Issue 20

Mar/Apr 86

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Atari have announced a new Midlands and Northern HELPLINE to supplement the existing southern based number. The new HELPLINE number is 021 327 2616 and it will be manned by an experienced user of both 8-bit and 16-bit systems. If you require any assistance, whether technical or otherwise, the HELPLINE operative will be able to provide an answer or refer you to the appropriate source.

The existing Southern HELPLINE will continue on 01 309 7770.


It really is on its way! Although based on a previously unreleased game called The Last Starfighter, Atari have apparently changed that game considerably to make a sequel to Star Raiders. Several improvements include a starfield that responds to the joystick, new space stations and a tactical display. STAR RAIDERS II is said to be available very soon but at a price.


There were rumours that Atari would launch new peripherals for the 8-bit computers at CES in LAS VEGAS but they failed to materialise. According to an Atari spokesman though several products will be launched at the HANOVER FAIR in April.

Included are said to be an 80 column interface, a 3" disk drive and 'possibly' a new 8-bit computer. The 3" drive is expected to be a single sided 325K drive with access time about twice as fast as the 1050. DOS 2 and 2.5 files are said to be upwardly compatible to this drive. Let's wait and see.


Just at a time when many of the major American software companies are abandoning the 8-bit market to seek new fortunes with the ST, comes an announcement from Software Express Computer Systems Ltd of a major new software publishing house that will have Atari 8-bit products at the forefront.

The new company, Software Express Computer Systems Ltd, (S.E.C.S. for short), is a collaboration between Software Express, already widely known and respected for their retail and distribution of Atari products, and Jon Dean formerly of Atari UK. Jon Dean has been a long time Atari enthusiast and believes he can now do more to keep the Atari market alive and well with the new company. He states "I realise the potential that exists for Atari 8-bit products, let alone 16-bit, and I left Atari believing I could do more for Atari from outside than from within". The company intend to introduce a whole new range of Atari products but one key point of their strategy is to ensure that the software is at realistic prices. Many new owners were attracted to the 800XL because of its price and in Jon Dean's words "have more of a bargain than they realise". The key to realising the potential of the Atari for all new owners is to ensure that good quality software is widely available at all prices starting as low as 2.99.

Another area which the company will concentrate on is PEX which stands for Program EXchange. Many existing owners will recognise the similarity of name to APX which was run by Atari in the States. The idea of PEX is to give ordinary home users the opportunity to have their programs marketed worldwide by a company capable of handling the production and distribution. Many of these programs will be of a specialist nature that most other software companies would not be interested in but Jon Dean recognises that quite often the best new ideas and approaches often come from home programmers. The company hope to evaluate all types of software submitted from ordinary users and will work closely with authors whose programs show potential to help bring them to the market place.

As well as producing their own titles, S.E.C.S. will agree licensing rights with both U.K. and American companies. Smaller U.K. based companies will have the opportunity to have their software distributed by a major company thus overcoming many of the difficulties faced by small companies in a large market. Several companies have already been signed up and the first products will be launched at the forthcoming Atari Computer Show in London.

The company have already made an impact in the United States with its first launch at the CES Show in Las Vegas. Another of the company's directors, Jerry Howells, who attended the show pronounced the company launch a "complete success" with several licensing deals agreed and guaranteed U.S. distribution for all S.E.C.S. software.

The company will produce software for all computers but with the Directors' background rooted firmly with Atari, Atari software will be at the forefront. In the meantime, if you have a program that you feel has sales potential, Jon Dean would like to hear from you. Programs, with supporting documentation, should be submitted direct to Jon Dean, S.E.C.S., 6, Callow Croft, Burbage, Wiltshire, SN8 3TB.


Another company new to Atari products is Gremlin Graphics. The company believe that ATARI will have a big impact this year and have released two new titles, ZONE X and KING OF THE RING. ZONE X has 3 levels and over 300 screens in which the player has to 'make safe' plutonium waste whilst avoiding the usual adversaries. KING OF THE RING is a boxing game in which you can take your fighter to the world championship. Makes a change from karate!