Back in the day, if your Atari 2600 or 5200 broke down you were looking at a potentially expensive situation. Your neighborhood TV repair shop wasn't likely to know what to do with these newfangled videogames. And they weren't cheap to replace in 1980s dollars.
But in truth, the solid-state Atari machines didn't break down that often, compared to today's part-moving, disc-spinning, overheating console beasties. Atari took advantage of its systems' reliability to sell profitable, low-risk (to Atari) official Service Contracts. The brochure featured 9 purported Question-and-Answer items, transparently intended to steer the new Atari 2600 (or 5200) owner toward plunking down twenty (or forty dollars) a year for a little artificial, generally unnecessary peace of mind.
I like the excessive precision in this discussion -- coverage begins an arbitrary "Ten days after Atari receives and processes your completed Application Form with payment." Just in case we were wondering, game cartridges are not covered, and it's just too bad if you have somehow connected non-ATARI hardware to your system and fried it. A full question is devoted to the burning issue of whether Atari takes credit cards.
I also like the mental image evoked by "service professionals who have been specially selected, trained, and equipped by Atari" -- one imagines the candidates rappelling down the side of a silicon monolith, with the weak and the unskilled tossed aside like so many unsaleable E.T. cartridges. The lucky survivors are presumably given gold-plated diagnostic cartridges and high-tech laser soldering tools.
I wonder if any of the 1500 Factory Authorized Atari Service Centers are still in the business today? And did they use up all of their spare parts when the industry crash arrived? Somewhere, not all in one place, certainly, there must be stocks of those little rubber joystick gaskets and replacement STELLA chips. And maybe some 2600 paddle mechanisms that still work smoothly through the full range of motion.
And... and... dare I even say it?...
Atari 5200 joysticks in good working order.
I can dream, can't I?