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Dear 8-bitters

 

Your advice on which Atari micro to purchase would be greatly appreciated!

 

I thinking of getting back into the Atari 8-bit scene and plan using the machine with some regularity but am not sure if I should go with an Atari 130XE or Atari 800. To me the Atari 800 is very special indeed as it was my first micro computer so it holds an enormous sentimental place in my heart but then again I might be better off with a machine that has more RAM, has BASIC built-in and can enjoy a larger software base. In addition to this, I would like to get one of those newer hardware add-ons like the FujiNet which I know very little about but keep hearing about or an SIO to SD type of device, something I have also only heard about. The plan is to avoid the need for a floppy drive on either system and if I can load software from the LAN it would be pretty incredible.

 

Can both the 800 and 130XE benefit from either of these hardware add-ons? Can the Atari 800 enjoy a RAM upgrade today and is it relatively affordable?

 

What advice would you offer?

 

Kind regards

—Alex

Edited by santoscork
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In today's world, both machines are upgradeable to the point where they're functionally the same.

 

A Rev. C BASIC cartridge for the 800 will run you about $20 from Best, so not exactly a huge expense.

 

The FujiNet will work with any A8 system with at least 32K of RAM, so as long as you have that much you're set.  64K is strongly recommended, and it will basically eliminate the need for a floppy drive.  Make this your first peripheral acquisition.

 

If I were in your shoes, I'd go for the 800 since you have an attachment to it already.  Frankly, it'd be my choice as well since I also had one but never an XE.

 

Nothing wrong with the 130XE; it does have more RAM out of the box but as either one can be expanded to some ridiculously high numbers (1MB-plus), it's something of a moot point.  The 800's keyboard is way better than the XE's, however.

Edited by x=usr(1536)
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I have both.    Actually got a pretty good deal a few years ago on both machines you mentioned.   I think I paid $100 for the pair.  Both worked great.    I prefer the 800, as they are built like a tank, Plus that was my second computer (400 was the first).   48K is great, but I would get the Incognito board with FJC firmware (Hi Jonathan!!)   XE just does not seem to have the same build quality as the original 800, and Jack & company wanted to cut costs on the XL, so created the XE.   Glad I have one in the collection, but it sits in the box.  800 and 800XL (and Altira) get all the use.   With one of the above carts, You can put Mac65, Atari Basic Rev C and everything thing else you so desire on a flash drive and run it from the cartridge port.

 

As far as upgrades, Get an Ultimate Cart, Uno cart, SIDE 2 or SIDE 3 cart or something similar.  The later will act as an IDE hard drive, and you will not need a disk drive,  I personally have the SIO2PC and love it.  I keep all my rom images on my PC (for Altira) and it lets me use the PC as 8 5 1/4" floppy drives connected  to the 800/800XL.  Long file names and all.  Makes it really nice.  Also have SIO2SD, S-Drive Max  and a few others.    With one of the above carts, You can put Mac65, Atari Basic Rev C and everything thing else you so desire on a flash drive and run it from the cartridge port.

 

Finally, You need a FujiNet.   Thank me later for that one.

 

I work overnights, and am very tired, as I just got home from work.  Some of the devices listed above serve multiple functions, and do the same stuff as others, so everything I mentioned is not needed.   Example SIDE carts and Fujinet both load ATR disk images, so you do not need both.   I will let someone else advise you on that.  I am going to bed.   Welcome back to the family!

 

 

Edited by scotty
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Like a lot of people here I have both and have upgraded both to U1M on the 130XE and Incognito on the 800, I use

both, with SIDE3 on the 130XE and although I love the 130XE it's the 800 that I just want to hug, I also use an SDrive-MAX

for anything SIO, if I ever sell off my Atari gear the 800 is the one that will stay. 

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Assuming you can find an 800 that's sound due to the fact the original 400/800 are the oldest of the range, I say 800 with Incognito.

 

The 800 is a timeless design, probably the only computer that could survive a nuclear detonation. Perhaps that's the reason they're built within a literal Faraday cage? The threat was very real in the day.

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The Tank 800... Love the design... PAL are rare thanks I got one... Like to play MULE on it.

 

My working horses are a 65XE with VbxE and 130XE... As I am lucky to have a 320XE ram cart I can plug in/out 576kb ;)

 

 

Special place in my heart are my dozens 800 XL... My first 64kb machine after my VIC20.

Now as I am writing.... I still miss a 400/1200xl/600xl 

😉

 

Edited by Heaven/TQA
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I have both Atari 800 (stock) and 130XE (stock) and both are amazing in their own way :) 

 

Atari 130XE (or 65XE or late 800XL with Freddie) gives you basically all out of the box: svideo and min 64kb provides access to almost all programs. The earlier XE had springs in keyboards (I have one of those) and this keyboard is not bad at all. The quality of plastic, keyboards and motherboards is not like in 800 (XL is visibly better), but they work without issues. This is the best value for money in my opinion. 

 

Atari 800 is one of the most beautiful vintage computers (more than 1200 :) ) to me and the build quality is superb. However, if you want to have it as a daily runner you really need to mod it, which is rather expensive. 

 

 

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I started with the 800xl so that’s always been my favorite.  Easier than the 800 or the 130xe as often all the chips are socketed. This type of decision is always very personal.

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I know it wasn't an option but as I have no emotional attachment to any of the machines and got one simply to tinker around with, I recommend, if you can get one, the 800XL.  To my eyes it is the most beautiful of all vintage computers (and I say this as a Commodore guy at heart), the keyboard is to die for, and it has the advantages of the XE (smaller footprint, more RAM, built in BASIC) with the build quality of the 800.

Edited by mozartpc27
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I'd say 800/incognito even though I personally like the 800xl. But there's another choice if you want the software experience but don't care if the actual machine looks vintage. Look into the 576nucc @ the brewing academy, for a brand new machine that won't need immediate upgrades. It also comes with fujinet built in. 

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Maybe both, but start with a 130XE. It's light and takes up a lot less space. The 800 case is prone to shattering in the mail because it's so heavy. Many 800's are having problems with cracked keyboard plungers.  Installing Incognito is difficult, damaging and turns it into a Frankenstein of technology.  It's absurd to install an Incognito (risking damaging an antique computer) on a machine that you aren't really sure you'll enjoy using for a good while. You might find that you have rose-tinted glasses. Nothing wrong with having both machines but realize there are many pitfalls and costs with retro hardware. Get ready to buy all sorts of associated hardware you didn't expect to.  It's not as simple as buying the computer itself.

Edited by Sugarland
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@santoscork Hi. I don't know too much about the 800 other than what others have mentioned. (Certainly looks a tank). 

 

I too have recently gotten back into the scene after 20+yrs and rediscovered my collecton of XEs. I love em and would mirror what Sugarland says.

 

I have found they are relatively easy to open up, perhaps compared with the other Atari models, should you wish to do any mods (and you no doubt will:P).

(Certainly the 800 from what I can tell is trickier. I also happen to have a 400 with the touch keyboard and I opened it up to plug the RF cable in - it's like a lead lined bunker under the case!). 

Personally I'd start by going for a machine that has at least 64K from the outset and more than just an RF output. (BTW 800 has RF and a 5pin DIN just like the 800XL and XEs.)

 

If not an XE model I would probably also suggest (if you can), getting a hold of an 800XL. This was the model I used for everything into my early 20s and was (IMHO) bullet proof. I loved it, the keyboard, size and profile - even the cream/brown casing:lust:. (I am hoping I still have mine hidden in the attic - currently it's still evading me. I really hope I didn't sell it BITD - soooo long ago:-o).

 

What I would say is the having an Atari with the top loading cartridge port is something you won't regret. (It one of the annoying things about the XE models, the back mounted cart slot. Right PITA for access and especially tricky if your Atari sits on an already crowded desk:roll:).

 

One word of caution - it might sound alarmist but IMHO buy a new power supply rather than use the old brick that comes with whichever you Atari buy. Esepcially if you have an ingot shaped power supply - which are affectionality reffered to as thing like Atari killers!:-o 

You can pick up 5v 3a USB powered power supplies with 7pin DINs on ebay for less than £10 and you won't regret it.

Some old power supplies have been l known to fry key chips inside the A8s on first power up! Oddly before I knew this I was using the stock brick to power my XE's which had a 5V 7.4va (1.5a) and it transpired it wasn't providing enough power for my SIDE3 cart to work properly. (Soon as I switched to the USB power cable it essentially worked instantly. (Granted I had other issues with my 65XE, now looking like they are resolved, but it definitely worked). 

 

As mentioned above you will undoubtidly purchase modern hardware as you get back into the scene for sure. It's a no brainer really once you see the benefits. Some are easy to get and relatively cheap on Ebay at around £25-40 in the UK, (SD card based SIO peripherals like SIO2SD or SDrive Max). I suggest starting with those as certainly the SDrive Max I bought came with an SDcard full of game and apps preloaded. I now use my SIDE3 cart which is more expensive but.......damn it's good!

 

I would also say be prepared to spend a hell of a lot of time reading up on things. So much has happened, especially since the Millennium. Atari Age is an amazing resource with many helpful fellow Atarians. I have had a lot of help over the months which has been invaluable. The search function is pretty good on AA but you will trawl though a lot of stuff sometimes before you pinpoint what you need. (Site has been running for decades).

 

Another thing to read up on is what you are planning on plugging your Atari into screen wise. You can get a cheapish LCD TV with composite in and a relatively cheap Din5 to composite cable. Don't automatically expect to be able to get a DIN5 to Svideo cable and plug it into the Svideo on a flat screen LCD monitor. You may well be lucky. However especially if running a PAL setup - modernish monitors can't display the lower res/frequencies and even cheap upscalers won't help. There are many video considerations, mods, enhancements, etc which I won't go into. I personally have a Retroscaler2x here in the UK plugged into my LCD TFT monitor. (I plan to do a Sophia 2 upgrade in the future). Basically it's a big topic in itself so perhaps do a lot of reading up before buying that screen.

 

Also I personally recommend checking out FlashJazzCats's YouTube installation and fix vids. Really gives you an insight into a lot of things.

 

You can see from my signature I've already upgraded my main 65XE with the Ultimate1MB and a USB keyboard adapter  - (U1MB is amazing btw, and the SIDE3 compliments it). 

 

Defo check out the pinned topic for returning or new Atari users. There is a PDF guide doc listing all the core specs for modern peripherals/SIOSD devices and cart based loaders which is a great reference.

 

If you want to see some amazing stuff, check out images created by the amazing Rastaconverter over the last 10 years and also the Graph2font editor for graphics. The graphical capabilites we are seeing in the last 20 years far exceed anything I was aware of BITD.

 

Game wise check out the Price of Persia port, plus Atari Blast, Space Harrier and The Last Squadron! I personally can't wait to play a new game that is being released today called Flob. (Some of the aforementioned I link to in my signature but just search for them on AA).

 

Music wise there has been some amazing innovations with musicians really pushing the Atari and some great tunes and new ways to produce sounds - (from stock as well as enhanced Atari) - are being created.

 

Welcome back. :-D

 

Edited by Beeblebrox
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On 7/10/2021 at 5:28 AM, santoscork said:

not sure if I should go with an Atari 130XE or Atari 800. To me the Atari 800 is very special indeed as it was my first micro computer so it holds an enormous sentimental place in my heart but then again I might be better off with a machine that has more RAM, has BASIC built-in and can enjoy a larger software base

 

I know exactly where you are, and what you feel.

 

The seed of your retro-computing journey is, most of the times, emotional... Go for what your heart tells you, go for what will allow you to re-create that original (and unforgettable experience). And this applies to any model involved in that experience, of course... It is how things truly begin.

 

You will most likely start from an emotional starting-point on this journey, but depending on your degree of interest and philosophy, it may also grow into appreciation and respect for its legacy, and then the "collector" mindset will kick in, at some point. You will look at the world differently, there.

 

Oddly, I began with a 400 with 410 (very restrictive experience, for me) and then leap-frogged to 800XL + Indus/GT (which I preserved that 800XL with original paperwork to this day, never threw it away)... However, it turns out that I always wanted the 800. I knew it was the the real deal, ever since we all saw it for the first time on the (large) tech. shop I worked (at a very young age), and where we sold a large variety of (major) computer brands and models. We really got to know the industry players, those that were making a difference, and we got to play with all of them... 😊

 

I currently own 800XLs (best variants, with fully-socketed MoBos, ALPS keyboards and U1MB / SIDE), as well as 800/Incognito (my daily driver) and 800/CTIA (my reference system). I have worked extensively on these systems, beside owning in the past a 130XE (which I disposed of, long ago). At times, I also buy them, and sell some (all very special units), and know well the inside out of that end of the experience, too.

 

In the above context I could tell you that my past appreciation for the 800 holds up true, even today, and especially with this wave of upgrades, etc. From a collector's point-of-view, it is the only model that will allow you to re-capture all the experience derived from the hardware and expansions that directly leveraged its architecture (Bit3, Austin Franklin, AXLON, MOSAIC, VoiceBox I/II-Votrax, etc.) and, at the same time, it will easily come forward in time with modern upgrades like Incognito (pretty much a drop-in board on Slot-0 that only needs a few signals to be sampled). It will not only be a better 800 than anything my 800XL could be, but due to its design, it will end up being a better XL than anything my 800XLs are (truly internal HD, PBI-bus enabled, non-blocking cart-port architecture, booting right-carts on XL-based OS load, and being able to power +5 / +12v devices over SIO, etc., etc.)

 

One of my 800XLs will be soon for sale. I no longer used it / need it, nor I ever will. The other I keep for sentimental reasons (and will never sell). The 130XE was the worst build-quality I have ever seen on any Atari, especially compared to the 800, which also tops my 800XLs, even on their best-in-kind configs.

 

In any case, your mileage may vary.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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9 hours ago, Heaven/TQA said:

Special place in my heart are my dozens 800 XL... My first 64kb machine after my VIC20.

The VIC20 was my first machine, but oddly enough it doesn't hold any sentimental value to me. Honestly? I never liked it. The 22 line text display and 5k (actually 3k considering overheads) memory was just too limiting.

 

I can appreciate a good VIC20 setup, but it's the one retro machine I have absolutely no desire to own.

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1 hour ago, Faicuai said:

 

I know exactly where you are, and what you feel.

 

The seed of your retro-computing journey is, most of the times, emotional... Go for what your heart tells you, go for what will allow you to re-create that original (and unforgettable experience). And this applies to any model involved in that experience, of course... It is how things truly begin.

 

You will most likely start from an emotional starting-point on this journey, but depending on your degree of interest and philosophy, it may also grow into appreciation and respect for its legacy, and then the "collector" mindset will kick in, at some point. You will look at the world different, there.

 

 

Couldn't agree more with this statement. This hobby is nearly 100% driven by nostalgia, and that to me says start with what you know and love. You can always explore the rest of the hardware in time. Get yourself an 800.

 

As others have pointed out, the spectacular Incognito card solves the RAM and OS problems for greater software compatibility. It's not terribly difficult to install, and if done properly, does not harm the machine physically. If that matters to you.

 

Unless you are skilled at soldering/ desoldering, the 130XE will be much more challenging to upgrade and modify, as nothing is socketed on the motherboard.

 

If you plan on doing any significant amount of typing, the 800 keyboard is vastly superior to the XE.

 

There are eBay sellers who are fully capable of safely packing and shipping these. Heck, I've been meaning to pare down my collection. If you decide to go the 800 route, PM me and perhaps we can strike a deal.

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In terms of keyboard quality (depending on variant) and features, the 600XL (with 64k expansion) or 800XL machines are hard to beat as an all round A8. I was lucky that my 600XL came with the type 2 keyboard which is a pleasure to type on.

 

Most also have socketed motherboards, which makes upgrades easier.

Edited by Mazzspeed
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41 minutes ago, Mazzspeed said:

In terms of keyboard quality (depending on variant) and features, the 600XL (with 64k expansion) or 800XL machines are hard to beat as an all round A8. I was lucky that my 600XL came with the type 2 keyboard which is a pleasure to type on.

 

Most also have socketed motherboards, which makes upgrades easier.

 

Love the 64k-upgraded 600XL. Only drawback (on stock US machines) is no composite video out, RF only.

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6 minutes ago, adam242 said:

 

Love the 64k-upgraded 600XL. Only drawback (on stock US machines) is no composite video out, RF only.

That is a problem on US machines (mine's PAL), however there are options and they are quite affordable. Atari upgrades are actually really well priced.

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14 hours ago, Faicuai said:

The seed of your retro-computing journey is, most of the times, emotional... Go for what your heart tells you, go for what will allow you to re-create that original (and unforgettable experience). And this applies to any model involved in that experience, of course... It is how things truly begin.

You read right through me. There are the two sides and your statement only reinforces I go with an Atari 800. The experimental side of me says get a 130XE or an 800XL, neither have an emotional attachment, well the XE the least but the 800 is that machine that I would hug and without one I would feel I like something is missing. I did have may Atari products, I mean a lot, all of it lost in a vicious flood about 20 years ago. Since then I often long for owning an Atari 800 again. I have a pretty big Macintosh collection but the Atari is by far the most endearing computer in my experience. It was my first computing experience.

I believe I will be going for an 800 and build a FujiNet as it doesn't involve an intrusive mod, it's just an SIO device. That may make me happy enough and I could just stop there but if I need something to open up regularly and mod I will likely consider an 800xl or 130xe for that. From what I have learned the XL enjoys better build.

 

I am reading every message that folks post but I just had to quote you because it really captured the core of how I feel when it comes to these beautiful electronic artifacts that have managed to capture our imaginations.

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I am humbled by the quality and quantity of replies. Some of you have left some truly insightful perspectives that touch on the nostalgia and love of the platform while some of you have been recommending all sorts of resources in terms of youtube videos and products. It's an exciting time to get back into the Atari hobby, I can't say I ever left but right now the only thing I have is a 410 recorded. Something my mom posted to me about a year ago (I guess something survived the flood that wiped out my collection). I looked at it at the time wondering why I might want this, what I could do with it. Needless to say, it is in pristine condition but if I manage an Atari 800, which is what I think I need (not want) it will have a host.

 

Many thanks again to all of you for being so generous with your time, your thoughts, opinions and suggestions. It's great to be a part of this community.

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You are welcome. Your post has reminded me why we all love Atari and the whole point of the AA forum in the first place. (If you look at some of the posts here on AA there is a hell of a lot of forum 'ROAD rage' cropping up which I find very sad considering the whole point of supporting retro systems and the Atari is that it is supposedly a fun platform/hobby. I know it's easy to do so given we all hide behind anonymous monikers on forums but some of the posts attitudes I've seen you would never see happen if we were all face to face. Based on the Atari being a 40 plus old platform we all are probably in our 40s and 50s on average rather than your typical forum user age (teens and 20s.)

 

Anyhoo, i digress - enjoy whichever model Atari you purchase.  I have my Atari 400 which I hadn't realised I still had and this is the Atari my dad first introduced me to aged 6, playing simple games like batty builders and bopotron. It's strange to have it sitting in front of my gaming laptop after all these years in my mods 40s, (bit of a connection to my dad who passed away when I was 19).

 

Enjoy, very exciting times to be back on the Atari scene. 

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44 minutes ago, Beeblebrox said:

ps that of course should be "mid 40s" 

I wish :)

Some of us may be a "little" older

18 hours ago, Beeblebrox said:

One word of caution - it might sound alarmist but IMHO buy a new power supply rather than use the old brick that comes with whichever you Atari buy. Esepcially if you have an ingot shaped power supply - which are affectionality reffered to as thing like Atari killers!:-o 

You can pick up 5v 3a USB powered power supplies with 7pin DINs on ebay for less than £10 and you won't regret it.

Not if it's an 800, 9VAC power supply.

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9 hours ago, santoscork said:

You read right through me. There are the two sides and your statement only reinforces I go with an Atari 800

 

9 hours ago, santoscork said:

it really captured the core of how I feel when it comes to these beautiful electronic artifacts that have managed to capture our imaginations

 

That was the joy, right there.

 

If you ever wonder about upgrading your (next) beloved 800, here's a more visual summary of my experience (on my pristine 1983, green-plungers one). Even though would it take 10 mins. to reverse (with no parts missing or left behind), I actually never looked back. Just too much functional enhancement:

 

 

 

There are plemty of other good guides, videos and recounts, here on the forum... You will find your back well covered. Plenty of collective experience, from through-and-through 800 users.

 

Enjoy!! 👍💪

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