Atari Lynx
Atari Lynx
The Atari Lynx
Developer(s) Atari
Release Date(s) September 1989
Colors Grey
Units Shipped 5 Million

The Atari Lynx is a handheld video game console developed by Atari in the late 1980s and released in 1989. The Lynx is notable in that is was designed with technology ahead of its competitor, Nintendo's Game Boy, as well as the first gaming system on a handheld device with a color LCD screen.

History Edit

Preceded by Atari's Touch Me, the Atari Lynx began production in 1986 under the name Handy Game. However, this initial development under Epyx ended at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show of 1989. The Atari Corporation stepped in and offered a deal for Epyx; agreeing on production details, the two companies would release the console by the year's end.

The Lynx was finally unveiled and released in the late summer of 1989. Priced at $179.99 USD, the Lynx was to fight a hard battle with Nintendo's Game Boy priced at $89.99 USD. In addition to Nintendo as competition, in 1991, the Atari Lynx met Sega's Game Gear system which, while having similar battery life issues and a bulky size to the Lynx, had a larger, more popular game library. Thus, the Lynx fell to third place in the handheld race.

In order to combat the growing Game Boy, Atari released a new model of the Atari Lynx in 1991. Marketed as the Lynx II, the system was much cheaper with a price of $99.99 USD, and sported rubber grips as well as some minor screen enhancements for its back-lit screen.

Technical specifications Edit

  • CPU: MOS 65SC02 processor running at up to 4 MHz (~3.6 MHz average)
    • 8-bit CPU, 16-bit address space
    • Sound engine
      • 4 channel sound (Lynx II with panning)
      • 8-bit DAC for each channel (4 channels × 8-bits/channel = 32 bits commonly quoted)
    • Video DMA driver for liquid-crystal display
      • 4,096 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)
    • 8 System timers (2 reserved for LCD timing, one for UART)
    • Interrupt controller
    • UART (for ComLynx) (fixed format 8E1, up to 62500 Bd)
    • 512 bytes of bootstrap and game-card loading ROM
  • Color: Suzy (16-bit custom CMOS chip running at 16 MHz)
    • 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 × 102 standard resolution (16,320 addressable pixels)
    • Math co-processor
      • Hardware 16-bit × 16-bit → 32-bit multiply with optional accumulation; 32-bit ÷ 16-bit → 16-bit divide
      • Parallel processing of CPU and a single multiply or a divide instruction
  • RAM: 64 KB 120ns DRAM
  • Storage: Cartridge - 128, 256 and 512 KB exist, up to 2 MB is possible with bank-switching logic.

Some (homebrew) carts with EEPROM to save hi-scores.

  • Ports:
    • Headphone port (3.5 mm stereo; wired for mono on the original Lynx)
    • ComLynx (multiple unit communications, serial)
  • Screen: LCD Screen: 3.5" diagonal
  • Battery life: Battery holder (six AA) ~4–5 hours (Lynx I) ~5–6 hours (Lynx II)