Atari computers back on track. Jack Anderson.
Atari unveiled a whole group of new hardware products at the CES, incouding four new computers. The announcements came ridng on the coattails of the merger of the home video and microcomputer divisions of Atari, which should give the company a much better focus for the future.
The products, which should all be available before Christmas, are as follows:
* The Atari 600 XL. With 16K expandable to 64K, a full-stroke keyboard, and built-in Atari Basic, the machine has a promising future. Especially so in light of the fact that it will employ the original operating system that made its predecessors famous--that means it will boot all existing Atari software within existing memory constraints. It lists for $200.
* The Atari 800 XL: This machine will have 64K standard, and also use the old OS, as do all the new computers from Atari. and, using its expansion port, memory can be expanded to a whopping 192K. Not too many details have yet been made available concerning the expansion capability. The list price is only $300.
* The Atari 1400 XL. This is the replacement for the ill-fated 1200, with most of the serious grievances redressed. The compatible operating system will be there, along with hardware expansion capability, and even (hold on to your hats) a built-in modem. There will also be an onboard speech synthesis chip. For a list price of $500, we would have settled for a measly parallel port.
* The Atari 1450 XLD. Not much more than a 1400 XL for your $800 list, except for the built-in low-profile 5-1/4" disk drive. Because the drive is built-in, it can use a parallel configuration, allowing it to work much faster than the outboard serial drives. Room is provided in the1450 for the installation of a second parallel drive.
* The Atari 1050 Disk Drive. This is the new stand-alone half-height drive. Using the new DOS 3.0, it is capable of over 125K of storage on a single disk. At the same time, it remains completely compatible with all existing 2.0 disk software. The door mechanism on the drive has been improved, now featuring a latch-type closure. The list price for the unit is $450.
* The Atari 1027 Primer. An 80-column letter-quality printer for $350? There must be some mistake. But no, that is the list price of the 1027, which plugs directly into any Atari, and provides fully formed characters at 20 cps. At 15" x 6-1/2" x 3", the printer takes up just a bit more space than a disk drive. It is quiet, and though I have heard complaints of registration problems with barrel printheads, the samples I created with the Atari 1027 looked absolutely perfect.
* The Atari CP/M Module. The Atari is a games machine, right? Well it is true that the Atari plays better games than any other micro or video game. But it has always done more. And now, with CP/M, it becomes a 64K Z80 machine, capable of running at 4 MHz.
What does that mean to you? It means access to heavyweight word processing, database, spreadsheet, and business software.
With a display switchable to 80 columns, the CP/M module makes any Atari into just about the most serious machine you could imagine. Not priced at press time.
* The Atari Expansion Box. When the Apple II was introduced, it had eight slots in the top of its board for add-on hardware. This was a part of what made that machine so popular. Now an expansion chassis will make eight slots available to the Atari machine--in addition to two RS-232 serial ports and a bidirectional parallel bus. Now special peripherals and custom hardware cards can play a part in the future of the Atari. Not priced at press time.
* The Atari Light Pen. After a delay of two years, Atari will finally market a light pen under its own label. Designed by light pen wizard Steve Gibson, the light pen is activated by tip switch and will include drive software for under $100.
* The Atari Touch Tablet. This product bridges the gap between the joystick and graphics tablet, allowing the user to draw on a 4-1/2" x 6" surface as if it were the CRT screen. There are two pushbutton switches on the tablet as well. Driver software will allow sophisticated drawing and design applications. Not priced at press time.
* The Atari Lab Kit. Separate modules will be released to allow use of the Atari computer as a scientific measurement device. The first will be a temperature module which turns the Atari into a precision electronic thermometer. Other announced modules include Light, Timekeeper, Lie Detector, Reaction time, and Heartbeat. They will retail for $90 each.
* The Atari Remote Control Joystick. Operated by battery, this joystick transmits pulses to a base unit, allowing the user to create a wireless gaming environment.
They work up to 20 feet from the unit. Under $80 for the pair.
* The Atari Trak-Ball. A roller controller suitable for handheld or tabletop operation. Especially suited to games like Centipede and Missile Command which use trackball control in the arcades. Switchable between joystick emulation and true (analog) operation. Not priced at press time.
* The Atari Numerical Keypad. Brings the convenience of a calculator-style keypad to Atari computers. Includes keys labeled YES and NO, ESCAPE and DELETE. $125.
If Atari can bring these products to market and keep the pricing competitive, it should return to a formidable position in the industry by 1984.
Atari Logo on a 16K ROM cartridge was also on display, but we did not get a chance to explore it. It will include special Atari-specific graphics and sound commands.