The Atari 5200 was a video game console introduced in 1982 by Atari as a replacement for the famous Atari 2600. It was created to compete with the Mattel Intellivision, but it also competed with the Colecovision shortly after the 5200's release. In some ways, it was both technologically superior and more cost efficient than any console available at that time. However, a number of design flaws had a serious impact on usability, and the system is generally considered a failure.
The Atari 5200 was in essence an Atari 400 computer without a keyboard. This made for a powerful, proven design which Atari could quickly bring to market. The system featured many innovations like the first automatic TV switchbox, allowing it to automatically switch from regular TV viewing to the game system signal when the system was activated (previously one had to slide a switch on the TV by hand).
The initial release of the system featured four controller ports, where all other systems of the day had only two ports. The system also featured a revolutionary new controller with an analog joystick, numeric keypad, two fire buttons on both sides of the controller and game function keys for Start, Pause, and Reset.
The unusual design of the analog joystick, which used a weak rubber boot, rather than springs, to provide centering, proved to be ungainly and unreliable, alienating many consumers. The joysticks quickly became the achilles heel of the system due to their combination of an overly complex mechanical design with a very low-cost internal flex circuit system.
The Atari 5200 also suffered from its software incompatibility with the Atari 2600, though an adapter was later released in 1983 allowing it to play all Atari 2600 games, using the more reliable controllers native to that system.
Another problem was the lack of attention that Atari gave to the console; most of its resources went to the already over-saturated Atari 2600. While the 5200 did garner a strong cult following with its library of high quality games, it faced an uphill battle competing with the Colecovision's head start and a stuttering economy. But the question of which system was superior became moot. The CEOs of both companies became motivational speakers when the game market crashed in 1983, killing off both systems in their prime.
In its prototype stage, the Atari 5200 was originally called the "Atari Video System X (Advanced Video Computer System)", and was codenamed "Pam" after a female employee at Atari, as were many of their game consoles, i.e. "Stella" The Atari 2600 and "Coleen" the Atari 800 Computer.
Atari 5200 2-port
This is the revised version of the Atari 5200, and it only has 2 joystick ports. However, it uses a standard connection to your television that you can purchase for a few dollars at any electronics store. Unfortunately, it seems that some 2-port units are not compatible with Pitfall! and Mountain King. However, the 2-port systems are all compatible with the VCS adapter.