Z*Magazine: 2-Feb-87 #37From: Atari SIG (xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
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From: xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Atari SIG) Subject: Z*Magazine: 2-Feb-87 #37 Date: Thu Jul 8 09:43:20 1993 ----------------------------------- Zmagazine February 2, 1987 Issue 37 ----------------------------------- Zmag Staff: Publisher/Editor in Chief:Ron Kovacs Editor/Coordinator:Alan Kloza ----------------------------------- ____________________________________ This Week in Zmag...... <*> EDITOR'S NOTES--USER GROUP OF THE MONTH COLUMN <*> ZMAG SCOOP--ATARI CORP. EXPANDS EUROPEAN NETWORK <*> NEW MEGA ST'S--THE TALK OF THE TRADE MAGAZINES <*> EXPRESS! 1030 VERSION 3.1 PROMISED BY LEDBETTER <*> CES-VIDEO WRAP-UP PART II <*> NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM REVIEW All this and more in this weeks edition of Zmagazine..... ___________________________________ Xx ZMAG EDITOR'S NOTES ....User Group of the Month........ ___________________________________ We're starting a new monthly feature in Zmag and we're inviting all Atari User Groups to participate. The User Group of the Month will spotlight any local user's group who supplies us with material about their organization. It's a great opportunity for some free publicity, so we hope that you take advantage of it. We ask that you write a brief article about your group, giving us all the pertinent facts and inform- ation (Name, location, # of members, how it originated, when you meet, topics of interest discussed, etc) and submit it to Zmag Headquarters no later than the 15th of the month for publication in the following month's column. So if you'd like to see your group spotlighted in March's User Group of the Month, submit your material by February 15th. We kick off this feature in next week's issue of Zmag as we report on the C.H.A.O.S. User's Group of Lansing, Michigan. Be sure to watch for it! ___________________________________ Xx ZMAG NEWSBREAKERS ....Atari Corp. In Scandanavia..... ___________________________________ It's common knowledge that Atari Corp. has had a firm foothold in the European computer marketplace for a couple of years now. In fact, the ST's were selling overseas long before they hit the U.S. market. Lennart Olsson, SIX Sysop, picked up this tidbit for us recently on Atari Corp's expansion in the European market. Here's Lennart's report, which has been condensed from several messages he left to us on CIS. "Heard a RUMOUR that Atari has formed a daughter company here in Sweden to cover the Scandinavian market. It was said to be so new that they don't have any offices nor phones yet... EasyPlex Date: 27-Jan-87 10:16 EST From: Lennart Olsson [76254,467] Subj: It was TRUE!!! Ron, Mats Toernblad, the product manager for Atari Corp. Scandinavia AB just phoned me. He informed me that they had existed for two weeks. I got so surprised that I nearly didn't know what to say at all. Mats was working with their network of retailers. He had bought Atari User (which had the article about Zmag and SIX in it) and read the article about us. In a way, Zmag can be credited for the connection. He wanted to know how many Atari related BBSs I knew of. I mentioned the ones that I had heard of and suggested that they (Atari) support the Atari user community through the BBS's. He promised his support as soon as they hooked up their modems. At the moment there are only three employees, all who had previously worked for the Swedish branch of Commodore. Wishing you a very good Atari New Year! Lennart Olsson ___________________________________ Xx ATARI NEWSBREAKS ....Mega-ST--The Talk of The Trades ___________________________________ Talk to any Atari user and he'll extol the virtues of his machine. Read the Atari magazines and you're sure to find high praise for the computer that insures the magazine's existence. Listen to Commodore chat and check out their publications and you'd see the same support expressed for their PC's. Let's face it, computer users are a highly subjective lot and are not known for their unbiased opinions. That's why its nice, as an Atarian, to thumb through some of the electronic news trade magazines this week and read all the nice things they're saying about Atari and the "show" they put on in Las Vegas at CES. The following excerpts are from the January 26th edition of Electronic Engineering Times. "Las Vegas, Nev.--Atari Corp. has introduced several product extensions to its 68000-based ST series of computers. The company also surprised attendees of the recent Consumer Electronics Show here with the debut of two powerful low-end computers capable of running IBM-PC software. Atari's new Mega ST series includes 1-2-and 4 megabyte versions. Company president Sam Tramiel said he expects at least one Mega ST system, with a new Atari laser printer, to be available for less than $3000 retail this spring. The Mega ST makes several departures from the original 520 and 1040 keyboard-and-processor machines. The keyboard is now lighter and separate from the compact main processor cabinet. The latter houses the power supply, a 720-kbyte micro- floppy disk drive and a 20-Mbyte Winchester drive, as well as the processor. The processor boasts a realtime clock and a 10-Mbit/second DMA channel, sufficiently fast to enable the machine to drive a 90,000-dot-per-inch Canon laser engine directly. Atari expects the I/O capabilities of the Mega ST to steal sales from rival Macintosh and Sun Microsystems computers. For example, the Mega ST-4, which is priced below $2000, features a 320-kbyte ROM operating. That gives it full access to the 4- Mbyte system RAM, and reduces disk I/O by keeping the operating system working at silicon speeds. Next, Atari's new custom bit-blitter propels the Mega systems to pixel plotting speeds normally found only on much costlier 68000-family workstations and computers. (After initial Mega ST supply needs are met, the company will introduce the blitter graphics processor into the 520 and 1040 ST's, and offer kits for existing owners at a low price.) The two new low-priced IBM compat- ibles that Atari showed--$599 and $699--feature a dual-speed 8088 processor, 512 kbytes of system RAM (expandable to 640 kbytes internally), a 360-kbyte floppy disk drive and a high-resolution monochrome monitor. One unusual attraction of the premium Atari PC is its internal EGA graphics display drive capability. EGA graphics are normally a several-hundred-dollar option on rival personal computers. The monochrome monitor is capable of showing 720 X 348-pixel and 64 X 350-pixel displays. A full 256 kbytes of RAM is dedicated to screen graphics, freeing up the entire 512 kbytes of system RAM for program operation, RAM disk config- uration and the like. In the EGA color mode, using an optional color CRT, the machine can display up to 16 colors at a time, from a palette of 64. Rival IBM-PC compatibles offer four colors from a 16-color palette. Shipments start in April." Enough said! ___________________________________ Xx ZMAG RANDOM NOTES ....News, Rumors, Items............ ___________________________________ Compiled by John Nagy Mid-Michigan Atari Users EXPRESS! 1030 version 3.0 will not be released. Before you panic, it's only because author of the incredibly popular public domain terminal software, KEITH LEDBETTER, plans to go directly to version 3.1. The entire line of EXPRESS! programs (for the 850 type HAYES, the 1030/XM301, and the MPP) were to be configured the same for a new version #3.0. The one for the 850 was released in the early fall, to be followed in short order by the 1030 and MPP versions. However, Keith decided to included improved XMODEM and YMODEM routines and call it 3.1, since the DOC for 3.0 was already released. There have been some delays, but expect the new versions at almost any time. It seems the SUPRA hard drives for the ST are out selling the ATARI brand hard drives by quite a margin. It may be more marketing and cosmetics than price or performance. The SUPRA is based on a 3 1/2" drive, considerably smaller than the ATARI 5 1/4" unit. Another reason may be that SUPRA has had much more advertising. Speaking of SUPRA ADVERTISING, we have seen full page ads for their ST HARD DRIVE in MANY club newsletters around the country. MANY. Yet when we have called them about advertising with MID-MICHIGAN ATARI MAGAZINE, they have REPEATEDLY told our reps that "Oh, we DON'T PAY for those, the clubs just run them for their information value." Is this an outright lie?? When pinned on specifics, they back down a bit- "CURRENT NOTES? Oh yeah, we DID advertise there... but that's the only one..." Let me name a dozen others. Or, better, let me name someone who is sure NOT to believe anything else we hear from SUPRA... ATARI ST COLOR MONITORS are not all created equal. There are at least two distinctly different versions by different manufacturers, and maybe more. And the picture quality is not equal either. It seems the OLDER monitors are noticeably sharper. BE AWARE of what you get! Shop around. THUNDER!, a terriffic word processor accessory for spell checking and more, will NOT WORK with 1ST WORD... sorta. Actually, it will not work in the ACCESSORY mode with REFORMATTED 1ST WORD files, since the extra spaces the formatiing puts in the file mess up THUNDER!'s operation. So, use it in GEM mode, and it should perform fine. DISK DRIVE PROBLEMS have been reported on the internal drive in the 1040 ST. Although ATARI only rates their drive for 80 sectors, most drives are CAPABLE of accessing more. VIP and other programs force the drive to go beyond the 80th sector, and SOME machines just can't do it. ATARI says it's not their problem, since they published the specs. VIP says get a different drive. Cute. At the other end of the spectrum: ATARI showed a new CASSETTE drive at the CES... YIKE. Actually, tape is POPULAR overseas, where the cost of a disk system is much higher than stateside. One company offers an upgrade called "RAMBIT" (sound familiar?) that is actually for increasing the tape data transfer rate from the normal 600 baud up to 3600 baud. IMAGINE! Tape loads of worthwile sized programs in well under fifteen minutes! It costs 18 pounds. ___________________________________ Xx ZMAG SPECIAL REPORT ....Part II CES Video Wrap-Up...... ___________________________________ In the last issue of Zmag we spoke of new products to look for in the home video industry. Part I dealt with VCR's and Camcorders. We now offer you Part II of the report, which wraps up what's new in home video for 1987. 1987: THE YEAR FOR LASERDISC? Several major Hollywood studios feel 1987 could be the breakthrough year for the fledgling laserdisc format, which has had only mediocre sales since its introduction in 1979. Current market estimates put the size of the LV market at far less than 500,000 owners, which is miniscule compared to the size of Beta and VHS owners, at 5,000,000 and 38,000,000, respectively. The most long-awaited announcement was that for Pioneer's LD-S1 LV Player, which is the first to offer a built-in frame store for providing special effects with all discs, including CAV, CLV and CAA. This player features a "videophile-grade" separate power supply, digital filters for improved audio performance, and a wealth of on-screen readouts and programming options, with a list price of $1600. Also displayed was a new mid-priced model, the LD-838D, which plays digital-sound laserdiscs and provides effects only with CAV discs, for $550. PROJECTION TV'S: THE RILLY BIG SHEW In the area of projection TV, the new products were few and far between. The performance breakthroughs expected this year still haven't come, and some dealers expressed concern over marginal sales and lack of consumer interest in projectors in general. Infinity showed an improved version of the RSTV prototype first seen at last summer's Chicago CES, using a curved screen for a somewhat brighter overall image. The quality did in fact seem somewhat sharper, with less light falloff on the extreme corners, but the presentation appeared to be limited by the source material (an LV on a Yamaha player). Kloss Video, after insisting for years that they'd never make a rear-screen projector because of the superiority of the front-projection system, took the wraps off their first rear-screen unit: the Model Ten. One of the largest self-contained systems on the market, we judged this 5' model to be good for what it was, but still no match for Kloss' model 100. This comparison was difficult to judge since the manufacturer took pains not to demonstrate both in the same room. For those with tight space considerations, it may be the best possible compromise. MONITORS: BIGGER AND BETTER Larger, flatter screens are the ongoing development in the area of new video monitors and receivers, with more and more manufacturers offering models with screens larger than the usual 26" and 27" of years past. The only major holdout is Sony, who has remained curiously silent about their plans for large direct view tube sets. Proton showed a new 20" flatter-tube model, the VT-210, which features an MTS tuner and sells for $850, plus matching model 314 stereo speakers ($300). Panasonic jumped into the 31" area with their CTJ-3170R Data Grade Monitor, which boasts a whopping 480 lines and features on- screen display, a 155-channel MTS tuner and a flat 31" CRT. Quasar showed a similar model, the TS-9980BK, and both will be available in August for around $3000. Toshiba showed two breakthroughs in TV sets: first, a 30" model, the CX-3077, which features a digital flat square tube with a 141-channel tuner, and claims an incredible 600 lines of horizontal resolution, for a list price of $2500. Moving from huge to eensy-teensy, they also showed a 4" color LCD prototype which boasts 105,600 pixels, and has a cabinet measuring 7" x 5" x 1" and weighs about 1 1/2 pounds. While we weren't particularly impressed with the quality of the LCD picture, this is obviously an area which will see considerable progress in the near future...though just how long before they'll be commercial realities is another question. HEAD CLEANING CONTROVERSY Always anxious to drum up more business, several video head- cleaning accessory firms held a series of back-stabbing press conferences in which they denounced the other's products. Amaray held a "Video Head Cleaning Forum" in which they attempted to prove that their new wet cleaning system was superior to all other contenders, and invited all the other manufacturers to attend. (Not many took them up on their invitation.) Rival manufacturer Allsop denounced the demonstration, and claimed their wet-system, one of the first on the market, was superior. Meanwhile, 3M claimed that the wet-systems use solvents that can damage the pinch rollers and plastic components of VCR's, and insisted their "tape-based" cleaning system was best. When asked about possible excessive headwear due to the abrasiveness of their system, 3M officials insisted that their system was not a true "dry-type" head cleaner per se, and that using their product for 30 seconds was equivalent to about 10 minutes with a conventional tape. Planting their feet firmly in both camps, audio accessory maker Discwasher now has both wet- and dry-type systems. And Advanced Video Dynamics showed several different wet-cleaning systems which electronically cue the user as to when to apply the cleaning fluid. This firm also showed a prototype warning device designed to tell the user when to clean the VCR, after every 40 or so hours of use. We found all of this controversy quite amusing, considering that most VCR manufacturers advise cleaning heads only "when necessary," or after every 500 or so hours of use. We've already seen several instances where novice videophiles have damaged heads by overusing abrasive dry head cleaners, and caution CEFORUM users to avoid making this same mistake. ___________________________________ Xx ZMAG PANORAMA ....Reviews, Features, Commentary.. ___________________________________ |PRODUCT REVIEW| The Nintendo Entertainment System By Steve Godun At last! I've finally torn myself away to write this review. I know that Zmag is mainly Atari news, but I think you'll want to know about this great new game system. I guess I should start this review by saying that I am a junkie. A video game junkie, that is. I average about $20 per month on arcade games, plus I have an Atari 2600 and two Atari computers at my house - all of which are well stocked with video games. Nintendo of America, famous for its arcade games "Donkey Kong" and its sequels, its light gun games "Duck Hunt" and "Hogans Alley", and for its "vs." sports series (Vs. Baseball, Vs. Golf, etc), has now put out a home system that produces that same Nintendo greatness in the comfort of your home. To me, this purchase (about $140) will save me money in the long run. Anyway, back to the review. The Nintendo Entertainment System (henceforth referred to as "the system" or "NES") is as close to arcade quality as you're going to get. There is VERY little I can find wrong with it. Well, OK, there are a FEW faults, but nobody is perfect. Please note that this review is of the "deluxe" system, which includes the main control deck, the "Zapper" (a light gun), "R.O.B." (a robot-like unit), and two video game packs ("Gyromite" and "Duck Hunt"). The system is also sold in three components; the control deck is one unit (sold with "Super Mario Brothers"), the Zapper is a second unit (sold with "Duck Hunt"), and R.O.B. is the third unit (strangely enough, R.O.B. isn't sold with any game cartridges). At the heart of the system is the 8"x10"x3.5" (LxWxH) control deck. The color of the components is very close to the dove grey color of the Atari XE/ST computers, only the NES is two-tone grey - one is a shade lighter and the other is a few shades darker. There aren't any specs on the technical workings of the control deck in the owners' manual, so I don't know what CPU is in it. On the front of the deck are two controller ports, two buttons (one is for power and the other is a reset switch), a power-on light, and a small hinged door that flips up to reveal the cartridge port. On the side of the unit is an audio/video out jack, which is used if you connect the NES through a VCR. On the rear of the unit is the channel selector (channel 3 or 4), a power jack, and an RF port (for TV interface). The unit seems to be sturdy enough, but it is made entirely of plastic and is VERY lightweight. One bump from a misguided arm will most likely cause your game to crash on you, so it is a good idea to keep the control deck on a sturdy table away from the player when in use. The next interesting thing in the package is a two-tone grey light sensing gun called "The Zapper". The gun isn't as light as it looks, especially after realizing the size and weight of the control deck. However, it IS possible to hold the gun at the screen for extended per- iods of time with minimal cramps. This unit seems like the sturdiest part of the whole setup. Depending on the size of your screen, The Zapper has a range of about 6 feet. I've been using the NES with a 9" color TV (black hite, for some reason, doesn't register well with The Zapper or with R.O.B.), and I've measured a range of about 7.5 feet...Not bad. The Zapper comes packaged with the arcade translation of "Duck Hunt", a simple target game that challen- ges you to blast the ducks out of the sky. (The Zapper comes with "Duck Hunt" whether you buy it by itself or as part of the deluxe setup.) A hybrid skeet-shooting contest is also programmed in the cartridge. The Zapper interfaces with the control deck via controller port #2. The final unit, R.O.B. ("Robotic Operating Buddy" - You can live with it if I can), is what sets the NES apart from other systems. When purchased as part of the "deluxe" setup, it comes with a hybrid game called "Gyromite", which is a simple but habit forming game. When purhcased alone, R.O.B. doesn't come with any game packs or accessories. This strikes me as an oddity since R.O.B. cannot be used by himself (he must be used with the control deck). R.O.B. needs a special program pack to work, so you can't use R.O.B. with games such as "Excitebike" or "Super Mario Brothers". Oh well...You can't win 'em all. R.O.B. stands a little over 9" tall and (by himself) doesn't take up much room on your desk. On his "head" are two light-sensing "eyes", which must be in sync with the TV when playing a game that uses R.O.B.'s functions. When the "Gyromite" package is played, several attachments must be put on R.O.B. including two hands (they look more like claws to me), a gyro holder, two gyros (gyroscopes), the gyro spinner, and the control base. By the way, R.O.B. requires four AA batteries to work, and the "Gyro- mite" gyro spinner needs one D battery. After linking this to R.O.B. he takes up quite a bit of space. Each game that uses R.O.B. has a special TEST mode. After making the TEST choice from a menu, the TV seems to flicker. This is now the time to sync R.O.B. to the TV. Normally, R.O.B. can be placed about 4-6 feet away from the TV screen (yes, R.O.B. must stand in front of the TV with no obstacles between him and the TV). When playing a R.O.B. game, signals from the TV (in the form of light pulses) are sent to R.O.B. These pulses are picked up by the two "eyes" in R.O.B.'s head. These pulses are then translated and processed into physical movement. R.O.B. can perform three kinds of movements; Grasp and release ob- jects, raise and lower objects, and rotate and carry objects to the left and right. By using these motions, on-screen objects are timed and moved by the actions of R.O.B.'s off-screen movements. Pretty neat, huh? As of this wri- ting, there are only two games that use R.O.B.; "Gyromite" and "Stack Up". More games are expected in the near future. I'll be reviewing "Gyromite", "Duck Hunt", "Super Mario Broth- ers", "Excitebike", and other Nintendo games in future issues of Zmag.) Of course, what good would a game system be if there weren't any controllers for it? Well, the NES control deck also comes with two hand-held game controllers. Each controller is EXTREMELY light (weigh about 1/2 an ounce without the cord), but they are one of the most responsive controllers I've ever used (and I've used a LOT). The controller must be held with two hands. On the left side of the controller is a large black plastic "plus" sign. This "plus" sign is actually the "joystick" of the game. It is a sturdy, four-way controller (up, down, left, and right) comfortably playable under your left thumb. On the right side of the controller are two large red buttons marked "A" and "B". For some unknown reason, Nintendo has placed the "B" button before the "A" button, so the but- tons read "B" and "A" from left to right. Strange...But you'll get used to it. In the center and the bottom of the controller are two small rubber buttons marked SELECT and START. These do what you'd expect them to do. On some games, the START key pauses and unpauses the game. On the games that use R.O.B., the START key toggles the action between R.O.B. and the screen, and SELECT pauses and unpauses the game. Both control- lers are identical, but I feel that southpaws will again feel cheated because of the right-handed styling. Overall, the Nintendo Entertain- ment System is well worth the price IF you play a lot of Nintendo video games. These days, a video game system doesn't sound too good because you can get a computer for the same money (or less). Con- sidering that I was going to buy the Sega Master System (NOT RECOMMENDED!) or the Atari 7800 (later...maybe), this system has GOT to be good. Compound this with the fact that third-party companies are already translating arcade hits for the Nintendo System, and I can almost guarantee that this system will DEFINITELY have a long shelf life. So if you really want arcade quality at home without paying a couple hundred for an arcade machine, then the Nintendo System is the machine you've been looking for. ___________________________________ Xx HAPPY BIRTHDAY ....ANALOG MAGAZINE................ ___________________________________ Finally, Happy Birthday to Analog Magazine, which turned 6 years old this February. Analog remains a loyal friend and companion to Atarians everywhere. Ask for a copy at your local magazine store--they deserve your continued support. ----------------------------------- Zmagazine Issue 37 February 2, 1987 Please Contribute!!! -----------------------------------
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