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Mark Simonson

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About Mark Simonson

  • Rank
    Star Raider
  • Birthday 12/26/1955

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  • Gender
    Male
  • Location
    Saint Paul, MN
  • Interests
    Graphics, computer "art", fonts, valFORTH, BASIC XL

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  1. @OxC0FFEE I probably saw that Compute article and may have got the idea from it, although it only hints at what I figured out. I mentioned in the interview that the GTIA text article was published in the TAIG newsletter, but I'm not totally sure that was the case. The good news is that I still have a copy of it (or a draft if it was never published). I've formatted it (using the illustrations I made in MacPaint in 1985) and saved it as a PDF and attached it here. I've also attached an Atari BASIC demo. It creates a simple character set containing four characters with mode 9 grayscale gradients and then displays them randomly on a GTIA text mode field (graphics 0 + GPRIOR (623) set to 96). GTIA Text v2.pdf METAL2.LIS
  2. For at least part of the time, I had my tv set on its side, and had to rotate the joystick counterclockwise 90° to match the orientation. 🙂
  3. Thanks, @Gunstar! FYI, the Bushnell portrait was done in Gr. 10 using just nine colors. Photo was shot off the screen of a 10" Panasonic Quintrix, which I used as a monitor at the time.
  4. Yeah, that's what we keep telling ourselves. 🙂
  5. One thing I neglected to mention in the interview (although I see I did mention it above) was that getting back into the Atari back in 2016 came about after learning about and listening to the Antic podcast. So, big thanks to @Savetz for the interview and for helping me rediscover the world of Atari 8-bit.
  6. Right. As I mentioned in one of my responses, my memory of it being "stick on" was wrong. The version in your photos is definitely what I had. The other photo above in @Stephen's post showing different colored keys is a different version apparently, which is why the console keys looked unfamiliar to me.
  7. Yep, that's what mine looked like, although some of the details look less familiar, like the console keys. I think I only had it installed until I got my 800, probably less than a year, and then restored the membrane keyboard. Update: Confirmed. I found it listed in an expense spreadsheet from the '80s. Bought it from InHome in December '82 for $119.95, about four months before I bought my 800. That's probably how long I used it.
  8. @BillC It wasn't the Joytyper 400. There's a photo of it here: https://www.atarimagazines.com/compute/issue34/133_1_NEWS_PRODUCTS_KEYBOARD_FOR_THE_ATARI_400.php What I had looked nothing like that. Pretty sure it was the B. Key, but I think my memory of it being simply attached to the case and mechanically transferring keypresses to the membrane keyboard is wrong. Now that I think of it, I do kind of remember having to remove the membrane keyboard. Would you mind posting a photo of your B. Key?
  9. Works fine plugged into a 1050 connected to the Atari.
  10. @Philsan: You mentioned FastBasic in your private message to me... I'd never really investigated it before. It looks awesome. This may turn out to be my next rabbit hole. 🙂 @Allan: One of the things I love about being here in the future is how so much of the books, magazines, manuals and other materials from the Atari world of the '80s is available online, so thanks for being one of the folks who helps make that happen. And thanks for the suggestion to post some of my old image files. I would love to do that.
  11. TL;DR: I've used Atari 8-bit computers off and on since 1981 and recently got back into them in a big way. Although I've been aware of AtariAge since the early 2000s, I've only become a member recently. Last fall, I posted an article on my website about my early computing experiences on Atari 8-bit computers and how it relates to my current career as a font developer. This attracted the notice of a few folks in the Atari community and I was encouraged by @Philsan to introduce to myself here. Unlike a lot of members here who seem to be GenXers who used Atari computers as kids, I was in my mid-20s when I bought an Atari 400 with 16k in 1981. I'd dabbled with a ZX80 before that and wanted something a bit more capable. The Apple II seemed like the popular choice, but it was expensive. After seeing Star Raiders at a tiny computer shop in Eden Prairie, MN, I had to have an Atari. At first, I just had the 400, joystick, and a 410 Program Recorder, but I soon bit the bullet and got an 810 drive and a 48k upgrade. I also tried to improve the 400's keyboard with a stick-on device called the B. Key 400 that attempted to give you a real keyboard. (It kind of worked.) In 1983, as prices were coming down, I bought an Atari 800, relegating the 400 for playing games. At one point, I had a couple of Percom drives, an Epson MX-80 printer, an 850 interface, Kraft joysticks, a KoalaPad tablet, and an Atari Touch Tablet. Thanks to magazines like Compute!, Creative Computing, Byte, A.N.A.L.O.G. Computing, Antic, and Atari Connection, plus loads of books like Lon Poole's Your Atari Computer, Ian Chadwick's Mapping the Atari, Chris Crawford's De Re Atari, and many more, I taught myself to program in BASIC and dabbled in assembly language and Forth (specifically valFORTH). BASIC A+ and BASIC XL were my favorites. I was also a member of the Twin Cities Atari Interest Group (T.A.I.G.) which met once a month. My dad also had an Atari 800 and shared my interest in Atari computers and programming. For whatever reason, I never got a modem or used bulletin boards. My programming efforts were modest. I had dreams of writing a game in assembly language (or maybe Forth), but mostly I did graphics demos that drew random pictures, a paint program (which worked with either a joystick or touch tablet), some attempts at things like a to-do list manager, and a "15" puzzle. It seems I spent more time reading and dreaming about programming than actually doing it. I used my Atari computers to create a lot of images (Micro-Painter, Fun With Art, Micro Illustrator, Atari Artist, Atari World), including some illustration jobs that were printed in magazines (see my blog post for more info). The Nolan Bushnell portrait is my favorite. I did it using a joystick and my own paint program, which was based on a paint program I copied from Compute! called "The Fluid Brush" by Al Baker. I modified it to work in GTIA modes 9 and 10, to load and save files, and other improvements. The Bushnell portrait was done in mode 10. Since it needed to be in "portrait" mode (to fill a magazine page), I did it sideways, setting my tv on its side to check my progress. In order to get a good likeness, I worked from a color photo of Bushnell, enlarging it to the size of my tv screen and tracing the outlines of different color areas onto a clear plastic sheet with grease pencil, which I taped to my tv screen. The "final art" was made by photographing the screen. The illustration was done for an article about the history of Atari in the August 1982 issue of TWA Ambassador, an inflight magazine that I used to work for. If anyone would like, I could post it here. The article was also reprinted in the short-lived Hi-Res magazine. In 1984, I bought the original Macintosh 128k after being blown away by its GUI and high-res screen. For a while, my computing interests were divided between these two platforms—Atari for gaming and programming, and Mac for word processing, spreadsheets, and graphic design. Atari prices had dropped again by 1985, and I bought an 800XL for less that what I paid for my original 400. I also got a 1050 drive. As the Mac increasingly dominated my computer use (especially as desktop publishing took off—I'm a graphic designer by trade), I still kept my Atari stuff, but used it less and less. Fast forward to 1995, I started getting on the internet. One of the first things I discovered was information and discussions about old Atari computers and that there were emulators, including one that ran on the Mac called Rainbow, by Chris Lam. I contacted him and he mailed me the app on a diskette from the UK. The online community was small, but there were a few web pages and usenet groups. Thanks to this, I learned how to make a null-modem cable and use terminal software to transfer most of my Atari floppies to my Mac as disk images that I could use with Rainbow. There were also a few Mac utilities for the Atari back then such as AtariVDEdit, which let you work with Atari disk images. I was making fonts by this time on my Mac (including my first commercial releases) and decided to make three TrueType fonts based on the Atari 8-bit screen font: Atari Classic Chunky (a bit-by-bit replication), Atari Classic Smooth (flattened corners), and Atari Classic ExtraSmooth (rounded curves). I had this idea at the time that I would use it as part of a Mac program that could open, display, and edit ATASCII files, but I never got very far with programming on the Mac. By the late nineties, I was dabbling in web design. My first attempt was Mac/Atari Fusion, a website where I collected resources for people like me trying to use Atari 8-bit stuff with Macs in various ways. I also made my Atari TrueType fonts available there. It was part of the Atari WebRing (if anyone remembers webrings) and got "site of the week" at Emulation.net. My site got the attention of Kevin (now Kay) @Savetz who contacted me about helping him scan and OCR issues of Antic and A.N.A.L.O.G., which I did for a while. I also created a bunch of graphics and site designs for his websites atariarchives.org and atarimagazines.org in the early 2000s. My interest in Atari 8-bit stuff has come and gone since then. In 2010, I sold most of my Atari stuff to Lance at Video 61, keeping my favorite stuff, like the 800XL, 1050, a few games and other software and books. At some point, I sent nearly all my Atari magazines to Kay Savetz. My interest returned about five years ago when I discovered Antic, the Atari 8-bit Podcast (featuring my old buddy @Savetz, with @rkindig and @Subby). In a flush of excitement, I bought an SIO2SD device and an SIO2PC-USB from Lotharek, and a MIDIjoy interface (which I couldn't get working). I set up my 800XL and played with it a bit, but eventually lost interest again. Around this time, I heard from Peter Dell, of WUDSN IDE fame. He had written to me in 2012 for permission to use my Atari fonts in his software, but was running into issues with using the low ATASCII characters. The result was a brand new version of my Atari font that is not only used in WUSDN, but also by the FujiNet device and Atari800MacX for printing and displaying ATASCII (and probably some others I don't know about). Peter also persuaded me to create a similar C64 font. (I'm not sure if or where this is available, other than in WUSDN IDE.) Last year, I started discovering Atari stuff on Youtube (8-bit and More, FlashJazzCat, The Modern 8-bit Atari Computer, and others) and got interested in things-Atari again, this time completely going off into the deep end. This is how I ended up writing about it on my blog. My current set up is my original 800XL, with a Sophia DVI upgrade. I also have another stock 800XL and 130XE, both acquired recently. I generally don't use real disks anymore, instead relying on either the FujiNet + a TNFS server running on my Mac, pointed at a directory containing all my disk and cart images, or the SIO2PC-USB cable + RespeQt accessing the same disk images. I also have an Ultimate Cartridge containing my favorite carts and executables. I've also been using Atari800MacX for a while using the same directory of disk and cart images. I've recently made some major updates to my old BASIC XL programs which I may post here. I discovered a very nice workflow where I edit and test programs in Atari800MacX (it's super easy to "print" to a text file for ease of reading and debugging source code), and then running and testing on the real Atari. Plus, I finally figured out how to get the MIDIjoy interface working. I also had fun over Christmas introducing my daughter's boyfriend to Atari computer games (he's a big PC gamer), hooking up my 800XL to our plasma tv using the RetroTINK and loading games via FujiNet as well as local carts. It's been so much fun rediscovering the world of Atari 8-bit and I hope to participate here regularly.
  12. FYI, there is a scan of the Atari World manual on the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/AtariWorld
  13. @ivop Except then you couldn't use input from devices (joysticks, trackballs, tablets) connected to the joystick ports on the Atari with the emulator. I guess if you also have something like 2600-daptor II this would not be an issue (except for tablets, which apparently aren't supported by the 2600-daptor II).
  14. One of the things that's less than ideal about using an Atari emulator (I'm using Atari800MacX) is the fact that I have to use the keyboard on my modern computer, which doesn't match the layout of the original 8-bits. It works, but some key mappings are awkward and hard to remember. It'd be cool if there was some way to have the exact same layout, either by remapping a USB keyboard to match or maybe even a custom-built USB keyboard using salvaged keys or something. OR, maybe use a real Atari as input to an emulator somehow. I know, this would seem a bit pointless, since, if you have real hardware, you could just use it instead of the emulator. But emulators can do things the real hardware can't, like emulating many different machines, not just the one(s) you have. Currently, I'm able to use real Atari joysticks with Atari800MacX (using 2600-doptor II), but it'd be neat if the whole system (including any connected input devices) could be used with an emulator. Has anything like this ever been done?
  15. Okay, thanks. The more I use it, the more I think I'll get used to it.
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