Z*Magazine: 29-Jun-87 #59

From: Atari SIG (xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
Date: 07/16/93-10:22:25 AM Z

From: xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Atari SIG)
Subject: Z*Magazine: 29-Jun-87 #59
Date: Fri Jul 16 10:22:25 1993

ZMAGAZINE  ^^^          June 29, 1987
Issue #59  HOT Atari News and Reviews
Zmag Staff:

Ron Kovacs-Editor/Publisher
Ken Kirchner-Assistant Publisher
Susan Perry-Assistant Publisher

This weeks edition is larger than the
recent issues because we have been
receiving many articles for 
publishing. We are also closing out
the month with our older articles.

/*/ XModem and PC Pursuit

/*/ CompuServe Watch

/*/ CompuServe Control Key Guide

/*/ FCC Proposal Part 2

/*/ ZMAG Newswire

/*/ Flash Help

/*/ New Product Announcement

/*/ 30 Secrets of the Old Atari

/*/ Software Review by Steve Godun

/*/ Upgrades and Expansions
Why is X/Modem so slow on PC Pursuit?
QUESTION:  "I use XMODEM across the
system and transfers take twice [or
thrice] as long as they should. Why?"

ANSWER:  As best as I can tell, the
information we were passed from the
Net Exchange BBS was well-meaning but
wrong.  Here is the scenario as I
figger it--someone let me know if I'm
wrong, too.

XMODEM sends data in a 132-byte block
that resembles a mini-packet:

<----------Direction of transmission

   [SOH] [#] [#] [DATA] [CHK]
     |    |   |    |      |___ChkSum
     |    |   |    +128 bytes of data
     |    |   |_________ block number
     |    |_____________ Block number
     |_____Start of header (ASCII 01)

This closely matches the size of a
Telenet packet (generally 128 bytes)
and can, for our purposes, be
considered a packet's worth of data.
PC Pursuit is set to forward data
only on full packets and on
expiration of idle timers (which are
set for 1/10 second).

The delay occurs because a connection
through PC Pursuit goes through four
modems and two entirely separate data
transmissions.  Each block of data
must undergo the following (assuming
a download from the BBS to the user):
 _____      _________      __________
|     |__  (         )__   |        |
| BBS | /__(   PDN   ) /___|PCP user|
|_____|    (_________)     |________|

|_____|     |_______|      |_______|
      |             |      |_____  1.1
      |             |_Variable (0.1/1+
      |__________1.1 seconds

That's potentially 3+ seconds to
transfer data that would take
slightly over 1 second to transmit in
a direct connection--maybe 35%

To make matters worse, the
acknowledgment (ACK) from the user to
the BBS may take upwards of a second-
-instead of a fraction of a second-
-to be transmitted back into the
network, have idle timers expire, be
forwarded to the outdialer, and be
transmitted to the BBS.  As you can
see, though, the real delay is *not*
because of the delay in sending the
ACK, but because the block size and
packet size so nearly match, the two
computers are almost never working

A protocol that uses a larger block
size--YMODEM, for instance--will run
faster over the system, but not
because it needs fewer
acknowledgements. Instead, while
sending the larger block, it causes
data forwarding on a full-packet
condition.  After the first packet
gets sent, both machines are doing
work for most of the rest of the
transmission, as such:

    BBS              USER
    """              """"
Start of 1K block
Sends packet 1       Does nothing

Sends packet 2       Receives packet 1

Sends packet 3       Receives packet 2

Sends packet 4       Receives packet 3

Sends packet 5       Receives packet 4

Sends packet 6       Receives packet 5

Sends packet 7       Receives packet 6

End of 1K block
Sends packet 8       Receives packet 7

Does nothing         Receives packet 8

(Of course, the BBS is not really
sending the *packet*, just a packet's
worth of data.)  In effect, YMODEM
wastes only 2 of every 9 128-byte
transfers; it should run at about 75%
efficiency.  In addition, since it
only has a single ACK per kilobyte
(instead of 8), less time is spent in
waiting for the idle timer to expire.

Of course, to make things more
confusing, there are XMODEM packages
using 256-byte and 1K blocks and
XMODEM packages that allow a "window"
of unacknowledged blocks to be sent,
among other flavors.

Recently, the default parameters for
the PC Pursuit ports were changed; by
whom, I don't know. For best results,
users should break to command mode
and set X.3 parameters 1 and 10 to 0
(disables break to command mode and
word wrap) and set ITI parameter 57
to 1 and parameter 63 to 0 (enable
8-bit transparent mode).  This is all
done with similar commands as those
issued when connecting to Exec PC.
Capture from CompuServe's Atari8 SIG

#: 190292 S3/Utilities
    20-Jun-87  13:08:26
Sb: IBM to Atari and back
Fm: SYSOP*Bill Aycock 76703,4061

Still looking for a way to transfer
files between your Atari and your IBM
machine? If you have a Happy-enhanced
1050 disk drive, you're in luck!

I just received in the mail today
Revision 7.10 of Happy's Warp Speed
Software. One of the claims made for
this revision was a "feature that
allows converting files to and from
IBM PC format using the HAPPY 1050

After a very brief test, I can say
that this feature works! The steps
are pretty simple:

1. Format a SINGLE-SIDED disk in your
   IBM, using the command 'FORMAT

2. Copy the IBM files onto this disk.

3. Boot your Atari with a Warp Speed
   DOS, and run the program
   IBMXFR.AUT which is on the back
   side of the distribution disk.
   Make sure you have an Atari-format
   disk handy!

4. Select a few options, such as
   translation of CR/LF to EOL, then
   tell the program to copy from IBM
   to Atari.

That's it! Swap disks as directed,
and the file you choose is copied
from IBM format to Atari format.
Going from Atari to IBM works much
the same way. This should work for
any kind of file, but is most useful
for text files. Or, you could
download Atari programs on an IBM,
then transfer them to an Atari disk
to run them.

As I said, my test was very brief.
I'll do some more testing later and
try to time how fast the program
runs. If you have any questions, let
me know!


#: 189751 S7/HOT News/Rumors
    13-Jun-87  09:49:10
Fm: SYSOP*Mike Schoenbach 76703,4363
To: All

Online Today             OLT-291


Mindscape Inc. has signed an
exclusive agreement with Atari Games
Corp. to publish home computer
versions of the Milpitas, Calif.,
company's stand-alone video games
that now usually are found in coin

According to a statement from the
Northbrook, Ill., software publisher,
first in the line-up of new titles
will be Atari's Paperboy and Gauntlet
games. Then, over the next few years,
Mindscape expects to publish Road
Runner, Road Blasters, Gauntlet II
and others in home computer formats.

"There are tremendous growth
opportunities in the retail versions
of coin-op games," says Mindscape
President/CEO Roger Buoy. "We look
forward to working with Atari
because, with their consistently
high-quality products and keen
perception of the market, they are
far and away the best company with
which to be associated."

--Charles Bowen
Control Keys on CompuServe

By:SYSOP*Charles McGuinness 76701,11

KEY  Description
===  ================================
^A   Stop at end of line (delayed ^S,

^B   Type-ahead control C. "hits"
     when the program next asks for

^C   Interrupt.  Either kills the
     program outright or tosses it
     into an interrupt routine.

^D   Disconnect.  If you're direct
     connected to a node, this is the
     equivilent to hanging up.

^G   Beep! Break character...

^H   Backspace

^I   Tab

^J   Line feed.  Break character

^K   Vertical tab

^L   Form feed

^M   Return


^O   Disable/enable output toggle.
     Output is bit-bucketed until
     another ^O or the program
     explicitly turns it back on.
     (Note the SIG is very good at
     turning it back on just before

^P   "soft" interrupt -- flushes
     output, sets a bit program can
     check.  Like ^C, but gentler.

^Q   Resume from ^S or ^A


^S   Suspend output

^T   Use to give a job status in the
     old days, nothing now

^U   Abort current line

^V   Retype current line

^W   Alternate version of ^Q


^Z   End of file.  One of the fun
     ways to get a program to end
     occasionally, usually with messy
     tracebacks.  The SIG program is
     immune, but there's always some
     program floating around that
     isn't careful enough.

-- charles
In a move that could sharply increase
telecommunications costs, the Federal
Communications Commission last week
proposed that enhanced service
providers no longer be exempt from
paying interstate access charges as
of January 1, 1988.

The charges could include a 3 cent
per minute traffic-sensitive access
charge, a 4.3 cent per minute
terminating access charge, and a 2
cent per minute originating charge,
depending on such factors as whether
the call is local said Ruth Milkman,
an attorney in the policy division of
the FCC's common carrier bureau.
Affected services include Telenet,
Tymnet, Compuserve, and Dow Jones

Paulo Guidi, president of Telenet
Communications Corp of Reston,
Virginia, called the proposal
misguided and said it would
discriminate against users of
computer oriented services.

"It's an issue we're going to be
looking at very carefully" said Ken
Allen, executive director of the
Information Industry Association, a
lobbying group in New York.

The FCC is presently inviting
comments from interested parties.

Strategic Simulations Inc. and TSR
Inc. have signed a letter of intent
to enter into a strategic alliance.
The five-year licensing agreement
gives SSI exclusive worldwide rights
to produce and market a product line
series of games based on TSR's
classic Advanced Dungeons and
Dragons(r) fantasy role-playing game.
SSI will be the first company to
bring TSR games to the computer. The
agreement is valued at up to several
million dollars over the contract

At least ten different role-playing
and several action game versions are
planned by SSI for the most popular
microcomputers, including C-64/128,
Apple II series, IBM/compatibles,
Atari ST and Amiga. Versions are also
planned for family game systems, such
as the Nintendo. The games will
appear on the market beginning early
next year and will be sold in SSI
packaging with joint SSI/TSR logo
identification. The games will be
marketed through SSI distributors,
retail, and hobby store channels
amounting to over 10,000 outlets

Randy Broweleit, Vice President of
Sales at SSI, states: "It's a high
mark of recognition to be selected by
TSR, the giant of the industry and
creator of the most famous and
popular fantasy role-playing game of
all time, as their exclusive partner.
We expect to create wonderful
exciting new computer games based on
a very complementary relationship."

Michael Cook, Vice President of New
Product Development at TSR said: "We
are also pleased to begin a long-term
relationship with SSI, whom everyone
recognizes as a leading quality games
producer. SSI's credentials as one of
the finest creators of computer
games, and their proven product line
allows us to combine strengths to
produce the best possible fantasy
role-playing and action computer
Common Questions and Answers about FLASH terminal program
I have a touch tone line. How do I
tell FLASH to dial using touch tone?

Go to the menu-bar and select DIAL
DIRECTORY from the EDIT section.
Click on the button that says 'ALTER
SETTINGS' and change the Prefix to
ATDT. Then hit return to exit the
dialog and select SAVE from the FILE
section. When the File Selection
dialog box appears, click on
"Configuration" and save the
configuration as the default name
FLASH.CNF. This makes sure that the
dialer prefix will stay as ATDT the
next time FLASH is run.

I'm trying to upload a message to
CompuServe using Ascii upload but the
text appears scrambled and there are
missing characters.

Change the ASCII upload setting to
set METERING on. If you are using the
SIG editor that gives you line
numbers, then set PROMPTING on and
enter ':' as the prompt character.

All of a sudden the cursor is moving
on the screen, but I can't see any
text being displayed. What's happened
and what can I do to fix it?

Line noise has resulted in FLASH
being sent an escape sequence that
has changed the text color to the
white. The same error can cause text
and background colors to become
reversed. If you are using a color
monitor then you may see strange
combinations of text and background
color e.g. red text on a black

The solution is to use the MODE
command to reset the terminal
emulation mode. Press on ALT-M and
hit enter. This will reset the colors
to their default values while leaving
the terminal emulation type

While uploading or downloading a file
using Xmodem I see error messages on
the bottom line of the screen. Does
this mean the file transfer was bad?

Xmodem is very good at recovering
from errors due to line noise and
it's quite normal to see occasional
error messages such as Checksum error
or Sector number error. If a fatal
error occurs, FLASH will always put a
message on the bottom of the screen
which includes the phrase 'Xmodem

In addition, the other computer will
usually realise that a fatal error
occurred and also display an error
message. FLASH will typically try at
least ten times to send/recieve each
block of the file before giving up.

How do I edit the FLASH DO files?

Simple! Just load them into the FLASH
capture buffer and edit them in place
then save them back to disk. To embed
control codes in a DO file, simply
hold down the control key and press
the appropriate key, e.g. control-C
shows up as an arrow facing right.

To load a file into the FLASH capture
buffer, select LOAD from the FILE
heading of the menu bar and select
CAPTURE from the dialog box that
appears. To save the entire capture
buffer, select SAVE from the FILE
heading of the menu bar and click on
the CAPTURE box. You can save just a
part of the capture buffer by marking
out a block and saving it. The block
commands are all under the BLOCK
heading of the menu bar.

If you want to load in a DO file for
editing without clearing out all the
other text in the capture buffer,
select MERGE from the FILE heading of
the menu bar and then select the
filename to merge into the buffer.
You can then edit that file and,
after marking it as a block, save it
back to disk using the SAVE BLOCK
option under the BLOCK heading of the
menu bar.

(June 22)

Broderbund Software and Unison World
said today they have settled their
legal dispute over the similarities
of their respective graphics
programs, The Print Shop and

In a joint statement this week, the
two publishers said, "Whatever our
differences have been in the past
with respect to this lawsuit, we both
feel our time, effort and money would
be better spent in developing and
marketing new and better software
than in expensive, protracted

Broderbund and its affiliate,
Pixellite Software, filed a US
District Court suit in May 1985
alleging that Unison World's
PrintMaster infringed the copyright
of their Print Shop program.


The Federal Communications Commission
recently proposed to eliminate the
exemption from interstate access
charges enjoyed by commercial online
database services since 1983.

Such a move, according to FCC
attorney Ruth Milkman and co-author
of the proposal, has been considered
by the agency for several years.  She
told Online Today that when the
charges were first assessed in 1983,
it was felt that "enhanced service
providers" (such as CompuServe) would
suffer from the enormous increase in
user fees that would result.
Consequently, the FCC decided to
gradually implement the policy over a
period of years.

If this proposal passes, it will take
effect Jan. 1, 1988.

Milkman said the charges are assessed
to those companies that use the local
telephone exchange for interstate
purposes. "It's a way of making the
people who use the local exchange and
incur the cost pay for it," she

She added that the direct financial
effect on individual users is
difficult to determine, since the
cost will vary in different parts of
the country depending on the cost of
the local telephone exchange.

According to Milkman, the FCC said it
was concerned that the charges
currently paid by enhanced service
providers did not contribute
sufficiently to the cost of the
enhanced access facilities they use
in offering services to the public.
Concerns about rate shock might
justify a temporary, but not a
permanent, exemption from access

INTERLINK ST is now shipping!
INTERLINK is the most advanced yet
easy to use terminal package for your

"INTERLINK ST is an outstanding
telecommunications program for the
Atari ST and my personal choice for
ease of use and speed."
- Dave Groves Sysop
  Compuserve's ATARI Forums

"INTERLINK ST has been my terminal
program of choice for several months
note and I don't even have the final
version yet."
- ST-LOG April 1987

With features such as:

* MINI BBS collects messages and
  uploads/downloads files

* Run programs from inside INTERLINK

* Loadable transfer and emulation

* GEM Based

* Full disk commands

* Advanced auto dialer

* Super Recorder/Playback lets you
  handle those repetitive chores,
  like getting those same stock
  quotes every day

* Clip Board

* Custom translation tables

* 48 line display option on

* Full continuous status display

* Type-ahead buffer lets you enter
  and edit a line before sending
  it (great for chats)

* Online help gives you a quick
  reminder when you need it

* Buffer window with powerful entry
  and edit capabilities, works like a
  word processor

* Connect Chimes with true carrier
  timer gently remind you of your
  connect duration every fifteen

* 20 Macro keys

* Built-in password protection and
  encryption for your logon data and
  macro keys

* Supports baud rates 300, 600, 1200,
  2400, 4800, 9600, and 19200

* Word wrap

* RS-232 spooling

* And much more.......

Come and join the revolution step up

Retail price:  $39.95

Act now until July 30th 1987 and we
will give you $15 dollars off
INTERLINK ST when you send in your
old commercial brand terminal

Toll Free  800-826-0130
in Florida   813-923-8774

INTERSECT Software Corp.
3951 Sawyer Road Suite 108
Sarasota, Fl 33583

Xx 30 Secrets of ATARI Part 1
1.  Nolan Bushnell, Atari's founding
    father, originally named the
    company Syzygy (the sun, moon,
    and earth in total eclipse).  He
    renamed it to Atari because
    another company already owned the
    name Syzygy.

2.  Bushnell is generally believed to
    be the author of Pong, Atari's
    first game.  Actually, Magnavox
    released the Odyssey 100, the
    first home video game system,
    which included a game remarkably
    similar to Pong, several months
    before Pong's debut in the
    arcades in 1972.  Years later,
    Bushnell admitted in court that
    he had seen an Odyssey prototype
    on display earlier in 1972. The
    Odyssey 100 was designed by Ralph

3.  Bally/Midway rejected Bushnell's
    Pong when he demonstrated the
    game in its Chicago offices in
    1972.  Bushnell went back to
    California and started Atari.

4.  Given a choice between Mappy and
    Pole Position, two arcade
    creations by the Japanese firm
    Namco, Bally/Midway amazingly
    opted for Mappy.  Atari had to
    settle for Pole Position, which
    went on to become the biggest
    game of 1983.

5.  Gravitar was one of Atari's
    worst-selling arcade games. So
    they took the game out of the
    cabinets and converted them all
    to Black Widow.

6.  Mike Hally designed Gravitar. He
    recently redeemed himself as the
    project leader for Atari's
    spectacular Star Wars game.

7.  Rick Mauer never programmed
    another game for Atari after he
    did Space Invaders for the VCS.
    He is said to have earned only
    $11,000 for a game that grossed
    more than $100 million.

8.  Todd Fry, on the other hand, has
    collected close to $1 million in
    royalties for his widely
    criticized VCS Pac-Man.

9.  The man for bringing Pac-Man home
    to Atari- Joe Robbins, former
    president of coin-op- was
    severely reprimanded by the
    chairman of the board Ray Kassar
    for making the deal with Namco
    without consulting him.  It seems
    Robbins was in Japan negotiating
    a legal matter with Namco at the
    time, and Namco demanded that
    Atari buy the home rights to
    Pac-Man as part of the
    settlement.  Pac-Man had yet to
    take off, but when it did,
    Robbin's gutsy decision paid off
    as Pac-Man went on to become the
    company's best-selling cartridge

10. The man for bringing E.T. to
    Atari?  None other than Warner
    Communications chairman, Steve
    Ross.  So convinced was he that
    E.T. possessed video game star
    quality, Ross paid Steven
    Spielberg an enormous sum (did I
    hear $21 million?) for the rights
    to the little extraterrestrial
    bugger.  Designer Howie Warshaw
    spun the game out in four months,
    only three million cartridges
    were sold and Atari began to
    announce million dollar losses.
    E.T. is now selling for as little
    as $5 in some stores.

Next week 11-20...
By:Steve Godun

           Bop'n Wrestle
          Mindscape, Inc.
            PO Box 1167
       Northbrook, IL 60065
     Sug. Retail Price: $29.95

Many of Mindscape's games (such as
Infiltrator, High Roller, and Balance
of Power) are or were among the top
10 programs in Billboard's listings,
but they were only available for the
Apple and Commodore computers,
leaving the large Atari 8-bit field
longing for some attention.  The
people at Mindscape FINALLY opened
their eyes and say this vast amount
of Atari 8-bit computers and decided
to convert their best selling titles.
"Good!" Atari owners cried.  I almost
thought that Mindscape would start a
trend that other software companies
would follow.  If BOP'N WRESTLE is
the start of this trend, then pray
that the other companies improve on
it.  Drastically.

Put simply, BOP'N WRESTLE is one of
the worst programs I've ever seen for
the 8-bit Atari.  Not since the days
such slow animation, awkward control
setups, and poor use of color,
graphics and sound.  I have seen
BASIC wrestling games that are better
than this (if the BASIC ones were
compiled, they would be better than
this attempt).

One look at the game will tell you
that BOP'N WRESTLE is a direct (I'm
talking DIRECT) translation from its
Apple parent.  Sure, the sound was
spruced up a bit (and ONLY a bit) for
the Atari, but the graphics and
colors are almost identical to the
Apple version. The controls (joystick
or keyboard) are extremely
complicated, and sometimes you'll
move the stick the right way but
nothing will happen on-screen.

Also, the opponents you face are
(naturally) faster and more agile
than you could ever pray to be, so
don't expect to get very far until
you've played it for a few hours
straight (not that you'd WANT to). A
little more fluid animation would
have done wonders for the game, as
would some more colors and sharper
detail.  Several times I have gotten
confused as to which on-screen player
was me and which was the computer.
True, there are distinct traits that
each wrestler has (one looks like
Hillbilly Jim, another one resembles
a punk rocker - complete with spiked
purple hair), but quite often (like
right after getting into a clinch or
after performing a move) the two guys
"mix" and looks like a speckled blob
until one of 'em gets up.

Controling the man with the joystick
isn't that easy.  Simple left, right,
up, and down is fine (of course,
diaginal moves are "too hard" and
weren't put in the game).  The
problem arises when it's time to
apply a hold or move on your
opponent. There is no set direction
for applying any move - it depends in
the direction your man is facing. For
example, if you just slammed your
opponent into the mat and you are
facing right, a simple elbow drop
would be accomplished by facing your
downed opponent, pressing the button,
and pushing up on the joystick.  Now,
let's say you have the same situation
except that your wrestler is facing
downward ("facing" you, so to speak).
If you wanted to do a elbow drop now,
you would have to press the button
and push the joystick to the RIGHT.
This can get EXTREMELY confusing at
times.  I also like making a small
reference card that I can stand up
when I'm playing so I don't forget a
function or move.  With this game, I
can't do that because there isn't a
set direction for any given move.

One more minus to BOP'N WRESTLE; For
reasons that God only knows, the
program takes up both sides of a
diskette and takes around 3-5 minutes
to load.  This is too long for me,
especially since this game doesn't
even show an effort on Mindscape's

There are a FEW pluses to this game
that I should mention.  First, there
IS a two-player option available.
Second, it seems that the list price
of $29.95 is being cut drastically by
a few mail order places to around $15
-$20.  Third, if you can handle the
controls, there is a variety of moves
available to you.  Among them are the
very popular suplex, pile driver,
head-but, airplane spin, elbow drop,
the not-so-legal superfly, and the
slingshot.  I haven't been able to
find any of the more popular moves
such as the face rake, sleeper hold,
or even a standard punch!  The
simplest moves available are a
pseudo-punch (looks more like
clobbering the guy over the head with
your arm), shin kick, and the very
pleasant knee-in-the-groin. Kicking
your opponent when he's down is also
very possible (not to mention very

Overall, I think Mindscape should
have held back on the release of
BOP'N WRESTLE until the program was
improved (or maybe finished?).  It is
DEFINATELY not worth $29.95, or even
$20.  $15...maybe.  There is one good
result of this program.  It's so bad
that the people won't even WANT a
pirated copy.

Mindscape, if you want your future
Atari conversions to work, PLEASE
don't rush it.
New, improved and better than ever.

by D.F. Scott

This month, we'll focus on upgrades
and expansions to every Atari
computer currently "out in the
field." It appears that, by 1987, if
you own an Atari -- from a 400 on up
to a 1040ST -- there will be an Atari
-made expansion available for it. New
operating systems, new graphics chips
and new monitors are to be expected.

Among our sources this month are:
John Skruch
Manager, Atari's 8-bit product line;
Larry Samuels, Director of Sales
Marty Taucher, Public Relations of
Microsoft Corporation in Redmond,
Washington. Other sources wish to
remain unnamed.

Once again, this portion of the
Status report gives primarily the
Atari 8-bit story. For the total
picture, please see the ST section on
page 45ST.

At the heart of the XE is an eight
-year-old mother board design, in a
market that demands faster, brighter,
bigger machines. The first attempt to
"modernize" the 8-bits, the 1200XL,
failed to work -- and failed to sell.
Once the final versions of the XL
were completed, they still retained
"incompatibility" problems with the
original 400/800s.

I can recall no previous attempt to
modernize any 8-bit computer which
has resulted in a perfect track
record in the software compatibility
category. Forever inscribed in the
annals of incommunicability with
their predecessors are the Apple IIe;
the Tandy 4D (formerly a TRS-80); and
(in large, bold letters) the
Commodore 128. Modernization randomly
casts some unfortunate programs into
the realm of future uselessness.
Third-party software producers do not
wish to be held captive, waiting for
their star programs to be declared
useless at the whim of a computer's

Atari's 8-bit development is at an
extremely crucial phase. Several
software companies are shifting their
concentration over to the ST, and
others, not ready for the arrival of
16-bit prominence, are shifting their
concentration away from Atari. So, in
considering ways to make good their
investment in the 8-bit line, Atari
had to discuss something more than a
mere facelift. In order to win back
8-bit software producers' support,
the corporation could not redesign
the XE.

Atari has come to a compromise. It
feels the best way to expand the XE
is externally. A study of external
expansion methods resulted in the
corporation's asking itself, "Why not
provide an expansion to every 8-bit
computer in the field?" Surprise,
400/800/XL owners, the 80-column
expansion unit is for you, too.

The 80-column box, as yet unnamed, is
planned to plug into the joystick
port on all 8-bit units--most likely
port 2. The SIO (serial input/output)
port is thus saved for daisy-chaining
through the disk drives. The mother
board is left untouched, installation
costs are wiped out, and you don't
need an 850 interface! All that's
required to sell it is a package, a
salesman, a good monitor and the
usual 90-day manufacturer's warranty.

What will this expansion unit do?
Here's what we know: the box connects
the micro to a composite monitor,
monochrome or color. General output
for graphics and all alphanumerics
printed directly to screen memory,
besides buffered output through an
input/output control block, will
still appear in 40-column mode. Only
text sent through the control block
(IOCB) E:, number 0 -- called the
screen editor -- will be converted to

At first thought, this might be a
disappointment to some who expected
an instantaneous improvement in
output. Consider, though, the
resulting calamity if all text were
converted, so that all output flooded
just the left half of the screen.
Nearly all the 8-bit software
currently available is geared toward
a 40-column screen; there are a few
pieces that offer 60-column

How many programs can you name that
use the screen editor IOCB instead of
memory-mapped output? Not even
AtariWriter Plus uses E:. Because of
this little inconvenience, Atari
plans to revise AtariWriter Plus yet
again, to a sort of "Double-Plus"
version, becoming the first company
to capitalize on the new display.

What hasn't been disclosed is whether
or not doubling x-axis resolution
will have the expansion box providing
a new, ST-competitive graphics mode
for 8-bits. Such a mode, if feasible,
may work like graphics 9-11 does on
the GTIA chip, representing a pixel
by a letter. If there's an expansion
graphics chip in the box (which I'll
call the E-box after the E: IOCB), it
could receive ATASCII text delivered
to it by IOCB 0 (since that's all an
IOCB handles) and, after being
toggled by a "delimeter" or control
character like reverse-%, go to
"graphics 12," and convert the datum
following the reverse-% to a graphics
pixel with a representative color or
hue value. Having created a graphics
-11-like screen that acts like a 640-
column by 200-line text output screen
and with the main computer still
under the impression it's operating
the screen editor, the data would be
output to the monitor in pixel form,
positioned by tabs, spaces, line
feeds, or the POSITION statement in
Atari BASIC.

Again, Atari has not confirmed that a
new graphics mode will be made
available, but it hasn't denied the
possibility of one, when asked. A
four-color 640x400 8-bit screen would
have to have 32K of memory, most
likely in the "E-box." The graphics
speed would be dependent upon how
fast the screen editor wants to work.
To provide the mandatory power for a
new graphics mode, the E-box would
need to be a half-computer itself.

It has a projected price of $79.95,
which should be plenty for half a
computer. So "graphics 12" is not out
of the question. It would compel
8-bit software producers to treat the
XE as a new machine entirely. Perhaps
this will generate some new interest
in the machine; on the other hand, it
might make obsolete the existing
software base, and thus reduce the
amount of current production. There's
still a bit of shaky ground here.

If Atari were considering an overall
consolidation of the computer line,
in operation as well as in
appearance, it might consider a
graphically-oriented DOS, similar in
appearance to GEM on the ST. One
report is that Optimized Systems
Software is redeveloping its ADOS
text-driven system for use with the
3.5-inch format. Statements from
Atari contradict this, claiming it is
developing its own system, but the
company is keeping its mouth
curiously shut as to what this new
DOS should contain and how it will
operate. It hasn't denied, though,
the possibility of the system's being
a graphic one.

Assuming such a system were released,
it could not feasibly be implemented
as an operating environment, as is ST
GEM. Programs could not be run in a
"windows" environment unless the
environment were part of the program
itself. But an alternate operating
system called GEOS for the Commodore
64 shows that a point-and-click,
"desktop" operating environment is
feasible -- and good-looking -- for
6502-based machines, even if it
doesn't speed up such machines.

File-access and storage capacity in
the Ataris would most certainly
improve, and the current ST mouse can
already plug into an 8-bit unit. If
the old AtariWriter could fit into an
8K ROM cartridge, certainly a super
enhanced version with drop-down
menus, string search-and-replace and
cut-and-paste could fit into 64K,
with plenty of space left over for
text, especially on the 130XE. What
some people would spend thousands of
dollars for when purchasing a
Macintosh, they may be able to get at
around $400.00, with color and disk
speed as a bonus.

The E-box and the 351 may tempt some
current Atari owners to extract their
units from closets, where many 8-bits
rest in limbo.

There was a time when it was
difficult to find a purpose for a
home computer. We found out it
couldn't walk the dog, hand the kids
a diploma, or balance the budget --
though it could balance one's
checkbook. In eight years, we've been
able to clearly define absolute
purposes for owning a home computer,
and word processing is near the top
of Atari's list -- though game-
playing, as Leonard Tramiel has said,
is "what most people use them for."

Ataris certainly aren't deficient at
game-playing, but in word-processing,
limited disk storage capacity and
that 40-column screen are drawbacks
to efficient applications. So,
certainly, the company is making the
right diagnosis and applying the
proper solutions. For the Christmas
season, the XEs will be in a more
competitive stance against such
machines as the Laser 128, the low-
cost Apple IIc-clone now sold in
major department stores.

One important note: Atari no longer
has plans to build a monitor (at one
time called XC 1411) for the 8-bit
line. Anybody wanting a composite
monitor to attach to his E-box will
have to look to other sources. The
8-bit product line manager, John
Skruch, tells us his division has
more important business at hand than
to take some other manufacturer's
monitor and conceive a fancy box for

For the ST, programs like Flash! and
ST-Talk should work with the SX,
though, since it will operate in a
totally different manner for the XE
than the XM 301 and its predecessors,
Atari will have to come up with a new
piece of terminal software -- for
both 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch disk
formats. For the experienced 8-bit
modem user, it will have to compare
with 1030 Express.

Following up from last month: Sales
and Marketing Director Larry Samuels
tells us XE advertising for TV is in
production now, with plans currently
to buy only into local air time, not
expensive national network time.

Author's Biography:

D.F. Scott is an artist, writer,
educator and programmer living in
Oklahoma City. He is currently
engaged in the study of quantum
physics, computing and other ways in
which elementary particles interact
with each other. Otherwise, he fills
infinite pieces of paper.

This article ctsy of the HELP BBS.
ZMAGAZINE    ISSUE 59   June 29, 1987
Please contribute (c)1987 Ron Kovacs

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