That was 1985

 

Issue 19

Jan/Feb 86

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A few of our contributors pick their highlights of 1985

As 1985 draws to a close we wanted to summarise what has probably been the most eventful year in Atari's history and so we asked several of our regular contributors to put together 10 "events" that they considered to be the most significant during the year. Here is what they had to say.

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STEVE PEDLER whose article on ANTIC modes 4/5 was appreciated by many of our readers and whose Display Lists article is currently running, had this to say.

Picking ten 'significant events' was not as easy as I first thought. I have tried to keep to sensible suggestions as follows.

1. Release of the 520ST. Surely everyone's choice for the event of the year, this is the machine which will make or break Atari over the next 18 months. Presumably also at the top of every Atari owner's Christmas present list. Santa, are you listening....?

2. Release of the 130XE computer. If you believe (as I do) that, contrary to the 'industry observers' there is still a future in 8 bit micros, then this is the best there is. It even includes a manual!

3. Launch of 'Atari User' magazine. It may be a competitor for PAGE 6, but anything that increases public awareness of Atari has to be a good thing. I'm sure every Atari owner wishes them all the best for the New Year.

4. Acorn shares cease trading, Sinclair heavily in debt, Commodore computers no longer stocked by major retailers. We shouldn't gloat over the misfortunes of others, but after all the trouble Atari had in 1984, when they all said Atari was dead, isn't it just a little bit gratifying?

5. Atari 800XL announced on TV to be the home micro of the year. We all knew it anyway, so what took them so long? 

6. DOS 2.5 released by Atari. Significant for three reasons. It means that all Atari disk drive users have a compatible DOS. Secondly, Atari more or less gave it away - a welcome change from their previous attitudes towards software prices. Third, they actually admitted they had made a mistake with DOS 3.0. You wouldn't find that old Atari doing that! 

7. Atari announce that the 130ST has been abandoned. If Atari have made a mistake this year, the this is it. The 520ST is great value for money, but there just aren't that many people around with 750 for a personal computer. The 130ST looked rather more affordable.

8. Several U.K. software houses bring out programs for the Atari. At long last, signs that the British software industry has realised that there is life beyond the Spectrum.

9. Infocom release 'Hitchiker's Guide' and 'Wishbringer'. Thus proving, as if it were really needed, that they are the best in the adventure game business.

10. 'Rescue on Fractalus' released at last! Last but not least of my events of the year. Was it worth waiting for? No question about it, this is one of the all time greats of computer games.

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MARK HUTCHINSON has helped many beginners find their feet both through his First Steps column and by many hours spent answering people's letters. He is now finding his way around the 520ST but still has a regard for those of you starting out and will continue to write First Steps as well as help with your problems. Here is what he has to say about 1985.

1. THE 520ST. When you consider that you can purchase a 512k 16 bit computer with hi-res monitor, 500k mini drive, mouse and several software packages all for the price that a 48k 800 cost when it first arrived in the UK and it is considerably less costly than its rivals, the 520ST must be the highlight of the year.

2. MICROLINK. Until now Atari owners have been left out of accessing the myriad data bases that have been available to other home computer users. The first few hundred hours may not come cheap due to the perennial problem of finding your feet on a new system, however, once you know what to do, the services available will be relatively cheap.

3. MIRACLE TECHNOLOGY. With the Atari 850 interface so hard to get, it is nice to see a firm take the plunge and not only design and build modems and an interface, but release software to back it up.

4. GST for the ST. As usual, when a new computer hits the market, the initial software tends to be expensive and the ST seems to be no exception. GST are selling a macro assembler for 40 and a compiler for 60. These prices are in line with the same software for the 8-bit machines. This beats 160-odd for the Metacomco screen editor. 

5. MAGAZINES. A big thank-you to the magazines who have accepted ATARI articles and especially to those 100% ATARI magazines who have helped owners through thick and thin. 

6. DEALERS. During the boom time for computers it seemed that almost every high street shop stocked some kind of computer. When the quick profit was no longer to be had, the stock was off loaded leaving many owners with nowhere to go for software. It is nice to see that some dealers had faith in ATARI and have stayed with it.

7. PRICES. The main complaint about ATARI has been the price of software. Walk into a shop and price the same program for ATARI and Sinclair. The reason for the higher ATARI price was that the original ATARI programs were overpriced and many software houses felt that the market could sustain such prices. However, some UK writers have come up with very good software that they package and sell themselves. You may criticise the packaging and moan about mail order but you will find, in the majority of cases, the programs are well worth the exceptionally low prices asked. 

8. 130XE, At last an affordable high memory computer! Five years ago I could have upgraded an ATARI 400 to 256k using a bank select 'RAMDISK' from and American firm called The Memory Mill. The cost was unbelievable. Now ATARI are to the fore with a cheap, very powerful machine. 

9. YOU. Let's face it, if it wasn't for you sticking with your machine I wouldn't be writing this, so choose this one for yourself.

10. JACK TRAMIEL For making it all happen.

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What about some views from a professional programmer? As well as contributing regularly to PAGE 6, MATTHEW JONES has written MULTI-VIEWTERM for Miracle technology and is currently working on the 'ultimate' communications package for the ST.

Top ten events of significance? Well these were significant to me and to Atari.

1. MULTI-VIEWTERM hit the streets. Apart from the personal interest I have in it, this marked the end of the age old 'It can do everything except access Prestel' problem. VIEWTERM is the world's first 'proper' Viewdata terminal program - and it's British!

2. The 520ST. Whilst others will probably have mentioned it, I think the most significant release of the ST package was the editor program, weeks after the machine itself, which meant we could actually start typing in some programs!

3. The PCW Show. Not only because of the ST launch, but also because I bought COLOURSPACE (Llamasoft) and spent many nights afterwards 'blowing my mind' with it. It is brilliant!

4. Atari User was launched. While I don't think it is a good as PAGE 6, it does increase the Atari's visibility in the high street.

5. I never realised there was so much in PAGE 6 until it came out on disk. I never quite get round to typing in all those interesting programs (being a professional programmer and writing my own of course...) and even though I was sceptical about the value of a disk subscription, I took the plunge. I am amazed at the quality of the content - and without any typing errors! Well worth it.

6. SpartaDOS. Undoubtedly THE DOS for the Atari, especially XL/XE's. The power of it is incredible, but watch out. I am thinking of buying a 130XE just to get the full benefits of this disk operating system. 1050 owners can buy the U.S.Doubler and never wait for the disk drive again.

7. BOOTS the chemists used the Atari as a 'point-of-sale' advertiser. Used to promote 'Insignia' toiletries, it shows that the Atari is more than just a games machine to gather dust.

8. The Copyright Amendment Act came into power. Perhaps now pirates (read thieves) will leave (Atari) software alone and the infernal 'but you can't buy software locally' problem will go away.

9. ANTIC released BBCS, the Bulletin Board Construction Set. I bought one direct and it is incredible. By the time you read this, I should be running a new board, ABC. BBCS is going to take over the bulletin board world. This may now be available from Software Express.

10. I thought that at least one of the ten should be for bad news but I can't think of anything specific. What could be better though is the level of support for Atari on the streets. Atari users must support their machine. When others talk of computers, don't shy away because you have an Atari, be proud! We know we have the best machines available, let's tell everyone!

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Our regular software reviewer, JIM SHORT, naturally chose ten software releases.

At the beginning of the year Atari was in a severe state of decline and new software was pretty thin on the ground. How times change. Atari is now back at the top, or very nearly, and there is now a wealth of software at reasonable prices produced in the U.K. thanks to people like ARIOLASOFT, ACTIVISION, U.S. GOLD and others.

So many good games have been released in the last few months that whittling them down to a 'Top Ten' has been no easy task, however I've sifted through them and come up with what I think are the best games of '85 A couple of them have been available before 1985 on import but I've included them because they have only just been officially released in this country so to recent Atari owners they will be regarded as new games. For what it's worth my ten software greats of '85 are as follows

1 RESCUE ON FRACTALUS   Lucasfilm/Activision 

2 DROPZONE   Arena Graphics/US Gold

3 BOUNTY BOB STRIKES BACK   Big 5/US Gold 

4 ARCHON   Electronic Arts/Ariolasoft 

5 OLLIE'S FOLLIES   US Gold 

6 H.E.R.O.   Activision

7 BOULDERDASH   First Star/Mirrorsoft 

8 DROL   Broderbund

9 F-15 STRIKE EAGLE   Microprose/US Gold 

10 STEALTH   Broderbund

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And finally what about the Editor? Having set others the ask, I sat down to compose my own ten events (before I received any others) and it has been interesting to see how my thoughts compare with other contributors. So....

1. 520ST. To be honest I was a little dubious about its value to anyone who already had an ATARI 8-bit system. When I got one, all doubts were cast aside. Some of the software, even in demo form, far outclasses anything you've seen before and nobody really knows the machine well yet! 

2. 260ST. It hasn't even appeared yet but I believe it is crucial to the survival of many of the software houses who have committed themselves to the ST. 750 is cheap for business, expensive for entertainment and a lower price model will convert many more.

3. PCW 85. The first show in years to make non-committed users and companies aware of what ATARI is (and has always been) about.

4. ATARI MARKETING. They must have done one hell of a job to persuade so many companies to write for the ST but, as usual, they didn't tell anybody about it so, yet again, we all though they were doing nothing. 

5. ATARI USER. Significant and a brave gamble. Atari finally realised (as PAGE 6 passed its third birthday) that there really is a benefit in having a dedicated magazine. 

6. COLOURSPACE. Perhaps the first original concept since the first five ideas were copied time and again. Perhaps Llamasoft will think further ahead and put it on disk. 

7. PAGE 6's THIRD BIRTHDAY. Passed virtually unnoticed with issue 18. No party, no cards let's save them for our TENTH birthday!

8. PAGE 6 CONTRIBUTORS. Without whom you would have nothing to read. Thanks for all the quality work and programs and thanks for not deserting us. I have worked hard to make PAGE 6 a magazine where people can feel proud to have their articles and programs published and where writing from the heart beats writing for a job.

9. ANTIC'S WORLDWIDE USERS NETWORK. A laudable idea but included as the 'bad' event of the year. Virtually every newsletter in the States now syndicates their material thus stifling originality and making the latest 'news' from the States seem boring after reading it for the third time. 

10. THE COPYRIGHT AMENDMENT ACT. I said in the last editorial that I would not bore you further so you all know why.

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