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What is your opinion of Jack Tramiel?


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#101 kool kitty89 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:31 PM

Apparently, there will never be an end to second-guessing the Tramiels, with 25 years of hindsight. Honestly! I'm not here to defend Tramiels, but this just never seems to end. The Federated purchase was a mistake, but what semiconductor manufacturer could have been purchased for the price of a tiny, failing retail chain? It's as if we're to pretend that back in 1985 (when we were 15 years old, 7 years old, or not even born - depending upon age of the reader here) we should have been calling the shots from within our child skin, with 2012 knowledge. We're also to pretend that Atari wasn't a tiny company on a shoestring budget. The reality - once again - is that while there were PLENTY of mistakes made, but in the bigger picture, it's kind of a miracle that they were able to cobble together what they did with as little as they did, and I am glad! Lots of other people would have made worse decisions, and would NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE to make a go of it and make Atari last the time that it did, when forces (that are evident to us now with hindsight) were so stacked against them, as we now know. I think we should LIMIT the criticisms to small, managable ones..... They should have put 720K floppy drives in the ST from the start. They should have made RAM expandable on the first STs. Let's limit it to possible, plausible arguments.



Federated wasn't cheap. Once factoring in the costs of closing it down, it was around $250-$350 million. And yes, a chip fab company [or two] could've been purchased for that price.

Or, aside from that, you could argue for investing that money in other things. (like R&D and/or advertising . . .or manufacturing -especially given the shortages that plagued the ST several times in its life)

Although I do agree with you that there never should've been a 360k disc drive option. But a machine like the MegaST should've been rolled out in 86 and not 87...

A disagree on the 360k drive issue, it was necessary for offering low cost (especially early on) and establishing the ST successfully as a low-cost high-performance machine. (especially in the price-sensitive European market)

However, I also think they should have prominently offered a 720k option from day 1 (among the other things mentioned above -desktop form factor, higher-end models, built-in and external HDD options, more provisions for expansion, and possibly even lower-end models -for the entry level and especially low-end market in Europe . . . aside from the hardware issues like scrolling/chunky pixels/DMA sound) And there's the missed potential for disk/file-level PC compatibility too. (and offering optional 5.25" drives to cater to that)

And hell, mainstream PCs were still only using 360k DSDD 40 track 5.25" disks (with IBM introducing 1.2 MB HD 5.25" disks on the high-end PC/AT range in '84) and early Macs were only 400k too. (so Atari still ahead of mid-range PCs in that respect -and almost every other respect too, save expandability . . . and 3rd party software support, and obviously at a fraction of the price of such PCs -or at least moderately cheaper and much more capable than the Tandy-1000 -which were the only really value-oriented PCs availalble at the time, though even those had the advantage of expandability -albeit with proprietary cards in the case of the HX/EX console models)

#102 Lynxpro OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:30 PM

A disagree on the 360k drive issue, it was necessary for offering low cost (especially early on) and establishing the ST successfully as a low-cost high-performance machine. (especially in the price-sensitive European market)

However, I also think they should have prominently offered a 720k option from day 1 (among the other things mentioned above -desktop form factor, higher-end models, built-in and external HDD options, more provisions for expansion, and possibly even lower-end models -for the entry level and especially low-end market in Europe . . . aside from the hardware issues like scrolling/chunky pixels/DMA sound) And there's the missed potential for disk/file-level PC compatibility too. (and offering optional 5.25" drives to cater to that)



Problem is, by 1987, the Amiga 500 was out and it had the 880k disk drive standard while Atari only had 720k at the top end and was still peddling the 360k SF354.68

And by the time the STE [and/or MegaSTE] came out, it probably should've had a Motorola 68020 packed in but Atari wasn't hot on that processor plus they probably figured such a move might eat into TT sales.

I'm still surprised to this day that the STE didn't even match the Amiga 32-color modes four years later. That was just plain odd on their part.

#103 kool kitty89 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:01 AM


A disagree on the 360k drive issue, it was necessary for offering low cost (especially early on) and establishing the ST successfully as a low-cost high-performance machine. (especially in the price-sensitive European market)

However, I also think they should have prominently offered a 720k option from day 1 (among the other things mentioned above -desktop form factor, higher-end models, built-in and external HDD options, more provisions for expansion, and possibly even lower-end models -for the entry level and especially low-end market in Europe . . . aside from the hardware issues like scrolling/chunky pixels/DMA sound) And there's the missed potential for disk/file-level PC compatibility too. (and offering optional 5.25" drives to cater to that)



Problem is, by 1987, the Amiga 500 was out and it had the 880k disk drive standard while Atari only had 720k at the top end and was still peddling the 360k SF354.68

And by the time the STE [and/or MegaSTE] came out, it probably should've had a Motorola 68020 packed in but Atari wasn't hot on that processor plus they probably figured such a move might eat into TT sales.

I'm still surprised to this day that the STE didn't even match the Amiga 32-color modes four years later. That was just plain odd on their part.

Yes, they definitely should have kept things moving and pushed for gradually improving standards across the board. (ie from bottom end up to the top end models -especially if they'd actually pushed into higher-end systems early on)

They should have phased out the 360k drives in favor of 720k standard (and 1.44 options -standard on top-end models) around '87, as well as other areas. (like faster CPUs and improved graphics/sound)
Having an '020 as the baseline standard would have been a bit much (and probably ruined their low-end market segment), but pushing for 12 or 16 MHz and starting to phase out the 8 MHz models might have been a good idea around 1989 (with '020/'030 models offered in the mid-range and high end) . . . and they should have introduced 12/16 MHz models in the high-end a couple years prior to that. (honestly, a blitter probably would be way down on the list of important features to have . . . CPU/bus speed, bitmap graphics modes -chunky pixel, scrolling, higher color depths, more resolutions, etc, and a decent sound upgrade -what the STe got was OK- were all more important -hardware evolution with similar performance upgrades as x86 PCs would have made sense -ie fully hardware accelerated graphics not being common/standard until the mid 1990s, but an emphasis on performance in other areas -especially raw CPU grunt, along with decent sound and video capabilities . . . and in that respect, assuming Atari had been successful enough to still have new ST/TT models by 1993/1994, it would have been interesting if they'd opted to integrate the Jaguar chipset -or a derivative thereof- into their computers ;))

Of course, Atari didn't release any faster 68000 based models until 1991 (with the MSTE -and even that was still stuck with the old/slow external bus) . . . faster 68000s should have been pushed for as the next step from day 1 of the ST's release, and at least should have been offered by the time of the Mega ST. (there are some technical issues to consider -and several different routes for implementing faster CPUs and/or buses, but none of those should have prevented at least a 12 MHz model by 1987, if not 16 MHz)

Then again, Commodore never released any faster 68000 based amigas either.


The one area that would have been tough to increase the minimum standard amount would be with RAM, mainly due to the 1988 DRAM crisis inducing prices to rise substantially and stagnate for a year or so after that. It wasn't until 1990 that prices dropped below the low they'd reached in 1987, so it would have made sense to stick with 512k standard on low-end models while focusing on improving other areas of the hardware (since silicon was still getting cheaper and newer/denser ASICs using smaller processes would be common -so consolidation and enhancement of the base chipset). And they could probably bump it up to 1MB as the baseline standard by some point in 1990. (and the prices fell rapidly from 1990 through 1992, but then stagnated around $3/Mbit until early 1996 -faster chips should still have been getting cheaper in that time, but the baseline price for the common grades stagnated -albeit you'd have some of those faster chips moving into that baseline category too)
http://phe.rockefell...b/DRAM/dram.htm

#104 kool kitty89 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:47 PM

A note on the 1993-1995 DRAM prices:
There was a major shortage of RAM in 1993 due to a fire in a Japanese epoxy resin factory. (compared to the 1988 crisis, the average prices only increased modestly, though they stagnated around that price for significantly longer than from the 1988 shortage)

And another interesting note from some PC dealers/repair shops mentioned from the time was used/old-stock RAM modules becoming extremely attractive during that time due to the price increase on new RAM. (particularly noted was older 256 kB SIMMs being relatively cheap)
Like mentioned here: http://www.redhill.net.au/b/b-93.html (under the 386SX-33 board)

Edited by kool kitty89, Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:56 PM.


#105 wood_jl OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:07 AM



A disagree on the 360k drive issue, it was necessary for offering low cost (especially early on) and establishing the ST successfully as a low-cost high-performance machine. (especially in the price-sensitive European market)

However, I also think they should have prominently offered a 720k option from day 1 (among the other things mentioned above -desktop form factor, higher-end models, built-in and external HDD options, more provisions for expansion, and possibly even lower-end models -for the entry level and especially low-end market in Europe . . . aside from the hardware issues like scrolling/chunky pixels/DMA sound) And there's the missed potential for disk/file-level PC compatibility too. (and offering optional 5.25" drives to cater to that)



Problem is, by 1987, the Amiga 500 was out and it had the 880k disk drive standard while Atari only had 720k at the top end and was still peddling the 360k SF354.68

Yes, they definitely should have kept things moving and pushed for gradually improving standards across the board. (ie from bottom end up to the top end models -especially if they'd actually pushed into higher-end systems early on)

They should have phased out the 360k drives in favor of 720k standard (and 1.44 options -standard on top-end models) around '87, as well as other areas. (like faster CPUs and improved graphics/sound)


The trouble is that once they established the lowest common denominator of single-sided 360K 3.5" drives, it could not be abandoned. Software had to be forevermore distributed on these wasteful, low-capacity disks. They *did* eventually upgrade the 520STfm to double-sided, but the first sentence of this paragraph still applied.

Asking for more colors, different processors, or even a 1.44MB drive is a MUCH taller request. There are way too many factors to "after-the-fact armchair quarterback with 25 years hindsight" on those complicated issues. 720K drive is a VERY uncomplicated, existing drive mech swap that was eventually done, and as Lynxpro said, Amiga had 880K.

Single-sided drives didn't hurt so much in the 5.25" era, as you still got 360K per double-density disk by flipping it. As you obviously couldn't flip a 3.5" disk, it resulted in tremedous media waste. As is any other hindsight consideration, it's easy to overlook how much things (as with RAM and hard disks, too) cost back in 1985. Floppy disks were NOT cheap, and it was a travesty to waste half of one with a single-sided 3.5" drive, especially for a kid in 1985 throwing newspapers or working at McDonald's.

Edited by wood_jl, Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:08 AM.


#106 kool kitty89 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 13, 2012 2:31 AM

The trouble is that once they established the lowest common denominator of single-sided 360K 3.5" drives, it could not be abandoned. Software had to be forevermore distributed on these wasteful, low-capacity disks. They *did* eventually upgrade the 520STfm to double-sided, but the first sentence of this paragraph still applied.

This is always the case though. You either aim at lower cost/price and a broader market, or you push for a higher minimum standard at the expense of higher price/cost and more limited market. (in the US, 720k probably would have made sense -as would aiming at a higher-end market in general, but it could have ruined them in Europe as well as losing a fair chunk of the lower-end niche in the US -and whether they actually would have been more successful pushing mainly towards a higher/mid-range price even in the US is debatable -the bigger issue for the US market was marketing/distribution -albeit not having a desktop form factor hurt market perception too)

However, a better compromise would be making 360k the low-end standard, but prominently offering a 720k option from day 1 and making that the standard on higher-end models.

Also, lowest common denominators will change over time . . . look at PCs. 360k 40 track DSDD 5.25" disks was the bottom standard, but with 1.2 MB 5.25" and DD and HD 3.5" gradually becoming more and more popular, there was a shift in favor of higher densities, with both 1.2 and 1.44 MB disks becoming common by the beginning of the 90s (and most software transitioning to one or both of those formats by the early 90s -often with mail-in options for older formats), and eventually dropping 5.25" all together (around 1994, not long before most software switched to CD-ROM)

And with the ST, we'd be talking a much simpler situation than with PCs too, since you'd have 3.5" standard from the start, so only the matter of going to DSDD and then DSHD.formats later on. (with both users and publishers transitioning between those)

Plus, if you standardized a higher density for later models with other specific hardware features, than software specific to those newer features (graphics/sound/CPU/etc) would naturally cater to the newer disks too, without even having to offer lower-end options. (since it wouldn't be able to run on those models anyway)

The bigger issue would be maintaining the market such that users consistently transition to the newer hardware. (and, obviously, offering said hardware in a timely and affordable manner)

Asking for more colors, different processors, or even a 1.44MB drive is a MUCH taller request. There are way too many factors to "after-the-fact armchair quarterback with 25 years hindsight" on those complicated issues. 720K drive is a VERY uncomplicated, existing drive mech swap that was eventually done, and as Lynxpro said, Amiga had 880K.

Again, there's still the cost issue.
And, as for the upgrades hardware (graphics/sound/CPU/etc), that was mainly in the context of expanding/evolving the line to keep it competitive (and expand the range of market segments it catered to). (albeit things like DMA sound and/or scrolling and/or chunky pixels and/or lower res modes -and certainly an expansion port/enhanced cart interface- may have been possible without compromising the price or release date -more an issue of design direction . . . though it probably would have been delayed if all those features were added -cost/price still probably wouldn't be a problem though)

Lack of consistent, timely, well-thought-out, efficient upgrades were one of the biggest problems with the ST (and Amiga for that matter).


Single-sided drives didn't hurt so much in the 5.25" era, as you still got 360K per double-density disk by flipping it. As you obviously couldn't flip a 3.5" disk, it resulted in tremedous media waste. As is any other hindsight consideration, it's easy to overlook how much things (as with RAM and hard disks, too) cost back in 1985. Floppy disks were NOT cheap, and it was a travesty to waste half of one with a single-sided 3.5" drive, especially for a kid in 1985 throwing newspapers or working at McDonald's.

But drivers weren't cheap either . . . so the question would be just how much more expensive a DSDD drive was compared to SSDD. (even Apple made that decision with the original Mac)


Another argument could be for using cheaper/common 5.25" disks/drives instead (common 40 track DSDD 360k disks -like PCs were using), and that would have had the advantage of greater potential (out of the box) PC compatibility on top of cost . . . but there's a whole other set of trade-offs. (from the practical -possibly media reliability issues- and aesthetic -3.5" made the ST look more high-tech)
Plus, 40 track disks also are a bit funky to move forward with since there's some level of incompatibility with 80 track (720k and 1.2 MB) disks (namely issues with old 40 track disks reading 40 track disks written/modified on 80 track drives) . . . PCs experienced this problem. (albeit, if Atari had used 720k DSDD 80 track disks from the start, they'd avoid that problem and have higher capacity than the SSDD disks used -plus cheaper drives and media- though PC compatibility would be more limited -the 80 vs 40 track issue as well as the limited support for 720k DSDD 80 track 5.25" disks on PCs -unlike 360k and 1.2 MB, which were both standardized by IBM)
Hell, they could have used a single-sided 80 track DD drive and still allowed 720k via flipping. ;)

I already started a discussion on just this issue back here:
http://www.atariage....28#entry2168328
(from a practical sense, I still think 5.25" disks may have been better than what Atari used -be it 80 or 40 track, but from a marketing perspective it's a bit of a mess)

#107 Lynxpro OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 13, 2012 7:54 AM

I don't remember that big of a price difference between the SF314 and the SF354. Was it $50 or $100? Competent sales staff would've swayed people over to the SF314 by explaining the long term cost of wasting theoretical disc space by only having a 360k drive. The SF354 was persona non-grata in the user's groups I belonged to...

#108 kool kitty89 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 14, 2012 6:06 PM

I don't remember that big of a price difference between the SF314 and the SF354. Was it $50 or $100? Competent sales staff would've swayed people over to the SF314 by explaining the long term cost of wasting theoretical disc space by only having a 360k drive. The SF354 was persona non-grata in the user's groups I belonged to...

The big issue would be the price back in 1984/85 (when the ST was being readied for release and actually launched) . . . allowing only 720k drives from the start would have meant stocking those parts earlier on at higher cost (or risking shortages by waiting until closer to the release date).

If it was only a $50 (retail) difference, that would have been a good investment . . . $100 would have been more problematic, but perhaps still more worthwhile. (the issue is having competent sales people to explain things -and/or comprehensive advertising . . . neither of which Atari had consistently at the time -and usergroups would be veryhelpful with that sort of information too, but many average consumers wouldn't consult those sorts of things prior to making a purchase -more likely after the fact)

Albeit, by the time the 520ST really fell into the mainstream low-end market (especially in Europe) around 1987, the cost of the DS drives would probably be a non-issue anyway . . . and standardizing them from day 1 could have further deflated the price due to economies of scale.

Edited by kool kitty89, Sat Jan 14, 2012 6:08 PM.


#109 carmel_andrews OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:08 AM

I think synertec also supplied apple with their 6502 (for the apple 8bit family)

Didn't know that synertec had been gobbled up per honeywell (anyway what were honeywell doing buying up non intel chip companies, since their pc maker, honeywell bull made pcs under their own moniker)

CSG and the company it became (EMT Microtronics) I think went bankrupt/bust in the early part of the last decade (CSG were bought out (apparently) by CSG's own management

Interesting that CSG didn't try incorporating Amiga tech into their existing technology (just think how much better the C=65 would have been)

Edited by carmel_andrews, Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:09 AM.





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