, Atari 2600 is considered as the most technologically advanced machine during that time. In addition to its “powerful” features, Atari 2600 also supports several input devices like joysticks, keyboards, and propel controllers.

The Aviation Foundation of Long Island

Sparsely populated, as evidenced by the once thin scatter of farmhouses, Long Island, still in its nascent state, had been carpeted by forests, but a single, central clearing, the largest east of the Mississippi River, stood like an oasis in the desert, and served as a spawning ground for aerial life. It was called the “Hempstead Plains.” Almost predestined as the threshold to air, its flat, unobstructed expanses called to flight, providing a venue for aircraft experimentation, flying fields, and piloting schools, an area where vehicles spread wings and rose from the womb which had incubated them, pursuing an ascending path which would one day eclipse the atmosphere and connect the planet with its moon.

Located on the eastern edge of the country, a dividing line which only pointed transcontinentally toward the west or transatlantically to the European continent, the area, in close proximity to New York, the world’s most populous city, only served to geographically cement this aviation foundation.

Glenn Hammond Curtiss, the first to aerially triumph over Long Island with his Golden Flyer biplane, won the Scientific American trophy after making a 25-kilometer, 30-circuit flight round Mineola Airfield on July 17, 1909, attracting other aeronautically-inspired people and the first commercial buyer of an airplane.

The burgeoning aviation interest and experimentation, quickly eclipsing the boundaries of the tiny field, resulted in the establishment of the nearby Hempstead Plaines Aerodrome whose almost 1,000-acre expanse had sprouted 25 wooden hangars and grandstands by the summer of 1911. The Moissant School, the country’s first such civilian institution, had opened with a fleet of seven Bleriot monoplanes operating out of five structures. It subsequently issued the first female pilot license, to Harriet Quimby.

Long Island’s soil, nurturing aviation as much as grass, had provided the stage for the first International Aviation Meet the prior year at Belmont Park in Elmont, attracting both US and European pilots who raced and established speed and performance records with an ever-increasing collection of early designs, while Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn had served as the origin of the first transcontinental flight piloted by Calbraith Rogers in a Wright Brothers’ designed EX Vin Fiz biplane on September 17, 1911. It terminated in San Diego, California, 49 days later, despite a dizzying array of enroute stops and airframe reconstruction-necessitating crashes.

The first US airmail route, albeit the short, temporary, six-mile stretch from Garden City to Mineola in a Bleriot aircraft, also occurred that year.

Hempstead Plains Airfield, assuming a military role, provided the location for New York National Guard pilot training in 1915, and two years later, it had become one of only two Army fields in the United States with a fleet of four Curtiss JN-4 Jenny aircraft. It had also been the year when it had been redesignated “Hazelhurst Field,” in honor of an Army pilot who had lost his life in an airplane accident.

In order to cater to increased Army pilot training demand, Field #2 had been established south of the existing Hazelhurst Airport in 1917 and was subsequently renamed “Mitchel Field” in July of the following year after then-New York City Mayor John Purroy Mitchel.

The first regularly scheduled air mail service, occurring in May of 1918 from Washington to Belmont Park with Curtiss Jennys, yielded to the first heavier-than-air craft transatlantic crossing from Long Island to Portugal the following year with a trio of Navy-operated, quad-engined, amphibious Curtiss NC flying boats, only one of which ultimately reached the European continent after two intermediate stops in Newfoundland and the Azores.

The roots of many Long Island aircraft manufacturers were planted during World War I.

The “Golden Age of Aviation,” associated with numerous speed, distance, and altitude records, resulted in two famous nonstop flights. The first of these, entailing a single-engine Fokker T-2, had resulted in a 26-hour, 50-minute transcontinental crossing from Roosevelt Field to San Francisco in 1923, while the second had been Charles Lindbergh’s world-renowned, solo, nonstop, transatlantic flight four years later, on May 20, 1927, in the Spirit of St. Louis.

Following its almost symbolic roll-out into the fog-shrouded dawn prior to departure, the silver monoplane was plunged into the darkness, doubt, and obscurity of consensus belief concerning the attempt, yet the tiny orange glow piercing the sky on the horizon somehow reflected promise and hope–a target for which to aim. From the present standpoint, however, France seemed just as infinitesimal in size. Yet, the precarious, mud- and water-impeding take off, which barely cleared the trees, served as the threshold to the successfully-covered 3,610 miles across the Atlantic to Paris.

By 1929, Roosevelt Field, having integrated with its former half known as “Curtiss Field,” had been considered the “World’s Premier Airport” because of its paved runways and taxiways, instrument flying equipment, hangars, restaurants, and hotels, and by the early-1930s, had been the largest such facility in the country with 450 based aircraft and some 400 hourly movements. It had also been home to the Roosevelt Aviation School, one of the largest civilian pilot training facilities in the US.

During a three-year, post-World War I expansion phase, occurring between 1929 and 1932, Mitchel Field developed into one of the United States’ largest military facilities, with eight steel-and-concrete hangars, barracks, operations buildings, and warehouses, and served as home to many fighter, bomber, and observation squadrons. The first nonstop transcontinental bomber flight, operated by a B-18 in 1938, departed here, while two P-40 Warhawk squadrons had been based at the field during the Second World War.

Indeed, war-necessitated demand only served to deepen Long Island’s aviation core, resulting in an explosive peak of military aircraft design and manufacture by 1945, at which time some 100,000 local residents had been engaged in aviation-related employment, primarily with the Republic Aircraft Corporation and the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, in a man-and-machine merge which had ultimately triumphed in war.

The first of these, founded in 1931 as Seversky Aircraft Corporation, relocated to larger facilities, redesignating itself Republic Aviation Corporation seven years later and becoming the second-largest supplier of fighters to the Army Air Corps because of the copious quantities of superior-performance P-47 Thunderbolts sold to them.

The second of these, founded in 1930 by Leroy Grumman, became the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation and had been synonymous with Navy and amphibious aircraft, the former including the two-seat FF-1, the F4F Wildcat, the F6F Hellcat, the TBM/TBF Avenger, the F7F Tigercat, and the F8F Bearcat, and the latter encompassing the Grumman Goose, Widgeon, Mallard, and Albatross.

Changing, post-war conditions, however, began to pull at Long Island’s aviation roots, as no-longer needed military aircraft contracts were canceled and encroaching suburbs choked Roosevelt and Mitchel Fields into closure. Nevertheless, more than 64,000 civilian and military aircraft had been hatched by its manufacturers by this time.

Transcending the atmosphere, aviation transformed itself into aerospace.

Dr. Robert Goddard, who had successfully designed the world’s first liquid-fueled rockets in Massachusetts, received a $50,000 grant from Harry Guggenheim on Long Island to pursue related research and testing, and he ultimately designed a liquid fuel rocket engine, a turbine fuel pump, and a gyroscopic-controlled steering device.

Eleven aerospace companies subsequently bid to design and produce the needed Lunar Module transfer component of the Project Apollo Moon Mission, enabling crew members to travel between the orbiting Command Module and the lunar surface, and NASA awarded Grumman the contract in 1962. Two simulators, ten test modules, and 13 operational Lunar Modules had been built during the Apollo Program, the most famous of which had been the LM-5 “Eagle,” which had disappendaged itself from the Apollo 11 spacecraft on July 20, 1969 and connected the first human being with the moon, leaving his footprint and the base of the Lunar Module itself as eternal evidence of this feat.

The aviation seed planted on Long Island’s Hempstead Plains had thus sprouted and grown, connecting its own soil with that of its moon.

Silicon Valley Circa 1956 – A Valley That is No More

What was it like in Silicon Valley in 1956?

Back then, the Valley lay in the shadow of San Francisco. If you wanted culture, glamor, or riches, you headed to the City. If you wanted farm life, you headed to San Jose. I exaggerate, but not by much. Hard as it is to imagine today, the Valley then was still tied closely to the soil. People knew how to grow things. Things like fruit. Not just as a hobby but as way of life. Above all, they knew how to can and pack that fruit. Not as home preserves but on a large, industrial scale. Before WWII, San Jose had fewer than 100,000 people. Yet no fewer than 18 canneries and 13 packing houses could be found in the Valley. This was then the largest canning and dried fruit packing center in the world. By 1956, this farm-based culture was still largely intact. Today, it is almost entirely gone.

Those of us who have been here awhile may have caught fragments of the old life. I remember doing a summer stint as a student at the Del Monte Cannery off Auzerais Avenue, circa 1970, in which my fingers turned prune-like as I stood there for endless hours throughout each shift “guiding” grapes to the center of a conveyor belt at its drop-off point by repeatedly reaching my arms out as if doing a butterfly stroke and pulling the grapes inward as my arms would pull together. Shifting to the “dry” side later that summer, my brother and I would do the graveyard shift standing at the bottom of a massive slide and scrambling like mad to stack pallets manually with some really heavy boxes whenever the automatic pallet-stacker at the top malfunctioned and some faceless person would switch the boxes to come zinging downward non-stop and with a great force — we felt like Lucy and Ethel trying frantically to handle all the chocolates as the sheer number and frequency of the boxes would overwhelm our ability to stack them. I can assure you that whatever talent we displayed that summer went entirely unrecognized.

But back to life in 1956. Cali Mill sat at the corner of De Anza and Stevens Creek Boulevard. Monte Bello Vineyards quietly grew its grapes in the Cupertino foothills, soon about to realize great harvests that would lead it to become Ridge Vineyards. Paul Masson was even then a Valley winery that would “sell no wine before its time,” as Orson Welles would later put it. Cupertino had just incorporated as a city in 1955, becoming the 13th city in the Valley (Sunnyvale had voted to incorporate in 1912). Cupertino High was about to form in 1958. De Anza College didn’t exist. Nor did El Camino Hospital. Both were about a decade or so off. Santa Clara’s law school was around, and it graduated exactly 13 students that year. Many at the time could remember just a couple of decades earlier when it took the equivalent of a short trip through the country to get from downtown San Jose to Willow Glen. Much of Mountain View remained agricultural not only as of 1956 but even throughout most of the 1960s — during this era, there was still open space between Mountain View and Palo Alto, with row crops and orchards filling in the gap. Moffett Field with its huge hangars filled the Valley with the noise of monster-sized military planes droning continuously as they took off and landed throughout the day.

Prosperity was afoot, however, wholly apart from the agricultural sector. Santa Clara Valley had a massive postwar population explosion and chaotic growth to accompany it. By the mid-1950s, San Jose was well on its way to having over 200,000 people, more than doubling its population within the decade. Electronics companies began to flourish, spurred on initially by WWII. Prominent among these was Hewlett Packard, which in 1956 did $20 million in revenues and employed 900 people while selling test and measurement equipment. By the following year, it would go public and double the number of its employees while doing something very unusual — it gave stock grants and options to all employees with at least six months of service, an almost unheard-of practice at the time.

Shopping malls sprang up as well, even as Woolworth’s and other five-and-ten-cent stores started to falter. In the summer of 1956, one of the first and most notable, Macy’s Valley Fair, opened as a 39-store retail center. Macy’s had wanted to open in downtown San Jose but got stiffed on price. It therefore bought several acres of land along San Jose’s unincorporated Stevens Creek Road and built the center there, amidst a wide open area consisting of orchards and an Emporium department store. When it opened, it had only one floor and a roof deck that was accessible to shoppers by elevator. Macy’s planned to add a second floor. So what did it do in the interim? It did what any good promoter of a new concept would do (and as many other centers of that day did) to attract shoppers — it set up a carnival! Yes, right on the roof deck of its shopping mall, it put not just one but seven carnival rides. It had a merry-go-round and a small train and even a 40-foot ferris wheel! It also had a cafe so that parents could relax and eat as their kids enjoyed the rides. It seems that fast-shuffle types were busy long before startups came along. If it sparkles, they will come!

While Cupertino lagged in seeing its first significant shopping center open, 17 of its largest landowners shortly thereafter sold out to Varian Associates, another thriving electronics firm, which (along with the Leonard, Lester, Craft and Orlando families) developed the center that took as its name an acronym composed of the first initials of each participant: Vallco Park. Vallco, however, did not open until the early 1960s. In 1956, the large tracts of land were entirely undeveloped except for agricultural purposes.

Meanwhile, we had the Dow at about 500. People made just under $5,000 per year on average and paid about $12,000 if they wanted to buy a brand new home. No sticker shock in those days for those moving in from the Midwest.

The Korean War had ended three years earlier and the McCarthy hearings a couple of years before. The shock of Sputnik was still a year away. The Cold War was in full sway, however, and was not helped by the crushing of the Hungarian uprising by Soviet tanks in 1956. Memorable among the oddities of the day were the atomic bomb drills by which school kids would attain assured safety from any nearby neutron blast by being taught to crawl under their desks (confirming that the leaders then were about like those we have today).

Eisenhower was President and Nixon Vice President, re-elected as a team for a second term. Congress adopted “In God We Trust” as the national motto, officially supplanting its unofficial predecessor, E Pluribus Unum. In one of the great ideological misfires of all time, Ike appointed William J. Brennan as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court at the time included not only Justice Brennan but also Earl Warren, Felix Frankfurter, John Harlan, Hugo Black, and William O. Douglas.

Drugs were clearly a problem in metropolitan areas but had not spread as yet to the larger society. In response, Congress held marathon hearings on the issue and passed the Narcotic Control Act of 1956. Prescription drugs and packaged food items, meanwhile, did not have safety caps or seals, and the Tylenol poisoner who brought that constant headache upon us had not yet begun to serve his just judgment of everlasting torture in the lowest of the lowest of the lowest regions of Hades specifically reserved for him, where (I hope) it is EXTRA, EXTRA HOT!

Smoking was cool, however, really cool; so too was drinking (remember the “highball”). Garbage was garbage and weather was weather, since Rachel Carson had not yet had her way. Wonder Bread made up for any nutritional deficit incurred through all that smoking and drinking, or at least that is the conclusion I would have come to as a 5-year old boy at the time had I thought about it (only weird people didn’t like Wonder Bread).

Fireworks were everywhere on the Fourth of July, and there were no forbidden zones. Many an anthill served as a proving ground for mischievous boys in training for the demolition corps. What was done with cherry bombs will be passed over in silence.

Ma Bell introduced three-slot pay phones (for nickel, dime, and quarter) that year. She would lease you a home phone as well but not sell you one. You could, however, listen in for free on someone else’s party-line conversation, and you could make crank calls at will without fear that caller ID would expose you for being the lewd person that you were.

’56 Chevys, costing about $2,000, symbolized the oligopoly (composed of GM, U.S. Steel, and a few others) that John Kenneth Galbraith assured us would forever dominate a new industrial state and crush all future competition. “Made in Japan” meant junk, and Sony took this to heart by shipping its first transistor radio to Canada that year, perhaps sensing that it might ultimately have the last laugh.

Dairy Queens proliferated, having just introduced dilly bars to complement the banana splits they had been serving up for five years, but no trace could yet be found of McDonald’s (nor of the infamously-named and now near-defunct Sambo’s Restaurant which some of us may remember while eating those awful 3:00 a.m. fries in student mode during the 1960s and 1970s).

Gas stations were full service and gas was priced at about $.22 per gallon. The road culture ala Jack Kerouac held sway. Drive-in theaters flourished as part of a nationwide phenomenon which saw them quintuple in number from 1948 until they hit their peak by 1958 even as indoor theaters shrank by one-quarter during that same period. President Eisenhower signed the Federal Highway Act that gave impetus to the federal interstate system we know so well today. Commercial flying had gone mainstream, was highly regulated and expensive, and enabled you to get a hot meal with your flight.

Kodak dominated film. Polaroid was in its third decade of existence and had managed to sell its one millionth camera that year, though the Instamatic was still well off into the future. IBM had invented the world’s first hard disk (5 MB storage) for use on mainframes. Of course, the people of that day could scarcely dream of personal computers or hand-held digital devices or email or the Internet.

TVs were in about half of all households and had become the center of family activity, having supplanted radio and undercut the cinema. Almost all were black and white, as color sets did not catch on until the early ’60s. It took a U.S Supreme Court decision in 1955 to pave the way, but TV quiz shows were held not to constitute illegal gambling and so the $64,000 Question was eagerly watched to see if contestants could win individual prizes of as much as $100. Also eagerly watched were Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, who premiered their hugely popular Huntley-Brinkley Report on NBC in October, 1956, bumping Douglas Edwards of CBS from the top spot in ratings for television news. TV poured forth a wealth of wholesome family entertainment, with Father Knows Best, the Danny Thomas Show, the Phil Silvers Show, the Loretta Young Show, Playhouse 90, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Caesar’s Hour coming to mind as standouts among the offerings. No VHS to record any of it with, however, and no TiVo either.

Hollywood released Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, with its nearly 4-hour runtime, whose very ponderousness is rumored to have prompted a prominent Jewish wag of the time to stand up in the middle of the screening and cry out, “Cecil, let my people go.” While it no doubt went unnoticed here in the Valley, Ed Wood also produced what is reputed to be the worst movie ever made, Plan 9 from Outer Space, whose star (Bela Lugosi), having died after only four days of shooting, was represented by a double through most of the movie! More likely to be found at the local Odeon were Bus Stop (Marilyn Monroe), Picnic (William Holden), The Searchers (John Wayne), Giant (Rock Hudson), Moby Dick (Gregory Peck), The Solid Gold Cadillac (Judy Holliday), Forbidden Planet (Walter Pidgeon), Anastasia (Ingrid Bergman), Friendly Persuasion (Gary Cooper), Around the World in 80 Days (David Niven and about 100,000 other stars in cameo appearances), Patterns (Van Heflin), and (my favorite) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kevin McCarthy). All in all, an OK but not a great year for Hollywood, as the great stars of the 1930s and 1940s had either retired or were past their prime and as the film noir fashion had pretty much reached the end of its tether, yielding place, on the one hand, to Doris Day fluff films and, on the other, to hothouse films of the William Faulkner variety featuring sweaty male leads and ever sultry and much abused ladies. Arghhh! No wonder the cinema was in decline.

The “beat” movement was in full swing, Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, and the movie “Rock Around the Clock” was released, causing rock-and-roll riots, of all things, throughout much of Europe. The vinyl LP had been around just shy of a decade and was hugely popular. Hugh Hefner had begun his mischief, and Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando each were promoting their own versions of sex appeal. Grace Kelly caused the nation to swoon with her marriage to Prince Rainier in Monaco. And Pete Seeger protested and sang folk songs. Kids played Monopoly and rode Schwinn bikes. The Yankees won the World Series, beating the Dodgers (the Brooklyn Dodgers, that is), with Don Larsen pitching a perfect game and with such stalwarts as Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Jackie Robinson, and Pee Wee Reese gracing the field. Professional basketball remained largely segregated, though amazing players did some incredible things in what were then known as the Negro Colleges and a certain Bill Russell had led the University of San Francisco to the NCAA championships that year for the second time running; today the ratio of white to black players in the NBA has shifted, to put it mildly. Martin Luther King’s Montgomery bus boycotts had just come to a successful conclusion, spurred by a post-Brown v. Board of Education decision of the U.S. Supreme Court brought about by a legal team led by Thurgood Marshall.

Schools had discipline, and prayer. Knuckle-rapping with rulers was OK. Girls were of the marrying kind or of the “other” kind. Boys were the same drips then as they are today. Latin was still taught as a required language, though Greek had been routed by well-meaning but thoroughly befuddled language latitudinarians. Grade inflation had not yet taken hold, and the dread of flunking out remained very real for those who didn’t meet standards.

Perhaps the greatest news of 1956 came with the discovery of a vaccine for the prevention of polio — one of the great medical breakthroughs ever. The Valley, and the nation, gave a huge sigh of relief.

Law practice was characterized by mostly male lawyers who never touched a typewriter and who dictated profusely, wore suits and ties, and addressed one another as Mr. or Mrs. or Miss (no Ms. at the time and no casual first-name familiarity). Typewriters abounded. Plain paper photocopying was still several years off, but law firms could still use cruder mechanisms for making copies. Lawyers will be lawyers, after all. Early fax machines existed but were few and far between and very expensive. An “express message” meant a telegram from the one company that then held a monopoly over that mode of communication. Literal cut-and-paste constituted the editing process. Manual redlining was laboriously done in larger firms but not much elsewhere. Even “large” firms were midgets compared to today’s giants (even as of the early 1960s, the then 80-year-old firm I began with in 1980, McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, had just 20 or so lawyers!). Lawyers did not advertise, and collegial relationships tended to characterize what were then true partnerships where lawyers, once established, planned to spend their entire working careers.

“Silicon Valley” did not then exist, but all that was about to change. It began quietly enough and many did not notice. In the late 1930s, a pointy-headed Englishman named Alan Turing had taken his vast knowledge of high-level mathematics, had assumed infinite resources, and had set about to develop a logical model of incredible theoretical power that he called his “universal computing machine.” He saw that a vast number of complex functions could be mimicked and processed through logical representations contained in simple “on” and “off” states. Thus was born the digital model (or at least its modern and truly effective incarnation). But a small problem remained: what to do about those “infinite resources” that higher mathematicians could take for granted in their theorems but that did not in fact exist. The analog world was one of heavy machinery, the bigger and more powerful the better. And yet, and yet . . . Maybe with the right materials, the power of electricity could be harnessed to give us real-world computers as so envisioned.

Enter William Shockley. The date: February 13, 1956. The place: 391 South San Antonio Road, Mountain View. The goal: to make the world’s first semiconductors. Yes, right at the time the Valley struggled to retain some semblance of its agricultural roots, Shockley announced the formation of Shockley Labs. While really a division of a larger enterprise, this little outfit ultimately set the model for many startups that would follow. How? Well, in spite of all-pervasive genius, it never made a dime of profit. Only red ink. A true model for the Valley!

What is more, it became a prototype of a startup that is begun, controlled, and dominated by an engineering genius who proceeds to suffocate the life out of it. Today such engineers are kept caged in a back room, carefully guarded, and periodically fed big helpings of stock options to keep them tamed. Back then people didn’t know any better. And so William Shockley ultimately destroyed the company of which he was the brainchild. And brainchild he was — the Nobel-Prize-winning inventor of the world’s first transistor, a key foundational piece upon which the digital model could be built. A man with enough stature to assemble what was perhaps the world’s most famous founding team. But it all came to naught, and Shockley took his Nobel Prize and moved to Stanford to expound upon wild racial theories.

But what a founding team he had assembled! Gordon Moore. Robert Noyce. The founders of Fairchild Semiconductor and, ultimately, Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, and all the “fairchildren” that eventually came to the fore. From failure came spectacular success. Thus, the great companies of the Valley were poised to come into existence and realize the great digital vision of Alan Turing. The world of startups, venture capital, and explosive growth was about to begin. And Santa Clara Valley was never to be the same again. Silicon Valley was born.