The Story of the Atari 400, An Entry Level Computer to Change the World – Tech Retrospective

The Atari 400, released in 1979 was Atari’s flagship entry level computer introduced to dominate the still new computer industry. While it didn’t quite achieve that goal, it’s combination of the MOS 6502 processor with powerful graphics and sound with it’s uuuhhh interesting keyboard has proved it to be a great retro computer system worth remembering!

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25 Comments

  1. Newsmakers Tech on March 10, 2021 at 10:24 pm

    Did you own a 400? what do you remember about it?

  2. Roxasofmalice on March 10, 2021 at 10:25 pm

    What a great computer! If only it can play Minecraft so I can be the next Dream!

  3. 30somethingmanchild on March 10, 2021 at 10:27 pm

    This was my first computer 😍

  4. Jacob Jones on March 10, 2021 at 10:31 pm

    Yeah I defiently wouldn’t want to write a thesis on that keyboard

  5. EXITMUSIC2011 on March 10, 2021 at 10:33 pm

    Anybody felling ill that that key is missing lol

  6. bjbell52 on March 10, 2021 at 10:36 pm

    The 2nd cartridge port on the 800 was rarely used so it didn’t matter.

  7. Dax Bradley on March 10, 2021 at 10:36 pm

    Ah, memories of spending all afternoon hammering out a program in Basic on that membrane keyboard, and not being one of the wealthy kids with the cassette backup, having your idiot brother walk through and trip over the power cord and unplug the computer erasing all your hard work.

    *cut to dramatic crane shot*
    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  8. Newsmakers Tech on March 10, 2021 at 10:41 pm

    Thanks for watching! We have tons of awesome vids coming out soon so make sure to subscribe!

  9. Tim Locke on March 10, 2021 at 10:41 pm

    My Atari 400 has an aftermarket keyboard that is much better than the original. There were 3 or 4 different aftermarket keyboards available.

  10. infinitecanadian on March 10, 2021 at 10:42 pm

    They would put these in store windows playing the attract mode of ‘Star Raiders’ to show off the graphics. One test they had was the ‘drop test’: they would take a running unit a few inches off a surface and drop it while it was still running, and the Atari 400/800 could take it because they were metal.

  11. Loren Sims on March 10, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    I got one of these after I had been using my Atari 800 for a few years. I mostly used it as a kiosk to run programs and graphics demos I built on the 800. That membrane keyboard worked, but you had to press just a bit harder than I wanted to to use it. It was my secondary computer and I was working out how to set it up in my car somehow, maybe with the screen as a heads-up projection on the windshield.

  12. James Thompson on March 10, 2021 at 10:54 pm

    I thought I wanted to learn to program so I got a 400, replaced the keyboard with a full stroke keyboard that was "ok". I had the memory increased to 16k. I even had that obnoxiously loud floppy drive. I recall entering an animated picture of a waterfall from Byte magazine. It had some hex or binary data to enter. I got the thing to run, and said, "That’s it?! I did all that work for THIS!? ERRG!" Ha Ha!

  13. The Retro Computer Guy on March 10, 2021 at 10:54 pm

    I love the atari 400 the only bad thing is that it doesnt has basic in rom

  14. Patrick Randolph on March 10, 2021 at 10:55 pm

    Great look at a forgotten system. I think when looking at pricing there is something to consider. Apple, Atari, and TI all priced these systems like a new pharmaceutical. There was an assumed sell through number that would represent the break even point for the manufacturer. The computer manufacturers wanted to recover the system R&D costs with the intial sales. Software R&D was also high, so even with high margins, that could not make up for a low margin base machine. The TI99 was released in 1979 for $1150. It wasn’t until the machine got discounted to below $100 that TI claimed the production cost exceeded the selling price. Commodore, and Compaq broke those molds and put heavy pressure on, and eventually killed the TI99 and the Atari lineup.

  15. Jens Sabai on March 10, 2021 at 10:59 pm

    OMG My first computer Atari 400, I bought it with my first salary in 1982, and I learn Atari Basic programming with, yes a programmer was born..😍

  16. Rey Alicea on March 10, 2021 at 11:01 pm

    Still have mine that my father bought for me!

  17. SeltsamerAttraktor on March 10, 2021 at 11:02 pm

    Why don’t you show some footage of the machines actually running?

  18. bjbell52 on March 10, 2021 at 11:03 pm

    I bought my Atari 400 in 1979 – it came with 16K of RAM compared to the 8K all the other 400’s had.

  19. Troy Adam on March 10, 2021 at 11:04 pm

    Full disclosure, I own an Atari 400 and 800. If you get an aftermarket keyboard on your 400, it’s really an awesome little firecracker. I actually like the elegant wedge shape of it better than the 800. And unlike the keys on an 800 which can start to stick with age, the aftermarket 400 keys still work like a dream to this day. There are even external keyboard which will plug into the Joystick 3&4 ports so you can keep it in your lap.

  20. Elfen Magix on March 10, 2021 at 11:05 pm

    Where did you get your dates from? You are off by a year in either direction like the system being released in ’78 and missing being part of the Holy Computer Trinity by months due to delayed releases. Also the 400 was selling with 16K by early ’79 and companies like Memotek were selling 32K, 48K, 64K, 128K and 512K on a single board to fit the 400 single RAM slot and the 800 slots by 1980.

    Though the 400 sold over 1Million units that was shortly after the Vic20 sold its 1Million units first. At the time neither Apple or TRS80/Tandy sold a million units until years afters Commodore and Atari did first.

    Simply going through Archive.org and go through their computer magazine section will clarify some dates and options for you.

    You also forgot the Antic video-coprocessor chip used with the GTIA video processor. It is what gives the Atari 8bit machine sprite capability.

  21. Deson Bowenford on March 10, 2021 at 11:05 pm

    My father but a 400 when I was in high school. He very rapidly replaced the keyboard with one from a 800 and cranked the memory to 48K he also added a floppy drive at a later date as well. I remember developing a golf game on it during that time period. I also remember typing many a long program from a atari computer magazine as well and saving it onto cassette tape. Yeah I hated that keyboard as well.

  22. James Martin on March 10, 2021 at 11:08 pm

    It was my first home computer and I loved it. The keyboard was challenging. But the games were good. And, I got my start programming on it.

  23. Neptune on March 10, 2021 at 11:09 pm

    Well this is just the type of channel I love! Subscribed!

  24. B_Bone on March 10, 2021 at 11:12 pm

    My first computer was the Atari 800XL, but I had a fried that owned the Atari 400 and the keyboard was terrible to type on. It felt a lot like the speak and spell. Writing code in Basic took so long because you made so many typos with the keyboard.

  25. John Holmes on March 10, 2021 at 11:16 pm

    This was actually my first computer my parents bought me for Christmas in 1979. Obviously the 800 would have been a nicer machine, but I felt pretty lucky to be getting the 400 as a Christmas present. They actually took me with them to buy it but I couldn’t open it until Christmas morning. LOL! I learned to type almost 70 words per minute on that crazy keyboard learning BASIC, for two years, until I got my Apple ][+ for Christmas in 1981, and we ended up selling the 400 to pay for part of the Apple ][+. I have a couple of them now, although I usually go for an 800XL if I’m going to use one of the 8-bit machines, I have actually traveled with the 400 sticking it in a backpack, and connecting to the hotel TV when I arrive. It was fun going through TSA with them wondering WTAF this thing was! LOL!

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