Atari 130XE

(Atari 800, my first computer)

(My stylin' 130XE)

I know I have this general rule against collecting even more old computers, but I feel sort of an obligation to make sure I have operational Atari 8-bit hardware. An Atari 800 was my first computer, and in December of 1981 (I would have been 4 and a half, roughly), I began programming it in BASIC. It got an almost-daily workout by me until it was replaced in approximately October 1986, by the Apple IIGS (yeah I know that's an early date to have an Apple IIGS at retail, but it was a dealer demo, a ROM 00 without a Woz signature. But let's leave Apples alone for just one blog entry here).

So in 2003, I'd added an XE Game System to my collection, choosing it for its detachable keyboard. A little while ago, I went to boot it up, and found that its ROM was bad. Now, I'm fully aware that I could fix this problem with the soldering iron I love so much, and a $12 order from Best Electronics, and I probably will someday, but at this point I'd also had enough of the XEGS' enormous footprint for the device + keyboard. I decided to get a 130XE as my new "main" Atari8, because it has that amazing 128K of RAM and FREDDIE memory management chip, and because I think many enthusiasts had also chosen it as the modern jumping-off point. A few clicks on eBay, and a week of waiting, and I had a 130XE in mint condition (the cellophane hasn't even been pulled off label) in its retail box.

I already had an RS232-SIO cable that I had used on the XEGS, but the SIO host back then was a Windows machine running APE, and this time it would have to be the Intel Mac Mini running SIO2OSX. So I also had to order the specific USB-RS232 cable they recommend, because (and I know this from experience attempting to write SIO hosts on the Mac before) the hardware-handshake lines, which are pretty important on SIO, are unreliable on nearly all USB-RS232 cables.

Anyway, after all that, my Atari stuff is working again and I'm pretty happy about that. I have grander plans for it, like installing the 30-in-1 OS ROM switcher, and experimenting with MyIDE and flash carts. But for now, I'm just happy to blast away on some of the first videogames I enjoyed.

When I'm not working on the IIGS game project, of course.