The Atari 800 XE Laptop - Photo and function gallery


   Well with everything done I guess all that remains is to look at some pictures of the finished unit in detail! If you've skipped the story and come right here I must say you've missed out on some awesome cave painting and Miami Vice action! But anyways...

I heart brushed aluminum. Almost more than air.

  Here's the rear ports on the unit - DC in (for charge or just running it), Compact Flash and the DB25 SIO port. The Compact Flash drive is always Disk 1 (D1:) so whatever goes on the SIO port, be it a real disk drive or an SIO2PC cable must be set at D2: or higher. I used the SIO2PC cable to copy all the files (ahem GAMES) off my PC and onto this laptop. All the file transfers had to be done on the Atari's DOS. The SIO2PC cable is  a lot faster than a real Atari drive, but Mr. Atari's IDE interface with the Compact Flash is even faster. Perhaps the interface uses parallel instead of serial, who knows?

Top-down view of keyboard.

The keys are the same size as an Atari 800 (1979) model keyboard, about 1/2" square. The spacing is also pretty much the same. Granted my custom keyboard can't come close to the legendary one on the original 800, but it's better than what came with the XEGS (or - shudder- the 400!!!)

You can also see the cursor knob (right below the space bar) You simply press this in a direction and the cursor moves - very handy if you're into programming. Should attach one to my old 800, come to think of it.

I put an extra "Option" button near the power switch and labeled it "BASIC OFF". With an Atari you hold down OPTION as you turn on the system to disable BASIC so I thought this'd be handy.

Player 1 joypad on left, Player 2 on right but the triggers are swapped. This makes it easier for 1 player (which is the most likely scenario anyways) to hold the unit and play since the trigger's under their right thumb. One thing I didn't even think about, until this was done, is how great these joypads work for Robotron 2084. Or an Atari 800 version of Smash TV, if it exists ;)

I had to have some indicator LED's on this thing! I used the oldest crappy LED colors I could - red for POWER (reference to 800/800XL), green for disk activity and yellow for charge. Since this thing cost a fortune anyways I thought of splurging on some blue LED's but then thought that'd be cheating as they didn't have them back in 1979. Of course they didn't have LCD screens either but I had to let that one slip by.

Brushed aluminum everywhere! Here you can see the joystick ports, so a friend can join in (or get their butt kicked)

The joystick ports, again more brushed aluminum. It's not REAL brushed aluminum, rather a laser engraver plastic, but it looks really good regardless. This laptop was actually kind of hard to photograph with a flash since every surface is either glossy, metallic or reflective. Oh well, you should get the point.

Below is the Atari 800 Error list, located to the left of the screen. Obviously it's not complete but these are the most common errors if I recall correctly.

Father???        Son????
LEFT: My Atari's error message list,   RIGHT: An error message list from my old Tandy Pocket Computer.

First and foremost it's there to fill in the blank space (again to make the screen look bigger) but it's also A) helpful because who the heck can remember all those Atari messages and B) a reference to the portable and pocket computers of the 1980's such as the ones from Tandy. On the opposite side of the screen are the display and volume controls. Tapping "Display" lets you use the volume keys to adjust brightness, tint, etc.

The battery pack, and the spot it fits in on the base of the laptop.

I don't know what else to say about this thing really. It was very difficult to build, very labor intensive - it's easily beat the PS2 portable as the most complex device I've ever put together. (Port Washington the movie doesn't count as it's not a device)

But you know, it was worth it. The Atari 800 series computer may not be as well-remembered as the 2600 game system, but those who do recall the late great 8-bit computer almost always have great and fun memories of it. Here's a few of mine, some of which you're sure to relate to:

   The first time an alien pounded on my windshield in Rescue on Fractalus I nearly crapped my pants. Literally! Resident Evil doesn't have squat on that.

   My first Atari BASIC program:

10 PRINT "HI!"
20 GOTO 10

   Wishing my 48k Atari 800 could run The Eidolon and Laser Chess.

   Programming all night, then having the disk fail with a BOOT ERROR message. Prepared me for Windows!

   Infocom text adventure games! Those were cool! As well as all the homebrew text games people made!

   Page 6

   The music from Ballblazer

   ...and the list goes on and on. Long live the 800!

BONUS!: A video of me using the Atari 800 XE Laptop. Mostly to show off the cursor knob I'm so proud of.

Atari 800 Laptop Video (15 megs, QuickTime)


  Ok take me back to the HOMEPAGE