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Atari's superior handheld couldn't save the company


THE RANT: This is probably the one post 2600 game machine that Atari put out that didn't suck. The Lynx handheld debuted around 1991 and was vastly superior to the Gameboy in nearly every respect. It had a pretty good color screen (about on par with the Game Gear but slightly clearer in my opinion,) could dish out a decent amount of colors, had a 16 bit processor and sound comparable to a Sega Genesis. It's hardware made it compete favorably to the Turbo Express (the coolest handheld of all time.) Screen could be flipped upside-down to accommodate left-handed players.  There are two models, the original (the one I have) and a skinner, scaled down model (pictured) called the Lynx II. At a time when the gaming public was playing Tetris on a crappy green and white screen this thing was dishing out 8-player full color Gauntlet with pretty good rotation effects, an excellent first person After Burner clone called Blue Lighting with awesome scaling and rotation, a totally awesome and original version of Rampage (which is still the best classic version as far as I'm concerned, Plus it's the only one to have Larry the Labrat) etc. Unfortunately all this hardware kept the price of a Lynx above the $150 mark so most parents bought the $49 Gameboy for their kids and this machine was never as successful as it should have been. But the Lynx held on for a few years all throughout the 16-bit wars and wasn't officially retired until Atari got liquidated and sold to Hasbro. Atari hangs on today as a pretty good software house but is unlikely to ever enter the console market again.

Of course didn't have one of these when they came out but (once again) my friend Doug did. As I've said elsewhere Doug's Dad was some kind of super-crazy executive man for General Motors or something so Doug got all the cool shit as soon as it came out. I was pretty impressed with this machine, although I thought the graphics were a little blocky. But what the hell, you can't have everything. As soon as the Turbo Express came out this thing went bye-bye. I recently got my own Lynx from my good friend Tom "The Lord," (the guy who has the Neo-Geo arcade cabinet.) It's got a pretty fucked up screen but who cares, it still works and only cost me $25 with three games. A new one off Ebay runs about $40-$75, depending on how many games are included. 

THE GOOD: Excellent screen, has a little of that "white blur" but not as much as a Game Gear screen does. Screen is wider and more clear than the Game Gear as well. Sound is also excellent, with multichannel music and clear voice and sound effects. The hardware was nearly as powerful as a Sega Genesis and the games look it too. Pretty decent battery life off six AA batteries. Most of the games are pretty good and have as much depth as the 16-bit console games from this period, my favorites being Rampage, Pit Fighter, Todd's Adventures in Slime world, and Gauntlet

THE BAD: Unfortunately this machine didn't get very many good games from all the cool 3rd party software publishers like Capcom, Konami, etc. So most of the games are no-name games from Atari and little software houses, like Kung Food or Dirty Larry. Not to say those two games are bad, but it's kind of a mark of success and viability when a famous company like Capcom makes a game for your system, it's like your system has "made it."  There was supposed to be an attachment that would have let you play Lynx games on a Jaguar but it never materialized. 

THE UGLY: The machine is ugly. It looks kind of like a shoebox with buttons. 


Lynx Car-lighter adapter

Lynx Sunvisor/screenguard


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Atari Lynx







'Mikey' 16-bit CMOS chip running at 16MHz. [sound, video, cpu]
'Suzy' 16-bit CMOS tunning at 16MHz.


DRAM- 64K 120ns


3.5" diagonal LCD display.
16 of 4096 colour pallette.
160 x 102 resolution.


4 channel sound. 8-bit DAC each channel (32 bits).
Stereo with panning (mono for original Lynx)


Headphones -mini-DIN 3.5mm stereo; wired for mono on the original.

9V DC, 1A Power.
Game card slot.
6XAA Battery holder.