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The Atom was released as a consumer version of Acorn Computer’s range of hobbyist computer kits. It offered advanced features for a British computer of the time, including sound, (relatively) high resolution graphics and colour.

A range of expansion options were offered, including a 4K ROM to add support for floating point calculations, as well as disk drives and a printer interface.

The Games

Despite its serious image, the Atom’s high resolution graphics made it quite a capable games machine. Most titles were home-grown arcade conversions sold through adverts in the back pages of various computing magazines, including a very acceptable Space Invaders clone.

The Atom was also David Braben’s first computer, and an early 3D technical demo that he wrote for the machine later formed the building blocks for Braben and Ian Bell’s BBC Micro masterpiece, Elite.

People

David Braben
See the BBC Micro section for a mini-biography of David Braben, who, with Ian Bell, created what many argue is the greatest game of the entire 8-bit era, Elite.

Trivia

The cases for the Acorn Atom and BBC Micro were designed by Allen Boothroyd, who is also responsible for the sylish Meridian range of hi-fi equipment.

Using the Acorn Atom

To load a game from disk, first turn on ATOM DOS by entering:
*DOS

You can then view the directory of a disk by entering:
*CAT

Load the program you want to play by entering:
*LOAD "filename"

Finally, start the program by entering:
RUN

Links

YACM’s Atom page
‘Yet Another Computer Museum’ has further information about the Atom, including some great photos.

Binary Dinosaurs’ Acorn section
The Acorn pages on Binary Dinosaurs features a history of the company as well as photos of many Acorn bits and bobs.

Wouter Ras’ website
As well as Wouter’s Atom emulator for the PC, this page also has an archive of Atom software and games.

Major events

1981
Launch prices:
kit: £120
built: £170

Emulators

Mac OS X

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iOS

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OUYA/Android

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Features

1MHz 8-bit MOS Technology 6502 processor
2k RAM, expandable to 12k, or 32k using external RAM expansion kit
Colour and sound
‘Real’ full travel keyboard
Various graphic modes, up to 256×192
Limited built-in version of BASIC
Cassette based storage