Atari 800XL

Atari 800XL

Atari first released the 2600 in 1977, with the mindset that it would have a lifespan of around 3 years.

By 1979, they had conceived and announced the replacement in the form of the 400, a lower end machine with 4KB RAM and a membrane keyboard, nicknamed ‘Candy’ internally that had a single ROM cartridge slot, and the higher end 800 with 8KB RAM, nicknamed ‘Colleen’ which had two cartridge slots.

By the time they were actually released in late 1979, the prices of RAM had dropped, and they both ended up being released with 8KB, and as memory became cheaper, the 800 found itself with 48KB.

Both of these machines were amongst the first to sport custom chips in the form of  ANTIC which generated the display, CTIA/GTIA which took the background generated by ANTIC and added colour and sprites and then sent the resulting display signals out to the TV/Monitor, and POKEY which handled sound and I/O.

Take a look at the later  Amiga and its array of custom chips and you might understand how Atari provided the inspiration, since the chips offloaded the main CPU and allowed for great flexibility and better performance than you might have expected for such a lowly CPU.

By 1982, the 1200XL had appeared, but was a flop commercially, as it offered little over the 800 it was intended to replace. It was discontinued and replaced by the 600XL and 800XL in late 1983.

There were a number of other XL machines planned, however these failed to see the light of day, and eventually the XL’s were replaced by the XE’s.

Commercially successful, the Atari 8Bit machines were built between 1979 and 1992.

For more details, including the peripherals that were available and more details on the history, including some of the machines that didn’t make it, visit the Wikipedia entry here: Atari 8Bit

The machine pictured here is my own 800XL, with Steven Tucker’s Warp 32 add on, that allows you to select from 32 different OSes during boot. The disk drive is a 1050, which was designed to match the XL series and has the Happy upgrade fitted, and the tape deck is an XC12, designed for the later XE series.

The two items to the left of the 800XL are the APE interface by Steven Tucker, that allows a PC running the APE software to emulate Atari peripherals such as disk drives, printers, tape decks and modems, and a cartridge based IDE interface that allows standard IDE drives to be coneected to your Atari.  They’re essential add ons for your Atari.

You can find these two items, plus a whole host of other interesting Atari stuff here at Atarimax.

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