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ParanoidLittleMan

Jack Tramiel - opinions about his management of Atari

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Yes, I remember that early STs were sold together with monitors - it was so in Germany too. But that's usual with new models - high price, not even ready for some big sales, because manufacturing needs time too, to be able for some real mass production. Those who want it in begin always pay more, we know it.

In my case, monitor was out of question - I had TV with RGB input (self made), so no need for SC monitor. Mono was not of interest for me. And could use mono SW with SW mono emulator. Later I bought SM124 for some 80 bucks.

 

My point was that ST was really good value for it's price. And it dropped too. So, around 1990 could buy ST 520 for some 500 DEM, while C64 was about 250 or even less. XL800 about 300-350.  Only if look about CPU power - ST was 3-6x faster than those computers. Not to mention RAM etc. So, price was very good, but competition was very good too. People just wanted more and more, as always.

 

Considering consoles - there was always people interested mostly for gaming, for simple usage. They don't need home or personal computer. Not even now - can go Internet with console or smart TV. And there are those who don't want console. Why would I buy it, when I can play practically all it on PC, or in that time on Atari ?

Plus, I can hack games.

I don't think that problem was that Atari wanted to cover all it - 8-bit, 16-bit, PC clone, consoles, laptops ... Real question is: could development be faster ? Why were there some silly HW design mistakes ? I have some theories about it, but maybe some other time ...

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1 hour ago, ParanoidLittleMan said:

    [snip ... snip]

 

I don't think that problem was that Atari wanted to cover all it - 8-bit, 16-bit, PC clone, consoles, laptops ... Real question is: could development be faster ? Why were there some silly HW design mistakes ? I have some theories about it, but maybe some other time ...

My real question to the management team would be about buying Federated. I would love to go back in time and be in the room where everyone is talking about this and nodding their head in agreement.

 

"Yeah, Jack! That's a great idea! Let's do it."

 

I want to see that moment in Atari history. That moment to me is when Atari blasted a massive hole in their ship. Everything else was just little holes. With that massive hole the ship started to fill up with water and the sinking began.

 

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Can’t wait for “Business is War”. Honestly hope i can stave off my lymphoma long enough to see my XM and a copy of this book, because I grew up with Tramiel Atari and they hold a special place in my heart. I’m amazed at what they pulled off, given the size they were, the capital they had etc. We all armchair ceo with the benefit of 20 20 hindsight (myself included) but I find their story fascinating and far less clear than Warner Atari 

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16 hours ago, 6BQ5 said:

My real question to the management team would be about buying Federated. I would love to go back in time and be in the room where everyone is talking about this and nodding their head in agreement.

 

"Yeah, Jack! That's a great idea! Let's do it."

 

I want to see that moment in Atari history. That moment to me is when Atari blasted a massive hole in their ship. Everything else was just little holes. With that massive hole the ship started to fill up with water and the sinking began.

 

All, what I can reply on this is: getting hole in ship is something not exceptional in life of one ship. But even massive holes can be fixed, if people on ship is motivated, skilled, fast enough. Or in other words: I don't think that Atari ever experienced torpedo attack, pardon, hit - that would be the case what can not be fixed 😀

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Maybe a good analogy might be..

 

A ship can cope with perhaps one or more small holes or leaks, as long as there are sufficient pumps avaiable abd running to pump out more water than is being taken on, but a large hole would be more than the existing resources  could cope with and a ship would soon start to list to 1 side and eventually sink if damage not repaired. 

 

😆

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19 hours ago, ParanoidLittleMan said:

My point was that ST was really good value for it's price. And it dropped too. So, around 1990 could buy ST 520 for some 500 DEM, while C64 was about 250 or even less. XL800 about 300-350.  Only if look about CPU power - ST was 3-6x faster than those computers. Not to mention RAM etc. So, price was very good, but competition was very good too. People just wanted more and more, as always.

It was definately a good value vs the competition, but it wasn't at a price point to replicate the success of the C64 until it was too late.

 

19 hours ago, ParanoidLittleMan said:

Considering consoles - there was always people interested mostly for gaming, for simple usage. They don't need home or personal computer. Not even now - can go Internet with console or smart TV. And there are those who don't want console. Why would I buy it, when I can play practically all it on PC, or in that time on Atari ?

Plus, I can hack games.

In the US around 1983, the idea of "you should buy your child a computer instead of a videogame console because it will prepare them for the future" became popular,  and Commodore exploited this, and that + price wars is how Jack T sold so many C64s.   It was also probably part of the reason for the North American videogame crash.   Everyone thought that the concept of console was a dead-end and computers were the future of Video Games.   That thinking was on display at Jack's Atari as well..  because they didn't take their console lineup seriously until Nintendo ate their lunch and it was too late.   They used it as a cash cow.   "We can make a cheaper 2600 model, and sell millions to the third world?  Great!  Easy money!"  

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22 hours ago, DracIsBack said:

Can’t wait for “Business is War”. Honestly hope i can stave off my lymphoma long enough to see my XM and a copy of this book, because I grew up with Tramiel Atari and they hold a special place in my heart. I’m amazed at what they pulled off, given the size they were, the capital they had etc. We all armchair ceo with the benefit of 20 20 hindsight (myself included) but I find their story fascinating and far less clear than Warner Atari  

just exactly the same for me

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On 6/8/2019 at 7:19 PM, oracle_jedi said:

The Atari ST was remarkable for being introduced so quickly, but the machine lacked serious graphical and audio capabilities that are a requirement for a video game platform.  He seemed to think his 1040ST with cheap laser printer was a good fit for small businesses, but who was going to support it when he had burned all his distribution bridges?

There was simply not enough time to improve the hardware further. The laser printer however was a brilliant business move: Mega ST + Atari SLM804 + Calamus opened a new niche market for the ST. Germany had quite a good support network for Atari DTP too.

 

On 6/9/2019 at 6:22 PM, 6BQ5 said:

Now, accelerate something like the STe to 1987. In 1989 release the Falcon and update the STe to something like the STe Plus. Now there is a "low" offering and a "high" offering. Follow up with the TT in 1990. Now there is "low", "medium", and "high". In parallel, Jack could have slowly expanding the gaming console offering. Give the XE and XEGS the 65816 processor. Eliminate the 65XE and only offer the 130XE. The potential for success was enormous.

A 1989 Falcon wouldn't have been the Falcon we know today. And there was little potential for success in the 8 bit gaming market. Support for 8 Bit Ataris was already slowing down in Europe - C64 was more popular, Spectrum of course and the CPC too. Any Atari console would face the same difficulties that the 7800 did: Nintendo had a lock on many games, Sega had their huge arcade library while Atari only had the rights to their own aging arcade titles.

 

On 6/15/2019 at 9:51 AM, ParanoidLittleMan said:

Wrong. In 1983 C64 price, without it's tape recorder was about 1200 DEM in Germany. In 1987 Atari 520 ST, with single sided drive 1000 DEM . Surely, some C64 was more affordable in 1987, but who wanted C64 then ? People wanted more power, more things possible to do ... And 1000 DEM was affordable, even for some poor "communist country" people.

Some of the best C64 games were released in 1987 and the C64 sold extremely well despite the 520ST. Many people were still quite happy with their Commodore back then. 

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What I had in mind was about people who wanted computer for regular usage, including some programming, databases, some small business help, and like .

That was simply not possible with some computer with tape recorder, with poor basic, low resolution. Atari ST had good enough resolution to display 80 characters in line - what is elementary for some serious work.

Surely, C64 sold well, even after 1987 - but that was in big part thanx to huge game base. People wanted to play those games, and they were around - you could get them from neighbor, skool friend ...  Even myself got one in 1988, just because was cheap, and seller gave me plenty of tapes with . But I sold it year later - so long was interesting.

 

I think that Tramiel was aware what market expecting, and it was good idea to cover all it. Probably release of PC clone is most questionable move - why they made competition to own main product ? It looked even as some betrayal. But that not so simple. There were people which wanted strictly PC, from diverse reasons. And there was DRI, still mostly PC oriented ...

In any case, what later Atari and Tramiel done was some kind of pioneer work, may say transition from those toy computers of early 80-es to modern, multimedia computers with high res monitor. And for affordable price - it existed already, but was too expensive even for small business.

It's easy now to say what could be done better. Like that buying of Federated. I don't know details, but surely, every such move is risk. I tend to see slow HW development as main problem, although even much faster would not help against army of PC manufacturers. Look what happened with big European TV manufacturers ? I see only Philips in shops - everything other is made in Asia. Just like personal computers. So Apple is Philips of computers 😃

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Posted (edited)

Atari was flush with cash, the JTS merger was just a way to get the money away from the share holders and for the Tramiels to get all the cash safely...

The ST was a success in spite of the Tramiel family, and the Amiga was Atari's new killer machine that they easily would have dominated with. Commodore would have been gone sooner and Atari would have been fine.

Having dealt with the Tramiels and thier money grabbing ill treatment of the dealer/distribution network which was the back bone of the industry at that time, his hair brained idea that he was going to use some chain of stores to do this function was laughable at best.... he kept warehouses full of product out of store and away from customers that would have bought them if they were available to buy... many people canceled their purchases as the product that was on 'back order' was still sitting in the warehouse ready for delivery but not shipped do to more of their penny pinching schemes and delusions that their store purchase was going to pan out, well as usual it put money in their pockets as well as their friends... then on to the write offs for taxes et all and ridiculous losses for the company itself. When the Sam and Jack Clowning was done... a year and half of sales were lost. The clowns then thought the dealers and distribution network that they screwed over in the USA would then shell out $50,000+ or so in cash to re establish what they used to have and fund the circus boys all over again.... do you really want to think they were great? They shit canned every good thing that was ready to go, delayed delivery of product by almost two years because they thought they would get more money into their pockets without a care for the company itself or the entire network that had already invested in the company. Volumes about all of this have already been written. The *ss clown circus of the Tramiels was no fun at all for dealers, distributors an repair centers. Lets not forget that Sears and other retail outlets got burned by them with catalog orders for XL orders that sat in Atari warehouses, that eventually required the retailers to refund the pre-orders and catalog orders and then fight with Atari and all of the payment/refund issues between the retailers and Atari as well.... No please don't ever theorize the Tramiels did Atari any favors...

Edited by _The Doctor__
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8 hours ago, ParanoidLittleMan said:

What I had in mind was about people who wanted computer for regular usage, including some programming, databases, some small business help, and like .

That was simply not possible with some computer with tape recorder, with poor basic, low resolution. Atari ST had good enough resolution to display 80 characters in line - what is elementary for some serious work.

But for the 80s computer kids trying to get into this stuff without spending a lot of money,  A 40-column computer with tape drive was better than no computer at all.  You could still program, do word processing, telecommunications, etc with it.   You learn to live with the tape, while dreaming about a disk drive.   Then when you get the disk drive, life is good--  for awhile, but then even that isn't enough and a hard drive becomes desirable, and on it goes.   But the 8-bit Atari/Commodore lines encouraged this kind of piecemeal upgrade.   If our parents didn't support the hobby, we could work our paper routes or whatever and save up for new peripherals.

 

I understand it would be difficult to use an ST unless it came with a floppy.  Hell it was difficult to use it even with the floppy!  But that created a huge upgrade cost over our XLs/XEs.  And the cheaper 260ST was never released in the US.    Even though the price came down after a few years,  the PC clone market was already becoming compelling.   I knew many who skipped the ST and upgraded to a PC clone instead.

 

That was the main problem--    There was only a few short years where the ST was a good value proposition before the economies of scale in the PC clone market made that more appealing.   By then the Tramiels had squandered Atari's lead in video games and had nothing to fall back on.

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zzip: I don't know why you stay at that kids were main customers for home computers. I worked on repairing them over many years. And yes, it was C64, what I saw coming in my small service in most cases. Partially because it was spread, partially because it liked to broke. Things were better with second revision - slimmer one - for instance they stopped making PSU without airflow for cooling (who looked it better knows what I talking). And I can not say that it were school kids who brought it in most cases. Nor their parents. Mostly younger, but working people. Without kids - that is actually important to have time for it 🙂

Don't know was it much different in US. Reminded me on TV serial Halt and Catch Fire - watched only 2 seasons, then lost interest. Really don't know how realistic was that they did almost everything with C-64 - so even online games, and that was in time when ST was on market - one of main characters even bought one, but we never seen him using it.  I wonder how much people needed to spend to add serial port to C-64. Somehow seems as not good investment when you needed to add floppy drive and couple other peripherals, what ST had by factory. But what I know ...

And again something from my experience:  OK, I was never typical user, I guess. Bought low end 520 ST in 1987 spring, but already planned to expand it's RAM self, to add 2 sided external floppy. And bought both for less money than price diff. to 1040 ST was. Programming went actually fine with floppy drive. Even today, when I assemble source files over 500 KB length it would work. Bigger problem is computer speed - that needs some 20-30 minutes to assemble. With C it likely would need at least 2  800 K floppies.  I bought HD floppy drive around 1989, 2 MB RAM expansion chips. Luckily did not need then not existing Ajax chip - worked well.

Bought first hard disk for 100 DEM (1992 ?) - used Seagate 40 MB.  Made self IDE adapter. What I want to say - all it is possible for really not much money, if you are patient.

Atari served me well until 1994 (with many short life 2.5 inch drives) - then went on PC, mostly because SW. There were still cases when I used Atari, as it was better for specific purpose.

Main problem with ST was limited graphic, limited CPU speed - as result of old, not flexible design. 4 MB RAM was OK even in 1995 . But that was in fact same with PCs. Some 6-7 old mainboard is not possible to upgrade with new cards, CPUs - all it comes in new versions, so must change all it. And speeds gained faster than in case of Atari. Much faster. Falcon 1992 - max 3x faster than ST from 1985. That was not good, despite DSP, hard disk . And price of it was maybe real killer of Atari.

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Um ZZIP ... not quite sure it’s as nefarious as you’re suggesting. Where the cash went is all outlined in final Atari Corp plus JTS sec filings 

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Whatever direction it was Atari decided to take on, being the cheapest and taking the cheaper route ultimately is what I view being the real killer for Atari. The Jaguar is a perfect example. Amazing (yet flawed) hardware completely destroyed by the lack of adequate memory with little to no real 3rd party support for a laundry list of reasons and zero quality control because desperation for software gave them no choice? Either way, it ended very sadly.

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41 minutes ago, Clint Thompson said:

Whatever direction it was Atari decided to take on, being the cheapest and taking the cheaper route ultimately is what I view being the real killer for Atari. The Jaguar is a perfect example. Amazing (yet flawed) hardware completely destroyed by the lack of adequate memory with little to no real 3rd party support for a laundry list of reasons and zero quality control because desperation for software gave them no choice? Either way, it ended very sadly.

Huh ? "Zero quality control" ?  Can you say more about it ?  I mean, I know well that C64 was poor quality, right in times when Jack Tramiel was boss of Commodore. It was much better with later, slim C64, in post Tramiel times. But fact is that Atari ST was very good quality among home computers - considering rare failures, video quality - for instance I never seen better RF output quality.  To add - I serviced lot of mentioned, so I know what I talk about.

Thinking better, even after Tramiel was fired from his Commodore (what an ungrateful bunch of greedy shareholders 🙂 ), fat C64 was still manufactured - until 1987, I guess. So, that was not only Tramiel. And can add without any prejudices that Korean (where Commodore had factories) electronic was not famous in those years for it's quality. Taiwan was indeed better.

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1 hour ago, ParanoidLittleMan said:

Huh ? "Zero quality control" ?  Can you say more about it ?  I mean, I know well that C64 was poor quality, right in times when Jack Tramiel was boss of Commodore. It was much better with later, slim C64, in post Tramiel times. But fact is that Atari ST was very good quality among home computers - considering rare failures, video quality - for instance I never seen better RF output quality.  To add - I serviced lot of mentioned, so I know what I talk about.

Thinking better, even after Tramiel was fired from his Commodore (what an ungrateful bunch of greedy shareholders 🙂 ), fat C64 was still manufactured - until 1987, I guess. So, that was not only Tramiel. And can add without any prejudices that Korean (where Commodore had factories) electronic was not famous in those years for it's quality. Taiwan was indeed better.

Sorry, I meant for software not hardware. From personal experience, the hardware was mostly reliable outside of memory failure with the XE line and the faulty keyboards on the 1200XLs.

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On 6/19/2019 at 12:18 PM, ParanoidLittleMan said:

zzip: I don't know why you stay at that kids were main customers for home computers. I worked on repairing them over many years. And yes, it was C64, what I saw coming in my small service in most cases. Partially because it was spread, partially because it liked to broke. Things were better with second revision - slimmer one - for instance they stopped making PSU without airflow for cooling (who looked it better knows what I talking). And I can not say that it were school kids who brought it in most cases. Nor their parents. Mostly younger, but working people. Without kids - that is actually important to have time for it

I'm not saying it was their main customers, but they sold a lot of XL/XEs that way.   Parents picking them up as low-risk Christmas presents and whatnot.   A lot of us got Ataris, C64s/VIC 20s, TI-99/4a's and COCO's that way.   Buying a kid an Apple or PC was much riskier, unless you were also buying it for yourself.

 

ST lost that type of customer for the most part, but they tried to go for more serious computer users.  But there were a few obstacles there.  

1) Lack of big name apps.   ST did eventually get Wordperfect and MS Write after a few years, but people looking for say Lotus would look elsewhere.  

2) Build quality.   The Mega's were improvements over standard STs, but there was a huge difference in comfort typing on a real PC keyboard vs the mushy ST keyboard.  

3) The Atari name was too associated with video games and often not taken seriously as a computer company by professionals, at least in the US.

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On 6/22/2019 at 4:52 AM, Clint Thompson said:

Sorry, I meant for software not hardware. From personal experience, the hardware was mostly reliable outside of memory failure with the XE line and the faulty keyboards on the 1200XLs.

Well the Jaguar CD was a bad piece of hardware, but that was one of the last things they produced.

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I know that there are a lot of differing opinions regarding Jack Tramiel's management and acquisition of Atari, but I am definitely thankful for it. Yes, it wasn't perfect, I know... but without Jack, Atari would have crashed and burned a lot sooner than it did and we wouldn't have gotten the ST (and everything that stemmed from it).

 

One of the times that I heard Leonard Tramiel speak, he had said that the ST went from concept to working prototypes in cases in six months. Wow. Pretty awesome.

 

I wish the ST (and the lines that followed) would have been marketed better with advertising, sales partnerships, etc. When I was a teenager in Santa Cruz, CA (USA) I was only 45 minutes from the Silicon Valley by car and the only Atari dealer in Santa Cruz county was a toy store in Aptos. They didn't carry current models because not enough people knew to ask about them. This was in 1990 and the guy behind the counter (while very Atari knowledgeable) didn't have a single STe to show me; just a 520ST with an external FDD. By the time the Falcon came out, they weren't even interested in carrying them. It was pretty sad.

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15 minutes ago, Muzz73 said:

I know that there are a lot of differing opinions regarding Jack Tramiel's management and acquisition of Atari, but I am definitely thankful for it. Yes, it wasn't perfect, I know... but without Jack, Atari would have crashed and burned a lot sooner than it did and we wouldn't have gotten the ST (and everything that stemmed from it).

 

One of the times that I heard Leonard Tramiel speak, he had said that the ST went from concept to working prototypes in cases in six months. Wow. Pretty awesome.

 

I wish the ST (and the lines that followed) would have been marketed better with advertising, sales partnerships, etc. When I was a teenager in Santa Cruz, CA (USA) I was only 45 minutes from the Silicon Valley by car and the only Atari dealer in Santa Cruz county was a toy store in Aptos. They didn't carry current models because not enough people knew to ask about them. This was in 1990 and the guy behind the counter (while very Atari knowledgeable) didn't have a single STe to show me; just a 520ST with an external FDD. By the time the Falcon came out, they weren't even interested in carrying them. It was pretty sad.

I can't agree with that. James Morgan was possibly on the way to saving Atari...albeit had to scale things back drastically employees & buildings wise. I'm not saying he would have for sure. It was possibly too far gone even if coin-op was still doing well. I presume it was Steve Ross who negotiated the deal to give Jack Atari for no money down plus throw more money in when Jack asked. Did Steve Ross ever make a GOOD deal? I can;t even count him buying Atari because Manny Gerard did the legwork. All Ross wanted was a Gran Trak 10 cabinet in his penthouse and no one thought to measure to see if it would fit in the door.

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Haha! Yes... good point!

 

I may be totally off in what may have happened had Jack not bought Atari when he did, but I would certainly like to have seen where Atari might have gone had he not taken things over and put a lot of the currently-being-developed concepts/products on hold or completely squashed. I think that the 8-bit era was only beginning to wane, but it still had a few good years left in it and some of the 8-bit products that Jack either killed or delayed might have saved Atari long enough for them to regroup and formulate a new plan of attack.

 

I do believe that Atari had good marketing in the Warner era, which seemed to go decidedly downhill after they sold.

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I was chatting to some friends about our childhood days and the topic of old games and systems came up and it reminded me of this thread.

 

I think here in the UK, Atari never quite shook off it's image of being a games console company.

 

The 2600 had been such a success and Atari so reluctant to let it go, reducing the price of the 2600 Jr and aiming it squarely at the entry level/kids market (it was constantly in the home shopping catalogues of the time) , Atari to so many simply meant the 2600.

 

And with the 7800 initally being shown to to the press around the same time as magazines were putting details of the NES and Master System in News sections, the image of Atari and games consoles was just further entrenched. 

 

So few of us had an Atari home micro..i only knew fellow 800XL owners,  no 400 or 800 owners..

 

The 2600 was still being mentioned in console features when i bought the 520STFM. 

 

 

People often say Atari should of released the XEGS rather than the 5200, but if they had in1982 at what sort of price point could it of been manufactured for?.

 

It appeared in 1987 (if i have my dates correct 😁), could it of been made and sold in '82 and was only say $50 less than what you paid for an Atari 8 bit home micro, would it of been an attractive enough alternative?.

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