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Is the Atari 400 Bad to Use?

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11 hours ago, Mclaneinc said:

I'm not sure I get the thread, the person says they are short on money due to buying from an allowance but then refuses the cheaper options like an 800XL which gives you the 64K AND BASIC built in AND its easier and cheaper to source than a 400 that is 16K and no BASIC.

 

Also the non use of 3rd party stuff just mystifies me, again its cheaper than disk drives, ultra reliable and do easy to use..

 

Sure there are people on here that live and breathe Atari but even they use the 3rd party stuff. Its really odd to quote shortness of cash and yet want the most expensive way to play?

 

A 400 is a nice machine but its got some issues for you yet that's the one you want?    Confused..

 

I say get the Ti99, it seems you like that more?

 

Any way, your choice in the end, you have the needed info, young Padwan, choose wisely.. 

No, no, I am looking offline, and I know a place that I can buy both the 400 and the TI99/4a for less than ebay prices, and the only Atari 8 bit computer they sell there is the 400, other than the cib XE which is a bit too expensive. I prefer the Atari brand, but the TI has its advantages. I would buy the 800xl if it pops up for a reasonable price, but it never happens, and I hate the 800xl's design. I'm one of those people who only focus on original hardware, and I think spending money on modern aftermarket devices destroys the whole purpose of using an old computer altogether. 

12 hours ago, drpeter said:

The CPU register size is really not of any great practical importance, I would suggest. A bit like choosing a used car based on the number of cylinders in the engine...

 

Anyway, good luck and have fun with whatever you finally decide on.

The 16 bit part was supposed to be a joke. I apologize if it wasn't funny...

11 hours ago, davidcalgary29 said:

Well, I think that’s been sorted out by now: OP appears to be a teen nostalgist who has experienced the joy of keying in lengthy programs from ANALOG, and wants to recreate an accurate computing experience from 1979.

That's half true. I suck at coding in BASIC, but I got sick of dealing with strange keyboard configurations of emulators, because of some minor differences between a modern keyboard and a 70s/80s one, and I never bothered trying to learn anything to advanced in BASIC since I would always end up trying to figure out how to use the Commodore key on a modern keyboard after 20 seconds.

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17 hours ago, _The Doctor__ said:

Third party peripherals are part of why the computer was designed with cartridge slot(s), i/o ports(commonly referred to as joystick ports), sio port, and pbi / eci ports!

It is a key feature of the Atari experience to enjoy devices connected to these, and were the life blood of industrial Atari applications back in the day.

I don't think Atari made those so smart people from the 21st century could use futuristic gadgets known as SD cards.

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8 minutes ago, bluejay said:

I don't think Atari made those so smart people from the 21st century could use futuristic gadgets known as SD cards.

This is absolutely why they made the PBI/ECI ports, for future expandability. 

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58 minutes ago, bluejay said:

I think spending money on modern aftermarket devices destroys the whole purpose of using an old computer altogether. 

I disagree. These modern peripherals are exactly what makes using my XLs in the 21st century so darned interesting! I love making my machines do things that the original designers could have never even envisioned. I saw Joe Decuir (one of the 800's original designers) give a speech over the summer and he talked about his love and fascination for these new modern devices too.  

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I didn't intend this thread to become a debating competition, and I think people have different opinions about all this. I get that some people find modern peripherals interesting, but I don't happen to be one of those people.

Edited by bluejay

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I think you should search out the paper tape reader for the Atari I pointed out to a member here on AA and they bought it, I bet he might let it go for a price...  another person got the port 3&4 electrostatic tracing pen...  not sure if they are ready to leave that go but since you want to go old school these are definitely two items you would want to get started with. That's going to be the genesis level stuff of which very few will see or ever touch. I know the CNC facility that used the system had attached some other futuristic odds and ends to the machines over time... but that's where their journey started, maybe yours can as well.

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Not gonna touch the debate, but here's my take on using a 400:

If your main interest is games, there are lots of cartridge games that
work on a 400, without expanding the memory. Star Raiders for instance.
Also Defender, Pac-Man, Centipede, Super Breakout, Donkey Kong...

Some of the games do use the keyboard, but not heavily. The membrane is
fine for pressing the space bar to set off a smart bomb or H to engage
the hyperwarp engines...

If you're trying to learn BASIC, a 400 with the abovementioned $5 BASIC
cartridge might be a good starter kit... a lot of us started out that
way and the keyboard and lack of RAM didn't stop us from learning.

However, I can't recommend using a tape drive. Even when they're in
100% working order (and most aren't due to belt rot!), they're just too
slow. At some point you'll want a disk drive (real or otherwise) to save
your BASIC code... and that pretty much means you want at least 32K of
RAM, since the DOS loads from disk & takes up most of the memory in a 16K
machine. If you're having to upgrade the RAM anyway, might as well do 48K.

I had a 48K 400 for a few years (after getting rid of the original
16K 400 I started with). I enjoyed using it to play disk-based games,
but didn't do much typing on it: sitting next to it was an 800XL,
so I used that for coding and word processing and BBSing and such.
Would I have been happy with a 48K 400 as my only Atari? Hard to say,
but I definitely would have used it as much as I did the 800XL.

Of course the better solution for you if you decide you really need 48K
and don't want to do any mods/upgrades, would be to buy an 800. No idea
what they go for these days, maybe get the 400 for now and patiently
await an 800 at a price you can afford later?

I'd recommend an 800XL, but you've made it clear enough that you don't
like the XL or XE machines... too bad, because an 800XL makes the
best starter Atari IMO: built-in BASIC, 64K, decent keyboard, and the
[email protected]%#$^@#%^ keyclick sound is routed to the regular audio output so you
can turn it down when it gets on your nerves (on 400/800, you have to
disassemble the machine and unplug the internal speaker, or install a
switch to turn the keyclick on/off).

About the TI-99: I won't say anything about whether or not you should
get one insted of an Atari (I'm biased, I've had an Atari for decades). I
will note that if you decide to add an original TI-made floppy drive to
a TI-99, you'll be giving up a good chunk of desk space. The peripheral
expansion box is huge and heavy (seems solidly built at least). Using
a cassette for storage on a TI is just as miserable as it is on Atari.

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2 hours ago, _The Doctor__ said:

I think you should search out the paper tape reader for the Atari I pointed out to a member here on AA and they bought it, I bet he might let it go for a price...

 

My first coding experience was a BASIC class in my senior year of HS.  We had a mini-computer that was the size of a refrigerator connected to 4 teletype terminals with paper tape readers/punches.  That was pretty old school, even for 1978.

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7 hours ago, Urchlay said:

Not gonna touch the debate, but here's my take on using a 400:

If your main interest is games, there are lots of cartridge games that
work on a 400, without expanding the memory. Star Raiders for instance.
Also Defender, Pac-Man, Centipede, Super Breakout, Donkey Kong...

Some of the games do use the keyboard, but not heavily. The membrane is
fine for pressing the space bar to set off a smart bomb or H to engage
the hyperwarp engines...

If you're trying to learn BASIC, a 400 with the abovementioned $5 BASIC
cartridge might be a good starter kit... a lot of us started out that
way and the keyboard and lack of RAM didn't stop us from learning.

However, I can't recommend using a tape drive. Even when they're in
100% working order (and most aren't due to belt rot!), they're just too
slow. At some point you'll want a disk drive (real or otherwise) to save
your BASIC code... and that pretty much means you want at least 32K of
RAM, since the DOS loads from disk & takes up most of the memory in a 16K
machine. If you're having to upgrade the RAM anyway, might as well do 48K.

I had a 48K 400 for a few years (after getting rid of the original
16K 400 I started with). I enjoyed using it to play disk-based games,
but didn't do much typing on it: sitting next to it was an 800XL,
so I used that for coding and word processing and BBSing and such.
Would I have been happy with a 48K 400 as my only Atari? Hard to say,
but I definitely would have used it as much as I did the 800XL.

Of course the better solution for you if you decide you really need 48K
and don't want to do any mods/upgrades, would be to buy an 800. No idea
what they go for these days, maybe get the 400 for now and patiently
await an 800 at a price you can afford later?

I'd recommend an 800XL, but you've made it clear enough that you don't
like the XL or XE machines... too bad, because an 800XL makes the
best starter Atari IMO: built-in BASIC, 64K, decent keyboard, and the
[email protected]%#$^@#%^ keyclick sound is routed to the regular audio output so you
can turn it down when it gets on your nerves (on 400/800, you have to
disassemble the machine and unplug the internal speaker, or install a
switch to turn the keyclick on/off).

About the TI-99: I won't say anything about whether or not you should
get one insted of an Atari (I'm biased, I've had an Atari for decades). I
will note that if you decide to add an original TI-made floppy drive to
a TI-99, you'll be giving up a good chunk of desk space. The peripheral
expansion box is huge and heavy (seems solidly built at least). Using
a cassette for storage on a TI is just as miserable as it is on Atari.

But let’s not forget the XC12 “Turbo” drives! Loading tapes at two and even three times normal speed is going to revolutionize A8 computing in the 21st century!! I’m going to donate all of my SD units (ten and counting) to the local Goodwill store as soon as I can score a drive and tapes from Poland!

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400s are great to use, but as said earlier, a 48k memory upgrade is very much needed.

 

In the mid 1980s, I was in the middle of playing through Infocom's Zork series when my 64k 600XL developed a video output problem.  I sent it away for servicing and bought my first 400 from a local KMart.  It was the floor model that for some reason, had been sitting on a shelf for months.

I was able to get my hands on an official Atari 48k upgrade kit through a local Atari dealer (remember those?) and was quickly back to playing Zork II on a membrane keyboard!  I hated it at first and couldn't wait for my XL to be sent back.  After a few days, I started to get used to rapid typing on the 400.  Numb fingertips aside, it wasn't so bad.

 

I own two working 400s currently, the second one I got years later at a thrift store was stock until Jurgen (tf_hh on AtariAge) made his 48/52kb ram card, a great modern upgrade.  400s are solidly built, and probably a little harder to damage than their big brother, the 800.

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17 hours ago, Urchlay said:

I'd recommend an 800XL, but you've made it clear enough that you don't
like the XL or XE machines... too bad, because an 800XL makes the
best starter Atari IMO: built-in BASIC, 64K, decent keyboard, and the
[email protected]%#$^@#%^ keyclick sound is routed to the regular audio output so you
can turn it down when it gets on your nerves (on 400/800, you have to
disassemble the machine and unplug the internal speaker, or install a
switch to turn the keyclick on/off).

About the TI-99: I won't say anything about whether or not you should
get one insted of an Atari (I'm biased, I've had an Atari for decades). I
will note that if you decide to add an original TI-made floppy drive to
a TI-99, you'll be giving up a good chunk of desk space. The peripheral
expansion box is huge and heavy (seems solidly built at least). Using
a cassette for storage on a TI is just as miserable as it is on Atari.

It's not that I don't like the XLs. I would buy one if I run across it for a decent price, but I never do. Its design is only a tiny drawback.

I am pretty biased too, and I certainly prefer Atari over TI. I was just considering it because it had built in BASIC, a real keyboard, and I found one for a decent price.

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This doesn't have to be an "either/or" situation, at least among Atari models. Just be patient and collect all the ones you love. :)

 

 

IMG_9130.JPG

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If, as you say, you are “one of those people who only focus on original hardware” then you best not be looking at a 4A, let alone a beige one!  You want the original 99/4.  🤪

 

Just get both and be done with it.  

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43 minutes ago, kheller2 said:

If, as you say, you are “one of those people who only focus on original hardware” then you best not be looking at a 4A, let alone a beige one!  You want the original 99/4.  🤪

 

Just get both and be done with it.  

I don't mean something that specific when I mean original hardware. Any computer made before '93 and 1st or 3rd party accessories made in the same decade as the computer it was made for count as real retro to me.

Edited by bluejay

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The Atari was used with a rom simulator connected to an s-100 computer in the 80's, I have used that combination on the 2600 and the 800 series... You were able to update in real time... so long as the changes were made while the location was not in use, you could change the code and next time around a graphics item or simple typos like 'screan' being changed to 'screen' could be done without issue changing when next accessed. Simple fixes could be applied on the fly... if a bad mistake crashed the computer, you could fix the problem, press reset and the computer would would re initialize and run with the changes. When I see the current crop of emulation cartridges it seems the next logical step... but perhaps the closest to what once was is using a flashair sd card in the ultimate or other cartridge to allow updating the file and performing a reset to see the changes, not quite real time but pretty darn close.

Edited by _The Doctor__

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On 10/12/2019 at 7:11 PM, bluejay said:

Also, the Atari 8 bit requires a separate cartridge for BASIC.

Only the 400/800/1200XL require a separate BASIC cartridge, all later A8 models(600XL/800XL/65XE/130XE/800XE/XEGS) came with built-in BASIC. 

 

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7 hours ago, bluejay said:

I don't mean something that specific when I mean original hardware. Any computer made before '93 and 1st or 3rd party accessories made in the same decade as the computer it was made for count as real retro to me.

Good news then, SIO2PC came out during the 8-bit computer's lifetime, so it would be a valid replacement for a disk drive. You would need to upgrade the memory of your 400 to really use drives though. Finding a DOS computer with a serial port is probably easier and cheaper than trying to find a drive.

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On 10/12/2019 at 4:27 AM, xrbrevin said:

the TI99 doesnt have a delete key. so if you make a typo, do you have to start the whole listing from the beginning...?!

seems weird to me but the thing was designed back in the bakerlite age...

Function key and 1 key combo = delete!

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During the lifetime of the Atari 8Bits, many solutions appeared, which provided the use of state of the art technology for the Atari. Just one example is the Black Box, which allowed the use of 3.5 inch floppy drives and hard drives (SCSI, I´ve paid 600 Deutschmarks for my 20MB drive back in the day) with the Atari 8 Bit computers. So, using hardware, that allows to use current technology like CF and SD cards is no different from doing it with the "original" extensions available back then, I say.

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7 hours ago, skr said:

During the lifetime of the Atari 8Bits, many solutions appeared, which provided the use of state of the art technology for the Atari. Just one example is the Black Box, which allowed the use of 3.5 inch floppy drives and hard drives (SCSI, I´ve paid 600 Deutschmarks for my 20MB drive back in the day) with the Atari 8 Bit computers. So, using hardware, that allows to use current technology like CF and SD cards is no different from doing it with the "original" extensions available back then, I say.

The ICD MIO also allows use of SASI/SCSI HDD, there is even updated firmware available that allows use of 9/18GB drives.

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On 10/12/2019 at 1:27 AM, xrbrevin said:

the TI99 doesnt have a delete key. so if you make a typo, do you have to start the whole listing from the beginning...?!

seems weird to me but the thing was designed back in the bakerlite age...

I realize this thread is about the Atari 400, but the TI 99/4A has cursor movement keys for editing typos.  It doesn't use a full screen editor like the Atari or Commodore computers do, but it has a line editor and by using various key combinations you can move around in the line, insert characters, delete characters, etc.

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On 10/12/2019 at 12:22 PM, E474 said:

socketed chips

That's not completely true. You're lucky, if you find a fully socketed 800XL. I've socketed a bunch of 800XLs. From my experience, most 800XLs are not socketed.

 

I would prefer the 600XL with a 64k upgrade. Those are nearly always socketed (never had one which was not) and as extensible as an 800XL. The small form factor makes it the perfect machine to travel with.

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10 hours ago, skr said:

You're lucky, if you find a fully socketed 800XL.

Hong Kong made 800XLs *should* have fully socketed motherboards. Taiwan made 800XLs are a mystery until you open them up.  

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I decided to make the right choice and I bought a VIC 20. What are some good games for the vic 20?

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