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texacala

How do you use your A8?

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How do you use your Atari 8-bit computer? And why?


I've thought about this for awhile now and I am curious. Is it to play games? To program games? To install upgrades and enjoy the satisfaction of them working? For word processing or work? For nostalgia? To be stubbornly "retro"? Because your are fascinated with the machine's design? Because there is nothing quite like an ATARI?


I've wondered a bit myself. Why do I do this? I want to hear from other forum members because I am genuinely curious.


For myself, I can break down my activities as follows-- I mostly use my 130 XE for word processing. Specifically, I use The Last Word with a laser printer at work. I take notes, print letters, lists, inventories, play around with the different options. It"s not that I have anything against Microsoft Word or modern word processing (I use Word a lot). But using my Atari makes my day a bit more fun and interesting. I am exploring other office software options for the same reasons and I very much look forward to Jon's forthcoming GUI and applications built for it.


Beyond the Last Word, I also use Eclipse on my Windows 7 laptop for programming 6502 code that I can test with Altirra. I am working on a game idea and learning assembly language at the same time. And while it is not always technically "fun" (haha), I find it very interesting and rewarding. It's not that I'm just interested in a playable game-- I also enjoy exploring what the machine can do and how it works.


I also enjoy reading articles and forums-- that's always interesting to me, particularly when people are developing hardware or upgrades because I don't know very much about electronics or computer hardware.


Finally, I do play games sometimes, although not very much. I do like learning about what games are out there though and following the ABBUC contest.


So... what about you?

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In a discussion somewhere here about owning a 5200 vs. an A8, I laid out what I had in mind for my XEGS and what ended up becoming of it.

 

I wanted an A8, and I bought the XEGS because I wanted it when I was young but couldn't persuade my parents to pick one up for me. (Fair enough, really, as they'd just gotten me a 7800 the year before.) I was originally going to use it as a multipurpose machine, both for gaming and for computing. (Really wanted to learn 6502 assembly on it in particular.) I just never could learn to like it as a gaming machine. And I lucked into a 5200 that I, in essence, ended up getting without cost. I really fell in love with that as a gaming machine. (Yeah yeah, I know, joystick joystick. Heh.) So, the XEGS sort of defaulted to a nearly purely computing role. I do play the occasional game on it--was just playing Mr. Do on it this weekend, in fact. These days, though, it's either the platform I'm using to learn 6502 assembly or the platform on which I'm teaching my elder daughter BASIC.

 

Mostly, I'm having fun using it as a computer in ways I would have liked to as a kid but couldn't. I had an 8-bit computer back then--the Mattel Electronics Aquarius, with no peripherals but the mini-expander. Without a way to save your programs, and with less than 2k of user-available RAM, there wasn't much I could do with it at the ripe old age of 6 or so. It mainly served as a game console...which, given its technical limitations, was a bit of rough going. I have an Aquarius now that has RAM and that I can save things from, but it's nice to see how things were in the more...spacious accommodations offered by Atari.

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I definitely relate to the idea of using the computer in ways you would have liked to as a kid. For me, the Atari 400 was my first computer in 1980 and I never owned an XE machine back in the 80s, so it has been fun to see what I missed out on. I also have taught my daughter some BASIC and I love to show kids my 130 XE. They love it!

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I would always read about the Atari computers in magazines but never did pursuade the folks, as I say. I was always attached to the XEGS because...well, yes, I loved the pastel buttons. (I most certainly did come of age in the late 80s.)

 

Nowadays, the desire to learn assembly is sort of developing into a desire to actually try to make software. Don't know what kind yet--still swimming my way through the shallow end of my education. But it will come. Oh, and one of these days, I'm going to pick up Lotharek's 1MB upgrade for the XEs. And part of me would like to upgrade the video for 80-column text. I can do word processing in 40 columns, but I know what I'd prefer.

 

Oh, have you shown your daughter the world of BBSing yet? If so, what was her reaction? My daughter was decidedly...unimpressed.

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I couldn't even imagine trying to use a 130XE for word processing. I've tried randomly playing around in BASIC on my XEGS and between the key layout (which is somewhat different than the standard PC keyboard) and the sponginess I got frustrated very quickly.

 

I use mine just for gaming. Don't really have an interest to do anymore than that tbh. This largely reflects how I used computers when growing up. We (technically it was my brother's) first got a PC-XT clone in 1987 and I used it to play games and as I got a little older write papers for school. My brother being 5 years older than me did a lot more. I remember him BBSing a lot, doing some programming in BASIC. But then he ended up being an engineer and I am about as far from engineering as possible.

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Up until now, my 1200XL has been used to look through my old floppy disks from 1988.

 

But recently, it's taken a very prominent place in my music studio. I am an electronic musician who does 80's style synthpop and new wave music, and the Atari 1200XL's POKEY music helps out immensely.

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@DesertJets - Yeah, the XE keyboard is something, isn't it? Last night I was messing around in the assembler and typoed one little mistake with a variable. Threw all kinds of errors during the assembly and left me baffled until I figured out what was going on. I've thought about picking up the internal keyboard upgrade from Best. That, too, will happen one day.

 

But recently, it's taken a very prominent place in my music studio.

 

@Synthpopalooza - I bought your album a few months ago and enjoyed it very much. Well done! May I ask what software you use on your 1200XL? I don't have any real talent, but I do like making interesting noises come from the machine. :)

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I bought mine to play games.

I ended up collecting too many

spent a fortune on mods and upgrades that I don't use.

they now collect dust

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I bought mine to play games.

I ended up collecting too many

spent a fortune on mods and upgrades that I don't use.

they now collect dust

 

I know this ... but partly. I also spent a fortune on mods and upgrades, and a certain part of them is unused because newer / better stuff was designed, and a part of them is unused because I like a few spares.

 

I have a handful atari 8bit extras I really love to use. IDE+ 2.0, the Turbo Freezer, SIC! carts, Sio2USB (abbuc Raf), the fabulous 4MB cart from Panos and BigBen.

From time to time I use MyIDE ][, and Ultimate 1MB upgrade.

 

Stuff I do not use at this moment, which I have a lot is: BlackBox, Sio2IDE, Sio2SD, MyIDE I, Sio2PC, Misc. Memory Upgrades, Incognito for atari 800.

 

But I keep them... they do not collect dust, they are waiting for being discovered again :D

 

Oh and I mainly use my Atari 800XL for this:

 

1. Games

2. Business administration

3. Connecting vintage BBS's

4. Coding

5. Composing music (although It has been too long since I did that).

 

There is not really an order in that list, although I really love atari 8bit games, so I think that belongs on #1 ... and I also am very fond of coding.

 

It's a lot of fun.

I'm very happy with my Turbo Freezer 2011 and IDE+ 2.0 ... that combination (atari 8bit, freezer and IDE+) gives me the highest compatibility with an unmodified atari 8bit. The only thing missing is a feature to flip disks, or chose other disk images on the fly. The hardware is ready, but the software in the IDE+ is not updated yet.

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@Mac-42 - haha, no I haven't explored the BBS world in a long time and I imagine my daughter would find it pretty lame. What's fun though is a lot of teenagers have looked at my A8 and they assume it's running a GUI. They believe there are "windows" somewhere, and then when they see the OS is command-based they think that is incredibly dated and cool. And BASIC is just great for them-- being able to write a quick program and have something happen right away is not something they are used to.

 

@Synthpop - damn that is cool! What do you use? I've played around with TMC2 but haven't tried anything else because I'm not sure it will run well on my NTSC machine. I've started learning Reason 5.0 on my laptop and I'd like to incorporate the A8 at some point. I'm a big synthpop fan, Japan, Alphaville, Kraftwerk, Absolute Body Control, lots of stuff.

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Well, right now I'm limited to just being able to program some musical lines using BASIC. I'm doing my music the old fashioned way, but I am very keen to learn the tracking programs like TMC2. I'm also looking into an SIO2SD so that I can program tracks using RMT and then convert them to .XEX to play on the real machine.

 

There is one program I wrote which is basically for doing a sample and hold bassline, similar to what you would hear in Depeche Mode. It works, by randomly cycling through the 4 musical waveforms that the Atari uses: Distortion 2 (triangle), Distortion 10 (square), Distortion 12a (sawtooth), and Distortion 12b (sawtooth but less buzzy). This makes some really groovy basslines. I'll record these bits and then loop them into my recording.

 

It's only with my musical output recently starting up again that I am able to include the 1200XL into my musical studio. A lot of the things I have learned from being on this forum have served me well.

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The last year was a slight rebuilding year for me. Bought too much, but smartly sold what I didn't really need for a little profit to boot. Before this year, I had a sole 1200XL and an SdriveNUXX. I picked up three classic 800's, kept the best and sold the rest (after repairing). Got crazy thinking I needed to deal with floppy drives and bought three 810's, disks, etc., then cleaned them up and sold them all on Ebay just to add another Sdrive (Micro) to the collection. Picked up another 1200XL and a 1010 of all things. Now I'm left with;

 

(2) USA made 1200XLs

(1) 800 in 1979 configuration (card covers, metal shielding, etc).

(2) Sdrives (one NUXX and one Micro)

(1) 1010

 

What are they doing today. Not collecting dust only because they are in boxes. Altirra just makes pulling it all out a hard sell. For me, its just a nostalgia thing. Mid-life crisis for nerds. My wife should be great full I'm not buying a Harley. I still routinely watch for bargains on Ebay, but moments later shake my head in search of "why"? I keep them as an example of something special and the fact that they still work, is uber cool.

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I try to BBS several times a week. I also like to keep up with the latest software releases, and I find my 1MB PAL machine is best for this. When I get completely tired of my day job coding, it is nice to write some 6502 code. Basically, I use the machines to zone out and have fun and they have been serving this purpose for me since 1982.

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Spending too much time reading about 8-bits (e.g. here) and checking EBay for deals and too little time setting them up and playing games. For some reason I still find the games I played as a kid superior to most stuff I discovered later (and I can't get the hang of using more than one or two buttons on a gamepad). I mainly kept them to show my kids what computing was like when I was a kid. We went through one of this year's ABBUC competition discs today and my son was quite astonished that one could program a game in 10 lines of BASIC, so maybe trying out a bit of BASIC programming will be a next step. (I'm planning for a permanent setup, though.)

 

I'd love to revive some 6502 assembler and while it would be so much cooler to program on my 800 it would probably be much easier to use cc65.

 

While I did a lot of text processing, VisiCalc, filing and PrintShop in the 80s, I find that too tedious these days. I find the idea of using an 800 for your day-to-day office needs compelling, though.

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Pretty much for games only. I used my 130XE for other stuff in high school but got spoiled by the GUIs from Macs and ST's from college, making it harder to go back to the "Type a letter in a menu" style.

 

But I would like to play around with Diamond OS and other programs that can use a joystick in place of a mouse to see if I can make a junior ST out of the 8-bit like I always wanted back in the day.

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