The Atari Lynx is a 16-bit handheld game console that was released by Atari Corporation in 1989. The Lynx holds the distinction of being the world's first handheld electronic game with a color LCD. 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 has several innovative features including its 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.
The Lynx was the second handheld game with the Atari name to actually be produced, the first was Atari Inc.'s handheld electronic game Touch Me. Atari Inc. had previously worked on several other handheld projects including the Breakout, Space Invaders, and the Atari Cosmos portable/tabletop console. However, those projects were shut down during development - some just short of their intended commercial release.
The Lynx system was originally developed by Epyx as the Handy Game. Planning and design of the console began in 1986 and completed in 1987. Epyx first showed the Handy system at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 1989. Facing financial difficulties, Epyx sought out partners. Atari Corp. and Epyx eventually agreed that Atari Corp. would handle production and marketing, while Epyx would handle software development.
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