The Atari ST Story | Nostalgia Nerd

The Atari ST Story | Nostalgia Nerd


I’ve covered several computers close to my
heart already, including The Sinclair Spectrum and the Commodore 64. These were both machines I owned, during the
80s and early 90s, but it wasn’t until the Christmas of 1994, that I obtained what I
considered a real home computer. For me a real computer needed a few things…
the first was a numeric keypad.. the 64 and Speccy were grand machines, but they felt
toy like without this additional wedge of keys tagged onto the side. These keys allowed me to calculate lightning
fast arithmetic, and I’m sure were the only reason I obtained a maths GCSE. Second was a graphical user interface. Sure you could get these for the Speccy & C64,
but GEM Desktop was usable, it was useful, it was built into ROM and most importantly
of all, there was a mouse, which is handily my third item. Last, on the list was a loading method which
didn’t take half a day, which was reliable enough for the media to be slung around the
house and produced a satisfying click sound on a whim’s notice. I cannot think of a more favourable storage
medium than 3.5″ floppies. Even to this day, the feel, the labelling,
the write protect notches, the volatility, the noises… Mmmmmmmm, damn, it’s just so good. Now although Christmas ’94 was when I became
an official owner of an Atari 520STFM (we’ll come back to the labelling in a bit), it wasn’t
the first time I’d used one. My friend Michael and I would while away post
school afternoons playing through Gauntlet, Ghouls & Ghosts, Outrun, Overdrive and anything
else which came in the Atari Powerpack, until he upgraded to a fully fledged PC and I became
the proud owner of his old machine. So, you can see why I have quite an attachment
to this fine piece of 16 bit hardware. In fact, I still have the exact same machine
to this day. It needed a new power supply a few years ago,
but other than that, it’s works as good as the day she was bought. Now, the story of the ST is an interesting
one. It involves Atari’s rival, Commodore and it
begins way back in 1984. Grab some popcorn kids. Back in 1983 Jack Tramiel was running Commodore
International through an aggressive price war with Texas instruments, forcing Texas
to exit the home micro market. The only problem was this also impacted Commodore’s
profits leading to disagreements amongst the Commodore board. These disagreements led to Jack leaving the
company. He then went on to form Tramel Technology
with his sons and some other Commodore staff, including Shiraz Shivij who had helped build
the Commodore 64 and would be instrumental in the design of Tramel’s next machine. After originally seeding an idea for a low
cost 16 bit computer at Commodore, Jack & his team now put this idea into motion. Originally the company considered using a
32 bit National Semiconductor NS32000 CPU, but was left unimpressed by it’s performance
and cost, so started to investigate Motorola’s 68000 chip. It was around this time that Atari inc. was
coming into a bit of trouble. I’ve covered several computers close to my
heart already, including The Sinclair Spectrum and the Commodore 64. These were both machines
I owned, during the 80s and early 90s, but it wasn’t until the Christmas of 1994, that
I obtained what I considered a real home computer. For me a real computer needed a few things…
the first was a numeric keypad.. the 64 and Speccy were grand machines, but they felt
toy like without this additional wedge of keys tagged onto the side. These keys allowed
me to calculate lightning fast arithmetic, and I’m sure were the only reason I obtained
a maths GCSE. Second was a graphical user interface. Sure you could get these for the
Speccy & C64, but GEM Desktop was usable, it was useful, it was built into ROM and most
importantly of all, there was a mouse, which is handily my third item. Last, on the list
was a loading method which didn’t take half a day, which was reliable enough for the media
to be slung around the house and produced a satisfying click sound on a whim’s notice.
I cannot think of a more favourable storage medium than 3.5″ floppies. Even to this day,
the feel, the labelling, the write protect notches, the volatility, the noises… Mmmmmmmm,
damn, it’s just so good. Now although Christmas ’94 was when I became
an official owner of an Atari 520STFM (we’ll come back to the labelling in a bit), it wasn’t
the first time I’d used one. My friend Michael and I would while away post school afternoons
playing through Gauntlet, Ghouls & Ghosts, Outrun, Overdrive and anything else which
came in the Atari Powerpack, until he upgraded to a fully fledged PC and I became the proud
owner of his old machine. So, you can see why I have quite an attachment
to this fine piece of 16 bit hardware. In fact, I still have the exact same machine
to this day. It needed a new power supply a few years ago, but other than that, it’s
works as good as the day she was bought. Now, the story of the ST is an interesting
one. It involves Atari’s rival, Commodore and it begins way back in 1984. Grab some
popcorn kids. Back in 1983 Jack Tramiel was running Commodore
International through an aggressive price war with Texas instruments, forcing Texas
to exit the home micro market. The only problem was this also impacted Commodore’s profits
leading to disagreements amongst the Commodore board. These disagreements led to Jack leaving
the company. He then went on to form Tramel Technology with his sons and some other Commodore
staff, including Shiraz Shivij who had helped build the Commodore 64 and would be instrumental
in the design of Tramel’s next machine. After originally seeding an idea for a low cost
16 bit computer at Commodore, Jack & his team now put this idea into motion. Originally
the company considered using a 32 bit National Semiconductor NS32000 CPU, but was left unimpressed
by it’s performance and cost, so started to investigate Motorola’s 68000 chip. It was around this time that Atari inc. was
coming into a bit of trouble. Jay Miner had previously approached Atari to seek funding
for his Amiga chipset, with a licensing deal in motion which would have led to Atari selling
Amiga machines, but following the video game crash of 1983, Atari’s parent company, Warner
Communications were getting a bit anxious about the whole situation, especially as Atari
were losing $10k a day, and were looking to cut the company adrift. Jack was prompt to
notice this opportunity and in July 1984 injected $30m into Atari and acquired it’s consumer
division for $50 cash and $240m in promissory notes and stocks, giving Warner a 20% stake
in the newly named Atari Corporation. Tramel Technology was then swept into this new branding. Meanwhile Commodore had been left floating
with no direct path to a next generation computer. Amiga still had debt to Atari, and had approached
Commodore for funding. Immediately seeing a path to release their own machine, Commodore
stepped up and paid off Amiga’s $500,000 dollar debt to Atari, believing this would void any
licensing contract between Amiga and Atari, whilst also buying out the fledgling technology
company for $24 million. This ultimately suited Tramiel as he could continue developing his
own machine and avoid investing another $20m in Amiga to finish their custom chips, but
as Commodore had tried to sue Tramiel for taking most of their employees, Tramiel decided
to sue Commodore back for damages and prevent them from using the Amiga technology. This
led to some legal action which delayed Commodore’s production – whilst also buying Atari some
time – which was finally settled out of court in 1987. Ultimately this all led to the rather
back-to-front situation of Commodore owning Atari’s old investment – The Amiga, and Atari
starting development of what would have been Commodore’s 16 bit machine, under Jack Tramiel’s
team. You can peer into an alternate version of
these events in my What if Amiga didn’t exist video. Tramiel used Atari’s remaining stock of console
inventory to keep the company afloat while they worked the new machine. The key ideas
of having a 16 or 32 bit architecture with strong music and graphic support were core
to the machine’s design and with Shiraz Shivji in charge of hardware the team got to work
around the clock to deliver a machine quick enough before the money ran out. The entire
future of Atari Corporation was riding on what would emerge. The project was code named
RBP, standing for “Rock Bottom Price” and the mission statement was to produce a “cheap
yet powerful home computer”. Jack wanted something that would smash the Apple MAC and IBM PC
out of the water, but at a much lower price point. To this end, Motorola proved even more
essential as in addition to the CPU, they had a number of unsold parts, which failed
to meet specification. Atari realised that by tweaking their design, those parts could
be used in the new machine saving both companies millions of dollars. For sound, a custom AMY
processor was planned, but with time running out, the Yamaha YM2149 chip was utilised.
But as the team weren’t totally happy with the chip’s capabilities, it was decided that
an external music interface should be built in from the go. Again using cheap Motorola
serial chips, the MIDI ports cost just 75 cents to implement. A brilliant piece of foresight
that would stand in good stead for the years ahead. The last element required was essential in
competing with Apple. Microsoft had contacted Atari early in development to suggest porting
Windows over to the new machine, but it was rejected as Windows was still 2 years from
being completed. This didn’t tie in with the short timescale Atari were seeking. The only
solution was with Digital Research and to licence the GEM desktop from Gary Kildall.
A team of Atari engineers were dispatched to work with Digital Research and a GEM port
was delivered in a remarkably short time, with bugs still being ironed out during the
actual hardware porting. GEM was layered to work with the underlying GEMDOS based operating
system; TOS (speculated to stand for The Operating System, or Tari Operating System but usually
associated with Tramiel Operating System), initially the OS was loaded from floppy, but
machines were provided with ROM sockets to upgrade to a ROM based TOS. Later machines
would have TOS & GEM Desktop built into ROM as standard. Over at the competitor’s table,
Commodore sought a specialist UK team to create their ROM based Amiga operating system, Kickstart,
and User Interface, Workbench, which was always supplied on separate floppies. With everything in place, the machine was
developed in just 5 months and named the 520ST due to the 520kb memory and the 68000 chip
having a sixteen bit external data path, but thirty two bit internal architecture. Atari
also considered releasing 128k and 256k versions named the 130ST and 260ST, but it was decided
there would be too little free memory with the OS loaded into RAM. During the January Consumer Electronics Show
in 1985, almost complete versions of the ST were showcased (these were in fact 130ST models)
and the industry was instantly impressed with the offering, whilst noting the corner cutting
similarities between the prototypes & Jack’s earlier machine, the Commodore 64. The Commodore
Amiga was also demonstrated at this show, but Atari pipped them to the post and soon
after in May the first 520ST machines went on sale. The corner cutting look was gone
and production machines looked more professional and quickly nicknamed “Jackintoshes” due to
abilities which seemed to spill all over Apple’s current market. They were also the first true
16 bit home computers. Even though Amiga had a 2 year head start
on development, Atari had pushed their ground breaking machine out over a month ahead of
Commodore’s product and with the cheaper price point of $799 with monochrome monitor and
$999 for colour, compared to Amiga’s $1,295 with an additional $300 on top for a colour
monitor, Atari initially gained the upper hand. And even though the ST lacked the custom
Amiga chips found in the 1000, it still had a few tricks up it’s sleeve, which made the
$799 price point even more attractive. The first was a flicker free high resolution
mode offering 640×400 pixels, and was incidentally the only resolution the monochrome monitor
operated at. This resolution attracted business and publishing use allowing the ST to walk
tall in the Macintosh’s arena. The ST was so well optimisted that you could even emulate
Mac software at a faster rate than it ran on the base Apple hardware. The second was those MIDI ports which immediately
thrust the ST into the world of music, providing musicians a low cost and effective route into
the sequencing and recording world, but we’ll get onto that in more detail later on. The third trick, given GEMs roots of MS-DOS
compatibility was that the ST could read and write MS-DOS formatted disks. A trick the
Amiga would never be able to master. Combined with the STs high performance base
specifications, the machine proved to be truly versatile in a number of situations, both
in home and professional use, and this led to over 50,000 machines being sold in the
first 6 months alone on both sides on the Atlantic. At this time Tramiel made the company
public and shares began to sell for triple their original price in just a few months.
The ST had truly saved Atari from the dustcart in an amazingly short space of time. To bring Atari’s old 8 bit line into synchronisation,
the XE series was also launched this year, giving the older 800XL hardware a pleasing
ST like aesthetic. This provided a more cohesive and unified range of products designed to
show the company had progressed into another era of development. Specifications That’s 1985 out of the way, so, before we
jump into 1986, let’s look at the specifications of this revolutionary machine; Designed by Ira Velinksy, Look wise the original
520ST is a compact design, but that’s mainly because the power supply and floppy drive
are external. Still it looks much more like the later home suited versions that incorporated
these external blocks under the hood, whereas the original Amiga 1000 looks much more like
an IBM PC setup, with base unit housing the floppy and separate keyboard. On the back of the ST we find a multitude
of ports from left to right; A reset button
Power switch Power connector
MIDI out MIDI in
13 pin DIN Monitor Port Centronics printer port
RS-232C Serial Port 14 pin floppy port
An ASCI DMA Port, for hard drives and other high speed peripherals. On the left side we have a 40 ping cartridge
port for 128kb ROM cartridges, whilst over on the right we have the mouse and joystick
connectors. The ST shipped with it’s iconic wedge shaped mouse. Underneath that slanted top grill we find
the power of the ST. This comes in the guise of; That Motorola 68000 CPU clocked at 8MHz
512KB of RAM The Yamaha YM2149 sound chip capable of 3
voice squarewaves plus 1 voice white noise The display chip capable of a low resolution
320×200 at 16 colours, medium resolution of 640×200 at 4 colours and high resolution momochrome
mode of 640×400. The palette is 512 colours
The ST also has various custom chips from the Memory Management Unit to the Video shift
register, which squeeze a high level of performance out of the commercial components. The external floppy was originally single
sided, capable of storing up to 360kb, with later drives up to double sided 720kb. I find it very hard to talk about the ST without
bringing the Amiga also in the equation, but technically they’re broadly similar. The ST’s
68000 is clocked almost 1MHz quicker, but the Amiga has custom chips which provided
hardware scrolling, sprite support and advanced sound capabilities, all of which the base
ST hardware lacked. I kind of see the ST as the Sinclair Spectrum compared to the Commodore
64 in the Amiga. Like the Amiga, the 64 had better hardware capabilities, but the Spectrum
had higher resolution, a faster processor and a whole heap of quirkiness. Post Launch As 1986 came around, the ST kept selling,
although many blamed Jack Tramiel’s harsh reputation on not selling more machines. Tramiel
had often been critisised for treating retailers like competitors, rather than encouraging
sales. This meant that large chains like ComputerLand or BusinessLand were not persuaded to stock
Atari’s new machine. It was also noted that Atari’s erratic distribution plan of shifting
between mass merchandisers to specialty computer stores didn’t help availability and dented
retail confidence. These issues also seemed to limit the number
of software producers willing to publish on the machine, especially with the IBM and Commodore
64 markets seen as safe ground. But still, Atari managed to turn around their reputation
and slowly, producers starting writing for the machine more and more with companies like
Spinnaker and Lifetree Software switching to the ST as their highest priority. The advertising slogan over in the States
was “America, We Built if for you”, whilst over in Europe “Power without the price” quickly
caught on, and seemed to chime with UK consumers who were more used to the all in one style
systems that the ST aesthetically aligned with. The lower price also worked much better
over here with IBM compatibles simply seen as professional business machines against
the tide of low cost home micros we’d become accustomed to. But arguably one of the stand
out changes to the playing field was the release of Dungeon Master in 1986. Games had already
been released for the ST, many by Atari themselves including Star Raiders, Missle Command and
Asteroids, but Dungeon Master made the gaming community stand up and take some serious notice.
The sprawling first person RPG oozed atmosphere and picked up a plethora of awards before
influencing a line of copycat RPGs up until this very day. In 1986 Atari also launched some revisions
to the ST line. The first was the 1040STF – a 1MB ST with a built in floppy drive and
power supply. The 520M, feautring a TV modulator, but still an external floppy followed, quickly
superseded by the 520STFM, effectively replacing the 520ST at the same time, incorporating
a TV modulator, along with the power supply and floppy, allowing the machine to quickly
enter the home markets in profound style. To accommodate the floppy drive, joystick
and mouse ports were shifted to the somewhat awkward position underneath the unit; I mean,
it looks quite neat, but it’s a pain which usually results in frantic wobbling and subsequent
connection issues. The ST1, later renamed the Mega ST also debuted at Comdex, built
in a style much more reminiscent of the Amiga 1000 and providing room for a 20MB Hard Drive
upgrade. The Mega ST, along with Atari laser printer and the hard drive could actually
be bought for less than an IBM laser printer by itself, quickly making it a very attractive
option for Desktop publishers and graphic artists alike, especially with professional
packages like Calamus and 1st Word Plus quickly arriving on the scene. The ST had successfully infiltrated numerous
markets. But it’s arguably the music and games markets where the most headway was made. Let’s start with games. Over in Europe, particularly the UK and France,
the STFM was heavily marketed as a games machine. Along with the Amiga, it was one of the most
advanced machines for gaming in this era. This was no more evident than with the Power
Pack that bundled with every computer shipped from 1989 onwards. The Power Pack featured
20 of the most popular games for the ST, offering staggering value for money on a machine which
already significantly undercut it’s competitors. Stand out titles on this gigantic disk collection
include; Gauntlet 2
Afterburner Starglider
Bomb jack Predator and Super Hang-On to name a few And the inclusion certainly outgunned the
offerings of any other gaming machine at the time. The Discovery Pack was one of the best
sellers featuring Jean Claud Van Dam in the advertising and box art, initially retailing
for £299 over in the UK. In fact the marketing was so good that Atari were selling 75% of
their computers in Europe. So, you might expect that things were looking rosy, but even though
the Powerpack had been a mighty success, it was also in part, the machine’s downfall.
You see, supplied with so many games from the go, owners of the ST felt less need to
go out and buy further software. I mean, games were still selling, just not at the rate they
had done in the past. To combat this, many producers jumped ship and started developing
directly for the Amiga which was beginning to gain more support than the ST, thanks to
the launch of the Amiga 500 in 1987. So whereas before, many development houses would produce
a game on the ST, then port it over to the Amiga. Games started being written directly
on the Amiga, taking advantage of the Amiga’s hardware. Because of this, the process of
porting back to the Atari became a lot more arduous, leading to many titles just not being
released on the ST format. To try and combat the Amiga’s additional grunt,
the STE was released in late 1989, in both 1MB and 520KB versions. The E stood for enhanced
and featured; An increased colour palette of 4,096;
Genlcok support; A blitter chip, providing advanced sprite
and graphics support; 2 channel digital sound, with PCM 8 bit sampling;
2 enhanced joystick ports, located, pleasingly on the left hand side (these are actually
compatible with Atari Jaguar pads) and SIMM memory modules to allow easier RAM
upgrades. It’s evident from the spec, that it was aimed
at competing with Amiga. However, as with most upgrades, developers continued to mainly
produce for the original ST machines or the Amiga, where the bulk of the customers lay.
That’s not to say there weren’t games which took advantage of the STE, there were, as
I knew all too well, as I flicked through Atari Format and found game upon game which
required a fancy STE over my my humble STFM, but on the whole they were still few and far
between. Many high regarded individuals developed for
the ST including Peter Molyneux, Doug Bell, Jeff Minter, along with numerous demo scene
coders who regularly took up the task of proving that anything the Amiga could do, the ST could
do better, and I mean, the ST could do some pretty fancy stuff when pushed, with some
ST games even beating it’s Amiga counterpart. But there was also a lot of feeling among
publishers that software piracy was rife and impacting their sales. Anyone who has heard
of the Medway Boys should be familiar with dubious labelled disks cramming various commercial
games somehow onto a single floppy. This apparently seemed less of an issue on the Amiga, with
Amiga versions of games selling twice as many as the Atari format in the first few weeks
of release. There were even pirate Bulletin board systems distributing software for free,
which seemingly wasn’t as rife for the Amiga, and definitely wasn’t a problem on the consoles.
This was another reason publishers jumped to other formats. But conversely popular programs
such as GFA BASIC, FaST BASIC & STOS created a large community of homebrew and start-up
coders who produced some impressive games for the machine, especially in the latter
part of it’s life. Other machines such as the Mega STE and Atari
TT were also launched to squeeze into the professional markets, and replace the earlier
Mega models. The TT is the higher end of these featuring the 32MHz Motorola 68030 processor,
but it was met with limited success. Despite all this, there was one area that
the ST would excel in from the go and is still used for to this day…. MUSIC. Most people assume that the ST’s sound chip
must be amazing, but the Yamaha AY chip is actually pretty modest. In fact, it’s very
similar to the sound chip found in the Sinclair Spectrum 128k models, and the Amiga will nearly
always blow it out of the water in chip tune standoffs. The real power of the ST as a music
machine comes in the form of those MIDI connectors we spoke about earlier. It wasn’t long after the machine’s launch
that people realised the scope of the computer as a MIDI machine. Programs like Cubase, Notator
& Logic Pro arrived on the scene. Allowing MIDI instruments to be recorded, arranged
and edited with ease. Because the ports were hardwired from the go, the ST had very low
latency response times, even compared to more expensive professional equipment, leading
to a multitude of musicians making use of the equipment, including; The Utah Saints;
808 State; Fatboy Slim;
Jean Michel Jarre; Madonna;
and White Town’s “Your Woman” which burst out of nowhere in the mid 90s, and was produced
almost entirely on the ST by some chap in his bedroom. It remained at #1 for several
weeks. Even to this day, the ST is used by musicians
for editing, recording studio and even live use, including the grammy award winning Syro
by Aphex Twin. The End Times Along with the machines already discussed,
there were other spin offs like the STacy, a portable version of the ST released in 1989,
powered by C cell flashlights and with a battery life of approximately 20 minutes. Upon realising
this, Atari simply glued the battery compartment shut and sold the machine as a compact desktop.
But at $2,299 it was a bit too much to swallow, selling 35,000 units in it’s lifetime. There was also the ST Book, a laptop version
of the ST without a backlight or indeed, a floppy drive. It was designed to take flash
memory for storage instead, but released in 1991 only sold just over 1,000 units before
being discontinued. The 4160STE, featuring 4MB of RAM was never
released, but badges were sent to dealers so that upgraded 1040STE models could be shipped
under the 4160 moniker. These are incredibly rare to come by now days, but you can always
get a label printed for yourself. In 1992 Atari produced the Falcon, a follow
up to the ST, which was rushed through development so quickly that it’s case wasn’t ready, leading
to the coloured ST case we see here. Performance wise, the Falcon is a pretty mean machine,
beating the Amiga 1200 on almost all of it’s specifications. Based on the Motorola 68030
running at 16MHz, sporting a Digital Signal Processor and bundled with a new improved
MultiTOS operating system, it was a large step up from the ST, but by this point Motorola
had lost the CPU battle to Intel and even their higher end chips like the 68040 just
couldn’t keep up with the power and price of IBM compatibles. This is ultimately the
downfall of all of these machines, whether it be Amiga or Atari. Atari discontinued the Falcon and the ST in
1993, shifting to focus entirely on their new 64 Bit Jaguar console, but due to difficult
architecture and the promise of powerful CD-based 3D consoles on the horizon in the guise of
the Playstation and Sega Saturn. Publisher support was lacking and Atari ceased manufacture
in 1996, with the company merging with hardrive manufacturer JTS inc. shortly after. Little
was done with the Atari name until it was sold to Hasbro and finally Infogrames in 2001,
where the branding is used to develop and shift software, including the recent RollerCoaster
Tycoon World. Amiga machines managed to hold on a little
longer, with the hardware and third party support edge they had accrued in earlier years.
The Amiga 1200 was discontinued in 1996 after brief relaunch from Commodore’s new owners,
Escom. The ST was never as big a success in America
as it was in Europe, but then neither was the Amiga. It could be argued that both companies
spent too long chasing the US market when they could have poured that resource into
dominating Europe. But, whatever you want to attribute to the demise of the ST, it’s
a similar story for most machines from this era. The IBM Compatibles simply got better,
cheaper and started sweeping the market up. One by one, these unique variants of computer
history disappeared, making way for a more beige, if compatible market of desktop machines.
In many ways, that’s a good thing. Games can be tweaked to run on one platform. We can
share files without worrying about compatibility, and ultimately prices are reduced due to increased
supply and demand. But there’s definitely something missing from that last era of uniqueness.
Of competitiveness. The era that started in the early 80s with the first 8 bits and finished
in the mid 90s as Amigas and Ataris were shifted from main stream use and left as a remnant
for hobbyists, the continuing demo scene and dedicated fans. The excitement is gone. Maybe it’s just the
nostalgia, maybe it’s because we were younger, but I think mainly, it’s because of the buzz
these machines incited, through competition and their individual quirks. These machines
forged discussions, arguments and indeed, friendships, from the playground to the workplace,
just as they continue to do today.

Danny Hutson

100 thoughts on “The Atari ST Story | Nostalgia Nerd

  1. Quite faulty comparison at 15:10 (https://youtu.be/A2pX6bU7-pU?t=15m12s).
    IBM AT, and AT clones, came with EGA at that time, and supported 640×350 w/16 colors (from a 6 bit palette of 64 colors). Most third party EGA cards (non IBM EGA cards) from ATI, Tseng Labs, etc. supported many extended EGA modes with higher resolutions xtended graphics modes (e.g., 640×400, 640×480 and 720×540).

  2. please review the a8 bit line computers made by jay minner , father of the amiga too

  3. I recently stumbled upon a 1040ST, no idea if it'll work, it powers on but the disk drive keeps clicking so I think at least that's gone but I ordered a video cable for it so I can see if it does anything. Anyway, that made me rewatch this particular video, I love these little documentaries on old computers (I think I've watched all of them several times already) and I'm looking forward to seeing more of these 🙂

  4. I think the ST v. Amiga stuff is just ludicrous. The Amiga was Hands-Down better for arcade games and multi-media, while both were on par when relying on the CPU (3d Wire-frame). For Overall computing the ST was better, but as a pure Games Machine The Amiga takes even the MegaDive / Genesis in the 16 bit wars.
    As an Atari 800 owner in the mid 80's, I had no idea the Amiga was made by the same people as my 800. So I got the ST and it was awesome for what it was. When pushed to its limit by the best developers, it could churn out some awesome games. The STE added to that, but the Amiga had won the 16 bit Computer war in Europe with sheer gaming glory and power by that time.
    I still loved my ST and all the games though.

  5. Dear sir, I remember using a soldering iron to make my floppy disks HD by putting a hole through the opposing side (opposite the write tab side) on my AMIGA from that day I dropped the Atari st
    I do still miss the copper chip as used ti death by the BITMAP BROTHERS.

  6. Good site to help people get started with STeemSSE and Hatari ST Emulators – includes games known to work with the emulators and notes on TOS versions, etc. http://www.kidriverstudio.com/atari-st-emulators/

  7. Nice touch adding in the lotus turbo challenge 2 theme tune. Oddly one of the most memorable soundtracks on a game in my opinion.

  8. Absolutely brilliant mate. Have both an ST520E (with 1-meg upgrade, so essentially, it’s a 1040) and Amiga 500/600. Can you answer me a question though, what is the music used in the background for at least the first 10 minutes? I recognise it but it’s driving me crazy as I can’t place the name. Cheers!!

  9. You did a great job! I recall most of this when I had my Mega 2 ST. No one at Atari would tell us the users what they will bring out next. We all know what won in the end! lol

  10. "America, We made it for you", OK, It's OK, Atari you can make that claim, You're allowed, But IBM was 'Murica, LOL, Only Godless Commie Hippies used Macs! Atari, was almost the generic term for "video games" in the 80's, They really should have pushed this harder. In my world, it ran thus; Apple was for school , Commodore was for "home/games", Atari was Games,Games.Games, and IBM was for "serious business" (and the business of America is business, Thus IBM was the "Cadillac"!) TRS-80 (both kinds!) was for hobbyists (Radio Shack was Geek Central then) BTW, I started out with the TRS-80 model 1, and my first "big boy" computer being the TRS-80 Model III. I also had a TS 1000 and a TS 2068 (roughly equiv to the ZX-81 and Spectrum, respectively) I obviously was into the Zilog Z80!, I later just went IBM-PC (and clones). x80 lead to x86 and CP/M led to DOS, and what a long,strange trip it's been! P.S. The manual for the TS 1000 was worth the price of the whole computer!, No one made manuals as good as Sinclair and IBM!

  11. I had an amiga mate had an st. Amiga was best obviously but many many an hour whiled away on the ST. Speedball 2 was particular amazing.

  12. 16-bit home computers didn't really dominate the markets even in Europe… 8-bit machines and especially the C64 did, through the 1980s. 16-bit home computers were "de-luxe home computing" that not everyone could afford. That's how I felt about it in Finland. Only a few of my friends had 16-bit machines in the late 1980s. The vast majority had a C64 or C128 and a disk drive.

  13. My Atari 520FM has its mouse and joystick ports under the computer and I hate them there,I see that they changed them.. 🙂 I love playing Super Hang on,it was the first time I played it before,like you I still have the same machine I got in the 90s and got it out 2 months ago and had to change the power supply board,now its working ok again now.

  14. I wish I still had my 1040st. I had tons of games and loved the joysticks they used. I also loved the GEM desktop. It was super reliable which I really liked over my early PCs and dos and early windows OS. I liked the cartridge games. that used the rom chips and machine language. Games were super small back then and you could fit a load of them on floppy disks. Yeah, I wish I still had mine.

  15. Ahhhh….the old school Pirateers.
    Medway Boys, Pompey Pirates, Flame of Finland, Automation…..
    Those were the days 😀

  16. I had an Atari 520ST. The systemboard went bad in it. We could not get the hardware repaired at the time. This was back in 1987. There was a reason that the IBM PC compatible market took over so fast. Repairability! If your PC compatible broke, you could fix it. Plus add in upgrading the box to a new system was very easy to do in the early 90s.

  17. Excellent documentary for the Atari ST. Come to think of it, the Motorola MC68000 was the most used processor of the 80s and early 90s: Atari ST used it, Amiga used it, Sharp X68000 as well, multiple arcade machines and 16-bit consoles at the time like Megadrive and Neo Geo…probably Motorola's most successful product to date.

  18. Excellent video. Yes the buzz is gone because PCs are all off the shelf and boring. What is the sound effect used at the end when the text is typing on the screen? Sounds like something out of a speccy game

  19. In those days you needed to understand what you were doing being part of the hobby or even being the hobby.

    Nowadays computers boot and do what ever program is on.

    In the old days installing a mouse could keep you busy for an hour or so.

    It has become much easier to use computers and myself only use laptops nowadays.

    The 80s and 90s were great. Had an Atari 800XL, Amiga, Philips 286 with a whopping 20 MB HD! in the day.

    My first puter I bought new was a Pentium III 450, gosh that was a fast machine! With a Belinea monitor.

  20. Great memories of my 520ST fm. Except that god awful sound chip. I wish theyd kept the floppy & power supply separate as well (had to replace both). That mouse was painful. Also wish they gave it a less spongy keyboard & not put the mouse/joystick ports underneath (which is what killed it) & what on earth was that huge border on tv? Still, I loved that machine.

  21. I got my first Atari ST (520STF) in 1989, after the Amstrad CPC6128 floppy disk died 6 months after use. My mom went and played the warranty, the seller proposed "Why don't you upgrade it to the 520STF?". She came back home with it, including three educational software (one about human biology, one called "Enigma in Munich" to learn German, and one about Maths and a camel). These three softwares quickly took the dust and I quickly discovered folks in Junior High that were trading cracked ST games.
    Of course, after four years the floppy died (and the joysticks ports on the bottom) and the ST finally got his final rest. This is a machine that accompanied me for four years (1989-1993).

  22. I have and still am a consistent user of my 4mb 1040STf since Oct 88, (Pro24/Cubase) BUT you cannot begin to believe the excitement of now running my ST MIDI setup now on my Android phone under Hataroid! I had been a STEEM user on my laptop for playing some games (Kick Off2 and modules, although latterly the better Amiga variant under WinUAE), but to do this on a phone?? Remarkable!

  23. My father used a 260st for music creation, and i still have it lying around somewhere. Sadly i only have the machine, no power supply, no display etc.

  24. Small point but I think I heard you say this in other vids too, the 68000 range of processors where 32bit. Okay the one in the ST had a 16bit bus but was internally 32bits (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_68000_series). It is in fact in the name Sixteen Thirty-two (ST).

  25. I still remember emulating MS-DOS by running on top of my Mac emulator which, of course, was running on top of my Atari ST. Did it just to irritate my IBM and Mac friends who disparaged my Atari.

  26. Thank you for this. The ST is my favorite gaming platform of all time, mostly for sentimental reasons, but also for the huge game library.

  27. Okay, so I have never seen an in depth look at the European micro market. I knew it existed and I even bought an MSX on my first trip over the pond. What I did not know, as it was before my time…you were rocking 68000 microprocessor's back in the early 80's. Why for the love of God did you even pick up a controller for a console. I mean some of the specs on these machines (I did some research outside of this as the video intrigued me) are just beastly for their respective time. Sega Master System, and NES had to look like a fucking joke. The prices had to look insane…$50.00+ dollars for an inferior product…fuck you Nintendo. Actually, fuck you Nintendo all day long. I hate them for reasons I am not going to get into here. This is about the micro's and man am I enjoying it. 😉

  28. So, which was the stronger choice? Atari ST's best, Amiga's best, PC's best, or Mac (please dont let it be that)? What I mean is which was the tip top best of the best for gaming.

    Okay you go back in time and you are a kid again. You just won the you get a free computer any model you want your choice contest (my contest has a terrible name). You also get free software for life of tge machine…which one do you choose?

  29. Ugh, now I want an Atari ST. If only Atari Corp had made these computers backward compatible with the 8-bit machines.

  30. "Your Woman" was also recorded and mixed on the Tascam 688. The 688 could be controlled over MIDI and record 8 separate audio tracks onto a standard cassette tape.

    Cassette multitrack recorders typically recorded only 4 tracks of audio, but for the 688 (and 488) Tascam developed tape heads that jammed 8 tracks onto the same cassette.

    I have one. It sounds wonderful in it's analog way. Needless to say, the tape runs VERY fast to compensate for the narrower audio tracks.

    I love my 688. One of the only possessions I'd save in a house fire.

  31. The Atari St was far way ahead of its time.. The Commando was crap compared to it. I had a 1040….he Amiga even worst. The Atari ST had windows . Steve Jobs had windows Macintosh. … WoW look.

  32. im starting to like your channel more than LGR because he dose more episodes about old pc games and your more about hardware

  33. "Staaaaar Glider." I remember genuinely thinking I was being punked when Dad made the computer do that for the first time (and we'd already had a Speccy with voicebox prior!)

    Great inclusion in the video. ❤️

  34. Wow..nice vid. just postet a complementary video of the Atari ST Series on my channel, showing, that especially for musicians its still unbeatable in MIDI timing and also some software is still a nice source for creativity. switching it on after decades was no problem at all and i have a secure feeling of technical stability i need as a musician 🙂 thanks for posting your vid

  35. Thanks for sharing. But in all your videos, the sound quality is not very good. It sounds like your narrating from a closet. Either the microphone you're using isn't terribly good, or you ARE in a small closet whilst recording your voice ? lol ! And the background music is distracting and even annoying at times. But, the high quality of the content makes up for these little annoyances.

  36. more info on the Atari ST about how important it was for music http://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2017/10/atari-st-instrumental-instruments

  37. Um. The guy's name is Jack Tramiel not Jack Tramel. It's fucking annoying hearing you mispronounce and seeing you misspell his name constantly through the whole video.

  38. I've just discovered your videos. Being an old git at 50 I remember all these systems well. Really enjoying the channel. Keep up the good work.

  39. next time you setup your st try (future sound of london) in your text to speech and checkout the 1992 fsol essential mix <3

  40. In mainland Europe the 1040 and Mega ST with monochrome monitor were serious machines thanks to the software available, especially music titles. More specifically..
    1. Cubase started on Atari. Available today for PC, Mac. Most 80s musicians had it. With that and my M1 synth I played and felt like God and Mozart.
    2. Modula 2. A powerful Pascal predecessor. Could program and plot engine cycles while staying code compatible with my Polytehnic.
    3. Word processing. All fonts you see today before Postscript. My 200 page thesis written there.
    4. CAD. DXF compatible.
    5. Database relational with SQL.

    My 1040 was used more intensively than my PC today. Working at home with my coffee, fag and cookies. Those were the days my friend.

    With all these who needs IBM compatibles? A computer is only as good as its software

  41. Spectrum faster processor than the C64?? Z-80 faster than the 6502??

    There's only one way to settle this ….

    FIGHT!

  42. Great video.

    I wonder what would have happened if Jack Tramiel has got his hands on the Amiga. He was big on building computers down to a price, and I wonder what cuts would have been made to get an Amiga 500 style machine out in 1985.

  43. Nitpick at 05:18  : Atari didn't limp along 'on console sales' until the ST came out. The 2600 JR and the 7800 were released in 1986. The ST came out in 1985. It'd be more accurate to say they continued selling the XL computer series until the XE re-design (also in 85). Atari stayed out of the video game market until Nintendo entered it in 85. Jack halted video game sales in the interm (plus there were lawsuits from GCC about their royalties on the 7800 to be sorted out).

    Great vid tho (which is why it's easy to nitpick when there's literally only 1 or 2 things to nitpick to begin with). The team-swap between Commodore and Atari was also covered in Atari Age Magazine in the Nov-Dec issue : https://www.scribd.com/document/396603102/Atari-Age-Magazine-Nov-Dec-2018

    My fave memory of the ST was it was the very first computer that I played networked FPS games on. MIDImaze was nothing short of astounding in the 80s at the LAN party that was assembled at a user-group show in Colorado.

  44. My father had a 1040 ste which he loved, but wasn't using for a long while so he told me I should sell it on ebay. Unfortunately I had no use for it atm, because I had no floppies for it, so I really sold it. Now after seeing this video I think I should had kept it.

  45. 4:46 It's also worth noting that Trammiel had a history of withholding funds until businesses were in deep financial trouble, then acquiring their IP for a song. It's very likely this is what he was attemping with the Amiga whose technology would have been very compatible with their own developing 68000 based machine.

    The Amiga's technology slipping out of his grasp would likely have been quite irritating, though fortunately turned out to be little impediment to Shiraz Shivjji and his team turning around a very capable machine

  46. 7:51 A large chunk of AmigaDOS is actually in the Kernel ROM, but to the users eyes all it appears to do is bootstrap the system and provide a disk insert prompt. If an otherwise blank floppy installed with a bootblock is inserted though, large chunks of the windowing code and the whole AmigaDOS shell is quite obviously present and available. This is why having a kick rom that matches your version of Workbench is important (ish)

    Though, the argument could be made that while GEM might offer a GUI the OS is actually very barebones, almost as dependent as the Amiga on some actual programs being present on your boot media to do anything… unless you want to format a disc. TOS does have you covered there.

  47. Great job, this is a full fledged documentary. I always wanted Amiga, because it was, arguably, better platform. But parents bought me a 520 STFM with the SM124 monochrome monitor in 1989, so that's where I went. And it was one hell of a ride. I eventually upgraded it to 1 MB RAM, then to 2,5 MB. Later I even got Atari TT030 with 4 MB RAM. I learned to program in MC68000 assembler (with the amazing GenST assembler), but also used Turbo C from Borland. I also ran a FidoNet node on both machines and a BBS on the TT.

  48. I used a device called the Video Key on my early 520 ST to hook up to NTSC TV. Also, in America, getting games was pretty much mail order out of magazines. Jack must have pissed off the US retailers too since the 8 bit Atari games were sold everywhere and ST games only at a few independent computer stores.

  49. Today I got my Megafile 30 up and running with one of my ST's. (using the 1040STf for now) Also for the first time hooked up My Casio LK-100 to the midi ports. And SUCCESS…. The ST and keyboard linked and play through each other…. I'm using Music Studio running from the hard drive.

  50. I had a 520ST, Also a Atari 800 and even the Atari 400 (someone gave me that one and though it worked it had a horrible keyboard so I didn't keep it all that long.

    . I loved them. It got me into computers and played around with Basic prog. and all the games. Back then there was no internet but there were tons of BBS sites which at the time was pretty cool. Tons of games and I kind of wish I still had the 520ST because even though the games were simple they were still a lot of fun to play. Loved Asteroids, Pacman and all the others that I miss so much.

    And suck it Microsoft, Atari's GEM OS was way ahead of it's time in a way. It was fast and worked great with no problems and stuck in the ROM so it stayed what a OS should be instead of a jack of all trades and buggy OS called Windows. It was just a all around good computer.

    Though modern games look a lot better, the games for the Atari's had their own kind of clean fun with no bugs (well, very very few) you could count on the games working great and I spent many hours playing then over time.

    And thanks for putting these vids together, they are very well done and sure brings back memories of the good old times of the pre-8086 home computer era…. Have fun and thanks for all the fish…. LOL..

  51. Even the mighty PC is going to the wayside. The PC game market is a shadow of its former self and cellular devices are becoming the primary computing device of choice.

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