Issue 4

Jul/Aug 83

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Biggest news this month, indeed this year, is the unveiling by Atari at the Chicago Consumer Electronics how of FOUR new machines. Top of the range is the 1450XLD which if marketed properly could leave a lot of rotting Apples about! The computer features a built-in double sided, double-density disk drive with provision to add a further drive. Also a built-in modem and a built-in voice synthesizer. The disk drive will operate two to three times faster than the current drive. Nothing revolutionary you might think, but wait for the price. Under $1000. That's just over 700. What is going to make this all the more remarkable is a CP/M expansion unit allowing literally hundreds of business programs to run on the Atari.

Next down the line is the 1400XL which is essentially the same without the built-in disk drive, followed by the 800XL about which no details are known at present. The lower end of the range is the 600XL which comes as 16K but is expandable to 64K. All the machines are said to include built-in Atari Basic (Revision B).

Not only new computers but new peripherals. A new letter quality printer, the ATARI 1027, which does not require an interface. A new Disk Drive, the 1050, with DOS 2.OS and DOS 3.0 available later in the year providing double density. A new direct-connect modem with auto facilities. New joysticks (including remote control), a TRAK-BALL, light pen and (hopefully at a reasonable price) a graphics touch tablet.


There has been quite a stir around Birmingham in recent weeks with the opening of the Birmingham Atari Centre run by Home Entertainments Ltd. The shop is believed to be the U.K.'s first dedicated Atari Centre selling Atari Home Computers and supporting software and peripherals. No Spectrums, no Orics, no Vics, nothing but the best!

Before embarking on this venture Home Entertainments did a lot of market research amongst existing computer owners and intending purchasers. They found an almost unanimous response, what people wanted was somewhere they could find detailed information on their computer, where they could ask questions and be confident of obtaining a direct and knowledgeable reply. In short, somewhere that dealt with their computer and their computer only. A specialist shop. With the Birmingham Atari Centre, Home Entertainments have set out to provide just that. All of their staff are Atari owners and enthusiasts headed by Retail Sales Manager Keith Mason whose whole philosophy is to provide a complete service for the Atari owner. Keith told me, " What we hope to do is build a reputation on service and knowledge of the whole Atari scene, so that any Atari owner, or prospective purchaser, will know that he can come to us in the full expectation of finding what he wants or having his questions answered." To this end, the company has been working closely with the local User Group and hope to establish a back-up service second to none. If the folks in the shop can't answer your question they should be able to put you on to someone who can.

At the moment the Company are concentrating on providing a first-class service for users in the West Midlands. They will shortly turn their attention to Mail Order but only when they know they can extend their service to this area. They have also introduced a Home Demonstration team, again staffed by people with Atari background, to provide you with a demonstration of the Atari Computers in your own home where you can see the machines to best advantage and ask whatever questions you wish. Here again the emphasis will be on after sales service as they are conscious that home computing goes far beyond just buying a piece of hardware. Once you have bought an Atari, you can be confident that the full knowledge and assistance of the people at the Atari Centre will be available to you.

The shop has only been open a few weeks but already Keith Mason has built up a considerable number of contacts in America and was one of the first in the U.K. to learn about Atari's new machines. With the phone lines buzzing between here and the U.S., there should be no more long waits for news to reach the U.K., which can only be to the good of all U.K. Atari owners.

The prospects certainly seem exciting but only time will tell whether the U.K. can support a dedicated independent Atari Centre. With many of the other 'specialist' shops drifting away to other machines there is certainly a need amongst Atari owners for such a centre but also a lingering doubt about whether a retail outlet dedicated to one machine can survive. That will depend very much on the individual user. If only Atari would recognise the amount of support and enthusiasm that exists for their machines and adjust their marketing accordingly, there would be no doubt about the success of the Birmingham Atari Centre and of Atari as the number one computer in the U.K.