Monday, March 19, 2012

The Atari 2600 : Cutting Edge Add-Ons

Like many current computer game players, I cut my teeth on Pong and the Atari 2600. My paper route fueled my growing game obsession. At $40-$50 a cartridge, one game cost a week's complete earnings. By the time we moved from my childhood home, I had acquired over 100 different Atari 2600 games. It is depressing when  I consider how much money I spent, but what's done is done. There were two very cool 3rd party add-ons I owned and I never met another person who has ever heard of them. I know people are out there who played them because there are Wikipedia entries and YouTube videos showcasing them and I didn't post them.

The Starpath Supercharger
This device plugged into the base Atari 2600 unit at one end like any normal cartridge, but also connected to a cassette player line out. Games were distributed on cassette tapes. The additional memory provided by the Supercharger allowed for more advanced graphics. Escape From the Mindmaster featured very primitive 3-dimensional mazes and challenging puzzles.
see: Starpath Supercharger Wikipedia entry for more info.

The Gameline
Like the Supercharger, this device plugged in like a cartridge. Unlike the Supercharger, this device had a built-in modem and connected to a phone line to download games. These were fairly cheap and typically cost 10 to 25 cents to play. I believe you could buy access to a game for a week. There were also contests with Gameline credits as the prize.
see: Gameline Wikipedia entry for more info.

Do you have fond memories of these obscure gaming devices or other devices that were ahead of their time, or was I the only sucker who dumped their paper route money into these time sucks?

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