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I am curious what Atari recommended to users as an appropriate monitor for their 8 bit computers (400/800/800xl/etc).

For example, my Commodore 64 pairs nicely with a Commodore manufactured 1702 or 1802 monitor. Likewise, my Amiga pairs with its 1080 or 1084. Even my Apple //e has a corresponding (green) monochrome monitor manufactured by Apple.

I don't think Atari made monitors until the ST came along, which makes me wonder what a user would do when the TV just wasn't cutting it anymore? I'm using my Amdek Color-I right now, but I'd like to find a better pairing for my Atari.

Did Atari ever recommend a brand or model of monitor? Without getting opinion based, did a de facto standard evolve among Atari users of the period?

  • Given the success of the Commodore models, I've always been surprised they didn't try to get that market too. – Maury Markowitz Jul 4 '18 at 16:51
  • Ate Amdek, apparently, was the contemporary monitor that went well with the 8-bit Ataris, and was quite often sold as a bundle. You pair seems to fit. – tofro Jul 7 '18 at 19:29
  • Warner didn't seem to allow Atari Inc to sell a monitor. So there wasn't one released matching the stylings of the 400/800 or the later XL line. As mentioned in other comments, Tramiel's Atari Corp did originally intend to release composite monitors matching the XE line but unfortunately, only a few were unofficially released. Commodore's great 8-bit monitors were often used by Atari owners. JVC made a lot of them & also sold them with somewhat different styling also under the JVC brand. Some have included links to them in similar discussions over in the popular forums at the AtariAge website – Jeremy Holloway Jan 28 at 19:19
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I don’t think they ever recommended a monitor. As far as I can remember, Atari communications showed Atari computers on their own, or connected to TVs; see for example this 1200XL advert, and Atari UK’s magazine, Atari I/O (issues 2, 3, 4, and 5). At least in Europe, 8-bit Ataris produced nice video on most TVs (I didn’t grow up with NTSC so I don’t know how bad US TVs are for computer use).

I don’t know whether a de facto standard ever emerged.

  • NTSC : never the same colour – Sentinel Jul 8 '18 at 21:30
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As others have said, Atari didn't recommend a monitor as far as I'm aware, but I can confirm S-Video on a Sony PVM looks fantastic.

I remember as a kid my Dad telling me why he'd bought a Sony TV (a little 14" Trinitron) and him showing me the manual for Archon. Interestingly enough, EA did recommend a Sony ;) enter image description here

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Atari marketed their computers in nice consumer packaging, at retail stores like Sears and Service Merchandise. The box packaging featured pictures of a full lineup of nicely matching peripherals, including a variety of printers, a disk drive, modem and a monitor. That was in 1985 and beyond, when their last line of 8-bits, the XE series (eXtended-Eight-bit) were released. The new fashion was a sporty cool-gray.

Important Background: The NEW "Atari"-- Jack Tramiel had been ejected as CEO of Commodore for cutting prices of the C64 too drastically. So he formed a private company to design new computer hardware using the Motorola 68000 processor. He had brought Commodore design folks to work on it, purportedly with plans in hand.

At that time, Atari was owned by Warner Brothers. The folks at Atari had also been designing a new 16bit 68000 based computer, called the "Atari 1850XLD", which featured a lot of custom circuitry, and was under heavy development.

But due to emergency financial troubles Warner Brothers had to sell them off at a throwaway price. Tramiel then purchased Atari. The "Atari 1850XLD" staff were not retained, with Tramiel deciding to use his "Commodore" staff and plans.

However, those left-out employees from the "Atari 1850XLD Project" formed their own company called "Amiga", to bring it to market. Tramiel then decided he wanted to purchase "Amiga", fearing it would compete against his ST. HCommodore swiftly purchased Amiga in a surprise move, though. That left Tramiel to restart his own Commodore-era designs as quickly as possible, and at "Rock Bottom Price" in oder to beat Commodore to market. They used as much off the shelf components as possible for the "Atari ST" (standing for S.ixteen-T.hirty-two). After battling in court with Commodore, Tramiel won a years delay for Commodore.

It was then that they formulated the idea of marketing a matching Atari 8-bit computer monitor. However there were a lot of 8bit peripherals left in stock to sell off, and so they planned to bundle those with the freshly styled XE computers first, and then later manufacture cosmetically matching peripherals, including new monitors for the XE.

The new styling was shown off at the International Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Atari previewed/announced: [color] XC1411 monitor and [monochrome] XM128 monitor for the XE line. Only a few demonstration units were produced, none shipped commercially. Their new tagline, 'Power Without the Price' was bannered across their booth, which became an advertising slogan for years to come.

Their Atari ST adopted the fresh cosmetics, a cool-gray look considered slick and sporty.

PERSONAL ACCOUNT: My first computer was an Atari 130XE, and it came with an old style 1050 disk drive and 1027 Letter Quality Printer, and also a Sears Monitor (almost a sleek cosmetic match,). I would go on get an sleek new XM-301 modem and a 8pin XMM801 dot-matrix printer, with the fresh styling.

Unfortunately, the 8bit, XE series of Hardware that were never released commercially went on to become known as "Vaporware" and that includes the two previously mentioned XE properly-styled monitors, the XC1411 and XM128 monitors.

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    Will never forget the hollow, plasticky feeling of those slanted function keys on this and the ST. Not good interface design by today's standards, but way cool back then. – Engineer Jun 19 '17 at 11:42
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    I remember my keyboard slowly started going out.. at first, one particular key had to be pressed firmly, or many times, and then others too. So I mailed it off to a repair shop. Atari Magazines started selling keyboard module replacement kits to consumers. – user12711 Jun 20 '17 at 1:33
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    Just need to point out some things here... Amiga Inc was created long before Tramiel arrived. They were in the process of licensing their tech to Atari for the 1850XLD when he took over. Tramiel provided emergency funding, but using terms that would mean they would be, well, screwed. So they sold to Commodore, who payed back the loan. There were three other 32-bit projects at Atari at that time. One became the Mindset, another was Sierra, and then there was Gaza. This gives some indication of the chaos in the company before Tramiel arrived. – Maury Markowitz Jul 4 '18 at 16:49
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    A tweak to what @MauryMarkowitz said: The funding to Amiga came from Atari before Tramiel bought Atari. They paid back the loan before Tramiel even knew Amiga had borrowed it. If he had realized, he probably would not have accepted the pay back and tried to get the Amiga tech for his Atari ST (or perhaps it would have been called the Atari Amiga). – Tim Locke Jul 21 '18 at 23:54
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    Amiga attempted to repay the loan to Atari Inc & allegedly claimed the Lorraine chipset didn't work. In truth, Amiga had already sold itself to Commodore which provided the money to pay back Atari. This was in violation of the agreement between Atari & Amiga because the agreement specifically stated Amiga could not sell itself nor license its tech to Apple, Commodore, IBM, & TI. The Amiga Lorraine chipset was 1st slated to be used in a 16-bit Console that Atari Inc planned to release for Christmas 85 code-named "Mickey". The 1850XL/D would've followed. This was all pre-Tramiel. – Jeremy Holloway Jan 28 at 19:11
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The original Atari 800 monitor output (5-pin DIN) supports both composite video and S-video. Thus, the Commodore 1702 pairs very well with it, using the Chroma+Luma (S-video) inputs. Same with any other S-video capable monitor. Later versions of Atari 8-bits tended to not support S-video, but are easily modified to provide S-video.

I don't think there was ever a "de-facto standard" Atari 8-bit monitor. People tended to purchase the best monitor for the type of software they wanted to run. A spreadsheet and word processor user might prefer a cheap monochrome display over a color S-video display.

  • I'm thinking the first wave of 8bits (Atari 800, 400) supported Chroma+Luma. The second wave (800XL, 600XL) Did not. But the final wave, the 130XE and 65XE, did support Chroma+Luma. If someone has a different understanding, please post a correction. – user12711 Jul 20 '17 at 23:07
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Sony made a KV1311CR TV that has a digital and analog RGB input. The analog RGB input could be used with an Atari ST via a special cable. It had a 640x480 display. It also has a composite video input and analog audio input that will work with the Atari 8 bit computers.

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It's rather strange to me to hear people claim there are no atari monitors...

The thing is, I had an 800XL in 1990. (I have one now too, but it's not the same one.)

To be more precise I had two of them (both 800XL), a bunch of games, and some accessories. (about 400 games, roughly)

Two 1010 program recorders, a 1020 plotter, Atari touch tablet....

And an atari branded monitor!

I have to point out that this was in the Netherlands, but I'm quite certain the monitor was atari branded.

For good measure it was a green monochrome monitor. (though obviously the 800XL has no chroma output anyway, so that makes sense. - a colour monitor for an unmodified XL machine would be pointless.)

The thing is, I used this monitor exclusively back then, to the point that up until recently I'd never actually seen a single atari game in anything other than monochrome.

Now, what this monitor actually is, I couldn't tell you retrospectively. (I no longer own it, and I was about 7 when I did. My memory for stuff like model numbers simply isn't that good. XD)

Still, unless my memory is playing some very serious tricks on me, this means at least one dedicated atari monitor exists for their 8 bit line. (monochrome with green phosphors) - given the systems I had it with, and all the other accessories I got with those systems, it's reasonable to assume this is a monitor that dates to the same period as the XL computers, though I have no proof of this. (it also helps that the monitor housing, as far as I remember was beige with dark brown accents - in other words, the same colour scheme as the XL machines themselves.) Unfortunately, unless I somehow get lucky and find a reference to it somewhere else, I guess I can't particularly prove it exists.

Unfortunately, unless you find someone who has kept things for 30-40 years, it's a bit difficult to prove certain things even existed. (Especially if they're rare or obscure)

Update: As some extra information, I'll describe the monitor, and see if it seems at all familiar to anyone. Keep in mind I have no references for it. (pictures, model numbers, etc.). This is entirely going off my memory of things nearly 28 years later. As such it may not be entirely accurate.

The display was monochrome green and the overall size was very similar to a 34 cm television we had at the same time. (suggesting a ~13 inch display, but obviously 12 and 14 are in the same bounds.) It had audio capabilities, though I don't remember where the speaker was placed.

Most of the case was an cream colour, similar to an XL machine, with at least part of the front section and bezel being a darkish colour (in my memory it's the same shade as the brown on an XL machine) All the controls were along the bottom of the display. On the far right side you had either two or three knobs each about 2-3 cm across, where only the bottom half of the knob protrudes from underneath the case. The rightmost knob was either brightness or volume (can't remember which), but also the power switch; From the off position, you rotate it a little, there's a rather strong 'click', and the monitor switches on. All further rotation controls brightness (or volume?). If it was two knobs then the other one was whatever the main knob wasn't. (eg if the main knob was volume, the other is brightness and vice versa.). The third knob, if it was there, was contrast. These knobs were in the darkish, brown colour. In the centre, you had a fold down panel, just like a lot of CRT monitors and TV's had. (push the right hand side to release, then fold it down) This was, I believe beige. Right in the middle of it you had a small atari logo in rainbow colours. If you opened the panel there were more rotating knobs, though these were long and thin. I can't remember how many, but at a minimum it had horizontal and vertical hold controls. (and if there wasn't a third large knob, then contrast was in here too.)

As I said, my memory of things is a little dubious, but that's what I remember of it. If this sounds at all like a monitor anybody has seen, I'd be curious to know what you think it may have been... I'm sure I'd know it if I saw it, but so far I haven't seen any pictures of atari monitors that look like what I remember. If you

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    No need to find someone who has kept things for 30-40 years; a reference to a catalog would be good enough ;-). – Stephen Kitt Jul 4 '18 at 7:46
  • Check it: atari7800.org/monitor.htm – Sentinel Jul 8 '18 at 21:43
  • Good point about the catalog, though as I don't have any of those either, it's a bit difficult to say anything. As for the list of monitors, as I said, I don't have a model number for whatever it was. Plus, the only thing on that list that meets the description is claimed to be an unreleased prototype, which seems unlikely. It's a pity I don't even seem to have any pictures of the setup from back then. There are pictures from that era, but not of the Ataris. (or even the room they were in.) – KuraIthys Jul 18 '18 at 7:51

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