Back to the retro theme this week with a personal favourite of mine, the Atari XE range. I'll talk a bit about the XL computers too, as the XE is essential a re-packaged version of those. I remember vividly getting my first proper computer back in 1985, an Atari 65XE, for Christmas. It was a special Curry's bundle with 8 games, tape deck and joystick. Atari was the outsider at the time, with the UK market being dominated by the Spectrum and Commodore 64. The Atari was graphically superior to both, but didn't have as many games available. I can attest to that as I had to buy my games via mail order, but perhaps that was because I was on the Isle of Wight.
The 65XE was an 8-bit machine based on the 6502 processor. It was effectively an 800XL minus some of the ports, and cased in grey plastic as opposed to the very dated looking beige of it's predecessor. There was 64k of RAM available for use, which was pretty much standard at the time. A 130XE model was released later that contained 128k of RAM, but there were very few pieces of software that actually made use of it all. Atari also released a games console version, the XEGS (Game System). But this was not very successful due to bad marketing, and fell into obscurity.
By the late '80s/early '90s 8-bit computers were pretty much dead. Handheld devices and 16-bit machines like the Amiga and Atari ST were commonplace and affordable. Consoles were also much more powerful and left the 8-bit machines looking very dated.
I've still got my original 65XE from all those years ago. It's looking a little brown now as the process used to create the plastic place tends to released bromine over time, which stains the colour. Apparently there is a way to reverse this so perhaps my old computer will look as good as new. I've added to my collection over that time too. I've now got a XF551 floppy drive, a printer and plotter, trackball, etc. Most of that came from a box I bought at a car boot sale. A very good move! I think the last piece I need for this collection is the allusive 65XEP portable. So if you have one for sale, drop me a line.Tweet
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