Before Atari unleashed their Jaguar (and Jaguar CD) on an unsuspecting world, they created a number of prototype consoles and computers to test what worked and what didn't. Though some prototypes received more attention than others (the Panther, for example, found its way into more than a few magazine rumor sections), it was Atari's Microbox that deserves the most credit.
Although the Microbox was never actually released, it did manage to influence at least one system that would go on to sell over 60 million units world wide. Though not exactly the same, you can't help but notice the glaring similarity to Sony's hugely successful PlayStation 2, a system that has actually been credited for its unique look. But as we've come to expect, nothing is quite as original as you once thought, and perhaps the cynics among us are right, it has all been done before.
The Microbox was set to take over where Atari's Falcon had left off; but Atari decided to back out of the computer industry all together and focus their attention on what would become the Jaguar. But don't let the three and a half inch floppy disc drive fool you, the Microbox and PlayStation 2 designs are actually very similar, and definitely worth pointing out.
Thankfully the PlayStation 2 lost some weight before putting on the Microbox's clothing!
For one thing, the Microbox could be positioned either laying down or standing up, with the help of a stand. Sony's most recent unit not only allows you to do the same thing, but it became a selling point early in the console's life. Heck, Sony even sold little legs (aka a stand) to help their PlayStation 2 stand up.
If you study the two units for any amount of time, you should notice that the Microbox features a set of extra plug ins in the exact same spot Sony decided to put its USB ports. In fact, that whole face design looks very similar, even though it's not the same color. Even the plastic on the side is grated, a subtle effect, but one that Sony opted to use only a few years later.
The similarities don't stop with the design, though. The Microbox featured an empty slot for whatever upgrade Atari would release in the future. The PlayStation 2 has such an open bay, one that was always intended for the Hard Drive and Network Adaptor. Every system has offered a way out, in case the company decides to expand (just look at the bottom of your original N.E.S.), but the PlayStation 2 and Microbox actually had a hollowed out section of their system dedicated to the future. Not every system can claim that.
In one final note, is it just me who thinks it's funny that it's the PlayStation 2 that "borrowed" the idea? With a name like Microbox, I would have figured Microsoft's Xbox would be the one ripping Atari off. But I would be wrong, and that's why I report the news and not create it.