BY DEWITT ROBBELOTH
Books about the ST are essential for the serious programmer, and fortunately, considering the ST's newness, a number of them are available. Unfortunately, some were rushed to market and are not as complete or accurate as they should be. Nevertheless, several are respectable sources of technical information that will significantly shorten the time you spend getting up to speed on the ST.
Probably the best and most useful volume out so far is Atari ST Internals, $19.95, one of a series of ST books published in the U.S. by Abacus Software, P.O. Box 7219, Grand Rapids, MI 49510 (616/241-5510). ST Internals includes information about the 68000 processor and how it is used in the ST (including instruction set and addressing modes), the ST's custom chips, the disk controller, and many other I/O situations. It describes GEMDOS and has a complete listing of BIOS, the interface between GEMDOS and the hardware of the computer.
The ST found an early and avid following in Germany, and that's why ST Internals, like all of the Abacus ST books, was written in German (for Data Becker GmbH), then translated into English for the Abacus edition. The translation is very readable, but many typos have slipped in, raising some concern about the accuracy of technical information. But again, there is so much good information here you can't afford not to have it.
The next most important Abacus book is the Atari GEM Programmer's Reference, $19.95. As the title suggests, it is a reasonably complete guide to GEM, and the best thing you can get this side of the development documentation. Of course, if you want the full documentation, it costs $300 from Atari Corp. This includes 1,500 binder pages from Atari and Digital Research, Inc., designers of the GEM environment. Your $300 also buys six disks that contain the Alcyon C Compiler and Linker from DRI, a resource construction set, "DOODLE" (an application that explains and exercises GEM), plus tools and debuggers. The devoted programmer willing to pony up this much cash should order the ST Developer's Kit from Atari Corp., 1196 Borregas Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA 94088.
There are nine other Abacus titles for the ST, of varying interest and importance. Atari ST Tricks and Tips, $19.95, concentrates on utilities and cookbook effects, especially from ST Basic. ST Graphics and Sound, $19.95, and ST Peeks and Pokes, $16.95, also look very helpful. Several on the Abacus list do not merit our recommendation. Presenting the Atari ST. $16.95, is too superficial to be of value, especially if you have the better books of the series. Atari ST for Beginners, $16.95, is really for beginners. Atari ST Logo, $19.95, is a waste due to the relative inadequacy of ST Logo. There is an ST Basic Training Guide, $16.95, and an ST Basic to C, $19.95, which we have not seen.
One Abacus ST book, Atari ST Machine Language, $19.95, is an acceptable introduction to this important topic, and offers the reader instructive assembly listings for the ST. But any programmer serious about AL will want to have 68000 Assembly Language Programming, $19.95, from Osborne/McGraw Hill. This book by Lance Leventhal, et al., is the bible for working with the 68000 chip and is widely available at technical book stores.
Another Osborne/McGraw Hill title is The Atari ST User's Guide, $15.95, by John Heilborn, who helped write Atari's ST documentation. His book is well illustrated for the beginner or others unfamiliar with the iconic desktop, but it focuses on Logo, which is not the language of choice for many ST users.
Two books by COMPUTE! Publications deserve mention. The Elementary Atari ST, $16.95, by William B. Sanders is an introduction to the machine, ST Basic, sound and graphics, files and I/O, Logo and Forth. Not nearly as detailed as ST Internals, it is still probably a better introduction than Presenting the Atari ST COMPUTE!'s ST Programmer's Guide, $16.95, by the editors of COMPUTE! deals primarily with ST Basic and ST Logo, and for those languages it is a useful handbook.
Many other languages are available for the ST, and more are coming. Interest in the several implementations of C for the ST is growing, for which we recommend Prentice-Hall's book The C Programming Language, $24.95, by Kernighan and Ritchie, who developed the language. Other C books include The C Primer, $17.95, by Hancock and Krieger (a Byte Book), and Learning to Program in C, $25.00, by Thomas Plum, published by Plum Hall Inc., 1 Spruce Ave., Cardiff, NJ 08232.
Pascal is also quite popular, and in that area the UCSD Pascal Handbook, $18.95, is available from Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, or from Tecan Software Systems, 1410 39th St., Brooklyn, NY 11218. Tecan is also the source for a complete Pascal package for the ST, $79.95, which includes the language in software, plus the extensive and definitive p-System documentation supporting UCSD Pascal.