This PERITEL Atari 800 computer was officially released by Atari in France, probably in Q3-Q4 1982. It is not the DIY project of a fan, as demonstrated by the additional Atari components with specific references (see below) and the very existence of the tape "Initiation à la programmation en BASIC – Version PERITEL".
As explained on the PAL Atari 800XL page, France was neither a PAL nor NTSC but a SECAM country. So, Atari had to find a workaround to sell the Atari 400 & 800 computers locally. The quick fix was to add an RGB signal, generated in an additional PERITEL daughterboard-card, available in a PERITEL/SCART connector. On the PERITEL Atari 800, the cable is detachable and plugged into the computer. On the PERITEL Atari 400, the cable is not detachable. Consequently, it is even more difficult today to find a PERITEL Atari 800 with its cable – which was often lost.
Aesthetically, the PERITEL version can be spotted by the additional connector on the left side of the computer (usually without any connector there). If you are very lucky, a PERITEL hand-written sticker will also be present on the bottom.
I am the happy owner of 3 of these machines, with two different revisions of the model. They all came fitted with 48Kb (and the PAL OS cartridge CX801-P), with or without protective plastic shells, surely to reduce the heat.
2 revisions (at least?)
Among my 3 machines, I noticed two different revisions:
- One that came with "CO61131 REV.A" stamped inside the chassis, with the "CAO61034" PERITEL adaptator, (c) 1982, ICTv 12-82.
- One that came with "CO61131 REV.X2A" stamped inside the chassis, with the "CAO61034 REV.X1A" PERITEL adaptator, (c) 1982.
The resulting RGB video signal is almost the same, quality-wise.
Inside the machine
Atari started the mod with a classic PAL Atari 800 as base (PAL computer with PAL OS), and added components. Please note that the regular video composite output (hidden here) is still present and still works, in parallel with the PERITEL output (see below).
Inside, you might spot an unusual "PTL" sticker; I assume that "PTL" stands for "PERITEL". Outside, in addition to the regular sticker with serial number, a hand-written sticker was also added with a PERITEL "PTL" specific serial number. I really wonder how many of these machines were made.
The PERITEL adaptator daughterboard-card
The RGB signal from this PERITEL adaptator
And now the strangest part. This high quality RGB signal in a PERITEL/SCART connector only displays 8 colours. In fact, it ignores the actual colour to display. It simply translates the luminosity of the original colour into a new colour, picked in a palette of 8.
Obviously, this yields to very strange colours in some games, although they remain "playable". It is also important to note that there is a noticeable delay in the PERITEL output. This is obvious with this "test setting" where the two signals are both displayed, side by side. The delay probably creates difficulties in game which are really time-critical.
Running software (games!) on the two video outputs
On the large display (left): RGB signal from the PERITEL adaptator. On the small display (right): signal from regular video composite connector.
Invitation à la programmation, version PERITEL
Since Atari considered from the start (*) that the 400 & 800 models were serious computers for learning – and not only excellent computers for gaming! –, they made the extra effort to create a specific version of the tape "An invitation to programming" especially for these PERITEL 400 & 800. The French version titled "Initiation à la programmation en BASIC – Version PERITEL" is not only a French translation: it also features different colours. This update was needed because all the colours had to be reconsidered, and selected according to their luminosity. Later, another French version of "Initiation à la programmation en BASIC" will be released for the XL computers, this time matching the original colours of the "An invitation to programming" tape.
To be comprehensive in my evaluation, I loaded the tape "Initiation à la programmation en BASIC – Version PERITEL", on a PAL 800XL. And, yes, it features colours – and not only a monochrome choice of colours, selected for their luminosity.
(*) The first cartridge, CXL4001, is "Educational System – Master cartridge". Then comes "Basic" (CXL4002), then "Assembler editor" (CXL4003), then the first game "Basketball" (CXL4004).
Last but not least, the PERITEL Atari 800 came with unusual power supplies, that provided 2x 9V AC at 1.7A + 1x 6V DC at 350mA.
Using 'PEEK' commands in BASIC to find out about the OS, Basic and GTIA versions.
For your information, the results are:
PEEK(53268) = 1 [PAL/SECAM]
PEEK(65528) = 214 [400/800 OS Rev. A/PAL, 1979-06 (common)]
PEEK(65527) = 255 [Not a XL/XE]
PEEK(43234) = 162 [Atari BASIC Rev. A, in external cartridge]