Atari 5200

This is probably my favorite system in my collection, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, the whole system’s existence just seems so unlikely – it is so ridiculously big, the controllers are so notoriously unreliable and poorly designed, and it’s not even directly compatible with Atari’s computer system (which was one of the whole reasons for creating it). It’s really sort of an underdog system, one of the bastard children of both Atari and of the entire console industry, and I’m a fan of it almost for that fact alone.

It does have some great games, though. I mean, all of Atari’s standards, in pretty high-fidelity renditions – a clear improvement over the 2600, probably a bigger leap over that system than the 7800 was over the 5200. I’ve got about 20 5200 games and they are all lots of fun.

I’m also particularly attached to mine because it is just in unbelievable, almost unheard-of condition. Granted, the box is falling apart. I’m not too concerned about that, though, because I mean, look at this:

…and this:

Yes, those stupid things actually work! As I demonstrate here:

I actually kinda like the 5200 controllers in a weird way. They’re about as tough as a piece of overcooked spaghetti but they feel really hefty. Like the system itself, they are also about twice as large as they really need to be – I guess to fit those potentiometers or whatever’s in there for the analog movement. I mean really, overall these sticks didn’t work too well but there were some innovative ideas at work here – the pause, start and reset buttons, the analog control. If they’d made the sticks self-centering and toughened them up so they didn’t break the first time you used them, these would have been some of the best controllers ever made.

You may notice a weird bit of something peeling off on the right side there. What is it?

The clear plastic covering is still on the metal faceplate! It’s just peeling a bit. These things are practically brand new!

The same is true for the system itself:

You can see both a tiny bit of peeling and some bubbling of the plastic. Remove that and I’ve got a system that looks as good as it would have the day it was first brought home from the store.

Now, obviously I’m not going to ruin my perfect 5200 controllers by actually using them. My system came with a set of the prized Wico Command Control sticks, complete with Y-adapters so I can still use the standard controller’s keypad:

And of course, the box, though it’s a “little” beat up:

People mocked Nintendo for including a handle in the box for the GameCube – well, Atari pioneered that idea with the 5200! This thing was so big the only way to really carry it around was like a freakin’ suitcase.

Here’s the back of the box, with some nice imagery:

I have to say I almost feel bad that I picked all of this up for just $10, though this was back before the retro craze really hit and people just thought old systems like this were worthless. Still, I feel really grateful to the guy who sold it to me, because I think even then he knew he could get more than that if he just went to Ebay.

If you’re reading this, Loren, just know that I probably get a lot more enjoyment and satisfaction from this system than you ever did! Your 5200 has found a good home.

2 thoughts on “Atari 5200”

  1. 5200 at the time was a video gaming miracle,although not as popular as its older brother,it still carries a wide spectrum of fans.in england and germany it is a super star in the console line up, and we play it regularly down here in florida,pac man is still alive with mrs.pac and j.r.in daytona beach and just wants to say wakka wakka wakka sincerely :the pac family

  2. Found this site googling pics of the gamegear! Yeah, that 5200 was a beautiful console –even now it looks sleek. The controllers were definitely one of those “so weird that you have to love it” designs with the non-centering analog sticks.

    If I could find one for cheap now, I’d definitely buy it.

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