The Atari 7800 PRO System
Computer Keyboard

The Atari 7800 PRO System keyboard would be Atari's second attempt at adding computer functionality to one of its gaming consoles.   The first attempt was the Atari Graduate keyboard for the Atari 2600 designed by Peripheral Visions, Inc.     The Atari 7800 keyboard plugs into joystick port #2 and using an accompanying cartridge would turn the Atari 7800 PRO System into a full blown computer system capable of using the current line of Atari 400/800 and XL computer peripherals.   (It should be noted, since the hardware of the 7800 was quite different compared to the hardware of the Atari computer line, the existing software would not be compatible).     The keyboard is a remarkably elegant piece of hardware in both its design and function.

The Atari 7800 keyboard has several connection ports on the back of the keyboard allowing it to use standard Atari SIO devices and also use off the shelf generic cassette data recorders for loading and storing data.      The keyboard is made up of various simple electrical components such as a PIC controller, 2 EPROM's and some basic support circuitry as well as also utilizing a standard 600/800XL keyboard.  (The keycaps are merely changed for cosmetic effect, but a quick test of swapping keyboards shows that the XL line keyboard plugs in and works fine.)

   Several software packages were being prepared for the Atari 7800 keyboard for its release.   The 7800 keyboard package would also include two software titles.    Most likely those two titles would have been Atari 7800 PRO System BASIC and Atari 7800 PRO System VideoWriter.   The above screen shows VideoWriter being used.   An interesting note about the software which was a great feature:   while using the keyboard to write words, you could also use a joystick or trakball to move the cursor around the screen for selecting text, or even cut & paste as shown above.   All this in 1984, long before such novelties were available on the IBM PC with EDLIN or EDIT (Bill Gates, eat your heart out!!!)    So not only were the software titles not some watered down versions of such titles as AtariWriter, the ever popular word processor, but in fact they were a great improvement.

    Since Atari Corp canceled development on all peripherals for the Atari 7800 PRO System, its unknown why GCC didn't market the keyboard themselves.   The unit is finished, the software is ready as well.    GCC was called in several years later to finish many of the software titles that Atari had in the works back in 1984.    Atari Corp. contacted GCC and arranged to have them complete quite a few titles so that new software was made available for the Atari 7800 when it was finally released in 1986.