from Hollywood, U.S.A.
Have You Heard That...
Some Atari executives have been working nights preparing an advertising campaign. Most at Atari now believe that the need for real advertising is crucial. Now if only they can get Jack T. to listen....
Strong rumors out of the West Coast indicate that if the cost of memory (RAM) chips doesn't fall soon, the cost of ST's in general, and Megas in particular, will be going up. This has already started happening in the PC world as the cost of clones and the various cards for them have started climbing for the first time in four years!
The Atari Super High Res Monitor has been sitting on a shelf in Sunnyvale for months waiting for the price of one meg chips to drop low enough to make the unit salable. What is this monitor? We hear it includes one meg of screen RAM built into the unit, with a 68000 chip for graphics processing. As well as maximum 1280 X 960 resolution and connection to the ST via the DMA port. This is supposed to be the monitor for the legendary EST (Enhaneed ST), as well as the unit to be packaged with the ABAQ.
Timeworks has high hopes for their new product Desktop Publisher. Many who have seen it say the new GDOS-based desktop publishing package is much stronger than the old Publishing Partner. Looks like the update from the guys at SoftLogic will come just in time to help them keep their position as Atari's number one DTP package. For those who haven't seen the package from Timeworks, it really is quite nice. The software uses GDOS to give a very readable screen representation of your final output. Among the many features that give this package super user-friendliness is the ability to take a graphic and drop it anywhere on your screen. Any text you may have on the screen will just move out of the way and automatically flow around the graphic.
Speaking of user friendliness, anyone who has tried to use the GDOS installed program provided with Microsoft Write has a clear lesson in what that term does not mean.
Still speaking of GDOS and Publishing Partner (and I know we spoke of them somewhere back there), a short conversation with the programmers at SoftLogic indicated that they think a lot more of the Atari laser printer now that they have had a chance to work with it a few months. According to them it will print from the new Publishing Partner much faster than the old trusty Apple laser printer they bought a few years ago. In fact, they now feel, all things considered, it's the laser printer of choice for the new Publishing Partner.
Is it true that Atari is working on a new version of GDOS that will load rescalable font descriptions rather than those archaic bit mapped memory hogs they are now using? That's what we hear.
How's the new, new operating system coming? For those of you who missed a few weeks somewhere along the line, Atari released a new "debugged" version of the operating system with the Megas some months ago. Then, just as the chips were starting to appear in the 1040s and 520s, Atari's Neil Harris, announced they were ready to button up the code on the new, new operating system. Atari was interested in any suggestions that user's might have which could be included to make it better. Hundreds of suggestions arrived (seems like half of them were asking for the Universal Item Selector to be included). Atari shut off suggestions after a reasonable period of time, and we were told they were busy figuring out what would and would not be included.
One small computer store in western Massachusetts, The Computer Bug, has decided not to wait, and has just written a new graphic interface for the STs. This new interface offers some of the best features of the MAC, ported over to the ST. How about a desktop that allows you to place a favorite or often used program as a permanent part of the desktop? No, not a directory entry on a disk, but part of the desktop itself, just like your disk drive and trash icons. Speaking of icons, they do of course support editable icons and about 40 other new features. Called NeoDesk, this package retails for $29.95...and is available now.
Atari dealers are really feeling the pinch as Atari heads into the summer. 8-bit sales, other than the XEGS system, have slowed to a crawl for most retailers. Mail order seems to be getting by, but if you haven't been to your favorite 8-bit dealer lately, don't be surpirsed if the next time you go he is devoting more and more space to other products. Can it be that Atari 8-bit owners have all the software they want? If they went into stores carrying Atari 8-bit products more often, they would learn about great new products like The Newsroom—a good desktop publishing package for the 8-bit.
There are at least two companies developing 16 MHz boards for the ST. The ST 68000 CPU normally operates at 8 MHz, and it is this speed which limits how fast the ST can run a program. These new boards will replace the present 68000 with double speed units that will make your ST work at least 150 percent faster than the present unit. Cost? About $200, not including installation. But be careful, the installation could be a major cost. The 68000 comes soldered onto the ST board and has to be desoldered and then resoldered on the new board. This is no job for a friend using a woodburning set as a soldering iron.
Another company has already developed a card cage for the Megas, but unfortunately, they are only planning on offering it as part of their vertical market package (their own specialty software package). Too bad, since it has the ability to take most standard PC and AT cards. Nifty stuff like hard disk, modem and Fax cards. You know, all that good stuff you see advertised in PC mags for the guys that paid big bucks for their systems?
If you haven't connected your ST to a stereo yet, do it! The sounds will floor you. Try it with something like Blockbuster if you want to see how a good sound system can turn a nice game into something really super.
Talk to Lou Swilling from Astra Systems. Seems he's on a switch lately. By the time you read this ("famous last words"), Astra should be offering the following switch boxes: printer switch, DMA switch, floppy drive switch, RS232 switch (with two RS232 outputs and built-in null modem). Their wonderful monitor switch has been out for several months. Having trouble making up your mind, Lou?
You might want to watch for a new advertising campaign sponsored by Astra and Hybrid Arts. The Ads will feature the Pointer Sisters standing in front of their 1040s and thousands of dollars worth of Hybrid Arts software and hardware. Clearly seen in the ad is the new rack mounted Astra 240 Meg hard disk.
Missing, but not forgotten dept.
Missing: one multi-tasking, multi-user operating system called IDRIS. This is the Unix work-a-like system that Atari was hyping before Christmas. Anyone heard anything about it lately? When asked about it a week ago, Atari said it was available, but not being marketed by Atari. Something about failing to reach an agreement on price. The product is finished and is marketed by the company that originally wrote it. In the meantime, Atari has been advertising for a full software team to adapt a version of Unix 3.2 for them. (An OS for the 68030 product?).
Did I say 68030? Sure the one that was shown in the back room at the Hanover Trade Fair this past spring (the CBit computer show in West Germany). You know, the one that will plug into the Mega and use it as a front end? You already own a keyboard attached to a box with a bunch of ports in it, right? Why buy another keyboard or more ports just to quadruple the power of your system? Just buy this box with a 68030, its memory and operating system and plug it into your mega via the expansion port. No, an upgraded 520 or 1040 does not equal a mega in this case.
Congratulations! Atari is now listed in the Fortune 500. Yes, the guys from Sunnyvale are number 486 with a bullet. P.S. Commodore was nowhere on the list.
Finally—Rupert Murdock (of big media fame) recently ordered 7000 PC clones to be delivered within 30 days. Orders like this just don't happen in the ST world. But wouldn't it be nice...
TG can often be found skulking the turf around Hollywood and Vine where many a celebrity has been discovered. He is seen frequenting bars in the area, carrying what he calls the only true portable computer: an ST plugged into a heavy-duty truck battery. He writes this column to make a living until he breaks into film, and to provide the cash he needs to recharge his truck battery every month. Hear anything good? Write it down and stick it with used gum on the underside of the pay-phone at the address above. (Don't live in LA-LA land? Send TG mail to: ST-Log, 9171 Wilshire Bld., Suite 300, Beverly Hills, CA 90210)