Atari 800 XL Review

The Atari 800XL was the third version of the Atari 8-bit line of computers introduced in 1983. The system contained a full 64K of memory, had all the standard VLSI chips (Antic, GTIA, Pokey, PIA) and was in a smaller and more compact design. The keyboard was good, not as good as the 1200XL keyboard, but it had a solid feel to it. The cartridge port had been move to the top center of the system and used special metal spring loaded doors to allow the insertion and removal of ROM cartridges. This system of spring loaded doors also kept dirt and objects from falling into the cartridge slot when it was not occupied. Overall the system is basically a cost reduced Atari 800 with a fuzzier picture. The system came with built-in diagnostics and a HELP key. The OS was still slightly incompatible with many original Atari 400/800 software titles, but Atari began to distribute a “Translator” disk which would load up a 400/800 compatible OS into memory so that the 800XL could support those programs. A never version of the 800XL was being readied called the 800XL-F which included the new “FREDDY” memory management chip that would have allowed for more use of free memory for programs and greater use of graphics by the “ANTIC” video processor.

50 Comments

  1. Mimimimek on March 25, 2021 at 11:02 pm

    gg ihave one.

  2. Raul Gubert on March 25, 2021 at 11:03 pm

    very interesting, I did not know about this line of consoles…thank you for uploading!

  3. Daehawk on March 25, 2021 at 11:07 pm

    Still have my original 83 one like new in all boxes with styro and all books. Have the 800xl and 1050 and 1010 drives. Never had a printer though. I was 14 when I got it for Christmas. Used to have some cassette games and even F15 Strike Eagle on double sided disk from Kmart lol. I could swear it was Atari version on one side and Apple the other.

  4. Jesse Warford on March 25, 2021 at 11:07 pm

    i thought the 1200xl was the third version, behind the 400 and 800. i believe the 600xl was next with the 800xl being 5th in line. but i liked the review! i had my 800xl for many years, and my wife bought me a brand new 130xe 5 years ago, and my brand new 800xl was delivered today, but i can’t play with it till this weekend. good luck with your channel!

  5. naytch2003 on March 25, 2021 at 11:07 pm

    My very first computer..still have one today

  6. Neb6 on March 25, 2021 at 11:08 pm
  7. Kenneth Gundersen on March 25, 2021 at 11:09 pm

    Am I remembering wrong if I recall there was real music on some games when loading the game with the casette player?

  8. Bek Brace on March 25, 2021 at 11:09 pm

    Great stuff Brian 👍 Atari 800XL has the first spot in my heart for computer , I had a gray cassette not sure if it is 1050 though ; and it certainly brings back my childhood memories and my first basic programs that I was writing on this machine

  9. Jan O'Moore on March 25, 2021 at 11:10 pm

    I had an Indus GT 8) (floppy drive)

  10. Tualatin Dave on March 25, 2021 at 11:11 pm

    Hehe.. good times. Used that Word processor to write my college papers and printed them with the Atari dot matrix printer. I thought I was da bomb.

  11. Digital Valor on March 25, 2021 at 11:12 pm

    The Atari 800 XL with 1010 drive was my first PC, and the first game on it was River Raid. Great memories!!

  12. retrovideogamejunkie on March 25, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    i just came here to watch how a keystone kappers needs 30 minutes to load from that cassette i record on my double deck

  13. Steve G on March 25, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    Ah what memories. I had an Atari 800 XL in the mid-80s and did a lot with it. There were a lot of piated programs around, mostly from smart young nerds, and it was not too complicated to get almost any type of program–even C and Pascal programming. I cranked my Atari up to 256K memory with SpartaDos and XLEnt Word processor, and used the 1050 disk drive (noisy thing) and an Atari printer. I finally had to sell it for parts as 8-bit computers were no longer sold. Interesting era then–somewhat more human in some ways.

  14. Paul Lambert on March 25, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    You got a few of the details wrong on this, sadly. It would otherwise have been a very good video.

  15. Magnum Worship on March 25, 2021 at 11:22 pm

    Excellent run-down! Such a great system for its time!

  16. dinofmj on March 25, 2021 at 11:25 pm

    This computer was my first computer way back in the early 80s. I had the main computer, and the cassette . . . one thing I really regret not having was the disk drive . . . the cassette was very very limited. I was able to make simple basic programs. But without a disk drive, I could not do word processing . . . Then in a few years, I had the Commodore 64. But I still like Atari 800 XL.

  17. SwineCraft on March 25, 2021 at 11:26 pm

    Hammer them keys… Lol

  18. keninvic on March 25, 2021 at 11:28 pm

    Very nostalgic. I still have my Atari 800, 1020, 810, 850 and an 800 XL, as wellas spare ICs (GTIA,
    POKEY, ROMS, etc.). Nice to see there are others who have an interest.

  19. Barry Cooper on March 25, 2021 at 11:28 pm

    This was my first computer. Do you remember the coding section in the com 64 mag?

  20. Petr OK1RP on March 25, 2021 at 11:30 pm

    My Atari 800XL is still in use and makes many experiments, measurements and other tasks except just games… 🙂

  21. Michael R. Brown on March 25, 2021 at 11:32 pm

    The parallel bus on the back of the XLs was NOT a parallel port for printers. I don’t think any device made use of it.

  22. charles johnson on March 25, 2021 at 11:32 pm

    Had an 800XL in ’83and an 300 baud acoustic modem. Did some programming with it in Atari Basic. I am a cyclist, the program I wrote would allow me to enter the chainring tooth count and the freewheel tooth count and would then calculate Gear Inches I would be in when switching from gear to gear. This enabled you to select the correct Chainring and freewheel tooth count to eliminate duplicate gearing. Somewhere in all my moving over the last 65 years I lost track of the 800XL Those were the ‘good old days’ of computing, all new.

  23. swingstylez on March 25, 2021 at 11:32 pm

    I always thought the disk drive was one-zero-one-zero
    I used to have the Star NX1000 printer. It was very robust.
    But I managed to go through two floppy drives :-/

  24. Petr OK1RP on March 25, 2021 at 11:33 pm

    Even although I saw many of them expressing 48kB RAM squares in test my 800XL shows only 40kB RAM tested only. I also found some vids with similar behavior on YT. Any suggestion please?

  25. Veins on March 25, 2021 at 11:34 pm

    I used to have Pacman and Choplifter. I wish I could see these games once more

  26. Joe Unedited on March 25, 2021 at 11:35 pm

    800XL !!! My old mistress !!!!
    Was a keyboard ahead of its time.. more attractive than C64 and BBC models!!!!

  27. mikipank on March 25, 2021 at 11:37 pm

    Never ever put a cartridge in computer when it’s ON!

  28. ShamrockParticle on March 25, 2021 at 11:38 pm

    Those were the days! And still are, the XL was extremely well built (many XEs have RAM problems) . I’d still check the power supply for stable and appropriate voltage.

  29. Joseph Aether on March 25, 2021 at 11:38 pm

    man those Japanese game devs were the most creative people. all that music that i took for granted when i was young, such as the track at the startup of the video, was original and genius. .

  30. Mor MacFey on March 25, 2021 at 11:38 pm

    This was my first pc in ’83 wow I loved this computer has my first 300 baud modem with it as well. Good Times!!!

  31. Mark Wiygul on March 25, 2021 at 11:40 pm

    I had the Atari 130XE with 128K, 1050 Disk Drive and the 1027 letter quality printer (with an "Elite" font print head). Later I got the XM301 300 baud modem and Atari’s new 8pin "XMM801" Dot Matrix Printer. The XE-Term modem software was very fun to use. As was the Atari Writer Plus word processor, which had a "spell check" disk, and it could use the 130XE’s extra memory. The XE came out at about the same time as the ST did, during the Tramiel Atari era.

  32. madmomentsgo on March 25, 2021 at 11:41 pm

    i had an Atari 800xl back in the 80’s. nice machine.

  33. michael schlabach on March 25, 2021 at 11:42 pm

    t.c.t 😉

  34. CATHERINE VERA ITER on March 25, 2021 at 11:44 pm

    Can’t load a cartidge…why???

  35. Andrew Jenkins on March 25, 2021 at 11:44 pm

    BASIC isn’t called BASIC because it is basic (simplistic). BASIC simply stands for Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code.

  36. Tonguç Endem on March 25, 2021 at 11:44 pm

    Nice video and SD/480p resolution is ok too but why 16×9 though?

  37. Señor Dossier [Retro reviews, Coleccionismo & más] on March 25, 2021 at 11:46 pm

    Neptr loves Atari ♥

  38. Mike Cashman on March 25, 2021 at 11:47 pm

    A great video man what would you recommend for Atari 800 computer, for gaming? Thank you

  39. Christoo Hunders on March 25, 2021 at 11:52 pm

    Young generations have no idea how much computing cost back in the eighties, my dad had to wait and save for a few years before he could afford an Apple II ! And in France, the second hand market was barely available through ads in specialized mags, and it was generally no bargain, people sold their machines way more than 50% their original cost. The Atari XL computers and peripherals were sexy and sleek, but damn they were expensive compared to the competition. Another thing young generations would find impossible to understand is the absolute non compatibility among all the 8bit platforms, games had to be ported from one machine to the next by software companies making it impossible to play favorites games on some machines.

  40. Neb6 on March 25, 2021 at 11:53 pm

    Atari 8-bit and Amiga Hardware presentation:
    https://youtu.be/ehgFgMZG6Nk?t=556

  41. Michael Piziak on March 25, 2021 at 11:53 pm

    The Atari Disk Operating System was far superior to the Commodore 64 !!!

  42. Dave Stelljes on March 25, 2021 at 11:53 pm

    Nice video, Brian. I recently pulled my Atari 800XL and STs out of the attic and have started to test them out. Today I started up the 800XL and everything works! ‘Been offline since around 1986 when I purchased my first 520ST. I have quite a few 5.25" floppies and I hope to get them transferred to modern media. Some of the disks that I’ve tested so far are either on Atari DOS 2.5 or several versions of SpartaDOS by ICD. Anyway- time to roll up my sleeves and get back into the game! Ironically, I did play games once in a while back in the day, but enjoyed "collecting" them for sure, and also had fun writing programs… utilities mainly. We also had our own Atari user’s group that brought many of us in our area together. I ran a BBS for around 4 years called WESTAR BBS and had a blast doing that as well.

  43. Vancety on March 25, 2021 at 11:53 pm

    It was 1988 back in Lima-Perú, I begged my father for a Nintendo. I loved playing Mario Bros at a friend’s house at that time. Months later there was an international tech fair in town, we went there I was happy to finally get a NES. However, my father was entertained by some salesman and was convinced to buy me an Atari 800XL computer instead, they said with this computer you can play, learn and study at the same time. The bundle came with the cassette player CA12, some educational cassettes and game a Pac-Man cartridge with a joystick same as in this video. 2 years later I got the Floppy drive Atari 1050. I was 8 years old when I got the Atari computer, months later in Summer of 89 I was taking basic classes of B.A.S.I.C. In the end, my father was the culprit I ended up loving computers and worked in the filed years later as an adult.

  44. Truthseeker1515 on March 25, 2021 at 11:54 pm

    First computer my parents purchased for me in Feb 1986, I was 12. We had a tape drive in the UK. Most of my school friends did. At the time, I did not even know the computer could use cartridges! I tried learning BASIC but kept on copying programmes. I wished I had made more efforts….just kept playing games…Super Zaxxon, The Goonies, Drop Zone, Zorro….Still have the computer at home. And some of the games. By the way, the TV was called a monitor in the UK…

  45. Petr OK1RP on March 25, 2021 at 11:56 pm

    My 800XL shows only 40kB RAM tested only. Any suggestion please?

  46. Michael Reyes on March 25, 2021 at 11:59 pm

    Can I connect this console to a modern tv?

  47. Howard Morgan on March 25, 2021 at 11:59 pm

    this brings back many memories – bought one of these for my kids, with a casette drive. I remember a shortage of games and the dreadfful slow program loading, only to have to restart it because of some loading error. I took it on and added a floppy drive and structured basic written by a guy called Ostrowski which I loved and learned a great deal from.

    I wrote a u value and heatloss program to help me design my central heating. This was a huge success and led to designing insulation as well for my old victorian house, but I think most people just used it as a games machine

    I’m still in the house, the heating still works , but where the Atari is I do’nt know, but I’ve still got some of the before and after printouts I produced

    Thanks for the memory

  48. Joe Unedited on March 26, 2021 at 12:00 am

    I thought you had to put cartridge in whilst machine was off !!! Or am I thinking of the Atari TV console???!
    I miss using my Atari 800XL
    ❤️😢

  49. Dude on March 26, 2021 at 12:00 am

    Great video. I had the 600XL from the same year. It started me down a path that removed me from my early manufacturing production floor trappings to a varied but very well paying IT career. No college required when you started out this early.

  50. Crooker Plays! on March 26, 2021 at 12:00 am

    This computer holds a special place in my heart. I started with a 600xl, and moved up to an 800xl in the late 80’s before moving to a PC in 1991. I spent many hours this machine, and 1000’s of dollars on accessories. Bought the cassette AND eventually the floppy drive. I was always the "Atari" guy when every one of my friends had commodores.

    I thought I had this computer in a box somewhere, but it seems to have gone missing, and I’m worried that it just disappeared somewhere through my journey into adulthood.

    Just an amazing machine.

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