Most of the cyberdeck projects we see are built around single-board computers (SBCs), such as a Raspberry Pi or an ODROID. Those are very sensible choices, because they are compact, powerful, and offer a lot of flexibility. But some people want a more retro experience when using their cyberdecks in order to really channel with that sweet ‘80s William Gibson cyberpunk feel. You can certainly use an SBC to emulate a CP/M or DOS machine, but that just doesn’t feel the same as the real deal. Eizen6 wanted to run real vintage hardware and so they crammed an entire Atari 800XL into their Alien-inspired “Tactical 6502/portable” cyberdeck.
Atari is best known for their video game consoles and the Atari 2600 console in particular, but they produced a number of full-fledged home computers in the ‘80s. Originally, those computers were essentially just consoles with integrated keyboards. But later models were designed as computers from the very beginning and rivaled popular competitors like the Commodore 64 and Apple II. Of the computers in the Atari 8-Bit Family, the Atari 800XL was the best “all-rounder.” It had a MOS Technology 6502 processor, 64K of RAM, the typical Atari chips for playing games, and a keyboard that was quite good for the time. It might not have been the largest computer of the era, but it was hardly compact. That is why it is interesting to see a cyberdeck built around the machine.
The enclosure for this cyberdeck is a large Pelican-style hard case. The Atari 800XL, which was not modified in any way, is nestled snuggly in the bottom half of that case. It receives power from a USB power bank through a custom adapter. Composite video and the stereo audio are output to a USB video-capture dongle, which is connected to a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. It is programmed to grab the composite video and then output it to a 7” Raspberry Pi touchscreen display. I’m not entirely sure why Eizen6 didn’t simply use a portable TV that accepts composite video, but this is an interesting workaround. An SIO2SD module is used to load Atari ROMs that are stored on an SD card by emulating a disk drive. Cosmetic touches, like a “DANGER” sticker and an industrial-style power switch, complete the Weyland-Yutani Corporation aesthetic. This cyberdeck is definitely hefty and is more like a luggable computer than a laptop, but we love how it looks and the brute force approach of fitting an Atari 800XL inside the case.