The year was 1981 and I had just moved out. My parents celebrated by buying my 13 year old sister an Atari :) Figures I would have to go visit to get to play games. They had come back from a vacation somewhere that had a Circus machine in the hotel lobby. And my Mom actually played it and liked it. So they spent $180 on the machine and the circus Atari game. Picked up space invaders and asteroids and 2 or 3 others in a couple of months after that. The next thing I remember was the pac man fiasco. Dad put down a 5 dollar deposit and 2 months later the store called. Come pick it up for 35 more bucks. Even back then the game was really bad. Very disappointing. If it wasn't for imagic jumping in to the game making business I think Atari would have died right then. Star Voyager with that cool hyperspace starfield and demon attack with that hypnotic movement. Then activision got into the game and things started looking brighter. I'm really not sure which activision game it was that I played first. But they really kicked in the marketing with games like megamania and kaboom.
Atari fans don't know whether to call it a VCS or a 2600.