The birth of Atari ST

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Re: The birth of Atari ST

Postby simonsunnyboy » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:35 pm

Dio wrote:My thoughts:

simonsunnyboy wrote:I still think both Atari's failures and the PC quality bang killed Atari off.....

The Megadrive largely killed the ST and Amiga as games machines; for 80% plus of game titles it offered hugely better quality at a vastly cheaper (hardware) price because of the platform fee model, and more convenience (albeit at higher cost) because of carts). The computers couldn't remotely compete on price and that despite being stuck on a 1984/5 hardware specification due to the impossibility of moving people off the base spec. Frankly they did well to last as long as they did.


Well the St never was conveived as a games machine. I'm fully with the "Jackintosh" arguments stated above. Here in Europe the ST was professional machine that also could do games. Hardcore gamers (and only gamers buy consoles like the Megadrive) at that point already did concentrate on the Amiga.

IMHO the Megadrive was a much bigger thread to the Amiga than to the ST. I still see cheap PCs with Windows 3.1 as the ST and Falcon killer. Those who could afford, bought Macs, those who did not moved to PCs in the 90s except for a small small minority.

Until 1992, the US stuff for PCs was no threat. A 1987 Signum really runs circles around anything pre Winword.
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Re: The birth of Atari ST

Postby Dio » Thu Aug 01, 2013 10:25 pm

Possibly in mainland Europe - but AFAICS in the UK the ST was mostly a games machine. The Amiga was far too expensive for the main gamers market of the time (schoolkids). In the same way that only the rich kids had C64s (until the 8-bits were already dead), the Amiga was simply too much of a stretch for parents to buy for kids, and that was the only mass market for Atari; most adults didn't want or need a computer until the convergence of the home and business markets and the home penetration of email and WWW. Sure, it had decent niches, but they were small ones.

This is only my theory, but that the Megadrive was the catalyst explains the bottom falling out of the Amiga / ST markets pretty much simultaneously in 1991-3 despite the different capabilities of the platforms.

I would be intrigued to see hardware and software sales numbers for Amiga, ST, Mac, etc. by year in various markets. Been looking for this sort of thing for a while but I've never turned up anything significant on the net.

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Re: The birth of Atari ST

Postby MrMaddog » Fri Aug 02, 2013 6:19 am

Why the ST (and Amiga) didn't do well in the States?

The Video Game Crash may have had something to do with it. Home computers like the C-64 were first seen as replacements for game consoles like the Atari 2600 that can also do "serious" work. But the home computer market also suffered because Jack Tramiel slashed prices to drive other companies out of existence; however it also put Commodore in the red. It wasn't long before Americans were buying NES's for video gaming.

For serious computers, IBM was the brand used in offices and eventually for people who took their work home. They only needed to run word processors and spreadsheets, no need for fancy graphics and sound. Eventually other computer companies made PC clones to run IBM software and that's how the PC became a standard. Macs were an expection because they can do desktop publishing and other things the text based PC's couldn't do. So they were at least tolerated for the art design departments, not to mention that Apple is the other respectiable brand for the suits.

Sadly, that meant the Atari & Commdore computers were religated for "home computer hobbists" (ie. nerds) who like to tinker around. Only existing customers bought their products while the only new customers were Europeans, so that's where they concentrated all their marketing. Amigas and ST's were used for professional niches like MIDI sequencing (ST) and video animation (Amiga), but everything else was done on PC's and Mac's for art stuff.

Oh the ST did have PC and Mac emulators but only Atari users knew about it. The Mac emulator by Dave Small was actually better than a real Mac so most North Americans who bought ST's got it to run Spectre GCR as described in Al Fasoldt's article. But of course once Windows came out, it was Game Over for everyone... :(

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Re: The birth of Atari ST

Postby carmel_andrews » Mon Sep 02, 2013 1:13 am

Main reasons why the ST weren't that successful in the US

Tramiel shouldn't have listened to what Atari France wanted (a floppy disk based ST), whereas Atari UK and Atari Germany were seriously pushing for a HD based ST, remember that at the time HD's were coming standard in PC's and mac's had just gotten into the whole HD thing (since mac's at the time had a horribly slow floppy system from what i heard)

The fact that Tramiel went with Atari france's suggestion basically killed off any long term possibilities for the ST, remembering that the likes of the megafile hardware was practically an afterthought and the reason why Atari only did a limited run of the CDAR hardware was because they hadn't sold enough megafiles in volume to make the CDAR commercially viable

Since i recall that tramiel claimed he invented 'market segmentation' while he was running things at CBM, why didn't he use some of that knowledge and do 2 versions of the ST, one a low end version (floppy based like Atari France wanted) and a high end version using HD's as standard (though you'd have the ports to connect a floppy drive if you felt it neccessary)

As for software support, in the US at least there was still a possibility that Atari could have made headway in getting more 3rd parties to develop software for the platform, one idea could have been to update the APX concept (since they could'nt use APX itself as they'd sold that off to one of them US Atari magazines) and agree to distribute user written ST software via Atari dealers and if any of the programs became popular/successful, Atari would have the rights to releasing/marketing that program under one of it's mainstream labels

Remembering ofcourse that nintendo needed a few Attempts in the US before the nes took off

Since Atari had initially taken the lead in markets like europe and UK, one idea Atari could have tried is working with the european/uk publishers/developers to release or market their programs in the US (therefore saving that developer or publisher the hassle or headache of setting up in another market) that way Atari would have been able to staunch the software support the nes was getting, since as part of any deal that atari market or distribute that companies programs in the states, that company would sign an exclusivity contract with atari which meant that that program would'nt be available on another platform for a defined period of time (kind of like using nintendo's own policy regarding 3rd party software developing/publishing against nintendo, remembering ofcourse that nintendo's policy actaully worked against them in UK/europe which is why the sega games systems were more successful/popular then the equivalent nintendo systems...pre saturn/dreamcast ofcourse)

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Re: The birth of Atari ST

Postby mc6809e » Mon Sep 02, 2013 2:31 am

simonsunnyboy wrote:IMHO the Megadrive was a much bigger thread to the Amiga than to the ST. I still see cheap PCs with Windows 3.1 as the ST and Falcon killer. Those who could afford, bought Macs, those who did not moved to PCs in the 90s except for a small small minority.


Don't underestimate the degree to which the ST was a threat to Amiga, at least in the USA.

Here in the USA many engineers and hacker-types that I hung out with were looking for a 68000 machine with color that was cheaper than the very overpriced Mac.

There was lots of excitement about the Amiga, but the ST came out a couple of months earlier and many couldn't wait for the Amiga. It was a real source of division in the hacker community and the split that developed was very damaging. I'm sure it happened elsewhere, too.

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Re: The birth of Atari ST

Postby tjlazer » Sun Sep 22, 2013 10:26 pm

Yeah I disagree that a HD based ST was what hurt US sales. The Mac and Amiga also didn't have a HD based system. External HDs were avail for all so it wasn't an issue, but the cost was. But a PC with a HD was very expensive anyways. I think the SS drive was a bad move for the ST, really set the standard for ST software to be on SS disks, where the Amiga used DS.

I think it was the PC compatible with VGA that killed the ST and Amiga.
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Re: The birth of Atari ST

Postby wongck » Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:00 am

When I was in the US in late 80s, I went to a computer shop... well more like a supermarket.
There were rows and rows of computers.... Apple and IBM... can't see any Atari nor Commodore.
So those have better retail channels making them easier for the public to get hold of.
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Re: The birth of Atari ST

Postby retrorogue » Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:28 pm

Retrogamer_ST wrote:I was always a bit confused over why Atari never used Jay Miner custom chips when designed ST. This article explains pretty much why. Never the less, Atari come up with a good computer anyway. But imagine a computer with Jay Miners custom chips and GEM. It should be a powerful computer that was easy to use too (i hope)

I think that Atari's biggest blunder was to ignore the american market.


The article doesn't explain anything about why. Literally, the ST (known as RBP) was in development before Jack purchased the Consumer Division assets. It was never planned around the Amiga chips (though the confusion often arrises from the fact that Jack did visit Amiga in the spring of '84 to see about possibly using that tech in his new computer, but it was one of several companies he visited and ultimately decided not to work with any of them).

Additionally, Amiga's contract was with Warner and Warner's company Atari Inc. It did not come with the purchase. Even if it had, the licensing agreement was for game console and coin-op use only. Personal computer use wasn't allowed until 1986.

Retrogamer_ST wrote:Correct. And when Commodore bought Jay Miners company Commodore quickly got sued.


No, they got counter-sued a month later. The suit was a counter-suit against Commodore via Amiga. When Jack purchased the Consumer Division assets and formed Atari Corp., several of his ex-Commodore engineers were immediately sued by Commodore. Commodore placed an injunction on them doing any computer work for Jack, effectively shutting down RBP for the entire month of July. Towards the end of that month Jack's son Leonard discovered the cashed check from the original payment to Amiga. Jack saw an opportunity to strike back at Commodore and he went to Warner and negotiated for the Amiga contract to launch his own suit.

Retrogamer_ST wrote:Before Jack Tramiel
After Jack Tramiel

Atari changed quite a lot.


If you're talking about as a brand, I can understand. If you're talking about as a company, that's a myth. It was literally two completely different companies. Jack only bought the assets from Atari Inc.'s Consumer Division and the Atari brand name. He did not buy the company. Hefolded those assets into his own company (Tramel Technology Ltd. or TTL) and then renamed that to Atari Corp. Meanwhile Atari Inc. (the original company) was immediately renamed to Atari Games Inc. It then spent the rest of 1984 being paired down to just the Coin Division group until it was sold (majority ownership) to NAMCO in early '85 and renamed Atari Games Corp.
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Re: The birth of Atari ST

Postby retrorogue » Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:31 pm

Retrogamer_ST wrote:I was always a bit confused over why Atari never used Jay Miner custom chips when designed ST. This article explains pretty much why. Never the less, Atari come up with a good computer anyway. But imagine a computer with Jay Miners custom chips and GEM. It should be a powerful computer that was easy to use too (i hope)

I think that Atari's biggest blunder was to ignore the american market.


The article doesn't explain anything about why. Literally, the ST (known as RBP) was in development before Jack purchased the Consumer Division assets. It was never planned around the Amiga chips (though the confusion often arrises from the fact that Jack did visit Amiga in the spring of '84 to see about possibly using that tech in his new computer, but it was one of several companies he visited and ultimately decided not to work with any of them).

Additionally, Amiga's contract was with Warner and Warner's company Atari Inc. It did not come with the purchase. Even if it had, the licensing agreement was for game console and coin-op use only. Personal computer use wasn't allowed until 1986.

Retrogamer_ST wrote:Correct. And when Commodore bought Jay Miners company Commodore quickly got sued.


No, they got counter-sued a month later. The suit was a counter-suit against Commodore via Amiga. When Jack purchased the Consumer Division assets and formed Atari Corp., several of his ex-Commodore engineers were immediately sued by Commodore. Commodore placed an injunction on them doing any computer work for Jack, effectively shutting down RBP for the entire month of July. Towards the end of that month Jack's son Leonard discovered the cashed check from the original payment to Amiga. Jack saw an opportunity to strike back at Commodore and he went to Warner and negotiated for the Amiga contract to launch his own suit.

Retrogamer_ST wrote:Before Jack Tramiel
After Jack Tramiel

Atari changed quite a lot.


If you're talking about as a brand, I can understand. If you're talking about as a company, that's a myth. It was literally two completely different companies. Jack only bought the assets from Atari Inc.'s Consumer Division and the Atari brand name. He did not buy the company. Hefolded those assets into his own company (Tramel Technology Ltd. or TTL) and then renamed that to Atari Corp. Meanwhile Atari Inc. (the original company) was immediately renamed to Atari Games Inc. It then spent the rest of 1984 being paired down to just the Coin Division group until it was sold (majority ownership) to NAMCO in early '85 and renamed Atari Games Corp.
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