Turn of the Year

by Les Ellingham



Issue 13

Jan/Feb 85

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This time last year I wrote an article entitled Turn of the Year which took a look back at the year just ending. The year which is now drawing to a close has not been a particularly good one for Atari and their followers so this time let's cast an eye forward.

Over the past couple of months there have been many rumours about what Atari will be doing next year, much of it pure speculation, so to try and give you a factual report of what you will see from Atari in 1985, I spoke to Jon Dean, Computer Products Manager in the U. K Marketing Division. Sounding positive and enthusiastic about the future he told me "It is Atari's intention to provide the very latest technology at very competitive prices". Some of you may feel that that is just good sales talk so read on to find out what Atari will be doing in 1985.

To start with let's take a look at what Atari are doing now. Most importantly they are advertising, and spending 2 - 3 million up to Christmas, to make people aware of Atari. They readily admit that they may not come out on top over Christmas but part of the campaign is to make people aware once again of the Atari name so that the new products to be introduced in 1985 will get off to a flying start. During 1985 they will be spending considerably in excess of the present advertising budget to bring new products to the home and business markets and are likely with their new 16-bit machine, to create a new and exciting 'middle' market that will blur the lines between home and business use.

The Company will operate on three levels in future. They will continue to support the XL series and will introduce refinements to the range. I put to Jon Dean the recent report of a 128k 800XL but he was unable to confirm or deny this when we spoke as no details or specifications had been provided to Atari in the U. K. New products will be introduced and Atari is actively encouraging third party software producers as well as planning some titles of their own. Although termed the "lower-end" market, the XLs will not be thought of as 'entertainment only' machines. The entertainment side will not be overlooked but there will shortly be a range of General Business applications and a range of Educational software which will, subject only to memory restrictions, be compatible with the XL and the 400/800 computers. Some of these titles will be Atari's own but most will be produced by third parties with the full support of Atari

Of immediate interest to disk drive owners is the imminent release by Atari of a disk based Adventure set in "sleazy down-town New Jersey". Titled THE PAYOFF it is a text adventure intended to keep you busy for weeks or months.

Continued support of the present range will be what many of you are looking for but the really exciting developments will be in the 'middle' market where for the first time Atari will really close the gap between the serious home user and the small business. To be introduced at the CES show in the States in January and expected here in April/May will be a new 16-bit machine very similar to the Apple Macintosh but in colour. It will be driven by TOS - the Tramiel Operating System - and be supported with a disk drive, probably 3 inch, and a monitor. The price for this machine? Around 400. The latest technology at very competitive prices. The machine will be fully supported with peripherals such as memory expansions allowing storage in Megabytes.

What about software? Atari are supporting development of software from some of the major U.K. producers currently working in the 16-bit field to provide general business programs as well as specific business applications. There will also be entertainment software and educational software including programs currently being developed at University level.

Sadly, but understandably, this machine will not be compatible with any of the present Atari machines but at the proposed price there is a strong case for the serious user to either trade in their present system or run two systems! For the first time truly 'serious' applications will be available to the ordinary home user but if you only used the 16-bit machine for top-class entertainment at first the enormous potential for wider use will be there. Don't forget many of us paid almost this much for a 400 and considerably more for an 800. Imagine Star Raiders in 16-bit! Imagine also switching straight over to a Megabyte database!

Can there be more? At the top end Atari is expected to introduce in late summer a 32-bit machine to take the larger business market by storm. Look for the best 32-bit machine around at the moment. Would you buy it at one fifth of the price? That is what Atari are hoping to make possible in 1985.

Those are the three sides of the new Atari. A company which now recognises that the U.K. and European markets are distinct from the U.S. XL machines will be assembled in Ireland from December and full manufacture of all machines for the European market is expected there around Spring. No more product shortages because the U.S. has to come first.

Jon Dean said I was spot on with the Editorial a couple of issues ago when I said "Atari is dead. Long live Atari". The Company that we all despaired over during the past couple of years is gone. In its place is a vibrant new Atari that will continue to support existing products and bring to the world the very best computing technology that we have come to expect from the name Atari.