History of the Cleveland Free-Net Atari SIG

by Len Stys, 10/27/2001 I would like to start this article by thanking Michael Current and Kevin Savetz for moving the CFN Atari SIG from a hard drive somewhere to a publicly accessible web site for everyone to see. I would estimate that thousands of hours were spent on the CFN Atari SIG by myself, other Atari SIG operators, and users for the benefit of the Atari Community. My first computer was an Atari 800XL. I started with Atari with the Atari 2600 and I even owned a Pong system (that ran on batteries and connected to a TV). I was around 9 years old when I first bought my Atari system. It took me a little while to convince my mom that it would not break the TV set. It also took me awhile to save my $1 a week allowance, birthday money, holiday money, and even convince my sisters and brother to contribute some money in order to get us into the PC age. My first PC did not have a floppy disk or tape drive. I would spend hours and hours typing Atari BASIC code into my PC and then turn it off when I was done. When my parents realized I could not save anything I was doing, they bought me a tape drive for it. I then saved for a 1050 floppy disk drive and later for an XM301 300 baud modem. I still laugh thinking back how I turned off my PC when I thought a BBS was stealing data off of my floppy disk, only to determine that the 1030 Express program was just adding data to it. Those were the days... Those were the days when you could buy a computer and know that it would still be of current technology 3 years later. Those days are gone, but thanks to Michael and Kevin, you can take a peak of what those days were like. I took over the Cleveland Free-Net Atari SIG in late 1987. Jim Haynes started the Atari SIG on around December 26, 1986 with the help of John Suchy. Jim later left for health reasons and I took over a SIG that would later become one of the greatest resources for Atari information in the world. I became the Atari SIG manager because I wanted to contribute to the Atari Community, but because of my age (I was 16 at the time), I could not drive to user group meetings or afford a BBS. My first task was to assemble a group of Atari SIG Operators that would be able to help me build the Atari SIG into something special. These SIG Operators were: Mark Leair, Phillip Chow, Doug Wokoun, and Scotty Meredith. None of us were paid for the work we did on the Atari SIG, but we loved Atari products and wanted to help everyone else love them as well. During the years, some SIG Operators left, but other great SIG Operators were added to help maintain the Atari SIG. These operators were: Michael Current, Craig Lisowski, Bruce D. Nelson, Fred Horvat, Barry Cantin, Kevin Steele, Pete Haller, and Tony Thomas. The Cleveland Free-Net Atari SIG was transformed from a small SIG with a nine option menu to a large multi-level menu SIG as is shown on this web site. The CFN Atari SIG was not only the largest computer SIG on Free-Net (we were 10x larger than any other computer SIG), but we were also the largest Atari SIG on the largest free community computer system in the world. The CFN Atari SIG operators did not stop with just providing a great resource for Atari information, but the SIG operators went on to make a user group called "Central Atari Information Network" (CAIN)" and to make the incredible CAIN Newsletter that was read by Atari users from all over the world. One of the most memorable accomplishments of the Cleveland Free-Net Atari SIG and CAIN User Group came when Fred Horvat approached me asking permission to use CAIN for a classic swap fest. I talked with Mark Leair about the idea and we decided that we wanted to sponsor something much bigger. The Cleveland area never saw a "real" Atari show and we wanted one before the Atari era was over. That Summer, Fred, Mark, and myself talked, met, and planned the show. Donald Thomas Jr., a friend of mine at Atari Corp., even convinced Sam Tramiel, President of Atari to donate three Jaguar systems and three games for a raffle at the show. Those that attended the show were from all parts of the nation. The show was described by a user afterwards as "Disney-like." I will always remember that show because it was really the last hurrah for Atari users and fans. It was a great goodbye party for Atari. The replication of the CFN Atari SIG that you see here is still a great resource for Atari users. The 8-bit area that was maintained by Michael Current was quite an accomplishment. I can honestly say that I don't think there is or will be ever a better 8-bit Atari resource. There are also many online magazines and newsletters that you will not be able to find anywhere else. My stay with the Cleveland Free-Net Atari SIG lasted almost 12 years. I grew up with Atari and Atari computers and I made a lot of friends. I now have an occupation working with computers and I owe my skills and talents to the work I have done in support of Atari computers. I would like to thank everyone for visiting this site. I hope that you will look around and do not forget to visit the Atari Library and look at the entries. It really gives a good idea of what Atari was and is all about. Sincerely, Len Stys October 27, 2001
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