Inside the Atari 800 (30th Anniversary)

November 6th, 2009 by Benj Edwards

Inside the Atari 800 - PC World

Thirty years ago this fall, Atari shipped its first entries in the personal computer market, the Atari 800 and 400 computers. I’m particularly fond of the Atari 8-bit series because I grew up with an 800 as my first computer and video game machine — it was especially potent and impressive in the pre-NES days.

Sadly, no publication I queried was interested in a full in-depth history of the computer (although I was poised to do one), so you’ll have to settle for my latest slideshow on

In “Inside the Atari 800,” I dissect my family’s beloved Atari 800 unit and explore what makes it tick. This article is the eighth entry in my “workbench series” of tech teardowns, and it might be my best. If nothing else, it sports my favorite self-designed introduction slide yet (seen above) — I should turn that into a poster.

By the way, PC World drastically improved its slide show system, so if you weren’t a fan of it in the past, check this one out. I think they’ve retrofitted all my old slide shows to the new system as well. (Even so, I’m not too happy they made my sharp photos look terrible with extreme JPG compression.)

So give it a look-over; I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to share your Atari 8-bit memories and well-wishes here. I’d love to know how many Atari 8-bit fans we have out there.

Here are my previous teardowns, if you’re interested: Commodore 64, Nintendo Game Boy, Nintendo Famicom, Apple IIc, IBM Model M Keyboard, TRS-80 Model 100, and Macintosh Portable.

9 Responses to “Inside the Atari 800 (30th Anniversary)”

  1. Keir Hardie Says:

    That’s a real shame no-one would bite on the full history.

  2. mousemoonshadow Says:

    Though I have never owned one, as a kid I thought these were the ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ of the Atari world.
    Recently I came across a ‘How To’ book on programming the 400 and 800 but it got passed up.

  3. Bill Terlop Says:

    I remember first eying the first Atari 800 in a Sears store and saying to myself, this is the future. If I remember correctly, it was around $800.00. I could be mistaken, though. They also had the 400 which had the membrane keyboard and it was less money, so I bought that one instead. Man, I loved that machine. When the 800xl came out, I was full bore into that computer. I also rember all the Douglas Adams games on cassette. Those were fun..My passion for Atari led me to being one of the number one Atari ST dealers in the state of Florida with my store A-Aardvarks Music and Compter during that hayday, and running a huge ST users group called TASTE, (Tampa Atari ST Enthusiasts). I knew the end was near when Atari was trying to get dealers to buy wholesale St’s and Mega St’s with only a 20.00 or so dealer markup. I still love Atari, though…Still have a huge collection in my garage..

  4. Ralph Hyre Says:

    I wish I had an Atari 800, I owned a 400 in college (purchased just to play star-raiders on, since I had an apple 2). I sold it to a fellow in the dorm as I was leaving.

    The 800, unlike the 400, and every other Atari computer that followed it, had 4 joystick ports, so you could easily do 4-player games on it. Does anyone make an emulator that supports that?

  5. PWP Says:

    I guess you’ll just have to save that full history for your future book!

  6. Gaming Computer Says:

    Ahh, brings back memories. Was too my first computer. I still have it! Just haven’t found the will to throw it out, perhaps ill dig it out next weekend for a bit of retro!

  7. Harmik Says:

    The Atari 400/800 were amazing machines for there time thanks for the teardown, it sure was a solid machine. 🙂

  8. Phil Says:

    Atari 800 computer is a milestone. In 1979 it had 128 colors, overcan, sprites and 4 channel-audio. Compare it with contemporary computers!

  9. Daniel Says:

    Do you still have that slideshow somewhere? The pictures are now missing from the linked article.

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