Which Atari 8-bit computer to buy? What I need to run software? Where to find software? What emulators are available?
I try to answer to those questions objectively and in a manner suitable for newbies.
You'll find many other answers in Atari 8-bit computers FAQs.
Index: 1. Which computer to buy? 2. What I need to run software? 3. Where to find software? 4. Best homebrews? 5. Emulators? 6. Basic programming? 7. Graphics capabilities
1. Which computer to buy?
Historically speaking, Atari 800 is a milestone (compare it with contemporary 1979 computers!), but if you want a computer compatible with all software, you should take an Atari 800XL or a 130XE (65XE and XEGS are OK too). Their only limitation is that they have two joystick ports only instead of the four Atari 800's ports.
Cart port. If you use cartridges, 800XL cart position is more comfortable.
Design. 800XL and 130XE are both beautiful and original.
Keyboard. Important only if you plan to enter a lot of text. Overall many people prefer 800XL keyboards but 5 variants exists (avoid the last variant, Mitsumi).
Memory. 800XL has 64KB, 130XE has 128KB, usuful for few games. Memory can be upgraded with internal or external expansions.
Video ouput. RF and composite. 130XE has s-video too. 800XL can have s-video too, but some soldering is necessary. If you have a socketed Atari, with solderless Sophia board you get RGB and DVI output.
Quality. 800XL has a better building quality. Some XL's have all ICs socketed, so they are easier to repair and upgrade.
Basic. Important only if you want to program with Atari Basic. 130XE has bug free Basic rev. C. You can replace 800XL Basic rev. B IC with a rev. C. Anyway, if you like Basic programming, nowadays many people uses the fast, compatible and compilable Turbo-Basic XL so Basic's revision is unimportant.
2. What I need to run software?
If you want to use cartridges, you don't need anything apart your Atari 800XL/130XE.
If you want to use old 5¼ floppy disks, you need a disk drive (Atari 1050 or XF551): to load machine language programs, remember to turn on computer with option key pressed.
If you want to use old tapes, you need a program recorder (Atari 410, 1010, XC11 or XC12): to load machine language programs, remember to turn on computer with start and option keys pressed, then press play on program recorder and finally press return key.
If you want to run all existing software you have two solutions:
1 If you have and want a PC always near to your Atari you can buy
SIO2PC (AtariAge user classics, $60) and use it with APE Windows application (SIO2PC USB/RS232 version) or SIO2OSX Mac application (SIO2PC RS232 version)
SIO2PC-USB (AtariAge user lotharek, Euro 19.99) and use it with AspeQt or RespeQt applications
SIO2PC-USB (AtariAge user sloopy, $30-45) and use it with AspeQt or RespeQt applications
SIO2PC/10502PC DUAL-USB (AtariAge user atari8warez, $55) and use it with AspeQt or RespeQt applications
With APE Windows application you can emulate not only disk drives but printers and modems too.
If you like DIY, with $6 you can make a SIO2PC-USB or you can link PC and Atari with a breakout board for the FTDI FT232RL USB to serial IC.
2 You can put all existing software in an SD card/USB memory and buy/build independent self-powered devices like
- SIO2SD (basic instructions):
AtariAge user lotharek (Euro 84.49 with case, Euro 27.49 without case)
AtariAge user mega-hz (Euro 80 with case)
AtariAge user Pigula (Euro 40 without case and SIO cable/connector)
Atari Fan Store ($75 without case)
AtariAge user santosp (Euro 60 with case and SIO2PC) OUT OF STOCK
If you care about aesthetics, AtariAge user flashjazzcat can insert an SIO2SD into a 1064 (to match XL design) or an XM301 (to match XE design) case or inside the computer.
AtariAge user alsp ($50 with case)
AtariAge user c0nsumer ($150 with case) OUT OF STOCK
AtariAge user santosp (Euro 45 with case) OUT OF STOCK
More Than Games ($94 with case) OUT OF STOCK
- SIO2USB (review):
ABBUC (Euro 130-150 with case)
SIO2SD - SDrive comparison (I don't have a SIO2USB to compare, sorry).
3. If you want to load software from your Android phone/tablet or PC with Bluetooth you can use SIO2BT ($35).
If you want fast loading/saving times - but you can load only single files (.xex/.exe) not disk images (.atr), unless you have Ultimate1MB internal upgrade (Lotharek, Euro 49.99) - you can buy SIDE cartridge (Lotharek, Euro 51.49); this device has SpartaDOSX and a real time clock too.
Other solutions are:
- Atarimax Maxflash Flash Cartridges (AtariAge user classics) or SIC! Cart (AtariAge user Stryker); to insert software in these two cartridges you must have Atarimax USB cartridge programmer or a real disk drive or a SIO2PC/SIO2SD/SDrive device.
- UNO Cart
COMPARISON TABLE (work in progress, updated 29.09.2017)
A8 loading devices.pdf 37.28KB 80 downloads
Another comparison table: https://www.wudsn.co...0/tools/thecart
3. Where to find software?
You can buy/find software on the Internet or in the real word, the price depends on conditions (loose, boxed, sealed) and rarity, and/or you can download it here:
Atarimania (best interface)
Atari 8-bit Forever
Fandal (unparalleled for demos)
Atarionline (Gry/Games on the left column)
Homesoft ("clean" versions)
4. Best homebrews?
Dozens of programs are released each year, especially games.
KazKompo best game of the year contest is a good starting point to know the best ones:
2016: 1. Laura, 2. Pang, 3. AtariBlast! (4. Dimo's Dungeon, 5. Manic Miner)
2015: 1. Duszpasterz Jan Rzygon / Priest John McPuke, 2. Bomber, 3. Dimo's Quest Lurch Edition (4. The Great Escape)
2014: 1. RGB, 2. Treasure Island Dizzy, 3. The Great Return of the Penguins
2013: 1. Assembloids XE, 2. Deathchase XE, 3. The Hunt
2012: 1. Ridiculous Reality, 2. Line Runner, 3. Callisto
2011: 1. Space Harrier, 2. Marbled, 3. Mighty Jill Off
2010: 1. His Dark Majesty, 2. Ocean Detox, 3. Dr. Mario
2009: 1. Kolony 2106, 2. Nightshade, 3. Ghastly Night (5. Tempest Xtreem)
2008: 1. Bomb Jack, 2. Hobgoblin, 3. Knight Lore
2007: 1. Yoomp!, 2. Crownland, 3. Mindblast
2006: 1. Flowers Mania, 2. Klony, 3. Nibbly
In A8 world, almost all games are released for free (sometimes beautiful collectors editions are available).
You can download them in the "4. Where to find software?" websites.
Altirra (the best emulator for PC)
Colleen (official Atari800 port)
Emulators exists for Dingoo, GP handhelds, Pandora...
If you want to start programming Atari computers, the easier and most known language is Turbo-Basic XL. Released by Frank Ostrowski in 1985, it's compatible with built-in Atari Basic but faster, compilable and with additional commands. Here you can find language and two manuals: Turbo-Basic XL.zip 6.35MB 224 downloads If you would like to develop with that language, I suggest to use Turban.
In 2017 a new Basic has been released, FastBasic. Almost completely compatible with Turbo-Basic XL, it is faster.
If you want to make bitmap images using various peculiar Atari graphics modes, you can use Atari Graphics Studio.
To make player-missile graphics (sprites), you can use Atari Player Editor (it supports overlap feature to create a third color when overlapping sprites).
To create music you can use Raster Music Tracker, made by Radek Sterba (we miss you).
To change character set you can use Atari FontMaker.
These are only a few tips, you can ask more informations in the 8-bit programming subforum.
7. Graphic capabilities
If you want to see A8 machines graphics capabilities, check out Images generated by Rastaconverter topic.
Edited by Philsan, Yesterday, 12:28 AM.