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Thread: Surprised no posts yet on the Atari 800..

  1. #1

    Default Surprised no posts yet on the Atari 800..

    I had one of these briefly- in a previous wave of retro buy and sell.

    Anyways, I never owned one personally, and when I received it, I was struck with how big this computer is physically! As a Commodore 64 guy growing up- the Atari 800 was built like a TANK!!! Oh man- looked like they used diecast metal for shielding! That is one solid machine! Pretty neat computer too- I wonder if these were expensive back in the day? I always thought the two-cartridge setup was a bit curious. Without BASIC (or some other cartridge) it's basically a TV typewriter!

    Anyone have/had one of these?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by sharkey1331 View Post
    diecast metal for shielding!
    Al Alcorn told me they did that to meet FCC EMI requirements of the day.

    TI lobbied the FCC to have the rules changed, which happened, so they didn't need it.

    It didn't occur to Atari to try that.

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    A good friend of mine in the 80's had the original 400 and 800 machines. The thing about the original 800 that was interesting was the RAM was on removable cards and the ROM was in a cart (2 cart slots). He mostly used the 800XL he got later on and then we all got C64 systems. Yes the shielding was heavy and overkill.

    I added a 65xe and a 800XL to my collection but I don't think I ever really used them much. My C128 got more attention.
    What I collect: 68K/Early PPC Mac, DOS/Win 3.1 era machines, Amiga/ST, C64/128
    Nubus/ISA/VLB/MCA/EISA cards of all types
    Boxed apps and games for the above systems
    Analog video capture cards/software and complete systems

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    I own an 800 myself with a fair number of extras like a floppy drive, serial adapter and a pile of cartridge games but I've just never been too fond of the Atari system. I guess I'm just too Commodore in that regard.
    = Excellent space heater

  5. #5
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    The Atari 800 was my first computer, purchased in the week between Christmas and NewYears in 1982. It cost $699 and had just dropped to that price from $799. I used it extensively for 8 years, and on and off ever since. I have a modest Atari collection these days, but my original 800 still works fine. I only know of one cartridge intended for the right slot in the 800. It was called Monkey Wrench, and it was a basic programmers aid. It added features that Atari basic lacked.

    The design of the 800 is from 1976 or 77, by Jay Miner and his crew of engineers. The same people who designed the Amiga later on. They tried to get Atari to manufacture the Amiga, but Atari was owned by Time Warner by that time, and lacking any vision what so ever, they turned it down. The Atari 800 was a very innovative design utilizing custom ICs to process sound and video and other I/O which relieved the CPU of those chores. The C64 was really a more cheaply made knockoff of the 800, at least in the design principals. This turned out to be a good plan as the C64 went on to rule that segment, while Time Warner pretty much ran Atari into the ground.

    These days I have a collection of C64s and peripherals, and I love them. The C64 is a very important computer historically, being the machine that so many aspiring engineers and IT types started with. I can't see a vintage computer collection without a C64 system.

    but I love my Ataris

  6. #6

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    I had an Atari 400 in the old days, loved that machine even if it had a horrible keyboard
    Did a ram expansion inside added a 1050 later. Rock solid machine.
    Acquired a NTSC 400 some years ago and it sits nicely in my retro display cabinet.

    BTW the C64 video (VIC2) and sound chip (SID) are also custom chips just as Pokey and Antic were. But for the time the Atari was designed (before '80) it was very good.

    The sprites on the C64 are more functional than the player/missile graphics on the Atari but then the 'displaylist' feature of the Antic was better than creating something similar using the time consuming raster interrupts on the C64. Sound on the C64 (SID) was miles ahead of Pokey.

    For occasional use I have a Atari 65XE with a 1050 and a special cartridge holding a compact flash card with almost every software ever made

  7. #7
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    The C64 did make some improvements over the Atari. Not all though. Atari DOS is menu driven, and a lot easier to operate than Commodore's use of Basic as an interface for the OS. The disk drive is MUCH faster though it doesn't achieve the storage space of the 1541 drive (90K versus 170K). I have the SIOtoPC dongle, which connects the Atari to my desktop to use as a humongous hard drive. Much like the SD adapter on the C64, it gives my access to nearly the whole Atari software library. It's like a continuous Christmas morning.

    I own 400s, 800s, and 800XLs, and I find the build quality is better in all of them compared to the C64s I have. I have never owned an Atari XE system. They don't have a good reputation for build quality. The 1541 Commodore disk drive seems to be better built than the Atari 810 or 1050 drive.

    To me, the big thing about C64s is that they were so much cheaper to buy, it allowed many more people the advantage of owning a computer. In terms of impact on society, it's one of the most important computers in history.

    Make no mistake, I love them all.

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    Had an 800 given to me, but I couldn't figure out what I would use it for, so I gave it away.

    It did have a decent keyboard, at least compared to the 400. Would that the ST have had such a keyboard!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G) View Post
    Had an 800 given to me, but I couldn't figure out what I would use it for, so I gave it away.

    It did have a decent keyboard, at least compared to the 400. Would that the ST have had such a keyboard!
    Well, all of mine are tucked away in boxes right now, so there's that. Except for the occasional trip down memory lane, maybe a game of "M.U.L.E" with four players each with their own joystick, but not much use these days.

    The keyboard on the 800 is decent, but that thing on the 400 stretches the meaning of the term "keyboard". The XLs are not bad either, but I've never read anything nice about the XE or the ST keyboard, as you seem to corroborate.

    Back in 1985 while working for Honeywell down in Atlanta, I was expressing my lust for the Atari ST, which had just come out, to a co-worker who I knew to be taking some computer classes. He just looked at me with a slightly bemused expression, and said "there is no point in buying any computer if it doesn't run CPM". He wasn't much older than I, maybe he has a basement full of S100 bus machines now.

  10. #10

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    Yes, I have a beautiful Atari 800 and an Atari 400 in near mint boxes. The Atari 800 is one of my favorite vintage machines, next to the Commodore 64, which I think I have about 8 of by now.


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