Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 3 NO. 8 / MARCH 1989

News, Notes & Quotes

What's Happening in the Atari World

by Stephen Mortimer
and the START Staff

Mick Fleetwood startled the normally
blase COMDEX crowd with his demon-
stration of his MIDI vest in Atari's
Gold Room.

Solid Gold

The Fall Computer Dealers Exposition (COMDEX) trade show was held in Las Vegas, Nevada from November 14-18, 1988. Well over a hundred thousand attendees plodded the floors of the Las Vegas Convention Center, seven other venues and numerous hotel suites during the five-day event.

Atari sprung for the 6,000-square-foot Gold Room in the Las Vegas Convention Center and established a solid presence, themed "Solid Gold." Though Atari's own product showings were conservative at best, it did make its space available to over 60 third-party developers. Among the products displayed by Atari were UltraScript, DeskSet II, the Atari Transputer Workstation (ATW), 80286 and 80386 PC clones and a software/hardware package called Robokit. The long-awaited Atari laptop was finally unveiled to a U.S. audience during the mid-week developer's gathering. Atari also played host in the Gold Room to a short concert by Fleetwood Mac.

Third-Party Hardware at COMDEX

With Atari showing so few new products, the third-party developers had their chance to shine. Some of the highlights:

 •   Navarone Industries introduced ST Copy, a peripheral that allows it's ST Scan image scanner and the Atari Laser Printer to act as a copy machine when coupled together through an ST or Mega.

JRI's Genlock, a hardware add-
in for the Mega, was shown by
John Russell in near-final form.
The FCC is now grinding through
its testing and approval process
for this excellent $500 package.

 •   John Russell Innovations (JRI) displayed it's Genlock System hardware for the Mega that allows low- and medium resolution graphics to be superimposed over standard NTSC video from a TV, VCR or video camera. Genlock is pending FCC certification and is tentatively priced at $500.

 •   ICD unveiled it's new FA-ST Tape Backup which can store up to 155 megabytes of data on one cassette. Both file and image backups are available.

 •   Australian-based Neriki Computer Graphics showed it's Image Master, an interface to the Polaroid Palette priced at $650. Image Master allows color slides or Polaroids to be produced directly from an ST.

 •   IBP a West German company, showed the first repackaging of the ST. Their industrial 190ST uses Mega components and is assembled as a series of rugged modules integrated into a 19-inch metal case. It sports all the features of a normal ST in addition to an optional math coprocessor and blitter chip.

 •   Nite Lite Systems demonstrated their Lantext RS232 Local Area Network for the ST. The LAN supports up to seven nodes from a single host system.

The four gold-colored chips on this ATW add-in card are Inmos T800 transputers. Each
card will nearly quintuple the ATW's processing power at a price of only $4,000-$5,000
per card. Now if there were only some software. . .

Third-Party Software Highlights at COMDEX

 •   Masterlink, a new telecommunications package from Intersect Software, was demonstrated in it's prototype form. It offers multiple buffers and a programmable script language. An early 1989 release is scheduled.

 •   British company Mirrorsoft came to the show with their latest version of Fleet Street Publisher. Spectrum Holobyte is no longer distributing Fleet Street in the U.S., and Mirrorsoft is looking for a new distributor.

 •   Spectrum Holobyte's Falcon (set for review in the April 1989 START) is an accurate F-16 fighter simulation that features unsurpassed animation and the ability to conduct dogfights and weapon deliveries. FTL introduced Chaos Strikes Back, the sequel to Dungeon Master. Electronic Arts showed it's Monopoly and a miniature golf game called Zany Golf. Falcon, Chaos Strikes Back, Monopoly and Zany Golf should be available as you read this.

 •   OMIKRON BASIC was being shown in the U.S. for the first time. Currently available in Europe, OMIKRON BASIC is GW BASIC compatible and will soon be available here.

 •   From French company Digital Laboratory Research come two programs of note. Amadeus ST is a computer-assisted music-study program that teaches you to read music. Lazergraph is a desktop music publisher that allows the Atari Laser to produce musical scores. Other popular software came from Dr. T's, Hybrid Arts, Sonus and others.

 •   MichTron announced that it will no longer distribute GFA BASIC and related products from GFA in Germany. Instead, they will sell Hi-Soft BASIC and Power BASIC in the U.S. GFA is currently seeking an alternative distributor for the product line in the United States, or it may open it's own offices.

The Atari Transputer Workstation
(ATW) has been engineered into a
floor-standing tower design. It will
enter production in early 1989.

Background GDOS Output

OSpooler from Migraph is a desk accessory that spools output from GDOS based programs to a printer. Operating in a background mode, which allows the computer to be used for other tasks, OSpooler eliminates the time previously wasted while waiting for the printer to finish. Another feature supported by OSpooler is the ability to redirect output to disk. The resulting file can later be output to a device on any computer without the need for GDOS, assuming that the GDOS driver present in the originating ST system corresponds to the final output device. This could be an HP LaserJet, a Roland plotter or any one of Migraphs other device drivers.

The spooler includes a buffer that will intercept other printer tasks to preserve the integrity of the current file being printed. Up to 25 files can be placed in a queue for output to either serial or parallel devices. A nine-pin printer driver for OSpooler is included in the package OSpooler retails for $39.95. For more information, contact Migraph at 720 South 333 Street #202, Federal Way, Washington 98003. (206) 838-4677.

ST Used In Parts Catalog System

Kar Technologies is offering a car parts catalog system based on the 1040ST and a Sony CD-ROM player. The system can be run on either monochrome or color monitors and is encased in a metal box that houses the computer and CD player. According to Ron Sprunger, Kar Technologies has developed their own CD-ROM interface for the ST in order to use the Sony player. The interface may be used for other commercial applications if warranted by future demand.

The KarMate system offers access to over 15 million records, graphics, and diagrams. It retails for $2,995. For more information, contact Kar Technologies at 74-050 Highway 111, Palm Desert, California 92260. (619) 340-5900.

"I want one of those" was the most heard comment at Atari's
developer's party. They were referring to the new ST laptop com-
puter, shown here in both mock-up and engineering prototype
form. A bright backlit supertwist LCD screen provides a full 640
X 480 monochrome compatible screen.

Atari Software at Comdex

Atari's most impressive new product was its PostScript emulator, UltraScript. Displayed for Atari by Soft Logik, UltraScript is the result of a joint project between Atari and Imagen. In it's present form, the emulator is a stand-alone program that requires the user to print a PostScript file to disk, then output it to the Atari laser printer via UltraScript. Several disk-based scalable fonts are included with the package. UltraScript requires four megabytes of memory and five megabytes of free disk space to operate efficiently. It was scheduled to be released before the end of 1988. As of presstime, no price had been set.

DeskSet II, a new high-end desktop publishing package, was introduced at COMDEX by Atari. This updated version of DeskSet (shown at last year's Fall COMDEX) sports a full GEM interface with windows and icons, along with their keyboard equivalents. Developed in conjunction with G.O. Graphics, DeskSet II uses CompuGraphic scalable outline fonts available in half-point sizes from 5 to 127 points. According to Elizabeth Shook, newsletter coordinator at Atari, an interface board will be available that allows direct connection of a Mega to a CompuGraphic photo-typesetting machine. DeskSet II is priced at $299.

Atari Hardware at Comdex

Given Atari's policy of not showing products before they're (nearly) ready for shipment, the 68030 Unix TT and the enhanced STs were nowhere to be seen. Atari did, however, demonstrate an almost final version of the Atari Transputer Workstation (ATW), scheduled for early 1989 European release. Formerly called the Abaq, the ATW was developed in England by Perihelion and is packaged in a sleek tower design. The Mega 4, formerly necessary as a frontend for the ATW has been incorporated into the main box. Also shown were 4 chip transputer add-in cards for the ATW at a cool $4,000-$5,000 a pop.

The PC4 and PC5 IBM-compatible computers and Robokit were also displayed by Atari. The PC4 uses an 80286 processor, while the PC5 is an 80386 based machine. Both are set for 1989 U.S. release, complete with integrated VGA graphics. Robokit allows for manipulation and design of robots and includes a special interface that plugs into the ST's cartridge port.

At the informal developer's get-together, held on Wednesday night of COMDEX week, Atari President Sam Tramiel wowed the crowd with the Atari laptop. Still in prototype stage, the Laptop is scheduled for a mid-1989 release. Some of it's features include up to one megabyte of RAM, a minimum 20 megabytes of hard-disk storage and a choice of one or two floppy drives. A small trackball replaces the mouse.

If you have a hot tip let us know atNews, Notes & Quotes, START Magazine, 544 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107.