Atari Releases the Lynx
The Atari Lynx was a handheld game console released by Atari Corporation in 1989.
The Lynx holds the distinction of being the world's first handheld electronic game with a color LCD display. The system is also notable for its forward-looking features, advanced graphics, and ambidextrous layout. The Lynx was released in 1989, the same year as Nintendo's (monochromatic) Game Boy. However, the Lynx failed to achieve the sales numbers required to attract quality third party developers, and was eventually abandoned.
Today, as with many older consoles, there is still a small group of devoted fans, creating and selling games for the system.
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 eight or fewer players). ComLynx was originally developed to run over infrared links (and was codenamed RedEye). This was changed to a cable-based networking system before the final release.
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. Blue Lightning, an After Burner clone, was especially notable and featured in TV advertising for the console.
The games were originally meant to be loaded from tape, but were later changed to load from ROM. The game data still needed to be copied from ROM to RAM before it could be used, so less memory was available and the games loaded relatively slowly.
In 1987, a small company called Epyx managed to complete a design for a revolutionary new portable game system called the Handy. Unfortunately, they didn't have the financial capability to produce it. Atari seized the opportunity and bought the full rights to the Handy, renaming it Lynx and releasing it two years later. Why it took two years to get it to the market is anyone's guess. The Lynx was the first color-screened handheld ever!
In 1989, Atari released a second version of the Lynx with a number of improvements including an extra hour of battery life, a sharper LCD screen, a button to switch off the backlight (to save on battery power when games are paused), a Power LED (it blinked when the battery was low) and rubber grips on the back, all encased in a smaller more rectangle-looking black casing. The Lynx II was backward-compatible with all Lynx games and was later advertised as being able to communicate
directly with the upcoming 64-bit Jaguar.