Amazing artifacts from the rise and fall of Atari, the first great video game company

“Atari” used to be synonymous with video games — the Atari 2600 console wasn’t the first home video game system (that was the Magnavox Odyssey), but it was the one that brought it into most people’s living rooms.

But the video game market crashed in 1983. Atari never recovered.

At this week’s Game Developers Conference 2015, the Video game History Museum celebrated the first big video game company with a showcase of Atari artifacts from back in the day.

“Atari started it all. Atari is what brought video games into the mainstream,” says Sean Kelly, director of the Video game History Museum, which plans on opening its doors to its first permanent location in Frisco, Texas later this year.

You’re not going to believe some of the stuff they have got.

The collection paid special attention to the Atari 2600, the company's biggest hit. 'The Atari 2600 was the s**t, bar none, in that period,' Kelly says.

When the Atari 2600 -- initially known as the Atari Video Computer System (VCS) -- came out in 1976, it caused a massive Atari craze, including entire lines of merchandise, including t-shirts, frisbees...

...and Halloween costumes

For Kelly's money, the best of the rare add-ons for the Atari 2600 was the Mindlink, a head-mounted controller that Atari claimed used high-tech sensors to read the player's mind -- but actually used a run-of-the-mill infrared beam to detect when the player scrunched their forehead. 'It's so far-fetched, but still kind of cool,' says Kelly

Other oddities from the collection included prototype Atari cartridges and CDs not intended for full release. An interactive version of the 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'?

And a prototype keyboard that would have let users turn their 2600 into a full-fledged computer.

Here's a never-released holographic video game system called the Atari Cosmos.

The collection also included playable versions of many of Atari's classic consoles for some hands-on time.

After its collapse in the 1980s, Atari made a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to get back on the scene with its Jaguar and Lynx consoles in the nineties.

Where is Atari today?

With the failure of those systems, Atari had some rough times, including an acquisition by Hasbro Interactive, which was in turn acquired by Infogrames Entertainment, of which it's now a wholly-owned subsidiary. Last June, Atari announced a new corporate strategy focusing on 'reaching out to new audiences -- including LGBT, social casinos, real-money gambling, and YouTube with exclusive video content.'

Fortunes can fade quickly. Just remember Atari was out there making video games and computers back when people still thought you had to be a genius to use one, as seen in this ad for the Atari 800 line of PCs, also from the collection.

Now, check out some of the other wild stuff from the big video game conference this week...

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.