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Atari FAQ
#1
1.1) What is an Atari 8-bit computer?

Based in Silicon Valley in the U.S.A., the company known as Atari produced
a line of home computers from 1979 to 1992 often referred to collectively as
the "Atari 8-bits," the "8-bit Ataris," the "400/800/XL/XE series," etc.

The computers included the 400, 800, 1200XL, 600XL, 800XL, 65XE, 130XE, 800XE,
and the XE video game system.

Notable rival home computers that were introduced before the Atari 400/800:
1977: Apple II, Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80 (Model I), Commodore PET

Notable rival home computers that were introduced after the Atari 400/800:
1979: (Atari 400/800), Texas Instruments TI-99/4
1980: Commodore VIC-20, TRS-80 Color Computer, Osborne 1
1981: Texas Instruments TI-99/4A, IBM PC, Sinclair ZX81 / TS 1000, BBC Micro
1982: (Atari 1200XL), Kaypro II, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64
1983: (Atari 600XL/800XL), Coleco Adam, MSX
1984: Apple Macintosh, Amstrad CPC
1985: (Atari 65XE/130XE), Atari ST, Commodore Amiga
1987: (Atari XE game system), Acorn Archimedes

In marketing their computers to the public, Atari always had to contend with
their company history and reputation as a maker of video games.  While the
8-bit Atari computers in their heyday were technically quite comparable if not
superior in the worlds of home and business personal computing, they also live
up to the name "Atari" with a huge library of video games which were often
outstanding for their time.

The 8-bit Atari computers do not use the same cartridges or floppy disks as
any other Atari platforms, such as the 2600 Video Computer System (VCS), the
5200 SuperSystem, the 7800 ProSystem, or the ST/TT/Falcon computers.  All of
these but the 5200, however, do share the same joystick/controller hardware
port.

The 5200 SuperSystem is actually nearly identical to the 8-bit computers
internally, yet cartridges for the 5200 and the 8-bit computers cannot be
exchanged, primarly due to the physically different cartridge ports.

Here are some of the performance specifications of the 8-bit Atari computers:

(Some of the rest of this section by Bill Kendrick)

CPU: 6502 (MOS Technology)

CPU CLOCK SPEED:
  NTSC machines:     1.7897725 MHz
  non-NTSC machines: 1.773447 MHz

SCREEN REFRESH RATE:
      59.94 Hz (NTSC machines) or 49.86 Hz (PAL machines)

GRAPHICS MODES:
ANTIC     CIO/BASIC     Display     Resolution        Number of
Mode #    Graphics #    Type        (full screen)     Colors
---------------------------------------------------------------
  2          0          Char         40 x 24            1 *
  3          -          Char         40 x 19            1 *
  4         12 ++       Char         40 x 24            5
  5         13 ++       Char         40 x 12            5
  6          1          Char         20 x 24            5
  7          2          Char         20 x 12            5
  8          3          Map          40 x 24            4
  9          4          Map          80 x 48            2
  A          5          Map          80 x 48            4
  B          6          Map         160 x 96            2
  C         14 ++       Map         160 x 192           2
  D          7          Map         160 x 96            4
  E         15 ++       Map         160 x 192           4
  F          8          Map         320 x 192           1 *
  F          9 +        Map          80 x 192           1 **
  F         10 +        Map          80 x 192           9
  F         11 +        Map          80 x 192           16 ***
  * 1 Hue; 2 Luminances
** 1 Hue; 16 Luminances
*** 16 Hues; 1 Luminance
  + require the GTIA chip.  1979-1981 400/800&#146s shipped with CTIA
++ Not available via the BASIC GRAPHICS command in 400/800&#146s.

GRAPHICS INDIRECTION (COLOR REGISTERS AND CHARACTER SETS):
Nine color registers are available.  Each color register holds any of 16
luminances x 16 hues = 256 colors.  (Four registers are for player-missile
graphics.

Character sets of 128 8x8 characters, each with a normal and an inverse
video incarnation, are totally redefinable.

PLAYER-MISSILE GRAPHICS:  (byte height and OR corrections from Piotr Fusik)
    Four 8-bit wide, 120 or 240 byte high single color players, and four
    2-bit wide, 120 or 240 byte high single color missiles are available.
    A mode to combine the 4 missiles into a 5th 8-bit wide player is also
    available, as is a mode to OR colors or blacken out colors when players
    overlap (good for making three colors out of two players!)  Players
    and missiles have adjustable priority and collision detection.

DISPLAY LIST INTERRUPTS (DLI&#146s):
    Screen modes can be mixed (by lines) down the screen using the Display
    List - a program which is executed by the ANTIC graphics chip every
    screen refresh:

    All other screen attributes (color, player/missile horizontal position,
    screen width, player/missile/playfield priority, etc.) can be ajusted
    at any point down the screen via DLI&#146s.

SCROLLING:
    Fine scrolling (both vertical and horizontal) can be enabled on any
    line on the screen.

SOUND:
    Sound is monaural/monophonic (one channel output).
   
    Up to 4 separate simultaneous voices can be produced, configured as one of
    the following:
     - 4 voices, each with one of 256 unique frequencies/pitches
     - 2 voices, each with one of 65,536 unique frequencies/pitches
     - 1 voice with one of 65,536 pitches and 2 voices with one of 256 pitches

    Each voice may be produced with one of 8 available "noise" settings/
    polynomial-counter combinations, commonly called "distortion" settings.
      (There are actually only 6 distinct combinations of 3 poly-counters
      offered, but one of the poly-counters has 2 available settings itself,
      resulting in 2 additional noise settings for the total of 8 available.)

    Each voice may be produced at one of 16 volumes.

    Direct control of the position of the speaker cone is also available, with
    4-bit (16 position) resolution.  Known as "volume only mode" on the Atari.

    A fifth "voice" is produced as a separate signal by the internal speaker
    on the Atari 400/800.  This is typically used only for keyclick and
    buzzer.  In XL/XE systems these sounds are output as part of the normal
    monaural audio output signal.
Ara
Cevapla
#2
1.2) What is the Atari 400?


Released along with the 800 in 1979, the 400 was the low-end model of the two.
The only 8-bit Atari with a membrane keyboard rather than a full-stroke
keyboard.  One of the few 8-bit Ataris lacking a composite monitor port.
Originally released with just 8K RAM, but most were sold with 16K RAM.  Atari
sold the Atari 400 48K RAM Expansion Kit, which required a little soldering,
to dealers only.

Only the 400 and 800 8-bit Atari models have four controller (joystick) ports.

Early 400 units include the CTIA chip; later units include the GTIA chip, also
present in all later 8-bit Ataris.

Atari marketing used the trademark, The Basic Computer, as an alternative name
for the 400 from 1981-1982.

Production of the 400 ended in May 1983.
Ara
Cevapla
#3
1.3) What is the Atari 800?

Released along with the 400 in 1979, the 800 was the high-end model of the
two.  The 800 is the only 8-bit Atari with a Right Cartridge slot, in addition
to the Left Cartridge slot as present on all 8-bit Ataris.  Originally
released with just 8K RAM, many were sold with 16K, later on 48K was standard.

The 800 is also the only 8-bit Atari with a four-slot modular design, where
the first slot holds the CX801 (CX801-P for PAL machines) 10K ROM module, and
the other three slots hold combinations of CX852 8K or CX853 16K RAM modules.

Jason Harmon writes: (12 Feb 2004)
"..the early ones had plastic cases on the ROM and RAM modules, and had two
thumb tabs to remove the cover to access the modules.  Later model 800s had
48K standard, and to improve cooling Atari installed them without the cases
but put a small plastic strip across the tops of the cards to hold them in
position.  These machines also lost the thumb tabs and have regular screws to
secure the cover over the memory slots."

Only the 400 and 800 8-bit Atari models have four controller (joystick) ports.

Early 800 units include the CTIA chip; later units include the GTIA chip, also
present in all later 8-bit Ataris.

Production of the 800 ended in May 1983.
Ara
Cevapla
#4
1.4) What is the Atari 1200XL?

Introduced as a big brother to the 400/800 in 1982 and shipped in 1983, the
1200XL now uses Atari&#146s slightly customized 6502C microprocessor, SALLY, and
includes a full 64K RAM.  The 1200XL was the first 8-bit Atari with just 2
controller ports.  In addition, the 1200XL includes 4 programmable Function
keys and a Help key, 4 LEDs, built-in diagnostic and graphics demonstration
programs, and probably the favorite keyboard of any 8-bit Atari computer.
Clicks previously output through the built-in speaker are now heard from the
television or monitor&#146s speaker.  The revised 16K Operating System offers many
new features, including an alternate International Character Set.

The 1200XL was the biggest single step forward in development of the 8-bit
Atari platform, but the corresponding software compatability problems hurt its
popularity.

The 1200XL lacks separate chroma video signal, and also lacks the +5 Volts
power on pin 10 of the SIO port.

There is no PAL (European) version of the 1200XL.

The 1200XL was discontinued in 1983.

According to 1200XL serial number analysis by Karl Heller (2007), about
105,000 1200XL units were produced in total:
   o From Mid March to late May USA production was about 78500 units in not so
     sequential order.
   o From early April to late June Taiwan produced about 26000 units in perfect
     sequential order.
   AtariAge thread: http://www.atariage.com/forums/index.php...pic=107234

Scott Stilphen mentioned this 1200XL easter egg on 10 Feb 2006:
   On 1200XLs, if you select &#146all tests&#146, when it gets to the keyboard test
   it&#146ll type out the programmer&#146s name.
Ara
Cevapla
#5
1.5) What is the Atari 600XL?

Released in 1983 as a replacement for the 400, the 600XL is the low-end
version of the 800XL.  The 600XL/800XL include most of the features of the
1200XL minus the Function keys and the demo program.  But both the 800XL and
600XL have the Atari BASIC language built-in.  In addition, these two systems
offer the Parallel Bus Interface (PBI), providing fast parallel access to the
heart of the computer.  The 600XL has 16K RAM.

The 600XL can be expanded from 16K to 64K with the Atari 1064 Memory Module.

Rarely, some late-model 600XLs were sold with 64K RAM.  These may have only
appeared in Canada.  The box had a round gold foil sticker reading: "64k
Memory -- Now with a full 64k of memory built-in."

Normally boots with Atari BASIC (Revision B) enabled; Hold down [Option] on
startup to boot without BASIC.

The North American/NTSC 600XL does not include a composite monitor port; the
European/PAL 600XL includes the monitor port, but this lacks the chroma video
signal.

The 600XL was discontinued in 1984.
Ara
Cevapla
#6
1.6) What is the Atari 800XL?

Released in 1983 as a replacement for the 800 and 1200XL, the 800XL is the
high-end version of the 600XL.  The 600XL/800XL include most of the features
of the 1200XL minus the Function keys and the demo program.  But both the
800XL and 600XL have the Atari BASIC language built-in.  In addition, these
two systems offer the Parallel Bus Interface (PBI), providing fast parallel
access to the heart of the computer.  The 800XL contains 64K RAM.

Normally boots with Atari BASIC (Rev. B, or late models with Rev. C) enabled;
Hold down [Option] on startup to boot without BASIC.

The 800XL monitor port lacks the separate chroma video signal (exception: next
paragraph).

Late models (uncommon) of the 800XL, sold in Europe, include a redesigned
motherboard (the XE design), incorporate the FREDDIE memory management chip,
and do provide chroma output on the monitor port.  BASIC in these machines is
Revision C.  This version of the 800XL is sometimes described as the "800XLF."

Further variations of the 800XL (very rare): some late 800XL machines shipped
with 128K RAM; some 800XL machines sold in France have a SCART monitor port in
place of the standard monitor port.

Production of the 800XL was discontinued in 1985.
Ara
Cevapla
#7
1.7) What is the Atari 65XE?

Introduced in 1985 as a replacement for the 800XL, the 65XE is the low-end
version of the 130XE.  The 65XE is nearly identical to the 800XL in features,
minus the PBI.  Many European (PAL) 65XE&#146s and some late-production North
American (NTSC) 65XE&#146s include the ECI port.  All XE computers also include
the FREDDIE memory management chip.

Normally boots with Atari BASIC (Revision C) enabled; Hold down [Option] on
startup to boot without BASIC.
Ara
Cevapla
#8
1.8) What is the Atari 130XE?

Released in 1985, the 130XE is the high-end version of the 65XE.  The 130XE
offers 128K RAM, plus the FREDDIE memory management chip, supporting the
unique (but rarely used) ability for the 6502 and the ANTIC to independently
access RAM banks.  In addition, the 130XE replaces the PBI port with the
Enhanced Cartridge Interface (ECI), continuing the powerful feature of a fast
parallel port.

Normally boots with Atari BASIC (Revision C) enabled; Hold down [Option] on
startup to boot without BASIC.
Ara
Cevapla
#9
1.9) What is the Atari 800XE?

Unseen and unknown in North America, the 800XE was sold in eastern Europe. The
800XE is identical in features to the European version of the 65XE, including
the ECI port.  The 800XE could also be described as a 64K version of the
130XE.

Normally boots with Atari BASIC (Revision C) enabled; Hold down [Option] on
startup to boot without BASIC.

Jindrich Kubec writes, "The problematic Chinese 800XEs with GTIA problems were
manufactured in 1992."

The 800XE was last manufactured in 1992.
Ara
Cevapla
#10
1.10) What is the Atari XE?

In a change of marketing strategy, Atari introduced the new XE video game
system in 1987.  The XE system 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.  It was
packaged with the Light Gun, and the Flight Simulator II and Bug Hunt
cartridges.

Keyboard connected/no cartridge:
     boots to Atari BASIC
Keyboard connected/no cartridge/[Select] held down at startup:
     boots to Missile Command
No keyboard connected/no cartridge:
     boots to Missile Command
No keyboard connected/no cartridge/[Select] held down at startup:
     boots from disk drive
No keyboard connected/no cartridge/[Select]+[Start] held down at startup:
     boots from tape drive

[Option] held down at startup = BASIC on
[Option] not pressed at startup = BASIC off
(opposite from all other XL/XE machines)

Andreas Koch writes:
     Tip: The confused XEGS Atarian should use the XEGS manager by Mat*Rat
     (Mathew Ratcliff). This assumes one knows at least how to boot a disk
     with the XEGS...

James Bradford offers:
  There is only 1 32K ROM in the XEGS, it has the OS, BASIC (Rev C) and
  Missile Command on it.
Ara
Cevapla


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