De Re Atari

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De Re Atari
AuthorChris Crawford
Lane Winner
Jim Cox
Amy Chen
Jim Dunion
Kathleen Pitta
Bob Fraser
CountryUnited States
SubjectAtari 8-bit family
PublisherAtari Program Exchange
Publication date
Pages250 pp

De Re Atari ("All About Atari") is a book written by Atari, Inc. employees in 1981 and published by the Atari Program Exchange in 1982 as an unbound, shrink-wrapped set of three-holed punched pages. Targeted at developers, it documents the advanced features of the Atari 8-bit family of home computers and includes ideas for how to use them in applications. The information in the book was not available in a single, collected source at the time of publication.

Atari released official documentation for the hardware and a source listing of the operating system the same year, 1982, but they were not as easily obtainable as De Re Atari and tutorials in magazines such as COMPUTE!. By 1985 De Re Atari was out of print.[1]


Atari at first did not disclose technical information on its computers, except to software developers who agreed to keep it secret.[2] De Re Atari ("All About Atari") was sold by Atari Program Exchange (APX) in its mail-order catalog, which described the book as "everything you want to know about the Atari ... but were afraid to ask" and a resource for "professional programmers" and "advanced hobbyists who understand Atari BASIC and assembly language".[3]

De Re Atari, and its serialization in BYTE magazine, were the first public, official publication of Atari 8-bit technical information. It was based on Atari's confidential, 8-bit development documentation written in 1979-1980 for third-party developers under non-disclosure agreements. Individual chapters are devoted to making use of the features of the platform, which included ANTIC and the display list, "graphics indirection" in the form of color support in the GTIA and customized character sets, player/missile graphics, using the vertical blank interrupt and display list interrupts (a.k.a. raster interrupts), smooth scrolling, and sound. Additional chapters covered utilities in the operating system, Atari DOS and Atari BASIC, and design of intuitive human interfaces.

Crawford, the lead author of the book, used many of these features in the seminal wargame Eastern Front (1941) released the previous year. Eastern Front took advantage of smooth scrolling, custom character graphics, player-missile graphics, and audio. Another of the book's authors, Jim Dunion, used custom display lists in the DDT 6502 debugger to produce a partitioned, IDE-like display. DDT was later incorporated into the MAC/65 assembler.


An article on Player/Missile Graphics by De Re Atari coauthor Chris Crawford appeared in Compute! in 1981:

  • Crawford, Chris (January 1981). "Player-Missile Graphics with the ATARI Personal Computer System". Compute!. p. 66.

Another article by Crawford and Lane Winner appeared in the same month in BYTE:

De Re Atari was serialized in BYTE in 1981 and 1982[4] in ten articles:

  1. Crawford, Chris (September 1981). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 1: The Display List". BYTE. p. 284.
  2. Crawford, Chris (October 1981). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 2: Graphics Indirection". BYTE. p. 70.
  3. Crawford, Chris (November 1981). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 3: Player-Missile Graphics". BYTE. p. 312.
  4. Crawford, Chris (December 1981). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 4: Display-List Interrupts". BYTE. p. 166.
  5. Crawford, Chris (January 1982). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 5: Scrolling". BYTE. p. 26.
  6. Winner, Lane (February 1982). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 6: Atari BASIC". BYTE. p. 91.
  7. Fraser, Bob (March 1982). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 7: Sound". BYTE. p. 80.
  8. Fraser, Bob (April 1982). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 8: Generating Sound with Software". BYTE. p. 134.
  9. Pitta, Kathleen; Winner, Lane (May 1982). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 9: Even More Colors!". BYTE. p. 148.
  10. Crawford, Chris (June 1982). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 10: Human Engineering". BYTE. p. 302.


De Re Atari was very successful; the manager of APX later said that it and Eastern Front "paid the bills, i.e. were our biggest sellers".[5] Mapping the Atari described De Re Atari as "an arcane, but indispensable reference to the Atari's operations and some of its most impressive aspects".[4] The Addison-Wesley Book of Atari Software 1984 stated that the book had "a wealth of information, but tends to be obscure and includes numerous errors".[6]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "I/O Board". Antic. March 1985. p. 6. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  2. ^ Nelson, Ted (1983). "The Atari Machine". In Small, David; Small, Sandy; Blank, George. The Creative Atari. Creative Computing Press. ISBN 0916688348.
  3. ^ "The quarterly APX contest / APX: Programs by our users...for our users / Publications / Hardware". APX Product Catalog. Fall 1983. pp. 34, 72. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  4. ^ a b Chadwick, Ian (1985). Mapping the Atari - Revised Edition. Compute! Press. pp. Preface. ISBN 0-87455-004-1.
  5. ^ Kevin Savetz, "Fred Thorlin: The Big Boss at Atari Program Exchange", April 2000
  6. ^ Stanton, Jeffrey; Wells, Robert P.; Rochowansky, Sandra; Mellid, Michael, eds. (1984). The Addison-Wesley Book of Atari Software. Addison-Wesley. p. 418. ISBN 0-201-16454-X.