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kiwilove

Expected life expectancy of Atari 8-bit hardware?

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Can anyone give any kind of prediction for the expected life of this old 8-bit Atari hardware?

 

We have them aged around 30 or so years now - so have anyone experienced any computer hardware (the machine itself) dying on them, because of old age?

 

And what is the robustness of the line-up of the computers --- how would you rate them - for their longevity?  The 400/800 the longest?  And which would be the least?  XE/XEGS?

 

I would guess those who have their own collection of hardware - do have back-ups.  I suppose I should start collecting a few - so that I can have some backups to use, when needed.  Like to get a 400 and 800 as part of a permanent collection.  I would fire them up on an irregular regular basis - thinking they'll last longer these way.

 

You can probably guess your own life expectancy - using your parents and siblings as guidelines.  Of course a healthy lifestyle would help you reach your longest time.

I wonder if any here have considered having at least one of their Atari's buried with them, when the time comes?  Or maybe having an Atari headstone made for them?

 

Harvey

 

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old tech was not built to expire, thats why theyre still going strong now! 😁

even the devices that have issues are repairable. diagnosis is the trickiest part, the actual component replacement is relatively easy due to through-hole PCB construction.

however, the XE range were built to a lower price so extra care must be taken with the PCB - they are prone to lifting traces. i suppose this could be an indication of 'the older the better'?

Edited by xrbrevin

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The 800 is a quality piece of hardware and was made to last, like the old ads said, that it was designed to never go obsolete, which of course was inevitable fate, with technology marching forward exponentially, regardless of what the engineers might have thought with the expand-ability and upgrade paths they built in or what marketing pitched. But they were made to last with the intention, by the engineers, that people would keep them and upgrade or expand them instead of buying a totally new computer. In a sense, this community has made part of that dream and sales pitch come true with the new CPU and Personality cards that give abilities even the engineers would never have dreamed of, and a life-expectancy beyond what they dreamed by us fans in the retro community. For me personally, the old ads ring true today because it has not become obsolete to me, because I still use it and the new hardware and software only cements that sentiment. We, the people have made it come true in some sense and by a certain metric just for our love of the machines.

 

But the later models had to become more cost effective, so quality had to be cut-down so they could be more affordable to compete with cheaper computers like the C64, since Atari was losing to Apple and IBM in the education and business markets, even though they had a more powerful computer for half the price of an Apple (with the intention of being able to capture much of the smaller business and home market that couldn't afford Apple's and IBM's), so they had to cling to their small business and home markets which the C64 threatened. So the XL line, though still high quality of build and better than the C64, may not have the longevity of the 800. But the plan was to be two tiered and have the high end models to compete in the high end markets with Apple and IBM, and the low end market with Commodore and others in that market. Of course Atari was bought by Tramiel and that all ended and instead a new line and an old line, both for the low end, and lower end markets was Jack's vision. Power without the price. So of course the XE line was made so cheaply, that even the engineers then didn't expect them to last more than 5 years, and figured they didn't have to by then because technology was advancing so quickly, they figured most people would upgrade to a newer computer by then anyway.

 

But Jack's vision was what drew me to the Atari 130XE which began my love affair with the A8 line, and if not for Jack, it is possible that I might have chosen a C128 or save up for an Apple II, and never have owned the best 8-bit computer ever designed, over all, if not for the $150 price tag for a computer with exactly what I was hoping for; a 6502 and 128K, just like the much more expensive Apple IIe/c or the C128. I might have still ended up with an XL, but the chances of that were slim due to them only having 64K when I had my mind set on a 128K machine. Even though I've long since parted with the 130XE and it's mushy keyboard in favor of better quality of build and keyboards of the 1200XL and 800, especially since I could upgrade the XL to more than 128K and now the Incognito for the 800 even more so!

 

But it must have been destiny, because my first ever encounter with a computer was an Atari 800 in a department store, even before I owned a 2600, and I fell in love with it at first site, and I would have gotten it if my family could have afforded it. But then I learned to use computers on Apple II's and I had all but forgotten about the 800 which I wouldn't have wanted by 1985 since it was only 48K, and I didn't even know the XL line existed, so by the time I was ready for a computer, Jack's Atari 130XE brought my long lost love home finally.

 

But our collections and the active community prove it all has lasted far longer than anyone would have guessed 30-40 years ago. Of course many of us have had to replace components and chips that burn out over the years, which along with upgrades doubling or quadrupling use of some custom chips in the computer, these chips are becoming more rare and even the need to create modern replacements has arisen. So I'd say the basic "chassis" life of these computers is still indefinite, they're life span is in jeopardy due to lack of replacement IC's at least with the custom chips. Luckily industry standard components and support IC's are still being manufactured and are readily available for cheap, regardless of the newer SMT components. As long as we the community continue to make modern substitutions of the custom IC's, like the POKEYmax and come up with replacements for the ones that don't have them yet, these computers could out live us all, with proper care and maintenance.

 

 

Edited by Gunstar
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For me and my collection, I have pretty high hopes of it continuing long after I expire due to poor built quality 💀

 

My Grandson has always played as a young child on my 130XE and ST plus loads of the game systems Jaguar, Nintendo's etc.

He has started collecting all the 'retro' hardware and software and has already built up an impressive collection.

 

So I know at least my Atari collection will carry on in his capable hands.

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In an entirely unscientific sampling, I recently unearthed a collection of consoles and computers that my friend and I amassed in the 90s that has been in storage for 20 years that I'm sorting through and preparing for display now.

 

It contained:

 

2 Atari 800XL

1 Atari 1200XL

1 Atari XE Game System

1 Atari 130XE

2 Light Sixer Atari 2600

2 Four Switch Woodgrain Atari 2600

1 Atari 2600 Jr.

3 Atari 7800

1 Atari Jaguar

1 Super Nintendo

 

Out of all of that only two had 'real' problems. One 4-switch 2600 didn't power on at all. Looking inside it, it looks like it had been submerged at some point. And one 800XL powers on and only shows a green screen. That one didn't look as bad on the inside, but there was clearly some rust and corrosion - and the keyboard was really dirty so I suspect it had gotten rained on.

 

The only other problems are really just a few switches on the 2600s are either a little jittery or need to be resoldered - most likely because they weren't stored terribly carefully and these issues should be easy to resolve.

 

So unless you submerge it or leave it out in the rain you're pretty much golden!

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7 hours ago, kiwilove said:

Can anyone give any kind of prediction for the expected life of this old 8-bit Atari hardware?

 

We have them aged around 30 or so years now - so have anyone experienced any computer hardware (the machine itself) dying on them, because of old age?

 

And what is the robustness of the line-up of the computers --- how would you rate them - for their longevity?  The 400/800 the longest?  And which would be the least?  XE/XEGS?

 

I would guess those who have their own collection of hardware - do have back-ups.  I suppose I should start collecting a few - so that I can have some backups to use, when needed.  Like to get a 400 and 800 as part of a permanent collection.  I would fire them up on an irregular regular basis - thinking they'll last longer these way.

 

You can probably guess your own life expectancy - using your parents and siblings as guidelines.  Of course a healthy lifestyle would help you reach your longest time.

I wonder if any here have considered having at least one of their Atari's buried with them, when the time comes?  Or maybe having an Atari headstone made for them?

 

Harvey

 

The XL/XE computers tend to develop keyboard problems where some keys don't work.   Half of my disks no longer boot.  Apart from that, it works.

 

Build quality  800 is the best, the XL line is in between,  and the XE line just feels cheaply made (to me anyway)

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Said it before but my son has been running a 130XE 24/7 for about 5 years (except for a few weeks of vacation every year) and so far it has not developed any perceptible flaws. I am confident some of my Ataris will outlive me (which might require less time than they have endured so far) and maybe my kids want to take some. If they don't outlive me or if there are no more displays to hook them up to even with RetroTink to HDMI to whatever supersedes HDMI ten years from now, I'll play some emulated games (probably adjusting the speed to my deteriorating dexterity), and if there are no more emulator ports for the computers of the time I hope I'll be too old to remember what I'm missing. 

 

I certainly don't plan to be buried with an Atari, nor beneath a Fuji headstone. I'd rather have the machines used by my kids or passed on to someone who cares.

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1 hour ago, zzip said:

Half of my disks no longer boot.

This right here is the biggest issue with old Atari computers. The disks going bad, the drives going bad, or both. Back when I still used my Atari regularly (through the mid 90s), I replaced drives about every three or four years. These days, I have an SIO2SD instead. The drive and floppies will NEVER go bad again! 😄

 

Other than that, the main thing I noticed is the POKEY serial on the A400 can wear out after four to five years of heavy use. They didn't buffer the serial lines from the POKEY, so the draw eventually kills the serial and you'll need a new POKEY.

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Out of 3 2600s,  a 400, an 800, 3 800xl's,  and 4 1050 drives.... All still work fine except the 400, which just shows a solid green screen. So I'd say longevity is pretty good overall.  And in contrast to the person who said 50% of their disks were bad,  as of 2 years ago, I was shocked that every disk but one that I tried still worked fine. These items were in regular use throughout the 80s,  and then stored in their boxes in a bedroom closet from roughly 1990-2009. Since then they get rotated, seeing light occasional use/playtime. I would assume that an item left in a damp basement for years,  or in a hot attic, would be more likely to have a shortened lifespan.  But if reasonably cared for,  they can last a lifetime. 

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1200/14x0XL(D) were good build quality. It was the 600/800XLx when they started to get cheap. It was dramatically worse during the XE Tramiel period,

 

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None have died from age while using them. I keep a defib kit nearby for those occasions. CLEAR!! A few that were acquired in non-working state probably from age or poor storage. As for rating their longevity, it's good. There are a lot of A8's out there that work %100. More of the chips may start to fail over the next few decades from corrosion creep into the package..? The biggest threat to A8's is not age, but people throwing them away.

 

IMO the 800 is already showing age due to the keyboard plungers cracking and failing on at least two variants (yellow and some white plungers). So the XL line is more reliable in that regard, especially the XL mechs which are of a much more serviceable design. The 400/800/810 cases are going brittle.

 

All of my original 5.25" floppies work. Knocking on wood.  No problems. I never stored them in a basement where humidity can get to them.

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When we're referencing the XL line, there are two tiers here that are getting blended together.  The Atari 1200XL is a different animal in the quality department than the 600XL and 800XL.  To me, and I've had many machines through my hands, the 1200XL is hands down the best quality made Atari 8-bit.  400s seem to have issues with the PWR board and usually blow the fuse in the 9VAC brick. 800s have issues with OS board and card edge oxidation.  The 1200XL has a chronic issue with the mylar, but it can be remedied easily.  You don't need a new part, just fix the existing part.  Aside from that, the build quality of the 1200XL is amazing.  One board made of a high quality PCB, sockets and solid hefty case.  The keyboard fits a computer meant to sell for $899.  The 1200XL was built when the sales price was still high, so the materials chosen reflect that.  The 600XL and 800XL were built to compete with the C-64.  Atari quickly understood that they couldn't continue to build the 1200XL and be relevant in 1983.  Atari thought so highly of the 1200XL industrial design, it was the basis for the future flagship 1400XL and 1450XLD. They look like bigger 1200XLs with same lines and keyboard.     

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IIRC the 1200XL is known for having cold solder joints. Also the video quality is known to be bad. Though the one I just got stock video looks good so I don't know what are the statistics. The 1200 has many components on the motherboard, increasing failure risk. 600/800XL were not merely cheapening of the platform, but a very needed optimization.  I agree the 1200 does feel more like a premium quality product. Its external aesthetic design is awesome.

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I'd not worry about the PCB dying, I'd think more of the wear and tear issues, switches, keyboard (certain popular keys and the console keys)  and possibly connectors IF they are removed a lot, the rest in most cases is built like a battleship..

Edited by Mclaneinc

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Whoa.  Great subject.  I know I will pass before all my 'treasures' expire.   Then the spousal unit will have her revenge,"Dump all that crap in the trash".  I will cry, and cry, and cry, and cry.....

 

Been an Atari 8 user since 1982.  That XL my mum provided to me still fires up.  It's not used daily, but what is?  Don't answer that...

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From 30+ years experiencing using 800/XL computers... they are basically the Keith Richards of the retro world. Things are built like tanks. Most of the failures (outside the cheaper XE line) seem to be from power supplies that go bad and fry something or from moisture/exposure to the elements.

Kept inside, and taken care of, outside the occasional keyboard overhaul, they are rock solid. When we all die in the coming Mad Max apocalypse, the cockroaches that gain sentience afterwords will probably be playing Donkey Kong on them. 😀

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> When we all die in the coming Mad Max apocalypse, the cockroaches that gain sentience afterwords will probably be playing Donkey Kong on them.

And Keith Richards shall be their King, upon his throne of Tupperware...

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Been using my Atari 8-bits since 1982.  Only item I had fail was an SX212 modem and a 1050 drive.  Never had a computer go out on me, but I have bought one or two from Ebay that had either a bad ANTIC or GTIA chip.  Pretty good track record though!

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Sir Keith Richards (the oldest-longest living Humanoid in existance) WILL atop a heap of plastic ware (Tupperware), smokin' a Fag (as it were) and munchin' a biscuit (as it were) and praisin' the LORD of Rock 'N Roll and, of course, ATARI!  All Hail The King, King Richards.  We should all used when when had the opportunity.  Green stuff is the new....Well, Green.

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15 hours ago, Sugarland said:

IIRC the 1200XL is known for having cold solder joints. Also the video quality is known to be bad. Though the one I just got stock video looks good so I don't know what are the statistics. The 1200 has many components on the motherboard, increasing failure risk. 600/800XL were not merely cheapening of the platform, but a very needed optimization.  I agree the 1200 does feel more like a premium quality product. Its external aesthetic design is awesome.

I've had more 1200XLs pass my way than any other and have yet to find a bad solder joint.  Yes the stock video sucks (chroma not even hooked up to monitor jack??), but we're talking about reliability here.  The stock video begs for the ClearPic 2002 mod, but it is still rock solid reliable.  As to everything on one board, that to me is a plus.  No flexing on main board when other cards are inserted.  No unnecessary ribbon cables and such.  The PCB itself is of excellent quality.  It has heft (stiffness and rigidity) plus durable high quality traces.  There is nothing cheap about it.  Again, this thing was meant to sell at $899.  I've had issues with the 400 and 800.  I love the beige originals, but they are not more reliable than the 1200XL.  I've owned a number of 800XLs as well BITD and I can't say I had any trouble with them and I modded them a lot.  I never owned an XE.  The stuff I had was good quality, but the 1200XL after 35+ years is amazingly reliable.   

Edited by ACML
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16 hours ago, gilsaluki said:

Whoa.  Great subject.  I know I will pass before all my 'treasures' expire.   Then the spousal unit will have her revenge,"Dump all that crap in the trash".  I will cry, and cry, and cry, and cry.....

 

Been an Atari 8 user since 1982.  That XL my mum provided to me still fires up.  It's not used daily, but what is?  Don't answer that...

Mine says she's going to put them all in the 'Box' with me when I expire 👻 so I have something to do 

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