Introduced in time for Christmas of 1979 the Atari 400 was the little brother of the Atari 800. It differed from the 800 only in form, not in function. Both Atari computers had the same processor and chip sets. The 400 had a membrane keyboard (kid safe) where the 800 had a full-travel keyboard and the 400 was limited to one expansion slot and, at least initially, a fixed 8 KB of RAM.
The original names of the machines - 400/800 were derived from how much RAM they were going to have. Originally, the 400 would have 4 KB and the 800 would have 8 KB. As RAM prices fell, by the time they machines were launched they were able to double the RAM for basically the same price.
The Atari 400 computer is a 6502 based machine with custom graphics and sound chips that made it a gamers delight. The Atari line had a fairly wide variety of peripherals available including tape and disk drives, printers, modems and interface units. The 400, like the 800, was compatible with them all.
The Atari 400 also worked with all Atari computer cartridges that could run in its more limited RAM.
BillG on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 This was my first computer. Convinced my parents it was worth the $500+ at the time as an educational Christmas gift for the family. Received it on Christmas day but no joysticks so my brother and I watched the several games that came with it (Missile Command, Star Raiders etc.) helplessly for 2 days until the stores reopened.
Learned Basic and some Assembler on it and typed in many programs from Compute magazine and even submitted a few games which I spent weeks programming. They were interested in one tank game I made but said it was too much typing, they didn't think anyone would type it all in.
Upgraded it to 48K for about 2-$300 at the time from Electronics Playworld in Mississauga.
Participated in BBS's one in particular was called Animation Station out of Oakville. They used the special character set on the Atari to stream rudimentary moving cartoon graphics.
I still have a functioning 400 and many cartridges which I still play to this day.
Star Raiders was an incredible game for its time and only 8K! It sold a lot of computers for Atari! Multiplayer Asteroids was also a unique experience.
I look forward to visiting the museum soon!
ClausB on Saturday, September 29, 2012 Really the 400, code-named Candy, was the little sister to Colleen, the 800.