Classic Computer Magazine Archive ST-Log ISSUE 22 / AUGUST 1988 / PAGE 12



by TG

TG can often be found skulking the turf around Hollywood and Vine. He is often 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. Heard anything good? Write it down and stick it with used gum on the underside of the payphone at the address above. (Don't live in La-la land? Then send TG's mail to: ST-Log, 9171 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 300, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.)

Did you hear? At least a half a dozen companies have been trying to license Dr. T's multi-tasking operating system for use on their non-music applications. The Dr. is thinking about it—more to follow next month.

If someone hasn't already told you, Atari will be shipping the Imagen Postscript software clone for their laser printer within the next 30 days. The product is technically called UltraScript and is a full Postscript clone. Imagen is a division of QMS corporation and its reputation is one of quality products and full compatibility with the postscript standard as set by Adobe, Corp. Imagen has had a fast text rotation and display system for quite some time now, and their new Postscript compatible version is said to be quite a bit faster than the routines provided by Adobe systems. The emulator will load off disk much as GDOS does. By using this disk-based system Atari will be able to continue to offer full support for products already released designed to run under the current GDOS system.

This makes the story that Atari is preparing to offer bundled systems considerably more interesting. The story goes as follows: Atari will be supplying Mega dealers with a complete desktop-publishing system which consists of a monochrome Mega 4, an Atari laser printer and Publishing Partner II. Atari is also considering several other bundled systems featuring their Megas and software. In effect, these will allow the dealer to set himself up as a VAR (value added dealer) without any heavy investment in either hardware or custom software.

Rumors concerning the new STL (ST Laptop) have reached a fever pitch. It seems a forgone conclusion that the project is being worked on at Atari and the only major questions left concern the type of screen display to be offered and, of course, the big one...when?

Among the strong possibilities for the fall season is a cartridge containing a PC emulator to be marketed by Atari Corp. This cartridge is expected to be quite a bit faster than the current version of PC Ditto since it will be ROM-based rather than requiring you to load and run software from a disk. While we are on the subject of a faster PC Ditto type program, we hear from Bill Teal, the author of PC Ditto, that the newest version is much faster than the current one, but there are still a few bugs to be ironed out. Bill is the kind of guy who will not release (or even promise to release) something before he knows it's ready.

The ST is now the hottest computer in the world for two specific applications. One that I'm sure you already know about is music; the second is chess. When the Russian world chess champion played an exhibition match in Norway (playing against 30 players with master ratings) about two months ago, he was shown a new chess database. After viewing the information on their games as stored and displayed in this database program, he remarked that he would be willing to return to play again the following year only if he were given a copy of the program and an ST to run it on in lieu of pay. The news of his remarks has swept the chess underground (yes, of course there is a chess underground). The package is at this point not available in English, but expect that to change shortly.

Where is the new Exel clone that Atari was showing in Hanover last April? Several reps from Michtron were at the show and saw a copy of this package which they called extraordinary.

The final revision of WordPerfect has been out a while now, and it's working the way we all knew it would. The company admitted that they may have released the product early but made up for this eagerness by sending out countless free upgrade disks to all registered owners. Quality will out!

As many of you already know, David Small of Magic Sac fame has moved on from Data Pacific to other things. AT&T offered him an outstanding opportunity, with a chance to work on much larger systems. Too bad Atari didn't have a chance to grab him and put him to work in their overworked programming dept.

It's official: Dungeon Master from FTL is the best-selling ST software of all time. . . .

Is shareware worth writing for the ST? We have talked to several authors who have products in the shareware market for both the Atari ST and other makes of computers. They report that the owners of Ataris seem to be the cheapest PC owners they write software for. This is too bad, since much of the shareware for other computers is actually better than the commercial software it competes with. I would guess that a product like ARC.TTP is used by at least 50,000 people on a fairly regular basis, yet the author has not received contributions that would equal even 10¢ per user.

Heard about the new GEM for the ST? A rather seedy looking individual with a strong foreign accent sat down at my table last night as I was finishing off an evening drink. He whispered in my ear that GEM 2.2 is now being marketed in Germany. It seems that another company (in other words: not Atari) is offering the package, and it's a beauty. You can buy it with GEM Write, GEM Paint and GEM Draw or any combination of those titles, and it appears that all the bugs built into the original GEM have been fixed. And fast! It's written in 100% machine language and performs like the Tempus text editor. The German price is around 300dm. A quick calculation told me that this is around $148.00 U.S., and I had my checkbook out in a flash. Unfortunately, there is no U.S. importer for the product yet. Anyone with overseas connections want to make a small fortune?

The corporate restructuring at Atari continues with titles and responsibilities being moved around like playing pieces on a checkerboard. What will come of it? Advertising! Look for those that wind up with the responsibility for making Atari Computer Corp. fly (yes, I mean a new company created under the banner of Atari, Corp.), finally deciding to spend a little money to tell the non-ST owners what we've been keeping secret for so long—that the Atari is one of the most powerful machines in the under $3000 class.

Best guess is that the total number of software titles on sale in Europe is about double that of the titles in the U.S. With a little advertising support from Atari, the chances are good that more of these titles would find their way here and with them would come an increased interest in the ST and its "broad software base." This would of course lead to more sales of the ST, which would lead to more software being written for the ST, which would lead to more ST sales, which. . . Is it any wonder that the owners of STs are the ones pushing for more advertising for the product?

Networking for the ST (under GEM) is at least six months away. When the ST was first released the idea of a MIDI network seemed natural for the machine, since MIDI is faster than the RS232 port that is used in many low-cost systems. Unfortunately there is a bug in the GEM system which has beaten everyone we know of who has tried to write a reasonably fast MIDI network system. As far as help from Atari goes, there seems to be little they can or will do. Could this be because they have announced that they will be shipping their own PromisedLan sometime? P.S. "Sometime" looks like the beginning of ‘89 at the earliest.

The new high-speed dBMAN compiler might make the dBMAN version IV the single most-popular programing environment available on the ST for small VARs. This little database blows away some of the biggest names in the PC world and does it at a price that makes the competition turn white with fear. It is a source of constant amazement to me that a package like dBMAN—which is a complete dBASE—clone does not do better in the ST world than it does. dBASE has become one of the standards of the business world with less power than dBMAN. There are literally thousands of business applications written in dBASE currently being sold to IBM owners. As an extra bonus you can buy the ST and dBMAN for a low-cost development system, and then use the IBM version of the compiler to compile your code to run on the IBM's. The features and syntax are identical.