Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 4, NO. 11 / MARCH 1986


40 ST developers show their stuff

By JACK POWELL, Antic Associate Editor

Determined to put an end to press reports about lack of software for the 520ST, Jack Tramiel's new Atari Corp. gathered over 40 third-party developers at its November COMDEX exhibit in Las Vegas and put on a splashy show.
   The plum-colored Atari booths were centrally located in the West Hall of the Convention Center. Any visitor to the vast building could not help noticing the increased density of the crowds within the Atari exhibit, which covered three separate islands.
   As most Antic readers are now aware, the Atari organization is run by a man who savors a good fight. This was underscored when onlookers, drawn to the graphic display of several "Amiga" bouncing balls, found themselves standing in the center of the densely-packed Atari exhibit. Flaunting the competition, the Tramiel group had lined up three computers- Commodore Amiga, Atari 520ST, and Apple Macintosh-each labelled with its price tag and running the bouncing ball program. The ST ball ran moved slightly faster than the Amiga. The Macintosh ball was pitiably slow-and colorless. The price was right on only one machine. You guessed it.
   And over in the corner was our old friend the 8-bit Atari-also displaying an animated Amiga bouncing ball! It seems Amiga may have chosen the wrong demo with which to identify their computer.

Antic spoke with Jack Tramiel in an attempt to get answers to many of the questions our readers have been asking. We had noticed a lack of new hardware at the Atari booths. Where was the CD ROM?
   Tramiel told us he had been unable to find a basic drive mechanism at a low enough price. Unless he could sell a CD ROM for under $600, he said, he would not market the technology. Consumers, he said, are used to seeing audio digital players for $199. Why should they pay $1,000 for the same mechanism hooked to a computer? "I'm not willing to lose money," he said.
   Tramiel felt no compulsion to be the first company to release a CD ROM. When would he get it out? "You'll have to guess and I'll have to know." However, Antic has since learned that a CD ROM player will soon be available from Sony for about $300, so the arrival of an Atari-labelled player may not be that remote after all.

According to Jack Tramiel, by the time you read this, GEM should be placed in ROM chips. At the time we spoke with him, he told us it would be "a matter of days, not months."
   (FLASH! Just as Antic went to press, we learned that GEM is finally in ROM. The new chips were expected to be available at authorized Atari Service Centers about January 1 and should cost about $25 installed.)
   Also, it looks as if the ST GEM Desktop will maintain its familiar appearance in spite of the Apple attack on Digital Research, Inc. Atari had been working with DRI's attorneys and, Tramiel told Antic, DRI had "indemnified" Atari.
   Although the Atari spotlight was focused on ST software, several hard disks were lent to third-party exhibitors by Atari. The hard disks were being sent to developers but Atari expects them to be available to consumers by first quarter of 1986. No firm price was mentioned, but they hope to keep them under $600.

Borland International, developer of the extraordinarily successful Turbo Pascal and Sidekick, "is committed to write software on the ST," according to Sig Hartmann, President of the AtariSoft Division.
   Another top Atari official told Antic that Borland president Philippe Kahn, after returning from the October Munich Computer Show, went directly to Atari and handed over a check for three STs.
   Atari management told us that Germany is perhaps their biggest market at present. The latest isssue of a major German computer magazine, CHIP, showed the 520ST to be the best selling computer in Germany after only two months on the list.
   CHIP editors also informed Jack Tramiel that a nine-magazine international poll chose the 520ST as the best personal computer.
   When asked why sales were so good in Germany, Tramiel replied, "Obviously, the Germans are smarter buyers."