Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 5 NO. 1 / AUGUST 1990

News, Notes & Quotes


Atari Earnings Take A Nosedive

Atari Corp., citing intense competition in the video-game business, reported a 52.9 percent drop in first-quarter 1990 earnings. Net income dropped to $1.5 million, or three cents per share, from $3.3 million, or six cents per share, in the same quarter of 1989. Sales slipped to $85.5 million in first quarter 1990 from $88.8 million in 1989. Revenue grew for Atari's personal-computer line and the Lynx hand-held game system, but fell for its older models of videogame machines.

Inside Atari

Now that the hardware design has been finalized, the 16-bit TT system is off to the FCC. Reports from Europe indicate that the UNIX-based TT030/X will come with 2MB of video RAM and 4MB of fast RAM. A high capacity hard disk and multiple VME bus slots will come in a tower case. While the TT030/X uses AT&T's UNIX version 3.1, it is almost fully compatible with the Berkeley standard. X/Windows is topped by X.Desktop, a variation of GEM for UNIX.

The release of Atari's so-called Advantage package, a computer/software bundle, has been delayed due to lack of 520ST software. Atari will continue to search for titles that run on as many different televisions as possible. The package will retail for $399.

The report in last month's column that the Lynx Mark II will lose functionality was incorrect. The Mark II will be smaller but still functional. All the current features, including screen size, will be left intact.

Atari recently signed with ASCII, a purchasing group that will let its members buy Atari equipment. The ASCII network includes 400 computer dealers nationwide. According to James Fisher, Atari Vice President of Marketing, a majority of ASCII dealers will carry the Portfolio and ST lines.

The Business Software Group, a software piracy watchdog, claimed that Atari Taiwan Manufacturing in Taipei is pirating copies of Lotus and AshtonTate software for use on IBM systems. Atari responded that BSG is exaggerating the issue, and that if illegal copies do exist, they are being made without Atari Taiwan's knowledge or permission. Atari CEO Sam Tramiel stated that Atari will investigate the matter, but that the copies are most likely personal copies used by employees on their own systems.

Fat Bits

  • Commodore International named Nolan Bushnell to head a special team to develop, coordinate and market interactive, Amiga-based consumer products. Bushnell, 47, founded Atari Corp. in 1972. He sold it to Warner Communications in 1976. Jack Tramiel bought the computer division in 1984.

  • Atari is now shipping their Megafile 44 removable hard drive to dealers. Atari also has a new laser printer in the works. Designated the SLM605, it is reported to be smaller and much more quiet than the SLM804.

World of Atari, Anaheim


World of Atari, was held April 7 and 8, 1990, at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif. Attendance was around 4,000, down from last year's number. Some highlights:

Atari Corp.'s display dominated the middle of the convention floor with a wide variety of machines including a pair of TT computers, the hand-held Portfolio and a collection of portable Lynx game machines.

At the developer's get-together, Atari announced SoftSource, a library of software demos, source code and utilities. Registered developers can access the library on GEnie by typing ATARIDEV at the prompt and then upload their ideas, impending product releases and demos. Softsource will reportedly be open to the public by Christmas 1990 and will also be transferred to CD and distributed to dealers with the Atari CD-ROM.

Nathan Potechin of ISD Marketing showed Calamus Outline, a companion product for Calamus which uses a variety of special effects to customize text and graphics. He also sold a limited number of copies of the new bookThe Guide To Calamus Desktop Publishing. Finally, Potechin announced three new versions of Calamus slated for release in fall 1990.

Imagen Corp. showed some of the power behind Ultrascript by producing full-color pages using a Hewlett Packard Paintjet printer. Ultrascript fonts will work with any program that produces Postscript output, including Fleet Street Publisher 3.0, PageStream and Timeworks Publisher. Imagen also announced a reduction in font prices to $49.95 per set. Representatives at the show stated they are currently working with Atari Corp. to incorporate Ultrascript fonts into GDOS. No release date has been set. (The introduction of a single standardized font format could make a drastic difference in Atari's acceptance as a DTP solution.)

SST Accelerator Board Shown At WOA

The SST accelerator board for the ST was shown by Gadgets by Small and Fast Technologies for the first time at World of Atari. The board, which is still under development and requires FCC certification, uses a Motorola 68030 microprocessor and small amounts of very fast RAM to provide a computer that is significantly faster than an ST equipped with any other accelerator board. In most tests, the SST-equipped ST matched Atari's new TT.

The basic board will include a 16 Mhz version of the 68030. This configuration gives a speed advantage of about 2-1/2 times over the ST.

Gadgets by Small is looking to release the SST in November 1990. A tentative price has been set at $1000.


Because "The ST In Hollywood," (START, May 1990) primarily discussed how a Mega-based system was used for post-production sound editing on the movie "Born on the Fourth of July," the valuable contributions of the film's other sound artists may have been slighted.

The majority of the production sound recorded on the set during the filming of Born on the Fourth of July" was in fact excellent, thanks to production sound mixer Todd Maitland and his crew. An unfortunate page break in the article may have given the false impression that Maitland's production sound was not well done. START apologizes for any misunderstanding this article may have caused.

European Report

Atari Germany donated 18 1040STs (a total value of 30,000 deutsche marks, or $18,000) toward the last East German elections. The computers initially went to the West German institution, Elections, which, in turn, helped the West German television network, ZDF, predict and report election results from their temporary studio in the Palace of the Republic in East Berlin. After the elections the STs remained in East Germany. Atari computers have been used in local West German elections since March 1988.

The Atari Transputer Workstation is not only alive but is beginning to kick as well. A regular window dressing on recent Atari exhibitions, the ATW is now on sale in Europe. In their review of the ATW800, Netherlands-based magazinePersonal Computing reported that the Workstation costs 16,800 Dutch guilders (about $10,000). The 20MHz T800 transputer-based machine includes 4MB of RAM, a Helios operating system and X-Windows.

STEs are catching on in Europe, but so are the TOS 1.6 bugs. Many programs don't run at all. Some software houses are releasing STE updates daily. Others, such as Microdeal/MichTron, are publishing programs written specifically for the new machine. The most notorious bug is that the STE insists on booting in low resolution, regardless of the DESKTOP.INF file. Atari U.K. has released a software patch, but there is a three-step manual fix as well.

F-Modem version 1.0 is a terminal program for the Portfolio. Supplied on a ROM card the software will transfer data to and from an ST. F-Modem follows the Xmodem protocol. It is sold for 119 deutsche marks ($70) from Hoco EDV Anlagen, Ellerstr. 155, 4000 Dusseldorf, West Germany.

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