When Leonard Tramiel, Atari vice president of Research and Development, was asked at the San Jose Atarifest in 1986 if he had any plans to rework the developers documentation for the Atari ST, his response was a cold, "Yes." And nothing else. Since then, nothing has been done to clean up the poor and sloppy documentation that is sold at $350 as the official Atari ST developers kit.
The developers kit includes six diskettes with Digital Research's development software for the 68000 (Atari ST's brain). Most of the software comes from DRI's original version of GEM for the IBM PC, so you will commonly find references to hardware items not found in the ST world. The documentation is pretty much just a photocopy of the original documentation for the IBM PC. There are addendums describing special operating-system programs on the ST that are available to developers; however, everything is scattered over the 500 + pages of documentation.
Other computer manufacturers (Apple and Commodore) have written very complete documentation of their operating systems and licensed the manuals to large publishing companies such as Osborne/McGraw-Hill, Addison-Wesley and Bantam. These large book-publishing companies have terrific distribution to bookstores that carry technical books. At the local mall, you can find the complete listing of the Amiga operating system for just $19.95.
Atari has never been known for its manual writing abilities, so many outside authors have written developer guide books and reference manuals for the ST. One of the best appears to be The Concise Atari ST 68000 Programmers Reference Guide by Katherine Peel. The guide is unique to the ST market because of its complete and thorough description of the Atari ST, inside and out. The table of contents includes chapters on Monitor Output, Printer Interfacing, Floppy Disk I/O DMA port access, Intelligent Keyboard I/O, Yamaha programmable sound-generator programming, TOS overview, BIOS/BDOS, GEM AES/VDI, System Initialization, etc. All of the topics covered are necessary for development of applications and utilities for the ST.
Much of the Guide's information can also be found in other documentation from Atari and from the ST book series written by Databecker of West Germany, published by Abacus here in the U.S. However, the Guide pulls it all together into one large manual that includes a complete table of contents and index. The Guide is being marketed through Michtron in the U.S. and Canada. It has a suggested list price of only $19.95. We highly recommend the Guide as a substitute for the Atari developers kit (which by the way still hasn't been revised in the three years since the ST was released.)
Game BoxesYou've just bought a new game for your ST. You rush home, tear off the plastic wrap, shove the disk into your ST's drive and begin playing. That's probably the last time you will see the box and manual.
Have you ever taken the time to read the box?
Take for example this newly released piece of software from a popular games manufacturer:
"All is well in Hyturian until the pirate planet, Nono, stealthily slips through the outer fringes of your screen and begins raiding solar shipping, lasering outposts and generally misbehaving:"
Sometimes the thought of the game designers sitting around throwing darts at a board covered with words, such as Nono, comes to mind. Let's hope they haven't forgotten words like Shoporia (the planet of the malls), Diskiedroops (those horrible creatures that store information) and Niknik (well, I won't go into that one).
Atarifest, DCThe Washington, D.C., area Atari user group is going to be holding its fourth Atarifest on October 1st and 2nd, 1988. The Atarifest will again showcase both ST and 8-bit software and hardware products. This show is unique in that it brings together several Atari groups from neighboring states. For more information, contact D.G. Elmore, 506 N. York Road, Sterling, VA 22170.
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