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Everything posted by oracle_jedi

  1. "The Atari 400/800 was never reviewed by Your Computer." David Bannister did a full review of the 400 and 800 in issue 1 - June/July 1981. It was a very positive review if I recall. But the Atari 400 was 300 pounds without a BASIC cartridge, and required an additional cassette drive to make a functional computer system. Shorty after this, Acorn announced their BBC Model B for the same price (later upped to 400 pounds) so the Ataris were seen as expensive games machines. Plus Commodore and Sinclair pushed cheap cassette software that appealed to the limited disposal incomes of the early 80s, whereas the Atari usually needed expensive cartridge software. Commodore by contrast pushed the VIC20. For 200 pounds the customer got color, sound and a dialect of BASIC. And the VIC20 looked like what the 80s consumer expected a computer to look like, whereas the Atari 400 looked like a bloated Speak and Spell. Seems to me that Ingersoll screwed things up, and Atari UK did little to nothing to push the machines after they took the distribution back from Ingersoll. When you could buy ZX81s in WH Smith, a VIC20 at any Rumberlows, and a Dragon 32 at Comet, you had to really hunt to find an Atari. Jack Schofield at Your Computer was another advocate for the Atari systems, but all anyone wanted to talk about was the ZX81, Spectrum and Commodore 64.
  2. Looks like this is PAL only. The game refuses to start on my NTSC machines. Otherwise this is really fun. Thanks!
  3. Another take on the no-color change for shields on. Extracted from a Rob C menu disk, this requires a Translator to use on an XL. Star Raiders color hack OS1.atr
  4. According to tf_hh, one of the architects of the PAL adapter for the 1200XL, the original 1200XL OS does not detect the PAL GTIA correctly. http://atariage.com/forums/topic/203195-pre-order-1200xl-pal-gtia-adapter/?p=2605968
  5. Dropcheck sells an adapter that converts the 1200XL to PAL. http://www.bitsofthepast.com/?product=gtia-pal-adapter-8001200xl You will also need a PAL GTIA and ANTIC, and you will need to execute the 800XL OS conversion, as the 1200XL OS does not understand the personality pin of the GTIA. The instructions cover this.
  6. 4Jay's Commodore 64 bin is getting a bit bare, and they had no TI-99/4A stuff at all this time. Thanks for the replies guys. I will test the ROM image against a C64 emulator but I am guessing it will work fine. Disappointed I can't play it on the real machine.
  7. I got a Choplifter cartridge for my C64 a while back from 4Jays in Antioch. I love the game on the VIC20, I wanted to play it on the 64. But the game crashes right after the mission starts, with graphical corruption. I thought I had a bad cart. But I got an Easy Flash 3 cart and downloaded a Choplifter ROM image to it, and that image crashes in the exact same way. Are there any known issues with the game? My 64 is an NTSC model, and seems to run most everything else without an issue.
  8. I've done a few of these now and I am unconvinced that the problem in most cases is the carbon trace contact array that is shown in Figure 3 and 4 of the Retrobits article. In the last two machines I have restored, I have unpeeled the mylar key matrix from the circuit board, but not enough to break the contact array, and then essentially re-seated it by using electrical tape on the edges to get as tight a fit as I can. My best guess is that the key contact points on the mylar wear out, but in a highly focused area. The tiny adjustment made by un-peelign and re-seating the mylar moves the point of contact just enough to allow the keyboard to work again. Has anyone else experienced this?
  9. I loved the look of that game! I would love to see it ported to the Atari.
  10. You might want to look here: http://deconstructingpopculture.com/2009/04/warner-communications-annual-reports/ Here you will find the Annual Reports of Warner Communications Inc (WCI) including the critical early 1980s where Atari rose and fell. Looking at the 1982 Annual Report on page 12 we find: Well over 10 million VCS 2600 units have been sold at retail since its introduction in 1977. And in the 1983 Annual Report on page 13: At yearend, there was a worldwide installed base of an estimated 16 million VCS's Suggesting of course, that Atari Inc sold somewhere in the order of six million VCS units world-wide in FY1983. The reports do not appear to break down sales of product lines at any BU including Atari, but the 1983 Annual Report gives us many clues as to the mounting problems at Atari. On Page 10 we find: Retail sales of the Atari 2600 and 5200 videogame players were particularly strong during the holiday season, the in- dusty's period of peak performance. Virtually the same number of Atari videogame consoles were sold at retail in December, 1983 as in December 1982. VCS sales in 1983 were at substanially reduced prices; inventories are currently at satisfactory levels. It then goes on to state: The painful losses that Atari suffered were largely the result of excess retail inventories of game software. Those losses have im- bued the company with a realistic sense of the parameters of its videogame business. In 1983, the industry developed a three- tiered pricing structure for software which makes sense to the re- tailer and consumer and which allows the manufacturer to make a profit. In addition, all new Atari game titles will have conservative initial release quantities: the company intends to meet demand as appropriate rather than oversupply the market. Finally on Page 14, we find this: Atari International, active in more than 55 countries, maintained its leadership position in the videogame industry in 1983, report- ing increased revenues for the year. Sales of the VCS 2600 were up more than 30% in a year that was strong for the entire in- dustry internationally, while game software sales, hurt by counter- feiting and increased worldwide competition, were essentially unchanged. My interpretation is this. Atari Inc's meteoric growth from 1977 to 1982 was largely driven by software sales for its VCS line, and the home-computer line contributed relatively little to the overall picture. Warner Communications Inc was experienced at selling music in volume to a domestic market able to consume WCI’s product on their home hi-fi systems. Those hi-fi systems were manufactured by other vendors. Atari sold the VCS console at cost or a modest profit, but made substantial margin on the game software it sold for the units. Notable successes were Space Invaders licensed from Taito, Pac-Man licensed from Namco, Yar's Revenge developed internally and several others. That success came under pressure during 1982 with the entry of multiple competitors, notably Activision and Imagic, but also many smaller operations selling titles of highly questionable quality, such as Custer's Revenge. Note that other vendors such as Texas Instruments, and later Sega and Nintendo, and even Atari themselves with the 7800, went to substantial trouble to lock-out third party vendors from producing software for their consoles. A feature still prevalent today with Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft. As reported in the documentary Atari: Game Over - detailing the excavation of the Alamogordo New Mexico dump site – in the summer of 1982 executives at WCI signed exclusive licensing deals with Spielberg for the E.T. video game for a price between $20 to $25 million. Atari expected to sell four million E.T. cartridges in the Christmas 1982 season, despite giving developer Howard Scott Warshaw only five weeks to code the project from start to finish. It is important to understand how product inventory affects capital expenditure. In the Fall of 1982, Atari opted, at Warner’s direction, to convert a substantial amount of capital reserve into product – namely four million E.T. cartridges. Atari expected to sell those four-million cartridges to an eager public at full retail price, as they had done in the past with Space Invaders, Pac-Man and others. If the final sales had completed, all would have been well and Atari would have reported excellent profits. Instead many of the four-million cartridges remained unsold, and still more of the 1.5 million E.T. cartridges that were sold were returned by disgruntled consumers and unhappy retailers. These sales numbers were taken from the documentary. Note that in the 1983 WCI Annual Report, CEO Steven J Ross reported on page 11: Recently, sales policies were tightened to elimi- nate the returns of non-defective product that cost the company in excess of $100 million during 1983. With an initial fixed license cost of $20 million, and assuming a final retail price of $50 per cartridge, one must note that Atari expected $5 of every cartridge sold to go to recoup the Spielberg license. When sales failed to reach expectations, the license cost per cartridge rose dramatically, and with license costs and retail prices fixed, it ate into Atari’s profit to the point where Atari likely lost money on every unit sold, since there were also manufacturing costs, distribution costs, advertising costs including an ambitious Christmas TV blitz, and of course the margin expected by the retailer. When consumers returned non-defective games they were unhappy with, the losses on the E.T. game debacle got even worse. But E.T. alone doesn’t explain WCI’s decision. Atari had overestimated demand for many of its other VCS titles, repeating the mistake of converting capital into product nobody wanted. Excess product costs operational budget to maintain, and disposing of it can be done either by heavy discounting, which undermines future profitability, or by dumping in a manner which renders the product unusable to the end consumer. Atari opted for the latter, and in 1983 reported losses of $539 million, which impacted the rest of Warner Communications Inc. WCI appointed James Morgan to try to fix the mess, and Morgan cancelled dozens of peripheral projects and reduced overhead by over forty percent. Given more time Morgan might have been in a position to return Atari to its former glory. From my memory he pushed the 7800 to completion and we might have seen a Warner backed 7800 become the must-have console of the late 80s instead of the NES. Or perhaps the NES might have been marketed Stateside with an Atari logo on it. Either way, Warner would have made handsome profits selling software titles for Atari branded "players", as well as Atarisoft monetizing Atari intellectual properties on other "players". In that scenario, Atari might have decided to release a 1400XL but I doubt it. In March 1984, in Creative Computing, John Anderson wrote: Atari has never made a dime from microcomputers. In 1979, Atari introduced two of the most advanced and best-designed low-end machines in the industry. They then proceeded to let the machines languish for four years and lost money on them each and every year. By the time they caught on and realized that it was not the hardware but the sellware that was wrong, they were on the ropes and bleeding red ink. It's a pity. http://www.atarimagazines.com/creative/v10n3/51_Atari.php A pity indeed, but WCI would have been interested in moving Atari software on existing VCS 2600, 5200 and 600XL/800XL platforms. I doubt they would have seen the value of spending yet more money on an upmarket 8-bit machine that had no ability to run any title that could not be marketed to an 800XL owner, unless Ataritel had finally delivered a usable product and the modem equipped 1400XL/1450XLD lines could have enabled WCI to open new markets for Atari properties through online sales. An Amiga powered Atari console and possibly later computer series seems a more likely possibility. The 8-bit XL line would have been discounted and likely retired in around 1987 unless software sales on that platform dictated otherwise. However Jack Tramiel changed all that, by offering WCI a way out in early 1984. In summary I think it is overly simplistic to say the "2600 hemorrhaging of money" caused the Warner decision. Rather it was the collapse of margin in the sales of software, of which the VCS 2600 represented the majority share, which exposed the fundamental weaknesses in Atari Inc's business model, and highlighted excessive costs from multiple divisions that had never returned any profit at all, including Ataritel and the Home Computer Division. Those costs were exacerbated by WCI execs electing to sign exorbitant licensing deals for video game properties, the sales of which could never hope to justify the acquisition costs. In the end Atari Corp did realize an Atari Home Computer Division that was allowed to "stand alone". But even Jack realized the 1400XL/1450XLD were a dumb idea that would have tanked in the marketplace of 1984. And without the ability to use the Amiga chip-set, we got the Atari 520ST instead.
  11. Some of us consider "no built in BASIC" to be in the Pro column. No having to hold down OPTION when booting disks was one of the reasons I loved my first 1200XL.
  12. Does anyone have those sales figures? I thought some time back someone posts units shipped of the main Atari products, but now I can't find it. It would be interesting to see today. Judging by the number of 600XLs that show up on Ebay these days, Atari managed to sell quite alot. For the UK market, The Register published this fun, albeit hard to read, graph of the home computer market for 1983. The Atari 400, and the 600XL, maintained somewhat respectable market positions throughout, and of the top five models, three of them were consistently budget/sub 200 pound models, where the 600XL was aimed. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/01/03/charted_1983_home_computer_sales_in_uk/ As for the note that the 600XL could run DOS, and was unlikely to generate sell-through of peripherals such as disk drives and printers, that might be true (yes I remember the 600XL/1027/Atari Writer bundle too), but it wasn't designed to compete with the C64, it was designed for the super low end of the market, and Atari likely expected such models to generate sell-through sales of the high-margin ROM cartridge games and related peripherals such as the joysticks, light pens, touch pads and track balls.
  13. Both Atari and Commodore continued to see value in the sub $200 computer market in 1983. Commodore were still selling their VIC-20 in numbers, and Atari saw the 600XL as a low-entry-cost option for customers who might have otherwise looked at the VIC, the TI99/4A or in the UK, maybe the 16K or 48K Spectrum. Atari had the advantage that their low-cost machine could be memory expanded to a point that matched their higher-spec machine. No amount of add-ons made a VIC-20 compatible with a C64, but importantly many customers who started with a low-cost VIC-20 moved onto the C64, where they could reuse their Commodore peripherals, and where they found a familiar interface they had already mastered. The point wasn't that an extra 48K of memory would not have added much in production costs, because for a few more dollars they could have added a Composite video jack to the NTSC 600XL. The point was to market a product with a healthy margin, at a target price point, that did not cannibalize sales of the flagship 800XL. At this same time (mid-late 1983) Mattel introduced the low-cost 4K Aquarius and Radio Shack introduced the MC-10. Other low cost options from 1983 included things like the Laser 200, the COMX-35 so this market was considered important enough by a number of manufacturers to produce product for. But Moore's law was moving faster than most people's R&D, and TI scrapped their planned ultra-low cost TI99/2, and the Aquarius and MC-10 gained little market traction. Commodore replaced the VIC-20 with the even-cheaper-to-produce C16 and in some places the even-cheaper C116, but I don't believe either machine achieved much market success outside of some Eastern European markets where excess stock was essentially dumped for pennies on the dollar. The 600XL made sense at the time it was planned, but the market shifted faster than anyone predicted.
  14. It's the original board, using the original PSU and heat sink.
  15. I have the reimagined board in my XF551, with a 3.5 floppy drive mechanism and the XF HyperROM. It has been formatting and writing just fine. Do I still need a replacement?
  16. The following video shows how to get composite video from a PAL TI99/4A. If you have a PAL 1702, then you will need a PAL TI99/4A and this mod to get a colour picture. As stated, if you plug a U.S. NTSC 99/4A into a PAL 1702, you will get a monochrome picture.
  17. On Ebay, electronicsentimentalities sells a 5200 SVideo/Composite mod which can be fitted to any 8-bit Atari. I thought KJMann also made one, but I don't have details. The Retrokidz mod is no longer being made.
  18. Is your 1702 a U.S. spec monitor that takes NTSC, or a PAL 1702? If it is a NTSC unit, then yes, a U.S. 99/4A will work great, but will obviously need a voltage converter for New Zealand, or a local 230V TI power supply. You are right that the monitor cable from a Commodore 64 or Sega SC3000H should work fine. I am assuming your cable is the 5-pin version, and not the 8-pin one used on later Commodore 64s. If you have a PAL 1702 and you did get a U.K. spec TI99/4A it still would not work. The PAL 99/4As used the TMS9929A chip which did not produce composite output. The 6-pin plug on the unit outputs an RGB style signal that is converted to RF by the modulator. There used to be a mod that allowed you to take composite video from inside the modulator, but I cannot find it now.
  19. I like the idea of a straight forward 1050 controller board drop-in replacement, with a 34-pin header to attach a standard 360KB 5.25 or 720K 3.5 drive to. I don't care about SD card connectors or such, but if I can beg one feature for consideration: Consider a jumper allowing the board to draw power from the SIO chain to power just the controller itself, and not the drive. Since the Atari ST 14-pin floppy disk connector is just the old Shugart-ala-IBM 34-pin floppy disk connector repackaged, it should be possible using your magic, to drop the board in a project case, and use it to connect actual Atari ST floppy drives to an XE or XL. With a VBXE allowing the use of Atari SC1224 color monitors, and this allowing Atari ST drives, we could have a really sweet looking set up. Looking forward to seeing this project move forward
  20. Definitely interested. Would love to mod a 1050 or two to use 720K floppies.
  21. The ZX80 power supply uses an external transformer to deliver 9V DC to the computer, so you should be okay with a U.S. spec unit. I don't know the polarity of the plug so you will need to check that to know if a replacement is going to work, but the TS1000 unit should be fine. A composite video mod should work here, but will deliver 60hz composite monochrome video. Since the ZX80 is monochrome and does not have sound, the usual PAL/NTSC problems of color and sound not being encoded correctly will not matter, but your monitor will need to be able to handle a 60hz signal. HTH and post some pictures of your ZX80 when it is running!
  22. It would be helpful to know what you are looking to achieve with the 65XE that you cannot currently do with the 600XL. The obvious ones are the extra RAM, and the composite/s-video video output. For extra RAM, the 320XL memory expansion adds 320K RAM (64K base + 256K expanded) to a 600XL with a simple plug in expansion. For the video, various mods exist for the 600XL ranging from complex to fit to fairly simple. I agree that the 1200XL adds nothing to this discussion, but an 800XL seems a better choice than a 65XE due to the superior build quality, PBI and better position of the cartridge port.
  23. Mostly I used an Epson LX-800 and I seem to recall an ICD printer interface. I also picked up a used Atari 1027 which I used extensively when I needed letter quality, something the LX-800 was not very good at. Most of my office application work was done using Mini Office II. I also used the First Xlent Word Processor. Today I use an HP Deskjet 5550, which even though it is now quite old, still delivers excellent print quality.
  24. Will any 30-pin edge connector work for the cartridge port, or does it have to be a specific Atari one? Both Best and B&C appear to be out of cartridge port connectors.
  25. I probably converted 20 or so friends to the Atari 8-bit platform between 1984 and 1987. I was quite the evangelist. In 1983 I was at Middle School, and the boys mostly belonged to one of two tribes. The VIC-20 tribe, and the ZX Spectrum tribe. And the war was brutal. A few non aligned types swore allegiance to the Dragon 32 or the TI-99/4A, one of each if I recall. And there was a dangerous new faction emerging that won converts from both main camps - the Commodore 64 tribe. But I had always admired the Atari. Since seeing an Atari 400 at a computer shop while on a quest to locate the elusive Commodore C2N cassette deck a couple of years earlier, I had considered the Atari as the most visually appealing computer, both physically and on-screen. Finally with the price war of 1984, my parents had got me an Atari 800XL to replace my limited VIC. So there I was. Just me and my Atari. In a school dominated by the Spectrum and the C64. Watching the vicious swap arguments that plagued every break time. Was Ant Attack really worth Sabre Wulf? The arguments raged on and on. And then something happened. I saw an advert in the local paper for an Atari 800. Even though I had the 800XL, I always admired the design of the 800. So I phoned up and cycled over to see it. And there it was - a real Atari 800, with a 410 cassette deck, and a stack of tapes. Some very very odd tapes. Not only were there several cartridge games on those tapes, but also some really odd games such as one called "The Last Starfighter". I didn't think that game ever came out. I bought the 800, managing to get it home on my bike rack. No mean feat as it was boxed. And I got to know the seller. He was part of a pirate ring with access to hundreds of games. He had sold his 800 to pay for a 1050 disc drive to go with his new 800XL. He always refused to sell me his 810 Happy Drive. I made a decision. Unlike the Spectrum and C64 groups at school, the Atari group would trade games openly with no swap required. Just bring me a tape and I would put some games on it. Later I moved onto discs and my pirate friend kept me supplied with games cracked by Rob C, Jon C and Ian K. And slowly one by one, the Spectrum and C64 tribes defected to Atari. Helped by Jack Tramiel's price cutting, and amazing deals at Dixon's with computers bundled with tape drives or disc drives, the Atari 8-bit community spread throughout the school. I remember taking my set up to computer club one time and showing off the walking robot demo. A kid who owned a BBC Micro refused to believe the graphics were being generated in real time. He insisted they must be coming from a VHS tape. In retrospect I don't know how much impact I had on this. The Atari 8-bit line became very popular in the mid 80's as Sinclair and Acorn crashed, and Commodore muddled the market with the C64 and the Plus/4. The open trade policy among the Atari group attracted members, and I would like to believe most owners did buy several products that helped suppliers, but whether the overall impact was positive or negative I don't know. I ended up frying my 800XL with a Commodore power supply many years ago, and the 410 deck has long since fallen into disuse. I still have the PAL Atari 800 in it's box and I still love the lines of that beast. I doubt any of my converts still have their set ups though! Happy Atari memories.
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