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Disassembled an 800XL just now - not elegant?

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A few minutes ago I just finished disassembling an 800XL to inspect the insides and give it a gentle dusting/cleaning. After having disassembled various wedge shaped ST machines, ST drives, and a 1200XL I must say I am not that impressed with the 800XL.

 

The interference fit, Mylar based keyboard cable feels flimsy.

 

The removal of the motherboard from the case was awkward.

 

The opposing crimps holding the shield down onto the motherboard require extra operations.

 

Nobody cleaned the flux off of the solder points for the connectors.

 

While Atari may have cheaped-out on the 1200XL in some ways I feel like they cheaped-out even more on the 800XL.

 

On the other hand ... :)

 

All chips are socketed.

 

The layout is extremely clean. Lots of extra space! It feels like they could have compressed the design until you look at the underside. Even then, very clean with nary a zig-zagging trace.

 

Am I just too tired after a long day here? Maybe. Ok, I am a little grumpy. :woozy:

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I always looked at the 800XL internals as being expedient rather than inelegant.

 

The 400 and especially 800 were total tanks, and followed a lot of design philosophies that were current in the '70s. The XL line updated some of that thinking (PBI instead of individual card slots, single PCB, 2 joystick ports, etc.) while cost-reducing the machines to bring them into the '80s. That said, some of the decisions - many of which you've detailed above - were definitely the result of letting the beancounters loose on the design.

 

It's not so much that one is necessarily better or worse - it's more that the XL line both benefitted from and was bitten by the benefit of hindsight in certain ways during development when compared to its predecessors.

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Yes I mostly agree the 1200XL vs a mylar SCCO 800XL seems to in some ways be a big step backwards as you noted. The mech keyboard 800XL's have a more quality feel than the mylars. They are physically lighter, too, which eliminates the "I'm holding a lead brick" feeling the very common SCCO 800XL's have. The joystick ports are better positioned. The computer runs much cooler and is 5v dc. The OS is updated and much more compatible. The 800XL motherboard is very well optimized, yes. The problem with the 1200XL wasn't cheapening it out, imo. It was the super high price in '83. The motherboard is chock full of components. Not as crowded as an Amiga 3000 mobo however. ;)

 

Going from an 800XL to a 1200XL, the impressive size and beautiful shiny keycaps is great. However the function keys along the top are more inconvenient and knowing of a cart is or is not installed is a thing.

 

The 1200XL can't run Crysis. The 800XL can. :grin:

 

Try installing a U1MB in a 1200XL then in a socketed 800XL. Overall though, to me it seems a matter of taste. I've been using the 800XL's much more than my one 1200XL. I'd love to have another 1200 and have been looking to buy one.

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Pre XE the Atari gear was unnecessarily overcomplicated in construction, just look at the complexity of shielding for XE vs XL vs 800.

 

But the XE is overcheap in that regard. The shielding tends to rust much easier and despite needing less annoying screws to hold the thing together is somewhat flimsy and poorer overall fit IMO.

 

Regardless, what counts is the quality and reliability of the board and components and XL probably comes well on top of all the others, 400/800 mainly suffering due to being on multiple boards.

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Yes I mostly agree the 1200XL vs a mylar SCCO 800XL seems to in some ways be a big step backwards as you noted. The mech keyboard 800XL's have a more quality feel than the mylars. They are physically lighter, too, which eliminates the "I'm holding a lead brick" feeling the very common SCCO 800XL's have. The joystick ports are better positioned. The computer runs much cooler and is 5v dc. The OS is updated and much more compatible. The 800XL motherboard is very well optimized, yes. The problem with the 1200XL wasn't cheapening it out, imo. It was the super high price in '83. The motherboard is chock full of components. Not as crowded as an Amiga 3000 mobo however. ;)

 

Going from an 800XL to a 1200XL, the impressive size and beautiful shiny keycaps is great. However the function keys along the top are more inconvenient and knowing of a cart is or is not installed is a thing.

 

The 1200XL can't run Crysis. The 800XL can. :grin:

 

Try installing a U1MB in a 1200XL then in a socketed 800XL. Overall though, to me it seems a matter of taste. I've been using the 800XL's much more than my one 1200XL. I'd love to have another 1200 and have been looking to buy one.

 

 

You can buy another 1200XL here:

 

https://www.eightbitfix.com/for-sale/8-bit-hardware/

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The 600XL/800XL keyboard flex cables are indeed junk (even those belonging to the decent AWC and Alps keyboards), and quite often the console keys don't sit flat, are proud of the fascia, or look outright crooked. Atari sometimes used washers as shims under the keyboard screws (especially on 800XLs) to try and compensate for the poor fit. Aside from that, the XLs are pretty solid, and the fully socketed boards are usually very nice. The keyboards tend to let them down. The 800XL motherboard can be difficult to remove from the case, especially (for some reason) if it's Chelco unit. They are real bastards to remove.

 

1200XLs have better build quality in almost every respect, but they're huge, have an inherent (if easily fixable) keyboard defect, and require some modification to be useful and fully XL/XE compatible. My current favourite machine is a heavily upgraded (but outwardly stock) 600XL. Small, neat, reliable and reasonably pleasant to type on (Alps keyboard with completely replaced flex cable).

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400/800s are indeed a PITA to disassemble, and don't you forget that cartridge door bypass when doing a quick try before reassembly!

The tank-like quality is limited to the insides, I had a 400 shell crumble to pieces when shipped with improper packing. All these small grilles don't hold up well under pressure.

 

Got to love the BBC Micro in this regard. Apparently most power users didn't even bother to screw on the top case, so they could easily reach inside and swap ROMs.

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I still love the look of a 1200XL/14xxXL/(D) sitting on the desktop. It just looks good. The Mitsumi keyboards are the best. Lots of room for internal expansions.

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The tank-like quality is limited to the insides, I had a 400 shell crumble to pieces when shipped with improper packing. All these small grilles don't hold up well under pressure.

That’s as much age-related as anything, I’m sure, possible exacerbated by someone’s attempt at retrobrighting. The original machines were indeed tank-like. Sure if you banged them hard in a spot concentrated over a vent you’d damage them, but that’s true of basically any kind of plastic of reasonable thickness. When packaged properly (e.g., encased in their original shipping styrofoam or even thickly wrapped in bubble wrap with no other heavy objects in the box free in there to smash into them) they should be as durable as pretty much anything else.

 

I’ve received 400’s, 800’s, 1200XL’s, 600XL’s, 800XL’s, 1050 drives and numerous VCS, 5200 and 7800 consoles via mail, plus a C1702 monitor. Nothing has ever arrived damaged except for one 800 that I got 17 years ago. It has a minor crack around the vents at the back of the case, suffered during shipment when the seller packaged the 800, 1050 and power bricks all together in a giant box filled with shredded paper rather than bubble wrap and foam peanuts. Fortunately the damage was minor and the machine still works great to this day.

 

Proper packaging is EVERYTHING when shipping.

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My 800 still has a few cracks because it was shipped to me with a loose power transformer pack in the box. What an idiot.

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Having recently rescued a couple of 800XLs from my parents' attic, the first thing that immediately came back to me was the poor keyboard connections, which I remembered gave me a lot of grief as an experimental child. And, sure enough, my original machine shows where the mylar had cracked, and where I had bypassed the bad traces with some crudely soldered wires. Naturally, it was unreliable at best, and it means my function keys don't work most of the time.

 

I was actually thinking of replacing the connector with a pin header, and the cable with a proper ribbon cable running to another pin header on the keyboard itself. I can keep the original friction connector in case I ever feel the need to replace it in the future...

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Looks like it depends from where the machine was sourced.

My 800XL was bought in 1984 and typed a lot on it's keyboard until 1990.

Then it hibernated for at least 25 years in a very hot attic.

The computer and it's keyboard are still working just fine.

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Looks like it depends from where the machine was sourced.

My 800XL was bought in 1984 and typed a lot on it's keyboard until 1990.

Then it hibernated for at least 25 years in a very hot attic.

The computer and it's keyboard are still working just fine.

Just been heavily trolled by the AWC keyboard on a 600XL sent here after being stored in a loft for twenty-five years or so. Malfunctioning keys were all on two matrix rows (1 and 3), suggesting breaks in the flex cable. All lines tested fine, however, so I assumed problems were occurring once the keyboard was installed and the cable folded in on itself. Fortunately, though, before replacing the whole cable with a home-made counterpart, I noticed that one or two keys on both problem rows actually DID work. Turned out that eleven switches in total had completely failed, and in a manner topically similar to breaks on two flex cable traces. :)

 

Donor keyboard is stripped bare...

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