Ken Shiu




Ken Shiu







In 1986, being an Atari 800 user, a teenager and based in Sydney Australia - the last thing I expected was to have my Smartsheet program picked up for publication in Page 6, a UK magazine. At the time I was heavily involved as a committee member and editor for the Sydney Atari User Group. Like most of the other members at the time (from all walks of life) we had a common interest in tinkering around with our Ataris and trying to understand bulletin boards and how to emulate stuff like display list interrupts, graphics and sounds that we saw in commercial software. In the pre-internet days, being an Atari computer geek still had the personal element of meeting and sharing knowledge and ideas in person with other like minded folk. Games were a common theme but most Atari users also wanted to break the gaming mould and I remember many weird and wonderful non-game applications that were written for the Atari 400/800. Like most users, overseas magazines like Compute! and Antic were must haves.

I was originally inspired to write Smartsheet as a small after-school hours project. I had played around with Viscalc on the Apple IIe in the local computer shop I used to play around in after school. I thought I would test the limits of my Basic programming skills to see if I could write a cut-down emulation of a spreadsheet program for the 800. I remember starting one weekend and like most programmers, once the momentum builds it kind of snowballed from there. Given today's instant broadband and CD/DVD storage technology, I'm amazed we ever had the patience to sit there listening to our cassette drives "buzzing" as they loaded software and data.

Smartsheet was finished in just under 2 months (of serious after school labour). I remember winning an award for it by my local Atari user group but it got coverage in the US via the Michigan Atari Computer Enthusiasts publication which later led to Page 6. I remember getting a letter from Les Ellingham telling me my program was being published and I was totally thrilled to bits.

I later upgraded my trusty Atari 800 to a 1040ST which served me well during university. Although I (and those around me) thought I might have become a computer programmer or engineer, computers have more or less been intertwined in my career. Now as a technology lawyer, new technology still gives me a buzz but like so many other 80s computer hacks, my days toying around with my Atari 800 and befriending other Atari users were times I look back on with very fond memories.

I am forever in debt to my father who had the foresight to get me a Atari 800 (instead of an Apple IIe or C-64!!)

Ken Shiu, October 2006