RAM enlargement from David Cady:
I can remember there were some ways to enlarge the
RAM, but probably the best was QMeg (by Stefan Dorndorf), that
boosted 800XL's RAM to 320 kB (256 kB + original 64 kB)! I made some very
good experience with it (e.g. there was a way of uploading more programs
to memory and then to switch between them - sounds like a predecessor of
Windows [Alt] + [Tab]). As far as I can remember, this memory enlargement
was based on memory shadowing.
Another great thing was a cheap way of installing the DOS directly on the
'motherboard' - I can't remember the name of this enhancement, but there
was a switch on the right side to select either standard (no DOS) or DOS
mode. It worked perfectly and, in fact, it was much better than DOS 3.0
shipped with the 1050 disk drive, that had some serious bugs
(incompatibility with older programs and/or DOS versions, no disk density
handling management, occasional memory reset and some other). It's main
feature was its simplicity - I just turned on the computer and could
immediately use the disk drive. Great!
But, I think Atari 800XL was a VERY GOOD home computer worthy the price
even without all those enhancements.
800XL in the UK, by Dark Willow:
Atari had really pushed the educational side of the
computer, though there were never used in schools over here in the UK (the
home of the BBC's).
You could get a home "science lab" kit (can't rember the name)
which had an interface block that plugged into one of the joystick ports
and allowed you to connect light sensors, temperatre sensors and a whole
host of things, along with a chunky book for experiments to try etc.
The software for it had a strange menu system
with four options on each screen, each selected by moving the joystick up
down, left or right. The mouse really hadn't caught on yet, back then.