The Atari 600
Prototype Computer System
Crazy-8 / Sweet-8 / "Liz NY"
Story of the "Other 600"... This was NOT the prototype of what was to be
the Atari 600XL. In fact the Atari 600 prototype shown on this page is
actually where the Atari 1200XL had come from. This is LIZ-NY. Designed
in the WCI/NY Atari labs run by Steve Mayer, who was one of the founders of
Atari's think-tank called Cyan Engineering. Cyan is the birthplace of the
Atari VCS (2600) and the Atari Home Computers. LIZ was meant to be a low
cost Atari computer, but with an interesting twist... it would be able to
run slightly modified Atari VCS game code. This was a vision that Steve
Mayer had always had since the original Atari computers were being designed.
The basic concept of a
low cost, single board replacement computer for the Atari 800 would be
brought into the labs in Sunnyvale and the Atari 1200XL would be created.
However, the 50 pin high-speed expansion bus of the LIZ-NY computer would be
dropped mid-course during the Atari 1200XL development. Marketing would
take especially strong interest in a new device being designed along side of
the new Atari 1200XL computer called at the time the "Modem Interface
Module" -- this device would eventually evolved into the Atari 1030 modem.
Seeing that devices like this could load their own drivers and even software
into the home computer, marketing decided that ALL devices should would like
that, so they had the expansion connector and a future external expansion
box canceled and the original design of the 1200XL would be canceled and the
closed box "Toaster" design of the 1200XL would be the result.
It has a single ROM OS, the keyboard is
marked Mitsumi Prototype sample, there is a BASIC ROM chip on the
motherboard but it does not load up, instead Atari Memo Pad loads up. The
Reset/Option/Select/Start/Help keys do not fucntion. Several cartridges
were tested, BASIC worked, AtariWriter worked, Telelink II did not work and
a prototype of Super-Pac Man did not work.
There are several
switches placed on the back of the casing. They are wired into the Option
Key and several other chips on the board. However after an hour of trying
dozens of various combinations and keypresses, nothing happened. As soon
as we can, some images will be taken of the inside of the unit, it is
completely foreign to any arrangement in an Atari computer ever seen. Also
the underside of the motherboard will be shown where it says ATARI LIZ NY on
By mid March of 1983 Atari
would already begin work on a lower cost companion to the 1200XL. If anyone
ever wondered, why when the 1200XL was canceled and replaced with the 800XL,
why wasn't its lower end companion called the 400XL. Because the lower
cost companion was started before the 800XL and it was a lower cost
companion to the 1200XL and hence became known as the 600XL. By June of
1983 the assembly lines for the 1200XL would be shut down and sent to Tawain,
remaining parts and supplies for leftover 1200XL's would be assembled in
Taiwan until those supplies were used up in July 1983. Meanwhile in June
1983 the 800XL was already well in the works and then the beginnings of two
higher end systems are spec'd - called the 1400XL and 1450XLzD.
Are you an Atari engineer?
Did you work on the 600 or have direct knowledge of this project?
Please contact the Atari Museum: