Task: Purchase an Atari 65XE or 130XE 8-Bit Computer
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The Atari XE line of 8-bit computers was released in 1985 and coincided with the release of the Atari ST line of 16-bit computers with similar look. By 1986 and 1987, the 8-bit era was coming to a close with many people moving on to one of the 16-bit computers such as the Atari ST or Amiga or going with a Mac or IBM PC. My family picked up a 130XE around 1987 just as I was starting college. I am sure we got it on sale for cheap. I still have this one and another from their business. I also recently picked up an Atari 65XE with a built-in SIO2PC modification.
I have never been fond of the look and feel of the XE computers. In particular, the keyboard is mushy compared to the 800 or 800XL. Also, I find plugging in cartridges in the back of the unit to be awkward. Nonetheless, I am happy to have them as part of my Atari 8-bit family.
The practical difference between the 65XE and 130XE is the memory. The 65XE came with 64KB of RAM while the 130XE can with 128KB. The 130XE also included an Enhanced Cartridge Interface (ECI) with a fast parallel bus for expansions such as memory. Here is an ANTIC magazine article from 1985 highlighting these differences and a few others. Note that they look the same except for the label indicating the model type.
The good news is the the XE line is not as popular as the XLs and thus they can be purchased on eBay for about $100 less than an 800XL, for example. At the time of this post you can pick up a 65 XE or 130XE for around $100 to $150. A boxed version might go for $50 to $100 more. Unfortunately, there were only about five or so of each available when I looked, so you might need to wait to get the perfect computer.
Here are some ideas for finding one through venues other than eBay. Local pickups are always much cheaper and not susceptible to damage from shipping.
I keep an Atari 800 and 800XL on my desk for regular use. I rarely get out my XEs but do enjoy them when I do. Fun to mix up the original hardware experience once in awhile.
Here is a thread on Atari Age on why the XE didn’t become the dominant 8-bit for us enthusiasts.