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The Strangest

Heavy Sixers - why the hype?

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Posted (edited)

Okay, this might seem like an obvious question to some (or blasphemous to others, depending on where you stand). I’m relatively new to the Atari scene. I had always heard that the Heavy Sixers were the most desirable. They’re the original, they’re sturdier, they’re rarer etc. etc. and I had always heard this from retro game enthusiasts, youtubers, etc. because that’s what they were told. Yesterday someone on another forum asked about Atari 2600 models and while doing a write up on my own recommendations, I realized something - I can’t give any firsthand reasons as to why the Heavy Sixers are the most desirable. All I had was vague secondhand reasonings from guys that aren’t necessarily “Atari guys.” I had always heard these things from others. And they had always heard the same from someone else. So my question to you all is this:

 

Why are they the most desirable to you? Is it just the rarity? The rarity and the build quality? Is the picture that much more superior than the others (which is another reason I’ve heard), and if that’s the reason, how does it stack up to another model that has been A/V modded?

 

I don’t want to give other people any half-baked answers that I myself am not completely sure of. And admittedly, I haven’t owned a H6er myself (hoping to fix this soon) so I can’t speak from my own experience.

Edited by The Strangest

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Well I like that they, and the light sizers, have the difficulty switches on the front.

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I like that all six switches are on the front. But I also prefer my 2 heavy sixers to my light sixer (which was the console I got as a kid for my birthday)  because the heavy seems to have a slightly clearer picture. 

 

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I don't think it really matters that much; all 2600s play (pretty much) all games, and that's the important thing. But after bringing home many from flea markets, yard sales, etc over many years, it's just natural to choose the "best of the best" when deciding what to keep. Then you might start comparing what you have to what other collectors have and it becomes a king-of-the-hill sort of thing. All those particulars you mentioned are generally true, but how important is a matter of personal taste. I just use a 7800 for convenience.

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10 hours ago, wongojack said:

Most claim that the RF picture is the best from the heavy.

This.  But just having the difficulty switches easily accessible up front scores the win to me.

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I really think the main thing is that it is the original version of the first popular programmable video game console.  Combined with the fact that it’s a bit rare, it’s not surprising that’s it’s desirable to collectors.  But as a practical gaming device, it’s really probably not at all worth the extra expense.  The RF might be a tad better on average, but having had a few of these things, I can say it’s not a huge difference, and I would go as far to say that a good light sixer will look better than an average heavy.  And there’s practical reasons to avoid the heavies... the CX10 joysticks are even more prone to fail than the CX40s and are much harder to repair.  The original select and reset switches are prone to fail (but are fairly easily replaced.)  And the cart slot is extra tight, making the later Atari Corp games very difficult to insert.  
 

In short, the heavy sixer is easily the most preferable VCS for a collector.  But for a practical gamer, a good light sixer might actually be the better choice.

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Because their beautiful!  In all honesty, I had my Sears H6r recently refurbished (thank you @-^CrossBow^- ) and it produces an amazing picture via RF.  My cousins had a Sears H6r and that’s the first ‘Atari’ I ever saw. So the Sears heavy has sentimental value for me.

193F5499-66C2-4AD3-B945-5B553B5D52E1.jpeg

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I think the main reason is just that it was the original console. I'd say most Atari people generally prefer some kind of sixer because of the difficulty switch placement - if you want the full Space Shuttle experience you want it on a 6 switch I'd say.

 

I don't know that there's any major picture improvement from a heavy sixer. Since you mention AV mods, people generally would advise to shy away from any destructive mods for a Heavy Sixer.

 

One thing with non-Atari people is that they often can think all Sixers are Heavy Sixers, so they don't always really know what they're talking about.

 

The rarest model is probably the one-chip Jr., but you can't really identify them without taking them apart and they're also the LEAST original units so I think they haven't quite risen to the level of the 'Heavy Sixer' in general retrogaming discourse.

 

Since the differences are minimal, all 2600s can be a good 2600. Some like the black of the Vader. The smaller size of the Jr. is convenient. Plenty just use a 7800. 

 

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The HeavySixer is the original console and brings a lot of ambient nostalgia with it. Technically it may produce a better RF signal with nicely saturated colors. And there was really minimal or no cost-cutting on it. My next choice is a LightSixer. Some design aesthetics of that model make up for it being the 2nd model and "not the original". The circuitry is similar. And the DB-9 connectors seem a little more accessible as opposed to being recessed like on the HS.

 

Both HS and LS have the switches on the front. That is a key aspect and visual signature of what the VCS is. What the console stands for. Makes it easy to determine what game difficulty you're playing, "a" of "b". Both are also two boards. There's not enough connectors between them, just the ribbon cable, to make a two board design less reliable that a single board like in the Vader and all variants thereafter. In fact the two-board design is less prone to transmitting physical shock and vibration to the main PCB. The switches are more isolated.

 

And of course there's the thicker Aluminum RF shield instead of that flimsy sheetmetal crap. The thick shield doesn't rust and doesn't need to be soldered/desoldered to work on.

 

There's more minutiae but I'll leave it to others to discuss.

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For me, there's also the nostalgia for a time when consumer electronics were still made in the US.  ;)  Most/all the subsequent 2600's were made in Taiwan.

 

However, Taiwan itself may become a source of nostalgia for parallel (yet more dire) reasons.

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They might offer a bit better RF shielding, but are older, so more likely to have circuit board issues, although Ataris are tanks. They just look a bit cooler with the thick curved edges, and the six switches vs. four is nice. Feel more solid as well. There's also a general collector thing of "earlier is better" and they are the debut after all. 

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For me, it was all about it being "the original." Certainly they're more 'solid' and apparently the picture is better, but personally, it was less about playing the thing (I've got other 2600s, including light sixers, as well as 7800s for that) and more about the relative rarity and importance of it. Not that they're impossible to find, but at least in person, the only one I've ever come across is the one in my collection (luckily, it also came with the original 1977 joysticks and power supply, so evidently the lot was all from an original owner and not pieced together by the thrift I found it at). But really, you look at the Heavy Sixer, and you're seeing the 1977 beginnings of what would become an absolute phenomenon. It's just plain cool.

 

I might argue that, from a cosmetic standpoint, the more-streamlined 2600s that were the norm during the biggest period of popularity - so probably the four switch woodgrains and then Vaders - were more iconic simply because that's when most people were buying 'em and that's what was available when Atari was most on top of the video game world, but there's no doubt that having all six switches right up front is very, very nice. Ideally a light sixer would be used for any daily driving - that's what I'd prefer to use if I didn't do all of my 2600 playing on a 7800 - but there's something incredibly special about 'the first.'

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Posted (edited)

I have my original heavy from 1978. It has good video. I have seen other consoles with video the same.

 

I actually like the look of the light sixer better. (blasphemous, I know) and it is a cleaner more modern looking design with regards to manufacturing and still having all the switches on the front.

 

The four switch / Vader models are an even more efficient design, but the cost is the difficulty switches being moved aft with no reduction in console size is a waste of plastic and removes some user friendliness.

 

The Jr' models are what they are. uber low cost models and still no front mounted switches. At least they look better than a NES toploader...

 

Like others, I use my early 7800 model for gaming.

 

my two cents.

Edited by Zonie

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It was the original (and the 1st one we owned) plus it was also built in the USA.  So I have a 2600, a 1200XL, and a Jaguar which were all USA built machines.

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