Introduced in time for Christmas of 1979 the Atari 400 was the little brother of the Atari 800. It differed from the 800 only in form, not in function. Both Atari computers had the same processor and chip sets. The 400 had a membrane keyboard (kid safe) where the 800 had a full-travel keyboard and the 400 was limited to one expansion slot and, at least initially, a fixed 8 KB of RAM.
The original names of the machines - 400/800 were derived from how much RAM they were going to have. Originally, the 400 would have 4 KB and the 800 would have 8 KB. As RAM prices fell, by the time they machines were launched they were able to double the RAM for basically the same price.
The Atari 400 computer is a 6502 based machine with custom graphics and sound chips that made it a gamers delight. The Atari line had a fairly wide variety of peripherals available including tape and disk drives, printers, modems and interface units. The 400, like the 800, was compatible with them all.
The Atari 400 also worked with all Atari computer cartridges that could run in its more limited RAM.
Maury Markowitz on Monday, November 09, 2015 I bought one of these as a 15 year old when the first round of price cuts hit. This machine, along with the book "The Atari Assembler", introduced me to programming. Ironically, I never had the actual assembler program, but the book was so well written I just "got it".
Gerry on Saturday, September 26, 2015 My first computer. My father was so impressed with it he bought one too! Tape drive, several printers, eventually a floppy drive, it was in use for many years. I upgraded to 130 XE eventually. The Atari computers lasted until I bought my first PC. A 386 DX 33. I still miss being able to peek and poke numbers into the software and rewriting the programs.
j s on Sunday, October 20, 2013 The graphics subsystem of the Atari 8-bit computers was well ahead of its time. It was a complete raster graphics processor in itself, the first ever created for a desktop computer. The processor handled drawing almost completely independent of the CPU, and although it had limited color depth compared to the graphics chip in the VCS, it had a display framebuffer and full per-pixel addressing capability. Atari made full use of this in their demos, creating some very impressive real-time 3D graphics- the "bouncing ball" demo and the later 130XE advertising demo are very good examples of this.
Scott Holloway on Sunday, May 26, 2013 Enjoyed programming my Christmas gift for a long time. I wrote a program, experimenting with "random" numbers, that totally astounded me. My Dad went 50/50 with me for this machine, and I eventually also obtained a tape drive, along with an assembler cartridge and bunches of books on the 6502 chip. Laid it to rest when newer technology tempted me away. Now I do MRI scans. Good memories.
BillG on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 This was my first computer. Convinced my parents it was worth the $500+ at the time as an educational Christmas gift for the family. Received it on Christmas day but no joysticks so my brother and I watched the several games that came with it (Missile Command, Star Raiders etc.) helplessly for 2 days until the stores reopened.
Learned Basic and some Assembler on it and typed in many programs from Compute magazine and even submitted a few games which I spent weeks programming. They were interested in one tank game I made but said it was too much typing, they didn't think anyone would type it all in.
Upgraded it to 48K for about 2-$300 at the time from Electronics Playworld in Mississauga.
Participated in BBS's one in particular was called Animation Station out of Oakville. They used the special character set on the Atari to stream rudimentary moving cartoon graphics.
I still have a functioning 400 and many cartridges which I still play to this day.
Star Raiders was an incredible game for its time and only 8K! It sold a lot of computers for Atari! Multiplayer Asteroids was also a unique experience.
I look forward to visiting the museum soon!