Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 4 NO. 8 / MARCH 1990

News, Notes & Quotes


Atari Posts $5 Million Loss
For the third quarter of 1989, Atari posted a loss of $5.4 million on sales of $81.4 million. This is in comparison the same quarter of a year earlier when Atari posted sales of $98.8 million with a profit of $.9 million. Through the first nine months of 1989, sales have totalled $253 million with a net loss of $1.8 million. Due to dramatically lower prices of semiconductors and disk-drive mechanisms, Atari took a special $10 million charge with respect to inventory during the third quarter to reflect this drop.

Atari President and CEO Sam Tramiel, remains optimistic about the future and cites the healthy sales figures for the new products released during the third quarter. These included the Portfolio, Megafile 44 and STE (the STE and Megafile 44 in Europe only). These products have been selling in line with Atari's expectations. Over 150,000 Portfolios were reported to have been sold by the time of Fall COMDEX.

Tramiel also said that Atari has high hopes for its portable game system, Lynx, that was expected to go on sale in late November or early December. Lynx has been reviewed extremely favorably in comparison to Nintendo's GameBoy. Great interest has been generated as a result of selling Lynx through Sears and the BN Genius specialty catalog.

Super ST Color Video
Image Systems has designed a high-resolution color monitor board for the Mega. The ATR-4PC board connects to the Mega's internal bus and allows a 1024x768 resolution with 16 colors out of a palette of 4,096. According to jay Craswell of Image Systems, this is the highest performance that could be obtained from the ST without seriously slowing down the system's screen display. A 68881 math coprocessor socket is available on the board. A black-and-white screen mode is available to speed up text display.

Many high-resolution color monitors are compatible with the board but Image Systems highly recommends the Nanao 970 because of its excellent price/performance ratio. At the Fall COMDEX, PageStream 1.8 was displayed on a system using the ATR-4PC board and comments on the display were extremely positive.

The ATR-4PC carries a retail price of $800. For more information, contact Image Systems at 11543 K-Tel Drive, Hopkins, MN 55343, (612) 935-1171.

Atari Plans for the 520ST
Despite to the contrary. the 520ST is far from dead. Considering the fact that 8-bit computers are still being sold and that the 16-bit 520ST is much more capable than those machines, it is unlikely that it will come to a sudden end. Sam Tramiel spoke at a recent software convention, reminiscing of the days when the Commodore 64 was selling like hotcakes. He said Atari will go back to what they know best: selling power without the price. This translates to mass marketing the 520ST for under $300.

Insiders at Atari indicate that an aggressive promotion will begin around April. The machine may be repackaged, possibly with a glitzy name and include a software bundle consisting of a word processor, database, spreadsheet and various games. The 520ST package will be aimed directly at the home market, competing with the Apple lIe, Commodore's low-end machines and the budget PC compatibles.

Fat Bits

  • For those Atari enthusiasts who are patiently (or impatiently) waiting for the TT to be released, here are a few tidbits of information. PageStream, Calamus, DynaCADD, LDW Power, Cyber Studio, START's Rezrender, DeskSet II and Word Up! have been verified to be TT compatible at COMDEX by vendors and attendees. Quick ST, a benchmarking program, has recorded some amazing results on the TT. Most screen functions are about twice as fast as a normal ST, excluding scrolling that is three times the speed. CPU benchmarks range from 3.6 times for memory operations to the astronomical 17 times for a CPU shift operation. DMA operations are about twice as fast according to the benchmark. Of course, this benchmark may not accurately reflect the true speed of the TT because it was written for ST computers.
  • Creative Microsystems, makers of the ST-PA accelerator hoard have been hard to reach lately. Their last known phone number has been disconnected. If you are considering the purchase of their product, please be aware that they may be out of business.
  • Guess who called Practical Solutions about their cordless mouse? Give up? How about Steve Jobs at NeXT. That's right, Jobs is interested in having a version of The Cordless Mouse developed for his NeXT workstation. Congratulations, Practical Solutions!
  • The 68030-upgrade project that Jim Allen at Fast Technology has been working on is now a joint effort between his company and Gadgets by Small. Look for a 68030 upgrade board in the future with a price tag of under $1,000.
  • Atari has developed a system called the "Cookie Jar" for managing terminate-and-stay-resident (TSR) programs in TOS. With the Cookie Jar, programs know what TSRs are installed and can react accordingly. This system should make applications and TSR programs more compatible with each other, and help the problem of conflicting programs that cause crashes. Also, with the advent of high-resolution boards and other accessories, programs will need to know what is installed in the system in order to configure themselves properly.

Fall 1990 COMDEX

Atari Shows the TT, STE, Stacy and Portfolio and Unveils a New Developers Program


The Atari booth at Fall 1990 COMDEX:
cramped but well traveled.

The new 68030-based TT was on hand at
some of the Atari stations, impressing everyone
with its incredible speed and enhanced graphics.
Here it is shown running ISD's DynaCAD 1.7.

Over 100,000 computer dealers and developers descended upon the Las Vegas Convention Center from November 11-17 for the semi-annual Computer Dealer's Expostion (COMDEX). Atari rallied around its battle cry of "A Computer for Everyone" in a booth that was impressive in its design, if a little cramped. It was also extremely well traveled due mainly to the presence of Atari's Portfolio hand-held PC, and some of the new machines they have scheduled for release. Even Jerry Pournelle, author of BYTE magazine's "Computing in Chaos Manor" among other things, made an appearance. Twenty-one third-party developers were on hand to show off the latest in ST software and hardware.

(Note: I should put Atari's presence at COMDEX in the proper perspective. First of all, COMDEX is huge -as big as the Convention Center is, there still wasn't enough room for every exhibitor, so the show overflowed to hotels throughout Las Vegas. Secondly, COMDEX is a predominantly IBM show, which accounts for the keen interest in the Portfolio. Nonetheless, when compared to the non-PC computer companies in attendance, like Apple and Commodore, Atari looked pretty good.)

Developer's Party
At the Atari get-together on Wednesday night, developers were treated to some interesting news that only hints at some of the changes going on at Atari.

Antonio Salerno, Vice President of Applications, and Charles Cherry, the new TOS Development Manager, outlined a developers program that includes the following:

  • A list of registered ST owners in the United States, said to include more than 60,000 names, will be made available to all developers.
  • Atari will set up a database called Softsource on one of the online services which will include demos and disabled versions of a developer's software. Each developer will be responsible for maintaining their own information. Once Softsource is complete, the information will he downloaded to the CDROM and distributed to dealers.
  • Each TOS (ST, STE, TT and Stacy) will be shipped with a coupon that entitles the purchaser to a free trial subscription to one of the magazines available to ST users.
On a side note: the mood of the crowd that attended the developers party was noticeably upbeat, due in part to the hiring of Charles Cherry. Cherry arrives at Atari from Antic Software, and has been active in the Atari market since 1980. As a former ST developer who's "been there," Cherry adds credibility to any plan Atari comes up with.

Atari Hardware and Software
For ST users, the big news at the Atari booth were the TTs and STEs on display and in use. (I brought along the November 1989 START disk to check its compatibility on the TT. Every program I tried ran fine but with one significant difference -they all ran much, much faster. The most impressive speed difference I noticed was in running RezRender. I took my chances and tried out a 14-frame tweening sequence. What took over an hour on my ST at home, took less than 10 minutes on the TT. That's fast, very fast.)

Atari also showed the Stacy ST laptop; the STE, their enhanced ST that includes a palette of 4,096 colors among other things. On hand were stacks of Portfolios, Atari's palmtop PC. Software offerings from Atari were slight, the standout being Desket II, their professional desktop publishing package for the ST. It is now shipping at a suggested retail price of $499. Atari Corp., 1196 Borregas Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94088, (408) 745-2000.

Third-Party Hardware Highlights
One of the most popular stations in the Atari booth was the one commandeered by Gadgets by Small where they showed their Spectre GCR Macintosh Emulator. The GCR is hardware based and slips right into the cartridge port on your ST. It is 100 percent Mac compatible, though you must provide the Mac ROMs, which, Dave Small reports, you can find in any issue of Computer Shopper. Mac software reportedly runs 20 percent faster through the GCR than on the Mac. Note that you also get a 30 percent larger screen. (Compatibility is 68000-based.) The Spectre GCR does not support Appletalk or Mac MIDI applications. $299.95 without the ROMs and available now. Gadgets by Small, 40 W. Littleton Blvd., #210-211, Littleton, CO 80120, (303) 791-6098.

Many of the stations at the Atari booth - particularly the ones showing CAD and DTP applications - ran on Moniterm's Viking 2, 19-inch monochrome monitor. Mike Evangelist, manager for Atari products, reported that the Viking 2 is selling extremely well (over 2,000 units have been sold). Moniterm, 5740 Green Circle Drive, Minnetonka, MN 55343 (612) 935-4151.

MichTron showed off PC Speed, its new PC emulator for the ST. Watch for a review in the April issue of START. $399.95. MichTron, 576 S. Telegraph, Pontiac, MI 48053, (313) 334-5700.

John Russell Innovations demonstrated a new Genlock system for the STE. It's an external hardware that connects via the STE's monitor (RGB) port. It supports super VHS and no software is required (genlocking is done entirely through the hardware). Price will depend on release of the STE. JRI also showed the J.A.T.O. II accelerator board for the ST and Mega which includes expansion capability for a 16 MHz 68881 math coprocessor; and the STFM RAM Plus Series Boards featuring SIMM-type RAM modules for expanding your ST to up to 4MB. All prices to be announced. John Russell Innovations, P.O. Box 5277, Pittburg, CA 94565, (415) 458-9577.

POS Computers was on hand to show their Viewtouch, a business product that requires a special monitor that senses touch. One of ViewTouch's main applications is as a cash register. To "ring up" a customer purchase, the user simply touches the desired item on the screen and the program automatically makes all the necessary calculations. POS Computers, 4001 Potter, Suite 66, Eugene OR 97405 (503) 344-7334.

The Asia Commercial Company (not at the Atari booth) is releasing an external 3.5-inch floppy drive for the ST in January, called the FD-288. Price has not been set. (482 Sunrise Highway, Rockville Centre, NY 11570, (516) 763-0907.)

Gravis (not at the Atari booth) showed its MouseStick for the ST. The MouseStick is a progammable mouse/ joystick combination. Watch for a review in a future issue of START. (Gravis Computer Technology, 1602 Carolina Street #D12, Bellingham, WA 98226, (604) 434-7274.)

Fast Technology demonstrated its Turbo 16 accelerator board for the ST and Mega. See the review in the December 1989 issue of START. $299.99. (Fast Technology, P.O. Box 578, Andover MA 01810. (508) 475-3810.)

Third-Party Software Highlights
Version 1.8 of PageStream is available from Soft-Logik Publishing Corp. and is reported to be bug-free with some dandy new features. Its color-separation ability has been perfected. $199.95. Soft-Logik also announced release of new font disks ($39.95 each). Soft-Logik, 11131 S. Towne Square, Suite F, St. Louis, MO 63123, (314) 894-8608.

MichTron showed Fleet Street Publisher 3.0 which is now completely Postscript compatible and includes Ultrascript, the postcript emulator for the ST. MichTron also announced the release of Devpac Developer, an extension of Devpac for the ST. MichTron, 576 S. Telegraph, Pontiac, MI 48053, (313) 334-5700.

Blue Chip International has severed ties with Atari and is now marketing WordFlair on their own. WordFlair is a document processor for the ST that combines word processing, graphic, calculation, graphing, data management and page-layout tools - in the same integrated progam. $79.95. Blue Chip International, Inc., 501 Second Street, Suite 414, San Francisco, CA 94107, (415) 243-0188.

Soft-Aware showed Version 2.0 of Informer II, its powerful and versatile database for the ST and Mega. $50. (Soft-Aware, 334 'B' North Euclid Ave., Upland, CA 91786, (714) 982-8409.)

Encouraged by a recent package deal with Atari Germany, WordPerfect said it would bring its popular word processor up to at least 4.2 standards, but a 5.0 version for the ST is not considered out of the question. WordPerfect Corp., 1555 N. Technology Way, Orem, UT 84057, (801) 225-5000.

ISD Marketing was on hand to show off Calamus Outline and DynaCADD 1.7. ISD Marketing, 2651 John Street, Unit 3, Markham, OT L3R 2W5, (416) 479-1882.

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