In the early 1980s, as the world was slowly advancing beyond the original video gaming systems toward the exciting start of the personal computer age, Atari realized that it needed to get with the times. It needed to bring out a computer, so in 1981 they brought out two — the Atari 400 and 800.
In the attached brochure you can see their marketing efforts for this new technology that not many people understood, but a growing number of people felt they wanted. Under the slogan “We’ve brought the computer age home”, Atari boldly entered the personal computer arena. Ultimately it wasn’t enough to help Atari survive, but it was a good effort nonetheless.
The brochure says that the Atari 400 has a large capacity 16K memory and a pressure-sensitive keyboard. The 800 also has 16K of memory but is expandable to a whopping 48K, and it also features a typewriter keyboard! The brochure also says that you can play the ultimate in computer games, teach yourself new subjects and skills, balance budgets — even write your own computer programmes (not a selling point today, but back then it was important). For the home office, it promises that you can follow investments, chart stocks, analyze bond yields and compute interest rates — advanced stuff for 1981 (especially with the internet still about 15 years away)!
Atari was ahead of the game with it’s selection of optional peripherals. The brochure lists a tape drive, a disk drive, a printer, and an interface module that you can connect to digitizers, plotters, controllers, and sensors.
Finally, the brochure proudly mentions that their computers connect to any tv, produces 16 colours (compare that with over 16 Million today), has a 320×192 screen resolution, and more. The photo makes it look really enticing too.
All-in-all, a great effort from Atari who needed to be seen as more than just a video game console company. If they could have gotten more of these early computers into more peoples homes they potentially could have remained a powerhouse. Unfortunately they didn’t, and some other poor launches (like the historically awful ET:The Extra Terrestrial video game) caused the company to disintegrate.
More 2 come…
In the early 1980s, as the world was slowly advancing beyond the original video gaming systems toward the exciting start of the personal computer age, Atari realized that it needed to get with the times. It needed to bring out…