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Model # EG500
Atari Cosmos with Superman cartridge running.
The Cosmos was Atari's experiment in holographic video gaming technology. Atari purchased all the rights possible for anything to do with holography and began work on a new tabletop based game which would have allowed 8 different games to work with 8 different holographic "backdrops". The games were not actually 3-D holographic games, but moving LED's behind a transparent holographic image to add more of an environment to the game then just simply a bunch of flashing LED's on a screen such as handhelds from Mattel Electronics and Coleco Electronics.
The Atari Cosmos used the the same CPU chip that was later used in the Entex Adventurevision tabletop game. The chip was called the COPS411. Each of the 8 Atari Cosmos game cartridge were "keyed" so that they would press a combination of the 5 contact buttons located on the LED board with a pattern of plastic keys on the back of each Atari Cosmos game cartridge. Since the game cartridges only consisted of a plastic shell, a set of contact keys and a transparent hologram the price for each game was expected to cost as low as $10-$12 each.
The Atari Cosmos, the brainchild of Atari engineers Allan Alcorn, Harry Jenkins and Roger Hector was shown at the New York Toy Fair in 1981. Many observers commented that it wasn't really a 3-D holographic game and the holographic slides were just a gimmick. Atari commented that this was the first of its kind tabletop holographic video game and that the use of the holograms in this fashion was a first attempt and that the reviewers should not be so critical of the use of the holograms in this way. However, interest in the new tabletop game was quite high, in fact pre-orders taken at the show amounted to over 8,000 units from just the single showing.
From production line notes and engineering logs the Atari EG500 as the notes refer to as had a pilot run of up to 250 units. Whether that many units were ever made or not is known. Steve Provence who worked for the holographic company that was subcontracted by Atari to produce the holograms stated "While working at the Atari Holoptics lab, there was a wall stacked with Cosmos cases and hardware, perhaps as many as 1,000. When the money dried up and the lab was closing, some people from Atari came in and hauled all of the hardware away and then the lab closed." Product Boxes were made, sales flyers were made and sent out to Atari's distributors in sales paks, everything appears to look as if the Atari Cosmos was ready to go. However the plug was pulled on the project and it was never mentioned again. The only other use Atari made of its hologram technologies (Atari referred to the technology as HOLOPTICS) was in the use of hologram stickers on its cartridges and hardware to cutback on counterfeit products being sold. Allan Alcorn who headed the Cosmos projected noted "Ray Kassar was too scared to take a chance on the handheld/tabletop market, the Atari 2600 VCS was the only thing he had faith in." It was the pulling of the plug on such innovative projects such as this that forced many of Atari's most creative and innovative people to leave the company, Al Alcorn left in 1981.
To date, only 3 Atari Cosmos were known to exist and all of them have been empty shell Mock-up (Most likely they were used at the NY Toy Fair). an Atari Cosmos mock-up was shown at the World of Atari Show 98 in Las Vegas last August 21-23, 1998. To date, there are currently only 2 fully assembled and working units known to exist. The Atari Historical Society currently has the one with all 8 Holoptic Games. A second unit is still in the hands of another former Atari employee who worked in Atari's Advanced Projects Group.
The Inside Story
Sales Ad (1981)
Power Supply: 10.5VAC 750MA Lighting: 2 Dual non reflective incandescent lights for "A" and "B" Holoptic scenes