Task: Program in 80 Columns of Text on Your Atari 8-Bit Computer with the ACE-80 Cartridge
Needed: ACE-80 or ACE-80XL cartridge
Time: 5-10 mins
The Atari 8-bit computers all display a maximum of 40 columns of text which can be limiting for some applications such as programming or word-processing. There were several hardware and software solutions for expanding text to 80 columns. One of the hardware solutions was the Atari XEP-80 interface module which plugged into your computer monitor and received the video signal through the joystick port of the Atari. I have never tried the XEP-80, but there has been a fair amount of criticism of the device. Another hardware solution available at the time was the BIT-3 board for the Atari 800. A new hardware solution is the VBXE board from Lotharek. A widely used software solution was the Amiable Computer Enhancements ACE-80 (and ACE-80XL) cartridge developed by Claus Buchholz and Lance Ward and released in 1985. ACE-80 replaces the 40-column screen editor (E:) and display (S:) devices with their 80 column device which draws small characters using high-resolution graphics.
Unfortunately, original ACE-80 cartridges are fairly rare and difficult to find at a reasonable price. The good news is that the software has been licensed and re-released on newly made cartridges.
Purchase a new ACE-80 cartridge for $70. There are three options:
- The ACE-80 cartridge is for the Atari 800 and goes in the right cartridge slot.
- The ACE-80XL is for the XL and XE series. Choose the XL option.
- The DT-80 cartridge is specifically for use with devices running the CP/M operating system
Although pricey, these are great options for easy 80 columns on the Atari computers. Note they don’t work with all software. For example, they don’t work with AtariWriter because it uses its own custom screen device. Note that you will need a monochrome monitor or video upgrades such as UAV for optimal resolution.
Here is a review of ACE-80 from the May 1986 issue of ANALOG magazine (see page 85).
Here is an interview of Claus Buchholz and Lance Ward on ANTIC podcast (Interview #292).
I have previously posted about using DT-80 to run CP/M using the Atari as a terminal.