Why Buy An Atari?
by Peter Ellison
by Peter Ellison
This is the sixth issue in which I have written this section, and now, more than ever, the Atari, for its price, is the best home computer on the market. In Canada it is selling for $180, and it is much lower in the United States. This price will encourage many of you to buy one.
Every once in a while we receive excellent letters from readers telling us why they bought their Atari. Below is a letter from James Patchell, President of the Santa Barbara Atari Computer Enthusiasts, or SBACE, for short.
To the Editor:
Well, I just found an issue of your magazine in the club mail, and I have to admit that I am impressed, and I don't generally like `hobby' magazines (I don't subscribe to any). I did enjoy reading ROM, but I must take small exception to the section entitled, `Why Buy An Atari.' It did not say anything that wasn't true, the Atari is, for the price, superior to anything on the market. However, I have never seen it said anywhere why it is superior.
I have owned and worked with many different computers from my first, a Polymorphic 88, to big CP/M machines (physically that is). All of them have their advantages, including some over the Atari, but none of them have had such well thought out operating systems. And the one part of the operating system that makes it so great is the Central I/O routine. Most users are sort of oblivious to the CIO, mostly because it does work so well. It allows any who understand computers a hardware independent interface between the microprocessor and ALL I/O devices, from the keyboard to the floppy disks. Also, the way the CIO works makes it very easy to add in additional I/O devices. The only job left to the programmer is to write a simple I/O driver that gets installed in an AUTORUN.SYS file.
Another thing that makes the Atari great is the SIO routine. Even though the serial port on the Atari is a big bottle neck and sometimes a real pain, it is a standard communications port with a standard protocall that will transport data at a very respectable rate. It allows you to connect a great variety of devices to the bus. The ATR8000 is, I think, an excellent example. Because of the versatillity of the BUS you can connect a whole other computer up to the Atari to increase its capabilities further. I do have to admit that understanding the SIO fully is not an easy task (it took myself several months), but once you do, you can appreciate the Atari further.
It is sometimes hard to argue these points when you and your friends are having a " `discussion' on which computer is best," and I have found it sad that many decisions are based on "software availability" rather than on technical excellence and flexibility. The following is a good example:
A Commodore fan, whom I was showing my Atari to, commented on the fact that I have to have DOS resident in memory. I only had to reply that I can choose a DOS to fit my needs and showed him my collection of various DOS's.
So, I guess I can say in conclusion that, with the Atari, we have a better computer because it has a superior operating system, and it is a very flexible system in which you are not tied to any one line of thought.
Also I think it is the best computer because you can purchase ACTION! for the Atari, and for no others. Sincerely
I was really encouraged after reading this uplifting letter because it made me feel proud to be one of the many who have purchased an Atari computer.
In the last issue we sent out a Questionnaire to Atari User Groups in order to obtain reader input, the results of which appeared in this issue. For the benefit of those who did not receive the original, it is now again presented. We would be pleased to hear from anyone who might care to respond.
ROM MAGAZINE QUESTIONNAIRE1)What User Group are you from?
2)Where did you buy your Atari?
3)Why did you buy an Atari?
4)Whom have you had contact with regarding the Atari, and how responsive were they to your questions?
5)Since the take-over at Atari, have you been able to make any contact with anyone? If YES, with whom; if NO, what do you think the reason is?
6)What types of things do you do at a typical user group meeting? Do you enjoy them?
7)What suggestions, if any, do you have for people who want to start up a new user group?
8)Which magazines do you read regularly concerning computers?
9)Why do you read magazines?
10)What things would you like to see in a magazine that are not in them?
11)What is your favorite game, Educational Program, Business Program, Utility program, that is available for the Atari computer?
12)What program would you like to see for the Atari but is not yet available?
13)Where do you buy most of your software?
14)What is your favorite type of software?
Below, are a number of answers from User Groups to our Questionnaire.
User Groups that sent in their questionnaires were MILATARI, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Atari Boosters League East (ABLE), Winter Park, Florida; Austin Atari Computer Enthusiasts, Austin, Tx; and the Rogue Area Atari Computer Enthusiasts (R.A.A.C.E.).
Printing each of their answers would take up quite a lot of space, so I'm just going to pick a few answers from each questionnaire.
Regarding the second question, most of the Users bought their Atari's in a computer store that specialized in Atari's. This indicates that small computer stores are often more helpful when one is buying his first home computer system. Since the drop of Atari's price more people will be buying computers from mass merchandisers like Sears or JC Penny. Since they are probably not in a position to provide assistance to such individuals, there will be a great opportunity for user groups to fill this gap.
In the third question, I asked, "Why did you buy an Atari?" Below is ABLE's explanation of why Atari is the best:
It is the Best, most innovative 8 bit machine. Below is my answer in point form:
It has the following:
-Simultaneous video and RF output built-in.
-Versatile, fast, high resolution graphics with 256 colors and P/M graphics.
-Four sound sythesizing channels.
-Standardized I/O bus port for peripheral devices.
-An operating system that provides interface between programs and hardware in a device independent manner.
-The Atari design insulated the CPU from housekeeping functions by surrounding it with some special purpose, programmable support processor chips to handle graphics, sound, I/O and screen functions.
-With Atari, software can reside in RAM, ROM, Cartridge ROM, cassette or diskette. All of the media are removable, expandable, changeable, and portable.
-Atari used to offer excellent customer support and to run an Atari Program Exchange (APX) for users.
Other comments included the following: "Bought one on the recommendation from friends," "a helpful dealer," "able to talk and work with customers", "able to work with the computer through the phone when at work," and "because of the price."
Other comments included: "Bought one on recommendation from friends," "a helpful dealer," "willing to talk and work with customers"; "to work with the computer at work through the phone"; and, "because of the price. "
In the fourth question, I asked with whom they had made contact at Atari. Answers received included: "I talked with the dealer and public relations representatives at the factory, also with the help line, all of whom were very helpful." "I spoke with Earl Rice and Mark Cator, and they were both very responsive." "I spoke with the repair group, and they were very helpful with all of my questions."
In the fifth question, I asked if they had spoken with anyone at Atari since the take over. There were a variety of answers, but one of the more significant ones was: "I haven't made contact, and am afraid they will forget the user groups. " I can verify, from a good source, that they're not going to forget the user groups and will be a lot more helpful than were the former owners of Atari.
In the sixth question, I asked what types of activities took place in a regular User Group meeting.
All User Groups were similar in their meetings in that they reviewed programs, showed demos, discussed group buys, news, and rumors, had special speakers, and asked one-another questions. Some asked us how they could make their User Group better. My suggestion would be for each member in the group to study a different programming technique and to present a short tutorial on it. In this way a person can learn programming much faster with less difficulty. Should a user have trouble speaking in front of a group, he or she could present the tutorial in written form from which photo copies could be made and handed out to all group members. One could also write a newsletter. This, as a group effort, would be a uniting factor and would help create a feeling of accomplishment within the group.
These are just a few suggestions regarding what could be done to enhance a User Groups activities. I would like to hear from many more User Groups, telling me what type of things they do that are different.
In the seventh question, I asked what suggestions an established User Group had for Atari Owners who wish to start up a new User Group.
Answers included the following: "Getting a copy of the booklet called `How to start AUG,' from Atari," "getting a store to help you initially," "talking to a president of one of the established groups," "getting a library of public domain software together," and finally, to new groups, "at first, keep it simple and fun."
In the eighth question, I asked what magazines the group read on a regular basis.
There are a number of excellent magazines on the market, and they all have their good and bad points. I try to read most of them because, no matter what computer they're for, you can usually find something useful in them. These include Antic, Analog, Byte, Compute, Creative Computing, Infoworld, and ROM. Although Antic, Analog, and ROM are the only three specializing exclusively in Atari, the others have their place as a good source of general knowledge.
In the ninth question I wanted to know the main reason that you read the magazines. This was for information, education, and to see what was new in the form of ads.
In the tenth question I asked what types of things you would like to see in magazines but haven't been seen yet. One that sounded interesting and hasn't been considered by ROM was `Performance and comparison testing between hardware and software items.' Other answers were the following: "More emphasis on business applications," "more educational programs in which college students might use," and "more honest reviews." We, at ROM, hope to discuss most of these things in future issues, and if you have any more suggestions, we'd be glad to hear them.
The eleventh question asked what types of programs our readers like. Among the favorite game programs were Archon, Lode Runner, and UltimaIII. The educational programs were the Plato Cartridge and Agent USA. Business Programs were Synfile + , Visicalc, and B/Graph. The favorite utility program was Ommmon.
Programs that readers wanted but weren't available for the Atari included University Programs (formulas), Davka translations, an electronic program for circuit design and functional testing, 80 column word processor & terminal program. None of these are available at this time except the 80 column word processor. A special 80 column version of Letter Perfect is now available for the Atari that has the 80 column Omnimon board.
In the thirteenth question I asked where you usually buy your software. The predominant answer was that it was through a mail order company. I think most readers go into software stores, try out a program, and then send away for it. Mail Order companies can sell for much less because they have less overhead. Though it is advantageous to the buyer, it hurts the small software store.
The final question was, "What type of software do you enjoy the most?" To this, there was no clear cut answer. I believe Atari Users have a very large choice of software available. If not, they can always do their own programming because the Atari is a very flexible machine.
In closing, I want to thank all of the people who answered the questionnaires, and I hope that more will do so, so we at ROM can get a better perspectus of what is wanted.