What is the 7800XM?
The 7800 XM (eXpansion
Module) is a plug in device that is installed into the top cartridge slot of any
Atari 7800 console. Once installed this intelligent device will
detect whether Atari 2600 or Atari 7800 cartridges are installed into it.
If an Atari 2600 cartridge is installed, the Atari 7800XM goes into a disabled
mode so it just acts as a pass through device and does not interfere with Atari
2600 cartridges and their functions. If an Atari 7800 compatible
cartridge is installed into it, it will check the cartridge and detect if it is
PAL or NTSC and then it will check if it has an onboard POKEY chip.
Depending on the type of cartridge and whether it is equipped with its own
onboard POKEY chip, the 7800XM will configure itself accordingly to work with
that type of game.
What features does the
The 7800XM was designed to be
a device that could've been made in the 1984-1992 era by Atari, so it only uses
devices that could've existed at the time to keep the console as true to form as
1. The 7800XM comes with onboard
High Score keeping, a design which was originally done by GCC (the designers of
the 7800) but this feature was canceled when the Atari 7800 was released.
9 of the original 10 games that GCC wrote for Atari have high score keeping
functions built into them so they automatically work with this feature.
Numerous homebrew games have also been released with high score keeping code in
them, so they too work with this feature.
2. The 7800XM also has 128K of
onboard, game usable memory to greatly enhance and improve games that will be
written to take advantage of this additional memory.
3. The 7800XM has an onboard
POKEY audio processor chip, giving games the same high quality 4 channel sounds
that the Atari computers and Atari 5200 enjoy. Many games have
already been coded to use the POKEY chip when detected, so they will
automatically use this audio processor when they are plugged into the XM.
Also the XM can detect is a cartridge, such as Ball Blazer, already has an
onboard POKEY chip inside of it and the XM will then disable its own POKEY chip
and just pass through the audio from the POKEY chip in the cartridge.
4. Another feature from the
POKEY chip in the XM is it is connected to a 15 pin keyboard port that is Atari
XEGS keyboard compatible. This will allow more complex games with keyboard
input to use a keyboard for game play. Michael St. Pierre, the
famous designer of the TransKey interface that allowed IBM keyboards to be used
on Atari home computers has released a plug in interface for the XEGS port that
allows IBM PC keyboards to work, this has been tested with the 7800XM and is
5. With the 7800XM you get not
one, but two audio processors. A Yamaha 2151 audio synthesiser chip
is also onboard the 7800XM. This chip was used in several Atari coin-op
games such as Marble Madness and the quality of the audio from this chip is
truly breath taking. The possibilities of releasing Atari 7800
games with audio from this chip will completely change the way people view the
6. The 7800XM also has an SIO
port, it is connected to the POKEY chip and has basic functions, to give the
7800XM full SIO peripheral capabilities there is a footprint inside of the
7800XM where hardware hackers and modders can add a PIA or can experiment and
try expanding the 7800XM's capabilities even further.
Is the 7800XM
hard to install?
What tools do I
The 7800XM is as easy to
install as plugging a cartridge into your Atari 7800, it just plugged right on
top, no tools, soldering or any modifications to the 7800 console.
Just plug and play.
Does the 7800XM make my existing games better?
No, the existing games do not
change, only games that have code in them to access features of the 7800XM will
become more enhanced. Some current games play regular Atari 2600
audio, but have code that if they detect a POKEY chip, they play all their
sounds in POKEY audio. Games that have high score code play normal, but
when they detect High Score keeping, they bring up a high score save screen and
a list of the latest high scores. Other games may be XM only games
because they may be coded to only work with the XM RAM or other features, so you
will have to check with the home brewer and read the information on a 7800 game
to make sure that it isn't an XM ONLY game.
I want to
write 7800XM Enhanced Games,
do you have
CLICK HERE and
look through the technicals on the XM and some links to
tools to develop audio and other things to help you with
your project. Also, there is a large and active
ATARIAGE.COM where you can
ask for help and work with others on a project you want to
Want to learn more and
keep up to date on the latest progress and news on the 7800
Please join the 7800 XM
March 2020: Developer
units have been shipped out to coders in the Atari community
who are actively working on updating existing games and
working on new ones. They are also reporting any
final bugs and/or issues with the XM's so that the final End
User versions can be readied. The End User BIOS is
being written now and once its fully tested and all of the
final features are unlocked in it, then the End user units
will ship out. This has been a HUGE step forward
this year. Its taken 10 years of dealing with life
threatening health issues, the loss of some team members and
trying to overcome major obstacles with getting this device
to work in a stable and reliable manner on a great system,
but one with many variations and inconsistencies.
But now things have moved to the point where these are now
in the hands of people and they are finally getting to work
with the XM's at last.
Please select from
1. I am already an Existing
2. I haven't ordered a 7800XM yet.