ATARI: YESTERDAY AND TODAY
by Peter Ellison
by Peter Ellison
Five years have passed since the appearance of the best home computer on the market - The "ATARI". Many software companies have appeared and disappeared, literally overnight, due to an overabundance of programs. Before the Atari, the only computers that were available were the Apple, TRS-80, and PET, they offered little competition when it came to graphics and sound.
People buying an Atari during this time were expecting to obtain a lot of software for their new computer, but were disappointed because the only programs around were Basic programs that were either Apple conversions or were ones just thrown together to make a quick buck. This caused a lot of Atari owners to become dissatisfied with their machines, even to the extent of selling them and buying others that had the software they wanted. This went on for a couple of years until top-notch assembly language programmers began to access some of the Atari's great graphics, using them to the limit.
Programs like Preppie, Eastern Front, Jawbreaker, and Protector led the way for games with excellent graphics and challenge. Still, there remained a lot of inferior software that was selling because of marketing strategies. The Public saw ads in magazines with colorful drawings of games with 100% machine language written in quotes. They therefore thought the software would be as good as the drawings. Then, after dishing out $30+ for the program, they discovered the mistake they had made.
The reason I know this so well is that I've had this experience a number of times. I didn't learn from the first few mistakes because I was overly enthused with seeing new programs advertised. Also, because much time was needed to learn the language, machine language programmers were hard to find. This meant if you had this skill at this time you probably could have made yourself quite a lot of money.
Each game or program was written by a single person without outside help. The days of one programmer software are numbered. When machine language games for the Atari first appeared, there were many arcade copies, including at least 10 different copies or variations of the famous Pacman, and people were starting to get bored with the same old thing. You can no longer make arcade duplicates and think they will be a hit unless you buy the rights and make an exact copy. The Public wants original and unique ideas. Too bad one of the few ways to do this is through collaborated efforts of two or more programmers working full time on one project. The Atari User wants a masterpiece.
One company which has created quite a few original and exciting games is Electronic Arts. Games like M.U.L.E., Archon, One on One, and Seven Cities of Gold have revolutionized the computer gaming world. Through original ideas these games have shown things never thought possible on a home computer. This company, having top-notch programmers like Bill Budge (Pinball Construction Set), Anne Westfall and Jon Freeman (Archon and Murder on the Zinderneuf), is one that will last through all the changes in softwa re. They are always looking for new talent to join their team, so, if you feel you can meet their standards, give them a call.
I would now like to talk about an unpleasant subject- Piracy. Because of the lost revenue through this activity it has become one of the main reasons many companies have folded. If every copy sold were pirated four to five times they would lose 80% of their profits. Therefore, they must charge a high price in order to compensate for this loss. One product that has really hurt Atari is the Happy Drive. It copies almost any software written. As a consequence software companies must hire more staff to make c opy protection devices and require more time to develop their product.
I believe there is good news on the way because I've heard that some companies have locks that beat even the Happy Drive. This will mean that if you want software you'll have to buy it and not copy it. I've written about this topic a number of times, and all I can say is, "Please restrain yourself, and don't copy!"
The future of Atari looks quite exciting. With the coming of Jack Tramiel Atari has been placed under first class stewardship and this fact will undoubtedly be reflected in new vigor and enthusiasm within the company and consequent new highs in marketing success. They have always had the hardware, all that was needed was the right man to lead them. I think Mr. Tramiel is going to put Atari back where it should be, number one.
Being at the first all Atari fair, TARICON 84, was an exciting experience. This fair did demonstrate the great interest there is in the Atari. It can only go up from here.