ST PRODUCT NEWS
First ST reviewReviewed by Jack Powell
Presenting the Atari ST has the distinction of being the first
ST product to arrive at the Antic offices. It showed up here on
Tuesday afternoon, May 28 and we were all pretty amazed. The computer was
not in general release, and we had just plugged a newly revised operating
system into our development 520ST Yet here was a book about it!
So what do we have here? Well, the frontispiece showed this is a translation of a book published in Dusseldorf, West Germany. (We have a copy of the original that was brought back from the Hanover Electronics Fair. But we were unable to find any German-reading Atarians to help us do something with it.) Presumably the authors had a head-start, since the ST was released first in Canada and Europe.
Eagerly tearing into the English version, we found a compilation of information previously available about specific parts of the machine-but
PRESENTING THE ATARI ST
P.O. Box 7211
Grand Rapids, MI 49510
probably not available from Atari. Much of this information is not always specific to the ST, but it's still handy to have everything in one place.
The book starts with a brief description of the evolution of the 16-bit processor, then focuses on the Motorola MC68000, which is the heart of the Atari ST.
This leads to an overview of 68000 assembly language, including a list of the instruction set, diagrams of the registers, and some examples of the addressing modes. The whole section is presented at an introductory level. Although none of it will teach you 68000 machine language, it does offer an idea of what is in store if you pursue the subject further.
Unfortunately, the authors provide no bibliography of outside reference material to guide the reader.
Presenting the Atari ST then concentrates on peripherals, beginning with a very informative block diagram of the relationship between the CPU, the special chips, the ports, and the peripherals. It spends a couple of pages on each of the peripherals and chips.
The book is an odd mixture of highly technical, but sketchy, hardware-specific information, followed by elementary material. An entire chapter is devoted to Logo. It takes up space, but does not really tell enough for a practical tutorial.
Another section has a diagram of the pin-outs of the 68000. This could be informative, but the authors don't follow through with a discussion of what it means.
There are several inaccuracies because the authors made assumptions based on incomplete or outmoded information. For example, they had no way of knowing that the 520ST's GEM would first be released on disk. So they refer to it as being in ROM.
One section gives a very clear explanation of how BDOS and BIOS works, and then goes on to list BDOS and BIOS function numbers in CPM/ 68K-which we now know are not the same numbers as in TOS (Tramiel Operating System).
Nevertheless, Presenting the Atari ST gives a clear overview of the new machine, and -is fairly accurate, considering the limited information available at publication time. Predictably, there is a certain amount of padding, but most prospective ST buyers will still be happy to get their hands on it.
Antic congratulates the authors for accomplishing so much, so quickly. The publishers tell us they plan four more books on the ST before the end of the year. No doubt these will provide much more detail. We look forward to adding them to our Atari ST library.
Flash! Just as we went into print, Antic received the completed 4xFORTH, an 83 Standard Forth from the Dragon Group. It's available right now at $99.95 retail. And it's fast-twice as fast as MacForth. It's also capable of multi-tasking and multi-user functions on the ST. This is probably a first for any microcomputer. Look for an in-depth review in the ST Section soon.
Atari has been busily working with developers. They assigned Arrakis Technology to produce a disk tutorial for the new machines and some dealer demos.
Atari is also working with Mosaic Software to transfer their successful Lotus 1-2-3 clone, Twin, to the ST. On the IBM version, Twin can read Lotus 1-2-3 files. On the ST, Twin will retail for $99 and will be available in the fall.
Meanwhile, there should be no shortage of quality languages for the ST. Philon, Inc., a leading developer of language compilers for M68000-based minicomputers, announced plans to produce all their compilers for the ST. Philon currently has compilers in C, BASIC-C, BASIC-M, COBOL, FORTRAN, and PASCAL. The first compilers available for the ST will be BASIC-M and BASIC-C at $79 each, followed by C at $149.
ERRATA: Last month, we mistakenly reported that Sublogic would be producing Financial Cookbook for the ST. We should have said Electronics Arts is transfering this program to the new Atari. Sorry, EA.
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