Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 3 NO. 9 / APRIL 1989

News, Notes & Quotes

What's Happening in the Atari World

by Stephen Mortimer
and the START Staff

ST Makes Sports Cards

Toronto-based Photopreneurs, Inc., has released their Sportscard system, based on an ST and the Atari SLM804 Laser Printer. The Sportscard software was written by Alan Page, author of Flash and X*Press and now an employee of Photopreneurs. The system is used to create personalized sports cards similar to those of professional athletes. The Atari system is used to create the backs of the cards. The name, date of birth, height, weight, team, position and sport are entered into the software that then prints out a custom card on the Atari Laser. The card is then combined with a picture and heat-sealed in a plastic holder.

Photopreneurs chose the Atari system for its fast, quality output and inexpensive price compared to other systems. The system will be sold to concession stands at amusement parks, sports arenas and other locations.

Atari Games Sues Nintendo

Atari Games Corporation of Milpitas, California (not affiliated with Atari Computer of Sunnyvale), has filed suit in Federal District Court charging Nintendo, the home video-game giant, with several antitrust violations. The lawsuit follows an earlier Atari decision to develop and market its own game cartridges for the Nintendo hardware.

According to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, Atari's decision threatens to undermine Nintendo's recent lock on the lucrative home videogame market. With control of 80 percent of that market, Nintendo of America, Inc. expects 1988 sales of over $1.7 billion. Much of the growth has come from careful control of the development and distribution of its games. Atari alleges that this control is expressly meant to stifle competition.

Epyx Wins Copyright Suit

In what has been called a "major victory" in the software copyright field, a Federal Court of Appeals reversed an earlier decision that Epyx, Inc. had violated copyrights of Data East, a Japanese video-game maker.

The suit, brought against the computer game publisher based in Redwood City, California, was an attempt to secure copyright protection for Data East's Karate Champ Game. The appellate court upheld the right of game developers "to create and distribute products that express the same ideas, even if the products are similar."

Commenting on the decision, Epyx chairman and CEO David Morse said, "We believe this is the first time in the computer industry that a 'look and feel' lawsuit has been decided in favor of the defendant."

Ethernet Comes to the ST

The TAXI controller board lets the ST connect to Ethernet networking systems and has many other options. Developed in Canada, TAXI stands for The Atari eXtended Interface and is being developed by FutureDOS. TAXI comes in three configurations: a stand-alone box with its own 68000 processor, a board for the Mega's internal bus connector, or a unit that connects to the DMA port on 520 and 1040 ST systems.

TAXI can be custom-designed for each application. Features available on TAXI include the aforementioned Ethernet interface, a true SCSI interface, up to eight full duplex bidirectional serial lines and two parallel printer interfaces.

The Ethernet interface will be the first one available in the United States for the ST. Ethernet is one of several industry-wide communications interfaces and is used on PCs and mainframes. An Ethernet network among ST systems will allow file serving and peripheral sharing in addition to the ability to interface with almost any computer. The serial lines allow the ST to act as a multiplexing system between computers and serial peripherals.

According to Avygdor Moise of FutureDOS, TAXI will cost "somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000," depending upon component costs and options installed. TAXI is still under development at press time. For more information, contact FutureDOS R&D, 1207120 Torresdale Ave., North York, Ontario M2R 3N7, (416) 736-0321.

Atari Third-Quarter Results

Atari Corp. achieved sales of $153.9 million for the third quarter of 1988, an increase of 91 percent over 1987. In the same period, operating income fell $15 million to $5.2 million. Net income was down $9 million to $900,000. For the first three quarters this year, sales are up 126 percent due in part to the purchase of Federated Group. Overall, net income has fallen from last year's $38.7 million to $12.1 million.

The Computer-and-Video-Game division accounted for $97 million of Atari's total sales. This represents a 21 percent increase over the $80.4 million of the year before. Operating income was $11.9 million compared to $15 million.

Growth of the Computer division was restricted by the high price and shortage of memory chips. The higher cost of memory chips adversely affected profit margins and contributed to the lower earnings. Also, Federated Group had an operating loss of $6.7 million on sales of $56.9 million.

Positive notes include the announcement of a contract between Atari and a major DRAM producer that assures Atari of enough chips to expand the Computer division in 1989. Also, research and development expenditures were almost $6 million, the highest they have been since the fourth quarter of 1987.

Calamus Update

ISD Marketing, distributors of Calamus, the desktop publishing program for the ST, has just signed a major agreement with Font Technologies, a subsidiary of Compugraphics. The nature of the agreement involves the licensing of 84 Compugraphic Fonts, beginning in February 1989. Some of the fonts include Garamond, Old English and Cyrillic.

An interface has been developed for the ST that allows Calamus to print directly to Linotronic typesetting machines at resolutions in excess of 2,000 dpi. The interface connects from the ST directly to the LI-2 port on the Linotronic machine and actually bypasses the RIP (Raster Image Processor). ISD hails this as a major breakthrough for DTP on the ST.

Fat Bits

  • In the laptop computer race, Atari seems to be the winner. According to Apple chairman John Sculley, a laptop version of the Macintosh probably won't be available until the end of 1989. As reported in the March News, Notes & Quotes, Atari's laptop prototype was unveiled at the Fall '88 COMDEX and is scheduled for a first-quarter '89 release.
  • Atari had over 20 positions open in its Computer Systems Engineering Development group in the fourth quarter of 1988. These positions opened as a result of Atari's expansion into the UNIX market in addition to expanding their current capabilities. Positions were available for product engineers, software programmers, drafters, managers and product test-and-support personnel. Three positions were also available in Atari's integrated circuit group.
  • The Spectre 128 Macintosh emulator will soon be upgraded to read and write Macintosh disks. The Spectre GCR upgrade will be available to all current Spectre 128 owners. GCR stands for Group Coded Recording, the method used for storing data on Mac disks. Contact Gadgets by Small for more information.
  • A new version of Fleet Street Publisher, formerly marketed in the United States by Spectrum Holobyte, will be available from MichTron in January 1989. Version 2 will support a wide variety of printers, including Postscript, and the ability to load text from any ASCII word-processing file. If you send Fleet Street Publisher Version 1 (or any other desktop publishing program) and $50 to MichTron, you'll receive a copy of Fleet Street Publisher Version 2.
  • The number of Atari computer dealers appears to be mushrooming. In the fourth quarter of 1988 alone, the count was up 30 percent over the previous quarter.

TOS 1.4

After many months of development, TOS 1.4 is nearing release. It may in fact be available by the time you read this. Atari is considering the release of a disk-based version of the new TOS before the ROM-based version is available. According to Atari, the new version of TOS fixes almost every known bug. There are also many new features that the user will appreciate. It is faster in almost every respect, especially with hard disks. With several minor changes, TOS 1.4 is compatible with the 68030 processor that is reported to be the heart of the forthcoming Atari TT.

The major changes in TOS 1.4:

  • The 40-folder bug has been alleviated to the point of improbability. A folder only takes up space when "active". The only limit now is the depth of folders and the accumulated depth of open files. FOLDRxxx will still operate properly.
  • Soft Reset ("warm boot") is now available from the keyboard by pressing [CTL][ALT][DEL] simultaneously, if the standard keyboard handler is used.
  • A keyboard Cold Boot is available that clears all available memory by pressing [CTRL][ALT][right SHFT][DEL] simultaneously.
  • Floppy formatting is "more compatible" with IBM-PC format.
  • A file may be moved (i.e copied and deleted) in one operation.
  • File Copy/Delete/Move can be interrupted with "undo."
  • GEM programs can be autobooted from disk.
  • If a name conflict occurs during a file copy, Copy/Skip/Quit are allowed.
  • A folder may be renamed via "Show Info. "
  • The static file allocation limit of 400 is removed; the only limit is now free memory.
  • "Show/Print File" routines are completely rewritten. File copying on a single floppy system uses all available memory for buffers to minimize the number of disk swaps.
  • Improvements have been made to the detection of disk changes.
  • All date separators are now "/".
  • Sector buffering has been greatly improved, and "CACHExxx" allows expansion of the buffers.
  • The File Selector has had a major rework, to wit: there are now 16 drive buttons; an application can send a "title" string to FSEL; FSEL now takes the first on the edit of a pathname as the end-of-edit; FSEL remembers where it was in a file list; static file allocation of 100 files is removed; long pathnames and "ABORT/CONTINUE" are now handled correctly; the current DTA buffer addresses, clip rectangles and default directories are preserved and new bindings are available.

Programmers should also find the following additional changes interesting:

  • "wind_update(FALSE)" is set when recovering from an application crash.
  • "appl_init" returns version 0130 in global(0).
  • Editable fields may now be followed by non-editable characters in dialog boxes.
  • "wind_get( )" with field parameter WF_SCREEN returns address/length of AES menu/alert buffer.
  • "Ptsin" (VDI) allows 512 vertices (true since 4/22/87).
  • "vqt_extent": Pixel errors on some 270 degree rotations are fixed.
  • "vq_mouse" reliability is enhanced.
  • The "Malloc" restriction of 20 blocks/process has been lifted.
  • File Allocation Table searching code for floppy and hard disks is much faster.
  • "Frename" can now rename a folder.
  • Archive bit (0x20) is now fully supported.
  • Time stamps for "." and ".." are now correct.
  • "Fsettime/Fsetdate" match the BIOS and GEMDOS values.
  • "Fdatime" input value byteswap is fixed.
  • Major improvements have been made to "Ccon*" and redirection in general.
  • OS Pool has been reduced to the same size as 11/20/85 ROMs (pre-Mega). This may allow some programs which fail on Mega ROMs to work again.
  • Rsconf(-2,-1,-1,-1,-1,-1) returns last baud rate value set by Rsconf.
  • Structure of the reserved part of DTA has changed, and remains reserved.

Stephen Mortimer is a Contributing Editor for START.

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