of the hottest
new handheld videogame units is in such demand that the manufacturer is
having a hard time pumping out enough of them. No, it's not Nintendo's
Gameboy Advance. This summer's ultra cool videogaming-on-the-go gadget
is the VCSp, a handheld version of the classic Atari 2600 game console
(affectionately known as the "VCS" for "Video Computer System").
about the same Atari -- the one you played 20 years ago when it was the
only name in videogames. Who else offered Space Invaders,
Adventure, Missile Command,
and even Pac-Man back then?
product of some big videogame company that licensed the Atari name, but
rather the lovingly handcrafted work of Benjamin Heckendorn, a
25-year-old graphic artist in Richland Center, Wisconsin. Heckendorn
built his first portable Atari over a year ago as a hobby project.
Since then, word of his ingenuity has traveled throughout the
burgeoning Atari 2600 nostalgia community on the Internet.
vintage Atari 2600, chops it up, rewires the circuits and stuffs it all
into a casing he designed that's slightly bigger than a Gameboy
Advance. The VCSp's LCD color screen is cannibalized from a handheld TV
unit. The result is a retro design that evokes an era in videogaming
history that never happened: This is what Atari would have sold had
such a device been feasible back then. The VCSp plays all the old Atari
2600 game cartridges and features not only a Gameboy-style control pad,
but a knob to play games that require a paddle controller such as Breakout.
from a parallel universe comes with a hefty price. A Gameboy Advance
can be had for $100 or less, while the VCSp will set you back nearly
three times as much. Sure, you could almost buy a PlayStation 2 for the
same price, but not even those can play old Atari games. What's more,
Heckendorn will knock off $40 if you trade in a working Atari 2600
while? Heckendorn thinks the ladies will like it plenty: "Atari is what
women want, as far as games go. Women love that stuff -- especially
Frogger, for some reason. It appeals to them much more than [the games
that come] out now."
some "bird in the handheld" joke here, but we can't think of the