Atari Lynx

From Academic Kids

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Atari Lynx

The Atari Lynx is Atari's only handheld game console, and the first such machine with a color display. It was released in 1989, the same year as Nintendo's (monochromatic) Game Boy.

The Atari Lynx had several innovative features including it being the first color handheld, with a backlit display, a switchable right-handed/left-handed (upside down) configuration, and the ability to network with up to 17 other units via its "ComLynx" system (though most games would network 8 player or less). The Lynx was also the first gaming console with hardware support for zooming/distortion of sprites, allowing fast pseudo-3D games with unrivaled quality at the time and a capacity for drawing filled polygons with limited CPU intervention.

The machine was developed by Epyx as the "Handy" and completed in 1987, at which point Atari bought the rights to it. Atari changed the internal speaker and removed the thumb-stick on the control pad before releasing it as the Lynx two years later, initially retailing in the US at US$189.95. Two creators of the system, Dave Needle and R.J. Mical, were also members of the Amiga design team and much to the frustration of Atari, the Amiga was used as the software development platform.

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Atari Lynx II

In 1991, Atari relaunched the Lynx with new packaging, slightly improved hardware, and a new sleek black look. The new system (referred within Atari as the "Lynx II") featured rubber hand grips and a clearer backlit color screen with a power save option. It also replaced the monaural headphone jack of the original Lynx with one wired for stereo.

Though technologically superior to the Game Boy, Nintendo's marketing muscle, domination of 3rd party developers, and quality first party game releases (particularly Tetris) meant the Lynx was soon marginalized. The Lynx also suffered from needing more batteries (six versus four in the original Game Boy) which managed to run down much faster. The more powerful CPU of the Lynx, plus it's backlit screen, would drain a set of six AA cells in only four hours (five to six hours in the Lynx II). The Lynx was also physically larger than it needed to be; Atari had followed the advice of focus groups who wanted a bigger unit because that gave them "more" for their money. (Much of the inside of the Lynx's housing was empty air.) And it didn't help that the Lynx was sold at a substantially higher price than the Gameboy. By the mid 1990s, the Atari Lynx was no longer widely available.

As with a lot of older consoles, there's a small group of devoted fans still creating and selling games for the system.


Technical specifications

  • MOS 65SC02 processor running at up to 4MHz (~3.6MHz average)
    • 8-bit CPU, 16-bit address space
    • Sound engine
      • 4 channel sound
      • 8-bit DAC for each channel(4 channels x 8-bits/channel = 32 bits commonly quoted)
    • Video DMA driver for LCD display
      • 4096 color (12-bit) palette
      • 16 simultaneous colors (4 bits) from palette per scanline (more than 16 colors can be displayed by changing palettes after each scanline)
    • System timers
    • Interrupt controller
    • UART (for ComLynx)
    • 512 bytes of bootstrap and game-card loading ROM
  • Suzy (16-bit custom CMOS chip running at 16MHz)
    • Blitter (bit-map block transfer) unit
    • Graphics engine
      • Hardware drawing support
      • Unlimited number of high-speed sprites with collision detection
      • Hardware high-speed sprite scaling, distortion, and tilting effects
      • Hardware decoding of compressed sprite data
      • Hardware clipping and multi-directional scrolling
      • Variable frame rate (up to 75 frames/second)
      • 160 x 102 standard resolution (16,320 addressable pixels). Capability of 480 x 102 artificially high resolution
    • Math co-processor
      • Hardware 16-bit multiply and divide (32-bit answer)
      • Parallel processing of single multiply or divide instruction
  • RAM: 64Kbyte 120ns DRAM
  • Storage: Cartridge - 128, 256 and 512Kbyte exist, up to 2Mbyte is possible.
  • Ports:
    • Headphone port (mini-DIN 3.5mm stereo; wired for mono on the original Lynx)
    • ComLynx (multiple unit communications, serial)
  • LCD Screen: 3.5" diagonal
  • Battery holder (six AA) ~4-5 hours


See also

External links

fi:Atari Lynx fr:Lynx (console) ja:Atari Lynx


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