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Atari 8-Bit Computers - Recommendations


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I'm in the market for an Atari 8-bit computer but want some advice of what to get hold of, plus game recommendations generally. 

 

Whilst largely being a C64 owner down the years the Atari computers always held a fascination. The 400 and 800 were advertised in Your Computer, at £500-odd they were way out of my reach but they had this exoticness. 

 

Thinking about either an 800XL or a 65XE as well as some sort of SD card device as I'm guessing the disc drives for those are like very expensive hen's teeth these days. Wouldn't need to be boxed, just working. 

 

Re games, I realise there's a crossover between Atari 8-bits and the C64, a lot of games I'd associate with the C64 started out on the Atari. It's an untapped library for me having only dabbled in a bit of emulation. 

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5 minutes ago, Hello Goaty ♥ said:

Great topic!

 

You made me go look on ebay of course. The initial layout fir an 800xl plus SD card device is around 200 to 250 which aint bad!

It's another example of me wishing I'd picked one up 20 years ago for £30, but there you go. 

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I reckon the 800XL is the sweet spot for an Atari 8-Bit, the 800 is built like a tank (as is the 400, but who really wants that membrane keyboard and lack of a monitor output) but they are expensive. Whilst the XE range isn't very well built (the RAM chips are especially flaky) and all the major chips are soldered directly to the board and have a mushy keyboard into the bargain (unless you like that sort of thing, I don't mind it actually having had a 130XE and then an ST BITD). As for a Disk Drive, there are so many drive emulators (SIO to SD, FujiNet, AVG Cart etc. etc.) that I can't see why you'd want a proper drive unless you have your own disks.

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Had a look on eBay and found an 800XL that looks like it was being sold by someone who actually used it rather than someone just flipping retro. Comes in a battered original box, has a composite cable, original PSU plus a USB one that they state is safer. Couple of cartridge games, manuals. £160-ish. 

 

Will investigate that FujiNet as it looks like a good all-in-one solution. 

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Someone gave me a 130XE last year and my recommendation would be don't bother as the games are almost all terrible compared to the 8 bit competition and there isn't a lot you can do with them tinker wise. On the positive (or in my case negative) side it is the only 8-bit computer I have acquired that actually worked perfectly without having to get a soldering iron out.

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1 hour ago, MikeJ said:

Someone gave me a 130XE last year and my recommendation would be don't bother as the games are almost all terrible compared to the 8 bit competition and there isn't a lot you can do with them tinker wise. On the positive (or in my case negative) side it is the only 8-bit computer I have acquired that actually worked perfectly without having to get a soldering iron out.

Can you expand on the "isn't a lot you can do with them tinker wise"? There's a huge community over on Atari Age who seem to be continually coming up with new kit for them.

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In my experience with the Atari 8bit range (I own an Atari 130XE) is that you have to get used to very long loading times. I’m talking fair bit longer than C64 games. Obviously this is cut down when using an SD card device. It shares its library with a lot of older C64 titles and as already mentioned they are usually better on the C64. There are some very nice homebrew titles though, a great version of Manic Miner & Death Chase both spring to mind.

 

 

 

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7 minutes ago, elyuw said:

Can you expand on the "isn't a lot you can do with them tinker wise"? There's a huge community over on Atari Age who seem to be continually coming up with new kit for them.

 

As far as I could tell after I got mine up and running, you could get stuff to make the mostly terrible games load more quickly (mine has a tape drive and the load times are the worst I have experienced on an 8-bit tape machine), video mods to make them look sharper, and memory expansions which hardly anything uses. Horses for courses of course but personally I find old computers no fun once fixed if they don't have much decent old or interesting new software to run on them.

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Oh sure, the tape drive loading times are  fecking awful. When I had my 130XE in period I only used the tape to transfer games to disk and then never touched the cassettes again. 
 

As for software, it horses for course I guess. I mean if you want the best arcade games to play at home you play them on MAME and not the home computer versions. There is a lot of Atari only stuff, but if you think it’s not very good then there’s nothing much you can do. 
 

For me every single home computer from the 70s/80s has a charm and you’re always going to have a bias to the first one you had or maybe what you consider the best one. Myself I went from a Dragon 32 to the Atari so you can see why I loved it, the upgrade was tremendous :)

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I fully realise a lot of the games were crap but for me that's half the interest. It's difficult to put into words. It's the feel of using the real thing that is a large part of the experience, even if you're playing a sub par arcade conversion.

 

I have a few other home computers, I prefer them to consoles, they're what I grew up with.

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My mate threw out a bunch of 8-bit ataris. Binned. Properly chucked.

 

2EEB0019-2655-441D-833B-89A6C3703A60.thumb.jpeg.1b4604fd8b6803c7e4ac529eb3c268d3.jpeg

 

12 months later he’s dropping £200 on this 130xe, getting it retrobrite’d, and whatever the SD drive that is. But at least the psu can be replaced with a usb cable.

 

I never did get around to building that video cable…

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  • 3 weeks later...

I picked up a boxed Atari 800XL with all the bits for £150, box is a bit tatty but it's all there. 

 

I have put my email down for a Fujinet cartridge but god knows how long that'll take. What is a good similar solution? If it's similar to the 1541Ultimate on C64, in other words it is a multi-function cart that does flash loading but other things too, that would be nice, but a cheap one that just loads games and has good compatibility would be okay for now. 

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The 800XL was my first introduction to 8-bit home computing, think I must've been 8/9 at the time. My Dad bought it specifically because it was supposed to be technically the most advanced of all the 8-bit micros at the time, though as most of our other friends had spectrums it did cut us off from a lot of game sharing avenues!

 

My parents still have our old machine in their loft, complete with box:

 

image.png.7c3a5cbb4f0406a00b669f7374eece18.png

(that's a Vic-20 sat on top of it!)

 

 

image.png.2c1c5077065615cb52a269f2d656b712.png

 

 

As @Swainy mentions the loading times for pretty much all tape-based games was horrific, compared to the Speccy/Commodore machines of the time. I'm sure I remember waiting 30/40mins for certain games to load, it was brutal.

 

For games to look at, the ones I remember most fondly are:

 

Action Biker

BMX Simulator

Bruce Lee

Keystone Kapers

Lone Raider

Milk Race

Montezuma's Revenge

One man and his droid

River Raid

Robin Hood

SWAT

Zorro

 

Some of these were no doubt multi-platform but I'll always think of them as Atari games.

 

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On 29/07/2022 at 15:05, christaylor said:

As @Swainy mentions the loading times for pretty much all tape-based games was horrific, compared to the Speccy/Commodore machines of the time. I'm sure I remember waiting 30/40mins for certain games to load, it was brutal.

 

For games to look at, the ones I remember most fondly are:

 

Action Biker

BMX Simulator

Bruce Lee

Keystone Kapers

Lone Raider

Milk Race

Montezuma's Revenge

One man and his droid

River Raid

Robin Hood

SWAT

Zorro

 

Some of these were no doubt multi-platform but I'll always think of them as Atari games.

 

 

Yeah, I have similar memories of the awful tape loading times... particularly remember Spy vs Spy: The Island Caper, which required you to do a 15 minute load after every game! Getting the 1050 disk drive was like a revelation after all of that.

 

Good list of games. I'd add:

 

Elektraglide

Kikstart

Warhawk

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21 minutes ago, Parappa said:

Anyone remember An Invitation to Programming. My first (and last sadly) attempt at programming but it was handled in such a great way for the time. 

 

 

 

That's really cool. I've never used (or even seen) an 8-bit Atari but I remember the later ST bundles came with a similar very cool introduction to operating a GUI - how to drag and drop, manipulate windows etc.

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22 minutes ago, matt0 said:

 

That's really cool. I've never used (or even seen) an 8-bit Atari but I remember the later ST bundles came with a similar very cool introduction to operating a GUI - how to drag and drop, manipulate windows etc.

Yeah it was great that you got the voice to teach you along with the screens - and then you could type in examples before moving on.

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