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Atari 800 Laptop Casemod Gets Another Go by Ben Heck

by Paul Strauss
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You can always count on modder Ben Heck to outdo himself, and this time, he’s built his best Atari 800 laptop yet.

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This is the third revision of the Atari 800 laptop that Ben has built, and this one captures the spirit of the original 8-bit machine the best. I have a special place in my heart for the 800, as it’s really the first “serious” computer I had when I was growing up. Sure, I got to play with an Apple ][ for a while around the same time, but the first code I ever wrote was in good old Atari BASIC.

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The design of the console is very reminiscent of the classic 800, complete with that dirty beige case color, and a real Atari 800 clicky keyboard. Check out the wonderful details like the front-mounted cartridge slot, and the flat Reset/Start/Select/Option buttons in their original hues.

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While the hardware isn’t actually from an original Atari 800 (it’s an XEGS motherboard), it still looks like an 800 and plays all the original games, so that’s good enough for me. The machine has also done away with the need for storing programs on cassette tape or floppy disk by getting itself a nice little 2.5″ PATA hard drive under the hood. Heck managed to work that magic using a custom-programmed MyIDE circuit. The luggable system even owes a nod to Nintendo. That’s because it’s power supply came from a Gamecube. Go figure.

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The pop-up angled keyboard is a really nice touch that makes it much more like the original 800 too.

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Here’s the 800 laptop in action, playing Lucasfilm Games’ 1984 classic Ballblazer, one of my favorite 8-bit games of all time:

And how about a little Buck Rogers for those of you into that scene:

Want to get one for yourself, or just want to see how he built it? Head on over to Ben’s website for more details.



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