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Useful Notes / Atari 5200

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Atari's attempted followup to the 2600, using technology from the Atari 8-Bit Computers.
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The 5200 failed for at least four reasons:

  • It was incompatible with the still-popular 2600. Atari released an adapter to fix this, but by then the damage was done.
  • Competition from the Colecovision.
  • A quite literally rotten analog joystick, with either no auto-center or a cheap rubber boot to auto-center; either way, incredibly poor reliability and even a mild tendency to short-circuit.
  • The Great Video Game Crash of 1983.

Although mocked, it did have some good games; many of them came from the Atari 8-Bit Computers library, as the 5200 was nearly functionally identical, though differing in key areas to prevent straight ports. It was also the first system that allowed you to pause the game.

There were two versions of the console released. The first had four controller ports, and had an unusual hookup method in that you hooked the power supply up to the RF switchbox, and then a single cable carried power to the console and the A/V signals to the television. The second version ditched this setup and went back to having separate power and A/V connections, and was also compatible with 2600 games with an add-on, but lost two of its controller ports in the process, and to add insult to injury was incompatible with certain 5200 titles, including its own port of Pitfall.

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Specifications:

Processors

  • CPU: Atari custom 6502C, 1.79 MHz. This was technically software compatible with the Atari 2600's 6507 processor, though would have caused 2600 games to run far too fast, meaning that the eventual 2600 adaptor had to include its own 6507.
  • GPU: Atari ANTIC (graphics coprocessor) and GTIA (video display)
  • Sound: Atari POKEY.

Memory

  • 16K
  • Cartridges up to 48K, or more with bank switching.

Display

  • Up to 320×192 resolution.
  • Up to 256 colors.

Sound

  • Four channels.
  • Square or noise waveforms.

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