The Atari 2600, originally called the Atari VCS, is the godfather of modern videogame systems, and helped spawn a multi-billion dollar industry. Atari sold over thirty million of the consoles, and together with other companies sold hundreds of millions of games. Cartridges for the system were produced across three decades, and there are still new games being produced today. But it almost didn't happen.
In the early 1970’s, video arcade games gained commercial success for the first time. The American public was introduced to Pong, Tank, and other interactive video games which populated amusement parks, bars, and arcades. The games were successful enough to create interest for home versions, so in 1975 Atari released Home Pong and it was a smash hit. Other companies such as Magnavox and Coleco followed suit and released their own dedicated console games. Then in 1976, Fairchild Camera and Instrument introduced the Channel F system, the first cartridge based home video game system. The industry recognized that cartridge systems were the future of video gaming, and began development in that direction. In January 1977, RCA released the Studio II, another cartridge based system, although it only projected in black and white and seemed to be focused on educational titles. Then, on September 11, 1977, the Atari VCS (Video Computer System), with an initial offering of nine games, was made available at both Macy's and Sears. This system, later renamed the Atari 2600, would come to dominate the industry for many years.