|(click on picture)|
| The year was
1978. Atari was at the top of the video gamming world with its 2600
VCS game console. Atari management looked around and saw a new
and potentially lucrative market just beginning to take shape. This market
was the Home Computer Market. They saw a market with relatively few major
competitors and Atari was in a great position to market a computer
of their own. They, after all, were a trusted household name, everyone
owned an Atari or knew someone who did!
So December of 1978 Atari introduced the Atari 400 and 800 computers. The actual computers were not delivered until late 1979 due to production problems.
The 800 was a full blown 8 bit computer based on the MOS Technology 6502A processor running at 1.70 MHz with up to 48K of user RAM installed. It had a standard QWERTY keyboard with 62 full-travel keys and 4 special keys to the right of the keyboard.
It stood out amongst the other computer offerings of the day with its graphics and sound capabilities. It was capable of producing 128 colors on the screen using the CTIA video processor and up to 256 colors with the upgraded GTIA video processor chip used on later versions of the computer. The 400 was first amongst the early computers to be able to display 4 programmable screen objects simultaneously called 'Player-missiles' (also known as 'Sprites' on Commodore computers). This was at a time when the most computers produced only monochrome displays or very primitive 8 color screens. The graphics were handled by a custom chip called the "ANTIC" (CTIA/GTIA). This chip was designed to work as a sort of co-processor to take the work load away from the main processor to display graphics and color on the screen.
The team that developed the custom chips inside the 400 and 800 was headed by Jay Miner who later, after leaving Atari, headed the teams who developed the custom chips that surrounded the Motorola MC68000 processor that powered arguably the most advanced computer of its time, The Amiga 1000!
The sound was supplied by another custom chip called "POKEY" and produced 4 voices for the most realistic sound production of any computer on the market at the time. Input/output was handled by a serial port on the right side of the machine. You could daisy chain a tape player, a 5 1/4 inch disk drive, a modem, or a printer through special 13 pin D-type jacks. The Atari 800 could also accommodate up to 4 9 pin D-plug joysticks through ports on the front of the machine. The joysticks were of the standard type used on the Atari 2600 VCS.
Although the 800 could be attached to a standard TV with the hardwired RF cable, it included a 5 pin round DIN plug on its right side for connecting to a hi-resolution color composite monitor.
The computer was originally released standard with 16K of RAM, but could easily be expanded to 48K by plugging 16K RAM modules into the slots provided under the removable panel on top of the computer.
The Atari 800 was one of the few computers of its day not to use a BASIC written by Microsoft, instead it used a version written in house, this made converting programs written in BASIC for other machines a bit difficult. For some strange reason the BASIC was not included in the ROM but it had to be loaded by installing a cartridge into one of the two slots under the lift up trap door on top front of the machine. It had to be inserted into the left slot as do most of the cartridges that the 800 uses. I have found very few cartridges that use the right side. Also, cartridges from the Atari VCS do not fit in these slots. The 800 had a built in RF modulator so no special hook-ups or costly monitors were necessary, it hooked directly to any TV.
|Microprocessor||MOSTEK 6502A||Standard on system board||16k|
|Clock speed||1.79 MHz||Maximum on system board||48k|
|Bus type||Atari proprietary||Maximum total memory||48k|
|Data bus width||8 - bits||Memory speed and type|
|Address bus width||16 - bits||System board memory socket type||Special Cartridge Slots|
|Interrupt levels||N/A||Number of memory module sockets||1 slots|
|DMA channels||N/A||Memory used on system board|
|Standard Features||Disk Storage|
|ROM size||10k||Internal disk and tape drive bays||none|
|Optional math coprocessor||no||Standard floppy drives||Cassette or 5.25 floppy|
|Parallel port type||no||Optional floppy drives:||external|
|RS232C serial ports||no||* 5 1/4 inch 160k||yes|
|Mouse ports||no||* 5 1/4 inch 1.2MB||no|
|UART chip used||N/A||* 3 1/2 inch 720k||no|
|Maximum speed||N/A||* 3 1/2 inch 1.44MB||no|
|CMOS real time clock||no||* 3 1/2 inch 2.88MB||no|
|CMOS RAM||no||Hard disk controller included||no|
|Video & Graphics||Sound|
|Graphics Processor||'Antic'||Sound Interface device||'Pokey'|
|Screen size - Col x Rows||40 x 24||Sound generation||4 voices|
|Resolution - Colors/High||2 / 320 x 192||ADSR capable||no|
|Resolution - Colors/Low||16 / 80 x 192|
|Max colors||128||Programming Language|
|Sprites or Missiles||4||Built in language||Atari BASIC|
|Built in M L monitor||no|
|Expansion Slots||Keyboard Specs.|
|Total adapter slots||0||Number of keys||61 / full stroke|
|Number of 8/16/32 bit slots||0 / 0 / 0||Upper/lower case||yes / yes|
|I/O||4-joystick ports||Keyboard cable length||N/A|
|I/O||1-RF output to TV|
|I/O||1-13 pin serial port|
|Physical Specs.||Environmental Specs.|
|* Height||4 1/2 inches||Operating voltage @ 60 Hz||120 VAC|
|* Width||16 inches||Maximum power supplied||53 Watts|
|* Depth||12 1/4 inches||Power supply output - volts||9 VAC|
|* Weight||10 1/2 pounds||Power supply output - amps||3.2 Amps|