Toronto Atari Federation
Membership zooms tenfold since '84
TAF, the Toronto Atari Federation, went from about 40 family memberships in 1984 to 300 by the end of 1986--and then added another 73 families in the first two months of 1987. Lots of Canadians got STs for holiday gifts.
"Our growth rate is normally around 25 members a month," says Ian Newton, who was TAF's president until February 1987, when Jim Clark took over. The greatest distance anyone travels to the meetings is about 40 or 50 miles.
"One of the big problems most clubs have is that normal screen size imposes limits on program demonstrations," says Newton, "so we purchased equipment to project the prograns onto a very large screen--about eight feet by 10. This has improved presentation a lot, and we don't have to use three small monitors. You tap into the video system and it projects right onto a wall or a screen."
TAE began in March, 1982, with a group of interested Atari users aided by a local software marketing company. Memberships are for the whole family. If a parent joins, the spouse or the children can also join at no extra cost. The average age for individual members is late thirties or early forties. Most members are university graduates and they work in a wide variety of occupations. Less than 5 % of TAF members are children, but kids often show up at special functions such as auctions.
The ST users meet the first Monday of each month, and the 8-bit users meet on the third Monday. Each group has its own vice president. The executive meeting is on the second Monday. About 100 people show up at both the ST and 8-bit meetings. "That's a large percentage of 8-bit users," says Newton, "because we only have about 150 8-bit members." The group's only SIG is for users of VIP Professional, and while TAF has no BBS, a section of AMCO, a local system, has been set aside for the group.
Newton says that both ST and 8-bit meetings are always well-organized. "The first part consists of demonstrations of the latest library disk highlights. There are always at least one or two new disks per month. Then comes a 10-minute break for disk sales, followed by a feature presentation from an outside speaker which normally takes 30 to 45 minutes. Then one or two additional presentations usually take place."
TAF meetings usually have a featured outside speaker, often from Atari of Canada--General Manager Ian Kennedy or a marketing executive. Atari gives presentations at least three or four times a year. Batteries Included, being a local company, is always around and Ian Chadwick, author of Mapping the Atari, often attends meetings.
Several retailers are active at TAF meetings, supplying free giveaways at raffles, etc. "We have quite good support from our retailers," says Newton. "Some retailers have special deals where if you buy their equipment, you'll get a free membership to our club or a 10% discount. At the raffles, any software we have is freeware or public domain material--no unauthorized copying whatsoever.''
TAF is semi-affiliated with several clubs in southern Ontario which they provide with club library disks. "We suggest that an officer of each club become a TAF member also," says Newton. "They can get a copy or two of all our disks and make duplicates for their own club members." TAF also had a booth at the April 1987 Western New York Atari Users Group Atari Fest in Buffalo.
"Mainly, however, we do a lot of swapping of our newsletters--with clubs all over the world," says Newton, "including some in the Netherlands, England, and Australia. On a business trip to Europe, I contacted some users groups for the purpose of ST disk exchanges."
The TAF newsletter, Phoenix, is usually 28 pages, typeset on the ST with a dot matrix printer and copied at a local printshop. Between 50 and 100 are sold by retailers. In March 1987, Larry Sannuto become the editor. "We're doing a lot more with graphics in the newsletter now, using DEGAS Elite on the ST," says Newton.
Of TAF's 373 family members in January 1987, 219 owned STs, of which 65-70% are 1040s. The 130XE is by far the most popular 8-bit computer used. About 90% of XE owners use Atari 1050 disk drives. Few, if any, members use cassettes anymore.
Almost all TAF members are users, not programmers. In fact, only about 5% program. TAF member James Duffin is the author of Font Maker (Antic, March 1985) and he now has a version for the ST.
XE users who do program mostly use BASIC, and ST programmers use ST BASIC, C and Pascal. ST BASIC has a narrow margin over C.
There's no club BBS, so only 15% to 25% of members go online. The most widely used online services are local bulletin boards and then CompuServe.
In order of importance, TAF members use their Ataris for:
1. Word Processing