The Atari Lynx was an 8-bit handheld console that was originally distributed around North America in 1989. The system is well-known for being the first electronic handheld game with a colour LCD screen which also proved to have advanced graphics over their rivals such as the Game Boy and Game Gear. Alongside these features, the Lynx was able to switch between right and left handed configuration as well as the ability to join up with 17 other of the same units.
The console was originally dubbed as the Handy Game and was developed by EPYX. However, EPYX near the end of development were going through a financial crisis so had to partner with Atari who agreed take on the project if the company kept developing software for the system.
The system took cartridges, although it has been rumoured that it was initially adapted to use tape as well. The Lynx cartridges had changed multiple times within the first year, due to multiple design flaws. The first model of cartridge were intended to be easy to store, suiting a flat design so that this was possible. However, it was found that these flat cartridges were hard to remove from the console so a second design was drawn up. The second model of the cartridges included two small tabs on the underside of them, and due to this have been named the ‘tabbed’ or ‘ridged’. Although these cartridges were easy to remove from the system, it was found that they were extremely difficult to stack and store therefore a third model was discussed. The third Lynx cartridge was styled in a curved shape which made them easier to stack whilst also being easy to remove from the console.
The Lynx originally sold for $179.95 in North America, and had sold 90% of the initial stock of 50,000 units from launch. The success of the system carried on into the following years selling around 500,000 units in 1990 and a whopping 800,000 in 1991. It is estimated that the Lynx sold around 3 million units altogether whilst in production. Additionally, the Lynx was being sold into the mid-90s and was even used to help market the Atari Jaguar.
In 1991, Atari launched the Lynx II which incorporated new packaging, improved hardware, battery-life and a new sleek design. This incorporated rubber handle grips on the console. The price for this updated system was dropped to $99 which was a huge difference when compared to original $179.95 price tag. Although this did boost sales of the console, it was impossible to challenge Nintendo’s Game Boy sales.
Though it was outsold by the system, it is praised for having been of superior quality than the Game Boy, as it boasted a colour and backlit display. In 2008 at the 59th Annual Technology and Engineering Emmy Awards, Atari was celebrated for the development of the Lynx and what the console brought to the gaming market.