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New Atari 8-bit book released: Breakout: How Atari 8-Bit Computers Defined

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Yes, me too. The Atari 800 was my first computer with a real keyboard. I was learning code on a Timex Sinclair prior to the A800. Night and day for me. I thought I was something when I advanced from cassette tapes to the Atari 1050. Good times learning and discovering new things. While other kids were playing games, I was opening things up and wondering how it all worked. Any how, I hope the book helps to remember some of those early years.

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I read it. I enjoyed it. Powered through it in about 3-4 hours. It has a very easy, anecdotal style and the authors fondness for the machine really shines through. I'm slightly envious of the author as he seemed to have a lot of kit for someone so young at the time :) I also agreed with his assessment of most of the games - approximately half the book is dedicated to game reviews. I didn't really learn anything new from it but it was nice to hear someone else's "Atari Experience". If I was going to give it a rating out of 10 on the Sargie Scale I'd give it a 7. For reference, a book like "On the Edge - the Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore" would get a 9.

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Mine arrived today (from Amazon Germany). I will start reading it the next days, but when I randomly opened it, I saw this :)

 

14ukv91.jpg

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Mine arrived today (from Amazon Germany). I will start reading it the next days, but when I randomly opened it, I saw this :)

 

 

 

Hi everyone! Thank you so much for your support of the book. I mention AtariAge and this forum numerous times in it.

 

Mclaneinc: I never saw your invite; I just happened to stumble on this thread. Thank you though! I'm here!

 

Fred_M: ARG. That entire caption is wrong, in fact, and I'm not sure what happened or how I missed it after going through the book 5,231 times. Here's a cut and paste from the Word doc that contains my captions:

 

Chapter 4

p. 85 -- Atari 1200XL.jpg -- The Atari 1200XL. Credit: Daniel Schwen.

 

That particular photo is creative commons, but the credit should still go to the right person. Everyone warned me there were going to be issues no matter how much my editor and I went through the book, and that there will be mistakes no matter what happens. :P I did not want these people to be right. I will get it corrected in the next printing.

 

Anyway, thank you all -- seriously, for years of your awesome support for this platform. It's wonderful. I can't imagine my life without the computer or the people who love it, which is why I wrote this book.

 

Jamie

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Welcome to AtariAge Jamie!

 

Don't worry about the mistake. With 277 pages a small mistake is easily made.

 

I used to write for Dutch Atari Magazines and if I receive an euro for every typing error/mistake I made, I would be rich now ;)

 

I will start reading your book this evening!

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I ordered it a few days ago from Amazon USA.

I didn't know I could order it on Amazon Germany.

I hope I will receive it soon here in Switzerland.

 

Jamie, from what I read so far you know very well the fact that in 1979 Atari 800 was a milestone.

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Mclaneinc: I never saw your invite; I just happened to stumble on this thread. Thank you though! I'm here!

 

Jamie

 

Hi Jamie, posted it in the thread about the book on the main site under my real name of Paul Irvine..

 

Just glad you found us :)

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I ordered it a few days ago from Amazon USA.

I didn't know I could order it on Amazon Germany.

 

The book is available at every international Amazon website (Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain, Australia etc.)

 

On Atari Sector (another forum) the first personal reviews of this book have already been posted.

Edited by Fred_M
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Wow, didn't know about this book until today. I picked up a copy from Amazon. com. Looking forward to reading it!

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Hi everyone! Thank you so much for your support of the book. I mention AtariAge and this forum numerous times in it.

 

Mclaneinc: I never saw your invite; I just happened to stumble on this thread. Thank you though! I'm here!

 

Everyone warned me there were going to be issues no matter how much my editor and I went through the book, and that there will be mistakes no matter what happens. :P I did not want these people to be right. I will get it corrected in the next printing.

 

Anyway, thank you all -- seriously, for years of your awesome support for this platform. It's wonderful. I can't imagine my life without the computer or the people who love it, which is why I wrote this book.

 

Jamie

Allow me to add my Welcome with everyone else's, Jamie, and thank you for sharing your experiences with us in your book!

 

I've only this past year taken the dive back into my fond Atari memories and adopted quite the family to this point. In my case, it really started with a middle-aged sense of unfinished business with the Atari. After watching the eBay marketplace for about 6 months to get a feel for what it would cost, I started with the aim to pick up a 1200XL, and since I knew by this time that the keyboard mylar was a guaranteed repair or replacement, I picked up a 130XE off another auction hoping that it wouldn't have the much-maligned memory issues. Since I had AtariMax's SIO2PC/USB I didn't need to adopt a drive but still planned to.

 

I spent all of 2016 building my new Atari family, and should be set for the rest of my life on that front. :-o

 

But the unfinished business is due to me coming into Atari so late in the game, as it were. It was on its way out when I was on my way in. The 16-bit series was coming fast and furious just as I was moving into writing my own programs after learning the same through endless hours of typing in published programs from Antic, Analog, and Family Computing magazines— not to mention Compute!

 

I was toying with machine language by the time the XE series came on the scene, although only at the USR level and very basic stuff at that point. I had some great ideas I wanted to try achieving, and the expanded, banked RAM only further inspired me to the point where all I saw was untapped potential from the Atari.

 

Unfortunately, the 16-bit series proved to be the mere opening group to the main act, and I was seduced by an IBM XT clone of some 640K of RAM and a 10mb MFM drive that I couldn't fill for the life of me! That spelled the end of my days with Atari as I sold off everything but my 1024K ICD MIO and my entire Atari reference library.

 

I've dabbled with emulators through the years since then, but it didn't satisfy me, and I didn't feel any particular inspiration to write for the Atari 8-bit on a PC. There was that certain lack of immersion, because I wanted to experience Atari, not remember it. Not emulate it.

 

Not if I didn't have to. And I imagine I won't for a long, long time, lol!

 

This return has allowed me to adopt Atari devices and other peripherals that I only dreamed of owning before, which brings its own warm, fuzzy feelings. Now if I could just adopt a 1090XL!

 

Enough about me, though.

 

As to the inevitable errors that occur even today, with our word predictions, spell-checkers, and voice recognition software, I only found 5 in my reading, which is far ahead of what I see in other books. I bookmarked 3 in my Kindle and can pass them along to you for later editions, if you'd like.

 

I should probably preface here with the probability that I may have lost some auctions to you, so good show! :P

 

A few things, Jamie.

 

First, why the hate on the Atari PC's? I'm looking to adopt one someday, a PC3 or PC4, ideally. Pick up an SIO2PC with serial from AtariMax and use the Atari PC with APE to an Atari 8-bit home computer as its slave? It's a dream I'd love to see come true! ;)

 

Second, you're right about Atari's bungling of the 1200XL release. However, with the modern-day availability of the means not only to correct the flaws, but also providing the physical housing for bringing countless modifications to the Atari 8-bit home computer platform, 1200XLs still retain a tremendous amount of potential for the Atari hobbyist today.

 

I also appreciated you pointing out how difficult it was to get technical information about the Atari home computers, because that was commonly brought up during my earlier days with the community, back in BBSing days. Recently, I've been hearing statements to the contrary, that Atari has always been open with its technical details on just how to access and utilize the inner mechanics of the Atari home computers. When De Re Atari was officially published, that was Atari's first step toward operational transparency; at least that's how I remember it. And that was much later in the home computer timeline, I believe.

 

Speaking of BBSes, was there any reason in particular that you didn't go into the non-game options that were available for the Atari 8-bit home computers, such as word processors, educational software, telecommunications, and maybe even touch on BBS software?

 

As you mentioned a couple times, Atari didn't manage their diamond in the rough— the Atari home computer— making it a truth that a person who purchased an Atari 800 really had no compelling reason to upgrade on a system and cpu level to an XL, or an XE, really, due to the lack of available software for the extended RAM as the computing world fell in and then out of love with the 16-bit before marrying the 32-bit generation and a lifetime of Windows, Linux, and MacOS GUIs. This, with the exception of the additional 16K RAM offered in the 800XL for programming purposes.

 

In the mainstream, Atari is remembered for games, and I've yet to stumble across another person IRL (since my first relationship with the Atari home computer) who either knew someone who owned and used one, or were an Atari owner themselves.

 

For me, there was far more to the Atari 8-bit home computer than ported and original games, and I would have enjoyed seeing your coverage of the other ways (including the ones mentioned above) that Atari home computers defined a generation, including their work with schools as well as offering their own Atari camps for young programmers— something which no other computer manufacturer has done since, insofar as I'm aware.

 

Let me close by saying once again that I really enjoyed the book, Jamie. Enough so to say that now that I've purchased and read the Kindle version, I've ordered the hardcopy for my Atari reference library, as well.

 

Keep up the good!

--Tim

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. . .This return has allowed me to adopt Atari devices and other peripherals that I only dreamed of owning before, which brings its own warm, fuzzy feelings. Now if I could just adopt a 1090XL! . . .

--Tim

 

Have you seen this? http://1090xlr.bitsofthepast.com/

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As posted in one of the other several threads we have for some reason, I've paid for it and it's on the way.

 

Not happy with the shipping charges, I'm left with little change from 40 bucks.

And puzzled as to why a downloadable copy should cost 83% as much as a physical copy.

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As posted in one of the other several threads we have for some reason, I've paid for it and it's on the way.

 

Not happy with the shipping charges, I'm left with little change from 40 bucks.

And puzzled as to why a downloadable copy should cost 83% as much as a physical copy.

 

Yup, I'd have purchased it but that is a non proportionate whack..

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Thanks again everyone!

 

Yup, I'd have purchased it but that is a non proportionate whack..

 

Mclaneinc: I totally get what you're saying. Let me say in defense: The print copies only cost a couple of dollars to manufacture and distribute. The main cost of the book is the two years it took me to write it, plus the layout, copy editing, line editing, and cover design (thousands for these in total). You'll see this in pricing across the board. For example:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Racing-Beam-Computer-Platform-Studies/dp/026201257X

https://www.amazon.com/Future-Was-Here-Commodore-Platform/dp/0262017202/

https://www.amazon.com/CoCo-Colorful-History-Underdog-Computer/dp/1466592478/

 

You don't have to believe me either; look up publishing costs and ebook costs and you'll find lots of data on this. If you or anyone do read my book, I hope you like it, as I've put everything I've got into it. :)

 

Tim Kline: Thanks for all the comments! To answer a few inline:

 

First, why the hate on the Atari PC's? I'm looking to adopt one someday, a PC3 or PC4, ideally. Pick up an SIO2PC with serial from AtariMax and use the Atari PC with APE to an Atari 8-bit home computer as its slave? It's a dream I'd love to see come true! ;)

Oh, that was just me being snarky, because it was so far off mission for Atari to be doing that when they did. I'm sure they're fine PCs, and that sounds like a killer project. :D

Second, you're right about Atari's bungling of the 1200XL release. However, with the modern-day availability of the means not only to correct the flaws, but also providing the physical housing for bringing countless modifications to the Atari 8-bit home computer platform, 1200XLs still retain a tremendous amount of potential for the Atari hobbyist today.

I do mention that several times throughout the book; some people even consider the 1200XL to be the *best* machine once you mod it and set it up right because of how beautifully made it is. That's because of the tireless community work since (many on the forums here!), which has fixed its various issues. At the time it was released, though, it failed and many argue it significantly damaged the lineup because of the incompatibilities.

I also appreciated you pointing out how difficult it was to get technical information about the Atari home computers, because that was commonly brought up during my earlier days with the community, back in BBSing days. Recently, I've been hearing statements to the contrary, that Atari has always been open with its technical details on just how to access and utilize the inner mechanics of the Atari home computers. When De Re Atari was officially published, that was Atari's first step toward operational transparency; at least that's how I remember it. And that was much later in the home computer timeline, I believe.

Yep, that is exactly correct. That was almost wasted years, more or less, before third-party developers could get going. That meant that instead of Apple having a two-year advantage, it had a four-year advantage, and so many early players in software went with the Apple II as a result. The wasted opportunity kills me to this day.

Speaking of BBSes, was there any reason in particular that you didn't go into the non-game options that were available for the Atari 8-bit home computers, such as word processors, educational software, telecommunications, and maybe even touch on BBS software?

Oh, check out the second half chapter 2 for Atari's non-game software and chapter 3 for third-party software like Paperclip, VisiCalc, The Print Shop, BBS software, etc. I ran a BBS in the mid-80s and go into it near the end of chapter 3. I used FoReM XL. I did focus much more of the book on the games, granted.

In the mainstream, Atari is remembered for games, and I've yet to stumble across another person IRL (since my first relationship with the Atari home computer) who either knew someone who owned and used one, or were an Atari owner themselves.

Yes! This was the central tension of the Atari computer lineup, and what fractured and ultimately incapacitated management to market and develop the product line correctly; even Atari itself vacillated between these two positions at times (I'm talking generally). The Atari brand for games was so strong the company was ultimately unable to overcome it with its "serious" computers, while simultaneously it probably shouldn't have *tried* to overcome the games image and just embraced it, since that's where it was strongest. Today, Windows PCs are all over the workplace *and* have a huge enthusiast gaming community, and no one's had a problem with it for decades.

For me, there was far more to the Atari 8-bit home computer than ported and original games, and I would have enjoyed seeing your coverage of the other ways (including the ones mentioned above) that Atari home computers defined a generation, including their work with schools as well as offering their own Atari camps for young programmers— something which no other computer manufacturer has done since, insofar as I'm aware.

I mention the camps and the schools on pages 58-59. I believe you're right about no PC manufacturer doing that since, though I'll bet now you can turn up all kinds of educational events from anyone doing cutting-edge work and research (Google, Nvidia, IBM, etc.); the opportunities out there today in machine learning, AI, quantum computing, etc. are unbelievable.

Thank you again everyone!

Jamie

Edited by wizardschamber
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Amazon delivered the book Friday and I managed to finish it today. Overall an excellent book, almost three hundred pages of well written text with a fair collection of black and white photos and screenshots. I also considered buying the Kindle version, but unless it had color I'm glad to have opted for the print version. Anyone who spends time on this forum will surely enjoy this book.

 

Some comments:

  • The production quality of the book was generally excellent, although the italic font used was pretty harsh, making the block quotes painful to read.
  • I noticed a couple of factual errors, the only one I recall was that OSS did not in fact buy SMI. SMI was wound down, OSS acquired the rights to some of the products, to be pedantic. Overall, the book came across as well researched.
  • It was nice to see actual footnotes in the text, but largely to online resources, even when the source was in fact an old magazine (e.g. #148).
  • Organizing the games covered alphabetically was simple enough, but I felt it could have been better separating the very early games from the later games, or discussing the Lucasfilm games together, or trying anything different from alphabetic presentation.
  • The games section handling of prototypes was a bit inconsistent. Some were marked prototypes in the section headers, others (Super Pac-Man, Vanguard) were not.

Don't take these comments as more than quibbles. The book is excellent, buy a copy and prove that there is a market for quality retro-historical books.

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........

Yep, that is exactly correct. That was almost wasted years, more or less, before third-party developers could get going. That meant that instead of Apple having a two-year advantage, it had a four-year advantage, and so many early players in software went with the Apple II as a result. The wasted opportunity kills me to this day.

........

Jamie

 

I thought the all important Atari 400/800 hardware technical? manual was available for purchase - from Atari, but I don't know if this was available from day one, I only heard about it around 1983/1982? I don't know the cost of it - but I'd guess it was not cheap?

And was it the case - that when 3rd Party books became available with the same kind of information within them - that this really helped programmers develop for the Atari 400/800 computers - and they were priced much cheaper too.

 

I'm no programmer - but I would have thought it depended also on what assembler was available to use - as the Atari Assembler/Editor cartridge was not suitable for a large game project - but for learning assembler on.

 

Harvey

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