ST FEVER HITS ENGLAND
"IBM AT Performance"
by CHARLES CHERRYWhile on a business trip to Great Britain not long after the Hanover Electronics Fair, I found tremendous excitement over the impending arrival of the Atari 520ST.
ST photos were on the May covers of several major computer magazines and virtually all of the other publications had ST articles. The coverage was uniformly positive.
Practical Computing Magazine, targeted at the business and professional users went to the giant Hanover trade show "prepared to scoff but came away impressed."
WANTED: 130STThe only negative reactions concerned the dropping of the 130ST. In a home computer market that is still largely cassette-based, the 520ST will cost about twice as much as the average system. Bundled with a disk drive and monochrome monitor, it is priced at 900 British pounds. That's $1,116 at the current exchange rate, or about 25% more than the same ST package in the USA.
Popular Computing Weekly said the 520ST "may still be too expensive to bridge the gap between the home and business in Britain. Atari's decision to drop the 130ST model is a great disappointment." But not everyone thought the 5205T was too expensive. Practical Computing pointed out that "the entire outfit is less than the cost of up-grading a 128K Macintosh" And the Personal Computer World reporter, after noting that the cheapest ST system would now cost a lot more money than expected, summed up by saying "Even so, the bottom line is that when the machine appears in the shops, I'll be at the front of the queue to buy one."
The United Kingdom is positive about the software future for the machine too. Atari User Magazine reports, "More than 70 UK software companies ordered the GEM Programmers Toolkit on the first day it was available in this country." The article also quotes the UK technical director of Ashton-Tate, publishers of dBase II: "For Ashton-Tate, which is not committed to a sole machine or system, GEM's easy portability strongly supports our future development strategy.
GEM has also been adopted by ACT, one of Britain's largest computer manufacturers, for its Apricot MS-DOS machine. The Macintosh has not sold well in England, because of its cost. So the Atari may well be the first widespread introduction to what they call "WIMP" (Windows, Icons, Mouse Programs). British software houses are gearing up to ride home on that wave.
MIDI LANOne hardware feature which is attracting more attention in Europe than in America is the MIDI interface, but not for its musical applications. As Personal Computer World says "Even if you don't want to hang a synthesizer onto your Atari, the two MIDI ports needn't be wasted... they could make the basis of a very cheap (if slow) local area network." With a transfer rate of 31,250 baud per second, it won't be all that slow.
It seems that in Great Britain the 5205T will be thought of as a business computer. While calling it a home machine in the USA, Sam Tramiel told the Europeans that the 5205T offers "performance in the realm of the IBM AT."
The United Kingdom is a very different computing environment from the United States. It is full of strange machines like Amstrads, Orics, Beebs, Spectrums, and Dragons. The only things an American could recognize are the ubiquitous Commodore 64 and an occasional TI 99/4.
The few Atari owners in England used to gather for passing around battered copies of ANTIC which found their way across the Atlantic. But things are looking up now. The 130XE is selling very fast, software houses are working overtime to make Atari conversions of their titles, and Atari User Magazine published its first issue in May. Meanwhile, the arrival of the 5205T is being anxiously awaited by the whole computer community.