Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
Portables Hardware

Atari 1200XL Stacked Up Against a Dell Inspiron 253

Bill Kendrick writes "My first computer was the short-lived 1200XL model of the Atari 8-bit computer line. I finally got ahold of one again, after having to settle with a lesser Atari system. My immediate reaction was: 'Damn, it's as big as my Dell Inspiron laptop!', and I couldn't resist doing one of those side-by-side comparisons, complete with photos of one system sitting atop the other. (I also put the 1983 storage and speeds in 2009 terms, for the benefit of the youngin's out there.) While in many ways the Atari pales in comparison to the latest technology they cram into laptops, I do get to benefit from SD storage media. It also still boots way faster than Ubuntu on the Dell, has a far more ergonomic keyboard, and is much more toddler-proof."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Atari 1200XL Stacked Up Against a Dell Inspiron

Comments Filter:
  • Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jimbobborg ( 128330 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @04:15PM (#28627683)

    I had an Atari 800XL back in the day. With a 300 Baud modem, two floppy drives, and a color monitor! I miss that machine. Had way too many pirated games for it.

  • Missile command (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) * on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @04:19PM (#28627749) Journal

    Unfortunately, the Atari trakball is digital so you don't get that much benefit from using the trackball over a regular joystick. If you want to play a real game of Missile Command, you need an Atari 5200, and it's giant ass trackball.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @04:25PM (#28627823)

    Fascinating that your Atari from 26 years ago can still power on and operate. So the big question is: What will your Dell Inspiron be able to do in 26 years?

  • Re:What the hell? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @04:45PM (#28628085) Homepage Journal

    What kind of world did you people live in?

    As primitive as the world is today, the world I grew up in was WAY primitive. Computers took entire buildings to house but were less powerful than a pocket calculator (my "pocket calculator" was a slide rule), there were no mice, no laser pointers (no lasers at all). there was color TV but only one family in the neighborhood could afford one and besides there were only two station (this was in St Louis, a major metropolis). No VCRs, no video games, no microwave ovens, no cordless phones (the phones had dials instead of buttons), no remote controls. Cars had no fuel injectors, air bags, or seat belts. Most electronics still used tubes. No accomodating lenses for cataract patients (in fact the first IOL was developed only a few years before I was born). Most folks didn't have air conditioning, and nobody had air in their cars. Cars only had AM radio.

    When Star Trek came on TV (I was 12 iirc) everything about it was pure science fiction - doors that opened by themselves (now every grocery has them), flat screen desktop computers, "communicators" (cell phones), etc.

    You don't realise how primitive your world is until you get older. I can't imagine some of the stuff you guys will get to see. I never dreamed that some day I wouldn't have to wear glasses!

    Hell, the laser didn't exist until I was 8 or 9. Talk about primitive.

  • ERROR 9 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nvrrobx ( 71970 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @04:54PM (#28628207) Homepage
    This reminds me of one of the most impressive things about my Atari 800XL. I ran into this error when I first started to learn anything about computers. I was thoroughly stumped. (I was also 8 years old.)

    I wrote a letter to Atari (using Atari Writer!) and I got a reply back in the mail just a few weeks later. They told me what I did wrong, included a bunch of software, an Atari BASIC book and a years subscription to Antic.

    No computer company has impressed me like that since then.
  • by synthesizerpatel ( 1210598 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @05:05PM (#28628339)

    If you're dealing with say, realtime embedded devices for managing air travel or life-support systems, sure.

    But who cares how long it takes to boot your desktop or laptop? I reboot my laptop maybe once a week, the rest of the time it's either running or hibernating.

    I'd rather have a slow boot up that verifies everything is working correctly than a fast one that skips sanity checks. It's not the OS that causes bootup slowness anyway but rather the 5400RPM honey-encrusted hard-drives that slow things down.

    Drop an SSD HDD in and the time is reduced to trivial levels on any operating system.

  • by n30na ( 1525807 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @05:09PM (#28628373) Journal
    If my laptop booted faster I'd be more likely to boot it down and carry it around. Enough of a reason to complain about boot times imo.
  • by Amazing Quantum Man ( 458715 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @05:19PM (#28628509) Homepage

    When I got my Eee, I actually did a comparison to the (SCO) Unix server we used circa 1992.

    Systems: EeePC 900, Target model; Austin WinTower 486/33E.

    Eee - 900MHz Celeron
    WinTower - 33MHz 486/33 (note that this predates the DX/SX split)
    Comparison: Eee - 30x faster

    Eee - 1GB DDR
    WinTower - 32MB FPM
    Comparison: Eee 32x more, runs at higher speed, wider bus.

    Eee - 4GB IDE SSD (added 16GB SDHC)
    WinTower - 1GB 5.25" Full Height SCSI-2 HD (added 4GB SCSI-2 drive and 1GB Tape drive)
    Comparison: Eee 4x larger (before and after upgrades). Eee - 3-4x faster (estimated)

    Eee - 100BaseT, 802.11G
    WinTower - 10Base2 (yes, ThinNet)
    Comparison: Eee, 10x faster wired.

    Eee - 1024x600x24 integrated 9" LCD, Accelerated (Intel chipset), external 1024x768 VGA available
    WinTower: 1024x768x8, 14" CRT, Frame buffer (Trident TVGA)
    Comparison: Eee: Better color, faster video. WinTower: Higher Resolution.

    Eee - 3xUSB2, Mic In, Audio Out
    WinTower: 2 spare EISA slots, 2 spare ISA slots, 6xRS232, 5.25" and 3.5" Floppy disk, Bidirectional Parallel port

    Eee - Eeebuntu 3.0
    WinTower: SCO Open Desktop 2.0 Server
    Comparison: Eee wins.

    Eee - integrated laptop style keyboard
    WinTower: 101-Key AT connector keyboard
    Comparison: WinTower wins.

    Eee - Integrated touchpad, MS Wireless Laptop Wheel Mouse
    WinTower - Logitech 2 button mouse
    Comparison: Eee wins (when using external mouse)

    Eee - $400 (2008 USD, includes RAM upgrade and SDHC)
    WinTower - $15000 (1992 USD, includes SCO ODT2 and Dev System)

  • Action! Woot! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @06:00PM (#28629023)

    I got through college in the 1980s with an Atari 800XL. Action! was the first programming language ever did anything interesting in, including two games- a vertical scroller and a side scroller. I remember side scrollers being harder because of the way the video memory was setup, or something. You had to do things in the video blank interval.

    For classes, though, I also had QuickBASIC, Deep Blue C, Kyan Pascal and versions of Forth and FORTRAN. It was amazing how many languages were available for those things. I could write initial code at home before heading to the (always crowded) computer lab to enter the final version to be submitted for a grade.

    [bleep] I feel old now. :-(

  • Re:8bit colour? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bill Kendrick ( 19287 ) <> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @06:18PM (#28629229) Homepage

    Switch into GRAPHICS 9 mode (16 shaded bitmap mode). Use a Display List Interrupt (DLI) to change the colors down the screen. You can arrange it to get a nice grid of 16 hues of 16 shades == 256 colors!

    The paletted colors were actually only out of 128 colors. (16 hues of 8 shades)

    More useful, though, are some of the software-driven tricks for drawing more colors on the screen. One simple one interlaces between 16-hue and 16-shade pixel modes, combining to give you any of 256 colors (albeit a little washed out), anywhere on the screen. In glorious 80x192 pixel resolution. (Not a typo)

    Or cycle between 3 16-shade modes, one Red, one Green, one Blue, and you get 4096 colors, anywhere on the screen. (Or do it at higher horizontal resolution and get 64 colors or 8 colors.) There are GIF and JPEG viewers for Ataris that have been around for _years_ that use these modes.

    Even fancier tricks give you 30 shades of grey at 160x192, some obscene number of colors at 160x192, etc.

    In fact today (before this post appeared on Slashdot), someone contacted me about the character-set (you know, "font"? :^) ) driven multicolor text mode I came up with a decade ago that let me do cell/tile-based graphics and get 13 colors on the screen. (Simply toggle the font at each Vertical Blank Interrupt -- no need for Display List Interrupt tricks.) I wrote a puzzle game with it.

    Anyway, he pointed out that those huge-pixel (80px across) modes can be "applied" to any graphics mode (try GRAPHICS 2:POKE 623,64:?#6;"abcd"), and therefore a similar frame-flickering trick could be made to get lots of large, multi-colored tile graphics on the screen.

    Lots of stuff you can get ANTIC and GTIA to do; a few of which are 'artifacts' or 'bugs', but all consistent across the platform. :)

    (Heh - I wonder if a single person will care about that braindump I just presented.)

  • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by anss123 ( 985305 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @07:28PM (#28629901)

    So I'm not sure what the story was. I don't think Atari did either.

    LOL. Probably true that :-)

    Oh yeah, and the technically-brilliant-for-its-time Lynx was a flop as well, even though it should have done well.

    The Lynx should have been smaller with a bigger BW reflective screen. The Lynx hardware itself was quite innovative, but its "huge" size and hunger for batteries made it a poor portable. The Game Gear was similarly troubled but Sega somehow managed to attract buyers though.

  • Action! was great (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tjstork ( 137384 ) <> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @07:56PM (#28630199) Homepage Journal

    I loved Action. I'd have to say that it was probably the most advanced programming environment of the 8 bit era.

  • Re:8bit colour? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vector7 ( 2410 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @09:55PM (#28631255) Journal

    I'm really fascinated by this stuff, as planning out how you're going to (ab)use the video hardware is key to getting the most out of these old machines - modern machines are so boring, with high resolution and unlimited colors, and no need for split screens and hblank trickery. I grew up on old Ataris but was too young (or too lame) to do anything but putter around in Basic at the time, and I love reading about the clever ways people have come up with to stretch the limits of the machine. I wish there were more graphic examples on the web demonstrating what you can do in these exotic modes.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:02AM (#28632231)

    Landon Dyer, who wrote/ported Donkey Kong for Atari 8 bit machines has a blog []

    It's actually a remarkable story - he was in charge of the 'port', but actually he just played the arcade game at his hotel, wrote a spec and reimplemented it from scratch. When it was done he had code that just fit into the Rom - only a 'dozen or so bytes' were free. It's easily one of the best arcade ports to the Atari too.

    Actually since Atari is the topic, I had one back in the day and there are two things I saw demonstrated that I never could figure out.

    One was a turbo loader for cassette tapes. There was a lump of electronics in potting compound and a normal cassette recorded. They claimed it could load from tape faster than an 1050 disk drive. It couldnâ(TM)t but it was pretty close. The lump of potted electronics was quite small and the sold the whole thing for about 40 bucks. I never figured out how they managed to modulate and demodulate that high a baud rate with what must have been a couple of Op Amps. I donâ(TM)t know how stable it was - probably not very - but I donâ(TM)t think it was faked.

    The other was an Atari 800XL with a Prestel cartridge. It was displaying 40Ã--24 text in the Prestel font, which is easy to do on an Atari. But it was also displaying Prestel colors. They allow any character cell to have one of 8 colors (basically R1G1B1) in the foreground and one in the background. If you looked carefully the screen looked like Mode 0 with a strage overlay color, like they used the player missile graphics or something. But PMG doesnâ(TM)t look like it can handle the worst case where either the background or the foreground can change each character square. It was sort of flickery too, though not as bad as if they interlaced a color frame and a text frame alternately.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker