Classic Computer Magazine Archive ST-Log ISSUE 20 / JUNE 1988 / PAGE 4


by Clayton Walnum

As ST owners, we seem to have metamorphosed into an entirely different creature.

Man. it's really starting to bug me.

Everywhere I go, it's gloom and doom. It's never ceased to amaze me how the human race has to be miserable to be happy. The hottest news items are usually tales of violence, while the good things in life go largely overlooked.

Unfortunately, things aren't much different in Atariland. It's become impossible to discuss computing on our machines without getting inundated with complaints and dire predictions. Every message base on every on-line service is filled with dark mutterings, every Atari discussion ends up as a none-too-supportive gripe session.

There's something we need to consider: the self-fulfilling prophecy.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a phenomenon that occurs when someone believes something so intently that he unconsciously causes it to happen, either by giving up and doing nothing to prevent it or by actively bringing it about. And the self-fulfilling prophecy is not a phenomenon that affects only individuals; large groups can just as easily fall under its spell—take your average group of computer users, for instance.

What's the point? Word-of-mouth advertising and the self-fulfilling prophecy share the same bed. That's one of the great dangers inherent in this form of advertising. And when a company—rightly or wrongly—depends to a great extent on word-of-mouth to sell its product, it's taking a major gamble.

Atari seems to have taken that gamble, and I'm not sure it was wise.

You see, we Atari users have always been the underdogs; there's nothing new in that. When everyone else was buying Commodores and Apples, we stuck by our 8-bit machines with the undying loyalty of lionesses protecting their young. We didn't let the rest of the world interfere with our pleasure.

I think Atari has been counting on that loyalty to sell its STs.

But as ST owners we seem to have metamorphosed into an entirely different creature. We can't accept that Atari isn't IBM or Apple. We refuse to be happy with what we have and instead spend most of our time wishing our STs were something they're not. We have expectations for Atari that can never be fulfilled and, like a parent that wants great things for its child—regardless of the cost or the child's desires—we place ourselves in the position of watching the whole thing blow up in our face. The more Atari drifts from the image we want for them, the more restless we get; the more restless we get, the more we grumble; the more we grumble, the more we assure the self-fulfilling prophecy.

No, I don't agree with everything Atari's done. But I am willing to assume that they, having a greater knowledge of their company's resources, know what's best for them and their business.

At any rate, Atari's not going to change its image overnight, and it's unreasonable for us to expect them to; just as it's unreasonable for us to ask them to ignore profit opportunities (for instance, video games or the European computer market) in order to become what we want them to be. Atari is going to run their company according to their own rules, like it or not. We can only hope that those rules have been considered carefully.

Fashions come and fashions go. Today it's fashionable to criticize Atari. This bad press succeeds in only one thing: creating the self-fulfilling prophecy. Keep it up. The guy next door is listening very carefully, and he'll buy a Mac or an Amiga. That'll not only be his loss, but ours as well.