Atari Computer Concepts

You may find this entirely crazy but growing up I was only graced with the opportunity to play an Atari once. Even though I wasn’t born in the 70s and barely born in the 80s, the Atari console seemed really cool but I still never owned one. I hope I’m not the only one out there that wasn’t able to log hours on an Atari as a kid. Looking back at them now, I would have bought the 2600 in a heart beat for the sake of the small yet stylish wooden veneer accent.

These drawings were really making leaps and bounds between concepts. In some of the drawings parts were nixed and replaced with other ideas. The cooling fans for example get moved back and forth as the concept progresses. Seeing stuff like this is very inspiring; it gives me a target to aim at for progressing my own sketches for future projects.

Images via Colorcubic & Atari Museum.

49 Comments Leave A Comment


ross says:

August 17, 2010 at 3:20 am

As a die-hard Commodore fiend, it pains me to say that I’m loving these. I would frame them and put them on a wall, really nice illustration and cool future/retro styling.

Plus, the atari logo alone is worth a high five.


Blake Barton says:

August 17, 2010 at 5:43 am

I am enticed by the lovely Prismacolor looking marker concepts. Look at those ink strokes on images 3 through 6! Delicious.


Matt Davis says:

August 17, 2010 at 8:53 am

Remembering back to early video games I played as a child, most of which were NES/SNES, I always felt short-changed when I played them. The cover illustrations were so heavily detailed compared to the technology of the time. I would spend more time dreaming about the cover art and wandering how it was possible to make something like that.
I think the same goes for a lot the posts on this sight and why I love them.

The Atari concept drawings with the artists’ use of light are far more intriguing than actually playing the games or seeing the system in real life. It’s like looking at a broken promise—a beautifully broken one.


Lauren Herda says:

August 17, 2010 at 3:37 pm

This reminds me of the style of Andrew Probert’s work. The things he did for Back to the Future and Star Trek (particularly for The Motion Picture and the early plans for the look of The Next Generation) have always been some of my favorite concept art pieces.


Bobby Chombo says:

August 17, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Alas, I also missed out on the opportunity to fritter away my childhood on the Atari, and I was born at the beginning of the ’80s… I think I played on one a couple of times but never got to own one…
Very cool drawings…


Lancaster says:

August 19, 2010 at 4:07 pm

It’s funny how significant that little strip of faux woodgrain is. There doesn’t seem to be any particular reason for it to be there – the all-black “Vader” 2600 makes more overall sense, I think – but somehow it’s absolutely essential to the identity of the console. It’s what tells you at a glance that this is an Atari 2600, and it’s the ’70s, IN YOUR FACE. I happen to own a six-switch model, ’78-79 I believe, older than the four-switch model you link to. I’ve linked to it below – you can see the wonderful loopy all-lowercase font around the switches, and the brown border around the switch panel itself (seems to be half-worn off in your photo). The woodgrain strip makes more sense with the brown border at the top balancing it out, maybe.


Pegasus says:

August 25, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Hah! Beautiful marker roughs. There is something pleasantly ironic about seeing marker rough concept drawings of digital equipment.

Speaking of marker roughs, I remember having to do them in high school Commercial Art, and again in College Advertising Design. (And then never again in real life as desktop publishing was taking off at that point.)

And remember ruling pens … !


Daniel Carvalho says:

August 25, 2010 at 2:19 pm

These are super hot. Love the natural, analogue, hand sketched & coloured pure goodness of the artwork. Incredibly classy.

“Seeing stuff like this is very inspiring; it gives me a target to aim at for progressing my own sketches for future projects.”

Likewise. Immediately when I saw these I was like, “Must implement”.


Al Umis says:

September 3, 2010 at 8:56 am

These are all from the AtariMuseum site, right? Been there for years.

Regan chang directed a lot of the ID at Atari at about the time of these ideations. He wanted a sort of Bang & Olufsen look and the results made the light of day (in abbreviated form) in the all-too-brief XL line. Then the price war with Commodore and the Trameil purchase sidelined Atari’s sense of design as they raced to the bottom, just inches behind the post-Tramiel Commdore.

In the end, Atari’s computer division ended up focused on cheap PC clones, just before they were shuttered.


wayne says:

September 16, 2010 at 2:13 am

Gorgeous sketches. I love the first one – I have no idea if that is a “consumer” model or not, but it would look awesome in my spare room (without leaving much room to spare)…


fraxyl says:

September 20, 2010 at 3:38 am

By the time I got into console games, it was all the NES. Although at school, I played on an Atari ST or something like it, Shuffle Puck Cafe was the awesomes!

The very top image looks very much like something that would fit in Team Fortress 2!


Henry Ione says:

September 22, 2010 at 12:45 am

I was lucky enough to have owned an Atari during my younger years. I enjoyed playing Space Invaders which involved shooting at aliens who came in waves. If I remember it correctly, the Atari included a black joystick. I was really amazed by it because no matter how abusively we used the joystick it was so sturdy we didn’t have to buy replacements. Unfortunately, when I was in college my folks gave them away. Who knows, it could have landed in a vintage computer shop somewhere.

Henry Ione
Real World Computer Science


53T says:

November 23, 2010 at 2:14 pm

My first computer was an Atari 800XL, purchased in the early 80s. More shocking than the price of the computer itself was the cost of an external 5.25″ floppy drive (single sided single density no less).. $450!! Over the years, went through a 1040STe, MegaST2, and a TT030. All were awesome, hackable machines with great designs. I remember spending countless hours plugging away at animations using CyberCAD and CyberPaint.