jjATR HC The Atari VCS (1977)

Spelunking

20190626: So, for the 42nd year in a row, my original Atari VCS can officially be classified as “runs.”

jjATR-HC Atari 2600 running Star Wars: The Arcade Game
jjATR-HC Atari VCS CX2600 running Star Wars: The Arcade Game

I feel really lucky to have been in on this from the beginning… and to have it last so long and still work so well. This is a “Sunnyvale” VCS, or a “heavy sixer,” if you prefer: one of the first batch of Ataris that were manufactured in the Sunnyvale, California facility, had six switches across the upper front panel, and had a thick, heavy plastic shielded case. When manufacturing moved to Hong Kong in 1979, the body had a much lighter plastic case and shield with the six switches, hence, “light sixer.”

jjATR-HC Atari VCS CX2600 serial number label
jjATR-HC Atari VCS CX2600 serial number label

As best as I can ascertain, the Atari serial number system is pretty straightforward: run off a hundred thousand units, increment the letter, start over. One trick seems to be that Atari apparently started the VCS numbering somewhere in the E run, which coincides with the last production units of the Atari Pong game at the same facility. This speculation is supported by the fact that we haven’t yet found any VCS units with a serial number ending in A-D. The earliest serial number we know for sure exists on a VCS isĀ #56910E, according to the most current list at AtariAge.

If we assume numbering started at ~#50000 E, my serial number would be about the 500,000th unit produced. Most estimates I see have Atari selling less than 500,000 units in 1977, allowing for some play in serial number existence and distribution, I think we’re in the right ballpark.

Even though the machine is now ubiquitously known as the 2600, it was referred to the Video Computer System, or VCS, at the beginning.

jjATR-HC Atari VCS CX2600
jjATR-HC Atari VCS CX2600

Sure, some of us geeks knew the actual Atari part number was CX-2600, as seen on the serial number label, but up until the 1982 introduction of the 5200 Super System, the on-product labelling was Video Computer System. The all-black, four-switch “Darth Vader” model introduced to accompany the 5200 was the first model to highlight 2600.

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