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1980s Computers Explanation of terms

The Atari 600XL and 800XL

Atari 800XL


Atari (US)


600XL and 800XL

Date Launched

November 1983


£160 (600XL)
£200 ? (800XL)
In mid 1985 the 800XL had dropped to £130 including the dedicated cassette recorder.

Microprocessor type

MOSTEK 6502C @ 1.79 MHz

ROM size

24 kilobytes

Standard RAM

16 kilobytes (600XL)
64 kilobytes (800XL)

Maximum RAM

64 kilobytes (both models)

Keyboard type

Typewriter style

Supplied language


Text resolution

40 x 24 characters

Graphics resolution

Maximum 320 x 192 pixels

Colours available

16 colours each at 16 brightness levels.
Limited to 16 different colours on-screen at once without complex programming.
Fewer colours on screen at higher resolutions.


3 channels through television

Cassette load speed

1200 baud

Atari XL cassette unitUsed a special (extra cost) model 1010 matching cassette recorder which recorded digital data on one track and audio on the other. This allowed sound to be replayed while programs were loading or running.

Special features

The 600XL and 800XL were compatible with the huge range of software already written for the Atari 400 and 800.
Could have different graphics modes in different parts of the screen to give the best compromise between number of colours and resolution.

Good points

BASIC gave good access to the graphics capabilities.
Had some of the best games software around already available when launched.
Larger memory of 800XL made more serious uses possible, including a very good word processor in Atari Writer.

Bad points

Most programs came on ROM cartridge and were expensive at £20 to £30. (Programs on tape for the Sinclair Spectrum were typically £5 to £10.)
Thus although the Ataris were quite cheap to buy initially they could be costly to own.

How successful?

The Atari 600XL and 800XL sold well, especially in the US though less well in the UK.


The Atari 600XL and 800XL were almost identical apart from the amount of standard RAM.
They were replacements for the established Atari 400 and Atari 800, with a proper keyboard and re-engineered to be cheaper to manufacture (but with slightly less expansion potential).

Atari 130XEIn June 1985 Atari launched the 130XE with 128 KB of RAM for £170. This was functionally the same as the 800XL but in a restyled case, similar to the new Atari ST.
Review of the 130XE

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