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The Atari XEGS, was released in 1987, and on its first month on the market sold 110,000 units, all that they produced, was discontinued with the release of the Atari Jaguar. All it is, is an Atari 8-bit computing system reworked into gaming console. Many computer companies tried doing this, c64gs, amiga cd 32, cdtv, amstrad gx4000, all of which catastrophically failed. The amiga cd32 even bankrupted their company. All of those systems are commonly talked about and trashed in the video game community, yet the Atari XEGS, which did exactly what they did is barley mentioned. It sold better then all of them and didnt have wierd quirks like the other computer game systems. It was marketed as a game system with the power of a computer, which means they were competing with themselves in the market with the Atari 7800. Thus is just a weird footnote in video game history, any comments? 

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Well, I have to disagree with the majority of your post, and certainly with respect to the XEGS. There are many, many threads on this issue, and you should probably take a look at the FAQ, but the A8 line was officially discontinued on January 1, 1992, well before the launch of the Jaguar. There is some sales data, though, showing that it was still being sold by Atari in mid-1992. And the XEGS was not a commercial success by most standards...although Atari Corp. may have had different standards in 1987.

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Some call it a console but I call it a computer.

By console standards you could probably say under 2 million is a failure or lukewarm success at best.

In a sense you could say Atari themselves defined that standard.  Look at others like 5200, Lynx and Jaguar.

Actually the Lynx sold 3 million according to the Wiki article.  But compared to it's inferior contemporaries like Gameboy and Game Gear it was a failure.

5200 - 1 million (maybe an optimistic figure), Jaguar barely 250,000.

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Until I joined the forum, I didn't even know the XEGS even existed, did it even sell in the UK ?

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It was practically obsolete at introduction anyway so you can't expect too much.  Given it's timespan of near 5 years it probably had OK sales.  I've seen plenty on eBay.

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I remember when it was released,  a lot of the Atari 8-bit community were up in arms about it.   They wanted the Atari 8bit line to be taken seriously as a computing platform, and not simply a game machine.

 

Around this time, Atari was doing their road shows/computer faires in various cities.  It came to my town, and Bill Wilkinson of OSS, (who was very influential in 8bit circles) was a speaker.   I remember he got questioned about the XEGS at his talk, and he said the Atari community was looking at it all wrong--  the XEGS was great for productivity because it was the first and only 8-bit with a detachable keyboard that could sit on your lap, and he personally loved that feature.

 

At the time I couldn't understand the rationale for it.  Atari had the 7800 that seemed superior for gaming purposes (on paper anyway)

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The keyboard cable must be almost the shortest in history (probably only beaten by Creativision).  You'd have the computer portion practically on your lap as well.

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9 minutes ago, Rybags said:

The keyboard cable must be almost the shortest in history (probably only beaten by Creativision).  You'd have the computer portion practically on your lap as well.

Well, yes. The XEGS gets an "A" for concept and design, and a D for execution. It would have cost them pennies to make that damned cable longer and more flexible and perhaps a few dollars more for a better keyboard, but nope. That, coupled with the fact that the main architecture had zero improvements (where was my AMY???) meant that I bought one...and then kept it in its box, while I continued to usedmy 130XE.

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was it just another attempt to use up their inventory of chips?

at the time, i thought it was strange because 16 bit computers had been available for a year or two

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The XEGS is one of my favourite 8 flavours of Atari 8 bits!

 

It's actually the only one I currently have set up, mostly because of the detachable keyboard and the ability to use the TK-II-XEGS-S allowing the use of a regular PS2 style keyboard.  Mine also has a U1MB in it.  Downside is image quality...no monitor out port.  

 

 

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34 minutes ago, 8bitguy1 said:

It's actually the only one I currently have set up, mostly because of the detachable keyboard and the ability to use the TK-II-XEGS-S allowing the use of a regular PS2 style keyboard.

Its even nicer now, having been redesigned for a more compact and secure outcome.

TK-II-GS_installed1.JPG

TK-II-GS LINK

 

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1 hour ago, Rybags said:

The keyboard cable must be almost the shortest in history.

Given that the keyboard has two hooks on the back that correspond to notches in the main unit, one could surmise that the two were designed to be kept together, and that detaching the keyboard was primarily meant as a space-saving option.

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7 minutes ago, mytek said:

Its even nicer now, having been redesigned for a more compact and secure outcome.

TK-II-GS_installed1.JPG

TK-II-GS LINK

 

That's the version I have!! Love it.  

 

Edit: Or not.  That doesn't have the two holes mine has, seems same size though.

Edited by 8bitguy1
I was wrong!

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44 minutes ago, 8bitguy1 said:

That's the version I have!! Love it.  

 

Edit: Or not.  That doesn't have the two holes mine has, seems same size though.

You probably have this one.

5678685.jpg?1524203239

Which is just a tiny bit longer, and has been circumvented by the newer model.

 

The main difference is that the length and width has been reduced, due to adopting a different style Dsub-15 connector. The newer version is also a bit easier to assemble, although it still requires modification of that connector (sawing off the ears). The right angle bracket mounting holes were also eliminated because there simply wasn't any room for those due to the board's size reduction. However those would not have been used for the XEGS application anyway, and were just there for people that might have wanted to mount this internally in a non-XEGS system (probably not something that ever happened).

 

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At launch time I already had a 130XE, and so was not looking for a replacement with less RAM.  From memory here in the UK the XEGS got a fair write up from Andre Willey in Atari User magazine.

 

However the first time I saw one was when a friend purchased one.  Ironically it was because I would take my 800XL to his place and play games and he wanted his own Atari 8 bit.  When I saw his XEGS, there was no doubt in my mind his Bug Hunt was not as fun as my Barnyard Blaster.  It was a very nice system (except for the joystick, keybard connectors and the cartridge wobble).

 

Today my go to machine is my XEGS unmodified with its' 64k.

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Apparently it was a success from two perspectives.  Atari had a lot of excess inventory (carts, etc) that the console helped move (free money).  The rumor is it was profitable. Second it was a success in that it was a good computer to console conversion, unlike several other failed attempts. The myth that only 110,000 were sold is apparently incorrect. That was just the first xmas season and I presume meant sold to stores.  Allegedly the store return rate was high. It might be possible to better guestimate how many were made by using ebay sales over the past twenty+ years as a comparative gauge.

 

In 1987 Missile Command was old and it would have been nice if they included a built-in game with better graphics and sound.  Flight Simulator II was for 14+ year olds, not kids.

 

IMO turning it on with the keyboard plugged in should give a simple menu with instructions and BASIC as a selection. The bare READY prompt likely confused many people. "Ready for what?? Honey I bought this Atari for Bobby and it says READY. What's that?" asks Fred. "Honey I don't know." says Betty. If they had the patience to read the instructions that means they had already decided to keep it. As was previously mentioned it was a good fit for those who already wanted an A8, a niche product. It was as if Atari didn't know the greater market and so catered to an ever shrinking customer base.  Nothing wrong with that per se.  Epic Software and even Apple, Inc were two such companies who then had huge successes. Sometimes it happens.

 

They are nice machines and are a welcome member to the A8 line. Wish the build quality was better, more like an XL. All of the A8 models have their merits and none are 'bad'.

 

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I have had all the 8-bits.  Each one has a spot in (or on) my heart.  I use as my daily, the XEGS.  It just looks nice.  It is real EZ to upgrade to 128K Ram, so basically you have a 130XE with a detachable KB. The KB is NOT the best, but with the PS2 KB plug in, I love it with my real IBM Module M clicky keyboard attached.  I can accept the video output quality hooked to my CRT with is bright and very readable.  I love the Pastel buttons as well.  Very Miami Vice-ish.

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A long long time ago... Mathew Ratcliff (RIP) wrote the XEGS manager for, errrmm, Antic or Analog magazine. And he not only wrote a manual for it, but a longer article - for the history of "Why the XEGS ?", it's enough if you read the first two paragraphs...   (And maybe take a look at youtube and other sources to find out, there was a newer/better Atari console "Mirai" in the works with a larger cart. port that looked exactly like the XEGS, but was never released, e.g.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzQ1LDaf38c )

 

----- cut here -----

 

"ATARI XEGS INFORMATION By Matthew Ratcliff (In Memoriem!)
 
This look inside the Atari XE Game System includes two programs.
XEGS Manager is a utility for convenient control of all the Game
System's built-in features, but many of its options can also be used on
the other Atari XL/XE computers. The second BASIC program is a short
"spray-painting" routine for testing light guns.


Atari executives asked the heads of several major toy store chains
which product they'd rather sell -- the powerful 65XE home computer for
about $80, or a fancy new game system for about $150. The answer
was, "You can keep the computer, give us that game machine!"
This "game machine" is what we now know as the Atari XEGS, the
XL-compatible Extended memory Game System. It's simply an
enhanced 65XE in a game machine package. It's also a brilliant idea.
The XEGS has been selling out almost as fast as toy stores can get
them in.

 

The XEGS may not seem like such a hot idea to serious Atari
computer users. But just think about it. If you were afraid of computers
or don't have the foggiest idea what to do with one, you'd have
absolutely no interest in an Atari 65XE -- even if it could play great
games. However, you'd probably have no compunction about buying a
great video game system, the XEGS, as a new addition to the family
entertainment center.
Now we'll take a close technical look at the Atari XEGS. I'll explain
how some of its changes in physical design have affected the operating
system software. I'll also present the XEGS Manager, a utility for
controlling all the built-in features of the XEGS.

 

KEYBOARD
The keyboard of the XEGS is detachable. When not connected, the
XEGS console looks (and acts) like just a tame little game console. In
fact, Missile Command is turned on automatically.
Plug in the keyboard and turn on the machine without an external
cartridge, and you're running Atari BASIC, Revision C. The keyboard is
virtually identical to the one found on the 130XE. It's mushy, but you
can get used to it.
The cable on the XEGS keyboard is quite short. There are two
brackets at the top of the keyboard case which lock neatly under the
front of the console. The keyboard connector is a standard DB15
female. My first XEGS project was to construct an extension cable for
the keyboard. I find it far more comfortable to type for a long time with
the keyboard on my lap than on a desk.
Inside the XEGS keyboard case is a small circuit board. On it you
will find some resistors, capacitors and two CD4051 chips, which
decode the keypresses and send an internal keycode back to the
POKEY chip in the XEGS. I already made an adapter cable to connect
the XEGS keyboard to the 800XL joystick ports.

 

So far my efforts at "scanning" the external keyboard manually have
failed -- the POKEY chip does this automatically in the XEGS -- but I
hope to bring you a laptop keyboard utility program that lets you use
the XEGS keyboard on any other Atari computer with minimal hardware
hacking -- just a cable.

 

MEMORY
There are only two RAM chips in the XEGS, which deliver a full 64K
of RAM. They're Texas Instruments TMS4464-12 64K-by-4-bit chips. In
the XL/XE computers, eight 64K-by-1-bit chips are used. Fewer chips
improves reliability and generally reduces the cost of producing the
machine. In fact, the XEGS contains a total of only 17 chips.
ICD has indicated that it is working on a RAM upgrade kit for the
XEGS similar to the RAMBO XL for the Atari 800XL. I've already
received a 128K RAM upgrade kit from Innovative Concepts for my
XEGS, making it fully 130XE-compatible. I'll review this in a future
issue.

 

Using higher-density ROM chips, the updated XEGS operating
system had 8K of spare ROM. Atari decided to use that extra ROM for
the Missile Command game, which is bank-switched in and out much
like how Atari BASIC is toggled on and off. Missile Command can be
enabled by holding the [SELECT] key during power-up when a
keyboard is connected. When in BASIC, you can enter BYE to get to
the Self Test. From there, pressing [RESET] while holding the
[SELECT] sends control to Missile Command. Press [RESET] in
Missile Command, while holding [OPTION], to return to the Self Test.
Press [RESET] by itself to return to BASIC. (Reboot if a disk drive is
connected.)

 

LIGHT GUN
The XEGS comes with a light gun called the XG-1. The Nintendo light
gun is more accurate -- if something is lined up in its sights, that's
exactly what you hit. Not so with the XG-1. You'll find that it often
shoots to the left or right, depending on the software you're running.
The XG-1 is simply a specialized light pen. Light pen support was
built into the earliest Atari computers, but it never really caught on. In
the shape of a gun, the light pen has brought a whole new dimension to
video games applications. The light pen horizontal position, LPENH,
can be PEEKed at memory location 564, and the vertical position,
LPENV, is found at location 565.
Light gun values range from 0 to 227. You will notice that your
horizontal readings are quite odd. Try the sample program below, and
notice how the GUN-X readings vary as you sweep the gun across the
screen, left to right.

 

10 LPENH=564
20 LPENV=565
30 GRAPHICS 0:POKE 752,1:POKE 712,15
40 POSITION 0,0:FOR I=1 TO 4: "0123456789";:NEXT I
50  "GUN-X=";PEEK(LPENH);" "
60  "GUN-Y=";PEEK(LPENV);" "
70  "TRIGR=";STICK(0)
80 GOTO 50

 

Point the gun to the far left of the display and GUN-X will read about
88. Moving from left to right, the reading will reach 227 at about column
34. Then suddenly it drops to 0 and increases again to about 30 at
column 39. This offset is due to the delay between when a pixel is
actually lit on the display and when the information is relayed from the
light gun sensor to the POKEY chip, which latches an internal scan
counter for the pen reading.

 

The old Atari 400/800 Hardware Technical Reference recommends a
"calibration procedure" each time the light pen is used, so that the
software can compensate for this offset. A calibration procedure would
improve the accuracy of the light gun. But Atari's Bug Hunt and
Barnyard Blaster games both have "hard-coded" values -- different ones
in fact. While Bug Hunt appears to shoot slightly to the left, Barnyard
Blaster seems to shoot a tad to the right. The Y readings for the gun
are more predictable, equal to half the number of the currently
displayed scan line. You'll notice with your test program that GUN-Y
only varies from about 17 to 115. Note that you get much better
performance out of the light gun near the screen edges, when you use
a light colored border achieved with the POKE 712,15 above.
You'll need to perform some computations to adjust for these
unusual readings, to convert gun coordinates to screen coordinates.
Different conversion factors are required for each graphics mode (and
P/M graphics).

 

The gun won't return reliable readings at all if the intensity of the
display is too low. That's why the screens for Atari light gun games
may be brighter than usual. The game screen will momentarily flash
white whenever you press the trigger in either Bug Hunt or Barnyard
Blaster. While the screen is all white, the software reads the gun
position and provides the most accurate values.
Listing 1 presents a simple Graphics mode 8 "spray-painting"
program for testing the XG-1. Dots are drawn whenever the fire button is
pressed. Try holding the gun very steady to see how much jitter you
get in the readings. These inaccuracies are reflected in your games as
well. I feel that, at the higher levels of play, Bug Hunt and Barnyard
Blaster both require more accuracy for continued play than the XG-1
can deliver.

 

Atari has informed me, however, that the XG-1 and a revised Bug
Hunt will be released as a separate package. If you're tired of waiting,
you may wish to pick up the Sega light gun, for about $25 (when on
sale) and modify it for the Atari.
To modify the Sega gun for the Atari, you'll have to cut off the
incompatible connector. The wires must be stripped back and soldered
into an Atari joystick connector as follows:

SEGA GUN ATARI JOYSTICK PORT
Blue wire Pin 1 stick FWD
Gray wire Pin 6 trigger
Green wire Pin 7 +5 volts
Black wire Pin 8 Ground

 

Because of the close-fitting connections for the XEGS ports, don't
wire in a DB9 female connector that has "ears." Most joysticks don't
have wires for unused signals, so cutting up an old joystick cable may
not work. Specifically, an Atari joystick does not need the +5 volts, so
there isn't likely to be a wire connected to Pin 7. However, you can find
joystick extension cables at Radio Shack, which have all nine pins
wired from male to female. ANTIC disclaims responsibility for any
damages that might occur during improper implementaton of this, or
any, hardware modification project we publish.
Once it's all hooked up, you'll notice that gun fires when you release
the trigger, which is annoying. The Sega trigger wiring is the opposite of
what the Atari light gun uses. To rewire the trigger switch, remove the
five screws (one is under the Sega logo on the side). Find the trigger
micro switch with three connections. Wire to the normally closed
contacts instead of normally open.

 

XEGS MANAGER
Listing 2, XEGSMGR.BAS, is a BASIC loader that lets you create a
machine language file on disk. Type it in, check it with TYPO II and
SAVE a copy before you RUN it. The file XEGSMGR.EXE can then be
loaded from DOS or renamed AUTORUN.SYS. Many of the program's
features also can be applied to Atari XL/XE computers.
Normally you must press the [OPTION] key at boot time to disable
BASIC and go directly to DOS. And once BASIC is off, the only way to
get it back on is rebooting. Option 1 of XEGS Manager is to turn
internal BASIC on, and option 2 turns it off.
Disabling BASIC while in DOS provides an additional 8K buffer for file
copying. This is an important feature for owners of a single drive. Quite
often, BASIC must be off before certain machine language files can be
loaded and run. The XEGS Manager eliminates the need of rebooting
every time that BASIC must be re-enabled.

 

SELF TEST
The XEGS Self Test lets you test the computer's sound registers,
keyboard, and memory. However, BASIC is not turned off automatically
when Self Test is run from the BYE command. This means that the 8K
of RAM under BASIC isn't tested. Option 3 from the XEGS Manager
lets you run the Self Test with BASIC off, so that the maximum
ammount of RAM is tested.

 

RAM OS
All of the operating system of the XEGS (and 64K or more XL/XE
machines) is "shadowed" by RAM. Some disk operating systems,
such as DOS XL and SpartaDOS, use hidden RAM for many of their
own functions. However, if you're using Atari DOS 2.0 or 2.5, then there
is a lot of RAM going to waste in your machine.
Option 4 of the XEGS Manager lets you enable a RAM-based
operating system so you can do some real "hacking" -- disassembling
and adjusting parts of the XEGS operating system to suit your needs.
Even if you're not a hacker, there are other practical features of a RAM
OS. Once the RAM operating system is enabled, you are prompted for a
disk drive number, 1-8 or 0 to exit. A custom font can be loaded in
place of the standard one in the OS ROMs: enter the drive number to
display a directory of all .FNT files. Then enter the name of the font file
to load, or simply press [RETURN] to change drives or disks.
You needn't enter the drive specifier or extender -- the XEGS
Manager will take care of that for you. The font file is loaded into
memory at $E000 (57344). Then you're prompted to (1) repeat the
process and try a different font, or (2) exit. (You will find some font files
on this month's ANALOG disk as a bonus.)

 

Your RAM OS and font are reset-proof, too. Pressing the [RESET]
key causes the XEGS to re-enable the ROM-based operating system,
but a special handler in Page 6 of memory takes control after that. The
handler converts the ROM back to RAM, recopying all the essential
parts of the ROM OS, in case part of this RAM area got clobbered
while you were hacking about. The handler does not recopy the ROM
OS font, however, leaving yours intact. Should your RAM font get
garbled somehow, press [RESET] while holding the [START] console
key to return to the ROM font. Each time that [RESET] is pressed, a
RAM OS prompt is displayed at the top of the screen as a reminder.
If you enable a RAM OS while running SpartaDOS, the XEGS
Manager detects it and prevents the installation and subsequent
system crash. The Manager does not automatically detect any other
DOS, such as DOS XL, which may crash when a RAM OS is enabled.

 

MISSILE COMMAND
Again, if you turn on your XEGS without the keyboard connected (or
hold down the [SELECT] key at power-up), Missile Command fires up
automatically. Option 6 of the XEGS Manager will get you into Missile
Command without having to mess with any console keys or power
switches.

 

CONCLUSIONS
The XEGS is a superb little computer. It's still a hacker's system too.
I've found that the PBI ROM routines are intact, which means that you
should be able to hack in your own custom PBI connector and use the
XEGS with ICD's MIO board, if you're a real solder jockey.
The XEGS has brought along a lot of new software too, something
Atari was counting on. Much of it includes repackaged classics or
cartridge conversions from disk-based software, but there are a few new
titles such as Battle Zone. Atari's new 256K bank-switch cartridges are
not likely to be pirated. This means that the piracy threat for 8-bit Atari
software should be minimal, thus attracting more new software vendors
from the traditional Apple and Commodore markets.
If Atari can provide a responsive cartridge production service for third
party software vendors (something the old Atari never would have done),
then we're likely to see the software base for the 8-bit Ataris grow with
the popularity of the game industry, which is definitely on the rise
again. Mathew Ratcliff "

 

 

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The Atari Mirai: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzQ1LDaf38c

 

Cancelled Game Consoles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pS7u2skk_Qg

(approx. 4:34)

 

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29 minutes ago, CharlieChaplin said:

The Atari Mirai: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzQ1LDaf38c

 

Cancelled Game Consoles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pS7u2skk_Qg

(approx. 4:34)

 

But is the Mirai the same project as the Super XEGS? It looks like the Mirai would have been based on different architecture (with a similar case).

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13 minutes ago, xrbrevin said:

XEGS can be modded to 128k quite easily

Yes!  I installed the Innovative Concepts 128K upgrade in my XEGS years ago, and it's still working fine.  I posted scans of the original documentation and installation diagram in another thread, and an ASCII version (minus the diagram) here.

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keyboard cable is easily extended - but i agree they were mad to have sold it that way.  My favorite system - though I hate the pastel button colors.

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27 minutes ago, doctor_x said:

  My favorite system - though I hate the pastel button colors.

I don't know about that anymore. I think that the XEGS is the most stylish thing that Atari Corp. sold, and a refreshing change from the greige boringness of the XE/ST line. 

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