Brief History of Atari Lynx

This is a brief story of the Atari Lynx, covering its roots, the present and what might be coming in the future. You may also be interested in the Atari Lynx Specifications.

The Past

The Atari Lynx was the world’s first colour handheld computer game system. It was developed by a company called Epyx who called the project "Handy". After completion in 1987 Atari bought the rights to it. They changed the internal speaker, removed the thumb stick on the control pad and released it as the ''Lynx'' in 1989. The price was set in the US at $189.95. RJ Mical and Dave Needle (the inventors), were also members of the Amiga design team and to Atari's frustration the Commodore Amiga was used as the software development platform.

Atari Lynx model 1 console
Atari Lynx Model 1

In 1991, Atari re-launched the Lynx with new packaging, slightly improved hardware, and a new sleek design. The new "Lynx II" featured rubber hand grips on the back and a backlit color screen with the option of turning the backlight off to save precious battery power. It also replaced the mono headphone jack of the original Lynx with one for stereo sound.

Atari Lynx model 2 console
Atari Lynx Model 2

The units also had a unique screen flip function allowing for right and left handed play. It also features the ability to link up to 17 other units via ComLynx cables. Despite this ability most games only network up to eight or less players. The hardware can zoom and distort sprites and has the capacity for drawing filled polygons allowing for some groundbreaking 3D games.

Originally the game media was set to be loaded from tape. It thankfully changed to using ROM. These appeared as incredibly thin flat cartridges. The cartridge styles changed from flat to ridged and finally to one with a curved upper lip. Later releases appear on a PCB (printed circuit board).

There is a great collection of games for the Lynx, to see what they are and get information on them, check out the Game Database.

The Lynx came with a great assortment of accessories, ranging from official Atari accessories to third party ones. You can read more about them here: Atari Lynx Accessories

Games and other software for the Lynx can be emulated. To learn more about that, see this page - Atari Lynx Emulation

The above information is courtesy of Lee Chapman, the admin of the Atari Lynx Fans group.

The Present

In the recent years, the Atari Lynx has exploded in popularity and has seen prices soaring (see PriceCharting statistics for Lynx 1, and Lynx II). There have been many developments to fuel this. From modern LCD display replacement kits, to SD card based carts that let you load any ROM files you can get. There has also been a platitude of professional homebrew game releases from publishers such as Songbird Productions and Yastuna Games.

The homebrew scene on the Lynx has been very alive and active. We keep a track of various new releases and you can find them in our game database. We've also started a dedicated website to Lynx Development - Atari Lynx Development Resources Wiki. We also host an annual programming competition / game jam in collaboration with various partners.

There have been many other great Lynx initiatives, including the Atari Lynx Handycast and Homebrew Highlights.


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