Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 4 NO. 10 / MAY 1990

News, Notes & Quotes


Inside Atari
The 1040 STE has reached North America, but not the United States due to a delay in FCC certification. Unfortunately, some problems tarnish the glow of its memory SIMMs, excellent sound capabilities and extra graphics support. The Control Panel shipped with the STE does not allow access to the extra colors available in the 4,096 color palette. When used with a color monitor, the computer defaults to low resolution automatically. A patch is available that will boot the STE into medium resolution.

John Townsend of Atari provided new insight on the performance of the TT. Using Quick Index 1.4, running in Fast Nibble-Mode RAM with the cache on, the following improvements over the ST were measured:

CPU Memory: 538%
CPU Register: 410%
CPU Divide: 510%
CPU Shifts: 1737%
BIOS Text: 298%
GEM Draw: 403%
GEMDOS I/O: 2,712%

A 100-percent reading indicates the speed of a standard, unmodified ST. Quick Index can be obtained from the GEnie network or CompuServe for more information on what the tests indicate.

Atari is working on an modular Control Panel that can be extended by adding separate functions called CPXs. XCONTROL will let software vendors expand the functionality of the Control Panel beyond what Atari provides, as well as serving as a  graphical front end for TSR utilities. By making it modular, users can select which CPXs they want installed in the system. Examples of possible CPXs are color selectors, keyboard configuration routines, screen saver or printer-driver configuration utilities. A menu of the CPXs loaded into the control panel will be provided the user selection. The modular control panel, similar in function to that of the Macintosh, is still under development at Atari.

Marken Communications will no longer represent Atari as its public- relations firm. Over the period of one year, Marken has been a great help in obtaining information that I have used to write this column. They helped bring great exposure to the products such as Portfolio and Lynx in newspapers, magazines and television. Thanks, Marken, you'll be missed.

On the boxes of STE systems shipped in Canada, there are markings for 1040, 2080 and 4160 systems. Atari has not officially confirmed or denied that these systems will be available in the future. If the 2MB and 4MB versions of the STE are released, Atari will be making a mistake. Since the 1040STE can be expanded to the memory capacity of the higher machines, why produce additional versions? Dealers will profit from having fewer machines that they need to stock and Atari will only have to produce one machine, thus making their production more efficient. We shall see what the outcome of the STE line is in the future.

(One popular idea for the STE line is for Atari to create a Mega STE. The Mega STE1 would have the capability of expansion through the bus connector and have a detached keyboard. Packaged with 1MB of memory, it could be expanded to 4MB with the addition of SIMM units. Of course, it would have the better sound and graphics found in the 1040STE. If you like the idea of the Mega STE 1, let Atari know. Atari Corp., 1196 Borregas Ave., Sunnyvale, CA, 94088-3427, 408/745-2000.)

Motorola Unveils Microprocessor
Motorola's 68040 32-bit microprocessor was unveiled on January 22 along with the endorsement of many computer companies, including Apple and Commodore. The 040 runs at a speed of 25 MHz and has a 20 million instruction per second (MIPS) capacity, besting the Intel 80486 by five MIPS. Additionally, it can perform an average of 3.5 million floating-point instructions per second. Built into the microprocessor are two memory management units, an integer unit, floating point unit and instruction caches. The chip is available in a 179- pin package, and is reportedly software compatible with other chips in the 68000 line. Sample quantities are being produced for customers at a price of $795 per chip. Whether Atari plans to use the 68040 chip in any of its products is not yet known.

Fat Bits

  • WordPerfect Corporation is now providing around-the-clock support for its popular word processor. The special support line is open from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. Mountain Standard Time. The number is 801/226-6444.

  • NeoDesk 2.05 supports third-party modules that can expand the functionality of the popular replacement desktop. A special programming pipeline allows additional features to be added to the Desktop, such as a trash can that can recover deleted files. The trash can is freeware from Gnbnif Software to demonstrate the power of the pipeline. Also, desk accessories can interface with NeoDesk to create unique applications. NeoDesk software calls can be accessed from these desk accessories so that programming can be simplified.

  • Japanese firms are planning to cut 1MB DRAM production by up to 15 percent in 1990. Demand has slackened on the chips, driving prices down to about $10 per chip, a far cry from the prices of only years ago when the DRAM shortage existed. NEC, Oki Electric, Hitachi, Mitsubishi and Toshiba all plan to cut production. Recently, the U.S. Memories consortium that planned to make the United States a major player in DRAMs disbanded due to lack of funding. On the bright side of DRAM production, Intel plans to enter the market and Texas Instruments plans to concentrate more heavily on the production of memory chips in the coming years.

  • MicroTimes, a San Francisco Bay Area computer magazine, recently honored START Contributing Editor Dave Small and Atari Corp. President Sam Tramiel in its "MicroTimes 100," an annual list of men and women who have made outstanding contributions to the computer industry in the past year. Small was chosen for his development of the Spectre GCR Macintosh emulator while Tramiel was noted as the main force behind Atari's new product announcements and rapid expansion in the Australian and European markets.


If you're only interested in pixel- oriented drawing, version 3.0 of DRAW! (Dietrich Raisin's Artist Workstation) is worth a look. Released by Omikron, this drawing program actually looks very artistic with its main menu laid out on a scroll. The artistic connection is further reinforced as the program closely emulates the way a painter would normally work on other, more conventional media.

DRAW! 3.0, Dietrich Raisin's Artists Workstation.

DRAW! will let you simultaneously work on as many pictures as will fit in available memory. The program also supports the so-called BIG format with 640 x 800 pixels, i.e twice the screen size. To get "the BIG picture" you just simply join two normal pictures. Augmenting the standard drawing tools, the powerful block editing, automatic masking and contract enhancement are particularly well suited for touching up digitized images. The only "drawback" is that DRAW! only works in monochrome and requires a minimum of 1MB of memory.

Omikron is currently taking direct orders but is also looking for a distributor in the United States. (Omikron, Erlach Str., 157534 Birkenfeld 2, West Germany, 7082/50048.)

Stay Virus Free
Anti-Virus Kit from G DATA (99 deutsch marks; about $60) is one of the most complete virus protection packages available. G DATA provides free updates to existing owners and, since its original release in 1988, AVK has gone through some 20 reincamations to keep up with new viruses. Currently up to version 3.1, AVK can recognise 19 boot-sector and four link viruses. It will also check all internal ST vectors and can restore various game boot sectors. Hard disks are supported by verification of all eight DMA ports. To top it all off AVK will, if requested, install an accessory on your drive to write protect desired devices. (G DATA, Siemens Str., 164630 Bochum 1, West Germany, 2323/389-858.)

Trade Shows
Atari Computer GmbH (Germany) has set the date for the Fourth International Atari show in Dusseldorf, West Germany, for August 24- 26. Historically, this exhibition is a major showcase for Atari. Last year, for example, it saw the introduction of the TT and STE.

A couple of other important shows, although not exclusively Atari, may also show a glimpse of things to come. COMDEX Europe will be held in Paris April 23-28. Back in Germany, CEBIT - reportedly the largest computer show in the world - is scheduled for March 20-27 in Hannover.

BASIC Convert
Advanced Application Viczena has announced "GFAlib", a BASIC library to facilitate translation of GFA-BASIC 3.0 programs into SPC-Modula-2. The converted programs should, in most cases, be faster than the previously compiled BASIC versions. Furthermore, using the SWISS window manager, several multitasking GFA graphics can be displayed in the same window.

Voxel Software is about to launch MusicBase, a database for the music industry. Even though it contains only British names, addresses and contacts, it may be very attractive for U.S. bands wishing to make it in Europe. The database can be updated so you can add your favorite local musicians as well. (Voxel Software 1. Hillcrest Court, Shoutt-up Hill, London NW2 3PG, Great Britain, 1/452-1916.)

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