CompuServe's ST Forum
by Ron Luks
Online activity within the ST community has increased substantially over the last few years. Because of this increase, CompuServe has begun a major restructuring of its ST-related areas, which will be in effect by the time you read this.
New and Improved Services
Initially, vendors received space in the Atari Developers Forum. With the formation of the Atari Vendors Forum, however, the resources available to vendors for product support-as well as the number of participating vendors-has increased significantly. Current vendors include Regent Software, MichTron, Foresight Resources, ANALOG., ICD and Practical Solutions.
Because of the new highs in activity, CompuServe decided recently to split the current message sections and data libraries into two forums, effective October 15. The first is the Atari ST-Arts Forum, containing all graphics- and entertainment-related topics and associated data libraries. Messages will cover everything from Atari games, music and MIDI applications to basic and advanced graphics. The Atari ST-Arts Forum will also feature data libraries full of downloadable programs and files for games, music and MIDI. DEGAS and NEOchrome pictures, CAD-3D support, Cyber and other animation files, news and product demos.
The second forum is called the Atari ST-Productivity Forum (Atari Pro). With most of the online vendor support now conducted in the Atari Vendors Forum, the remaining sections of the Developers Forum will be relocated to Atari Pro along with message sections and data libraries devoted to utilities and applications programs. Some of the message sections in Atari Pro include telecommunications, operating systems, personal applications, business applications, emulators, BASIC and C programming, and sections for Atari news and forum business. Data libraries include new uploads, programming tools, utilities, desk accessories, printer drivers and new product demos.
Atari Pro now contains the special message section and data library for registered owners of the Atari Developers Kit which was previously in the Atari Developers Forum. Also, a few message sections and data libraries will be used as beta testing or special product sites, which can be used on a special-request basis. (Editor's note: To reserve one of these areas, please contact Ron Luks, CompuServe ID. 76 703,254.)
To make life easy for our regular users, each Atari forum will have a New Uploads library. This is a special section in which each new file will make a week-long appearance before the sysop staff moves it into the appropriate library for long-term archiving.
How It All Started
In 1980, CompuServe decided that because of the growing online interest in the Atari 8-bit computer, 8-bit users merited a section of their own on the network. This was called SIG*Atari, for Special Interest Group: Atari. Because customer support from Warner Communications, Atari's former owners, was erratic (to say the least), most of the support came from SIG*Atari, Atari-oriented publications such as Antic Magazine and a vast network of users' groups and bulletin board systems. In the next few years, SIG*Atari became the single largest source of online support for Atari owners, growing at an exponential rate. The original staff of sysops expanded to include many Atari luminaries and software authors such as Russ Wetmore, Michael Reichmann and Steve Ahlstrom.
Despite many changes in the CompuServe system software, the basic structure of SIG*Atari remained the same. The forum (CompuServe's new name for a SIG) was composed of a series of message bases, data libraries and an online interactive conferencing system. As activity in the forum increased and the membership went over the 20,000 mark, additional sections were defined and old ones renamed to reflect the topics of current interest in the Atari community.
In 1985 a few message sections were set up for coverage of the then-new 68000-based 520ST. Very quickly, activity in these areas threatened to overwhelm all 8-bit subject matter, so CompuServe decided to divide SIG*Atari into three forums: Atari 8 for the 8-bit machines; Atari 16 for the ST; and Atari Developers, primarily for Atari software and hardware developers. In the early days of the ST, very little developer support was available outside of the bare-bones Developers Kit, so AtariDev soon gained a reputation as the place for developers to share programming knowledge.
Although the Atari Forums had been run as an independent source of support, Atari recognized the Atari Developers Forum as the "official" location where purchasers of the Atari Developers Kit could obtain updates and company support. Other commercial systems have Atari areas with varying degrees of official sanction by Atari Corp., but the Developers' Forum has remained the site for "official Atari developers' support."
As you can see, Atari-user support on CompuServe is changing and growing constantly. While I've made every attempt to ensure the accuracy of this information and the various product descriptions, understand that they're subject to change at any time. If you have trouble finding anything discussed in this column, please notify the sysops of the Atari Forums or a member of the Antic Online staff and you'll be directed to the proper location.
Ron Luks is the head sysop of the Atari Forums on CompuServe and the original editor of Antic Online.
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