RIP Karl Brandt

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Tk
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RIP Karl Brandt

Post by Tk »

It is with the deepest sorrow that I pass on some really sad news about Karl Brandt of System Solutions/Atari Workshop fame, who died on 23rd Dec 2021, rather suddenly from cancer.

He was instrumental in bringing so many exciting German based software and hardware to the English speaking markets (NVDI, MagiC, HD Driver, Soundpool, Matrix), along with being a UK distributor of many others. I worked with him for nearly 5 years at System Solutions in East Dulwich, London, during the height of the enthusiast market between 1993 and 1997, and for anyone else that knew him I'm sure they would all agree he was a humorous and generous man with a real passion for the Atari market.

One of my favourite stories of my time working there is when at around 7pm the phones rang and we answered as we usually did (even though we were officially closed), and a member of D:Ream started telling me about how their CLab notator files on floppy disk had got corrupted and it had everything from their new studio album "World" on it, and could we help as they had no backup. Within about 30 minutes the disk was at our office and we made a start at analysing the FAT table in the hope we could piece together the files. We managed to recover all the files and sold them a brand new MiniS hard drive to go with them. Once the CD was released they sent us a copy along with a signed poster "To Rob and Karl, thank you for all the memory", which is still up on the wall in the offices of System Solutions to this date.

So to one of my best friends in the world, and definitely to the best boss of my career, I pass on my humble respect and gratitude for all you did for me and the Atari market, and for the friendship that continued beyond.

You will be missed greatly.

Rob
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Re: RIP Karl Brandt

Post by TheNameOfTheGame »

My condolences. RIP Karl. Have many memories of buying software from System Solutions BITD even though I was in the USA (those long distance phone calls).

Prayers to his friends and loved ones.
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Re: RIP Karl Brandt

Post by PeterS »

I didn't know Karl but visited the Windsor shop a few times in the early 90s and always got great service and help. Happy times.

Sympathy to everyone who knew him.
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Re: RIP Karl Brandt

Post by CiH »

Condolences from me too. Karl was definitely a premier retailer.

They sold me my Centurbo 2 and installed it and managed to debug it. Many occasions braving London traffic to visit the shop at East Dulwich. Karl, Rob and Shiuming were three of the most sincere people on the UK Atari scene. Shame to lose Karl.
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Re: RIP Karl Brandt

Post by DarkLord »

I live in the USA as well but also bought numerous items from them.

R.I.P, V.I.P Karl Brandt!
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Re: RIP Karl Brandt

Post by Atari74user »

This is indeed sad. I have fond memories calling System Solutions pre online days, and the infamous Spring 1995 catalogue which I browsed through so many times, and still have to this date. Scouring that catalogue I purchased NVDI, a System Solutions MiniS hard drive, OverScan ST (which you fitted), and the following year Cubase 3.1 Special Edition and a SoundPool MO4, all of which I still own. The many calls I made enquiring about a Falcon, and both Cubase and Logic Audio. So much instrumental support for Atari in the UK in particular, thank you Karl Brandt, may you rest well.
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Re: RIP Karl Brandt

Post by viking272 »

Very sad to hear. I'd met Karl on a number of occaisions and he was one of the original Atari visionaries and indeed larger than life.
Cool story about D:Ream too!
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Re: RIP Karl Brandt

Post by Tk »

It brings a smile to my face to know that people still remember that Spring 1995 catalogue, and even more that there are copies still around in retro collections. That was Karl's pet project after seeing the demise of magazine advertising, with Atari World being the last hurrah for that particular medium. He wanted to make something special and everyone around him was saying it'll cost too much and would be too much effort for the remaining market, and in many ways they were right, but Karl pushed on anyway.

For those that find it interesting I can tell the story of that particular publication. It was months in the making, with people like Ofir and Hannah Gal doing content and photography, and has many screenshots in it from my TT030 at the time, showing off the 1280 x 960 Matrix TC card in 256 colours courtesy of NVDI and MagiC.

But the true crazy part was how we managed to cut the costs down in order to make it all possible. In the end I think there were close to 9,000-10,000 printed (although my memory might be wrong, and it could have been 5,000). But we had quite a few challenges. First off we didn't have a database of customers, only thousands of historical invoices from previous orders sitting inside the Atari version of Sage accounts, each with hand typed names and addresses. So the first thing was to extract those and attempt to dedupe them. I knocked up a program in GFA Basic which would loosely look at the entries to try and find similar ones, but rarely did it match perfectly and I had to mark hundreds of entries for human interaction. But eventually we had a good list of people to send to.

To get the super low postage rate from the Post Office, we needed to use a special program (I think they called it Mail Sort) which was only on the PC and cost about £4000 to buy. It was obviously for much bigger companies that mailed out frequently and made no cost sense for our one-off project. But you could obtain the specifications of what that program did from the Post Office for free, which is what we did and I set about creating a GFA Basic version of it.

It took about 3 days of solid coding to have a working program (with no bells or whistles, this was one messy program), the documentation from them was very precise and basically outlined the order the addresses needed to be printed out, breaking them down into sub postal code areas and marking the last address in that area with some special **** chars in the top corner. Then the cutting machine in the post office would know to close up that bag of mail and move to a new bag in a new sub postal area.

But they didn't make it simple, their system only worked with 12" tractor feed paper, which is not the size normal consumer printers would accept. Karl managed to find a daisy wheel printer which came right out of the 1970s, came on its own trolley, weighted a ton and made more noise than 10 typewriters. We had to secure it in our stock room since the huge mechanical motion would make it slowly bounce around the room, and at least we could close the door to shut out some of the din it made. It ran for days reeling out those addresses, with a few restarts necessary when it all got tangled up.

All the layout, typesetting, film printing, address processing for that catalogue was all done on Atari computers, with probably a little bit of Mac photo processing from Ofir. I'm sure a few people got multiple copies and some went to people that had moved on from the Atari by then, but we had enough left over to keep on the counter in the offices for shop visitors. Karl was very proud of that little creation.

Rob

ps. Thank you for the nice comments left by the customers and friends of System Solutions.
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Re: RIP Karl Brandt

Post by Bengy »

Tk wrote: Sun Jan 09, 2022 6:49 pm It brings a smile to my face to know that people still remember that Spring 1995 catalogue, and even more that there are copies still around in retro collections. That was Karl's pet project after seeing the demise of magazine advertising, with Atari World being the last hurrah for that particular medium. He wanted to make something special and everyone around him was saying it'll cost too much and would be too much effort for the remaining market, and in many ways they were right, but Karl pushed on anyway.

For those that find it interesting I can tell the story of that particular publication. It was months in the making, with people like Ofir and Hannah Gal doing content and photography, and has many screenshots in it from my TT030 at the time, showing off the 1280 x 960 Matrix TC card in 256 colours courtesy of NVDI and MagiC.

But the true crazy part was how we managed to cut the costs down in order to make it all possible. In the end I think there were close to 9,000-10,000 printed (although my memory might be wrong, and it could have been 5,000). But we had quite a few challenges. First off we didn't have a database of customers, only thousands of historical invoices from previous orders sitting inside the Atari version of Sage accounts, each with hand typed names and addresses. So the first thing was to extract those and attempt to dedupe them. I knocked up a program in GFA Basic which would loosely look at the entries to try and find similar ones, but rarely did it match perfectly and I had to mark hundreds of entries for human interaction. But eventually we had a good list of people to send to.

To get the super low postage rate from the Post Office, we needed to use a special program (I think they called it Mail Sort) which was only on the PC and cost about £4000 to buy. It was obviously for much bigger companies that mailed out frequently and made no cost sense for our one-off project. But you could obtain the specifications of what that program did from the Post Office for free, which is what we did and I set about creating a GFA Basic version of it.

It took about 3 days of solid coding to have a working program (with no bells or whistles, this was one messy program), the documentation from them was very precise and basically outlined the order the addresses needed to be printed out, breaking them down into sub postal code areas and marking the last address in that area with some special **** chars in the top corner. Then the cutting machine in the post office would know to close up that bag of mail and move to a new bag in a new sub postal area.

But they didn't make it simple, their system only worked with 12" tractor feed paper, which is not the size normal consumer printers would accept. Karl managed to find a daisy wheel printer which came right out of the 1970s, came on its own trolley, weighted a ton and made more noise than 10 typewriters. We had to secure it in our stock room since the huge mechanical motion would make it slowly bounce around the room, and at least we could close the door to shut out some of the din it made. It ran for days reeling out those addresses, with a few restarts necessary when it all got tangled up.

All the layout, typesetting, film printing, address processing for that catalogue was all done on Atari computers, with probably a little bit of Mac photo processing from Ofir. I'm sure a few people got multiple copies and some went to people that had moved on from the Atari by then, but we had enough left over to keep on the counter in the offices for shop visitors. Karl was very proud of that little creation.

Rob

ps. Thank you for the nice comments left by the customers and friends of System Solutions.
My condolences to Karl's friends and family.

Rob, this is a wonderful story. Is the 1995 catalogue available online anywhere? Would love to check it out.
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Re: RIP Karl Brandt

Post by Rustynutt »

Such a great tribute.
Nearly all my floppy disk packages have System Solutions printed on the envelopes, there's a bundle of them. Thanks to him, and crew, so much software was passed onto the English speaking community. Here in the US via Toad Computers.
RIP, you changed a world.
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Re: RIP Karl Brandt

Post by Atari74user »

Equally, thank you so much for that story about the Spring 95 catalogue. That catalogue remains a nice source of information for products which once was for the Atari TOS platform, and I still refer to it. It was so well presented, with a nice glossy cover, and has been thumbed regularly. Somewhat silly, but I prize that catalogue so much, I still keep it in the postage envelope it was sent in. Not necessarily for what it is, moreover what it represents, a part of my adolescence. It's nice to know the effort that went into that production, and brings a smile to my face that Karl was proud of that project. Maybe he is smiling as I look through that very catalogue right now!

Thanks Rob!
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Re: RIP Karl Brandt

Post by Tk »

Bengy wrote: Sun Jan 09, 2022 7:24 pm Rob, this is a wonderful story. Is the 1995 catalogue available online anywhere? Would love to check it out.
I'm probably not the best person to comment on that, my particular copy is in an airtight box in the loft somewhere, and all this talk is making me want to go hunt it out again. I also have fond memories of the black and white ring bound manuals we translated and printed using a 600DPI printing process, things like Ease and Texel. They came out so nice and clean and had a certain style about them.

Rob
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Re: RIP Karl Brandt

Post by AtariCrypt »

I'm absolutely gutted to hear about this news. I remember speaking to Karl on more than one occasion and I think most of their catalogue was finding a happy home with me. I never met him in person, but I do remember going to a fair bitd but sadly, he wasn't there.

The last time that I spoke to Karl was when I broke my ST trying to install their overscan board. What a stupid idea that was and of course my ST never powered back on. I rang him up and was almost in tears having broken my baby. Karl was ace. He knew someone like me should never hold a soldering iron near their pride and joy. The guy told me to box it up as a courier was coming after lunch. I got that ST back within 48 hours - working and with the overscan board installed too. No charge.

He was a true gentleman. I'm deeply saddened to hear this news.
Thank you Karl and for everything you did for our Atari STs. RIP †
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Re: RIP Karl Brandt

Post by viclennard »

I first met Karl in 1992 when I became technical editor of Atari ST Review magazine. On becoming editor later that year and then taking the magazine to Europress, Karl was instrumental in helping the magazine to grow, supporting us with advertising and supplying us with products for review. We became friends, a friendship that continued well after the demise of the magazine in 1995.

Over the years we met up occasionally, enjoyable times when Karl put the world to rights. In the early 2000s he had an epiphany and changed his eating habits, taking onboard advice regarding vitamins and food. He had a great healthy bistro local to the shop and we ate there a few times.

I last spoke to him a couple of years ago. He was proud of his sons' achievements - we shared a pride of our kids being successful at martial arts - and we agreed to meet up when I was down in London (I moved north of Cambridge in 2018). Sadly such a meeting never took place. I tried calling Karl at the end of last year and left a voicemail for him. Now I understand why he never returned the call.

He was an intelligent, articulate gentleman, the likes of which I doubt I will ever see again. RIP old friend.
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Re: RIP Karl Brandt

Post by viking272 »

Nice to read those comments Vic and glad your friendship continued after Atari's demise.
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