Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 4, NO. 2 / JUNE 1985


Converting IBM PC software to Atari

by NAT FRIEDLAND, Antic Editor

Antic was the ONLY Atari Magazine present at the first GEM Software Developers Seminar held at Monterey, California in February by Digital Research, Inc. DRI created the "Macintosh-like" GEM operating interface that is being used for the new 16-bit Atari ST computers.
   GEM has aroused especially wide interest in the computer industry because it's supposed to make it simple to convert software between the IBM PC and clones, the Macintosh, the Atari ST and any other computer that GEM licenses a version for.
   Some of Atari's top technical executives were on hand, debuting a working ST with a preliminary version of Atari GEM burned into ROM.
   Antic was told that Atari still considers itself on schedule for bringing the first production ST computers onto the market in April. Full ST production capacity won't be reached until June. The 10-15 megabyte hard disk for the ST will show up in the summer.

Remember the 32-bit Atari we reported Jack Tramiel talking about at his November press conference? Well, apparently it is well along in development. Atari still hopes to meet Tramiel's goal of unveiling the machine at the April electronics fair in Hanover, Germany.
   Every time Atari engineers talked about the 32-bit computer in Monterey, delighted smiles appeared on their faces. The computer was described to Antic as a "VAX minicomputer on a chip" and a "$40,000 CAD/ CAM computer graphics workstation that will sell for under $2,000."

As for the GEM Seminar itself, the $800 workshop was highly technical and directed at professional consumer-software programmers who were thoroughly experienced with the C language or with Macintosh window program development.
   The Seminar sessions were taken up with highly detailed discussions of GEM development nuts and bolts such as the strict interfacing procedures which are supposed to make "porting" GEM-based programs between different computers a routine one-day process.
   Access to GEM windows, debugging, and correct embedding of transfer hooks were among the other technical topics discussed. All attendees were given the two-volume GEM Toolkit documentation. Dill's recommended professional development language was Lattice C, which costs around $500.
   It should be noted that the Seminar was specifically dealing with the just-completed IBM PC version of GEM. Six-disk beta test editions of GEM were being sold to developers by DRI for $500. The GEM Library software of prepared graphics routines cost extra.
   The Atari version of GEM was not yet ready for beta testing at the time of the Seminar.

Russ Wetmore, author of Homepak and Preppie as well as other major Atari programs, flew in from his Florida homebase to attend the seminar and then stayed on to see the Mac-World Show in San Francisco.
   He spent time at Antic during this period and shared with us the viewpoints of a highly experienced Atari professional programmer.
   "I think the developers at the Seminar fell into two groups. One group is totally sold on the GEM goal of making a lot of different computers compatible with each other," said Wetmore. 'And for now they are willing to overlook any unanswered questions that came up during the sessions. The second group is taking more of a wait-and-see attitude."
   Wetmore expresses some doubt that GEM software will port between different computers as easily as Dill says it will. He also feels that GEM lacks certain built-in features found in the Macintosh interface-such as a text editor-which will make it more difficult for professional programmers to work with.
   Despite this, Wetmore was positive enough about GEM that he bought the Seminar disks and intends to invest over $4,500 for a souped-up IBM PC to run Lattice C. "But right now any GEM programs I publish will just be for the Atari," he said, "because it's the only computer that a developer won't be charged royalties for by DRI when the software comes out."