Angry Video Game Nerd Wiki
Atari 7800

Atari 7800 pro system

Video game console
Third generation
Retail availability
June 1984
January 1, 1992
Units sold
3.77 million (North America)
ROM cartridge
Atari SALLY 6502 ("6502C") clocked at 1.19-1.79MHz,

The Atari 7800 ProSystem is a game console made by Atari. It was developed after the failure of the Atari 5200, with the intent on releasing the system in 1984, but due to the Great Video Game Crash, as well as numerous changes at Atari, the system was shelved for a couple of years. By the time Atari did release it, the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Master System had already surpassed the 7800's capabilities, and the runaway success of the NES helped doom Atari to also-ran status through the third generation of video game consoles.

While the graphics capabilities were comparable to the Atari 5200, its sound capabilities were barely above that of the Atari 2600. The key advantage of the 7800, however, was its backward compatibility with 2600 games and accessories. The Pause button on the 7800 console served as the Color-B/W switch for 2600 games. Atari also returned to the standard 9-pin connectors, allowing the use of Atari 2600, Commodore, and Sega Master System and Genesis controllers on the 7800.

The Nerd played Superman on the 7800. In his Winter Games Episode he mentioned the 7800 port. He also briefly talks about it in Atari Jaguar Part 1, and shows gameplay of Galaga, Xevious, Karateka and Food Fight. Mike and Kyle did a James and Mike Mondays on a 7800 game called "Ninja Golf".


The Atari 7800 ProSystem was the first game system from Atari Inc. designed by an outside company, General Computer Corporation (GCC). The system had been designed in 1983 through 1984 with an intended mass market rollout in June 1984, but was canceled shortly thereafter due to the sale of the company to Tramel Technology Ltd on July 2, 1984. The project was originally called the Atari 3600, though was later renamed the Atari 7800.

Several key factors influenced the design of the 7800. First, Atari had been facing mounting pressure from the ColecoVision, which boasted graphics that more closely mirrored arcade games of the time than Atari’s reigning 2600 VCS system. Second, the Atari 5200 (the original intended successor to the Atari 2600 VCS) had been widely criticized for not being able to play Atari 2600 VCS games without an adapter. Finally, dropping prices of home computers like the Commodore 64 had caused many to believe that buying a home computer was a better investment because it provided more detailed gameplay and could be used for other purposes such as word processing.

Previous game consoles sometimes had a difficult time replicating the arcade experience in home versions of popular arcade games. In particular, home versions of arcade games sometimes had problems with flickering and slow down when more than a few moving objects appeared on the screen at once. GCC, which had a background in creating arcade games, designed their new system with a graphical architecture similar to arcade machines of the time. The 7800 featured the ability to move around a tremendous amount of objects (75-to-100) that far exceeded previous consoles. Powering the system was an Atari SALLY 6502 (Atari's slightly custom 6502, sometimes described as a "6502C") processor running at 1.79 MHz, similar to the processor found in home computers (Atari 8-bit, Apple II, Commodore 64) and other consoles (Atari 5200 and Nintendo Entertainment System).

In response to the criticisms of the Atari 5200, the Atari 7800 could play almost all Atari 2600 games out of the box, without the need for an adapter. In addition, it featured a return to a digital controller.

To address the concerns of parents that home computers were a better investment than consoles, the system was designed to be upgraded to a full-fledged home computer. A keyboard was developed, and the keyboard had an expansion port (which was the SIO port from Atari's 8-bit computer line, though the 7800 could not run Atari computer programs) that allowed for the addition of peripherals such as disk drives and printers.

To further enhance the gaming experience, GCC had also designed a "high score cartridge", a battery-backed RAM cartridge designed for storing game scores. On the side of the 7800 was an expansion port, reportedly for a planned connection with a laserdisc player.


The Atari 7800 remained officially active in the United States between 1986 and 1991 and in Europe between 1989 and 1991. On January 1, 1992, Atari Corp. formally announced that production of the Atari 7800, the Atari 2600, the Atari 8-bit computer line, and the Atari XE Game System would cease. By the time of the cancellation, Nintendo's NES dominated the North American market, controlling 80% while Atari Corp. controlled just 12%.

Despite trailing the Nintendo Entertainment System in terms of number of units sold, the 7800 was a profitable enterprise for Atari Corp., benefiting largely from Atari’s name and the system's 2600 compatibility. Profits were strong owing to low investment in game development and marketing. Nonetheless, the 7800 failed to help Atari regain its dominance in the videogame industry.