The new design, the 600XL, was announced at the 1983 Summer CES, along with the 800XL, they were a redesign of the Atari 800 and 400.
The machines had Atari BASIC built into the ROM of the computer, instead of being loaded in by a cartridge, and a Parallel Bus Interface (PBI) at the back that allowed external expansion.
This universal socket allowed tape drives and Disk drives, and the machines of course retained the cartridge slot of the original machines, though carts were no longer kept inside the machine, and of course the basic slot was no longer needed.
The machines looked similar to the 1200XL, which had been a disaster at retail and in technical terms, meaning that backwards compatibility with the earlier machines was seriously compromised.
Unfortunately, along with the Atari 800XL, the machine suffered chronic shortages, and the price could never get anywhere near the Commodore competition, even being raised at one point. This situation was also not helped by the identity crisis the machines had always had. The Atari board wanted the machines to be in the business sector, but companies like Apple had killer Apps like VisiCalc, the top programme for the Atari had been Star Raiders, a game, this left Atari with a problem in that their own console range was in direct competition with their own computer.
The video game crash in 1983 meant this was no longer a problem as the console market had imploded, but by now the C64 had a great library of games, and was also set up for business use.
The 600XL has a much narrower back than the 800XL released alongside it, due to a row of RAM chips being missing, this gives it far more of a micro look.
It is only 16K, but with a good quality selection of early arcade conversions, it still has relevance for retro gamers. The machine can actually be modded for 64K, to make it effectively an Atari 800XL, which had that much RAM out of the box.
The Atari 8 bit family were available from 1979 to 1992, and although never able to challenge Commodore with their ultra aggressive price cuts, they still sold in significant numbers, and today
are still producing many home brew titles for fans of the machines.
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This exhibit has a reference ID of CH513. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.
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