Readers Write


Issue 20

Mar/Apr 86

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In the Editorial for Issue 18 I invited readers to share their thoughts on how the ST would affect the existing Atari community. Here is a selection from some of the letters received..

From Cpl John O'Halloran in BFPO 47 ....

"I have been an Atari enthusiast since 1982 when I bought my trusty old 800 and have slowly but surely delved deeper into the mysteries of the machine. Whilst not professing to be anything but a poor amateur I feel inclined to say that to the best of my knowledge there is still not an 8-bit machine to match the flexibility of my 800. My only disappointment has been in the sound capabilities and I was looking forward to the ST just to see the machine's capabilities in the sound department (Not much better than the 8-bit! Ed.).

Unfortunately I cannot see myself upgrading to an ST because, quite honestly, I believe it is going to be a full blown business machine. If however a 260ST comes out and Atari aim that more towards the home market, I may think again."

Paul Carfoot from Burton-on-Trent expresses concern that Atari may find themselves in the same position with the ST as they did with the 8-bit machine - lack of public awareness ....

"AIthough the ST is available through specialist dealers to those who already know, I have yet to see an ST in any of the multiple stores where most new customers do their shopping. Indeed I went into the computer department of a large multiple chain to ask about the ST and the assistant had never heard of it! Although Atari might have the edge now with an advanced machine, it will not be long before the opposition catch up and with companies such as Amstrad having a much higher profile in the high street Atari might find themselves in trouble.

Will I buy an ST? Probably yes, but I am being cautious to see how the market develops. I don't want to be left with a business only machine although I don't think that will happen."

Mike Doyle from Loughborough remains to be convinced ....

" I agree very much with what you say. The old 'pioneering' era of the early 400/800 days is past, although I feel that, given continued support, the 130XE will fulfil the needs of the average (and discerning!) home user for a long time yet. I use my 130XE for membership and publicity records for a drama group, word processing and home record keeping, as well as all those marvellous games.

But what about the 520ST? I bought my first 400 four years ago. What persuaded me to buy it was one game - you guessed it, Star Raiders! I was mesmerised by it, but I have yet to see any software for the ST which brings back that feeling. I am not knocking the ST, its specification is great but I want to see a machine like the rumoured 260ST at a price that will make it a 'people's computer' and thus persuade software houses to support it.

The ST's deserve to succeed but I am waiting to see if the 260ST serves my needs. If the 260ST or an equivalent machine does not arrive, Atari will be making a big mistake, they have the opportunity to bridge the gap between business and home users. The ST's will do both jobs but I will not buy one until Atari can persuade me that they really want to get ST's into the HOME and will provide or encourage the necessary software support at the right price."

Chris Darkes, who wrote Grand Prix published in issue 18, is already commltted ....

"Yes, I have bought one. I bought it for the 80 column display and GEM environment and of course to have the powerful 68000 processor to play around with. I intend to write games, home finance and a few business programs for my own use.

I also saw the mass of business software at the PCW show and very little of the things that will show the real power of the superb machine as would good arcade games. Let's face it, computers are used for business and the ST will be ideally suited but I will use mine 90% of the time for games. Although my ST will be doing some business, the main aim is to play and write games. I bought it out of my own pocket with the knowledge that the Atari 800 has served me well for five years and is good for another two. If the ST does likewise I shall be very happy. I think that the business fraternity will be surprised how many people have already purchased and will purchase an ST to have, at home, a powerful personal computer to play games."

Allan Palmer from Basingstoke commented more generally ....

"You made some interesting comments on the arrival of the ST series in your editorial. I must admit that I've felt slightly worried that the new ATARI might be moving away from the infamous range of 8-bit micros which the 400 and 800 started in 1979/80, however, with a wide base in the US and elsewhere and the range of software available, I would be surprised if the 8-bit range didn't remain viable for a while longer.

From what I've seen, I'm impressed by the ST's but I imagine it will be a while before I acquire one. The main difference between the launches of the ST and the 400/800 in the UK is that when the 400/800 was launched in this country, there was already a wide range of software available due to the UK launch being at least a year after the U.S. This time, there is a whole different ball game...."

From Steve Pedler, who wrote the excellent series on Display Lists for PAGE 6 ....

"Let me say first of all that I would love to own one, and if I had the means would buy one like a shot! I bought my Atari 800 in October 1983 and the only thing I have regretted is that I didn't buy it earlier. In particular, I would have liked to have owned an Atari in 1980 or 1981 when everything about it was new, when by simply playing around you could discover something that nobody else had yet found. The ST is at the same stage now, and I would dearly love to be in on the ground floor when users begin to get to grips with the machine. There is, however, another side to this. For the past few months I have felt that I am really beginning to know the 800, my decision to learn 6502 assembly language stems from this. If I now switched to the ST, I doubt that I would ever become as expert with the 8-bit machines as I would like.

If I decide to stay with the 800 (at least for another year or two) what are the prospects that Atari (and more importantly, perhaps, the third party software houses) will continue to support these machines? Although I have occasional doubts, reason tells me that such prospects are good. For one thing, there are many, many Atari owners, both in the U.K. and worldwide and hopefully there will be considerably more in 1986. Secondly, there will, I think, continue to be significant market for 8-bit hardware, at least for another 5 -10 years. Not everyone can afford an ST or its equivalent. 8-bit machines are cheaper, easier to understand and at present are far more attractive to the dedicated video games player. Clearly, the market will slim down. In two years from now, I believe that there will only be 2 or 3 manufacturers of 8-bit systems (Atari, Commodore and, maybe, Amstrad) so I don't think that owners of 8-bit Ataris have any cause for concern for the next few years. The market for hardware and software is simply too big to be ignored."

And what about the Editor's view after having had a 520ST for several months? Well, I have hardly scratched the surface, but I am astonished by the variety and quality of the software already released. The ST will run business applications extremely well although it does require the OS in ROM, but equally it will run games of a quality that none of you have seen before. Already there are games which show that the ST will be in a whole league above the 8-bit machines and this is only early days. It is an incredible machine. On the other hand it is expensive, too expensive for the majority of 'non-dedicated' potential home computer buyers and for those who want to program it is complex. Writing good programs on the 8-bit machines is relatively easy (easy?) but you will not find it so with the ST. One of the problems that the ST faces is that the software it can run is so diverse, no one yet knows what will be the most popular application. We shall see. In the meantime PAGE 6 will continue to support Atari in all forms according to our readers wishes.