• Tag Archives Atari 800XL
  • Atari 800XL

    Atari 800XL


    Atari’s original computer line consisted of the Atari 400 and Atari 800 which were released in 1979. These were initially followed up with the Atari 1200XL in 1983, and then by the Atari 600XL and Atari 800XL in 1984.

    The 1200XL was a bit of an odd duck. It was essentially compatible with the earlier machines being based on the same architecture and using all the same major chips (6502, Pokey, etc.). It’s biggest improvement was probably that it shipped with 64K of RAM whereas the original 800 maxed out at 48K. However, changes to some of the ports and the operating system ROMs caused some incompatibilities and in addition, the 1200XL was a very expensive machine, introduced at $899. It just was not a worthwhile upgrade for Atari 800 owners and there wasn’t much to attract new users to the 1200XL over the older and much cheaper 800.

    The following year, the 600XL and 800XL were produced. These fixed most of the minor incompatibilities of the 1200XL OS, included built-in BASIC (the 1200XL did not) and added the PBI expansion port (particularly useful if you wanted to add serious expansions like a hard disk). The 800XL looked much like the 1200XL except smaller. The 600XL was smaller still and both the 800XL and 600XL removed the function keys of the 1200XL. The 600XL was a direct replacement for the Atari 400 and like that machine only included 16K. Other than less memory and a missing monitor port, it was essentially the same as an 800XL. The 800XL was meant to replace both the Atari 800 and 1200XL. Like the 1200XL it had 64K of memory and it also had a composite monitor port (in Europe, the 600XL had this also). Taken as a whole, the 800XL is arguably the best of the Atari 8-bits.

    The XL line would be replaced with the XE line after only about two years.

  • Shamus (Atari, Commodore 64)

    Shamus was a knife-throwing robot who liked to dress like Doctor Who. Released in 1982 by Synapse Software for the Atari 800 and Commodore 64. Artwork by Tim Boxell.


    Shamus was originally released by Synapse for Atari 8-bit computers in 1982. It was soon ported to the VIC-20, Commodore 64, TRS-80 Color Computer, TI-99/4A and PC (DOS). It was also re-released in cartridge format for the Atari XEGS in 1987. Much later, in 1999, a Game Boy Color port was released and eventually an iOS port as well.

    Atari title screen

    The goal of the game is to navigate through different rooms fighting off various robotic enemies with your electrified throwing knives while collecting various special items and keys needed to access some locations with the goal being to reach the Shadow’s Lair. This is an extremely difficult game to finish as most versions have 128 rooms and you often have to backtrack in order to use a key you’ve collected elsewhere. Given that some rooms have more than one exit, remembering your way around can be a challenge. Plus, there is no save feature and most versions don’t even have a pause function. The VIC-20 versions is a little easier if only for the fact that it has fewer rooms…32 instead of 128. I had the Commodore 64 version and while I can’t say I ever made it all that far, it was a fun game to play.

    Atari screen

    As far as I know, there haven’t been any other re-releases or remakes other than the Game Boy Color and iOS versions. However, it is interesting to note that the same developer that created the original Atari version also did those versions as well.

    Commodore 64 screen

  • Atari 800XL (Computer Direct, 1985)

    Ad on page 73 of the Oct 1985 (Issue 65) of Compute! (Vol. 7 No. 10)


    The above ad is from the October 1985 issue of Compute! In 1985, the Atari 130XE had recently been introduced as the successor to the Atari 800XL. Here, it looks like we have Computer Direct trying to unload the rest of their 800XL inventory…

    As I recall, I had pretty good results dealing with Computer Direct back in the day, though it was for Commodore related stuff, not Atari. Their advertising is a little questionable though. I like how they advertise the 800XL as an “88K Computer”. I believe they are just combining the 64K RAM size with the 24K ROM size but that’s a weird way to do things. Bigger numbers make for a better ad I suppose. They do the same with the Atari 130XE in this ad. It’s a “152K System” because of its 128K RAM and 24K ROM.

    Even though the 130XE is newly released, it is the 800XL being pushed in this ad, particularly as a package with a bunch of XL themed peripherals. While XL peripherals were generally compatible with the 130XE, the color scheme changed from browns to greys. They were offering the same deal for $50 more with the 130XE instead of the XL. However, this would have still been with the older peripherals. I’m not sure if the newer XE versions were out at this point. No doubt they were also trying to unload their remaining XL stock before it became too hard to get rid of. Ironically, by this time Atari 8-bit computers weren’t really doing that well. There was very little software support compared to what was available for Commodore and Apple. The XE systems would continue to sell through the early 1990s though.