A New Challenge For ST Programmers
If you're an Atari ST enthusiast, we've got some fantastic news for you.
There's only one catch. We can't tell you what the news is-yet. All we can say is that COMPUTE! is preparing a major surprise that we think you'll enjoy. And to make this surprise as fantastic as possible, we need your help.
If you have access to an ST, and if you're a skillful programmer or writer, we want to see your work. We're looking for ST-oriented articles on a wide variety of topics: tutorials, application programs, utilities, games, educational programs, or almost anything else that we think will be of interest to the several hundred thousand people who already own and use Atari ST computers.
And to break things really wide open, in this instance we're modifying a longstanding COMPUTE! policy regarding program submissions. Up to now, for the most part, we've restricted the programs we publish to either BASIC or machine language, and we've also restricted their length. This has forced us to turn down some otherwise outstanding submissions, but we've had good reasons for it.
These reasons have to do with the realities of magazine publishing. We've insisted that programs be written in BASIC or ML because those are the only two languages that everybody owns. Practically every personal computer comes with BASIC, and ML is every computer's native language. If we publish a program written in some other language-such as Pascal, C, COMAL, Forth, or whatever-the number of readers who can use the program suddenly shrinks to a tiny minority. Realistically, a magazine that wants to stay in business has to appeal to a majority of its readers most of the time. Thus, we've avoided programs written in "nonstandard" languages, although it's been frustrating to all of us.
A related problem is the restriction we've traditionally placed on the length of programs. Again, this has to do with an unpleasant side of magazine publishing. Sadly, we've had to reject some excellent programs merely because they were too long to print. There's a limit to how much typing a reader is willing to undertake, even to get an exceptional program. Recently we've stretched this limit near the bursting point. We believe that programs like our SpeedScript word processor and SpeedCalc spreadsheet-with versions for Commodore, Atari, and Apple computers-are the best applications ever offered by a computer magazine. But both programs were written entirely in ML and required readers to spend many hours typing in thousands of numbers. Our MLX machine language entry utility is a partial solution. So is our COMPUTE! DISK. But we can't assume every reader is going to buy the disk, so we still have to restrict the length of programs to keep them accessible to all of our readers.
The new generation of highpowered, low-cost personal computers-exemplified by the Atari ST series-is allowing us to rethink our approach to program publishing. As the hardware grows more powerful, so does the software. The programs printed in magazines have to keep up, too. Some people go so far as to say that the days of program-oriented magazines are coming to an end. We strongly disagree. Consistently, reader feedback tells us that our programs and programming tutorials are the most popular features of our magazines. We feel that many useful programs can still be written in BASIC, and that BASIC will continue to be the language of choice for home programmers for some time to come. But to turn out really exceptional pieces of work, more and more programmers will be forced to turn to alternatives-particularly compilers. And their programs will grow larger and larger.
To meet this challenge, we're taking an exciting new approach. The details of this approach are part of the surprise we're preparing. For now, however, we can say this much:
We'll consider Atari ST program submissions written in practically any programming language you want. Have you written a utility in C for designing character fonts? Have you discovered a way to implement drop-down menus in ST BASIC? Have you written a generalpurpose database manager in Prolog? Or an educational program in Pascal? Or a terminal program in Forth? Or an arcade-style game in machine language? Or a text editor in Modula-2?
Whatever it is, we'd like to see it. But don't get the idea that we're not picky. As always, we're interested in obtaining only the best-quality programs and articles we can find. If necessary, these programs can be much longer than ones we'd ordinarily publish in printed form. Of course, we still prefer to see programs which are as efficiently written as possible, so don't get carried away.
There's only one restriction: The executable object code of the program must be legally usable by someone who doesn't own a copy of the language. For instance, if you write a program with a compiled language, the compiled code must be a self-standing run-time package that anyone can load and run, whether or not they own the compiler. And we must be able to legally distribute the run-time package without becoming entangled in licensing fees and so forth. If you aren't sure about this, check with the company which produces the language.
Aside from this minor restriction, the gates are wide open. As a further incentive, we can hint that because of the way we'll be publishing these programs, some significant royalties may be in store for those whose work is accepted.
This is going to be an exciting experiment for all ST enthusiasts-readers, programmers, and those of us at COMPUTE!. Let's all make it a success.
Tom R. Halfhill, Editor