22 July 2014

PSA: Atari 2600 vs. ColecoVision cartridges...[]

Hi all,

As I stated in my previous blog post, I recently visited a retro video game store that had a rack full of Atari 2600 cartridges. Unfortunately, either due to design or accident (hopefully just the latter), the Atari cartridges were interspersed with some ColecoVision cartridges.

For those not in the know: The ColecoVision was released in 1982 and represented a significant graphical leap forward from the Atari 2600 (although it is generally considered part of the same generation of video game consoles). One of its "innovative" new features was its controller:

Source: Google Image search

Look at that thing: it's got a telephone keypad and a coiled cord to match. This in addition to a joystick and two side buttons (which may or may not have been the inspiration for the Atari 5200 and 7800 joysticks...the 5200 came out just a few months later than the ColecoVision, so it's hard to tell). Certainly overkill in an era when most video games only needed one or two buttons at most.

So what did they use that keypad for? 

They used it for more buttons, of course. All ColecoVision games came with an overlay which fit over the number buttons and illustrated their functions (if they were used at all).
Source: Google Image search again.  

Okay then...

Now you say to me, "JT, you rambling, incoherent incompetent, what does this have to do with cartridges?" Glad you asked.

The Public Service Announcement Part

I did title this as a PSA, I suppose, so here's where I do my part to keep the public informed.

There are two easy ways to spot the difference between Atari 2600 and ColecoVision Cartridges. Look at a couple side by side:


On the left is Donkey Kong for Atari 2600; on the right is the same game for ColecoVision. Apart from the plastic color (which isn't uniform across either console), the cartridges look very similar. They are of similar size and have a similar grip indentation on the underside near the top. 

However, there are, as I mentioned, two easy-to-spot differences. Firstly, ColecoVision cartridges will state "ColecoVision presents" on them in nice bold letters. Secondly, and most readily visible, the ColecoVision cartridge has a slot in the back to hold the controller overlay. 

Therefore, if you are browsing (say, at a game store, flea market, or garage sale), through a bunch of loose cartridges, be sure to check the back before assuming a cartridge is for the Atari 2600. If it's got an overlay slot, it's definitely not (hey, that rhymes).

This has been a Public Service Announcement.


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