Atari 7800 Schematics Found in Dumpster Dive

PhaseNoise

2[H]4U
Joined
May 11, 2005
Messages
3,287
Thanks for this, I'm a long time Atari hack. I never had any exposure to the 7800, and I guess historically, neither did many other people.
 

Ready4Dis

2[H]4U
Joined
Nov 4, 2015
Messages
2,426
I had a 7800... Not sure why you think People didn't have exposure. They were available for purchase ;). I had a 2600 as well as a 5200. Fun systems.
 

Burticus

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Nov 7, 2005
Messages
4,379
I had a 7800 that I got at an electronics wholesale auction... it was thrown into a big box of random electronic junk and some carts. While it was a giant step up from the 2600, it wasn't as good as say a NES, Sega Master system, or a C64 which were all out at the time. I think if Atari could have released the 7800 instead of the 5200, they would have made bigger impact and stayed relevant longer. But by the time the 7800 finally released, no one cared any more.

The 7800 is the console that the 5200 should have been. Actual hardware compatibility with the 2600, and some very decent arcade ports and games.

edit - I just read the wikipedia. So the delay wasn't intentional, it was all held up due to Atari being sold to Tramiel's company from Warner, and all current projects got suspended until that all played out. Bad timing I guess.
 
Last edited:

PhaseNoise

2[H]4U
Joined
May 11, 2005
Messages
3,287
There's a lot of history with Atari mismanagement unfortunately. Even as a young un I remember being very frustrated at the missteps at every turn.

But as for the tech - man, what fun. You could do so much with a handful of instructions on the platforms of that day!
 

GiGaBiTe

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 26, 2013
Messages
1,363
I had an Atari 2600 when I was young that mom got from a garage sale for almost nothing in 1990. I barely remember it, other than being frustrated with how simple the games were. It was quickly replaced with a Sega Genesis and passed off to one of my friends at the time who didn't have a game system.
 

SamirD

2[H]4U
Joined
Mar 22, 2015
Messages
3,844
Hey, I still have my 2600 from when we bought it back in the day. Have all the carts and the joysticks and paddles too as they would also work on the c64. (y)

It's sad that the simplicity of the games is lost on the modern generation. I can still play asteroids for quite a while without boredom. :)
 

SmokeRngs

[H]ard|DCer of the Month - April 2008
Joined
Aug 9, 2001
Messages
16,809
I loved my 7800 simply because I could also play 2600 games on it which was nice because quite a few people had them laying around and gave them to me for nothing.
 

SamirD

2[H]4U
Joined
Mar 22, 2015
Messages
3,844
I loved my 7800 simply because I could also play 2600 games on it which was nice because quite a few people had them laying around and gave them to me for nothing.
That was the killer part about the 7800, but like someone said earlier, it came too late. Most people had moved on from the 2600, so the value in that wasn't as strong as it would be if the 7800 had been released earlier.
 

N4CR

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Oct 17, 2011
Messages
4,687
I had a 7800 that I got at an electronics wholesale auction... it was thrown into a big box of random electronic junk and some carts. While it was a giant step up from the 2600, it wasn't as good as say a NES, Sega Master system, or a C64 which were all out at the time. I think if Atari could have released the 7800 instead of the 5200, they would have made bigger impact and stayed relevant longer. But by the time the 7800 finally released, no one cared any more.

The 7800 is the console that the 5200 should have been. Actual hardware compatibility with the 2600, and some very decent arcade ports and games.

edit - I just read the wikipedia. So the delay wasn't intentional, it was all held up due to Atari being sold to Tramiel's company from Warner, and all current projects got suspended until that all played out. Bad timing I guess.
How rare you tarnish the realm of Tamriel with your twisted words.
 

Revdarian

2[H]4U
Joined
Aug 16, 2010
Messages
2,613
Well, what really killed atari wasn't the console division but the computer one, look up the insane price cuts they did over there, going from 9xx$ to sub 200$ in a single year selling at such massive loss is what bankrupted them. It's similar to how Sony burned money selling the ps3 at a loss but on a bigger and worse scale since they couldn't hope to recoup the losses from software royalties on the platform.


https://www.neogaf.com/threads/know...r-computer-division-that-killed-them.1509829/

It's explained in depth here.

(just saying that even if the 7800 would have come earlier, they were going full retard)
 

Burticus

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Nov 7, 2005
Messages
4,379
There's a lot of history with Atari mismanagement unfortunately. Even as a young un I remember being very frustrated at the missteps at every turn.

But as for the tech - man, what fun. You could do so much with a handful of instructions on the platforms of that day!

Hey I grew up as a commodore kid, so I am fully familiar with management fuckwittery
 

IndyColtsFan

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jul 4, 2017
Messages
401
I got an Atari 2600 around 1980 or so, and it was a great part of my young life. However, as the 80s progressed, I moved over to Commodore and had a VIC 20, C64, C128, and then finally, an Amiga 2000. I still have every one of these original systems plus an Amiga 3000 I bought a few years back.

What I learned from both Atari and Commodore is that neither company ever figured out how to consistently replace a hit product with another hit product. In Atari’s case, the video game crash of 1983 contributed to their bottom line crashing and being sold to Jack Tramiel. Atari bungled the 5200 and the 7800 was way too late to the market. Jack tried to take over the home computer market and make inroads in business with the ST (and XE) line, but once the Amiga 500 was released, the ST was as good as dead as the Amiga was always the superior platform.

For its part, Commodore did almost exactly the same thing with the C64. For one, they kept trying to get rid of the C64 and it was still selling very well into the late 80s. Secondly, they debated for a good two years on what path to take to succeed the C64. The Plus 4 line was an unmitigated disaster and put Commodore in deep financial stress. The Amiga 1000 was bungled on several fronts. The C128 and a renewed interest in the C64 saved them while they readied the Amiga 500 and Amiga 2000. Afterwards, the Amiga enjoyed modest success but was never a major hit and as time passed, Commodore was caught in another period of debate on how to expand and advance the Amiga. The A1200 and A4000 were last gasp efforts but they were too little and far too late to save Commodore. One of the more advanced designs may have saved them for at least a few more years, but the AGA chipset wasn’t the chipset engineers really wanted.

Brian Bagnall’s Commodore trilogy is a great read for Commodore fans on the inner workings of the company and I’d enjoy something similar about Atari if it exists. I’m on the last book now and in the section where the engineers are debating which chipset to champion to keep the Amiga ahead of IBM and Apple. It’s pretty astounding, as was the whole middle book regarding the birth of the Amiga. The original Amiga engineers were good but they just didn’t grasp the market and fought Commodore every step of the way on the Amiga 500. Had it been the Amiga 500 which was launched in 1985 instead of the Amiga 1000, Commodore probably kills the Atari ST within a year and has enough sales to fund chipset development and higher-end Amigas. As it turned out, Commodore couldn’t afford multiple lines of R&D so a wrong choice in the 80s effectively sealed their fate in the 90s.
 

Burticus

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Nov 7, 2005
Messages
4,379
Brian Bagnall’s Commodore trilogy is a great read for Commodore fans on the inner workings of the company and I’d enjoy something similar about Atari if it exists. I’m on the last book now and in the section where the engineers are debating which chipset to champion to keep the Amiga ahead of IBM and Apple. It’s pretty astounding, as was the whole middle book regarding the birth of the Amiga. The original Amiga engineers were good but they just didn’t grasp the market and fought Commodore every step of the way on the Amiga 500. Had it been the Amiga 500 which was launched in 1985 instead of the Amiga 1000, Commodore probably kills the Atari ST within a year and has enough sales to fund chipset development and higher-end Amigas. As it turned out, Commodore couldn’t afford multiple lines of R&D so a wrong choice in the 80s effectively sealed their fate in the 90s.

There are some really good articles on ArsTechnica about Amiga and Commodore as well. Can't find the links right now but if you search for Amiga or Commodore on Ars it should find them. Multi-part series.

Commodore management dumbassness goes beyond the Plus 4 + C16 debacle, although that was a disaster. If they could have got the C65 (Or super 64 or whatever it was going to be) out the door instead of just C64 and Amiga revisions, it might have helped. But the management ineptness was so deep and hard, I don't think any one or two products could have saved them.

Atari and Commodore, giants of the 80's tech scene relegated to the trash bin of history. Sad.
 

SamirD

2[H]4U
Joined
Mar 22, 2015
Messages
3,844
It's interesting to see how many times the now obviously wrong management decisions are criticized as such when those of us alive in those times remember how much of a blue ocean it was where no one knew where we were all going. It was like Columbus in his ship setting sail. I doubt anyone one from that era, even the experts, could have predicted we would have ended up where we are today.

The only thing that we can learn from history is the lessons there and hope to not repeat them. The saddest thing is that history repeats itself many times before someone gets it 'right'.
 

westrock2000

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Jun 3, 2005
Messages
9,214
I had a 7800... Not sure why you think People didn't have exposure. They were available for purchase ;). I had a 2600 as well as a 5200. Fun systems.

This was a little before my time...for perspective would you say this was above or below Atari Jaguar level success?
 

Ready4Dis

2[H]4U
Joined
Nov 4, 2015
Messages
2,426
Way above Atari Jaguar success... we are talking before Nintendo came out, Atari was the # selling game system, followed (just my memory/guess) by I think coleco vision. I had over 200 original games for that system at the time. According to google, there were over 500 made.
 

IndyColtsFan

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jul 4, 2017
Messages
401
There are some really good articles on ArsTechnica about Amiga and Commodore as well. Can't find the links right now but if you search for Amiga or Commodore on Ars it should find them. Multi-part series.

Commodore management dumbassness goes beyond the Plus 4 + C16 debacle, although that was a disaster. If they could have got the C65 (Or super 64 or whatever it was going to be) out the door instead of just C64 and Amiga revisions, it might have helped. But the management ineptness was so deep and hard, I don't think any one or two products could have saved them.

Atari and Commodore, giants of the 80's tech scene relegated to the trash bin of history. Sad.

Yeah, Arstechnica did a long series in 2015 for the 30th anniversary of the Amiga 1000. It was great.

The book has some other funny Commodore management stories:

1. The original genlock and PC sidecar for the A1000 were finally released to market just as Commodore discontinued the A1000.

2. Marshall Smith took over for Tramiel and went on a huge spending spree, hiring tons of employees and funding multiple projects - some nonsense, some which might have helped. Few of them came to market, as many were victims of the axe as Commodore's financial situation became dire.

3. Bil Herd made a mistake on a chip and it got sent to production, where several were made (this might have just been in the early developer build phase). Anyway, there was a big meeting about it and Bil admitted his mistake and said he had already stopped production and fixed the issue, so only half the chips were affected. The QA manager kept interrupting and trying to humiliate him and was a total jerk. A little later (not sure how long, maybe months?) the VP of engineering came to Bil and said they needed to make cuts in engineering and did he have any recommendations - Mr. QA manager was canned on the spot. :)


I remember as a teenager in 84 or maybe early 85, walking through a Sears and seeing the Plus 4 on a shelf on clearance. I had never even heard of the dumb thing and I was reading Compute! every month. The thing got no coverage and was a total POS.

I'm not sure the C65 would've mattered to be honest - it would've competed with the Amiga 500 and the Amiga still had advantages. Had the C65 launched in 1984 or 1985, it would've been great; by the 90/91 timeframe, I think it was too late.
 
Last edited:

Snowdog

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Apr 22, 2006
Messages
11,267
The original Amiga engineers were good but they just didn’t grasp the market and fought Commodore every step of the way on the Amiga 500. Had it been the Amiga 500 which was launched in 1985 instead of the Amiga 1000, Commodore probably kills the Atari ST within a year and has enough sales to fund chipset development and higher-end Amigas. As it turned out, Commodore couldn’t afford multiple lines of R&D so a wrong choice in the 80s effectively sealed their fate in the 90s.

I don't see how you get the Amiga 500 in 85 instead of the A1000. The Amiga 500 is the cost reduced A1000. I still have my Amiga 1000.

Remember this is the machine that has huge daughter-board with RAM chips to emulate the kickstart ROMs that weren't stable yet. It didn't inlcude the full 512K of chip ram because it was considered too expensive, so it had a weird one-off chip ram expansion on the front. It was kind of a Frankenstein machine, cobbled together to get to market.
 

IndyColtsFan

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jul 4, 2017
Messages
401
I don't see how you get the Amiga 500 in 85 instead of the A1000. The Amiga 500 is the cost reduced A1000. I still have my Amiga 1000.

Remember this is the machine that has huge daughter-board with RAM chips to emulate the kickstart ROMs that weren't stable yet. It didn't inlcude the full 512K of chip ram because it was considered too expensive, so it had a weird one-off chip ram expansion on the front. It was kind of a Frankenstein machine, cobbled together to get to market.

Right. But on the other hand, the Atari ST made it in 1985 and outsold the Amiga for the first couple of years. Of course, Atari used a canned OS and didn’t develop their own, so they didn’t need to devote as much to OS development. You’re certainly correct about the WCS (the RAM component) and stuff like that, but I wonder if they could’ve eliminated WCS sooner and had the A500 on the market much earlier - maybe not in 85, but perhaps 86?

The A1000 is a machine I am always debating purchasing. I have an A2000 and A3000 and I think the A1000 would be a great addition to my collection, but I just can’t pull the trigger for some reason. I remember seeing it for the first time in 85 and being completely blown away so I think at some point, I’ll pull the trigger for nostalgia’s sake. Prices have really gone up over the last few years for sure.
 

Snowdog

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Apr 22, 2006
Messages
11,267
Right. But on the other hand, the Atari ST made it in 1985 and outsold the Amiga for the first couple of years. Of course, Atari used a canned OS and didn’t develop their own, so they didn’t need to devote as much to OS development. You’re certainly correct about the WCS (the RAM component) and stuff like that, but I wonder if they could’ve eliminated WCS sooner and had the A500 on the market much earlier - maybe not in 85, but perhaps 86?

The A1000 is a machine I am always debating purchasing. I have an A2000 and A3000 and I think the A1000 would be a great addition to my collection, but I just can’t pull the trigger for some reason. I remember seeing it for the first time in 85 and being completely blown away so I think at some point, I’ll pull the trigger for nostalgia’s sake. Prices have really gone up over the last few years for sure.

At this point, any old Amiga is a nostalgia purchase, and for me the A1000 is the machine that started it all. The case is kind of distinct and unique, and has all the signatures embedded in the cover. I would love to find a non functional one cheap just for the case and build a PC inside it, but I wouldn't gut my A1000 for that. It would have to be a cheap spare.

I used my A1000 at university right until about 92-93 when I got an AMD 486 to use. I think I only turned it on once a couple of years later, so it hasn't be powered in at least 20 years. Still have the original Amiga 1080 Monitor as well, along with an Amiga branded joystick they were making to help finance the project. IIRC I bought the joystick before I even heard of the computer. I think it pre-dates the computer, and the commodore acquisition. I can't even find a picture of it now in a google image search. It's a tiny little thing not much bigger than large egg with a short little stick.
 

PhaseNoise

2[H]4U
Joined
May 11, 2005
Messages
3,287
I wanted an Amiga so very bad, but never owned one. Designed by many of the ex-Atari folks I kinda worshipped, amazing for the time.

I used an atari 8 bit for far too long, simply because it did work for word-processing and BBS access. I moved to FrankenPCs I built myself of salvaged parts, but man, they worked and felt like the garbage they were. I was very envious of people who had a ST or Amiga.
 

SamirD

2[H]4U
Joined
Mar 22, 2015
Messages
3,844
Prices have really gone up over the last few years for sure.
Any collectors anything will have a bell curve for the price--low when no one cared anymore for it, then the 'bell' where everyone remembers they wanted one back in the day, and then the low when everyone's interest in it dies off, usually from the people themselves dying off (at least in the case of classic cars). I expect something similar to happen with the price of the A1000, although finding a perfect example of one will get harder as time goes one. I still can't find the 1MB Pentium Pro 200 chips at any decent price although these systems are on the far end of the bell curve now. :(
 

SamirD

2[H]4U
Joined
Mar 22, 2015
Messages
3,844
I think it pre-dates the computer, and the commodore acquisition. I can't even find a picture of it now in a google image search. It's a tiny little thing not much bigger than large egg with a short little stick.
Okay, you MUST post a pic of it now for the entire Internet to know! :D
 

Burticus

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Nov 7, 2005
Messages
4,379
Amiga branded joystick they were making to help finance the project. IIRC I bought the joystick before I even heard of the computer. I think it pre-dates the computer, and the commodore acquisition. I can't even find a picture of it now in a google image search. It's a tiny little thing not much bigger than large egg with a short little stick.

I think I had one of those I used on C64. I seem to recall the blisters from that stubby little stick. Replaced with a Tac-2, All long long gone, sold everything for pennies on the dollar to pay rent back in the generic mac and cheese dinner days.

By the time I could (sorta) afford an Amiga, my roommate had a DX2-66 with a sound blaster and X-Wing + Tie fighter was like.... OMG. I didn't become nostalgic again for it until 5-10 years ago. I just cannot bring myself to go drop real money on a used, yellow Amiga 500 that plays games like a 386 with a VGA card.

Now if they ever come out with the Amiga Classic, sure I got a hundy for that.
 

SamirD

2[H]4U
Joined
Mar 22, 2015
Messages
3,844
I think I had one of those I used on C64. I seem to recall the blisters from that stubby little stick. Replaced with a Tac-2, All long long gone, sold everything for pennies on the dollar to pay rent back in the generic mac and cheese dinner days.

By the time I could (sorta) afford an Amiga, my roommate had a DX2-66 with a sound blaster and X-Wing + Tie fighter was like.... OMG. I didn't become nostalgic again for it until 5-10 years ago. I just cannot bring myself to go drop real money on a used, yellow Amiga 500 that plays games like a 386 with a VGA card.

Now if they ever come out with the Amiga Classic, sure I got a hundy for that.
Then I think I have that little guy too--was it the one that attached to the side? Ah, the tac-2. I think I still have the tac-2, tac-3, and tac-5. I never found a tac-4 and always wondered why there wasn't one.

Haha, yeah tie fighter on our dx2-66 was pretty awesome. We didn't have a sound card so my background memories of sounds with that picture in my mind is Dream Theater playing away as the score. :D
 

Mazzspeed

2[H]4U
Joined
Dec 27, 2017
Messages
2,727
I still have an Amiga 500 and an Amiga 1200, both fully expanded with modern upgrades including flash based HDD's and VGA/DVI video outputs. AmigaOS 3.1 still receives updates and there is a very, very active community with plenty of software still being written for the platform on AmiNet. Oh if I had an A1200 with this hardware as well as WHDload in the day I would have been as happy as a Pig in poo. I hated swapping floppy's.

I also have a C64 breadbin fully expanded with modern peripherals. You could say I'm a bit of a Commodore enthusiast...
 

Snowdog

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Apr 22, 2006
Messages
11,267
Okay, you MUST post a pic of it now for the entire Internet to know! :D


I recently moved, and it's packed away elsewhere. Though by searching for the Joyboard (other accessory they made during this time) I found it.

It was called the Amiga Power stick. I bought it to play games on my C-64. It was great initially because it had extremely short throw. But it it has those conductive rubber contacts that foul up after a while and stop working so well. Then I would open it, clean it with alcohol and it would work ok for a while...

Cool to know that I helped contribute to Amiga before I even knew it existed.

http://www.amigahistory.plus.com/powerstick.html
amigastick.jpg
 

HAL_404

Gawd
Joined
Dec 16, 2018
Messages
961
on page 46 there are two IC's; one named Maria and the other Stephanie ... one can only wonder why :barefoot:
 

PhaseNoise

2[H]4U
Joined
May 11, 2005
Messages
3,287
The Atari-then-Commodore engineers were famous for naming chips and products after women they liked. Colleen and Candy were the Atari 800 and 400, for example. I believe "Lorraine" became the Amiga.
 

Bigbacon

Fully [H]
Joined
Jul 12, 2007
Messages
17,617
Thanks for this, I'm a long time Atari hack. I never had any exposure to the 7800, and I guess historically, neither did many other people.

we actually got one new....I assume because my dad was too cheap to get an NES at christmas. this was well after the nes was out. but a 7800 + like 10 games was problem next to nothing back in like 88.

my only complaint even now is the fact they just cheaped out on the audio and went with what the 2600 had when they had much more superior options by then. It still can't graphically hold up to the SMS or NES but it was still pretty solid. If it had come out on time, it still would have suffered because of the sound.
 

Burticus

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Nov 7, 2005
Messages
4,379
I recently moved, and it's packed away elsewhere. Though by searching for the Joyboard (other accessory they made during this time) I found it.

It was called the Amiga Power stick. I bought it to play games on my C-64. It was great initially because it had extremely short throw. But it it has those conductive rubber contacts that foul up after a while and stop working so well. Then I would open it, clean it with alcohol and it would work ok for a while...

Cool to know that I helped contribute to Amiga before I even knew it existed.

http://www.amigahistory.plus.com/powerstick.html
View attachment 202138

That's the little bastard! OMG so many blisters from that little thing.
 

PhaseNoise

2[H]4U
Joined
May 11, 2005
Messages
3,287
we actually got one new....I assume because my dad was too cheap to get an NES at christmas. this was well after the nes was out. but a 7800 + like 10 games was problem next to nothing back in like 88.

my only complaint even now is the fact they just cheaped out on the audio and went with what the 2600 had when they had much more superior options by then. It still can't graphically hold up to the SMS or NES but it was still pretty solid. If it had come out on time, it still would have suffered because of the sound.

I actually got pretty good at hacking the POKEY (the 8-bit sound chip). It wasn't ultimately as cool for real music as something like the SID, but it was a fun quirky little beast. That kinda describes all the Atari (then later Commodore) chips. Not straightforward to do normal things, but you could do wild stuff if you put in the time to learn its quirks.

I think my crowning achievement was a faux voice synth. I got a graphics tablet as a gift, but cant art my way out of a paper bag. So, I programmed a sound system which used the X axis as the size of a virtual mouth (think going from OOO to AAAA), and the Y axis was the pitch. You could drag the pen around and make it sound like talking. Well, mostly saying "Waaaow" over and over, but it was still cool for a young me.
 

funkydmunky

2[H]4U
Joined
Aug 28, 2008
Messages
2,576
As a big Atari fan (owner 8-bit XL then ST) I could never get behind the 7800. Yes it was released too late but didn't seem to be that much better then what came before. The 5200 was an 8-bit Atari computer made into a console format. The 7800 succeeded it but while having more sprites often didn't look any better and had the same sound chip as the original 1977 VCS. In fact it was so lackluster it was replaced again by version of the 5200/8-bit computer called the XEGS. This time fully compatible with the full 8-bit lineup cartridge and disks.
 

funkydmunky

2[H]4U
Joined
Aug 28, 2008
Messages
2,576
I recently moved, and it's packed away elsewhere. Though by searching for the Joyboard (other accessory they made during this time) I found it.

It was called the Amiga Power stick. I bought it to play games on my C-64. It was great initially because it had extremely short throw. But it it has those conductive rubber contacts that foul up after a while and stop working so well. Then I would open it, clean it with alcohol and it would work ok for a while...

Cool to know that I helped contribute to Amiga before I even knew it existed.

http://www.amigahistory.plus.com/powerstick.html
View attachment 202138
Had those for my Atari 800-XL. It is how I won Decathlon. Such a fast short throw on those of the required fast left right joystick smashing required! Good times.
 
Top