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Soon after, Atari released the Atari 2600. It was different than other video games at the time, because it was a gaming console that used removable cartridges instead of having only one game built in so a player could use the same hardware to play many games instead of having to buy a whole new piece of equipment for each game. The Atari 2600 wasn’t the first system to do this; it was just the most successful. It was so successful in fact, that every video game at the time was referred to as an Atari regardless of who made it. The Atari 2600 came with two joysticks, two paddles, and two games—Pac Man and Combat, both still beloved today.

In the mid-80s, a Japanese card company decided to enter the market and introduced their own video game console: first as the Famicon in Japan, then as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in America two years later. The NES came in two versions: the Control Deck that included two controllers and Super Mario Bros.—one of the most famous and most played games in history—and the Deluxe Set that also came with the NES Zapper (a gun) and R.O.B. (a robot) plus two additional games. The robot never caught on and was soon replaced with the PowerPad, a sheet of plastic with red and blue circles you would stand, run, and jump on. It was an early attempt to combine exercise with video games that didn’t take off. The NES became the market leader, and “Nintendo” now became the name synonymous with video games.

By today’s standards, these early video games and systems were crude, low tech, and simplistic, yet they were just as much fun and just as addictive as the latest and greatest games of today. Many of the classics such as Donkey Kong, Frogger, Pac Man, and Q-Bert are still available and played in one form or another. Some things, we see, just can’t be improved upon.

*****

“That’s it! That’s it! You almost got him!” Rusty shouted, waiving a fist in the air. He and his friend Dusty were sitting in front of Dusty’s parents’ cinema-sized screen playing Rebels For A Cause IV, the latest installment of the best-selling series. It had gone on sale just that morning. Even though they had pre-ordered their copy three months before, they still felt the need to stand outside the store two hours before it opened so they could be the first ones to play it. They thought two hours would be enough, but after seeing the line in front of them, they realized they should have camped out the night before. Oh well, live and learn.

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