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1980s Computers Explanation of terms

The Atari 400

Atari 400


Atari (US)



Date Launched

January 1979
Full production did not start until late 1979.


Price had dropped to £99 in mid 1984.

Microprocessor type

MOSTEK 6502 @ 1.79 MHz

ROM size

10 kilobytes

Standard RAM

8 kilobytes originally
16 kilobytes later

Maximum RAM

16 kilobytes

Keyboard type

Touch sensitive membrane with raised ridges around the keys.

Supplied language

BASIC on cartridge, PILOT also available.

Text resolution

40 x 24 characters

Graphics resolution

40 x 24 to 320 x 192 pixels

Colours available

16 colours each at 8 brightness levels.
Normally limited to 16 different colours on-screen at once.


3 channels through internal speaker or TV

Cassette load speed

1200 baud
Used a special cassette recorder costing £45, which recorded digital data on one track and audio on the other.

Dimensions (mm)
Weight (grams)

343 x 292 x 114

Special features

Had a custom designed graphics chip.

Good points

Ports for ROM cartridge, joysticks, paddles, light pen.
Excellent graphics capability.
Quite large RAM for its time.
Some of the best arcade-style games around were available, as described in this article.

Bad points

Poor keyboard
Games on cartridge were expensive.

How successful?

The Atari 400 and later improved versions sold very well, mainly as top of the range games consoles.


Atari were leaders in the field of video games machines so it is not surprising their computers had top-notch sound and display facilities.
Even several years after it was introduced the Atari 400 was an impressive machine.

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