"All of my cousins loved it because we could root for the ones that were playing," said Willie Jefferson Jr. of Houston. "Plus, we knew we'd get a chance to play in a few minutes. The 2600 cemented gaming into my fabric."
"It meant a lot, now that I think about it," said Jason Konoza, from Edmonton, Canada. "Personal interaction and socializing. The hours spent playing 'Space Invaders' together, or 'Home Run' or 'Circus Atari' against each other. My best friend Mark and I would write down our high scores for 'Frostbite' and keep them in the box."
But in the early 1980s, the company's missteps ultimately sealed its downfall as Atari Inc.
The biggest and most publicized was the release of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" and a port of the arcade version of "Pac-Man," two games that were widely lambasted by critics for poor game play and design.
"Sadly, looking back, it seems like the 2600 could have been the best thing in gaming, by bringing it into so many households," said T.J. Lauerman of Teaneck, New Jersey. "But also a tragedy that could have killed home gaming as we know it after the 'E.T.' debacle."
By 1984, Atari Inc. was technically no more. Warner Communications divided the company, selling off parts as the video game market crashed with a glut of poorly designed games. The Atari name has changed hands several times since and is now in the hands of Infogrames as a wholly owned subsidiary, as of 2008.
That company, renamed Atari, SA in 2010, has recently focused its efforts on mobile and social gaming, releasing Atari titles for the iPhone and iPad. Bushnell rejoined the company in 2010 to sit on its board of directors, reconnecting Atari with its past.
In recent years, longtime fans have posted comments online voicing their frustrations with what they consider to be the misuse of the Atari name as a tool to for easy profits.
Atari says they are listening.
"Atari's fans are an incredibly passionate group, and the current team at Atari understands that there has been negative sentiment about how the brand had been used as part of a retail distribution business for third party console games. And, frankly, many of them resulted in low ratings." the company said in a statement.