The Atari 400 and 800 models released in 1979 were very successful
and by way of an upgrade Atari released the 1200XL. The original
models were quite complex and expensive to manufacture given that
the main motherboard had riser boards attached. Sadly the 1200XL
lasted all but a year before it was replaced with the 600 and 800XL.
The 600XL was the smaller unit and had 16KB RAM as standard. The
800XL had the 64KB RAM and could be expanded to 128KB.
Whilst both units appeared generally of the same styling, there
were distinct variations in the keyboard types and feel. The
font on the 800XL is what I call more squished and feels slightly
different in its usage.
Bot had Atari BASIC built in, unlike the 400 and 800. For me
Atari BASIC is a struggle and I particularly do not like the way
it handles string variables. I understand it is based on the HP
BASIC and is quite different to say the MS style of BASIC. There
were some issues with translation of older programmes though with
the release of the 1050 and the Translator disk it was possible
to remedy the problem.
Other differences include also the lack of a composite jack on
the 600XL. I am assuming that both units have the PBI behind
the small cover flap. My more banged up 600XL has the parallel
Unlike the 800 model these came with just the one cartridge slot
and only had two joystick ports.
Both computers lasted but a short period from 1983 to 1985 though
in the day were very popular.
Like so many computers of the day if you were anticipating something
very special when you switched on you were going to be disappointed.
There was no splash message announcing the machine. Not even a
company name or logo. Just a simple READY prompt. But then most in
those days were not expecting much different.
There were plans to enhance the line with further models in the
form of the 1400XL, 1400XLD and even the 1600XL. Didn't happen.
And so... am I fan ( wash you mouth out ). I am an Amigan to the
core and that means no love for Atari. I find their systems both
boring and really boring. Kinda important and so I thought it was
worth repeating. I actually don't mind the 400 and 800. I think
for their age they are quite advanced. But anything beyond the
800 just is not worth the effort. Personally I would prefer an
MSX machine over an Atari of the same age. And an Amiga just romps
home with any model post the A500 winning hands down over Atari.
Others may disagree, but then they are probably Atari fans and
don't know any different. We will never agree.
All three units tested today worked. I was able to perform modest
BASIC functions, but found it quite tortuous and as ever left me
asking why ? I really didn't enjoy the experience, though it does
improve slightly when I have the 1050 hooked up.
Not an Atari fan .... ( I'd have never have guessed ).