XEP80 / hardware

From: Michael Current (aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
Date: 05/16/92-12:37:10 AM Z

From: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Subject: XEP80 / hardware
Date: Sat May 16 00:37:10 1992

Reprinted from the Pandora BBS (614)-471-9209

XEP80 Review
by John Castravet

 I have waited a long time for the release of the XEP80 card for the Atari 
computers. For all of this time I kept on feeding on various speculative 
articles that appeared in ANALOG Computing and Antic, The Atari Resource. All 
that talk about a built-in 16K or 32K of memory, increased horizontal resolution 
that would have made the 8 bit GEM a possibility.
 Finally, a few days ago I have received mine via UPS. And was I disappointed. 
Well, no 32K memory built-in, not even 16K.
 The horizontal resolution is still kept at 320 in graphics mode, while in text 
mode a matrix of 5X9 including descenders makes itself barely noticeable. That 
means that text looks almost the same as any good public domain 80 column 
simulator software in the public domain and on most bulletin boards. Well, maybe 
a little better. All this on a monochrome monitor. On a color monitor the 
quality is somewhat less, but the difference is not dramatic. If the signal is 
fed into the luminance input of a monitor with separate luminance and chroma 
inputs, versus the composite NTSC input of a color monitor, the quality is a 
little better with the former monitor. But still the picture is white on black. 
Oh, yes, or black on white.
 There was a hand written note in the package attesting to the fact that only 
software that uses the legal CIO vector to the E: and S: devices will work with 
the XEP80. This sounds like passing the blame to software authors. Of the little 
software that's left and supposed to be working with the XEP80 (software that 
does legal screen or editor access), most of it will still not work, at least 
properly. Why? Gone are all the features that made the Atari computer a superior 
8 bit machine. Features as Display List Interrupts, Vertical Blank Interrupts 
and Player/Missile Graphics are all gone. They probably went to join the 
SETCOLOR and DRAWTO commands. All these are still accessible in the 40 column 
mode, but... Also gone is the <BELL>, CHR$(253) sound.
 The above mention note also said something about having to readjust the 
horizontal hold of the monitor. I had to readjust the vertical hold, while the 
horizontal hold just moved the picture to the right of the screen to bring in 
the 2 characters that were otherwise missing. The display is supposed to be 80 
columns by 25 lines. A simple count revealed that it displayed about 74 columns 
by 23 lines. Now, this cannot be a problem with the monitor itself, since it 
displays the standard Atari video output in 40 column by 24 lines with ample 
amount of border around. Even when the 25 line from ICD's RTime 8 is displayed 
there is still border left on the top and bottom of the picture. So the XEP80 is 
over-scanning. Incidentally, forget about the familiar time and date display if 
you are using SpartaDos and RTime 8.
 Then there is the built in printer interface. I wonder how many Atari users out 
there who own a standard printer (parallel Centronics) do not have some kind of 
Atari 850, ICS's P:R Connection or some other type of printer interface. This 
feature alone will not probably make somebody look into the XEP80 more deeply. 
They might as well stuck on the front of the box an LCD watch, the type that one 
is used these days on seeing on almost everything.
 In conclusion I view the XEP80 more like a gimmick.
 Atari should have used the parallel port instead of the joystick port, and 
design it in such a way that it keeps up with the reputation the Atari computers 
have gained based on their graphics capability. It should have also a separate 
chroma/luma output as well as the composite NTSC one. Before I build some kind 
of a switching box, I would have to do quite a lot of plugging and unplugging of 
video cables.
 It is true, Atari makes great computers, but when it comes to peripherals you 
should better look at somebody else's product line. Just look at the Percom, 
Indus and Rana disk drives, drives that support true double density and were 
available before Atari introduced their own "double density" 1050 drives. Now 
they came out with the XF-551. Isn't it a little too late?
 Luckily for third party developers like ICD, OSS and Batteries Included, or 
just simple, regular computer hackers, who made possible 256K, 576K and even 
2Meg available, we have one of the most powerful 8 bit machine there is. We, 
Atari users brag about our systems everywhere, trying to attract new people, 
while Atari comes out with something like the XEP80 or even the XE GS (a full 
fledged 65XE computer without the keyboard that sells for more). Come on Atari, 
give us a break.
 Let's just hope that the XF-551 drive and the SX212 modem are worth their 
 Michael Current, Cleveland Free-Net 8-bit Atari SIGOp   -->>  go atari8  <<--
   The Cleveland Free-Net Atari SIG is the Central Atari Information Network
      Internet: currentm@carleton.edu / UUCP: ...!umn-cs!ccnfld!currentm
     BITNET: currentm%carleton.edu@{interbit} / Cleveland Free-Net: aa700

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