Getting my 1st retro computers! Atari 800XL amd 64C YES!!!!!

Rob Daviau's picture

Yes! I will be getting my first Atari computer, I grew up a Commodore kid so I never experienced the "other side of the tracks" so to speak lol! Just picked up a 800XL with PSU/Joystick and Dig Dug cart, looking forward to joining the wonderful world of ATARI! Also on the way is one of the C64 models the Commodore 64C! You can bet unboxing videos will follow!

Sorry the vids have been slow in coming, great stuff coming soon please hang tight! I promise it will be soooo worth the wait and just for the record I have a great idea for a series I want to start in my videos, don't want to give anything away until I premiere the first one but IT'S GOING TO BE REALLY COOL!!!!!!

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Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
A simplistic guide to Atari 8-bit computers
Mark Vergeer wrote:

I'm really curious what types of cartridges run on what consoles/home systems...
I've often wondered about 8bit Atari computer compatibility. It seems that Atari 8 bit computer line shares a lot of similarities yet do those machines run the same software? Bill?

It's the age old debate, which is the "perfect" Atari 8-bit. The reality is, there really isn't one, even one that you modify with various bios's and other hacks. If you're a big fan of the platform, you either get by with one of the minimum 64K machines, or you own machines spanning one or more generations. Here's a very simplified guide to the Atari 8-bit systems:

- The Atari 400 and 800 are one class of machines, and even those have two generations of graphics chips (it's fairly difficult though to find the earliest machines without the extra graphics modes that would become standard on all future systems). Without modification, these systems max out at 48K. The Atari 800 is the ideal machine here as it has a full stroke keyboard, easier expandability and more features, and two cartridge slots along with the usual four controller ports from this generation. The 400 is a low end novelty, really. For many, despite maxing out at only 48K without mods, the 800 is one of the must owns if you have a second system, and it gives you the best compatibility with all non-64K software.
- The Atari 1200XL is another class. Early on, this model was criticized for breaking some compatibility with the earlier models, though how much was broken is subject to some exaggeration, as it's really not THAT bad. This model is considered to have the best keyboard of all Atari 8-bit systems and has 64K standard, and as a max. This was also the first model (like all future models) to feature just two controller ports, rather than four, and also dropped the little-used second cartridge slot from the 800.
- The Atari 600XL and 800XL are another class. This was Atari's response to the failure of the 1200XL, with improved compatibility. Even though 64K modded 600XL's (which came with 16K) are common (I have one myself), there's no monitor output, so you're stuck with RF without another mod. On the plus side, the unit is small. The 800XL is 64K and the most obvious replacement for the 1200XL, with very good compatibility across all generations. Translator software (on cassette, cartridge, or disk) can take care of most of any of the small number of compatibility issues for software from the Atari 400/800 generation, and this is true of all systems post those (among other enhancements, like switchable BIOS's and other things).
- And finally, the Atari XEGS, 65XE and 130XE are a final class. The XEGS is a consolized Atari 8-bit computer and has 64K standard, and is the only system with a removable keyboard (without one, it acts like a console). The 65XE and 130XE are essentially the same, but the 130XE has 128K standard. Many people (not me) mod theirs to go well beyond the standard 128K. Many feel that the keyboards are mushy on this era of Atari 8-bit systems, and I agree, though improved replacements are available.

With all that said, despite the insane number of models, much like with the C-64, C-64C, and C-128 (let alone the Apple II series), ultimately despite minor differences, it's not something to really sweat over (especially considering, much like the Apple II series, this platform was commercially active across THREE different decades). A normal user could simply get either an 800XL or XE system and be able to run the vast majority of software out there. Beyond that, a good mix for the collector AND player would be an 800, 1200XL, and 130XE, though the 130XE could be just as easily replaced with any other XE model, like the XEGS depending upon preference (since the 128K is little used by any relevant software, anyway). If you're into modding, or are able to afford a pre-modded system, they have multi-bios setups available, among many other things. It's a very solid community in that regard, and much like with the C-64 series, there are a wide range of devices, cable solutions, and more to allow you to work with/work off of ROMs and modern computers.

By the way, I was trying to see what Anonymous was saying about some of the comments "mixing generations", but I don't see what they're referring to. It's still the "Atari 8-bit" class of systems for convenience.

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