The Atari 8-Bit Computers

_______ / \ 400 /_________\ 800 | _______ | 1200XL ||ATARI || || XE,XL || The 600XL ||_______|| /|_________| Atari 8-Bit | 800XL | ___________ Computers \| ///////// | |___________| 65XE |______/////| |LLLLLLLLLLL| 130XE |LLLLLLLLLLL| |__[_____]__| XE Game System It was 1979 when Atari, Inc. entered the home computer market with the introduction of the 800 and the 400 computer systems. These MOS Technology 6502-based systems run at a clock speed of 1.79 MHz, offering 256 colors displayable simultaneously, up to 320x192 graphics resolution and up to 40x24 text resolution in 11 graphics modes and 5 text modes. Video may be displayed either on a composite video monitor in the case of the 800, or on a standard television for both systems. 4 independent sound voices are available through the audio output of the television or monitor, each with a 3 1/2 octave range, plus there is a built-in speaker for key-click and other programmable sounds. The 800 has a second cartridge port and a full-stroke keyboard, while the 400 has a single cartridge port and a membrane keyboard. Each has 4 serial controller ports and an Atari Serial Input/Output port. Originally, both the 400 and 800 were sold with 8K RAM, but later most 800's were sold with 48K and 400's with 16K. Each includes the 10K Atari Operating System in ROM. The introduction of the 1200XL in 1982 marks the single largest advance in the 8-bit Atari system. The 1200XL runs most software and hardware designed for the 800 and 400, but now runs a slightly more advanced 6502C microprocessor, and includes a full 64K RAM. The single cartridge and monitor ports remain, along with 2 controller ports. In addition, the 1200XL includes 4 programmable Function keys and a Help key, built-in diagnostic and graphics demonstration programs, and probably the favorite keyboard of any 8-bit Atari computer. Clicks previously outputted through the built-in speaker are now heard from the television or monitor's speaker. The revised 14K Operating System offers many new features, including an alternate International Character Set. In 1983 Atari replaced the 1200XL/800/400 line-up with the new 800XL and 600XL. These new machines include most of the features of the 1200XL minus the Function keys and the demo program. But now both the 800XL and 600XL have the Atari BASIC language built-in. In addition, these two systems offer the Parallel Bus Interface, providing direct memory access to the heart of the computer. The 800XL contains 64K RAM while the 600XL has 16K RAM. The new Atari Corp. delivered on its promise to advance the 8-bit Atari system by replacing the 800XL/600XL with the new 130XE and 65XE in 1985. The 65XE is nearly identical to the 800XL in features, minus the PBI. The 130XE, however, offers 128K RAM, plus a few special new graphics capabilities. In addition, the 130XE replaces the PBI port with the Enhanced Cartridge Interface, continuing the powerful feature of direct memory access. In a change of marketing strategy, Atari introduced the new XE Game System in 1987. Despite its label, the XEGS is a true 8-bit Atari computer system. It offers the convenience of a detachable keyboard and built-in Missile Command game, while offering 64K RAM and full compatibility with the 65XE. What can you do with an 8-bit Atari computer system? Virtually anything you can do with any other type of computer! Programming? Pascal, C, BASIC, Logo, Pilot, Forth, Lisp, assembler, plus a unique language called Action! are all available. Word Processing? Try AtariWriter, Letter Perfect, Paperclip, TextPro, Bank Street Writer, 1st EXLent, TurboWord, Cut & Paste, Letter Wizard... Database? Try TurboBase, TurboFile, Synfile, Data Perfect, MicroFiler, MegaFiler, Homebase, Super Data Base 1-2-3... Speadsheet? Look at Syncalc, Visicalc, TurboBase, Calc Magic... Communications? There's Express!, BobTerm, Kermit-65, Omnicom, VT850, Chameleon... Graphics? Print Shop, Newsroom, Blazing Paddles, Video Title Shop, Virtuoso, Movie Maker, News Station, Publishing Pro, Awardware, Page Designer, ChromaCAD, Rambrandt... Music? Virtuoso, Music Studio, Music Construction Set, Songwriter, Electronic Drummer, Music Painter, Music Composer, AtariMusic, MIDI-Track... Alternate Operating Systems? Don't forget the Diamond Graphic Operating System, bringing point-and-click to the 8-bit Atari, and SpartaDOS X, the last word in Disk Operating Systems for ANY 8-bit computer... Hardware? The XF551 5.25" disk drive stores 360K per disk. There exist kits to convert it to a 720K 3.5" drive...The Multi I/O or the Black Box may be used to connect a hard drive of any imaginable size...The XEP80 may be added to provide a full 80-column text display...The R-Time-8 is a battery-powered clock device...Third-party memory upgrades are available for up to 4 Megabytes of RAM...SIO-2-PC lets an IBM PC act as a file-server for an 8-bit Atari... Education? Colorful graphics, exciting sounds and full-screen editing give rise to hundreds of quality educational software titles. Entertainment? The 8-bit Atari has long been famous for thousands of great games. If you want to do something with a computer, chances are you can do it on an 8-bit Atari computer. While slower than Intel-based systems like the IBM PC and compatables and 68000-based systems like the Macintosh and the Atari STe/TT, the 8-bit Atari is less costly than any of these, is easier to program at the machine level or alter at the hardware level, and has been documented more thoroughly than any of these newer platforms. The relative simplicity in design of the 8-bit Atari means that many people find the system more reliable than the other types of computers. The software for the 8-bit Atari is sometimes more powerful than on any other platform: some Bulliten Board Systems are run on 8-bit Ataris specifically because the BBS software available is better than that for any other type of computer. There is a reason for the relative quality of software on the 8-bit Atari. People program commercially for PC, Mac, or STe/TT to make money; people program the 8-bit Atari because they want to - they enjoy producing good software. It takes a team of specialized programmers to develop a major piece of software for those other systems; with the 8-bit Atari, a single person has the chance to learn the entire system, thereby developing greater pride in his programming abilities and his final product. The 8-bit Atari owner can take pride that his computer platform was developed years before the Macintosh, IBM PC, or Atari ST were on the drawing boards, but remains as useful today as it was in 1979. For these reasons and more, the 8-bit Atari remains a viable alternative in today's computer marketplace. [ This document was created on an Atari 130XE running AtariWriter 80 under SpartaDOS X ] written by Michael Current, aa700
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