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"Who Killed the Atari ST?" 1989 article on Atari computers


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#1 pacman000 ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Feb 28, 2018 3:06 PM

http://www.technofil...s/stdoom89.html

 

While trying to find info on Atari's PC clones, I stumbled upon this. Interesting read, if a bit choppy.



#2 oky2000 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 1, 2018 5:56 PM

Wrong again. The American public and their tiny unimaginative minds abandoned Atari and Commodore in favour of INFERIOR PC/Mac/NES rubbish long before Commodore and Atari gave up on them. In fact for the people at Atari and Commodore USA territory it must have been a serious case In the Mouth of Madness LOL

 

They concentrated on EU and AU because those were the only countries where the population wasn't interested in backwards overpriced crap like Mac/PC/NES for their homes....then again if you look at the kind of cars and music yanks were making the ST and Amiga 1000 were too good for them obviously :)



#3 landondyer OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 12:14 AM

The Mac was hardly backwards; it had some of the most sophisticated graphics and toolkit functionality on the market. And while the PC sucked, Microsoft was doing pushups and it would stop sucking in '91 or so. Apple and Microsoft had many, many more engineers than Atari did, and the writing was on the wall -- Atari was going to get buried by better software, with more breadth than the small team at Atari could ever hope to match.

 

I'm not sure what Atari could have done to be a success. They could compete on price, to a point. But Atari management was never that great at defining and providing a software platform, and there were maybe 20 software developers at Atari, and that made it really difficult to compete in the long term.


Edited by landondyer, Tue Mar 6, 2018 12:15 AM.


#4 calimero OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 6:00 AM

The Mac was hardly backwards; it had some of the most sophisticated graphics and toolkit functionality on the market. And while the PC sucked, Microsoft was doing pushups and it would stop sucking in '91 or so. Apple and Microsoft had many, many more engineers than Atari did, and the writing was on the wall -- Atari was going to get buried by better software, with more breadth than the small team at Atari could ever hope to match.

 

I'm not sure what Atari could have done to be a success. They could compete on price, to a point. But Atari management was never that great at defining and providing a software platform, and there were maybe 20 software developers at Atari, and that made it really difficult to compete in the long term.

 

 

and yet so many people and companies wrote great software for ST :) that later, when PC stop sucking in '91, was ported to Windows 3.x (just like rest of today software from other OSs at time).

 

Microsoft failed on so many promisees: OLE never bring true document integration, they even stole code to make video playback possible on Windows 3... 

Microsoft make hype on promisees but deliver just "good enough" product (destroying any competition in process by e.g. duplicating existing standards and making them property).

 

Atari could pay and hire Andreas Kromke and Behne brothers to modernize in-house Atari OS on time... Andreas wrote entire MagiC! by him self. Just like Dan Wilga with Geneva.



#5 ParanoidLittleMan OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 7, 2018 2:43 AM

This is old topic, what will be discussed for sure in next decades too. There is no single reason for how thing happened. I can only list some, which I know, and which are pretty much facts and not speculations as many told.

Atari was considered as company making gaming machines. Even when management changed, public opinion did not. Especially as Jack Tramiel made also gaming machines with Commodore :) 

Above was less present in Europe, where people wanted cheap computer for some serious work - and that worked best in Germany, where most of monochrome systems were sold.

Some serious misjudgements were made considering need of GUI OS - they planned it first with 256KB RAM and 128KB ROM. On top of it, OS is written mostly in C. What leads us to problem called Digital Research. Things are that that company was slow. And they had practically 0 experience with 68000 CPU. GEM was in early stage in 1984-5, there was no good C compiler for 68000 for instance .

Then, one of main problems and reason for lot of poorly written SW and solutions in it is really poor documentation. I wondered couple years ago why there is so much bad input code in games. Especially joystick read. Now I know the reason: the poor and not enough detailed documentation. Things are clarified about input handling much later - not by Atari.

While HW design of first ST was pretty good for it's time, further development was not so good. STE came little late out, and there were made some mistakes: bug in TOS, bad with DMA chip and even bug in audio mixer.

Then, again, lack of proper documentation and motivation of SW houses resulted in barely using new STE features in SW after 1989 .

Need to mention that releasing of Atari PC was something what did not make sales of ST serial raising.



#6 calimero OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 7, 2018 5:46 AM

@ParanoidLittleMan you know that @landondyer is one of men who made TOS, one who battle with Digital Research people...? His blog is: http://www.dadhacker.com/blog/?p=995(If somebody did not read it: it is great and first hand experience!)

 

 

It looks like Atari ST and Jack Tramiel feel lacking of Michael Tomczyk from Commodore VIC and C64 days regarding documentations...



#7 davidcalgary29 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 7, 2018 7:30 AM

Wrong again. The American public and their tiny unimaginative minds abandoned Atari and Commodore in favour of INFERIOR PC/Mac/NES rubbish long before Commodore and Atari gave up on them. In fact for the people at Atari and Commodore USA territory it must have been a serious case In the Mouth of Madness LOL
 
They concentrated on EU and AU because those were the only countries where the population wasn't interested in backwards overpriced crap like Mac/PC/NES for their homes....then again if you look at the kind of cars and music yanks were making the ST and Amiga 1000 were too good for them obviously :)

Many people fail to remember just how few decent ST software titles were released for the NTSC market, which made it very difficult to treat it as a decent gaming machine. A few companies, like Sierra, ported their games over from 85 to 88, but this paled in comparison to the humongous PC market, and I did not want another niche system (in my teens) like the A8 had turned out to be. And even here in Canada, where the ST was quite successful, it meant that I would be buying Michtron and Antic catalogue titles instead of hot new games from EA. In addition, none of the North American ST magazines did well (or lasted past 91), and were always filled with depressing letter-writing campaigns to convince software houses to port games for the system: nothing in them suggested that anything but the ST was a system on life support throughout its existence. I remember buying Barbarian in 89 for the PC: it was a terrible port, but at least I could FIND it! In the pre-graphical browser days it was very difficult to find out what was going on in Europe; if I knew, I probably would have bought a ST (and kept my A8 going as a working system after 92).

#8 Almerian ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 7, 2018 12:27 PM

 

Many people fail to remember just how few decent ST software titles were released for the NTSC market, which made it very difficult to treat it as a decent gaming machine. 

Back in the days I never got the idea that the ST was developed as a gaming machine. It was presented as a serious machine meant to compete on price and capabilities with the Apple Macintosh and IBM PC compatibles. A new breed compared to the 8 bit machines.

And as such it did well in Europe, where PCs and Apples were much more expensive, and not as widespread as in the US. I believe in the US Atari also suffered from its gaming image and doubts about the future of Atari, as expressed in articles written about the ST at the time.

It was only later that ST's and STE's were marketed as gaming machines (primarily in the UK with 512kb  versions and game packs), competing with the Amiga and C64/C128.



#9 davidcalgary29 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 7, 2018 2:05 PM

 

Back in the days I never got the idea that the ST was developed as a gaming machine. It was presented as a serious machine meant to compete on price and capabilities with the Apple Macintosh and IBM PC compatibles. A new breed compared to the 8 bit machines.

And as such it did well in Europe, where PCs and Apples were much more expensive, and not as widespread as in the US. I believe in the US Atari also suffered from its gaming image and doubts about the future of Atari, as expressed in articles written about the ST at the time.

It was only later that ST's and STE's were marketed as gaming machines (primarily in the UK with 512kb  versions and game packs), competing with the Amiga and C64/C128.

 

I don't think that you can make the same argument for North American markets. At best, both the ST and Amiga lines were considered competitive only in the relatively small home office market where there was a perceived need for light word processing and desktop publishing, but here they were first and foremost considered gaming machines. No computer here ever successfully bridged the gap between business needs and entertainment pleasures; only the development of the WinTel platform did that, I think.



#10 GlowingGhoul OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 7, 2018 3:10 PM

Wrong again. The American public and their tiny unimaginative minds abandoned Atari and Commodore in favour of INFERIOR PC/Mac/NES rubbish long before Commodore and Atari gave up on them. In fact for the people at Atari and Commodore USA territory it must have been a serious case In the Mouth of Madness LOL

 

They concentrated on EU and AU because those were the only countries where the population wasn't interested in backwards overpriced crap like Mac/PC/NES for their homes....then again if you look at the kind of cars and music yanks were making the ST and Amiga 1000 were too good for them obviously :)

The smiley face doesn't negate your nasty rhetoric. Then again, having spent many years in Britain, the impotent rage and contempt you express for Americans is typical behavior from envious middle aged British men watching their quality of life and country's influence in the world rapidly dropping.



#11 Xebec OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 7, 2018 4:52 PM

I think the dealer network situation for Atari, lack of early investment, and Tramiel getting distracted with Federated Group basically did the ST in.  IMO, Federated destroyed Atari's cash reserves making them less interested in engineering/product work, and the dealer network being leery of Atari/Tramiel made it harder to get the ST's out there in the mass quantities needed.

 

A little more useful advertising and grass roots movements would have helped a lot, and GEM not getting any real investment was also terrible. 

 

The Amiga was by far the most powerful home computer of 1985, but the ST had just as much potential for sales because it was already cheap to manufacture and had a clean/responsive GUI out of the box.  



#12 atarian1 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 8, 2018 1:48 AM

Many people fail to remember just how few decent ST software titles were released for the NTSC market, which made it very difficult to treat it as a decent gaming machine. A few companies, like Sierra, ported their games over from 85 to 88, but this paled in comparison to the humongous PC market, and I did not want another niche system (in my teens) like the A8 had turned out to be. And even here in Canada, where the ST was quite successful, it meant that I would be buying Michtron and Antic catalogue titles instead of hot new games from EA. In addition, none of the North American ST magazines did well (or lasted past 91), and were always filled with depressing letter-writing campaigns to convince software houses to port games for the system: nothing in them suggested that anything but the ST was a system on life support throughout its existence. I remember buying Barbarian in 89 for the PC: it was a terrible port, but at least I could FIND it! In the pre-graphical browser days it was very difficult to find out what was going on in Europe; if I knew, I probably would have bought a ST (and kept my A8 going as a working system after 92).

 

I have to disagree with that. In the late 80s, many of the US software houses were making ST versions of their games. You name it...(off the top of my head)...Activision, Accolade, Broderbund, Epyx, Sierra, Microprose, Mindscape, Origin, Sublogic...These are all big multi-platform game publishers in the US that published ST versions of their games. The only major US software house that didn't enthusiastically supported the ST was Electronic Arts. Just because they didn't embrace the ST doesn't mean they make up the US software market.

 

Look in Compute!, or any other Atari magazine back in the day and you will see advertisements listing an Atari ST version. I don't know what Atari magazine you were reading, but I don't recall any campaign to write to software houses to port their games to the ST. I just did a spot check of the Atari magazine archives and found nothing of this. Mostly because most software houses were releasing ST versions of their games.

 

I do agree this started to change around 1990 or so when the PCs (even Amigas) started to chip away at the ST market share. However, 1985-89 were the golden years of quantity of ST software.



#13 davidcalgary29 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 8, 2018 10:35 AM

Yes, my comment about write-in campaigns was either exaggerated or flat-out wrong, as I spent a few hours going through a stash of Antic magazines last night, and couldn't find what I was looking for. Perhaps I was confused with the A8 write-in campaigns, but I know I spotted random whining about a lack of decent software, etc., for the ST,in some of those issues. But where??

 

I do take your point about underemphasizing the US ST software output from '86 to '89, so I went back and took a look at offerings form the era...and still feel that the general response to the ST, by American software houses, was pretty underwhelming. Yes, I remember thinking that Test Drive looked like fun, and really, really wanted Arkanoid (I had no idea that an A8 version had been ported), but never saw a killer app that made me want to rush out and buy an ST. I wanted to play Thexder and King's Quest V -- and essentially anything in the Sierra catalogue -- and that meant moving on to an AT clone, even though it provided an inferior gaming experience.



#14 Goochman OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 8, 2018 11:19 AM

Only real writein campaign I remember was for Word Perfect on the ST which worked, sorta.  They ported 4.2 instead of the GUI based 5.x which was a mistake.  I bought Word Perfect for the ST and used it for a few years, but being 4.2 really hampered its effectiveness on the GUI based ST.



#15 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 8, 2018 1:38 PM

The smiley face doesn't negate your nasty rhetoric. Then again, having spent many years in Britain, the impotent rage and contempt you express for Americans is typical behavior from envious middle aged British men watching their quality of life and country's influence in the world rapidly dropping.

 

Thanks for that. I'm high on Monster Energy and can't phrase my thoughts correctly. All I can do is use simple vocabulary and type 500 WPM rite now!!!!!!



#16 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 8, 2018 1:39 PM

Wrong again. The American public and their tiny unimaginative minds abandoned Atari and Commodore in favour of INFERIOR PC/Mac/NES rubbish long before Commodore and Atari gave up on them. In fact for the people at Atari and Commodore USA territory it must have been a serious case In the Mouth of Madness LOL

 

They concentrated on EU and AU because those were the only countries where the population wasn't interested in backwards overpriced crap like Mac/PC/NES for their homes....then again if you look at the kind of cars and music yanks were making the ST and Amiga 1000 were too good for them obviously :)

 

And today the PC is the standard. The PC schooled Atari and Commodore right out of business. Heh. We were right to let those architectures fade away.

 

The article is right, the ST is an oddball design. And the Amiga is a bag of one-trick wonders, never having the necessary bandwidth and power to bring it all together.

 

Atari and Commodore computers were toys, none of them could handle big business, or even small business.



#17 Osgeld ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 8, 2018 1:44 PM

Atari and Commodore computers were toys, none of them could handle big business, or even small business.

 

 

I dont know about other parts of the USA, but here I never saw them outside of Toys R Us, then it was right next to their 8 bit models and quarter dozen game machines, man what a mess 



#18 empsolo OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 8, 2018 1:45 PM

Edit: Wrong thread.

Edited by empsolo, Thu Mar 8, 2018 1:46 PM.


#19 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 8, 2018 1:53 PM

I don't think that you can make the same argument for North American markets. At best, both the ST and Amiga lines were considered competitive only in the relatively small home office market where there was a perceived need for light word processing and desktop publishing, but here they were first and foremost considered gaming machines. No computer here ever successfully bridged the gap between business needs and entertainment pleasures; only the development of the WinTel platform did that, I think.

 

Keyword here is "perceived".. I saw first hand how frustrated people got with trying to use A and C machines for SOHO tasks, especially when it came to importing and exporting files.

 

I would gently argue and coin a new phrase, "DosTel". I believe the PC started excelling in gaming with the early DOS games. With the prime time occurring between the 386DX-40 and the 486 DX2/66. Then Windows began entering the picture.



#20 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 8, 2018 2:03 PM

 

I dont know about other parts of the USA, but here I never saw them outside of Toys R Us, then it was right next to their 8 bit models and quarter dozen game machines, man what a mess 

 

Up North and Northwest most computer stores would have Apple II and Mac taking about 40% combined, and IBM PC 40%, that left 20% floor space for Commodore & Atari and other brands.

 

One store in Chicagoland had ALL Amiga/ST material, they didn't last long.

 

Some stores were all IBM PC with what felt like an obligatory 10% sized section for Amiga. And whenever questions were asked, the PC was somehow portrayed in the best of light.

 

All I know is I wann'edda fuck around with fractals at the time. Fractals were hot in the late 80's and early 90's. There was tons of material for the PC, but all I needed was Fractint. Couldn't find a damned thing on the Amiga (which I also had at the time) and nothing on the ST. At least not readily available.



#21 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 8, 2018 2:54 PM

The Mac was hardly backwards; it had some of the most sophisticated graphics and toolkit functionality on the market. And while the PC sucked, Microsoft was doing pushups and it would stop sucking in '91 or so. Apple and Microsoft had many, many more engineers than Atari did, and the writing was on the wall -- Atari was going to get buried by better software, with more breadth than the small team at Atari could ever hope to match.

 

I'm not sure what Atari could have done to be a success. They could compete on price, to a point. But Atari management was never that great at defining and providing a software platform, and there were maybe 20 software developers at Atari, and that made it really difficult to compete in the long term.

 

I started a thread on what the Amiga guys needed to do to have made it a success.

http://atariage.com/...succeed-better/

Perhaps some of that would have applied to Atari.

 

I also totally agree that the MAC's graphic toolkit was a good thing. I think it's cool and elegant that it was/is essentially a custom chip in software. Instead of hardwiring that functionality into a blitter and co-processor they just let the the processor work through it.

 

The design led to easy upgrading of the speed, without having to redesign custom chips. Or you could smarten up the graphics without redesigning custom chips. Respectively speaking, the CPU would run the routines faster, or the routines could be made more efficient on their own. Each front's effort could be worked on and improved independently.

 

And while the MAC never became as successful as the PC, it does alright and is still relevant today.



#22 atarian1 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 9, 2018 1:32 AM

Yes, my comment about write-in campaigns was either exaggerated or flat-out wrong, as I spent a few hours going through a stash of Antic magazines last night, and couldn't find what I was looking for. Perhaps I was confused with the A8 write-in campaigns, but I know I spotted random whining about a lack of decent software, etc., for the ST,in some of those issues. But where??

 

I do take your point about underemphasizing the US ST software output from '86 to '89, so I went back and took a look at offerings form the era...and still feel that the general response to the ST, by American software houses, was pretty underwhelming. Yes, I remember thinking that Test Drive looked like fun, and really, really wanted Arkanoid (I had no idea that an A8 version had been ported), but never saw a killer app that made me want to rush out and buy an ST. I wanted to play Thexder and King's Quest V -- and essentially anything in the Sierra catalogue -- and that meant moving on to an AT clone, even though it provided an inferior gaming experience.

 

Yeah, that was around 1990 when Thexder and King's Quest 5 came out. VGA graphics and Soundblaster/Roland sound plus faster and cheaper Intel processors were gaining marketshare. I remember now that it was around this time where even diehard Atari supporters in the user group I was in started talking about PCs.



#23 atarian1 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 9, 2018 1:40 AM

Only real writein campaign I remember was for Word Perfect on the ST which worked, sorta.  They ported 4.2 instead of the GUI based 5.x which was a mistake.  I bought Word Perfect for the ST and used it for a few years, but being 4.2 really hampered its effectiveness on the GUI based ST.

 

Hmm. I don't remember this. My recollection was that WordPerfect was aggressively expanding outside the PC market at the time. They ported WordPerfect to almost every platform that was capable of handling it. That meant there were versions for the ST, Amiga, Apple IIGS, Mac, Unix, etc. They had a great ad in various magazines showing all the platforms/OSes that had a version of WordPerfect. It was quite a list.



#24 calimero OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 9, 2018 7:03 AM

WordPerfect is uter crap compering to Signum!

 

It is interesting how you USA see Atari ST as toy while in Europe it was serious business computer.

One big advantage of e.g. ST was easy using (and mixing different) non-english alphabets for both: screen and printing.



#25 pacman000 ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 9, 2018 8:13 AM

In light of that I wonder if making an Amiga card for the PC might have prolonged or even advanced the life of the platform? I'm thinking something like the Jaguar development board, or the 3D0 Blaster. Would it have eventually morphed into a standard platform for all future game development?

 

I ask that because before 3D chips came on the market everyone was writing their own software engine for games. Could a properly marketed multi-media card have become a standard instead of the separate Sound/Graphics cards of today? And around 'n' round we go.

(From Keetah's topic on the Amiga.)

 

For a while now I've thought Atari should've done something like that with the ST, if only to convince their users to move to their line of PC Clones when other companies' PC Clones began to take over. (Buy our IBM Compatibles, & keep your ST software too!)






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