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When did you get an Atari 7800?


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If your here at this website and more specifically on this forum and post, then you probably appreciate Atari and their consoles.  One thing I always find interesting is where this appreciation started. Some have fond childhood memories, some had a curiosity about Atari, and for others it was just a gradual evolution of their love for video games. 

The 7800 holds a special place for me and here's why. I don't remember getting the console, I don't remember getting a lot of games, for me the 7800 was always "just there".  The basement was our play room and we had our Legos, tinker toys, ninja turtles and he man's, etc in that area.  But there was also an old console TV and an Atari 7800 hooked to it. 

The NES was upstairs and we were only allowed to play it when dad wasn't home or on the rare occasion that we would play it as a family.  My father worked long and hard, and it was just accepted that when he got home, he wanted to watch TV and relax. That meant no Nintendo. 

So needless to say, the 7800 got a lot of use.  Our favorites were asteroids, donkey Kong, donkey Kong Jr, Mario bros, rampage, space invaders, pitfall, and keystone kapers. We had tons of 2600 games but we all knew the 7800 games were special.  To round out our 7800 games we had centipede, pole position 2, Ms pac man, food fight, and eventually double dragon. 

The late nights in the basement with the only illumination being the glow of the crt; me and my sister playing 2 player Mario bros or maybe rampage are great memories. I have great memories with the NES and other consoles too, but the 7800 was different. It was always our console. 

At some point the console got packed away, the TV was thrown out, and the purpose of the room changed. As all things do, the house and the use of it evolved as we grew older. I ended up pulling the 7800 out somewhere in the mid 2000s and had some fun with it for about a week. It got packed and put away again. 

Then, last year, I got it back out just by chance while looking for something else.  I got a crt and set up a little retro gaming area for myself and the family, and the 7800 is the center piece. The kids love Ms pac man, crossbow (one of the many games I purchased in the last year) and so much more. Mom and dad, my sister and her family, and a few friends have come over and enjoyed playing it with me as well. It's a fantastic memory and a console that means so much more than video games to me. It reminds me of simpler times, of late nights and early mornings. It's a part of my life that continues to bring my family together, and I'll cherish always. 

So how did you find out about the 7800?  I don't expect stories like mine, but I'm interested to know. Thanks for your time everybody. 

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I got my first A7800 console on Christmas of 1987. I had Xevious and, of course, Pole Position II. Those were my first games for that console. I was upset because I thought I didn't get it for that year. Sure enough, my Dad hid it on me. Being the 13-year-old I was, I became overjoyed when it was revealed and forgot my anger. I even hugged the box. I think I still have that system to this very day. It still works. I have two A7800s now, and almost all the retail games for the console. I bought one at the Savers thrift store for under $10.00 then. My favorite game as a kid for the A7800 was Food Fight. I can easily score over 8,000,000 points and make it to Level 125. It stays that level after that forever once you get high enough. Fun system. Thanks for letting me share. :O)

NOTE: I had known about the A7800 since about 1984 or 1985. I read about it in a computer magazine I saw lying around.

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I was an Atari kid that had a 2600 and then an 800XL computer.  But I had never even heard of the 7800 until I started retro collecting in the late 1990's.  I was pretty astounded at how good the 7800 once I actually owned one and played the games.  To this day, I'm convinced THIS is the console Atari should have released instead of the 5200. 

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My story is a bit different than Rick's. Before the NES era I grew up with the 5200 4-port, which still holds number one spot in my collection.  That 5200 was a Christmas gift the same year they became available.  I still use it often.  1987 replaced it with the NES.  By that time I never heard of anything Atari again. Until...

It had to be either 1989 or 1990.  My grandmother and I traveled with my aunt and uncle to Battlefield Mall in Missouri to do some holiday shopping.  I was asked what I would like to have and I had no clue.  I didn't see anything in the Penny's or Sears wish books so the trip was to see if I found anything while my aunt and uncle did their shopping.

We tried KB, Electronics Boutique, Radio Shack, Sears, any place that carried video games.  The last place we checked I almost passed on.  Circus World.  There were a few clearance bins in front of the store where we (Granny and I) spotted some Atari games on clearance.  Seeing the silver boxes I thought they might be 5200 games but was confused when I picked one up and seen 7800 on it.  So we went in the store to investigate.

Behind the checkout counter, way up high, were literally hundreds of 7800 systems...all priced at $70.  I had found a Christmas idea and named the games I could see as possible extras.  By the time I unwrapped it at Christmas the price tag was still on it and had been reduced even more to $32.  Every game I mentioned was unwrapped as well except for Ms. pac-man and Xevious didn't work and to be exchanged (either that or get $2.00 back).  

I have to admit that when I first played it I had mixed feelings about it.  While the arcade games were a nice welcome from the NES style games they were hit and miss.  Knowing the 5200 and how it performed I had certain expectations from Atari.  The graphics were good, sounds varied, controllers were horrid...but it was fun.

I didn't know anything about it until I saw it at the mall.  I didn't learn what exactly made it tick until a decade ago.  It took a friend of mine shortly after I got it to discover it could play 2600 games as well.  His logical way of thinking was the carts were same size so they should fit.  We were teenagers, didn't read the box even when I kept it nor did we read the manual.  He just put one in and played it.  I was dumbfounded.

Today, the 7800 is a mainstay in my collection.  Favorites are Asteroids, Xevious, Ballblazer, Food Fight, Galaga, PP II.  And this is one time I can say the 7800 did better than the NES when it came to Ballblazer.  The 7800 blew the NES (actually Famicom) version away.  I play it often but I still get mixed feelings about it.  I like it but I feel it could have done a lot more that what developers did with it.  And I have a Europad controller now so I can enjoy it without getting cramps.  Even the 5200 controllers were better in my opinion.

Edited by Atari 5200 Guy
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The 5200 like 7800 was under supported and didn't reach it's full potential. It was cool that you discovered the 7800 at a time where it was on the market but extremely cheap. 

As a kid I preferred the NES but I didn't think of video games being good or bad. I just loved playing video games whether it was 7800 or NES. It wasn't until I got older that I became nostalgic for my 7800 and the memories. I enjoyed all games honestly. I didn't become jaded until I was a teenager lol. 

Great stories so far all!

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I got my 7800 when I was in college, I think it was in 1986.  I had given my 2600 to a cousin but I had kept the games I liked most and I wanted to be able to play them,so the 7800 made perfect sense.  I got it at a Kay-Bee Toys store (remember those?) and was on sale but not a deep discount.  Loved it from the moment I first played it!

🖖 Going to the final frontier, gaming...

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1 hour ago, Silver Back said:

The 5200 like 7800 was under supported and didn't reach it's full potential. It was cool that you discovered the 7800 at a time where it was on the market but extremely cheap. 

As a kid I preferred the NES but I didn't think of video games being good or bad. I just loved playing video games whether it was 7800 or NES. It wasn't until I got older that I became nostalgic for my 7800 and the memories. I enjoyed all games honestly. I didn't become jaded until I was a teenager lol. 

Great stories so far all!

7800 support when I got it was obsolete.  I found Ms.Pac-Man for it later, cart only, at a second hand store.

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10 hours ago, Silver Back said:

The 5200 like 7800 was under supported and didn't reach it's full potential. It was cool that you discovered the 7800 at a time where it was on the market but extremely cheap. 

As a kid I preferred the NES but I didn't think of video games being good or bad. I just loved playing video games whether it was 7800 or NES. It wasn't until I got older that I became nostalgic for my 7800 and the memories. I enjoyed all games honestly. I didn't become jaded until I was a teenager lol. 

Great stories so far all!

With the 5200, every game we owned was based off arcade hits at the time.  The only 2 games we had that were not arcade games were Star Raiders and Countermeasure.  The other 19 we would eventually get were all Atari or PB releases.  To me none of those were bad games.  

Then the NES came and I discovered games that I would ask for and get only to feel we wasted money.  Not many, mind you, but a few.  And I got to where I had favorite publishers/developers like Konami, Sunsoft, Capcom, etc.  I wasn't wanting to be picky but the asking prices of most NES games then you developed expectations after a while.  And rentals took a while to show up in my area so it made sense to me to choose the next purchase carefully.

As I mentioned before when I got my 7800 I didn't expect a whole lot but I did expect some kind of improvements from the 2600/5200 days.  The NES was a heavy influence in me developing game expectations.  Today I am a lot more biased than I was then. Both systems got an equal amount of playtime. I have always thought the 7800 had better graphics abilities over the NES.  I just wish they would have done something different, more impressive, with the sounds than slapping TIA in it and having POKEY externally.  Not that those are bad choices, and some 7800 games really push TIA, but with some games it shows that sounds took a backroad.  With an impressive graphics chip you'd think a similar impressive sound chip would have been developed simultaneously.  

It's a great little system regardless with loads of great games to play on it.  That much is certain.  I'm hoping one of the squad challenges coming up involves the 7800.

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I agree with a lot of what you have said and I think the graphics on the 7800 are great.  It is odd that the console didn't ship with better sound and I think that really pushed the perception of the 7800 being the same old stuff from Atari. 

As a kid up until about 91 or 92 I played way more 7800 than any other console.  That (along with other factors) is what pushed me to get a complete 7800 library while only staying with my childhood games for things like the NES. But man I wish I had ninja golf, basketbrawl, and midnight mutants as a kid. Those are awesome. 

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I first got my Atari 7800 on Christmas 1986. Somewhere I have a picture of me opening my 7800 for Christmas, I wish I could find it. My love of Atari stems from going to Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theater at an early age, and playing all of the Atari arcade games they had there. I lived in Michigan at the time, not too far from @nosweargamer and we had a fantastic Chuck E. Cheese. It was one of the original floorpans and was HUGE. What I loved most was playing the driving games. Our Chuck E. Cheese had both Night Driver and Pole Position II. They were right next to each other towards the back of the gaming area behind a little half-wall that would come up about waist high, and I would run straight back to those driving games as soon as we'd get there and pump them both full of quarters. While I enjoyed all of the arcade games and played a nice variety, including Missile Command, Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Centipede and Crystal Castles, I LOVED the driving games, especially Pole Position II. At 4 and 5 years old I was setting high scores on that machine. I loved shifting through LO and HI gear, memorizing each turn, and getting my timing down just right.

Then one day we came in and there was a new driving game parked back there next to Night Driver and Pole Position II. It was Out Run! It was the top of the line "sit-down" motion-simulated arcade machine. You would climb in, sit down in the chair, and as you drove the car in the game, the machine would tilt and swivel with every turn, and there were little fans that blew air on your legs the faster you drove. Graphically Out Run was an improvement over Pole Position, and I really loved the starting stage driving past the beautiful palm trees, sandy beaches and clear blue ocean. Instead of a Formula 1 car, we drove a Ferrari Testarossa convertible, the car all of us had a poster for on our bedroom walls.

As I was growing up, my family didn't have a ton of money to throw around. Things weren't handed to me, and I saw "video games" as something rich or older kids would have. Still, I loved these games and wanted to bring the Chuck E. Cheese experience home. When November came around, I sat down with my parents at the dining room table and flipped through the Sears Catalog / Wish Book, and we put together a Birthday and Christmas list for that year. As I flipped through the pages, I came saw the Atari 7800 beautiful displayed in the Sears Catalog, my eyes got big and I was so excited! I put the Atari 7800 at the very top of my Christmas list that year!

 

 

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Here's the wildest thing! ... I think I confused Pole Position II with Out Run and ended up asking for an Atari 7800 by mistake! Both Pole Position II and Out Run were my favorite Chuck E. Cheese arcade games at the time, and I think I either confused the two games, or thought Out Run was from Atari the same way Pole Position was. I asked for the Atari 7800 for Christmas because in the Sears Wish Book I saw it came with "the race car game from Chuck E. Cheese" when what I really should've asked for was the Sega Master System with Out Run. WOW! Either way I likely wouldn't be here in gaming today if it hadn't been for Pole Position II and Out Run.

How lucky am I that I received an Atari 7800 for Christmas that year! For a while I was the coolest kid in school. Everybody else either played their big brothers Atari 2600 or ColecoVision. My Cousin Jason would come over on the weekends and he thought the 7800 was the coolest thing he'd ever seen! We'd make snacks and would play Atari on rainy Saturday afternoons. We loved playing Pole Position II, Asteroids, Dig Dug, Food Fight and Ms. Pac-Man. We were the Atari team!

After a while though Nintendo caught on. My best friends who lived in the house behind me and used to come over to play Atari, got Nintendo and invited me over to play it for the first time. We played Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 2, Duck Hunt, R.C. Pro-Am, Excitebike, Hogan's Alley, and The Adventures of LOLO. I was just blown away. I really loved playing Mario, and started to feel the urge to get a Nintendo of my own. I was at Kay-Bee Toys at saw "Mario Bros." for Atari 7800 and bought it thinking it was the same game I had played on the NES, and although I enjoyed the game I was disappointed when I got home and found out it wasn't the same Mario game at all.

In the Summer of 1989 our family moved from Michigan to South Florida, and we had a garage sale weekend where we got rid of a lot of items so we wouldn't have to pack and move things we didn't need. This was shortly after my neighbor friends got their NES, and although I was "Mr. Atari" I was struck with Nintendo fever! My parents said that if I sold some of my old baby toys, got rid of some things at the garage sale, was "a good boy" and helpful during our move to Florida, that I would have enough money to get a Nintendo once we got to our new home. My dad ended up selling our Atari 7800 to my Aunt and Cousin Jason for $20. His thoguht was that I only needed one video game system in the house. If I had an NES why would I still need the 7800?

When we got to Florida I was thrilled to get my new NES! We hooked it up and our entire family loved playing LOLO, Duck Hunt and Super Mario. For a few years during Nintendomania I was a proud Nintendo kid. I had the lunch box, I was there opening day for Super Mario Bros. 3, loved playing Contra, Metroid and Zelda. Had Donkey Kong Classics, Marble Madness, Paperboy, Spy Hunter, and so many others! I was fortunate enough to get the NES with the Power Pad and played the heck out of that thing.

About four years would go by, and as we marched into the 16-Bit era, something clicked in my mind as I stopped and took a pause. I looked back and felt like I was missing something, like I had left something behind. Gaming was entering the age of Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter 2. But what had happened to Atari? It was the biggest company on earth, and now it felt like a lost civilization. What happened to Centipede, Asteroids, Dig Dug and Pole Position? What happened to the fun games I used to play with my family at Chuck E. Cheese. What happened to Out Run? And wasn't there that 8-bit Sega system before the Genesis that had Out Run and After Burner? Doesn't Atari have that Lynx which is like a better, color Game Boy?

In the summer of 1993 my "Nintendo Fever" was over and I relapsed back into Atari and became "Mr. Atari" again. My Pac-Man Fever resurfaced. Something clicked in my brain that got me so interested in these games. We started going to our local Chuck E. Cheese which had a Pole Position cockpit right next to a RoadBlasters cockpit. I'd go to every Toys R Us and Kay-Bee Toys and search the aisles endlessly, hoping to find anything from Atari. I loved the graphics and gameplay of these classic games, and all of the game theory that went into these single screen arcade games that had no princess to save but were just so fun to play endlessly. This was 1993 and we didn't have the internet as we know it today. I was searching through old Sears Catalogs to try and find a picture of the Atari 7800. Just to be able to look at the games again and put together a collection that we could all play. I was incredibly intrigued by this lost Atari generation, I was thirsty for knowledge and learned all I could from old catalogs and ads in old editions of National Geographic Magazine. I began telling my friends that I was into "Classic Gaming" - a term I had come up with myself, and fully believed that I was probably the only person left with any interest in these games. I was fortunate enough to work for many years with Gene Landrum who launched the 2600 and Atari's Home Consumer Division and had created and developed Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theater for Nolan Bushnell and Joe Keenan, and shared these stories with him. We always had great talks about this.

My fascination peaked with a fateful trip to Kay-Bee Toys in September, 1993 when I stumbled upon a messy pile of Atari 2600 Asteroids and E.T. games in the clearance aisle for $0.98 each, and my story culminates with my ordering a brand new Atari 7800 and 25 brand new games directly from Atari, years after they had left store shelves. That chapter of my story continues here, I hope you'll enjoy it:

 

 

 

You can also read about my hand-written Atari 2600/7800 Strategy Guide that I made in 6th Grade, and the beginnings of this website here:

 

 

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2 hours ago, Justin said:

What happened to the fun games I used to play with my family at Chuck E. Cheese. What happened to Out Run? And wasn't there that 8-bit Sega system before the Genesis that had Out Run and After Burner?

 

So what happened with me and my love for Out Run, and confusing the Atari 7800 with the Sega Master System?

At the same time I was experiencing this "Atari Renaissance" in 1993, I was also forming a tremendous appreciation for other "forgotten classic" 8-bit systems like the Sega Master System, and the variety of "boutique" game systems that were still on the market at the time like TurboDuo, Atari Lynx, Neo•Geo and 3DO. It was this quest for Atari that gave me an appreciation for these other systems and allowed me to discover "classic gaming" on my own. 

Here's a "side chapter" to this story with me talking about my rediscovery of the of the Sega Master System that summer at my friend Jon's house:

 

 

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As odd as it may sound when originally owned I never thought of any game or system as becoming classic or retro.  If you had it play it, if you got bored or tired of it then put it up and play or do something else.  I never would have dreamed in a million years games secondhand stores couldn't get rid of for a few bucks, let alone the systems they played on, would dominate the classic gaming industry they created nor fetch crazy amounts of cash.  Never.

Mom and I must have found 10 to 15 2600 systems with games at yard sales for $10 give or take and we bought them up. It's hard to find those today without others wanting big bucks for them.  I don't know what happened to most of those but I know they aren't with me today.  I don't even know what happened to my original 7800 and games.

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I think my first bout of collecting was like 2003-2004. I had hooked up my NES because I wanted to play some old games. A few friends seen I had it out and all the sudden everybody was giving me their old NES and SNES games. Then I started looking for a few games I thought would be cool to own. That was short lived however. 

Between 2007 and 2012 I had my first child and shortly after lost my job. For that time span I kept my family afloat by reselling old video games on eBay and craigslist. Buy low and sell high sort of thing. I wasn't doing it to be a jerk reseller but it allowed me to spend time with my son while keeping our apartment. I built quite the collection then. 

Around 2015 or 16 I sold off almost everything because room was becoming an issue and I could play whatever I wanted on my modded Xbox or Wii. I only really kept my 7800 and a few odds and ends. 

Then I got nostalgic for the stuff that was given to me by my grandparents and for Christmases around 2020, so I started buying back the titles that I used to have. I now have a small modest collection but that's how I want it honestly. I do have a full 7800 CIB collection but that's really as nuts as I'll go now. My wife says that's more than enough and would kill me if I started buying everything I saw again lol

Edited by Silver Back
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I wish I had a small amount of funds to be able to get games and at least one other console.  Namely the PCE.  I keep seeing lots of Famicom and Super Famicom games I would enjoy adding to the collection that are not very expensive.  Usually only a few dollars.  So I hear you.  Maybe keep an eye out in flea markets and other secondhand places, and yard sales.  You might find something really cheap you could add to the collection without being killed.  Maybe? I know...I'm a bad influence.  

Since I don't have kids of my own my collection is my kids.  And with the way this world is these days I'd feel safer at home in front of a screen playing a game.  At least my wife would know I'm home and not out and about doing something stupid.

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