User Group Support
Soon after buying an ATARI computer, a new user typically learns about the nearest user group. A user-group is a club of ATARI owners that meets periodically, swaps notes and programs, and helps members enter the world of computing. There are about 180 ATARI user groups formed throughout the world.
Obviously, these groups help Atari; and so Atari has decided to help the groups. In January, 1981, Atari created its User Group Support Staff in the Marketing Dept. of its Home Computer Division. It consists of four people, whose purpose is to help user groups to start and operate. A visit to this Staff begins ANTIC's adventure "Inside Atari."
Left to right: Mark, Gretchen, and Dave.
The manager of the Staff is Earl Rice. He is assisted by Mark Cater, marketing specialist; Dave Menconi, software analyst; and Gretchen Nicholas, who prefers not to be called secretary and who really does all the work. They are located at 60 Plumeria, San Jose, CA 95134, where visiting user group delegations are welcome to visit, (but encouraged to give as much prior notice as possible). Atari offices are scattered all over Silicon Valley, so visitors should not expect a grand tour. Special interests will be accommodated to the extent possible.
Some of the Staff travel to other parts of the country. Recently they have participated in planetarium shows in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Denver, Colorado, not to mention the West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco. They have also visited the Pacific Northwest, Oklahoma, and Texas.
They expect to be at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago in June, where they will likely hold a hospitality gathering for attending user group members. Call Gretchen for details. Their direct phone number is (408) 942-6827, and they request it be used only for user group matters. It is not a general information number. For Atari customer service, use the toll free numbers: for California (800) 672-1404; and elsewhere, (800) 538-8543.
There is another way to contact the Staff. Try CompuServe's ATARI Newsletter (Go ATR-1). This is maintained by the User Group Support Staff. Questions left in their EMail box will be answered by Mark and your question should be answered in a week or so.
Another communications avenue encouraged by the Staff is the MACE Bulletin Board. MACE is the Michigan Atari Computer Enthusiasts, a user group that has developed a bulletin board for ATARI computer systems. The Staff is helping MACE improve and distribute its bulletin board to user groups.
Dave Menconi, the Staff's newcomer, is the resident computer expert. He is working on software projects to help demonstrate the capabilities of the 800 and 400, for example, player/missile graphics. He is also designing programs to use with the videotapes produced by the Staff. There is one such "teaching tape" available now for loan to user groups, and more are planned. The Staff also helps groups make their own tapes, as they have with the San Antonio and West Valley, CA groups.
When a new user group begins to form, this Staff will help with materials to guide the fledgling club, and later will provide it with technical materials for its library. It will also loan materials to groups, such as videotapes, and help them conduct activities for their community, like the planetarium shows. Those shows, by the way, projected ATARI games on the planetarium dome. Some way to play Star Raiders!
If your group has ideas or sees ways to use this Staff, they invite you to contact them. That's what they are there for.