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Chris Crawford

Atari Fossil requests advice on clearing out the attic

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Having just passed my 72nd birthday, I have sadly realized that some of the grand projects that I kept putting off for the future must be abandoned, such as my desire to get my old Honda 160 up and running again. This means that the time has finally come for me to start clearing out the ancient stuff in my attic that has been collecting dust for decades. This includes a lot of old Atari stuff. Now, I don’t have anything from after the day that the meteor (Jack Tramiel) hit Atari and wiped out tons of Atari people. In other words, just Atari 800, etc. Consider me and my stuff to be beautifully preserved fossils from the day that Atari died (before being reincarnated).

 

I have four types of fossils: hardware, software, documents, and ‘memorabilia’. There really isn’t that much hardware: a couple of 800s, some 810s, a modem, an 850 and a cassette drive, as I recall.

 

The software is extensive: a stack of floppies about 12” high. These are not commercial products, but stuff I wrote or used during my Atari years. It is imperative that I collect all this software in a form that can be preserved in other media and read by anybody. That raises the problem of how I shall transfer it from Atari 88K floppies to modern form. My best guess is that I’ll read the files on the 800, then transmit them via modem to a 1980s Macintosh, then transmit those to a modern Macintosh. I have seen some headlines on this forum that suggest that there is now hardware that can effectuate the transfer directly; I’d appreciate any advice you guys can offer on this matter.

 

The ‘memorabilia’ consists of a few things like a nice Atari-marked ballpoint pen and a paper holder. Somewhere I have a couple of Atari T-shirts. I also have a bunch of hardcopy of source code for some of my creations, as well as some of my notes made during development of my software.

 

My highest priority is to insure that a museum gets everything that has any scholarly value. The software and the personal notes must go to a museum. The hardware, many of the floppies, the hardcopy, and the memorabilia need not go to a museum. I intend to sell some of this stuff, and I solicit your advice on what would be of greatest interest to the Atari community. The stuff that isn’t salable I’ll pack away tightly and dump on some nephew or niece in my will.

 

So, I need your advice on how to transfer data from Atari floppies to modern form, and what stuff would be salable.

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Several people here could archive your floppy collection, or I am sure would donate hardware to the cause if you understandably do not with to loan them out for archival.

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If you have software, documents and memorabilia, it would be great to turn that into digital form. Having stuff in museums is great but also having it accessible to everyone on the Net is just as important. If you need help in archiving stuff, some of us Atari 8-bit archivists can help. I have been archiving Atari 8-bit documents for over a decade and have a number of scanners including an over-sized Epson-20000 that can scan 12 inch by 17 inch documents, boxes, etc.

 

Allan

 

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I'd venture to say most of the floppies could easily transferred to .ATR files using APE and 4 drives very quickly and uploaded to Archive.org.

There are some who would say making flux images with kryoflux or a super copy pro card is the only way, taking much more time as well as space.

The documents would be a very time consuming unless you have a large scanner that can do duplex, ocr or pdf at a decent dpi.

When all said and done, where do the originals go? A museum?

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45 minutes ago, Allan said:

If you have software, documents and memorabilia, it would be great to turn that into digital form. Having stuff in museums is great but also having it accessible to everyone on the Net is just as important. If you need help in archiving stuff, some of us Atari 8-bit archivists can help. I have been archiving Atari 8-bit documents for over a decade and have a number of scanners including an over-sized Epson-20000 that can scan 12 inch by 17 inch documents, boxes, etc.

 

Allan

 

I echo this.... the problem with some of these museums is that they are 1 man operations (or a very small staff).  If they even have a way to present things to the public, sometimes there just isn't enough time in the day.  We appreciate the work they do, but if it's just sent to them, it could potentially just sit in a box for who knows how long.

 

It might be helpful to give us a roundabout location of where you are.  For example, if you were around NE Ohio, I know there are people (myself included) who would love to help you get those disks on ATRs.  Make a day of it... have a few beers... archive the disks... play some Atari while archiving... Sounds like a great weekend (plus, no mailing the disks out to someone who might also just put them in a box with all the good intentions of getting around to archiving them "as soon as I can").

 

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1 hour ago, Fuji-Man said:

There are some who would say making flux images with kryoflux or a super copy pro card is the only way, taking much more time as well as space.

This is an area where a two-pronged approach is helpful: create the kryoflux image, then use a8rawconv to convert it to .ATX / .ATR format.  Move the kryoflux image off to removable storage (e.g., USB flash storage) for long-term storage, and use a copy of the .AT? file for day-to-day work.

 

Obviously, getting the data that you want to see preserved out to as many archives (and thus downloaders) as possible is key - but having fallbacks is also a good just-in-case move.

1 hour ago, Tillek said:

It might be helpful to give us a roundabout location of where you are.  For example, if you were around NE Ohio, I know there are people (myself included) who would love to help you get those disks on ATRs.  Make a day of it... have a few beers... archive the disks... play some Atari while archiving... Sounds like a great weekend (plus, no mailing the disks out to someone who might also just put them in a box with all the good intentions of getting around to archiving them "as soon as I can").

Seconded; I'd be happy to help if you're near to or in Oklahoma.  And completely agreed on the mail-and-never-see-again aspect of posting them out to people.  Good intentions, road to hell, etc.

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Posted (edited)

Hello Chris!!

I believe all of your work (including the VCS stuff that marketing sh*t canned for no good reason!) should be archived and put in as many repositories as possible. Most of us found your work to be imaginative, and quite frankly nicely thought out. Anything you want can be converted to ATR files etc. and any binaries/originals you need can be handled by the A8 preservation group, Contacting Kevin @Savetz and @Allan for documents and the like... they are quite good at scanning and putting such papers out on archive.org as well as other locations.

 

If you need anything at all send a DM/PM using the message bubble near the top of the page. mailbox, send, start a name and click.

 

You may find a few folks wanting interviews etc.  It could be fun, so why not?

 

http://www.a8preservation.com/#/home

@Farb can be of some assistance

see this thread...

 

@Chris Crawford

we are here for you, and any projects that you want completed, or need to be completed... we have an Atari Army that loves to dig in and help!

Edited by _The Doctor__
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Wow! Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. I'll begin with the sob story that still haunts me. Way back in the mid-80s I participated in one of the early bulletin board systems: BIX, operated by Byte Magazine. One of the fellows there mentioned that he had a punched card reader. As it happened, I had a huge box of punched cards from my master's thesis research: it was a catalog of dynamical parallaxes of visual binary stars. I had always wanted to follow up that work with a careful statistical analysis of the angular momentum of the stars, to see if there was any component of the galactic angular momentum. So I asked if he'd be willing to read the punched cards and send me the data in a regular text file. He said he'd be glad to help, so I packed up the pile and shipped it off to him.

 

I never heard from him again. My data was gone forever. My wife reminded me that I'm entirely too trusting; I've been burned several times by people whom I trusted.

 

So you can imagine that I'm a bit reluctant to part with my floppies. However, there's a huge difference here: some of the people here have been participating in this community for years now and have earned the trust of the community. After all, anybody who has posted thousands of times here is no fly-by-night operator. 

 

I realize that you guys are right in pointing out that multiple Internet repositories are much safer places for this stuff than a museum. Over the years I have been contacted by various scholars doing research on the history of the microcomputer revolution, and I'm certain that, as the years pass and that period fades into history, people will have even greater difficulty understanding just what was going on -- it truly was a wild and crazy time. Because this stuff was so new, there wasn't a single person at Atari who had any experience in what we were doing, so we were all just making it up as we went. Fortunately, some people, like Dale Yocum, who founded APX, had good instincts and a solid feel for the community and the technology. They just plunged ahead and did what was necessary, then got permission afterwards.

 

I'm in southern Oregon, in the hills south of Jacksonville, so it's unlikely that there are any Atari folk nearby. So it looks as if the best approach would be for us as a group to identify some volunteer who is trusted by all and would be willing to read in all the floppies and post the results. I would mail them the box of floppies and they would scan them in and post. This will be a big job. I started to count them, but stopped at 55; from the size of the piles, it looks like I have between 100 and 150 diskettes. Most of them are have stuff that's already out there: some commercial games like Panzergrenadier and Ghost Ship, lots of Excalibur backups and reference material. There's the scenario editor for Eastern Front (1941), which you should already have, but does anybody have the unfinished Western Front? Commbat? Jim Dunion's Sketch? Sleazy Adventure? Sultan's Adventure? First Person Firing Squad? Source code for Dunion's Debugging Tool. AMAC. Source code for Last of the Incas and Gossip. Lots of stuff for the Corvus drive. Optimized Systems Software's CP/A. Source for De Re Atari. Something I called "Schemolics", which was basically a neural net system. The Macro Assembler. That was a great program!

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You can be very surprised by how far and wide folks will travel to help you do this.

If you still have a fully working system you can do much of the work already with a simple SIO 2 PC usb cable set up. There are pay and free software offerings to use the cable to back up just about any disk without copy protections. Some with protections can be vapi or atx backups but are not the same as flux level dumps you would get using a greaseweazle/catweaz;e/supercardpro/ etc etc.

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, Tillek said:

It might be helpful to give us a roundabout location of where you are.  For example, if you were around NE Ohio...

(Raises hand) I'm in Stark County! Should I be specific or is this safe? 

 

From Chris Crawford:

Quote

The software is extensive: a stack of floppies about 12” high. These are not commercial products, but stuff I wrote or used during my Atari years. It is imperative that I collect all this software in a form that can be preserved in other media and read by anybody. That raises the problem of how I shall transfer it from Atari 88K floppies to modern form.

There are a number of ways to go about this. I can recommend only the means I myself have used which is the SDrive Max. You basically need something which will let you read your physical floppies and save on SD cards as virtual floppies which afterwards can be easily archived many times over. The chance to preserve your data is an awesome one so hopefully this will happen soon.

Edited by Mrshoujo
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I'm of no help but just want to express my support for you @Chris Crawford 

 

I think it is really cool you are taking the time to do this. Not only does this stuff hold historical significance but it is of great overall interest to many of us Atari fans!

 

Thank you, good luck and best wishes!

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You know, there was once a time when I knew absolutely everything that could be known about the Atari computers: hardware, software, timings, capacities, etc. But that was forty years ago. Not only have I forgotten much, but the technology has progressed, and I am forced to admit that I don't know what an "SIO 2 PC usb cable set up" is, although I do recognize that "PC" is a computer I don't have. (I've been using Macs since April 1984.) Nor have I ever heard of kryoflux or a8rawconv or .ATX. You folks have been busy! It looks as if this task is best managed by somebody familiar with these technologies. My plan, as I mentioned earlier, was to ship files out of the Atari through the RS-232 box to an old Mac, then from there through floppies to a modern Mac. I may still end up doing that. 

 

I just recalled (oh, my fading memories) that about ten years ago I shipped my floppies to Curt Vendel, who read them and sent some of the files to me. However, I note that there are quite a few files on the floppies that he never sent to me. Perhaps he tired of slogging through 100+ floppies -- I certainly wouldn't blame him. 

 

I'm heading up to the attic later today to drag out EVERYTHING Atari that's up there. I'll start figuring it out from there.

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2 hours ago, Mrshoujo said:

(Raises hand) I'm in Stark County! Should I be specific or is this safe? 

 

I'm using my psychic powers to deduce you're closer to Alliance, right?  Muahahahaha.

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1 hour ago, Chris Crawford said:

You know, there was once a time when I knew absolutely everything that could be known about the Atari computers: hardware, software, timings, capacities, etc. But that was forty years ago. Not only have I forgotten much, but the technology has progressed, and I am forced to admit that I don't know what an "SIO 2 PC usb cable set up" is, although I do recognize that "PC" is a computer I don't have. (I've been using Macs since April 1984.) Nor have I ever heard of kryoflux or a8rawconv or .ATX. You folks have been busy! It looks as if this task is best managed by somebody familiar with these technologies. My plan, as I mentioned earlier, was to ship files out of the Atari through the RS-232 box to an old Mac, then from there through floppies to a modern Mac. I may still end up doing that. 

 

I just recalled (oh, my fading memories) that about ten years ago I shipped my floppies to Curt Vendel, who read them and sent some of the files to me. However, I note that there are quite a few files on the floppies that he never sent to me. Perhaps he tired of slogging through 100+ floppies -- I certainly wouldn't blame him. 

 

I'm heading up to the attic later today to drag out EVERYTHING Atari that's up there. I'll start figuring it out from there.

There are a few people in the Portland area, including 8bitFix.....

 

IF you want to do it yourself, that's an option too.  My recommendation then, find someone with a Mac and work with them.  Asking "what's the best way" on AtariAge is just inviting a stroke.  You'll be bombarded with too many options to figure out, half of them won't apply to your situation, and then the fight breaks out.

 

Picking one person who offered to  help who is familiar with Atari and Macs working together, and you'll find the sane option (and if it's one of our Oregon folk, the better).

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Posted (edited)
56 minutes ago, Tillek said:

Picking one person who offered to  help who is familiar with Atari and Macs working together, and you'll find the sane option (and if it's one of our Oregon folk, the better).

 

This is the exact reason why I called for Kay Savetz in the first reply to this thread.

He lives in Portland, has Mac experience, did successfully dump many disks including veeery rare ones and has scanned lots of stuff.

 

And moreover Chris and Kay already know each other from an interview for the ANTIC podcast in 2013.

 

Oh and btw., I would refrain from dumping these old disks with an Atari into ATR images.

This is convenient but you have near zero possibility to to repair a flaky disk.

When you make a flux dump, the disk is read five times and sometimes gone-bad sectors can be read without error at least once out of these.

Even if it fails, we can recover quite often some data from these sectors.

 

And it even is faster than doing it with the Atari.

Edited by DjayBee

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3 hours ago, Mrshoujo said:

(Raises hand) I'm in Stark County! Should I be specific or is this safe? 

 

From Chris Crawford:

There are a number of ways to go about this. I can recommend only the means I myself have used which is the SDrive Max. You basically need something which will let you read your physical floppies and save on SD cards as virtual floppies which afterwards can be easily archived many times over. The chance to preserve your data is an awesome one so hopefully this will happen soon.

Holy crap - I am in the same county!

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I think it's important that we recover the data into formats that can be examined by non-Atari people. They won't be able to run any of the programs, but they should be able to read the source code. This is particularly tricky with Atari BASIC, which saves files in an almost unreadable format. Has anybody ever written a "clean up the source code for display" program for Atari BASIC? If not, I may have to.

 

I'm off to the attic now.

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19 minutes ago, Stephen said:

Holy crap - I am in the same county!

And I'm in Summit....  Small world.

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15 minutes ago, Chris Crawford said:

I think it's important that we recover the data into formats that can be examined by non-Atari people.

 

This is certainly true but first we need a good dump of the data.

These "magic flux dumps" can and will be easily converted into the standard ATR format and from there one can extract all files on the disk to a Mac or PC.

 

16 minutes ago, Chris Crawford said:

They won't be able to run any of the programs, but they should be able to read the source code. This is particularly tricky with Atari BASIC, which saves files in an almost unreadable format. Has anybody ever written a "clean up the source code for display" program for Atari BASIC?

There are several ways to do it and from there you can export into standard ASCII text files.

Unfortunately inverse and graphics characters are always difficult to transfer as text to a modern Mac or PC. Therefore source code containing these is usually printed to a PDF which can then at least be viewed on modern computers.

 

If you have a means to run Windows, you can use Memopad (https://x868k.com/apps/memopad/ ) for example.

Hint: BASIC file names must have .BAS as extension to be recognized as tokenized BASIC code.

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I just came down from the attic, covered in dust and sneezing. I found all sorts of strange and ancient stuff, including a bunch of Macs from over the years. In Atari stuff, I found lots of stuff: four 800s, some of which are labeled "broken". 810s. 850s. One acoustic coupler. Enough cables of various kinds to stretch from here to Portland. Lots of printouts of source code. Half a dozen 8K RAM modules -- whoop de doo! All with silver, not gold contacts. Joysticks galore, many of them the snazzy third-party joysticks. 

 

And not ONE NTSC television or monitor. Not one. It looks like I'm up the creek without a monitor. I used to have a really good Sony Trinitron TV that I used on my Atari 800, but now it is gone. The prices for these things on eBay are all above $100! 

 

I am determined to get rid of all this stuff, but just now I'm not sure how to proceed.

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"Fossil": The usual self-deprecating sense of humor!

Mr. Crawford, I'm delighted that you're objectively aware of the need to preserve such material. The steps you're taking to record such a large part of your work are much appreciated.

The Art of Computer-Game Design and Interactive Storytelling still receive relatively regular reading from this particular fan; a hypothetical additional title among the stacks of "classic computing" volumes that would surely draw the fascination of fellow aficionados would be The Attic of Chris Crawford!

Those who've already offered advice above are far smarter than I am about the minutia of data transfer and preservation, but I've contacted a couple of community members who also might help, inviting them to this thread. I'll keep my fingers crossed that the e-mail addresses I have are still valid.

And Happy Birthday!

 

 

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Posted (edited)

 

9 minutes ago, Chris+++ said:

a hypothetical additional title among the stacks of "classic computing" volumes that would surely draw the fascination of fellow aficionados would be The Attic of Chris Crawford!

 

They've already made a movie out of it:

 

TheAtticOfDrCrawford.jpg

Edited by Chris Crawford
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As I mentioned earlier, there are a ton of old Macs in the attic, some of which I do not recall obtaining or using. Perhaps some of those attic Macs have begun breeding hybrids. Included in this was a PowerMac G3 running OS 9.2. Just for fun, I powered it up; it worked perfectly, except that the built-in display smeared the images. But it included a bunch of interesting folders, including one labelled "Atari Stuff" and containing 138 items, usually about 2 items for each title, one with extension .ATR and the other with extension .LOG. I strongly suspect that this is the result of Curt Vendel's work back in 2013, but I am shocked that I have no other backups of this material. So we can forget all that hassle about transferring the files; we're most of the way there. The whole thing fits in 10 MB, so I'll try to stuff it onto some 3.5" floppy disks, and from there port it over to my modern Mac, where I can ZIP it up and post it here.

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There are a bunch of Atari folks scattered all over the country. Hopefully Kay @Savetz can help, but if not him there are others. And other well-known retro-enthusiasts who have been around forever and are quite well known are in Portland too, including Adrian Black (Adrian's Digital Basement on YouTube) and Earl Evans, of the Retro-Computer Roundtable podcast (and several others before that one). Any of those folks, I'm sure, could help you get Kryoflux magnetic flux images of your disks, or put you into direct contact with someone trustworthy who could.

 

And as an aside, I want @Chris Crawford to know: the very first games I bought from the store for my new Atari 400 in the fall of 1982 were EASTERN FRONT 1941 and SCRAM, both on cassette as published by APX. And not too long after, probably after Christmas, I sent away to get a copy of DE RE ATARI, which I still have today in the same binder I put it in four decades ago. Just about 10 days ago, in a fit of nostalgia, I used a modern FujiNet device attached to one of my 800s to boot up EASTERN FRONT from a .CAS image file. It took the usual 8-10 minutes or so, but so rewarding to see that opening screen. Thank you!

 

IMG_2056.thumb.JPG.a3135c618c10affca5351c813818d34b.JPG

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