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The Real Deal About the Atari 1400XL (EXCEL)

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I searched for a good string about the 1400XL, and there

are to many un-answered questions.

 

One rumour includes people returning them to a store after

snagging them from the dumpster. Meaning that @ one

point these units were sold to the general public....right?

 

Another rumour mentions that to prevent the afformentioned,

the units were defaced before 'dumping'.

 

Yet another which is obvious is that inside developers kept

what remained of them....?

----------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Question 1. How many units were ligitamate and could possibly

be in "Pristine" condition -- as sold through retail when it was

available?

On-that note: -> Was a retail 'marked' box for the 1400XL

ever made? I know it could fit into the 1200XL retail, I'm

asking about commercial markings..... (if so please post!)

 

Question 2. The built-in 300 baud dial-up tele - modem was

a leap for internal PC components, and an obvious attempt

to take a pot-shot @ IBM as a ligit communications platform.

?? - Does anyone owning an actual 1400XL have a working

internal modem?

 

Question 3. Voice Chip. Was this an attempt to vcopy the C64

SAM?....Or was it 'WarGames' Ready? Can anyone with a

working 1400 eXceL give us actual samples?

 

Question 4. If this unit were in Full-Retail Box today, would you

agree that its value might exceed $4400?

 

Question 5. Do any 1400XL owners have their unit up-graded

beyond typical specs. ?, If so what?

__________________________________________________

 

*Curious Chris

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Curt's the one to reply, but based on what I know...

 

Only prototype cases were built. These used a very soft waxy plastic that you could nick with your fingernail.

 

There was also some kind of payment dispute between Atari and Mitsumi, the keyboard manufacturer, which explains why the 1200XL keyboard design never carried through to the 800/600XL. I don't know how this dispute factors into the 1400 series.

 

The 1400 series is where the PBI and the true XL OS was designed. The voice chip is a Votrax like what was used in the Alien Voice Box, but the way it was wired into the operating system you could not change all the available parameters. So it speaks in a monotone. Really disappointing. The speech chip, the parallel floppies, and the modem are all registered as PBI devices. This would be fine except that the Black Box (and maybe also the MIO) can't coexist with these. So you have to swap the 1400 OS with a regular XL OS which kills the communication with these peripherals.

 

If you have a Black Box, especially one with a Floppy Board, then you have most of the good stuff that a 1400 would do for you. Plus today we have stuff like the AtariVox which should work just as well with the 8-bits as it does the 2600.

 

The 1400s really needed the 1090XL card cage to complete the package but that never came out either.

 

So for all intents and purposes a 1400 is like a 1200 with an OS and PBI upgrade. You can hack it to fit into an existing 1200XL case but you have to be careful because it doesn't use the same power supply. I damaged my board trying to power it with a stock supply. Had to get Bob Puff to bring it back to life, but the modem was not salvageable.

 

I don't think any were actually sold but I heard a story that Jay Miner used to run his BBS on a 1450XLD so there were a few isolated protos that were saved--one way or another. I also heard a rumor that these were bulldozed around the same time as the ET carts and that some employees broke ranks and ran into the pit and saved some.

 

There were small isolated batches of boards that were sold off in the 90s, some populated like mine, others maybe just the bare boards with no chips. It's hard to say where these really originated.

Edited by mos6507

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They never were offered for sale - when Atari was dumping engineering units of the 1400, dumpster divers were taking them out and returning them as 1200's I believe.

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Why would they "copy the C64 SAM"?

 

Atari has it's own version of SAM. The only reason it mightn't sound so great is when you run it with the screen enabled.

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Good answers :thumbsup:

 

Not much to add except I think the voice chip on the 1400XL was the Votrax SC-01.

THe 1450 had two different chips, I think the Tong had the Silicon Systems SSI-263 and the other had the Votrax SC-01.

 

Votrax SC-01

 

I damaged my board trying to power it with a stock supply. Had to get Bob Puff to bring it back to life, but the modem was not salvageable.

 

I don't suppose you would mind parting with yours, would you? :-o

Do you still have the damaged modem board too?

Edited by Defender II

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Having internal disk drives, modems, and voice chip probably made the unit very expensive to be sold as a home computer back around 1982-1983 and is probably why Atari scrapped the project. Remember at the time Commodore, Apple, and Radioshack had computers for lower price and probably why Atari decided to go with the 600XL and 800XL. Even the 800XL reached the market too late to compete against the Commodore 64. If they decided to release a computer with internal drives, modems, etc at the time for $600 or more, they would have died right there for sure. Having internal devices also makes it harder to upgrade or repair.

 

I agree that this would have been the wrong approach even at that time. To me, Atari made a wise decision with the direction they went with the XLs. I also think they should have base a new game counsel around the XL system instead of what they did with the 5200. Where as in creating something that is more directly compatible and not using those funky 5200 joysticks.

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I don't suppose you would mind parting with yours, would you? :-o

Do you still have the damaged modem board too?

 

I may still have the modem board somewhere. I can't recall whether it's still attached to the board or in a separate bag someplace. My 1400 board never came with the floppy daughtercard, just the IDE-looking header for it. My stuff is scattered in different boxes as I've moved from apt to apt. Whenever I get settled I'll try to sell off or donate of some of the stuff I don't have time for, which will include the 1400.

Edited by mos6507

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I don't suppose you would mind parting with yours, would you? :-o

Do you still have the damaged modem board too?

 

I may still have the modem board somewhere. I can't recall whether it's still attached to the board or in a separate bag someplace. My 1400 board never came with the floppy daughtercard, just the IDE-looking header for it. My stuff is scattered in different boxes as I've moved from apt to apt. Whenever I get settled I'll try to sell off or donate of some of the stuff I don't have time for, which will include the 1400.

 

_______________

 

Hi mos6507! Thanks for your responses. Just for clarification, why would

a 1400 have a floppy controller? For a Percomm perhaps? It can't fit inside,

so is the 1450XLD just a duel-drive 'topped' 1400? The IDE header could

also have controlled a Hard Drive?

 

Okay enough Q's for now....If not too much hassel, would you mind taking a

few pics of the 1400 stuff as your going through it and post here?

 

Lovin' it Bro'

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I hate to be a necromancer here, but I was wondering how hard it would be to populate a bare 1400XL board? I bought one of these years ago from BEST and I never got around to doing anything with it. I have access to certain specialty parts from a friend, but is it actually feasible to populate the board and shove it in a 1200XL case? How is the compatibility with other hardware/software? Is it even worth doing other than because you can (not that that's a bad reason)?

 

Tempest

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Perhaps I'm wrong... and I think I have never seen it in real life...

 

But I've heard that the Scheurs Brothers (Bo & Ernest, creators of the Pooldisk, and Pooldisk II) own a 1400xl or a 1450xld.

I know they have a prototype 1090.

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I find it difficult to believe that any were actually retrieved from dumpsters and returned. Think about it: First, from what has been said above, they wouldn't have had cases and if they did, they would most likely have been incomplete or damaged by the time a dumpster diver got it. Second, they wouldn't have had boxes, instructions, etc., let alone a receipt. No retailer back then would was going to accept a return for something that expensive with absolutely none of the items that would have been sold with it. Third, if retailers had taken any back, where did they go? I would think that at least some would have surfaced by now.

 

That a few prototypes may have been snagged before destruction by Atari employees, I can easily believe that. The other tale, however, seems just that, i.e., pure urban legend.

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There were also likely a few sent to 3rd party software houses; in the mid 90s I seem to remember Supra cleaned house and sold off a 1090 (in the pre-eBay days) along with the rest of their Atari stuff. Those also (eventually) grow legs and wander away.

 

(Edit: poor typing)

Edited by David_P

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I hate to be a necromancer here, but I was wondering how hard it would be to populate a bare 1400XL board

 

Yes, I think it would be possible, except for the modem and parallel drive boards which may have some proprietary chips. Best may still have a few leftover Votrax speech chips. It would take a lot of work, obviously.

 

It will fit into a 1200XL case with some dremelling.

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Hi mos6507! Thanks for your responses. Just for clarification, why would

a 1400 have a floppy controller? For a Percomm perhaps? It can't fit inside,

so is the 1450XLD just a duel-drive 'topped' 1400? The IDE header could

also have controlled a Hard Drive?

 

The 1400 series had their own special floppy drives that were accessed as PBI devices, similar to the floppy board portion of the CSS Black Box. Really high speed I/O. I think you had to use a special DOS to access it (DOS4?). I think these were true double-sided double-density. The 1400 series in most respects "fixed" all of the bad stuff in the 8-bit. The only sucky part was the way the voice chip could not have all its attributes set on it, so it speaks in a monotone. EPIC FAIL. The other thing I mentioned before was the way all these things were accessed using a PBI ID that conflicts with the Black Box (and probably also the MIO). I can't fault Atari for this. They had their own PBI specifications and Bob Puff etc... chose not to follow it (or they had to bend the rules to deliver certain features).

 

The 1400 board that I have would probably work as a 1400XL or a 1450XLD. It just depends on what case you put it in. If the 1400XL had come out you probably would have been able to "upgrade" it into a 1450XLD if you had the floppy daughtercard and ran a ribbon cable out the back. They went through several board designs but the one I have looks the most modernized and compact compared to the huge "Tong" board. Maybe the 1400 wouldn't work as a 1450 if the case design of the 1450 is significantly deeper, but the actual components are pretty much the same between the two. They obviously put the drive header on there for a reason.

 

I don't think it would have worked for hard drives but the PBI could have been used for that, through the 1090XL probably.

 

After several moves from apartment to apartment and now moving cross-country back to MA, all my possessions are in a complete state of disarray but eventually I will give my 1400XL away to the right person. I've been close to sending it out on more than one occasion but I always procrastinate and let it sit.

Edited by mos6507

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The 1450XLD has a very large motherboard with the speech, modem and floppy controller built-in. It is much bigger than the 1200XL. The 1400XL is the same basic size as a 1200XL and has the voice and modem but not the floppy controller - that plugs into a connector on the m/b - never seen one. You can't really tell a 1400XL from a 1200XL from the front, other than by the label. On the back, however, you have a PBI and such. You could certainly shove it in 1200XL packing and exchange it at a store like Macy's. (which is where I got my first 1200XL) Lots of them were going back because of software conflicts. Of course, what dummy would trade a 1400XL for a 1200XL?

 

Bob

 

 

 

 

 

Hi mos6507! Thanks for your responses. Just for clarification, why would

a 1400 have a floppy controller? For a Percomm perhaps? It can't fit inside,

so is the 1450XLD just a duel-drive 'topped' 1400? The IDE header could

also have controlled a Hard Drive?

 

The 1400 series had their own special floppy drives that were accessed as PBI devices, similar to the floppy board portion of the CSS Black Box. Really high speed I/O. I think you had to use a special DOS to access it (DOS4?). I think these were true double-sided double-density. The 1400 series in most respects "fixed" all of the bad stuff in the 8-bit. The only sucky part was the way the voice chip could not have all its attributes set on it, so it speaks in a monotone. EPIC FAIL. The other thing I mentioned before was the way all these things were accessed using a PBI ID that conflicts with the Black Box (and probably also the MIO). I can't fault Atari for this. They had their own PBI specifications and Bob Puff etc... chose not to follow it (or they had to bend the rules to deliver certain features).

 

The 1400 board that I have would probably work as a 1400XL or a 1450XLD. It just depends on what case you put it in. If the 1400XL had come out you probably would have been able to "upgrade" it into a 1450XLD if you had the floppy daughtercard and ran a ribbon cable out the back. They went through several board designs but the one I have looks the most modernized and compact compared to the huge "Tong" board. Maybe the 1400 wouldn't work as a 1450 if the case design of the 1450 is significantly deeper, but the actual components are pretty much the same between the two. They obviously put the drive header on there for a reason.

 

I don't think it would have worked for hard drives but the PBI could have been used for that, through the 1090XL probably.

 

After several moves from apartment to apartment and now moving cross-country back to MA, all my possessions are in a complete state of disarray but eventually I will give my 1400XL away to the right person. I've been close to sending it out on more than one occasion but I always procrastinate and let it sit.

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Hi mos6507! Thanks for your responses. Just for clarification, why would

a 1400 have a floppy controller? For a Percomm perhaps? It can't fit inside,

so is the 1450XLD just a duel-drive 'topped' 1400? The IDE header could

also have controlled a Hard Drive?

 

The 1400 series had their own special floppy drives that were accessed as PBI devices, similar to the floppy board portion of the CSS Black Box. Really high speed I/O. I think you had to use a special DOS to access it (DOS4?). I think these were true double-sided double-density. The 1400 series in most respects "fixed" all of the bad stuff in the 8-bit. The only sucky part was the way the voice chip could not have all its attributes set on it, so it speaks in a monotone. EPIC FAIL. The other thing I mentioned before was the way all these things were accessed using a PBI ID that conflicts with the Black Box (and probably also the MIO). I can't fault Atari for this. They had their own PBI specifications and Bob Puff etc... chose not to follow it (or they had to bend the rules to deliver certain features).

 

The 1400 board that I have would probably work as a 1400XL or a 1450XLD. It just depends on what case you put it in. If the 1400XL had come out you probably would have been able to "upgrade" it into a 1450XLD if you had the floppy daughtercard and ran a ribbon cable out the back. They went through several board designs but the one I have looks the most modernized and compact compared to the huge "Tong" board. Maybe the 1400 wouldn't work as a 1450 if the case design of the 1450 is significantly deeper, but the actual components are pretty much the same between the two. They obviously put the drive header on there for a reason.

 

I don't think it would have worked for hard drives but the PBI could have been used for that, through the 1090XL probably.

 

After several moves from apartment to apartment and now moving cross-country back to MA, all my possessions are in a complete state of disarray but eventually I will give my 1400XL away to the right person. I've been close to sending it out on more than one occasion but I always procrastinate and let it sit.

 

Err well,

regarding the drive in the 1450XLD - did you ever read the DOS 3 manual ?!? Its kinda described there - the drive is double sided, but not double density, it is Atari`s dual/enhanced density, just like in the 1050 drives. And err, the drive was not to be used as a double-sided drive, instead Atari wanted it to be used as two drives - according to the DOS 3 manual head 0 was used as drive 1, whereas head 1 was used as drive 2... (guess they also designed the drive OS this way)...

 

So, to have a 1450XLD drive doing double density one would still need an upgrade like Happy, Speedy, etc. - but since most of these upgrades are limited to 180k / single-sided, one would need a special upgrade (meaning the ROM or better the OS in the drive) that also supports double-sided. Then one could use MyDOS, Sparta-DOS, etc. with 360kbytes... but I guess no-one that owns a 1450XLD actually has upgraded the built-in drive to DS/DD...

 

-Andreas Koch.

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This is from the Atari History Museum site"

 

For those collectors who have been able to obtain a 1400XL or 1450XLD computer and have wondered why their system is missing the labels on them, the reason for this according to a source at the old Atari Store stated: People were pulling systems out of the garbage from Atari, bringing them back to the store and requesting refunds, Atari got wind of this and decided to have the labels removed on all "XL" merchandise, not just the 1400's and 1450's that was to be thrown out or sold so that it could not be brought back for refunds.

 

 

I find it difficult to believe that any were actually retrieved from dumpsters and returned. Think about it: First, from what has been said above, they wouldn't have had cases and if they did, they would most likely have been incomplete or damaged by the time a dumpster diver got it. Second, they wouldn't have had boxes, instructions, etc., let alone a receipt. No retailer back then would was going to accept a return for something that expensive with absolutely none of the items that would have been sold with it. Third, if retailers had taken any back, where did they go? I would think that at least some would have surfaced by now.

 

That a few prototypes may have been snagged before destruction by Atari employees, I can easily believe that. The other tale, however, seems just that, i.e., pure urban legend.

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I searched for a good string about the 1400XL, and there

are to many un-answered questions.

 

One rumour includes people returning them to a store after

snagging them from the dumpster. Meaning that @ one

point these units were sold to the general public....right?

 

Another rumour mentions that to prevent the afformentioned,

the units were defaced before 'dumping'.

 

Yet another which is obvious is that inside developers kept

what remained of them....?

----------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Question 1. How many units were ligitamate and could possibly

be in "Pristine" condition -- as sold through retail when it was

available?

On-that note: -> Was a retail 'marked' box for the 1400XL

ever made? I know it could fit into the 1200XL retail, I'm

asking about commercial markings..... (if so please post!)

 

Question 2. The built-in 300 baud dial-up tele - modem was

a leap for internal PC components, and an obvious attempt

to take a pot-shot @ IBM as a ligit communications platform.

?? - Does anyone owning an actual 1400XL have a working

internal modem?

 

Question 3. Voice Chip. Was this an attempt to vcopy the C64

SAM?....Or was it 'WarGames' Ready? Can anyone with a

working 1400 eXceL give us actual samples?

 

Question 4. If this unit were in Full-Retail Box today, would you

agree that its value might exceed $4400?

 

Question 5. Do any 1400XL owners have their unit up-graded

beyond typical specs. ?, If so what?

__________________________________________________

 

*Curious Chris

Actually had 2 motherboards once 1400xl, A guy who claimed to have worked for Atari sold them to us and the employees bought them. One put his in a 1200xl case. Wish I had kept one... I was ST Blind and the time

Edited by atarian63

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Having internal disk drives, modems, and voice chip probably made the unit very expensive to be sold as a home computer back around 1982-1983 and is probably why Atari scrapped the project. Remember at the time Commodore, Apple, and Radioshack had computers for lower price and probably why Atari decided to go with the 600XL and 800XL. Even the 800XL reached the market too late to compete against the Commodore 64. If they decided to release a computer with internal drives, modems, etc at the time for $600 or more, they would have died right there for sure. Having internal devices also makes it harder to upgrade or repair.

 

I agree that this would have been the wrong approach even at that time. To me, Atari made a wise decision with the direction they went with the XLs. I also think they should have base a new game counsel around the XL system instead of what they did with the 5200. Where as in creating something that is more directly compatible and not using those funky 5200 joysticks.

in 82 nobody even noticed the C64, it was a long time before it took off, I didn't really see them in volume until late 84 to mid 85.

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My memory is fuzzy but as I recall you have the 1400 board, the 1450 board and the Tong board (and probably a few variants in there). The 1400 says 1400 on the board and is very rare (I used to own a complete 1400 case and all). The 1450 boards were thought to be used in either a 1400XL or 1450XLD case as they were identical except the drive boards. The TONG game later and was a 1450XLD design only, after the 1400XL was scrapped. Again, Curt probably knows better than I. There are custom gate arrays for these boards, the formulas are around and might be able to be reproduced.

 

A 1400/1450 board will not fit into a 1200XL case without a lot of cutting out the back and hacking the cart port and joystick ports. The 1200XL has angled joystick ports, the 14xx do not :)

 

I have one 1450 board left that is fully functional with power brick. I just got a dremel for christmas and I have so many 1200XL cases to pick from. I actually have the 1450 side plastic/cart area. It doesn't mesh perfect with a 1200XL case but it is a lot easier than building your own side plastics.

 

I think shoving a 600XL into a 1200XL would be more fun.

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I've got a bare 1450 board and was planning on populating it and seeing if I can't get it to run somehow. I have all the custom chips except one of the PAL chips, 'B' I think, but would have to check. I haven't gotten very far on it, and since my move it's all boxed up. I have most of the chip sockets soldered to the board...

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I've got a bare 1450 board and was planning on populating it and seeing if I can't get it to run somehow. I have all the custom chips except one of the PAL chips, 'B' I think, but would have to check. I haven't gotten very far on it, and since my move it's all boxed up. I have most of the chip sockets soldered to the board...

Is it a 1450 board or a 1400? I know Best was selling 1400 boards at one point, but I don't recall them ever selling 1450 boards. Then again, are they really that different?

 

Tempest

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Interesting what shawn Jefferson said about PAL chips in his 1400, would i be right in saying that ATARI wanted the 1400/1450 ready for european release as well, which pretty much goes against what ATARI did with the 1200 and 5200 systems

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I think he means PAL as in Programmable Array Logic, not the TV standard.

 

The 1400s would have bombed outside the US anyway... 800XL was enough of a ripoff as it was.

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