History of video games/Platforms/Atari Cosmos




Allan Alcorn at GDC 2008.

The Atari Cosmos was devised by Roger Hector, Allan Alcorn, and Harry Jenkins.[1] The Atari Cosmos casing was designed by Roy Nishi.[1]

The development of the Cosmos lead to internal hologram manufacturing breakthroughs at Atari, allowing them to go from individually making each hologram to mass-producing them at a cost of several cents per hologram.[2]

The Atari Cosmos was essentially a fully developed product with at least 3 working units and more dummy units produced, but was not released to the public.[3] A unit at the 1981 New York Toy Fair garnered significant interest and 8,000 preorders.[1] Marketing positioned the Cosmos as a high end product worthy of a high price tag, which coupled with low production costs would have made the Cosmos very profitable for Atari.[2] However wishy washy feelings from Management lead to the Atari Cosmos being scrapped.[2]



Despite never seeing a release the Atari Cosmos had a huge impact on gaming, as it's failure to launch resulted in some of Atari's most talented staff, including Pong creator Allan Alcorn and key R&D staff such as Roger Hector leaving the company.[2] Roger Hector would later bring his talents to the Sega Technical Institute (STI),[4] and Namco.[5]

The Atari Cosmos had an impact on the broader world as well. The Cosmos would have also been one of the first commercial uses of holograms in a consumer product.[2] Some of the Atari staff working on mass-producing holography would leave Atari to apply their expertise security holograms instead, such as those used on credit cards.[2][6] Similar holograms would find use in applications fighting fraud and counterfeit items.[7]



The COPS411 CPU powers the Atari Cosmos.[1]

The Atari Cosmos used changeable two image holographic backgrounds,[3][8] an interesting choice which decisively differentiates the Atari Cosmos from its contemporary competition. The idea is similar in concept to the overlay strategy used by other consoles to give color to monochrome games, but used to create a simple holographic background instead of a colored foreground. Gameplay graphics are generated in the foreground by a comparatively mediocre matrix of 42 red LEDs (7 LED wide, 6 LED tall resolution) giving the console a low resolution,[3] even when compared to contemporary handhelds. Two incandescent lightbulbs are positioned to allow manipulation of the hologram.[1] From this the Cosmos can effectively control two backgrounds from the hologram, either the left side or the right side.[2]

The console has 9 built in game types which were selected by the cartridge pressing a button when inserted keeping cartridge costs low.[9][1] Thanks to the holographic background, "New" games could be cheaply and easily made by using a new hologram with an existing game type.[1] Thus while gameplay would be static, visuals would be updated. This also removed the need for game development to include programming after launch.

The Atari Cosmos takes 10.5 volts of AC Power at 750 milliamps.[1] The console is often described as a tabletop console, as it does not use a battery, and thus while easily portable, can't be used while away from a power outlet.[9][3]

The system has a model number of EG500.[3]

External Resources



  1. a b c d e f g h "The Atari Cosmos Tabletop Game System". www.atarimuseum.com. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  2. a b c d e f g Stilphen, Scott (2013). "Roger Hector interview". www.ataricompendium.com. http://www.ataricompendium.com/archives/interviews/roger_hector/interview_roger_hector.html. 
  3. a b c d e "Atari Cosmos". www.handheldmuseum.com. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  4. "Sega-16 – Interview: Roger Hector (Director of STI)". Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  5. "Gamasutra - A Veteran With Character: Roger Hector Speaks". www.gamasutra.com. https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3672/a_veteran_with_character_roger_.php?print=1. 
  6. "Spawn of Atari". https://www.wired.com/1996/10/atari-2/. 
  7. Shah, Ruchir Y.; Prajapati, Prajesh N.; Agrawal, Y. K. (2010). "Anticounterfeit packaging technologies". Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research. 1 (4): 368–373. doi:10.4103/0110-5558.76434. ISSN 2231-4040. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  8. "Buy An Original Atari "Cosmos" Hologram" (in en-us). Wired. https://www.wired.com/2007/06/buy-an-original-2/. 
  9. a b "Cosmos by Atari – The Video Game Kraken". Retrieved 24 January 2021.