Please note that I have two separate Circus writeups inside of this one. E2 doesn't allow a single person to have two writeups in one node, so I had to combine these.

Circus (thing)

Circus was an old arcade game released by Exidy back in 1977. You have probably never seen a Circus machine, but I am willing to bet that you have played the home version (which was called Circus Atari).

In Circus you control a pair of clowns who jump up and down on a see-saw in an attempt to pop three rows of colored balloons. You control the action with a spinner controller.

The Machine

Circus came in an upright dedicated cabinet, and may have also been available in a cocktail configuration as well. Circus machines had white sides with red painted sideart of several balloons in flight. The front of the machine was decorated with a large ornate monitor bezel that also doubled as a marquee (or nameplate), this bezel showed several clowns in a circus scene and had the game title spelled out with multicolored balloons. The control panel was unadorned, save for an analog spinner and a start button. The whole machine was finished off in black t-molding.

Once inside the machine, you can see that it uses a black and white monitor with a colored overlay (to make the balloons have color). The game itself uses a M6502 processor running at a white-hot 706 khz (not megahertz, but kilohertz).

Collectors Information

This is a fun title with a lot of replay value. It is rather difficult to find, but is likely to be cheap once it is located. Examine the monitor carefully, as the old black and white monitors like that are rather difficult to find parts for.

Circus (thing)

Atari 2600 Game
Produced by: Zellers
Model Number:(Zellers games had no model number)
Year of Release:n/a
Atari Rarity Guide: 5 Rare

Unauthorized clone of the Atari 2600 game Circus Atari by the Canadian firm Zellers. The box, and manual were different but the game itself was identical, (except for the cartridge art).

This game is valued at around $15 USD. Games with boxes and manuals are worth more.

The ancient Romans had a circus, but it wasn't anything like our modern circus. The ancient Roman circus was a place to stage elaborate "sporting" events. When it first began, the circus displayed Roman soldiers demonstrating their fighting skills against one another. Things got considerably nastier as time went by as the Romans indulged their taste for blood. The circus became a staging ground for fights to the death, with people and animals killing one another indiscriminately for the pleasure of the crowd. (Quite a crowd, by the way. The Circus Maximus in Rome, which was built around 600 B.C., allegedly seated up to 250,000 people at a time, although examining its ruins shows that a mere 150,000 could ever actually have been seated there.)

As the Roman Empire declined, so did these vast spectacles. The Roman circus disappeared completely during the Dark Ages.

The modern circus was invented by Philip Astley in 1768. He wanted to set up a riding school, but he had no funds to get it going. To raise money, Astley decided to charge admission to a trick riding show.

The problem with trick riding shows in those days was that they were set up as a long, straight track. The audience would sit near the middle of the track. The audience would see one trick as the horses dashed past, then they would have to wait as the horses turned around and came back for another pass. Astley's innovation was to set up the performance area as a ring in which the horses would run. Not only would the horses be in view the whole time, the centripetal force as the horses went around the ring helped the riders keep their places during their tricks. He began by using a 62-foot diameter ring, but he soon reduced it to a 42-foot ring, which is still the standard size for circus rings today.

By 1770, the popularity of Astley's performances had far overshadowed his teaching of horsemanship. Knowing a good thing when he saw one, Astley then hired acrobats, tightrope dancers, and jugglers to perform between the horse acts to keep the audience interested in the show.

The circus arrived in America in 1793, presented by British equestrian John Bill Ricketts. George Washington saw this circus and even sold Ricketts a horse for the show.

The wide open spaces in America caused the American circus to naturally gravitate to the railroad as a means of transportation. Railroads generally went between large cities, and large cities meant large crowds. The American circus had to expand from one ring to three to accommodate these crowds. In 1872, P. T. Barnum was the first to put a circus on the rails.

Showmen such as P. T. Barnum dramatically increased the size of the circus. Barnum invested heavily in circus animals, including "Jumbo," the world's largest elephant, which he bought for $30,000.

Many musical instruments were invented specifically for use in the circus, such as the steam calliope (steam-driven whistles), the una-fon (a series of doorbells connected to a keyboard), Shaker chimes (chimes that make unusual sounds when shaken, similar to an ancient Indonesian instrument, the anklung), and the Aluminum Harp (a series of tubes that produce tones when rubbed with rosined gloves).

By the beginning of the twenty-first century, animal rights laws and an explosion of other entertainment opportunities for the general public had caused the circus industry to decline and fragment. Smaller, more polished circuses such as the Cirque du Soleil flourished by performing without animals for niche audiences in the largest cities. The large circuses like Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus faded in cultural importance, though they persist still.

In the entertainment industry a circus is a movie set. If is circus is being put up, it's usually a location shoot being erected. This includes all the crew, gak, trailers etc. This takes lots of coordination and security; there is stuff everywhere.

Cir"cus (?), n.; pl. Circuses (#). [L. circus circle, ring, circus (in sense 1). See Circle, and cf. Cirque.]

1. Roman Antiq.

A level oblong space surrounded on three sides by seats of wood, earth, or stone, rising in tiers one above another, and divided lengthwise through the middle by a barrier around which the track or course was laid out. It was used for chariot races, games, and public shows.

⇒ The Circus Maximus at Rome could contain more than 100,000 spectators.

Harpers' Latin Dict.


A circular inclosure for the exhibition of feats of horsemanship, acrobatic displays, etc. Also, the company of performers, with their equipage.


Circuit; space; inclosure.


The narrow circus of my dungeon wall. Byron.


© Webster 1913.

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