Retrochallenge – Before I Begin…

I’ve been meaning to get this post done days earlier, but I just couldn’t find the time to fit it in. With tomorrow being the first day of the Retrochallenge, I want to get this out before the official start.

As I’ve followed the challenge twice a year for several years now, I always wondered what I could possibly contribute if I ever decided to join in. Crazy ideas of building a homebrew 8-bit machine shared time with the myriad of programming projects that I might once have had an errant spark of enthusiasm for. Being my first time joining in, and this being traditionally the winter warm-up, I decided on something very simple to ease myself in. I’m going to take one of my existing systems, get it up and running as needed, and explore what software I already have for it.

Perhaps a little bit about myself first? I’m 33 years old and have been fascinated with computer culture for as long as I can remember. My personal history with 8-bits didn’t reach beyond the Apple IIs that I had access to in school. It wasn’t until my later teenage years that I was even aware that computers by the likes of Atari or Mattel even existed. Awareness of the technology in the relevant time-period was just not something I had. I was a kid, and once a week they would take us to this room at the end of the hall and we’d have an hour or so to play with the box of games that sat on a shelf at the head of the room.

When the true bug to explore older computers, instead of just older video games, finally kicked in I dived head first into learning everything I could. This became a quest to acquire whatever actual hardware I could. There was a point where I found myself drowning in old machines and parts. I reached a breaking point and dissolved a good bit of what I had. I kept a few things here and there, but my ridiculous amount of spare parts and such are all gone now.

Of the machines I managed to keep, I find myself with an Atari 800XL and a 1050 disk drive. These were part of a much larger haul that I’d picked up from Craigslist (one of the few times I can say I found anything retro and not stupidly priced).


As you can see, there were more than just the two items I have remaining. You can read about the fun I had trying to identity parts of that haul in a few posts I made on AtariAge here and here.

If you read through the linked posts above, you’ll know that this Retrochallenge project isn’t the first time I’ve mucked around with my Atari hardware, but it is the first time I’ve really tried to use them for anything other than just trying to get them to run.

I’m hoping that should I find myself with a perfectly working Atari computer setup, I can use it as the basis for any Atari software I research for my old productivity software project. But, I think I’ll save that for another series of posts.

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