As a kid in the very early 80’s I remember riding my bike, for what seemed like hours, all the way from my home town of Waikanae to the next town down the coast called Paraparaumu. There were two reasons to visit Paraparaumu. Firstly there was the only bike shop in the area that sold BMX bikes called John Deans Cyclery. I used to ogle at the brightly colored Pantha BMX bikes they sold, and secondly in Paraparaumu there was a large mall called 'Coastlands'. Coastlands was the biggest thing going around my parts, although I wasn't interested in just hanging around, I was there for one very specific reason, the Atari 400 and 800. These machines were on display at one of the mall’s shops. Although I forget what the store was, I do know it didn't have anything specifically to do with computers. These machines were expensive, and I recall seeing them on display for a very long time. They just didn't sell. We weren't allowed to touch them so I just used to watch them run through their demo programs in awe. I knew it would be impossible to think I could ever afford an Atari 800, but the Atari 400, although still a pipe dream, was about half the price of the 800. I dreamed of getting the 400, and mostly forgot about the 800.

I was recently chatting with a Commodore computer collector who mentioned that he had an Atari 400 that he didn't want. I decided 30 years was long enough time to have waited, and got it from him for US$50, which included a Basic cartridge, and it had been internally upgraded to 48K of RAM. The original came stock with only 16K. Another upgrade to the machine was that it came with a full travel aftermarket keyboard replacing the membrane keyboard that originally came with the machine. Although I love the classic look of the original membrane keyboard, the new keyboard was a nice addition. It needed a bit of scrubbing to get it looking decent, and someone had written all over the case with a marker pen. A bit of rubbing with 98% alcohol cleaned that right up.

A very important part of my hobby is having easy access to a library of software for all my machines, and the Atari 400 is no exception. I purchased a SDrive Micro drive which stores programs on SD card. This modern  drive is amazing, small and very convenient. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a simple solution to accessing thousands of programs for any of the Atari 8-bit line of computers.

Building of the new extension to Coastlands Shopping Mall August 1973.

RAM 16kB expandable to 48kB

ROM Memo Pad in ROM

Keyboard 62 key membrane

Released 1979

Price US$599.99


CPU 6502

Speed 1.79MHz

Video 128 color TV RF signal

Graphics 40x24 characters - 320x192 or 80x192

Sound 4 voices