ADD IBM OR CP/M COMPATIBILITY TO YOUR SYSTEM
The ATR8000 fills a variety of rolesby DAVID DUBERMAN
If you're looking to upgrade your Atari PC and you are not a beginner, you should consider the many advantages offered by the ATR8000 from SWP, 2500 E. Randol Mill Rd., Suite 125, Arlington, Texas 76011. The 16K and 64K ATR'S, first reviewed in these pages in the July, 1983 issue, are briefly covered here again for the benefit of our newer readers.
The versatile ATR can assume a variety of roles, depending on your needs. The simplest ATR, described as the 16K ATR8000 Atari interface, costs $350. It provides connections for standard disk drives, a parallel printer, and serial data communications. Because you can attach standard off-the-shelf disk drives to the ATR interface, you don't need to buy one of the more expensive drives designed expressly for the Atari. SWP supplies an Operating System, called MYDOS that lets you use any drive with your Atari PC. A standard 5 1/4-inch drive will have difficulty loading heavily protected commercial software; SWP gets conflicting reports on this so call them if you're in doubt. You should bear in mind that good-quality standard drives only cost about $200, and can yield substantial savings, particularly with multi-drive systems, when compared with Atari-specific drives. You can attach as many as four drives, including any combination of eight-inch, five-inch standard, and five-inch Atari drives, to the ATR8000. Since you can plug an Atari drive into an ATR any load problems can be overcome.
The ATR's printer port lets you attach any Centronics-compatible printer. In this application, the ATR's 16K of RAM acts as a printer buffer, leaving you more time for computing. See "Printers and Spoolers" by David and Sandy Small (Antic, April 1984) for an in-depth discussion of the ATR as a printer spooler. The ATR's RS-232 (serial data communications) port allows you to attach a modem or a serial printer. Thus, the ATR eliminates the need for the hard-to-find Atari 850 Interface.
With the 64K ATR8000 ($500), or an upgrade from the 16K model, you become the proud owner of a complete CP/M computer, for which you can use your Atari PC as a terminal. CP/M is the most popular Operating System for eight-bit microcomputers, and there is a plethora of software available for it. This includes expensive and sophisticated programs for applications such as accounting and data base management, as well as a vast amount of free, public domain CP/M software. The system runs double-density CP/M 2.2 on the ATR's Z-80 processor chip.
Most CP/M software requires an 80column display, but standard Atari computers can display only 40 columns across. If you have an Atari 800 (not the XL series), you can obtain a true 80column display by using the Bit 3 board ($299 from Bit 3, 8120 Penn Ave. S., Suite 548, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55431; (612) 881-6955). The board is supported by software that comes with the 64K ATR8000. SWP offers, two other compromise schemes, but the Bit 3 board provides the highest-quality display.
By upgrading the ATR with an option called Co-Power-88, you can attain the ultimate-IBM-PC compatibility for your Atari! Co-Power-88 uses the same 8088 processor chip used by IBM and its clones, and lets you use the MS-DOS Operating System with the ATR. Antic will cover Co-Power-88 more extensively in a future issue.