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Why I Still Love Atari 8-bit Computers


fultonbot
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Why do I still like Atari 8-bit computers? I can't explain it other than this:

When everything in life is nuts, and I can't think straight, or when everything is quiet and my mind clears, I think about the same thing: It's 1983, and I'm sitting at the salvaged office desk my dad found on the side of the road and rebuilt for my brother and I. I'm searching through the the box of 5.25 floppies that came with the Atari 800 system my dad bought from a friend, who gave it up at a great price because he my dad could not afford a new Atari computer for us. I put in the disk, get a listing of files. I run one of them. Suddenly the outside world of 8th grade and family turmoil does not matter, and I'm sucked into a new dimension that makes perfect sense. I can control it with a the keyboard, joystick or paddle. I can reset with the BASIC cartridge in, and try to remake the world myself. The Atari 800 computer was ground-zero for the rest of my life. It's as important, if not more, than anything I've ever read, seen, or been told about what life is supposed to be, or how to make my way through it. The Atari 800 was the first thing in my life that made perfect sense, and I will never for get it.

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I started with an 800XL in 1984. I had to do a membership management system for the sports club, for which my dad was the president at the time .

I wrote that completely in Basic with the database in plain text files, with only one disk drive, no text books and no internet to look for the computer science solutions, I later learned about in university.

I did get some of the stuff right, except that I did no caching. Eventually I burnt through a disk drive with 45 minutes printing sessions, that didn't let it stop.

So today being a good developer and having the insight that developing software is my passion is owed to a large part to the experience of programming on my 800XL.

I still have it with the Atari Writer german key stickers :-)

Edited by JoSch
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I loved the 8-bit machines, because of all of the 6502 based machines, the Atari 8-bits had the most flexible display subsystem I had ever seen, up until that point.

 

I love, that given an assembler, and a hardware manual, you have everything you need, to control this austere, clean virtual world, not burdened by 50 zillion layers of operating systems, APIs and services.

 

I love that the 6502 CPU is fast. Instructions, at most, take 7 cycles, in the edgiest of cases (an indirection crossing a page boundary), and the instruction timings are consistent enough to be used in the most precarious of timing sensitive code. (This is something I can't say of modern CPUs, much less even something contemporaneous, such as a Z80).

 

I love the fact that hardware design has fused ideas with the software world, so that things like FPGAs and CPLDs can be used to either make insanely dense expansions on the cheap and by a single person, for the real hardware, or be completely simulated, so that whole new weird combinations of things never before envisioned can be done, why? just because.

 

It makes me smile, that the lessons of the present, can have ripples back into the past. Who would have thought that given precisely the right conditions, the ANTIC could fetch data from an IDE interface sitting on the bus fast enough to display video at 60 frames per second?! (The amount of serendipity there is just bat shit crazy, honestly.)

 

 

When I had left my start-up company in 2006, I was in such a dejected state. My whole world had failed, and all the love of computing had been sucked out of me. I realized that I had to push the reset button, and start over, and remember what made me love computing in the first place. This made me go back to my Atari computer, an assembler, and just the process of writing a piece of software that used the hardware directly, was enough to make me remember the wonder, and the joy of it all.

 

-Thom

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I never owned an Atari computer growing up and didn't know many with them. One guy was cool and he used his 800 for an impressive 7th grade project. The only other guy I remember with an A8 was unpleasant, ranting publicly about how all other computers were inferior and insulting everyone and their parents as morons for owning other computers. IIRC he even got in trouble for calling a teacher an idiot because the classroom had Apple II machines.

 

I bought my first A8 in 2006 and love it. I have more nostalgia for the Apple II but never use it, preferring the Atari 800XL instead when I need a dose of 80s computing. It is clearly remarkable hardware for its time and a pleasure to use. I love the aesthetics of the XL designs as well.

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I posted this after listening to Kevin interview Peter Liepa on the Antic Podcast yesterday. When Kevin asked his standard question about "do you have anything to say to the Atari computer users out there" he replied "get a life". It was a joke, but not really. The thought struck me: The Atari 800 gave me a life. That's why I'm still here.

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Well, mine goes back to pong. YES my house had an original PONG game. So, I was hooked as a small kid. I took a course in 1979 on PET computers, I got to see Space Invaders, it was mind blowing. That fall, (the course was summer school - I did voluntarily!) I remember in my neighborhood a store starting to sell apple 1s, and the Radio Shack told TSR 80s (8" floppies!). The following year we had another store. That was selling JUST Atari. in the window was an 800 running a demo that I would watch over and over. 12 years old. I got my first Atari 400 with 410 recorder. Later a B-Keyboard (LOCAL COMPANY) and Tecra 48K expansion.

 

I still have that 400 today.. and was the reason I am posting here now.. because I pulled it out to feel good about a month ago.. and found AA and this scene and group.. and I am very excited to have a feel good hobby again! :)

 

James

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. . . The only other guy I remember with an A8 was unpleasant, ranting publicly about how all other computers were inferior and insulting everyone and their parents as morons for owning other computers. IIRC he even got in trouble for calling a teacher an idiot because the classroom had Apple II machines. . . .

That sounds like me. I would insult my parents friends' C=64.

 

:)

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Probably makes some part of my brain feel young again plus it's the computer/processor I understand most. I wouldn't even dream of programming a PC at hardware level.

 

 

Gesendet von meinem iPhone mit Tapatalk

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Computers were the stuff of science fiction and it is like something totally new was happening in the home - for those who were somehow attracted to this new hobby - call it what you will.

 

I read about the first hobbyists computer kits which required you to hand solder the first available home microcomputers. I couldn't solder, nor was I into electronics so it wasn't time for me to get involved with whatever this new hobby meant? They certainly didn't seem to do anything useful for the average person. When I first saw the ZX-80 at the local university - which was the first really cheap pre-assembled computer - I still couldn't see a useful reason for wanting one.

 

My previous hobby was 35mm still photography - and during that, I went through various cameras. Before I was really interested in photography - I had the usual instamatic camera - which you couldn't do too much with. My first proper camera was a cheap TLR (Twin Lens Reflex), then I got my first SLR - which was a cheap one. After which time I became well read into still photography and decided upon an expensive SLR - a Nikkormat FTn.

 

Of course it was coin-op videogames that got me interested in home computers - when they were finally able to recreate a good enough home version of them - which seemed to be the Atari 400/800 computers. Through my experience of buying various cameras - I wanted to avoid making a bad first buy. The Vic-20 only had it's keyboard going for it (I was a self taught touch typist - through having a portable typewriter) [short story writing was another hobby/interest of mine, along with an interest in drawing and painting] - and it's graphics seemed more like the TRS-80, than say the Apple II.

 

Anyway it did seem like I made the right choice with an Atari 800 - than say going for an Apple II? Had I waited long enough - I may have gone for the C-64? But even then, you'll have had to wait until enough titles appeared to have made that buying decision worthwhile. Whereas the Atari 800 would have appeared to have had it's head start.

 

When I was a teenager - home computers weren't around, so that's why I went into still photography.

 

Harvey

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You got a problem with anyone who rode the short bus? Grow the fuck up...

 

umm WOW. somebodys offended on the internet. The problem was with commodore peeps when i was 12.

 

I see no need to be use foul language but right back at you!!!

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umm WOW. somebodys offended on the internet. The problem was with commodore peeps when i was 12.

 

I see no need to be use foul language but right back at you!!!

And I see no reason to make fun of anyone who rode the short bus, that just goes to show how immature you are, even to this day...

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This one?

 

attachicon.gifc64.png

Holy S$&*!T.

Yes!

 

Or at least that is pretty close!! I see it's from ACE. I bet one of our SBACE guys pulled it off a BBS and printed it out.

Wait, that can't be true though. How would one print a full-color image in 1984?

I'm sure you *could* get it printed, but at what cost?

Whatever it was, Commode-Door 64 was worth it. It just shows you how much the "home computer wars" really meant to us.

 

Can I get permission use that image in story I'm writing?

Edited by fultonbot
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Holy S$&*!T.

Yes!

 

Or at least that is pretty close!! I see it's from ACE. I bet one of our SBACE guys pulled it off a BBS and printed it out.

Wait, that can't be true though. How would one print a full-color image in 1984?

I'm sure you *could* get it printed, but at what cost?

Whatever it was, Commode-Door 64 was worth it. It just shows you how much the "home computer wars" really meant to us.

 

Can I get permission use that image in story I'm writing?

I wrote a color pic printing program.

 

Look here: http://www.atariarchives.org/cfn/05/09/0030.php

and a little past half way down this page: http://www.atariarchives.org/cfn/05/11/0201.php

 

I lost my source code long ago. If anyone has a copy of PicPrint+, please upload it here: http://atariage.com/forums/topic/131449-picprint-plus/

 

Thanks.

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