[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Atari 2600 Computer Attachment

March 17th, 2008 by Benj Edwards

Atari 2600 Computer Attachment

Atari announced this ambitious computer add-on for their popular Atari 2600 game console just as it was bleeding to death from record losses. Sadly for us collectors, this unit never went into production — although the wisdom of releasing such a device is highly debatable.

Discussion topic of the week: What if Atari had included a built-in keyboard with the 2600 at its launch in 1977? How would it have changed the nature of the system?

[ Scanned from Atari Age, May-June 1983 ]

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9 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Atari 2600 Computer Attachment”

  1. Bill Says:

    I remember buying first the odessey because it had the keyboard (thinking it would be more interactive and making my decision to buy a game system seem more intelligent) over the 2600..No offense to oddessy fans ,but I returned the odessey after 2 days of looking at available game software and bought the 2600 because the games were more fun and the graphics looked better..If the Atari had the keyboard, I don’t think it would have changed much in the way of sales or perception as at that time simple games were the craze..people were not thinking “computer” then..

  2. Layne Says:

    I’ll have to agree with Bill. My parents didn’t play the Atari 2600, I did (and to a much lesser extent, my sisters). My parents didn’t *get* it. I was a kid, so I liked it for the games. And there weren’t any games that would have needed that much input…..I had one of the keypad controllers (don’t even remember which game it came with) and almost never used it. If the keypad is too much input, a keyboard would have been beyond overkill.


  3. Bill Says:

    I think the game Layne is remembering was Star Raiders. It came packaged with the small keyboard/touchpad controller (like the number keypad on the side of most modern keyboards). It was a really fun game but you had to use it in conjunction with the regular Atari 2600. I don’t remember any other games that used that controller, though..I also remember the graphics on that and the “scope” of the game pushed the envelope for the 2600 at that time…Oh the fun..

  4. Benj Edwards Says:

    Believe it or not, but Atari released a very primative BASIC programming cartridge for the 2600 for use with number pad controllers (I have two of them) called “Keyboard controllers.” There was also a numeric keypad called the “Kid’s Controller” similar to the Star Raiders and BASIC controllers. Ah, here’s a list:


  5. Bill Says:

    great list..ah, the CX prefex..I have the Cosmic Command controller with survival run…sorry to be off subject…

  6. Ghazban Says:

    I had the basic cartridge and keypad. I don’t recall much about it except it was VERY limited.

  7. Benj Edwards Says:

    It’s ok, Bill. In a similar vein, I’ve always wanted the Space Age controller for some reason, but I’ve never seen one in person.

    I’ve read that the “Basic Programming” cartridge was extremely limited. It makes sense, since the console only had 128 bytes of RAM. 🙂

  8. moi Says:

    I don’t think this would have been very interesting, seeing how the vcs was limited. Just displaying a standard character screen would have been an achievement for this hardware, even if the keyboard included an expansion cartridge. I had the basic catridge too and I can confirm it was very limited and horrible to use, even for the early eighties.

  9. Jo_Olz Says:

    Was Mattel the producer of this attachment ??

    Because that is Mattel Aquarius Keyboard !!

    You can check it at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mattel_Aquarius

    I has both the Atari 2600 and the Mattel Aquarius, and remember that Atari published the Computer Attachment and it had a white keyboard. I mean, o was a kid at that time but will recognize that mattel keyboard anywhere !

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