In the 1980s You Could Download Games for your Atari 2600 from GameLine

In the early 1980s a cable pioneer named William von Meister and the company, CVC, were looking for a way to use modem transmission technology, they had tried using it to transmit music, but legal issues caused cable providers to pull the plug. So CVC was stuck with a delivery service and nothing to deliver. So they converted the system to transmit video games for the Atari 2600. This allowed users to call up a system and, for a fee, download games to their GameLine modules. The game would typically work for 5-10 plays, after which the user would have to connect to GameLine again and pay for another download.

The GameLine device looked like an oversized silver Atari cartridge with a phone jack on the side. The games on GameLine were all from third-party gamemakers, the largest of which was the underrated Imagic.

CVC and GameLine did not survive the Video Game Crash of 1983, but members of the company would eventually go on to found Quantum Link, which eventually became AOL. It all goes back to the VCS folks :)

Fan of Atari 2600? Why not check out the Retroist Atari 2600 podcast…


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7 thoughts on “In the 1980s You Could Download Games for your Atari 2600 from GameLine

  1. plaidman76 says:

    Wow, I don’t remember this, but cool that teh technology was that far along way back then. I had no idea! Now I want to go back in time and get it….

  2. VicSage2005 says:

    I remember staring at this ad just trying to imagine how cool it would be to download a game to my 2600. My family didn’t have a credit card at the time so that kind of nixed that dream pretty quick.

  3. Vinvectrex says:

    I remember the ad and the concept . But, the idea of pay as you go always made me a bit uncertain about it. I figured I’d end up racking up big charges to play my favorite games over and over. Never mind the fact that I usually quickly tired of most games.

  4. Ugly American says:

    I had a friend who had the Intellivision version of this called PlayCable for a while.

    I thought everyone would have it soon but it turned out soon would be 30 years.

    Of course, I also thought we’d be terraforming Mars by now.

  5. Kurt says:

    My cable company in Northern NJ (Suburban) offered PlayCable but I could never convince my parents to spring for it. Luckily they thought wiser and got me a Vic-20 instead, which led me down a whole other road.

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