+Philsan Posted February 2, 2011 Share Posted February 2, 2011 Which Atari 8-bit computer to buy? What do I need to run software? Where to find software? What emulators are available? I try to answer to those questions objectively and in a manner suitable for newbies or veterans returning to Atari after many years. Many other answers are in Atari 8-bit computers FAQs. Index 1. Which computer to buy? 2. What do I need to run software? 3. Where to find software? 4. Best homebrews? 5. Emulators? 6. Basic programming? 7. Graphics capabilities 1. Which computer to buy? Historically speaking, Atari 800 is the best one (a milestone, compare it with contemporary 1979 computers!), but if you want a computer compatible with all software, you should take an Atari 800XL or a 130XE (65XE and XEGS are OK too). Their only limitation compared to Atari 800 is that they have two joystick ports instead of four. Cart port: if you use cartridges, 800XL cart's port position is more comfortable. Keyboard: important only if you plan to enter a lot of text; many people prefer 800XL keyboards but 5 variants exists (avoid the last variant, Mitsumi). Memory: 800XL has 64KB, 130XE has 128KB, usuful for few games. Memory can be upgraded with internal or external expansions. Video ouput: 800XL has RF and composite, 130XE has s-video too. If you have a socketed Atari, with solderless Sophia 2 board you get RGB and DVI output. Quality: 800XL has a better building quality. Some XL's have all ICs socketed, therefore they are easier to repair and upgrade. Basic: Important only if you want to program with Atari Basic. Most 800XL have Basic rev. B, 130XE have bug free Basic rev. C. You can replace 800XL Basic rev. B chip with a rev. C. Anyway, if you like Basic programming, nowadays people don't use Atari Basic but Turbo-Basic XL (fast, compatible and compilable), Altirra Basic or the brand-new FastBasic so built-in Atari Basic's revision isn't important.2. What do I need to run software? CARTRIDGES: you don't need anything apart an Atari 800XL/130XE. 5¼ FLOPPY DISKS: you need a disk drive (Atari 1050 or XF551). To load machine language programs, remember to turn on computer with option key pressed. TAPES: you need a program recorder (Atari 410, 1010, XC11 or XC12). To load machine language programs, remember to turn on computer with start and option keys pressed, then press play on program recorder and finally press return key. Nowadays all above software has been dumped and these are file format extensions: ATR: files that are reproductions of floppy disks. ATX: files that are reproductions of protected floppy discs. XEX/COM: files that are reproductions of single executables. CAR/ROM/BIN: files that are reproductions of cartridges. CAS: files that are reproductions of tapes. The frequent asked question is: "Which is the best multicart to run my games?". Atari computers are not consoles, so games were (and are) released not only in cartridge format but in disk format too. Moreover, some games need more than 64KB to run. I made a comparison table (last updated 12.02.2022) covering various loading devices: A8 loading devices.pdf There are three other comparison tables: https://avgcart.tmp.sk/ https://www.wudsn.com/index.php/productions-atari800/tools/thecart https://atari8.co.uk/firmware/side3/ Those comparison tables are not easy to understand for newbies, so I'll try to explain. SIO LOADING DEVICES are slower devices that emulate disk drives; they connect to SIO port and load programs like real disk drives. Considered the fact that all software is available in XEX and ATR formats, these devices load all software. To run some big games and demos a memory expansion is required. MULTICARTS are faster devices that emulate cartridges. Some multicarts not only load CAR, they load XEX programs too, therefore they have a good compatibility; but cannot load ATR (some games and many applications are available in ATR format only) or only some of them. But now AVGCart with SIO cable and Side3 with U1MB internal expansion have full ATR compatibility. AVGCart with SIO cable loads CAS too. Multicarts have the advantage of loading some games that otherwise need memory expansion to run. Conclusions With a cheap SIO2PC-USB (with $6 you can make a SIO2PC-USB or you can link PC and Atari with a breakout board for the FTDI FT232RL USB to serial IC) and a memory expansion you can download 99.9% of the software from a nearby PC, where you can keep all your files, for Atari and emulators. With the new FujiNet, among many other things, you can download software wirelessly from your PC or Internet. With multicarts you can quickly load most of the software (especially games) but almost all don't load ATR disk images (for example, Alternate Reality, Seven Cities of Gold, The Dark Crystal cannot be loaded because they are not available on XEX or CAR format). But now AVGCart (if connected to SIO port with the optional cable) and Side3 (together with U1MB internal memory expansion) load ATR too, therefore these are very good options. At the moment AVGCart with SIO cable is the only all-in-one solution. Compared to other multicarts, as-is it's the only one with full ATR compatibility, compared to SIO devices it let you select and load XEX faster and loads cartridge games (some need a memory expansion to be loaded from SIO devices). AVGCart expands RAM if xonnected to Atari with PBI or ECI cable. 3. Where to find software? You can buy/find software on the Internet or in the real word, the price depends on conditions (loose, boxed, sealed) and rarity, and/or you can download it here:Atarimania (many screenshots and manuals)Atari 8-bit ForeverFandal (unparalleled for demos)Atarionline (Gry/Games on the left column)Homesoft (games in XEX and ATR format when XEX isn't available, continually updated and cleaned - no intros, no unpacking delays, no glitches - click on download button on the right, extract zip file and you'll get all games inside A-Z folders) Pigwa Atari FP Archive Mr. Bacardi Vjetnam 8-bit Atari games archive 4. Best homebrews? Dozens of games are released each year. @ZeroPage Homebrew keeps track of all Atari 8-Bit/5200 games that have either been completed, updated or released: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019 I would try Albert, Assembloids XE, Atari Blast!, Bosconian, Crownland, Dimo's Dungeon, Dimo's Quest New Year Edition, Final Assault, FloB, Gacek, His Dark Majesty, International Karate Enhanced Edition, Last Squadron, Laura, Manic Miner 2016, Pac-Man 2012, Pad, Pang, Prince of Persia, RGB, The Rescue Expedition, Ridiculous Reality, Scramble, Space Harrier, Stunt Car Racer, Time Pilot, Total Eclipse, Yoomp!, to name just a few. Almost all games are released for free (sometimes beautiful collectors editions are available). You can download them in the "3. Where to find software?" websites. Thanks to MrFish, you can download an homebrew compilation here. 5. Emulators? PCAltirra (the best emulator for PC)Atari800Atari++Atari800WinPLus MacAtari800MacX AndroidColleen (official Atari800 port) XEmu65Droid800Atari800 Nintendo DSPokeyDS Nintendo DSi XEGS-DS Nintendo WiiWiiXL Sony PSPAtari800PSPPSP Atari 6. Basic programming? If you want to start programming Atari computers, the easier and most known language is Turbo-Basic XL. Released by Frank Ostrowski in 1985, it's compatible with built-in Atari Basic but faster, compilable and with additional commands. Here you can find language and two manuals: Turbo-Basic XL.zip If you would like to develop on PC with that language, I recommend Turban. In 2017 a new Basic has been released, FastBasic. Almost compatible with Turbo-Basic XL, but faster. Mad Studio is a good integrated development environment (scroll to find latest version). If you want to make bitmap images using various peculiar Atari graphics modes, you can use Atari Graphics Studio. To design player-missile graphics (sprites), you can use SprEd (very easy to use, it supports overlap feature to create a third color when overlapping sprites). To create music you can use Raster Music Tracker, made by Radek Sterba (we miss you). To change character set you can use Atari FontMaker or Atari Font Creator. Folks in the 8-bit programming subforum gladly answer questions. 7. Graphic capabilities If you want to see A8 machines graphics capabilities, check out Images generated by Rastaconverter topic. 40 3 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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