If you do not know what these acronyms refer to, please read the "NTSC/PAL/SECAM/PERITEL" article in the knowledge base first.

The computer

When it was made available in France in early 1984, this PAL Atari 800XL came to fill a gap that had to be occupied by Atari. The Atari 400 & 800 were computers from the past. The Atari 1200XL (NTSC only) had not been imported in Europe. The SECAM Atari 800XL was not ready yet, but the competitors were already there and occupying the market. I'm mainly referring to the Apple IIe, Commodore VIC-20, Commodore 64, Dragon 32/64, Lynx, Oric Atmos, Tandy TRS-80 Model 4, Thomson TO7/70 or ZX Spectrum in the case of the French market. The Amstrad CPC 464 was also to arrive in 1984, and the whole CPC range was going to be a great success in France.

So, Atari France had no choice but to make available a PAL machine in a SECAM country. The machine was priced approx. 3.500 FRF{1} (French Francs). But for an additional 600 to 900 FRF, you could easily buy a PAL to RGB converter: that colour video signal physically transported by a PERITEL cable could be plugged and decoded by any SECAM TV set available in France (PERITEL sockets were legally mandatory on TV sets at this time).

{1} To discuss the price in the context of 1984, the legal minimum net monthly wage in France in 1984 increased several times, but the order of magnitude was 4,000 FRF net per month. So, the computer alone — no TV set/monitor, no peripheral, no software — cost almost 1 month of a worker's salary.

Some movies enthusiasts, already owning high end equipment such as PAL LaserDisc players, etc, already had a PAL & SECAM TV set, able to decode both signals.
It is also worth noting that, among those living close to a border with a country using the PAL system — Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain — it was not uncommon to have a PAL & SECAM TV set, in order to receive French television programmes (SECAM) as well as programmes from the neighbouring country's television (PAL) over the air. It was very common to have a PAL & SECAM TV set near the Belgian border as 40% of Belgium is French-speaking and the country offered (and still offers) French-speaking television channels.
With the required (sold separately) cable, they were all able to plug their PAL Atari 800XL directly in their PAL & SECAM TV set.

For anybody else, the PAL to RGB converters manufactured by "CGV" — the company still exists, www.cgv.fr — were very popular and widely available in the computer shops, especially the PVP-80 model, which was of interest to users of PAL computers from Atari or Commodore. This is mine, still functional, in its original box:

CGV PVP-80 Box, front

CGV PVP-80 Box, front

CGV PVP-80 Box, rear

CGV PVP-80 Box, rear

CGV PVP-80 Box, inner details

CGV PVP-80 Box, inner details

Eventually, it was even sold as Atari-CGV "PVP80" branded in an Atari XL-look box. Collector "Rhod" has one in his exceptional collection (see it here). It is astonishingly rare, and was probably only available for a few months. The box reads: "L'adaptateur PAL/PERITEL permet de relier un ordinateur-maison Atari PAL à un téléviseur SECAM muni d'une prise péritélévision qui équipe tous les téléviseurs livrés depuis janvier 1981".
This means: "The PAL/PERITEL adapter allows you to connect an Atari PAL home computer to a SECAM TV set equipped with a PERITEL/SCART plug which is fitted to all TV sets supplied since January 1981."

PAL Atari 800XL Top


PAL Atari 800XL Keyboard, left

Keyboard, left

PAL Atari 800XL Keyboard, right

Keyboard, right

PAL Atari 800XL Right side

Right side

PAL Atari 800XL Joystick connectors close-up

Joystick connectors close-up

PAL Atari 800XL Rear


PAL Atari 800XL Left

Left side

PAL Atari 800XL Bottom #1

Bottom, my own Atari!

PAL Atari 800XL French sticker close-up #1

French sticker close-up, my own Atari!

Remark #1: The serial number sticker was removed by a 13-year-old technician, during a space bar repair operation, because he believed the sticker was hiding a screw. Eventually, he was proved wrong but the serial number sticker was destroyed in the operation. I still regret it today. The information on the serial number and date of manufacture is therefore lost. It was bought in May 1984 at La FNAC in Lille.

Remark #2: The French sticker reads "Si cet appareil est directement connecté sur la prise d'antenne de votre téléviseur, il est interdit d'utiliser un dispositif de raccordement permanent non homologué. En cas d'infraction, l'usager s'expose à des poursuites."
This means "If this device is directly connected to the antenna plug of your television set, it is forbidden to use a non homologated cable for a permanent use. If case of malpractice, the user can be sued."

Fortunately, many years later, I was able to acquire another of these PAL 800XL sold in France.

PAL Atari 800XL Bottom #2

Bottom, another Atari

PAL Atari 800XL French sticker close-up #2

French sticker close-up, another Atari, B-404 is manufacturing date in WWY format: Week 40 of (198)4 = Oct 1984.

The connectors

PAL Atari 800XL 5-pin 180° DIN Monitor socket close-up

5-pin 180° DIN Monitor socket close-up

PAL Atari 800XL TV/Switch box socket close-up

TV/Switch box socket close-up

PAL Atari 800XL Power socket close-up

Power socket close-up

PAL vs. SECAM versions

PAL Atari 800XL (top) SECAM (bottom)

Atari 800XL PAL (top) SECAM (bottom)

PEEK identification

Using "PEEK" instructions in BASIC to find out about the OS, Basic and NTSC/PAL versions.

PAL Atari 800XL PEEKs to important addresses

PEEKs to important addresses

For your information, the results are:
PEEK(53268) = 1 [PAL/SECAM]
PEEK(65528) = 140 [Not a 400/800]
PEEK(65527) = 2 [XL OS Rev. 2, 1983-05-10, 800XL(most)/65XE(most)/130XE(most)]
PEEK(43234) = 96 [Atari BASIC Rev. B]

Video signals output

Here is a summary of the video signals available on this particular model.
To be able to use one of these video signals to display an image, you obviously need to check that your TV or video monitor has an input for the specific video signal you intend to use. If it doesn't have it, the easiest thing to do is to use a modern video converter/upscaler to convert the video signal available to you to HDMI, for example.

Video signalAvailable onRemark
PAL RF AntennaRCA, TV aerial plugNo channel selector
PAL Video Composite aka CVBSDIN, Monitor socket 
PAL Y Only, aka Luminance onlyDIN, Monitor socketMost likely: first models produced
PAL Y & C, aka S-VideoDIN, Monitor socketMost likely: later models produced

Special thanks to Jerome Delsarte for all this information and his expertise on video signals.