Alien Inspired Cyberdeck Packs Vintage Atari 800XL

Sticking a Raspberry Pi in a Pelican-style case and calling it a cyberdeck has become something of a meme these days, and while we certainly don’t look down on such projects, we recognize they can get a bit repetitive. But we think this one is unique enough to get a pass. Sure [eizen6] mounted a Pi inside of a rugged waterproof case, but it’s simply serving as a display for the real star of the show: a vintage Atari 800XL computer.

The overall look of the build, from the stenciledĀ Nostromo on the back to the self-destruct warning sticker over the display is a reference to Alien. Partly because both the film and the Atari 800 were released in 1979, but also because [eizen6] says this particular aesthetic is simply the way computers should look. The visual style is also meant to signify that the project embraces the old ways despite the sprinkling of modern technology.

A custom cable lets the 800XL run on USB power.

To that end, retro aficionados will be happy to hear that the Atari appears to be completely unmodified, with [eizen6] going as far as nestling the nearly 40 year old computer in foam rather than permanently mounting it to the case. The various cables for power, video, and data have all been terminated with the appropriate connectors as well, so everything can be easily unplugged should the 8-bit machine need to be returned to more pedestrian use.

In the top half of the case, [eizen6] has mounted the Raspberry Pi 3B+, a seven inch touch screen, a USB hub, and a SIO2SD that allows loading Atari disk images from an SD card. Using a USB capture device, video from the Atari can be shown on the Pi’s display with a simple VLC command. With a USB keyboard plugged into the hub, the Pi can be put to more advanced use should the need arise. It’s also worth noting that, thanks to a custom cable, the Atari is running off of a USB power bank. With a second USB power bank dedicated to running the Pi and its LCD display, this retro cyberdeck is fully mobile.

We’ve seen plenty of modern builds that try and recapture the look and feel of retro computers, but very few that actually integrate the genuine article. While the aesthetic might not be everyone’s cup of tea, we can all appreciate the respect shown for the original hardware in this build.

21 thoughts on “Alien Inspired Cyberdeck Packs Vintage Atari 800XL

    1. :( no rs232 on an atari, need to add the atari 850 to get those ports and then run bobterm. Perhaps sio2pc and ape can work with wine?…. that would be cool to try with the pi… lol, the atari connects to the pi to pull down its terminal program to then control the pi.

      1. SIO was a serial port itself and there were cheaper methods to make it simply talk RS232 with just a level converter.

        I don’t remember the name of the software. Of course it precluded using any disk/tape/printer access at the same time.

      2. Can build an rverter, grab an 850 or use SIO2PC adapter and have the Pi emulate an 850/network interface. I have an 850 and iPocket232 serial to Ethernet interface. The 850 is kinda slow. SIO is capable of 127kbps and PBI can move at closer to 1Mbps. 850 is only practical at 9600bps but you get 4 rs232 ports and parallel out of the deal. Can also do current loop and talk to ancient RTTY gear.

      1. Check power supply. If you have the dreaded “ingot” they cook components when they start to fail. I use a modern 5V brick with mine. Soldered in a 512K SRAM expansion as well for 576K total. XE compatible as well. Additional RAM, an IDE interface that integrates with OS well and SpartaDOS X make it a lot of fun.

  1. To the author, this is an 800XL, which was released around 1983. The original 800, which this is not, was released in 1979. They look quite different from each other, aesthetically speaking.

    1. Same chipset but PIA IO pins for 2 joystick ports got repurposed for bankswitching OS and extended RAM in XL/XE. You would get tired of lugging an 800 around pretty quick. All that shielding weighed a lot.

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