Atari 20 years later – an illustrated story

It seems that I’ve come to an age where visiting the attic at my parents’ house has become an adventure again. No, it’s not due to the risk of collapsing while climbing the stairs. It’s just that everything I lay my eyes upon is both bringing back great memories and promising the thrill of playing with a new toy, should I decide to take it back to my room. Recently I gave in to such promise coming from a dust covered, white box.

The box

This is an Atari 800 XE computer, which my father bought for me when I was nine or so. The box is all torn and dirty, but I swear I was opening it like it was a brand new iPad. Or some other geek fleshlight.

The great, (once) white box.

Funny thing at the side of the box. “Made in Taiwan” has been covered by a sticker, with the word “Taiwan” additionally painted over. Apparently using child labour was frowned upon back in the days.

Cheap labour no bueno.

Inside the box I’ve found the computer itself, not wrapped in any kind of protective foil, which is very nature friendly. Cardboard is made from recycled paper and polystyrene holders are surely edible. That’s how PC manufacturers were rolling those days.

First peek inside
First peek inside.

At the bottom of the box there is another, smaller box. Inside I’ve found a power supply unit (less than 10 Watts, eco!) and a cable for connecting the computer to the TV. There was no smaller box at the bottom of this one.

Essential wiring.

The hardware

Here it is. This piece of tin and plastic is what determined my whole future. If it wasn’t for this computer, right now I might have been a Champions League soccer player, a world renown novelist, Nobel Peace Prize laurate, or a baker.
On the technical note – it took PC industry twenty years to realise how awesome this everything-in-the-keyboard design was.

A programmer? So maybe you can reinstall my windows…

This baby has quite a few ports. And not just any ports. Those are “shit if I know what they’re for” ports. In my post-communist childhood I’ve never seen anything that could fit into those (well, besides stuff that I got with the computer, more on that later).

More than any Apple product.

As it turned out, my bleeding edge peripherals were not as universal as advertised.

Generation gap.

Thankfully, after one more daring escapade to the attic, I came back with these premium accessories.

In vintage boxes!

Back in the days, people weren’t so obsessed with hedonistic terms like “inches”, “thin” or “gamut”. Picture was just a mean to express the idea. I remember spending countless hours staring in awe into this magnificent imaging device:

With hardware genie effect.

Unfortunately, my eyes now spoiled with all these colours and straight lines, couldn’t see past the noise. I had to bring in a less subtle device – an old TV my family has been using as a dust attractor in the basement. Thus my complete, old-school computer setup looked like this:

At the back – wifi router from 1989.


The way I remember it – in the early nineties, every store in Poland had an exclusive agreement with major silicon valley game studios. This allowed for this great game-packs to be released:

What do you mean ‘diskettes’?
Grubcio Genuine Advantage.

I remember hearing rumours, that some people used cassettes to store music. Strange.

Way cooler than thumb drives.

Atari computer was designed to give users time to meditate while the game was loading. The sound produced by a game loading from cassette has been carefully designed by neuroscientists, sound engineers and Zen masters. It synchronized brain waves, thus inducing a state of gaming trance. User in this state would gain unprecedented focus, lightning reflexes and resistance to sleep deprivation.

Be quiet! It’s loading!

Right here should be a photo of me playing Mario Bros. Unfortunately, I was so immediately immersed in the fantastic, 8 bit world that I forgot to take a picture. You should just imagine me having a lot of fun. To help you with that, here’s a photo of a panda having a lot of fun:

F**k you lookin’ at?

And here is an old tape with my own programs. What were you doing when you were 11?

Windows was on the way.

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