The Atari 7800 ProSystem was Atari’s chance at redemption in the video game market. Atari Inc. spent a good part of 1983 interviewing thousands of people on what they wanted and didn’t want in a video game console. Atari Inc. was introduced through Warner Communications, to a new firm that was now under contract directly to Warner Communications through their Atari/NY Lab. The company was called General Computer Corporation, a strange new bedfellow in the Warner-Atari relationship who earlier had lost a lawsuit with Atari regarding a “Speed-up” board that GCC had been selling for Atari’s Missile Command arcade machines, turning them into “Super Missile Attack”.
Art Ng, Steve Golson and several of GCC’s Chip Architect Designers with assistance from VLSI would architect and design the GCC1702B “MARIA” Graphics Processor, the heart of the Atari 7800 ProSystem The first MARIA chip was numbered GCC1701. GCC’s engineers were big fans of Star Trek, so with the Enterprise being NCC-1701, they made their chip the GCC-1701. The final production chip: Maria II was GCC1702B.
The all new graphics chip called MARIA (Also the codename of the 7800 Project) with almost 100 independent sprites, better color palette onscreen, and other powerful features would not only allow game designers the ability to code new and exciting games, but the chip also allowed an original Atari TIA processor to co-exist side by side with MARIA so that the new console could also play all of the original Atari 2600 games as well.