Monday, March 02, 2015
Memory Bank: The Atari 800
I was a lucky kid growing up in the 1970s. I was the first one in my neighborhood to own an Atari 2600. But also, so far as I know, I was the first one to possess an Atari Computer.
I remembering seeing the Atari 400 in stores, the one with the “flat” or membrane keyboard, and wishing we could get it. The console was released in November of 1979, and was produced until the mid-1980s.
But instead of the 400, my parents sprung for the Atari 800 – which was marketed more as a home computer and less as a game system -- and over the years we had numerous accessories for it, including a light pen, joysticks, a cartridge drive (yes, that was a thing) and then later, a floppy disc drive.
But the Atari 800 had games too, and we got upgraded versions (with better graphics) of Pac-Man, Missile Command, and -- my favorite -- Attank. I would arrive home from school in the afternoons and wait for my Dad to pull up on his motorcycle after a hard day’s work. He was vice-principal at a high school nearby, in Mountain Lakes. Once he was home, it was on, and we’d go up against each other for three or four games of Attank on the Atari 800. It was awesome, and a good memory.
I also remember playing Star Raiders on the Atari 800 for hours.
The Atari 800 was also the first word processing device I owned. And in high school, I wrote my papers on it, and also my short stories and movie scripts (The Intergalactic Police!). I got to know that system, and that keyboard, really well. I may owe my writing career to the fact that my parents purchased that machine for the family.
When I went away to college in 1988, my parents gave me the next generation of Atari computer: the much-more sleek Atari 1200XL. That was a good machine too, but I missed the big-boxy, typewriter-like Atari 800.