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Too much consumer choice?


zetastrike
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I fired up my 800XL the other night and it got me thinking about how boneheaded Atari's business model seems to me. I never got why they always offered more than one computer at a time. First, you could buy the really nice 800 or the stripped down, kind of useless 400. They positioned it as entry level/games focused, but would anyone who just wanted to play games buy a comparatively expensive computer back in the 80s when they could just get a VCS or INTV for less? Then they pulled the same thing with the XL series. Two machines that are essentially the same, but one with too little ram and no monitor output. Again, why? People in the 80s had to have been confused and put off by it. Why take the time to decide which Atari to buy when Commodore did it for you? Would just offering one option as "The Atari Computer" have made much of a difference? This isn't taking the price war into account.

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In those days it was quite common for the major computer companies to sell a 'low end' and 'high end' system (and sometimes a middle of the road one also). All the major companies did this -- Commodore, Atari, Apple, TI.....nowadays you can pick and choose and customize a system to be built for you any way you want for any price, but that really didn't become common until about 2000.

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I had no problem what so ever, I couldnt afford an 800 so I got a 400 and was quite happy with it. Even a 400 was expensive at the time, I had 3 paper routes and got a loan for the rest from my grandmother. Even learned to type surprisingly fast on the membrane. I wanted to play games and do other things as well. A vcs was not even considered.

 

A choice between 2 isnt as overwhelming as some people think.

 

Sent from my SM-G920W8 using Tapatalk

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I don't see a problem with 2 models. In the day, doing an extra 32K and full keyboard would have more than doubled the price of the 400.

 

The problem Atari created though came with the XL and XE. 1200XL was a half-baked product without inbuilt Basic or PBI, later rectified with the 800XL.

Then later the XE. Nothing new on offer except the 128K in the 130XE. Fair enough to give the product new and cheaper to make packaging but new names without new function just served to confuse the market.

 

Maybe they'd have been better off retaining the model codes for XE... so, 800XE and call the 130 1200XE or 1600XE.

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I don't remember choice being overwhelming, either then or now. Spanning a few decades there was the 2600, 5200, 7800, Lynx, Jaguar, 8-bit computers, and ST. There are more variations of macaroni and cheese available at the grocery store than there were Atari product lines.

 

I don't think choice bothers consumers that much. The Honda Civic is a top selling car even with 900 variations on the same car model like the EX, LX, SI, FO, STFU, WTF, SUX, and OGKWE available in sedan, coupe, and hatchback in either VTEC or turbo.

 

Atari's product lines weren't (and still aren't) difficult or confusing. The 400 was clearly different than the 800. XL and XE lines weren't confusing, either.

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A bit confusing with XL/XE was there... I remember being a kid, I went to my favorite Atari Shop in Gouda (Goto 66). I had an 800xl and I told the shop people that I wanted to save money for 130XE. They told me: keep your money, don't do it! You'll earn nothing. Your 800xl is the perfect machine, and you will see that the 130XE is just the same with only more memory. What a good and honest advice. I would not have known that by myself (being a kid from 12 years old).

 

I find the atari 400 an excellent kid machine. The 'waterproof' membrane keyboard was a good idea. And in fact... the 400 is one of my most favorite machines. It looks fabulous, and it is cute.

 

Afterwards I'm happy atari did it did way. I appreciate all models.

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The choice was simple between the Atari 400 and 800. One was more affordable than the other.

I chose the 800 because I saved up for it - and it was the best machine able to deliver anything close to what coin-ops were at that time. I did not know that Donkey Kong was to be ably programmed for it. As the early coin-ops were simple on their graphics eg. Pacman, Missile Command, Asteroids...

 

I was unconvinced that the Vic-20 was a capable machine - as it's graphics looked pretty horrible.

Later on when the Atari's were not capable of delivering home version of coin-ops - such as StreetFighter 2, it did look like the only capable machine of delivering that game capably, was the SNES console - and it was simply impressive playing that home conversion - that beat any version for any home computer, at that time.

 

You make your choice at that time - or you had to wait until a capable enough machine appears. I couldn't be bothered with a 2600 or TRS-80 console/computer because the blocky graphics did not impress me at all. The same with the very early home computers - Pet, ZX and what have you.

 

Harvey

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It *was* confusing, and Atari's turmoil made people have to do their homework to figure out what to buy. I think, for most people, picking up a cheaper C64 from the abundant stack at Toys R Us was just an easier proposition.
The 800XL should have been "the computer to have" in 1983, but (I believe) production issues stopped it from shipping to stores until very late in December. I surmise that this opened-up a huge space for the Commodore 64. I know my dad, my brother and I spent most of 1983 trying to figure out what Atari computer to get for Xmas that year. The 1200XL, the 600XL, the 800XL, the 1400XL the 1450XLD? Or maybe an old 400 or 800?
The 1200XL was a dog, so we waited and waited for the 800XL, but stores simple did not have it. It was not until Xmas eve in 1983 that we found one, but by then my dad had already (secretly) purchased his friend's Atari 800 as a gift for us. We were die-hard dedicated to get an 800XL, and eve nwe could not get one. We lived in Los Angeles, so it's not like it was some far-out place to distribute product. Atari did itself no favors.

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My family bought a 400, but with a 3rd party keyboard and 48K. It still cost hundreds less than an 800, and I never missed that second cart slot.

 

If the keyboard upgrade wouldn't have been a choice, we would have stuck with a 400 and the membrane keyboard.

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At the time of the 400/800 the price difference was huge, and 16K with a tape drive could do most of what people wanted.

 

What's confusing is the 600xl/800xl era. There was no reason to have two models. Put the monitor port in the 600XL and sell it with 64K. At that point there was no need for a 16k model.

 

I'm surprised the XE line even exists. But I'm glad it does because of all of the great stuff that comes out of Europe.

 

 

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The XE line exists because Jack knew the 64 was still selling and wanted a cheap computer to compete against it. Warner had all these unreleased designs on the shelf (a 128K 800XL, a 360K disk drive) so he produced the cheapest revamped A8 line he could while the ST was being developed and launched.

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The XE line exists because Jack knew the 64 was still selling and wanted a cheap computer to compete against it. Warner had all these unreleased designs on the shelf (a 128K 800XL, a 360K disk drive) so he produced the cheapest revamped A8 line he could while the ST was being developed and launched.

 

I would assume that Tramiel costed down XE hardware significantly to save a lot of the eBOM.

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It's always the software available that'll make people want to buy the hardware. And a supply of new software for it. Though Jack didn't want to spend the big money to correct this deficiency - he could have done it on the cheap? By maybe having regular cash prizes for yearly contests for homebrew titles? And bigger sums for new commercial releases?

 

Nintendo came out on top because of having an inhouse development team producing top notch titles - and other third parties wanted part of this gravy train, producing their own. Oh how the Japanese produced such noteworthy titles and this is rarely acknowledged.

 

Harvey

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Nope.

 

In 1983 / 1984 there even was not enough consumer choice by Atari, they simply were not available in many german shops and most vendors gave me the tip that I better do not buy Atari, since they are dead, bankrupt or whatever. I should buy a different computer instead, e.g. a C64...

 

And in 1983/1984 we only had the 600XL and 800XL available here and there and a big catalog that also showed the 1400XL and 1450XLD that was not available anywhere. I would have liked much more consumer choice for the Atari XL computer line including the 600XL, 800XL, 1400XL, 1450XLD, 1600XL and 1850XL (and some more floppy drives, not only the 1050 and some XL style monitors). The same counts for the XE computer line, I would have liked to see the 65XEM and 65XEP available and maybe some XE monitors...

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The business model of having two competing systems is still going with the Raspberry Pi machines. You can get an 'A' model which is cheaper and not quite as good as the 'B', but that may be sufficient for your needs.

 

If I wanted to embed 1000 Raspberry Pi's into my new line of electronic Teddy bears, I'd see if the 'A' model would be sufficient and if so, I'd order 1000 of them rather than take on the extra expense of the 'B' model.

 

Due to how cheap they are, I doubt that many home users buy the 'A' model, but I bet that some do (perhaps children who are saving up?).

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For my family - the 400 was purchased mainly for me.. I was 7 or 8 I guess.. Loved video games and my parents hated the thought of my wasting quarters at the coin op places.. Funny enough, I got hooked on writing programs and they saw eventually that the membrane keyboard wasn't gonna work... Therefore we eventually upgraded to an 800xl. I think its kind of a natural progression to be a little kid wanting to only play games and maturing into writing code - and then wanting to upgrade to be able to do both - and more easily.

 

I don't know why we skipped out on an 800 and went to the 800xl.. The XL was sexier for sure..

 

As far as items that were widespread released though - I'm not sure there was any reason to go any further than the 800xl.. It was a do all machine and while the XE might have looked nicer, there really wasn't any more bang for the buck there.

 

The 1450 could have been a game changer..

 

As far as nintendo goes. By the time nintendo was on the market - I was way more interested in running BBS's, writing code, and then playing games as an afterthough so I really didnt care whether or not the games I was playing were less coin op like than Nintendo or (later) genesis.. They were good enough and what I had "grown up" playing. Thats not to say Atari didn't screw the pooch on marketing of Jaguar .. Just my perspective is all.

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