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Purely by accident and with eternal gratitude to the source who's making this happen, looks like there could be one or more potential leads yet from Imagitec Design to follow up. 

 

 

I'm told one person from that era sadly passed away some years ago (RIP), others have left industry or not been heard from in years and those who might be able to help won't be able to discuss aspects from a legal point of view... 

 

 

But if any of them can shed light on annouced Sega Genesis, Sega CD, C64 GS, Atari Falcon, Jaguar CD and of course, supposed Panther development, it's time well spent looking into. 

 

 

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Sadly, despite the best efforts of myself and my source who gave me the latest Ex-Imagitec Design contact, nothing ever came back from repeated email requests to see if they were aware of any Panther development during their time at the company. 

 

 

Shame, but at this stage, given the sheer number of people contacted and who kindly had replied, i think the case is pretty much closed and at best, all we might of had back is some extra info on Space Junk. 

 

I've also decided to put the following back up from the interview I carried out with Jim Gregory some years ago, regarding Handmade Software and the Panther. 

 

 

Please note:

 

 

The quotes HAVE been edited from the original somewhat, I have removed any personal attacks on Atari sources Jim makes as he choose to put the blame on the shoulders of Atari and the Tramiel family, rather than admit HMS itself suffered financial difficulties which  stemmed from Jim's earlier company, Mr Micro. 

 

 

This was the reason I pulled the interview once the information came to light and other issues within HMS became apparent from testimonials from several EX-HMS staff. 

 

But here is what Jim said about the Panther. 

 

Hello Jim, thanks for confirming/talking us through the claim that Hand Made Software were at one point working on Atari's Panther hardware.  Do you recall what game(s) were being worked on and how far along they got?

Jim Gregory: Yes, we had one of the first dev versions in the world.  It was just in a tin box and was not in any way a finished beast.  To keep it cool, we had to squirt freezer spray through a little hole in the side every 15 minutes.

 

Q: How did you come to receive the Panther dev kit?

 

Jim Gregory: We had a good relationship with Atari and were working on the the Lynx for them.  They offered it to us and we agreed to give them some feedback on it.  We actually had a version of the famous Elite game (which we had done for British Telecom) working on it within a week or so.

Unfortunately we found a BIG bug in the core chip.  In those days there were no FPGA-type chips and so the main chip was a committed block of silicon.  That meant that Atari had paid a big chunk of money to make the die and were ready to ramp up production.  If I remember correctly, it would totally freeze without any way to recover except with a full power cycle.  The bug was related to divide-by-zero problems.  It was not possible to 'just avoid dividing by zero' to make it usable.  We sent them a chunk of code that would easily recreate the issue to show the problem.  When we reported the issue we were first met with disbelief and then annoyance as if WE had caused it to fail.  I believe that at least one other developer later reported the bug and then the whole Panther project was doomed.

 

Q: At what point were you made aware Panther was canned, and did Atari want you to move all your work onto the Jaguar instead?

 

Jim Gregory: Whilst I was visiting them in the U.S., I learned that they had decided to bring forward the next console project, which was eventually to be called Jaguar.  This cost them a LOT of money and credibility with their owner, Time Warner (who later shut the company down suddenly).  Most importantly, it lost them time to market, which sort of set the course to eventual failure.

 

Q: What were your thoughts on the Panther hardware and Atari's ability to support/market it?  Was it really a home version of the Lynx?  Having 32K of RAM must of been an issue.

 

Jim Gregory: No, it was not at all a version of the Lynx.  It was a complex, original design that needed a lot of new programming approaches to achieve results.  We worked with a UK company to offer them a special dev kit and we offered them a several GREAT new game designs.  The dev kit is in my garage somewhere.

 

Q: Do you have any idea if Atari wanted to swap the sound chip for cheaper version?

Jim Gregory: The sound chip was never an issue and was actually quite powerful.  I still have all the documentation.

 

 

Please just be aware it's just the personal opinion of Jim Gregory. 

 

I was reluctant to add the comments back up, but they are part of the full Panther research i carried out and should be added to the archives. 

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From my email chat with Missile Command (ST) Graphics Artist, Gary Johnson:

"I did work with Rob Zdybel back in the day of the years 86 to 89. But not really on any old
Atari Coin-ops to convert. We worked on newer games for the Panther. At this time
I don't remember what they were, because I only did this for a short time till I moved on.

Though back in the years of 81 and 83 I did art of other coin-op games for conversion
for the Atari ST. Rob was not one the programmers during that time.

I hope this helps.

Gary"

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  1. Text from  EDGE, issue 120, p48..Inside Llamasoft feature.
    Jeff Minter  talking about the Panther:

    '...So when the Panther started to happen, I was well known at Atari UK, and there was at least 1 person at Atari US who also knew me,so I was approached to work on the system-and has often been my weakness-my love of getting onto new,cutting-edge hardware prevailed.'

    'Panther didn't last long since it was already being eclipsed by the much more powerful Jaguar that was already in development within Atari.'

    'I got involved fairly early on at the time the Beta hardware was 1st available for developers.

    Panther was quite a nice machine, definitely superior to the MegaDrive that was current at the time,and better in some respects than the SNES, too..

    It was a pretty nice sprite- based system-you could manipulate the sprites on the fly for some interesting effects and it had a nice Ensoniq soundchip,better than anything else out there on console at the time.
    'I was intending to do a space game, with some Star Raider-y aspects-galactic maps, space shootouts-and some scrolly shooty sections were you went down to planets.There was going to be some strategic aspect in there too, influenced by Ian M Banks Culture novels, which I was quite heavily into at the time.

  2. I coded up various demos on the Panther-sprite warping, scrolly planet stuff (one of them had masses of leaping antelopes in it, if I remember correctly) and such,but before anything really started to come together into a game the plug got pulled on Panther...'
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I pulled the above 2 posts from Wayback machine, old Assember thread on the Panther. 

 

Wanted to add the misc info for historical purposes. 

 

 

Memory was jogged after listening to the  Antic interviews with Rob Zybdel, where he suddenly has NO recollection of any ST Console (Project Robin)  or Panther... 

 

Just states Jaguar was the Console.. 

 

 

Lynx was before it Rob. 

 

 

Found it strange he was quick to dismiss a claim Todd made about 2600 Pac-Man:

 

 
"Tod's changed a lot over the years.  Tod's now denying stories that I don't know, man... He's saying he never asked for more than 4K for Pac-Man.  I know that's not true, Tod.  I was there when you did."
 
 
Yet is changing stories himself. 
 
🤔
 

 

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#Meant to add.. 

 

I realise Gary Johnson was probably out by a few years, when he talks of coin-op conversions for the ST, but i always show the exchanges as they come to me. 

 

And given the number of years passed, a margin of error is totally understandable. 

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On 11/28/2020 at 3:33 AM, Lost Dragon said:

I pulled the above 2 posts from Wayback machine, old Assember thread on the Panther. 

 

Wanted to add the misc info for historical purposes. 

 

 

Memory was jogged after listening to the  Antic interviews with Rob Zybdel, where he suddenly has NO recollection of any ST Console (Project Robin)  or Panther... 

 

Just states Jaguar was the Console.. 

 

 

Lynx was before it Rob. 

 

 

Found it strange he was quick to dismiss a claim Todd made about 2600 Pac-Man:

 

 
"Tod's changed a lot over the years.  Tod's now denying stories that I don't know, man... He's saying he never asked for more than 4K for Pac-Man.  I know that's not true, Tod.  I was there when you did."
 
 
Yet is changing stories himself. 
 
🤔
 

 

Probably just faulty old memories. :(

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On 11/30/2020 at 12:01 AM, pacman000 said:

Probably just faulty old memories. :(

I expect so, it's asking a lot of folks to accurately account for events so long ago, but he should allow for that when others are asked, rather than just openly question their version of events. 

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The February March 1989 issue of Generation 4  Magazine gave a few lines of text in amongst the news of the Konix Multisystem aka Slipstream and Sega Mega Drive, to the 16-Bit ST Console. 

 

 

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The April 1991 Issue of Generation 4 has a 2 page exclusive on the Panther, seemingly based on a fax from Atari Entertainment. 

 

 

Just highlighting these issues of Gen 4 as part of the historical reporting on European Press coverage. 

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Génération 4 was published by Pressimage, the same editor than ST Magazine in France, the leading magazine on ST scene in France, and in my opinion the most interesting of all the french computer/videogames magazine of this time.

Génération 4 was focused on 16/32 bits generation, ST and Amiga (and PC afterwards), and new consoles.

You may also find some notices about the ST console and Panther in ST Magazine. It is a pity I sold my collection, but all scans are here :

Le site des anciennes revues informatiques - www.abandonware-magazines.org (abandonware-magazines.org)

I will try to see if I can find something.

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On 11/28/2020 at 2:33 AM, Lost Dragon said:

Yet is changing stories himself. 

 

My Father had two slightly older sisters (all three of them were born within 4 years or so). They each had completely different recollections of various childhood events -- one of them clearly recalled incidents that the other two swore never happened, and so forth. 

 

It is impossible to know which story is the "truth", and, frankly, nothing much turns on it anyway. To each person, what they believe is the truth. 

Edited by jhd
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Found a few more quotes from Bob Gleadow of Atari UK regarding the planned ST Console. 

 

In among the standard expected UK release dates of either September 1990 or early 1991 and £99 price tag, Gleadow talks of the ST Console having "An extended graphics capability '. 

 

He rules out hardware sprites, but talked of" hardware-controlled" horizontal and vertical scrolling... so i assume the console wouldn't of been a vanilla ST set up, inside the XE-style case? 

 

 

He also claimed 3 ST consoles were already in the hands of (unnamed) US Software houses and UK software houses would get theirs in late December 1988.

 

 

The other misc press also talked of Atari sources (USA) putting the ST Console on hold, whilst all efforts were focused on making the Lynx a success. 

 

The issue wasn't with the console technology, as that already existed, more a case of waiting for the right time to release it. 

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