It was the only gaming system which really mattered at the time. Though the games may be crude by today's standards, the sheer weight of software support meant that the 2600 was the only real option for early-80s gamers. Well, until 1983, when it all went dreadfully wrong, and the entire industry collapsed in on itself like an imploding cow.
While I was a ZX Spectrum owner for much of the 80s, I think it was some latent loyalty to the brand which led me to choose an Atari ST over the Amiga.
That loyalty wasn't to last, even as Atari turned away from home computing and attempted a triumphant return to console gaming. Albeit, seemingly, without an invite.
"I'm a mate of Dave's... no, not Dave - Phil. I mean John. Big John. Johnny-oh! I brought a bottle."
Like many, I'd chosen Nintendo over Atari when it had come to handhelds. I was impressed with a friend's Lynx, but the cost of it, the short battery life, its sheer size, had led me to favour the Game Boy. As history records, it was the right call; the Lynx was woefully supported by third-party publishers over the course of its life, and its design meant that it was scarcely portable. For a handheld system, that was death.
By the time Atari would next release a console - its last - I was working as a games journalist. As a byproduct of this, I would witness Atari's demise first-hand... and it was not to be pretty.
Indeed, Atari's stumble from grace may be the single most apocalyptic demonstration of self-sabotage the games industry has ever seen.
Released in 1993 - the first year of Digitiser's existence - the Atari Jaguar was billed as the world's first 64-bit console. Though this statistic - the alleged power of its twin "Tom & Jerry" chips - was disputed by many, Atari sought hard to drive the numbers home.
In an era where 16-bit was king, the Jaguar's hardware specifications were Atari's main selling point - but even then it felt like a mistake, that they were betting on numbers meaning more than software. Its initial slogan - at least in the US - was "Do The Math". Unfortunately, asking people to perform calculations has never been proven successfully as a marketing strategy (unless, y'know... you were selling a new calculator).
It took some work to establish a relationship with Atari's public relations team. And for "work" read "badgering". Digitiser was barely a year old when the Jaguar was released, and though our readership was already in seven digits, getting people to believe us was a battle that Digi fought throughout its existence. On that score at least, we could empathise with Atari.
We were new, we couldn't offer screenshots, we didn't always tow the marketing line like good little boys, and our readership seemed too high to be believable. We were annoyed that Atari didn't seem to take us seriously.
Atari UK's Daryl Still - then head of the Jaguar marketing - told Retro Gamer in 2014: “It was frustrating, because there was 12-15 of us TOTAL, doing a Europe-wide launch of a major electronic commodity with absolutely zero budget, getting pages upon pages of press coverage and building an enormous demand.
"And we were hearing that we were rubbish at marketing, from journalists who knew absolutely nothing about the reality of the situation. You felt like screaming at them ‘C’mon then, you come and see if you could do any better with our finances.’ But of course we couldn’t say a word. We just had to keep on going.”
The Jaguar's European press launch was held at Atari UK's HQ in Slough, and the PR team's lack of budget was clear to see; a boardroom was laid out with a couple of bowls of Twiglets, there was no alcohol (instead, they served us lukewarm orange squash in plastic cups), and there were a few Jaguars set up in an adjacent room. Every time Still stepped out, the assembled journalists - used to big, glitzy, launch events - gossiped about what a shambles it was.
To be honest, I remember feeling bad for him. It wouldn't be the last time.
Certainly, Still's frustration came through in our dealings with him. Somehow, through sheer force of our will and asking repeatedly, Atari provided us with a review machine, which arrived with the pack-in game, Cybermorph.
We weren't kind to either the game or the system.
The Jaguar's unwieldy joypad - with its pointless built in keypad - was bulky and unnecessary, we argued. CD-ROM felt like the future, and here was a cartridge system arriving at precisely the wrong time. Furthermore, the game they'd chosen to sell the system - a sort of free-roaming take on Nintendo's Starfox - was dull, repetitive, lacking atmosphere and, importantly, character. Most reviews felt much as we did.
Edge gave it 8/10.
Nevertheless, the Jaguar was - to a point - a hot commodity that Christmas. There wasn't enough stock to meet demand, with angry mothers reportedly camping out in the reception of Atari HQ to demand a console for their spoilt spawn.
A lack of product over the next year would ensure that the Jaguar never really capitalised on that early demand. 200 developers had signed on to produce games for the hardware, but once those initial sales figures were released, that number shrunk dramatically.
It didn't help that - at least in those early months - the Jaguar lacked a true killer app. The other launch titles - Trever McFur in Crescent Galaxy, Raiden, Evolution: Dino Dudes, all 2D games that could've been handled by the Mega Drive - scarcely demonstrating what the "64-bit" system could supposedly do.
Additionally, they weren't helped by some of the ugliest packaging design ever seen; they looked more like Ugandan movie posters.
Though early Jaguar sales figures had been catastrophically disappointing, there was a glimmer of optimism as 1994 wore on. Jeff Minter's Tempest 2000 was well received - though as trippy as it was, it was hard not to see it wasn't a huge step forwards from its ageing arcade predecessor - while Wolfenstein 3D at least proved the hardware could handle a basic first-person shoot 'em up as well as an old PC.
The killer apps were on the way, we were promised - with Alien Vs Predator and Doom both scheduled for release towards the end of the year. Though almost universally praised, Aliens Vs Predator once again demonstrated Edge's singular philosophy, as they gave the Jaguar exclusive a mere 4/10. Regrettably, despite otherwise proving popular, AvP wasn't enough to turn around the machine's fortunes.
Limp game after limp game trickled onto the Jag', scarcely supported by Atari's non-existent marketing budget. As 1995 lurched into view, Atari attempted to reverse public opinion, and actually spent some money on a sort of relaunch.
I remember it all too clearly. The party - and this time it was an actual party - was held at London's Planetarium, next door to Madam Tussaud's wax museum. Tony "Baldrick" Robinson was there as master of ceremonies - Mr Hairs and I, having partaken somewhat too liberally of the free alcohol, spent much of the evening stroking his back, and pretending we hadn't.
Prior to Atari's presentation, the Planetarium ran one of its regular star shows. We sat in the dark, giggling, as we had a tendency to do, whooping and aaah-ing unnecessarily loudly, and shouting out to ask whether the various projections were "To scale?".
We snuck out at one point through a side door, and found ourselves in the Madam Tussaud's gift shop. We considered taking an unsolicited tour of the darkened wax museum, but the light from a security guard's torch sent us scurrying into hiding behind a display of branded rubbers and pens.
We were awful people.
The Atari presentation was introduced by Robinson, followed by a highlights reel showing upcoming Jaguar games. The assembled gaming press - by this time far too drunk - greeted the entire thing with jeers and catcalls. For some reason, Atari had decided to include Club Drive - a risible drive 'em up, which clearly was in an unfinished state. The audience burst out laughing.
It was, no pun intended, a car crash - and it sobered us up quickly. Our mood on the way out was despondent, low. We bumped into a distraught and furious Daryl Still, who was fuming from the audience's response. We tried to calm him down, and mentioned that their opinion was sure to change once Club Drive was finished.
"But it is finished," he squeaked, the desperation in his voice impossible to ignore. "That's the finished game!"
It felt like game over for Atari. Based upon the reaction that night, the headlines would not be kind, and we could sense Still's frustration as he struggled to control the careening PR wagon, with virtually no support from his Atari bosses. He seemed isolated.
By mid 1995 - when the unwanted and unnecessary Jaguar CD add-on was released - the public had all but lost interest in the Jaguar. Software remained thin on the ground, and positive news even more scarce. By the end of the year there were reports of mass lay-offs at Atari, and rumours that the company had ceased manufacturing hardware, with a view to exiting the games industry altogether.
Early the next year, Atari confirmed the bad news for its shareholders: "From the introduction of Jaguar in late 1993 through the end of 1995, Atari sold approximately 125,000 units of Jaguar. As of December 31, 1995, Atari had approximately 100,000 units of Jaguar in inventory."
These sales were "substantially below" Atari's expectations.
The statement continued: "By late 1995, Atari recognized that despite the significant commitment of financial resources that were devoted to the Jaguar and related products, it was unlikely that Jaguar would ever become a broadly accepted video game console or that Jaguar technology would be broadly adopted by software title developers."
Indeed, between 1993 and 1995, a significant portion of Atari's income had not derived from Jaguar sales, but from a patent infringement lawsuit victory over Sega.
The writing was on the wall.
We continued to feel a bit sorry for Daryl Still.
Whenever we spoke to him, as Atari's woes played out to a baying crowd, he seemed increasingly down. We offered to pay a visit to Atari HQ, to try and stir up something approaching a positive spin on the company's predicament. We hadn't banked on what we'd witness when we arrived.
The building was virtually empty - lights off, empty offices, and Daryl Still had nothing of any real interest to show us. He was no longer putting a brave face on it, no longer trying to deny that things were bad for Atari. He seemed resigned, as if he knew what was imminent, and there was clearly no point trying to pretend otherwise. The last man standing in Pompeii as the volcanic ash settled on his shoulders.
Atari, as the world had known it, was over. It was impossible - as somebody who had grown up playing Atari games, who had owned Atari systems - not to feel sad about that.
In early 1996, the beleaguered Atari merged with JT Storage, a manufacturer of budget PC hardware. Most of Atari's staff were laid off, and its assets sold into liquidation. Two years later, having inherited Atari's financial woes, JT Storage sold Atari to Hasbro Interactive for the knock-down price of $5 million. Later, both became part of French gaming giant Infogrames.
Infogrames later restructured under the Atari brand, but fell into its own money troubles. It currently exists as little more than a holding company, licensing out heritage Atari titles for mobile and online gaming.
Despite where it has ended up, Atari remains one of the most recognisable brands in the games industry. That famous logo is front and centre of the trailer to the new Blade Runner movie - surely a demonstration of how recognisable it remains.
I can't help but feel that Atari exists now as a cruelly wasted brand, a missed opportunity. Atari created this industry - at one point you didn't play games... you played Atari. It seems unlikely that it'll ever return to what it was - the brand has become too tainted, too dangerous an investment. Having been there as a gamer, and then to witness it fall apart with my very own eyes, was like watching a close friend deteriorate and slip away.
I still feel sad about it.