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Atari 5200

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Atari 5200

Atari5200 1

Manufacturer
Type
Video game console
Generation
Second generation
Retail availability
November 1982
(North America)
Discontinued
21 May 1984
Units sold
1 million
Media
ROM cartridge
CPU
MOS 6502C @ 1.79 MHz
Predecessor
Successor

The Atari 5200 SuperSystem is a game console made by Atari. It was released in November 1982 in North America, intended to be the successor to the Atari 2600, but ultimately serving as the precursor to the Atari 7800. Based on the architecture of the Atari 400 and 800 computer systems, the 5200 was not compatible out-of-the-box with any other Atari system. The console originally included four joystick ports, using a 15-pin connector instead of the standard 9-pin setup usually used by Atari. The system's controller was a combination joystick-keypad, with an non-centering analog joystick and the first on-controller pause button, but the joystick was prone to breaking.

A running change to the 5200 removed two of the controller ports, as few games ever made use of the four-player capability. It was at this time that an adapter was also released, allowing the 5200 to play Atari 2600 games, although the adapter was not compatible with the four-port version. Due to the numerous issues with the console, and despite a decent number of near-arcade-quality games, the 5200 was a commercial failure. The 7800 was developed to replace it in 1984, but by that time, the Great Video Game Crash had devastated the market, and Atari withheld the 7800 until after Nintendo revitalized the market with the NES.

Hardware

Much of the technology in the Atari 8-bit family of home computer systems were originally developed as a second-generation games console intended to replace the 2600. However, as the system was reaching completion, the personal computer revolution was starting with the release of machines like the Commodore PET, TRS-80 and Apple II. These machines were similar in technological terms to the 2600, but sold for much higher prices with associated higher profit margins. Atari's management decided to enter this market, and the new technology was repackaged into the Atari 400 and 800, hitting the market in 1979.

The chipset used in the 400 and 800 was designed because they were aware the 2600 would be obsolete by the 1980 time frame. What was surprising was the sudden entry into the market of new competition, whose machines quickly cut off the sales of the 2600. Atari decided to re-enter the games market with a design that closely matched their original 1978 specifications. In its prototype stage, the Atari 5200 was originally called the "Atari Video System X - Advanced Video Computer System", and was codenamed "Pam" after a female employee at Atari Inc. It is also rumored that PAM actually stood for "Personal Arcade Machine", as the majority of games for the system ended up being arcade conversions. Actual working Atari Video System X machines, whose hardware is 100% identical to the Atari 5200 do exist, but are extremely rare.

The initial 1982 release of the system featured four controller ports, where nearly all other systems of the day had only one or two ports. The 5200 also featured a revolutionary new controller with an analog joystick, numeric keypad, two fire buttons on each side of the controller and game function keys for Start, Pause, and Reset. The 5200 also featured the innovation of the first automatic TV switchbox, allowing it to automatically switch from regular TV viewing to the game system signal when the system was activated. Previous RF adapters required the user to slide a switch on the adapter by hand. This unique RF box was also where the power supply connected in a unique dual power/television signal setup similar to the RCA Studio II's. A single cable coming out of the 5200 plugged into the switch box and was used for both electricity and the television signal.

The 1983 revision of the Atari 5200 has two controller ports instead of four, and a change back to the more conventional separate power supply and standard non-autoswitching RF switch. It also has changes in the cartridge port address lines to allow for the Atari 2600 adapter released that year. While the adapter was only made to work on the two-port version, modifications can be made to the four-port to make it line-compatible. In fact, towards the end of the four-port model's production run, there were a limited number of consoles produced which included these modifications. These consoles can be identified by an asterisk in their serial number.

Reception

The 5200 received much criticism for the "sloppy" design of its non-centering analog controllers and its high asking price. In August 2009, video game website IGN placed the 5200 23rd out of the 25 greatest video game consoles of all time, behind its predecessor (the 2600, ranked 2nd greatest), its successor (the 7800, 17th), and both its main competitors (the Intellivision and Colecovision, 14th and 12th respectively).

2007 AVGN episode

After the TMNT 3 Movie Review was posted on YouTube, the internet series moved to Gametrailers for a third time and it was first released on February 13, 2007 (July 25, 2008 on YouTube). The Nerd examined the features of the system, its controller, and its unique setup that routes the console's power through the AV switchbox (a feature unique to the early 4-port consoles). He also showed off the Trakball controller, which is nearly the size of the system. Unfortunately, he couldn't do an effective review on any games due to the controller being broken, and when he ordered a replacement controller from the internet (a Wico Command Control analog stick), he was dismayed to find its connector was not compatible with the 5200 (it lacked the necessary adapter cable it originally came with).

This episode marked the debut of both the revised, modern AVGN theme song, and the AVGN logo.

For the transcript, See Transcript of AVGN episode Atari 5200.

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