Father’s Day tribute, Thanks Dad, Atari 400

Oh boy, just looking at the picture above gives me goose bumps! This is the system that started it all. The Atari 400 home computer system.  It had 4 controller slots, a cartridge slot and a membrane keyboard.   Playing Pacman, Donkey Kong and Q-bert on this unit felt like playing it in the arcade.  Most importantly, it was my first exposure to programming via the BASIC language. We would get manuals and write up test programs. Great learning experience for us in our youth.

I also enjoyed the box art of the games. You can tell that they spent a good amount of money and time at the time to create a masterpiece on the cover of the boxes.  That is more than what I can say about a few of the games that are released these days.  I was not impressed with my last two purchases, Street Fighter IV and Punchout’s box art was pretty awful in my opinion.

A year or so later, we picked our first tape drive or program recorder. The Atari 410..

We would buy games in cassette tape format and play them on the Atari 400. It was our first disk drive if you will. It was mostly used for recording computer programs that one would write utilizing the BASIC language. The Atari 400 did not have a big enough hard drive to satisfy the recording required.   This is the system that introduced the PerezStart.com Family into technology. All of us have chosen to work in a technology related field and we have this system to thank. It opened up our imagination and motivated us to pursue the interest of computers at a very young age. I remember my dad telling me that he purchased this unit with a Christmas bonus he received from his job. Thanks dad not only thinking of your children, but for selecting a “computer” for christmas. You planted the seed for your children’s future!

Which computer system did you own in the 80’s? Do you still have the unit stored away in your closet?

System Specs:

System Architecture


Microprocessor MOSTEK 6502A Standard on system board 16k
Clock speed 1.79 MHz Maximum on system board 16k
Bus type Atari proprietary Maximum total memory 16k
Data bus width 8 – bits Memory speed and type
Address bus width 16 – bits System board memory socket type Special Cartridge Slot
Interrupt levels N/A Number of memory module sockets 1 slots
DMA channels N/A Memory used on system board

Standard Features

Disk Storage

ROM size 10k Internal disk and tape drive bays none
Optional math coprocessor no Standard floppy drives Cassette or 5.25 floppy drive
Parallel port type no Optional floppy drives: external
RS232C serial ports no * 5 1/4 inch 160k yes
Mouse ports no * 5 1/4 inch 1.2MB no
UART chip used N/A * 3 1/2 inch 720k no
Maximum speed N/A * 3 1/2 inch 1.44MB no
CMOS real time clock no * 3 1/2 inch 2.88MB no
CMOS RAM no Hard disk controller included no

Video & Graphics


Graphics Processor ‘Antic’ Sound Interface device ‘Pokey’
Screen size – Col x Rows 40 x 24 Sound generation 4 voices
Resolution – Colors/High 2 / 320 x 192 ADSR capable no
Resolution – Colors/Low 16 / 80 x 192
Max colors 128 Programming language
Sprites or Missiles 4 Built in language Atari BASIC
Built in M L monitor no

Expansion Slots

Keyboard Specs.

Total adapter slots 0 Number of keys 61 membrane type
Number of 8/16/32 bit slots 0 / 0 / 0 Upper/lower case yes / yes
I/O 4-joystick ports Keyboard cable length N/A
I/O 1-RF output to TV
I/O 1-13 pin serial port

Physical Specs.

Environmental Specs.

* Height 4 1/2 inches Operating voltage @ 60 Hz 120 VAC
* Width 13 1/2 inches Maximum power supplied 50 Watts
* Depth 11 1/4 inches Power supply output – volts 9 VAC
* Weight 5 pounds 3 ounces Power supply output – amps 3.4 Amps
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