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RickR

Inside the XEGS

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CorreaGonzales was nice enough to trade me this broken XEGS.  The start button did not work, and there's a big hunk missing from the top of the case.  Also included was a second broken motherboard (player 1 fire button did not work).  I like to tinker, so I figured I could try and rescue this one.

 

Well, I got the start button working by borrowing parts from mb2's reset button.  And mb2 now works too with a little soldering on the joystick port. 

 

Thank you very much to Correa, as now I have another 8-bit computer in my collection.  No keyboard, but maybe I'll come across one in the future. 

 

I'm not sure what to do about the missing hunk...but I temporarily made it look a little better by putting and AtariAge fridge magnet on the RF shield. 

 

Anyways...of note here is the design of the motherboard.  This is the most simple Atari could make it.  No sockets, a minimum of chips, single layer mb.  Cost cutting at it's very finest. 

 

And I have an extra motherboard for trade, if anyone needs it for parts or to replace a broken one. 

 

 

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Surprisingly I have taken those console switches apart to try and fix them.  Same rubber carbon-dot used on those inside that do the exact same thing the 5200's buttons did.  They pick up corrosion easy but, with a little know-how, can be disassembled, cleaned, and working again.  

 

If you are wanting a decent shell you might contact Video 61.  Just a thought.

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Ah the XEGS, I was really wanting to get one of these for sometime but just never found one for a reasonable price shipped to Canada. Perhaps one day, I always found it interesting that it is a "consolized" computer that can be expanded back into a computer (much like the Commodore CDTV or CD32!)  certainly seemed a good idea for those only interested in gaming. 

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Surprisingly I have taken those console switches apart to try and fix them.  Same rubber carbon-dot used on those inside that do the exact same thing the 5200's buttons did.  They pick up corrosion easy but, with a little know-how, can be disassembled, cleaned, and working again.  

 

If you are wanting a decent shell you might contact Video 61.  Just a thought.

The rubber dot inside the "start" button was ripped.  Not salvageable I don't think.  Not sure where to get another that small. 

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I've had an XEGS keyboard for a very long time and on several occasions have considered even tossing it but it looks like you may have one coming your way after all, as I've kept it all this time just for this! ;-) If you drop me a PM with your address, I'm sure I can find a box to throw it in and send your way.

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So cool, even the board is cut in a wonky way. The designer sure loved angles!

 

You have good eyes, that's a great observation.  I found this kind of surprising too.  You'd think the Tramiel's would have nixed any additional cost, but it looks like the designer had some sway.  What's interesting is that the angled connectors to a good job of hiding the connectors (so it looks like just a wire sticking out of the side).  However, they are not the easiest things to use (plugging and unplugging is cumbersome).  Kind of reminds me of the joystick/mouse ports on the Atari ST (they put them on the bottom of the machine, hidden away)....form over function. 

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Huge thanks to Clint Thompson for sending a keyboard to complete my set.  Check it out:

 

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With the keyboard attached, it actually boots into BASIC!  What a neat design by Atari.  To get Missile Command to come up, you hold down "Select" while turning it on.

 

I'm so happy to have cobbled one of these together!  THANK YOU to Correa and Clint!  I love it. 

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Huge thanks to Clint Thompson for sending a keyboard to complete my set.  Check it out:

 

attachicon.gifxegs 2016-06-13 001.JPG

 

With the keyboard attached, it actually boots into BASIC!  What a neat design by Atari.  To get Missile Command to come up, you hold down "Select" while turning it on.

 

I'm so happy to have cobbled one of these together!  THANK YOU to Correa and Clint!  I love it. 

 

Looking good with keyboard attached! Before I got mine, all I heard about was that the keyboard was "mushy" and generally bad, but to be honest, I don't really see (or feel rather) the problem with it. Maybe folks are just used to modern keyboards....    Do you have the XE light gun, too?

 

 

 

It is an interesting system. And I don't know about the other XE systems but the XEGS has composite video/audio out. Use it like you would composite outs on the NES. I programmed my first Atari BASIC game on that system almost 2 decades ago.

 

 

How long did it take you to complete your first game?  Or, whats the learning curve for BASIC?

Edited by MalakZero

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How long did it take you to complete your first game?  Or, whats the learning curve for BASIC?

 

It wasn't that fancy and it didn't tap into any of the Atari's special features but it took me about 2 months.  I took the code to a game I found in a book and expanded on it by giving it simple graphics, sounds, and joystick controls.  I also saved it to a disk and made it self-booting.  One thing nice about Atari BASIC is that any one wanting to learn the Atari system can tap into most of what the hardware has to offer using POKE and PEEK routines.  And there are a LOT of books on programming the Atari 8-bits that can be useful.  

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In all honesty, I've been programming in BASIC since I got a Timex Sinclair 1000 w/ 16K RAM expansion when I was a kid.  Until recently I didn't realize just how much extra work I was putting on myself programming an Atari 8-bit going by ways I was taught in school and from various machine-specific BASIC languages.  Atari BASIC has to be the first and only form of a high-level programming language that will let you tap into everything your machine has to offer.  Some say it is slower than machine language but with Atari DOS at your side you can compile and release your work without worry.  

 

If you want to know just how easy it is turn on your machine and let it boot into BASIC.  Then type "POKE 712,n" where n is a numerical value between 0 and 256.  Once you've typed that in just press the RETURN key on your keyboard.  It should change the background color to the color you picked.  You can also read joystick values, too!  Enter the short program below to see what your joystick looks like to your Atari computer:

 

10 GRAPHICS 0

20 POSITION 1,1:PRINT PEEK(632);" "

30 GOTO 20

 

Make sure it is in all uppercase letters and press RETURN after each line number statement has been typed out.  There is a single space between the quotations in line 20.  To run the program, make sure the entire program is typed in correctly, check for any typographical errors, then, after line 30, type RUN and press RETURN.  Now connect a joystick and move it around and watch the number on the screen in the top-left corner.  To check the other joysticks change the number following PEEK to 633 for player 2, 634 for player 3, and 635 for player 4.  Or you could just add this:

 

21 POSITION 1,3:PRINT PEEK(633);" "

 

RUN the program again after entering line 21.  Now both joystick readouts are on the screen!!  

 

The nice thing about Atari computers is that they are considered and open-source product.  Basically Atari made a machine, put it on the market, and said, "Here...we made this machine...see what you can do with it."  There are tons of books on programming the Atari 8-bit computers and it doesn't matter which one you have.  The only exception is the memory limits because some have 16K, some have 48K, and then there is 64K systems.  Only one Atari 8-bit computer officially has 128K RAM and that is the 130XE.  If you make something for one it will most likely run on all the others.  The real learning curve is finding the time to sit down with a good book introducing you to Atari BASIC and read it while performing the exercises in the book.  Following that I would recommend one of the memory map books to learn all the memory locations of your system.  I recommend a disk drive or program recorder to save the programs you type in.  This way to can refer back to them at a later time should you need/want to.

 

If you are wondering where to find the books...that's easy.  Check out Atari Mania's large library of digitized Atari books for 8-bit systems!

 

http://www.atarimania.com/documents-atari-400-800-xl-xe-books_1_8.html

 

All of these are in PDF format so you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader at least to view them...but they are worth it.  

 

The Atari 8-bits, in my opinion, are very flexible computer systems no matter which one you have.  

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In all honesty, I've been programming in BASIC since I got a Timex Sinclair 1000 w/ 16K RAM expansion when I was a kid.

 

My story is very similar.  I learned basic on the Commodore VIC-20 ("The Friendly Computer") before upgrading to an Atari 800XL.  Commodore had a very old version of basic that did not have the same features as Atari Basic, so moving on to the Atari was a big step up.  I eventually moved up to machine code on the Atari...and ended up in a career in software development.  "Why do you love this old stuff so much?", people ask.  Well, it's because I owe it so much. 

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My story is very similar.  I learned basic on the Commodore VIC-20 ("The Friendly Computer") before upgrading to an Atari 800XL.  Commodore had a very old version of basic that did not have the same features as Atari Basic, so moving on to the Atari was a big step up.  I eventually moved up to machine code on the Atari...and ended up in a career in software development.  "Why do you love this old stuff so much?", people ask.  Well, it's because I owe it so much. 

I'm learning 6502 ML now.  There is sooo much that the Atari has to offer from a hardware perspective that I have been finding it difficult to grasp but I am learning...slowly.  Slower than I would like to.  But...I am learning with my main goal to develop 5200 and 7800 games as well as Atari 8-bit programs.  I like the old stuff better myself but do have FPS Creator and Dark Creator from The Game Creators for PCs in my arsenal of development tools ;)  

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