Atari Heats Winter Comdex
by ANITA MALNIG, START Editor
Atari used the November Comdex trade show in Las Vegas to stake a claim for the "power without the price" market in high-powered business workstations. Leading Atari's latest assault on Fortune 500 buyers is Abaq (root word for abacus), the new "transputer" previewed by Antic in January 1988.
With the Inmos 32-bit IMST-800 microprocessor and leading-edge RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) architecture, Abaq will operate at 10 MIPS (million instructions per second). An ST or Mega becomes the input/output device for the transputer system.
A single transputer can deliver over ten times the power of an IBM PC/AT. But you can connect 10, 100 or even more transputers to create a relatively low-cost computer workstation with the power of a super-minicomputer. Talk is that the Abaq will retail in the $5,000 range. Transputers can be linked by a built-in high-speed serial port to form a multiprocessor array or a local area network.
Helios, a Unix-like operating system for Abaq, was developed by the Perihelion Company of Great Britain, as was the transputer board itself. The Helios operating system encourages use of many small programs which work together to create a final product.
Shiraz Shivji, Atari's vice president of research and development, expects that the transputer will be used primarily in engineering and science applications. Included with Abaq will be a very high resolution monitor, capable of four graphics modes-1280 x 960 in 16 colors or monochrome, 1024 x 768 in 256 colors, 640 x 480 in 256 colors with two screens and 512 x 480 in 16 million colors plus overlay.
No firm delivery date is set, but late 1988 seemed to be the most talked-about time frame by Atari executives at Comdex. From Antic's first-hand observation, crushing Comdex crowds were being attracted by Abaq's crisp, vibrant graphics-such as four separate pictures running simultaneously.
CD-ROM AT LAST
Shortly after Antic's October 1985 cover story about the Atari 540-megabyte CD-ROM system running Grolier's encyclopedia on a single compact disk, Atari announced that it wouldn't bring this product to market until CD-ROM players dropped in price from $1,000 to the $500 range and included the capability of playing music from standard compact audio disks. That time apparently is now!
The Atari CD-ROM is now supposed to be available in February, 1988, at a suggested retail price of $599. The CD-ROM connects to ST and Mega computers through the DMA (direct memory access) communications port that transmits data at up to 10 million bits per second. The player provides near-instantaneous access to compact disks that store 540Mb of data-more than 1,000 floppy disks or 200,000 printed pages.
Demonstrated at Comdex was a visual dictionary from Facts on File. It categorized topics such as transportation or food. You could click on the transportation theme and choose from an array of topics such as ferries, container ships, airport terminals and so on-all items illustrated. Speech output identified each image in French and English.
Atari is marketing G.O. Graphics' sophisticated desktop publishing program, Deskset. This works as a front end to the CompuGraphics professional phototypesetting equipment, offering 1,800 fonts. Deskset could design entire commercial publications such as Antic and START.
Deskset, which runs only on a Mega, was demonstrated at Comdex on the Atari SLM804 laser printer. Deskset uses the GEM environment and offers all standard features of the most sophisticated desktop publishing programs- including kerning, columns, boxes, rules and the merging of text and graphics. Look for this product by late 1988.
MORE ATARI PCs
As the $799 Atari PC1 first shown in January 1987 was just about to come to market, Atari announced expansions of its IBM-compatible line. The PC2 is a dual-speed XT compatible that adds five expansion slots to the versatile PC1 configuration. The PC4 is an IBM PC/AT-compatible that uses the 80286 microprocessor. It has switchable clock speeds of 8 or 12 Mhz, VGA-compatible video, four AT-style expansion slots, up to one megabyte of system RAM and accepts an 80287 numeric coprocessor.
Atari also announced "PromiseLAN," a local area network that will connect as many as 17 PCs, using off-the-shelf telephone wire. Soon to go under development are PromiseLAN adaptors for the Mega and ST computers. This would enable the Mega and the Atari laser printer to share data with PCs and Macintoshes.