Cleaning my adopted Atari 2600

As a truly tragically nostalgic child of the ’70s/’80s, I simply could not pass up the opportunity to nab a vintage Atari 2600 VCS, complete with a stack of games, for the nice price of “under fifty bucks” (as Atari desperately tried to market it in the late ’80s/early ’90s). Thank you, craigslist, and thank you, Patrick!

I almost settled for Atari’s newest release of the “Flashback 2.0″, which attempts to recapture the spirit of the original “woodie” system (named for the wood grain front panel which adorned the first generation 2600 VCS). It’s cheap, convenient and comes with 40+ games installed within, meaning no use for bulky, cluttery cartridges.

Atari cartridges stack 2

But inside, I knew for sure that there’s nothing like the real thing (baby). The whole Atari experience, for me at least, was much more than just being able to play games on TV (rad!). The VCS console was like the center of entertainment. I relished popping in my favorite game cartridges and flicking the on/off switch, watching the game glow to life on my TV screen. I loved that quiet, patient hum of the game as it played the demo screen, just waiting for me to hit the Game Reset lever. And when I did push that lever, my hands flew immediately to the joystick or paddle controller, not wanting to miss a single second of the action that was about to take place.

Atari cartridges stack 1

So luck would have it that someone on the Westside was clearing out some clutter from their abode, including his old Atari 2600 from his childhood. So one rainy day I drove down to pick it up.

It felt so good to drive home with the Atari packed in an equally vintage ’80s cardboard beer box next to me. I felt warm and fuzzy inside, like I was giving it a new home. At stop lights I’d look over at it and smile, remembering how much I used to play Atari when I was a kid (about ’80-’82). For awhile, the Atari 2600 was my absolute favorite toy.

As the rain pelted the windshield, I recalled how I would sometimes neglect my homework/chores so badly from playing Atari that my dad hid the Atari’s infamous TV/GAME switch—the only connection to the virtual video wonderland of Atari games. I’m telling you, that little switch made all the difference between a super exciting and dreadfully boring day. So I’d have to finish my homework or whatever other chores I had to do in order to get it back.

You may be asking yourself, “Dang, if he loved his Atari so much, where is it now?That’s the sucky thing—I’m not sure if I have it anymore. I’m pretty sure it’s buried somewhere in all my own clutter in the garage, but not 100%. (Guess what—I found it!) So before my golden days darkened forever, I had to grab someone else’s sunshine. And I’m sure glad I did.

Atari 2600 VCS and some games

Update: After trying to play Super Breakout I found the paddle controllers to be faulty; a victim of the “jitter” effect which apparently is a common disease of aged controllers. Not to worry—there are lots of paddle controllers for sale on Ebay for cheap, or I can even be adventurous and try to clean and fix them myself.

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