Atari 7800 - Game console from Atari (A7800)

66 games Atari 7800
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Atari 7800/Atari 7800 (a7800)

The Atari 7800 is a game console released by Atari in June 1986 (a trial release took place two years earlier). The 7800 was designed to replace the failed Atari 5200 and to regain Atari 's dominance in the video game console market it shared with Nintendo and Sega . With this system , Atari eliminated all the shortcomings of the Atari 5200 : instead of analog joysticks, it had simple digital joysticks, it was almost completely compatible with the Atari 2600 , and it was even cheaper - the starting price was $140.

The 7800 was the first Atari gaming systemdeveloped by an outside company ( General Computer Corporation ; the Atari Lynx and Atari Jaguar were later developed outside the company ). The system was designed to be upgraded to a full-fledged home computer - a keyboard was designed, which also had an expansion port (it was a SIO port from the 8-bit Atari family) for connecting peripherals such as a floppy drive or printer.


Atari faced pressure from Coleco and its ColecoVision console, which supported graphics that more accurately reflected the arcade games of the time than the Atari 2600 or 5200 The Atari 5200 (released as the successor to the Atari 2600) was criticized for being unable to play 2600 games without an adapter.

The Atari 7800 ProSystem was the first console from Atari, Inc. developed by a third party company, General Computer Corporation (GCC). It was designed in 1983–1984 with an intended mass market launch in June 1984, but was soon canceled due to the sale to Tramel Technology Ltd on 2 July 1984. The project was originally called Atari 3600.

With experience in creating arcade games such as Food Fight, GCC developed a new system with a graphical architecture similar to the arcade machines of the time. The system is powered by a slightly modified 6502 processor, the Atari SALLY (sometimes referred to as the "6502C"), running at 1.79 MHz. In some ways the 7800 is more powerful and in others less than the 1983 Nintendo NES. It uses a 2600 TV interface adapter chip with the same limitations to generate two-channel audio.


The 7800 was originally released in southern California in June 1984 following an announcement on May 21, 1984 at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show. Thirteen games were announced for the launch of the system: Ms. Pac-Man, Pole Position II, Centipede, Joust, Dig Dug, Robotron: 2084, Galaga, Food Fight, Ballblazer, Rescue on Fractalus!, Track Field and Xevious.

On July 2, 1984, Warner Communications sold the Atari Consumer Division to Jack Tramiel. All projects have been halted for the initial evaluation period. GCC was not paid to develop the 7800 and Warner and Tramiel fought over who was responsible. In May 1985, Tramiel relented and paid GCC. This led to additional negotiations regarding launch titles that GCC developed and then to an effort to find someone to lead their new video game division, which was completed in November 1985. The original production run of the Atari 7800 lay in storage until it was reintroduced in January 1986.

The console was released nationwide in May 1986 for $79.95. It launched with titles intended for the 7800's debut in 1984 and was aided by a marketing campaign with a "low millions" budget, according to Atari Corporation. This was substantially less than the $9 million spent by Sega and the $16 million spent by Nintendo. The high-scoring keyboard and cartridge planned by Warner were cancelled.

By the end of 1986, Computer Entertainer claimed that 100,000 Atari 7800 consoles had been sold in the US, down from the Master System's 125,000 and the NES' 1.1 million. Due to production problems, Atari only managed to produce and sell 100,000 units by 1986, according to Atari, including those that had been in storage since 1984. In 1986, a common complaint was the lack of games, including a month-long hiatus between releases of new versions (Galaga released in August followed by Xevious in November). By the end of 1986, the 7800 had 10 games, compared to 20 for Sega and 36 for Nintendo.


The Atari 7800 line emphasized high-quality versions of games from the golden age of arcade video games such as Joust, Centipede, and Asteroids, which were four, six, and seven years old respectively when released in 1986.

Eleven titles were developed and marketed by three third parties under their own labels for the 7800 (Absolute Entertainment, Activision and Froggo), the rest published by Atari. Most Atari games were developed by outside companies under contract.

Some NES games were developed by companies that licensed their games from another arcade manufacturer. While the creator of the NES version was prohibited from making a competitive NES version of the game, the original copyright holder of the arcade games was not prohibited from transferring the rights to the home version of the arcade game to multiple systems. Through this loophole, Atari 7800 converted Mario Bros., Double Dragon, Commando, Rampage, Xenophobe, Ikari Warriors and Kung-Fu Master were licensed and developed.

Termination of production

The Atari 7800 was officially operational in the US between 1986–1991 and in Europe between 1989 and 1991. On January 1, 1992, Atari Corp. announced the end of production of the Atari 7800, Atari 2600, the Atari line of 8-bit computers, and the Atari XE gaming system. (It has since been discovered that Atari continued to develop games such as Toki for the Atari 7800 until all development ceased in May 1993.) By the time the NES was cancelled, Nintendo controlled 80% of the North American market, while Atari had Corp. was 12%.

Retro Gamer issue 132 reported that, according to Atari UK marketing manager Darryl Still, “It was very well stocked by European retail; although it never received consumer support. 2600, I remember we were selling a lot of units through mail order catalogs and in less wealthy regions."


  • Processor: Atari SALLY 6502 ("6502C")
    • Frequency: 1.79 MHz, decreased to 1.19 MHz when accessing the TIA or RIOT chip
  • Note: Unlike the standard version of the 6502 processor, the SALLY processor could be suspended to allow other devices to access the bus)
  • RAM: 4 kB (two 6116 ICs, organization [2Kx8])
  • ROM: Embedded BIOS 4Kb, 48Kb Cartridge ROM
  • Graphics: MARIA dedicated graphics controller
    • Resolution: 160x240 (160x288 PAL) or 320x240/288
    • A palette of 25 colors chosen from a color space containing 256 colors (16 hues × 16 luma), various graphics modes limited the number of colors used and the number of colors per sprite
    • DMA
    • GPU frequency: 7.16 MHz
  • I/O: Control byte 6532 RIOT and TIA for joystick and console with switches
  • Ports and Slots: 2 joystick ports, 1 port for game cartridges, 1 expansion slot, power connector, high-frequency video output
  • Sound: TIA chip, same as in Atari 2600. The 7800 model was only used to generate sound in games. In the 2600, the model was used to generate both audio and video data.
    • Optionally, in cartridges and games, the POKEY audio chip could be built in to create more advanced audio effects.