One of the original Atari 8-bit range, the 6502-based Atari 400 was one of two systems released to capitalise on the growing home computer market already, and to build upon Atari's existing success in video gaming. The 400 was released alongside the more powerful Atari 800, which bettered it by having a larger memory, two cartridge slots and a full keyboard. From an audio-visual perspective both systems were amongst the most powerful of their time, supporting 256 colours and 4-channel sound.
Unlike some other machines of the era, the 400 did not have BASIC permanently in ROM, but instead provided it as an add-on cartridge (plugging in under the cover on the top of the system). On the 800, the BASIC cartridge could be left in place while other software was interchanged in the second cartridge slot.
The 400/800 were the beginning of a long-running line of Atari 8-bit systems, with the same architecture later used in the XL and XE series (with the final outing being the XE Games System in 1987). Atari finally ceased support for the 8-bit range in 1992.
Donated/on loan from: Centre for Security, Communications and Network Research (CSCAN), Plymouth University
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