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A History of Gaming Platforms: Atari 8-Bit Computers
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A History of Gaming Platforms: Atari 8-Bit Computers

July 31, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

The classic 48KB 800 has four controller ports and a second cartridge slot, features no other Atari 8-bit can match. The 64MB XEGS is the only Atari 8-bit with a detachable keyboard and functions like a video game console without one. The 130XE is the only Atari 8-bit with 128MB of standard memory.

Peripherals are nearly as plentiful as the systems themselves, with a good range of compatible cassette recorders, disk drives, and printers still available at reasonable prices.

It is possible, however, to access software without anything other than the base system, either through some type of flash memory-based device or custom cable connection to a modern computer through the standard Atari 8-bit SIO port.

Software on cartridges, cassettes, and disks are also easy to locate, with a range of online stores and auction websites still catering to the platform. Robust emulation is a given for a system line this popular, with excellent choices such as the Multiple Emulator Super System (MESS) and Atari800Win Plus.

Since Atari 8-bit computers used the same controller connection standard as the VCS, any compatible joystick, paddle, or other controller will work fine. Many Sega Master System (SMS) and Sega Genesis gamepads are also compatible.

The light gun that came with the XEGS and available separately is unique to the Atari 8-bit line. Although readily available, it's the only light gun Atari ever released and is used by games on both the VCS and Atari 7800. Collectors of those systems are often on the lookout for one as well.

The huge number of online resources for Atari's 8-bit computers total as much as (or more than) any other classic system. As with all Atari products, the passion many users still have for the 8-bit computers is hard to top. With ongoing developments by the hobbyist community in both hardware and software, there is always something new and exciting to purchase or try out, be it a feature-packed game or development tool.

Though not without its quirks, Atari's 1200XL is generally considered to have the best keyboard and styling of any model in the line.

Looking back on the history of the Atari 8-bit series, one might wonder why the famous company wasn't able to compete with the likes of Apple and Commodore. After all, their arcade games and home video game consoles practically defined the early years of the gaming industry.

However, a few questionable design decisions, management shakeups and the popular, but unfair, notion that Atari was "only" a game-maker no doubt contributed to its less-than-stellar, though long-lived, performance on the market.

Thankfully, decades later, retrogaming enthusiasts can still experience the unique offerings of the Atari 8-bit family and see for themselves why it has become one of the best classic computing platforms for the active collector and hobbyist, with new hardware accessories and software titles released on a regular basis.

Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

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