Retro Home Computers – Atari 800XL


Atari 800XL
1983 – 1987

VLSI Chips

Atari 800XL Tape Disk Drive

Above: Atari 800XL Retail Box

The Atari 800XL was the third version of the Atari 8-bit line of computers introduced in 1983. The system contained a full 64K of memory, had all the standard VLSI chips (Antic, GTIA, Pokey, PIA) and was in a smaller and more compact design. The keyboard was good, not as good as the 1200XL keyboard, but it had a solid feel to it.

Atari 800XL Tape Disk Drive

Above: Atari 800XL with Tape and Disk Drive

The cartridge port had been move to the top center of the system and used special metal spring loaded doors to allow the insertion and removal of ROM cartridges. This system of spring loaded doors also kept dirt and objects from falling into the cartridge slot when it was not occupied. Overall the system is basically a cost reduced Atari 800 with a fuzzier picture.

The system came with built-in diagnostics and a HELP key. The operating system was still slightly incompatible with many original Atari 400/800 software titles, but Atari began to distribute a “Translator” disk which would load up a 400/800 compatible operating system into memory so that the 800XL could support those programs. A newer version of the 800XL was being readied called the 800XL-F which included the new “FREDDY” memory management chip that would have allowed for more use of free memory for programs and greater use of graphics by the “ANTIC” video processor.

The system also included built-in Atari BASIC programming language, which could be disabled by holding down the OPTION key on boot-up. Another feature of the 800XL was the new high speed Parallel Bus Interface (PBI) which would allow the 800XL to connect to the Atari 1090: XL Expansion System which was an expansion box with 5 slots in it for an assortment of expansion cards.

Atari was already looking into Cost Reducing the 800XL line of computers, a newer version called the Atari 800XLCR (Codenamed “Keri”) was already in the works and the new chip: “KERI” which was the Combine GTIA/ANTIC also referred to as the CGIA was in tests and almost ready.