Launched in the same year as punk rock, Star Wars, and Jimmy Carter, Atari’s wood-panel powerhouse would go on to demonstrate a staying power to outlast Darth Vader and Sid Vicious alike. For many in the early 1980s, the machine wasn’t just the ubiquitous games platform of its day--it was the games platform, full-stop, spearheading the early years of the industry as we know it today.
The machine's central role in the Great Video Game Crash of 1983 put a damper on Atari’s seemingly unstoppable rise, an early defeat for a company whose fortunes would prove increasingly precarious in ensuing years. Luckily the company still had its old reliable to fall back on, re-releasing the 2600 as the cut-price 2600 Jr.--with a burst of renewed support from developers of the day, including Activision. Kept alive by sales in Europe, Asia, and our brand-loyal friends in Brazil, the machine was still seeing first-party support in 1990 via Atari’s Klax, trucking on into the new decade until finally retiring on Jan 1, 1992. Okay, so it didn’t quite end up outliving Jimmy Carter--but it’s still a pretty good showing for a machine that infamously couldn’t even do Pac-Man right.