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Why were the ST computers so much more successfull in Europe?...

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A game programmed around 50hz and using the vertical blank for timing would run about 15% faster on 60hz but that's about it.

 

A few games, very few, wouldn't run at 60hz. Probably too much code and too little time between vertical blanks. But there was a little program called "50hz.tos" which switched the system into 50hz mode. Once this was run, many of these games would work. As long as you were using the Atari SC1224 monitor, anyway.

 

That's why I asked, it sounds really weird to me to have games run 20% faster (not to mention music) and I wondered if north american market had a way to avoid that back then.

 

50hz.tos is probably the program the retailer once told me about.

Edited by Keops

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By the way, how was the NTSC/PAL (60Hz vs 50Hz) issue handled with games in North America? Did you have to switch the games to 50 Hz to play them? (back then motion was frame based in games in general, not time based, and most games were calibrated for 50Hz, the main market, afair).

 

A US retailer told me a story about north american gamers having to boot the game with an app that switched to 50Hz before launching the games.

 

From my experience, The NTSC based ST's will play the game slightly faster but it's still playable. Chip music is a bit faster tempo but still recognizable.

 

Some Euorpean games can only run on 50Hz displays which causes the screen to roll on TV's, but RGB monitors can display both 50 & 60 hz by playing around with the vertical hold knob.

 

And some programs use 50Hz mode for removing the overscan borders on top & bottom. For those I use the 50HZ.PRG switcher program...

 

Honestly, since I've been more used to playing games on American ST's I find that the PAL speed in emulators like Hatari to be too slow for my tastes. But I imagine that many European gamers do find NTSC speeds to be too much... :)

 

Back on OT: The Atari ST was made to be a 16-bit home computer by Jack Tramiel. Sadly, by the time it came out the Video Game Crash turned all home computers into "video game toys" which were all replaced the NES. People turned to IBM clones for more serious business machines, Macs were used for graphical applications that the PC's couldn't do and only computer hobbyists used home computers for tickering around with.

 

In fact, the reason why ST's were mostly sold in North America was because there was a Mac emulator made for it. A full ST system with monochrome monitor and Spectre GCF was still cheaper than an actual Macintosh plus it was faster too!

 

Amigas were mianly used for video production and they were bundled with Video Toaster software...

 

Personal Note: When I had the STe in the early 90's, all software had to be imported by the local dealer or downloaded off BBS's. ST Format coverdisks were the source of most of my software (both games & apps) and Current notes was the only magazine that kept tabs on the declining North American ST scene.

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Seriously?

 

Even the Keyboard of the ST is a typing horror, the rest isn't really better.

The ST was cheap, and in "Europe" "Geiz ist Geil" (in honour words "saving money is good" ;) "was/is the selling factor.

 

That's subjective. Some people say Amigas weren't exactly quality products either.

 

Some people liked the ST keyboard and even called it the best they have ever used. I had no problem with it.

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It's simply not true that Atari would only ship to large dealers and distributors. I worked at a small dealer for a couple of years and we never had any particular problem getting stock as long as we did one thing.

 

Paid our bills.

 

The few times we had any issues with getting product from Atari, it was when we were a little late paying on some invoice. When that happened, we would be at the bottom of the queue for getting anything. But as long as we were paid up and current, we never had to wait more than a week or so for most products.

 

If your local dealer had problems getting stock, it was very likely because they had an outstanding unpaid balance with Atari.

 

 

Well, I didn't work at the Atari dealer. One of my best high school (was in high school in those days) friends did. I knew the dealer personally, and I went to high school with his younger brother. While I can't claim authority or accuracy of my information by virtue of working at the Atari store, I sure was "in the know" with people who could. I suppose they were lying, then? They purposely didn't pay their bills and ran themselves out of business?

 

Furthermore, in posts #9 and #10 of this very thread, atarian63 (an Atari dealer somewhere a long way from my then-Atari dealer) confirms Atari wasn't shipping.......

 

 

probably a symptom more than a reason but sometime in early 88 Atari started diverting supply to europe, there just were not St systems to buy. I know as I was a dealer for these and it was very frustrating.

 

-----and----

 

we sold the crap out of the A500 after ST's became nearly unavailable. just a trickle of supply till STE then it was a bit too late. We tried hard though and carried software for it until 93-94

 

 

 

.......So I suppose atarian 63 is lying too, then, because you say so? I think not. It was well-known (by anybody who had a clue) that back in those days, U.S. Atari dealers were massively short-shipped of ST product.

 

It is quite obvious that *any* entity which refuses to pay its bills is going to be denied service. You are arriving at a faulty generalization through converse error, and citing your one instance of anecdotal "evidence" in support of it.

Statement: "If you don't pay your bills, you won't be shipped any Atari ST computers." - True

Converse: "If you aren't receiving any Atari ST computers, it's because you didn't pay your bills." - False

 

So I had an anecdote, atarian63 had an anecdote. But it was well-known in the Atari community at the time that the U.S. dealer network was getting shafted. Hell, it was all over the magazines. Do some research, but here's one such example.....

 

from

http://www.atarimagazines.com/st-log/issue22/06_1_EDITORIAL.php

 

"Reading the tea leaves," commented Harris, "I have to think this means that corporate management is getting very serious about the USA. They would not be letting us spend the money to do all this, otherwise."

This statement, while providing hope for Atari's supporters in the U.S., concedes the fact that Atari has been sidestepping the U.S. market in favor of the higher European sales—something that we've all come to realize over the last couple of years. Of course, one can't blame Atari for going where the paper is greener. They are, after all, a small company with limited resources, able to spread themselves only so thinly before they cease to be able to function. The lack of attention granted the U.S., however, has made a great many people wary of the STs and has made others—people who have already purchased their STs and fear for the future of their investment—downright bitter.

 

 

So, please, before you accuse others of lying (or what they've said being "simply not true"), try and figure out how to know what you're talking about. Cite some evidence. The Atari ST U.S. shortage of 1988-and-on is so blatantly obvious that I can't believe I'm having to defend myself for citing it. It's a holiday today, and I have extra time. :) :)

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Also here in UK we had the period of ST games being £5+ cheaper than Amiga games, much to dismay of the Amiga owners, espically since in these 'Dark days' they were in effect, more often than not, getting an ST-Port.

 

So with both the St itself and the games being the cheaper option, for a while at least, you can see the draw.....

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I read on a former Atari employee blog that one of the biggest issue in the US, after of course being named Atari and having to compete with IBM and Apple, was that the strategy "power without the price", did not allow to have a sufficient margin for distributors. Compared to other brands, US distributors and resellers were not earning enough money to invest time and of course money behind Atari. I will have to dig into my links to find the source, but I find this information interesting and quite logical indeed.

 

As far as Atari strategy to give priority to Europe, it sounds logical : US computer market was more mature at that time than European one ; if you don't know the theory of red and blue oceans, I invite you to have a look at it. Europe was a blue ocean at that time : no big competitors, small level of equipment and strong demand. The price to enter European market was therefore smaller, and when you are a small company, you have to choose your battle.

Once again the strategy "power without the price" had its limits, i.e, if you sell cheap you MUST sell huge volumes to survive, and huge volumes were accessible Europe.

In the 80's IBM PC were totally absent of the European consumer market, busy doing big money in the business segment. Apple were not well distributed neither and very expensive too. The only options were Atari ST, Commodore Amiga and on the cheapest segment Amstrad CPC. Nobody had a PC nor a Mac at home, and in the company only a few used it. Everything changed end of the 80's, beginning of the 90's when PC clones and Windows 3.1 appeared.

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All TV sets with a "SCART" Plug allowed to use either 50Hz or 60Hz. So it was no problem to have them run correctly.

 

SCART was all but nonexistent in North America. Unless you went looking specifically for a multi-format capable device you'd never run across it. I worked at Atari for two years before I saw a TV with a SCART connection.

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Well, I didn't work at the Atari dealer. One of my best high school (was in high school in those days) friends did. I knew the dealer personally, and I went to high school with his younger brother. While I can't claim authority or accuracy of my information by virtue of working at the Atari store, I sure was "in the know" with people who could. I suppose they were lying, then? They purposely didn't pay their bills and ran themselves out of business?

 

Furthermore, in posts #9 and #10 of this very thread, atarian63 (an Atari dealer somewhere a long way from my then-Atari dealer) confirms Atari wasn't shipping.......

 

-----and----

 

.......So I suppose atarian 63 is lying too, then, because you say so? I think not. It was well-known (by anybody who had a clue) that back in those days, U.S. Atari dealers were massively short-shipped of ST product.

 

It is quite obvious that *any* entity which refuses to pay its bills is going to be denied service. You are arriving at a faulty generalization through converse error, and citing your one instance of anecdotal "evidence" in support of it.

Statement: "If you don't pay your bills, you won't be shipped any Atari ST computers." - True

Converse: "If you aren't receiving any Atari ST computers, it's because you didn't pay your bills." - False

 

So I had an anecdote, atarian63 had an anecdote. But it was well-known in the Atari community at the time that the U.S. dealer network was getting shafted. Hell, it was all over the magazines. Do some research, but here's one such example.....

 

from

http://www.atarimagazines.com/st-log/issue22/06_1_EDITORIAL.php

 

So, please, before you accuse others of lying (or what they've said being "simply not true"), try and figure out how to know what you're talking about. Cite some evidence. The Atari ST U.S. shortage of 1988-and-on is so blatantly obvious that I can't believe I'm having to defend myself for citing it. It's a holiday today, and I have extra time. :) :)

 

I didn't accuse anybody of lying. Saying something is not true is not at all the same thing. I have no doubt that the OP believed what they said. That doesn't make it the absolute truth.

 

At the very least, the original statement doesn't accurately apply across the ST's retail lifetime. If someone wants to narrow things down to 1988, then they need to make that distinction in the first place, not after the fact. My own anecdote was based on working at a local dealer from 1986 to 1987 and I stand by it.

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Us Europeans prefered the cassette tape for our format in the early and mid 80s, the price was just so damn good that you could forgive the crap load times. Many users did upgrade to the floppy for business use because it was mostly games on cassette; you would frequently see many machines with Z80 upgrades for cp/m. There was a lot of Z80 expansions for the computers like the BBC machines, Apple II and there was already a lot of Z80 based home computers.

There where no home grown consoles so to speak of here in Europe like the Intellivision in North America. In the early days if you wanted to game you most likely did it at a smokey arcade or got a very cheap home computer like the Spectrum or a bit more expensive the C64 (C64c was a lot more popular when the 16 bit machines arrived due to price drops). Amiga was so popular because of its custom chips and the Atari was popular too due to price and its use for music production. The 8 bits had a new lease of life when the 16 bit computers arrived, as the 8 bit machines dropped in price a lot of parents bought them for their kids and children where certainly happy because games where so cheap to pick up for them. Compared to later like the Megadrive or SNES those cartridges could hit £60+ (mostly SNES with its extra chips in the cartridge). So you can see why people where still picking up Amiga 500s Atari STs ect when even the Megadrive was available. Price itself was a reason Sega did so well compared to Nintendo in the gaming market, they had the arcade ports and the cheaper cartridges.

 

A lot of Amiga games where just garbage ports of already badly made ST games, reminds me of how a lot of European MSX and CPC titles where ports of Sinclair Spectrum games and a lot of them where just rush jobs to market to get a few £££s.

 

The homebrew, demo, shareware and crack scene was big in Europe so home computers thrived. A lot of software came free with magazines weekly or with a subscription in the form of tapes and 3 1/2" floppies. People would swap and copy software too. I guess another thing was you could connect home computers easily to a TV so you could in effect use a cheap TV set as a monitor rather than buying a massive bulky extra PC CRT that you required with an x86 clone pc. Being a small all in one unit made it portable too.

 

It wasn't really until Windows 95 the home computer users in Europe ubiquitously moved en mass to the PC. There where some stragglers with the Amiga pushing with expansion cards but the Atari was mostly dead by the time the Falcon 030 came around.

 

I guess that Atari shifted focus of its home computer division to Europe because it was more profitable, one reason like others have said was that there was no big guys in the sector yet so all you had where a lot of medium and smaller companies; shelf space and retail deals would be easy to come by for Atari and Commodore. Also anyone could program and release a title for a home computer, there where many budget publishers who took on games from bedroom programmers and small teams.

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I oughta have the Hovis advert music playing here (UK joke/reference) as when i were a lad....

 

My 1st micro was the ZX81, simply loading games off tape rather than typing the damn things in, was a wonder in itself to us.Moved to 2600 OMG colour, sound, NO LOADING!, then to 800XL, better colour, sound and omg loading, Boot Error (nooo!) but price of disk drive plus no-where sold A8 disk games my way just tapes.

 

Things improved on C64 where you wait and see the latest Ocean loading screen, new ver.of Ocean loading music or if it were a Mastertronic game, you'd have loading games like inva-load, think Players (?) had a Painter game.Thalamus had the music player on Delta and Hawkeye so loading off tape, sometimes had it's advantafges :-)

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Amiga and ST both died before the general PC boom during the mid-90's. They weren't compatible with DOS or Windows, meaning all the software people could copy from work or friends wouldn't work.

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I was in Germany from 87 to 92 and didn't see all that much ST stuff. But Amigas were everywhere.

 

BS! Then you were looking in the wrong places at the wrong times.

 

I find it hard to believe that there wasn't "that much ST stuff" in Germany around 1990 when Dusseldorf, Germany hosted the biggest Atari show in the world at the time. It had the same attendance as MacWorld in San Francisco. That is quite a feat for a computer line that you claim was not "everywhere" like the Amiga.

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Seriously?

 

Even the Keyboard of the ST is a typing horror, the rest isn't really better.

The ST was cheap, and in "Europe" "Geiz ist Geil" (in honour words "saving money is good" ;) "was/is the selling factor.

 

Depends on which model you're talking about.

 

The keyboards on the stock 520/1040 models could definitely have been improved (hence the aftermarket

products like "TT Touch"), but the keyboards on the Mega series, as well as the STacy were just awesome.

 

The keyboards on the Mega STe and TT weren't half bad either.

 

As far as the quality goes - my opinion is that overall it was pretty good - this is a reflection on my own

personal experience of course. My Mega ST4, circa 1987, is still going - it runs my BBS, has for *years*.

 

If you want quality horror stories - go look up some on the Amiga side... :)

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I was in Germany from 87 to 92 and didn't see all that much ST stuff. But Amigas were everywhere.

 

Hmm, that seems rather odd to me. Germany was a literal "hotbed" for ST development and sales. Heck, didn't they even have the ST line

in their schools? Some of the biggest computer shows had really large ST sections as well. Even now, do a search on Ebay Germany for

ST items and you'll usually find a large market.

 

Not arguing, mind you - I can't say I was there like you, but I'm just really surprised, considering all I heard from Germany during those

years...

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Hmm, that seems rather odd to me. Germany was a literal "hotbed" for ST development and sales. Heck, didn't they even have the ST line

in their schools? Some of the biggest computer shows had really large ST sections as well. Even now, do a search on Ebay Germany for

ST items and you'll usually find a large market.

 

Not arguing, mind you - I can't say I was there like you, but I'm just really surprised, considering all I heard from Germany during those

years...

 

AFAIK, schools here were (are?) pretty free to choose their computers, and I bet in the ST's heyday years (i.e. 1986-1989), many German schools had STs, regarding the easy availability of Pascal/Modula-2 compilers for it, as these were preferred languages among teachers for obvious reasons (heck, they were even in universities and the industry, even German built 19" rack versions exist). Sadly, mine went for the Schneider CPC6128 (a re-badged and AFAIK German-built Amstrad CPC6128) with green monitors, for which each of us had to buy a disk to save the Turbo Pascal 2.0 source codes he/she wrote - each costing DM 9.00 (our teacher got a 10% discount on the usual price tag of these disks).

 

Do I have to mention that CP/M Turbo Pascal 2.0 was the only software my school had for these machines?

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Seriously?

 

Even the Keyboard of the ST is a typing horror, the rest isn't really better.

The ST was cheap, and in "Europe" "Geiz ist Geil" (in honour words "saving money is good" ;) "was/is the selling factor.

I agree with this. I 've got 2 pieces in the middle of the 80's, both had the same problem: When you moved the mouse front, the cursor went down, when you moved the mouse back, the cursor went up... Because the squares generated by the optical part of the mouse were really owfuly calibrated.

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In 1984 I got an Atari 800XL and 1050 disk drive. (later a 130XE as my 800XL failed under warrantee!) I noticed that the Atari 800/XL/XE series was semi popular platform during this time, then the Commodore 64 started to take over. I think the pricing of the unit and the fact it had 64k was the reason. They were selling like hot cakes! I remember when I would visit stores for software and looking for software for my Atari 800XL, I was getting increasingly disappointed in the decline of Atari software. More and more software was being released for the C64 and Apple II and less for the Atari. Eventually there was no Atari software on the shelves! It got to the point where I would look forward to the Commodore 64 "flippy" disks as they would sometimes have the Atari 800 version on the back side! Even though there was no "atari software" section. There was a large Commodore 64/128, Apple II and IBM section.

 

When the Atari ST and Amiga hit the scene I briefly bought an ST but then returned it and got an Amiga 1000 since my friend had one and the graphics were amazing. I do not recall seeing all that much ST activity, but the Amiga started to pick up and in the late 80's it had a sizable section at the software stores. Then around 1992+ it started to decline as the PC VGA scene picked up. I never did see any ST software for sale! It was Apple II, (some) Mac, a lot of Commodore 64/128, IBM PC and an increasing amount of Amiga software. (Software Etc, Babbages, Sears, Best, etc...)

 

In fact, I remember the Base Exchange (Dept Store for Air Force members), on Eglin AFB, FL and McChord AFB, WA had Amigas for sale and lots of software! (and also the usual Commodore/Apple/IBM too) No Atari stuff at all.

 

I agree, I think the Atari stigma had a lot to do with it's lack of seriousness from consumers. People did not want to buy an "Atari Computer" as they thought it was a toy. But the 800/XL/XE and ST series were much better than the Apple/IBM varients, and competed very well with the Commodore-Amiga (had a similar problem but seemed to fair much better)

Edited by tjlazer

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At the very least, the original statement doesn't accurately apply across the ST's retail lifetime. If someone wants to narrow things down to 1988, then they need to make that distinction in the first place, not after the fact.

I wasn't narrowing it down to "just" 1988. The editorial (ST-Log magazine) I linked to is dated August, 1988. It refers to the U.S. Atari ST shortage "that we've all come to realize over the last couple of years." So, a couple years prior to August 1988 would be roughly, when? I'll leave that as an exercise for you (hint: not "just" 1988). The fact is that the U.S. shortage happened, is well-documented, and is a matter of history. Period.

 

My own anecdote was based on working at a local dealer from 1986 to 1987 and I stand by it.

I also stand by your anecdote that you worked at a local Atari dealer from 1986 to 1987, and I believe it. My entire point is that I take issue with your wild speculation that the reason **OTHER** Atari dealers (for whom you obviously did not work for and have no internal knowledge of) were not sent ST product because they didn't pay. How the fuck could you possibly know that?

 

Once again, I'll try to explain your logical fallacy (converse error) with that which they teach in freshman Philosophy (or Discrete Math) class:

 

HERE IS A TRUE CONCLUSION:

 

premise 1: If you own Fort Knox, then you are rich.

premise 2: You DO own Fort Knox.

----------

conclusion: You are, indeed, rich. (TRUE!)

 

HERE IS THE CONVERSE ERROR:

 

premise 1: If you own Fort Knox, then you are rich.

premise 2: Bill Gates is rich.

----------

conclusion: Bill Gates owns Fort Knox. (FALSE! We don't know who the fuck owns Fort Knox, based on the information given in the problem)

 

Now, here is the same logic, applied to your "clairvoyant" situation where you know other Atari dealers didn't pay their bills (miraculously, somehow!!!).

 

HERE IS A TRUE CONCLUSION:

 

premise 1: If you do not pay your bills, you will not be shipped any Atari ST computers.

premise 2: You do not pay your bills.

----------

conclusion: You will not be shipped any Atari ST computers. (TRUE!)

 

HERE IS **YOUR** CONVERSE ERROR:

 

premise 1: If you do not pay your bills, you will not be shipped any Atari ST computers.

premise 2: You are not being shipped any Atari ST computers.

----------

conclusion: You do not pay your bills. (FALSE! We don't know why the fuck you aren't being shipped ST computers, given the information in the problem. Perhaps an airplane crashed. Perhaps a ship sank. Perhaps there was an error. Perhaps there was a DRAM shortage. Perhaps the Euro market is more lucrative, etc....etc...etc...WE DON'T KNOW).

 

However, I, too, stand by your anecdote that you worked at an Atari store. It must have been fun.

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I also think some of the availability of the ST software and hardware also had to do with the time period and if you lived in a large metropolitan area. I lived in a large metropolitan area and I remember buying Atari ST games at Electronics Boutique, Walden Software and Egghead Software (productivity software as well) in the late 80's in the United States. Compared to the Commodore 64/Amiga, Apple II/Mac and PC sections, the ST section was really small but it was still at mass retail. The Atari 8-it died at mass retail in like 84 and 85, except for when the XEGS and XE games were available at Toys-R-Us in the late 80's and early 90's.

 

By the early 90's though, you had to go to Atari specialty stores and most of the software, especially for games, was imported from Europe. Even if it was a game from an American software company. For example, my Atari ST versions of Silent Service and F-15 Strike Eagle were published by Microprose USA, but by the time Silent Service II and F-15 Strike Eagle II came out, they were published by Microprose UK and imported into the US.

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In 1988 I visited Germany and we went to a large department store and while I was looking around and stumbled into the Electronics section I saw some computers! Guess which computer brand was dominated, if not the only brand that they carried exclusively? Yes. It was the Atari ST.... No Amiga in sight. :) (I was an Amiga 1000 owner at the time and was a little butt hurt) hahaha

Edited by tjlazer
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That's subjective. Some people say Amigas weren't exactly quality products either.

 

Some people liked the ST keyboard and even called it the best they have ever used. I had no problem with it.

 

The ST keyboard has cheap and mushy feel (the Cherry-built Mega ST keyboard was much better), but at least it is full-sized, durable and had the standard layout and all the special characters the respective language required, e.g. AZERTY keyboards in France, QWERTZ keyboards with umlaut keys in the right places here in Germany, etc. - all of which were a big deal at that time and only found in "professional", i.e. IBM and various CP/M, keyboards before the ST appeared.

 

BTW: "Geiz ist geil!" was a claim used many decades later by SATURN, an electronics retailer, the Atari claim here in Germany was "Wir machen Spitzentechnologie preiswert." (literally: "We make cutting-edge technology priceworthy.") - which was very true considering the original price tag of less than 3,000 DM for a 520ST system including mouse, SF354 floppy disk and SM124 monitor or the price tag for the 520STM package of less than 1,000 DM with SF354 and mouse (ca. 1987), which was directly aimed at the Commodore 64 (which cost around 900 DM with a 1541 at this time) and accompanied by a matching ad campaign - of course Atari didn't tell their customers that 512KB of RAM and the single-sided SF354 were overstocks that needed to be sold off in favour of the 1040STF(M).

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