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1980s Computers Explanation of terms

The Atari 800

Atari 800


Atari (US)



Date Launched

January 1979
Full production did not start until late 1979.


Approx £700
Price had dropped to £250 in mid 1984.

Microprocessor type

MOSTEK 6502B @ 1.8 MHz

ROM size

10 kilobytes

Standard RAM

16 kilobytes originally
48 kilobytes later

Maximum RAM

48 kilobytes

Keyboard type

Typewriter style

Supplied language


Text resolution

40 x 24 characters

Graphics resolution

160 x 96 pixels in full colour
320 x 192 pixels in monochrome

Colours available

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

Example Screenshot

Atari 800 display
It was possible to 'cycle' the colour palette to obtain simple animation effects, as shown for the waterfall here.


3 channels through internal speaker

Cassette load speed

1200 baud

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

Dimensions (mm)
Weight (grams)

406 x 317 x 114

Special features

Had a custom designed graphics chip and four internal expansion slots.

Good points

Ports for two ROM cartridges, joysticks, paddles and a light pen.
Excellent graphics capability.
Large RAM for its time.
Some of the best arcade-style games around were available, as described in this article.

Bad points

Quite expensive to manufacture (it contained 7 PCBs.) This made it difficult for Atari to cut the price as home computers became cheaper.
Games on cartridge were expensive.

How successful?

The Atari 800 sold very well, including as a 'business' machine.


Atari had introduced video games machines so they had the expertise to give the 800 superb sound and display facilities.
The Atari 800 remained a leading edge games computer for several years.

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