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Why did Atari remove the 6 switches on the 2600?

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Why did they turn it into 4 switches?

Same reason any console gets redesigned: it was cheaper to manufacture.

 

FWIW, Atari didn't actually remove any switches from the console; they just relocated them to the back of the system and used cheaper ones.

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As BassGuitari says, cheaper to make. Still has all 6 switches, just harder to see the 2 difficulty switches from your usual sitting position in relation to the Atari.

 

Six switch is comprised of 2 circuit boards connected together by a cable, arrows point at the difficulty switches (photo from here):

post-3056-0-52927700-1517436462_thumb.jpg

 

Four switch is comprised of a 1 circuit board, so cheaper to make. Arrows again point to the difficulty switches (photo from here).

post-3056-0-03226300-1517436515_thumb.jpeg

 

 

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I understand the rationale for the decision, but making the difficulty switches significantly less obvious was not a great design decision.

 

I once knew someone with less than perfect vision who was utterly unaware of the existence of the difficulty switches until I pointed them out to him. I know that this information is presented in the manual, but I wonder how many people overlooked it.

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I understand the rationale for the decision, but making the difficulty switches significantly less obvious was not a great design decision.

 

I once knew someone with less than perfect vision who was utterly unaware of the existence of the difficulty switches until I pointed them out to him. I know that this information is presented in the manual, but I wonder how many people overlooked it.

 

 

It sure would've been nice if they could've labeled them more clearly, but again - that would've cost more.

 

Still, it's better than the 7800 where the difficulty switches aren't marked at all. I used to have little pieces of tape stuck to my 7800 to remind me of which way they went.

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7800 difficulty switches are like a NES controller, B before A.

 

 

I always remember it that you're a Beginner before you're Advanced.

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I understand the rationale for the decision, but making the difficulty switches significantly less obvious was not a great design decision.

 

I once knew someone with less than perfect vision who was utterly unaware of the existence of the difficulty switches until I pointed them out to him. I know that this information is presented in the manual, but I wonder how many people overlooked it.

...anyone who doesn't know Moon Patrol has background music. :lol:

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While color TV's were common in the family room in the 80's, playing video games was usually relegated to older, smaller, likely B/W TVs. Even small 13" color TVs were several times the cost of a B/W set.

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if they wanted to save money they should have gotten rid of the B&w / color switch since most people had color tvs in the 80's

It didn't only function as selecting between B&W and color but other things too.

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if they wanted to save money they should have gotten rid of the B&w / color switch since most people had color tvs in the 80's

 

It didn't only function as selecting between B&W and color but other things too.

 

^This. To piggyback:

 

As I understand it, the functionality of the Color/BW switch (or any of the switches for that matter, except Power) isn't tethered to the hardware itself--rather, it's the software that dictates what it actually does. That could mean toggling grayscale palettes, bringing up different game screens, weapon selection, etc...or even doing nothing at all.

 

The Color/BW and Difficulty switches were essentially holdovers from the Pong/dedicated console era that the VCS was originally birthed in. As game design evolved, they became more like general-purpose "flex switches," and in a practical sense, effectively a way of adding extra buttons to a one-button control system.

Edited by BassGuitari
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Kind of random, but weren't there games that utilized the switches during game play, like that space shuttle sim?

Yes indeed. Off the top of my head I know that Starmaster uses the Color/B&W switch to bring up a galactic map for warp travel.

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Kind of random, but weren't there games that utilized the switches during game play, like that space shuttle sim?

IIRC activision made two sets of overlays gif the two different consoles.

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I understand the rationale for the decision, but making the difficulty switches significantly less obvious was not a great design decision.

 

I once knew someone with less than perfect vision who was utterly unaware of the existence of the difficulty switches until I pointed them out to him. I know that this information is presented in the manual, but I wonder how many people overlooked it.

Cost-cutting is ALWAYS #1, customer comfort #2. Even to the point where a product, or even an entire industry, runs itself into the ground.

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Placing them to the back makes no sence. So many times you run into issues because so many games use them for various reasons. If they could make it with 4 of them on top, for sure they could have gone with 6 as well and with one board.

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Placing them to the back makes no sence. So many times you run into issues because so many games use them for various reasons. If they could make it with 4 of them on top, for sure they could have gone with 6 as well and with one board.

 

Makes perfect sense if it saves the company $75,000 because they only had to produce 1 PCB instead of two. And use smaller, cheaper switches too. And the board could be made smaller and lighter.

Edited by Keatah

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Makes perfect sense if it saves the company $75,000 because they only had to produce 1 PCB instead of two. And use smaller, cheaper switches too. And the board could be made smaller and lighter.

 

And being right next to the controller ports they are for is a logical placement.

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And being right next to the controller ports they are for is a logical placement.

Controller ports that should have been designed in the front of the machine from the very beginning, of course. I'm glad we've moved past that design, as well as coiled phone-like cables and the notion that the console must also be a storage receptacle.

 

Having mechanical difficulty switches you can toggle in the middle of gameplay seems like a very Pong-like feature, almost electromechanical rather than software. I think it's notable that most 7800 games (and some later 2600 games) put the game options in a start menu rather than relying on cycling through the "Game Select Matrix."

 

Has anyone compiled a list of games that respect the BW/Color switch, ignore it, or use it in intereststing ways?

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I wonder what was the catalyst for ignoring the B/W switch? Was it that it no longer served a purpose since everyone soon had Color TV? Or did programmers simply start using a palette which looked good on both B/W and Color sets and thus no need to switch between them.

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I found this, which I think was written by a person who frequently posts here on AtariAge

http://nerdlypleasures.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-forgotten-switch-atari-2600s-b.html

 

The pictures of Combat show that the games would not be as playable in monochrome without the high contrast from the color switch.

 

There was concern about burn-in on expensive color televisions when Atari was new. Perhaps those fears subsided with newer monitors that were less susceptible to being wrecked by games. Per this,

Modern CRT displays are less susceptible than older CRTs prior to the 1960s because they have a layer of aluminum behind the phosphor which offers some protection. The aluminum layer was provided to reflect more light from the phosphor towards the viewer. As a bonus, the aluminum layer also prevented ion burn of the phosphor and the ion trap, common to older monochrome televisions, was no longer required.

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I wonder what was the catalyst for ignoring the B/W switch?

Selecting between color or B&W for the early, simple, games was extremely easy - just need a short routine and a color table:

SetObjectColors:        
        ldx #3          ; we're going to set 4 colors (0-3)
        ldy #3          ; default to the color entries in the table (0-3)
        lda SWCHB       ; read the state of the console switches
        and #%00001000  ; test state of D3, the TV Type switch
        bne SOCloop     ; if D3=1 then use color
        ldy #7          ; else use the b&w entries in the table (4-7)
SOCloop:        
        lda Colors,y    ; get the color or b&w value
        sta COLUP0,x    ; and set it
        dey             ; decrease Y
        dex             ; decrease X 
        bpl SOCloop     ; Branch PLus (positive)
        rts             ; ReTurn from Subroutine
        
Colors:   
        .byte $86   ; blue       - goes into COLUP0, color for player0 and missile0
        .byte $C6   ; green      - goes into COLUP1, color for player1 and missile1
        .byte $46   ; red        - goes into COLUPF, color for playfield and ball
        .byte $00   ; black      - goes into COLUBK, color for background
        .byte $0E   ; white      - goes into COLUP0, B&W for player0 and missile0
        .byte $06   ; dark grey  - goes into COLUP1, B&W for player1 and missile1
        .byte $0A   ; light grey - goes into COLUPF, B&W for playfield and ball
        .byte $00   ; black      - goes into COLUBK, B&W for background

Later games would need to set more than 4 colors once per frame, which requires using RAM, extra cycles during the kernel, more ROM, etc. all of which become even more constrained as the games become more advanced.

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Controller ports that should have been designed in the front of the machine from the very beginning, of course. I'm glad we've moved past that design, as well as coiled phone-like cables and the notion that the console must also be a storage receptacle.

 

Having mechanical difficulty switches you can toggle in the middle of gameplay seems like a very Pong-like feature, almost electromechanical rather than software. I think it's notable that most 7800 games (and some later 2600 games) put the game options in a start menu rather than relying on cycling through the "Game Select Matrix."

 

Has anyone compiled a list of games that respect the BW/Color switch, ignore it, or use it in intereststing ways?

 

The design made sense for the time because it was Pong-like features that evolved from the dedicated Pong consoles prior to it. Difficulty switches like Super Pong Pro-Am, all wiring away from the front, a super long RF cable coming from inside the console because the whole thing is suppose to be played close to you, Video Olympics as a launch title, etc. was all because the Pong consoles prior to it made those things normal for the time. Besides, sometimes the look of a console justifies having the controllers plug in the back even today. For an example, this wouldn't look right with the controllers plugging in the front:

 

nvidia_shield_console.jpg

 

Just the same as this wouldn't look right with the controllers plugging in the front:

 

81I-V5cwTML._SX522_.jpg

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