Fri, 29 July 2016
Duane Bolster, Midas Touch and Advanced Fingerspelling
Duane Bolster published two programs with Atari Program Exchange: Midas Touch and Advanced Fingerspelling. Midas Touch, a word game, was first available in the summer 1982 APX catalog. Advanced Fingerspelling, a program for teaching letters in sign language, was first available in the fall 1983 catalog. He also created an add-on for the Atari 810 disk drive that circumvented disk copy protection.
This interview took place on March 21, 2016.
"That's one thing I gained from my working with the Atari, is that when you work outside the box, you can do incredible things. But you stick to the book, and you're stuck doing what somebody else did."
"Huh. If I market this, I'll be known as the father of software piracy."
Advanced Fingerspelling in the fall 1983 APX catalog: https://archive.org/stream/APXCatalogFall1983/APX_Catalog_Fall_1983#page/n21/mode/1up/
Wed, 27 July 2016
Tom Halfhill, Compute! Magazine
Tom R. Halfhill was features editor of Compute! Magazine, and was later launch editor of several other magazines from that publisher, including Compute!'s Gazette, Compute's Atari ST, and Compute!'s PC Magazine. He co-wrote the book Advanced Amiga Basic and was later editor of Game Players magazine.
This interview took place on March 29, 2016.
"SpeedScript was written in a couple of months by our 18-year-old, untrained programmer. ... You've got a whole staff of professional programmers, and frankly, if you can't do better than him, then you don't deserve to be in business."
"There was a full page ad for ... I think it was a strip poker program. ... He got a complaint letter, Robert [Locke] did, from a school principal at an elementary school somewhere in the U.S., saying, 'We've got this magazine in our school library, we can't have strip poker in there. This is unacceptable!'"
Tom's web site: http://www.halfhill.com
The Basics Of Atari Graphics in Compute!'s First Book of Atari Graphics: http://www.atariarchives.org/c1bag/page003.php
Mon, 25 July 2016
Richard Mansfield: Compute! Magazine, 6502 Machine Language Books
Richard Mansfield is author of the best-selling book Machine Language For Beginners, and its sequel, Compute!'s Second Book Of Machine Language, both published by Compute! books. He also wrote Apple Machine Language for Beginners, Commodore 128 Machine Language for Beginners, and a bevy of other computer books continuing right up through today. Richard was also a long-time editor of Compute! magazine.
This interview took place on March 17 2016.
"It was kind of a lucky thing for me, the timing was right. I had the writing skill and I also had an intense curiosity and interest about computers and programming."
"Unfortunately, the amateur computer programmer is a memory, really. If some kid gets into computing now he basically has a lot of algebra, a lot of other hurdles that are meaningless, but they're there."
Full text of Machine Language For Beginners: http://www.atariarchives.org/mlb/
Full text of Second Book Of Machine Language: http://www.atariarchives.org/2bml/
Richard's articles in Compute!: http://www.atarimagazines.com/compute/index/index.php?author=Richard+Mansfield
Sat, 23 July 2016
Richard Wiitala, Number Blast
Richard Wiitala was the author of Number Blast, an arithmetic teaching program that was published by Atari Program Exchange. Number Blast first appeared in the winter 1981 APX catalog, where it won third prize in the education category.
This interview took place on February 1, 2016. After we talked, Richard send me 23 pages of scans of his correspondance with Atari Program Exchange, including the letters that included his royalty statements, and info about BASIC language upgrades and software compatibility with the Atari 1200XL computer. Those are now available for your perusal at the Internet Archive.
Teaser quote: "When I applied for a copyright on this, there weren't really a lot of guidelines about copyrighting computer programs back then."
Wiitala's APX correspondence: https://archive.org/details/APX_Programmer_Correspondence
Thu, 21 July 2016
Ray Citak, music education software
Ray Citak wrote Name the Notes, a music education program that was accepted
by Atari Program Exchange, and won an APX award, but never appeared in the
APX catalog. (The program is, as far as we know, lost to the sands of
time.) He also wrote the program Keyed Up, "a music education program
disguised as a goofy game," which appeared in Antic magazine, and Lightning
Renumber, an automatic line numbering program that was published in
This interview took place on January 30, 2016.
Teaser quote: "The trick to learning, of course, was knowing the computer.
Of course, I just devoured books on what the computer could do and what its
capabilities were when you plugged in different values in different places."
Keyed Up in ANTIC magazine: http://www.atarimagazines.com/v7n4/keyedup.html
Ray's articles in Compute!:
Tue, 19 July 2016
Ted Toal, Cyan Engineering
Ted Toal was a software developer at Cyan Engineering, an Atari research group. He worked on Atari's unreleased picture telephone as well as other projects. This interview took place January 24, 2016.
Teaser quote: "He wanted to have toys that would be able to listen to sounds in a room and figure out where the sounds were coming from, and like maybe be able to turn towards the sound."
Sun, 17 July 2016
Peter Donoso, Atari Explorer magazine
Peter Donoso was managing editor of Atari Explorer magazine from September 1991 through February 1993, primarily covering Atari during the ST era.
This interview took place on November 23, 2015.
Teaser quote: "[Jack Tramiel's] vision and his ability to find technology that was ahead of the market ... was just remarkable. I mean, he continually had these visionary ideas which he was able to actually implement.”
Fri, 15 July 2016
Bob Brodie: User Group Manager for Atari
Hi and welcome to another special interview edition of Antic the Atari 8-bit computer podcast. My name is Randy Kindig and I'll be providing the interview questions for this episode. I'm extremely pleased to provide this interview with a name well-known in the Atari community: Mr. Bob Brodie. Bob worked for Atari as User Group Manager and later Director of Communications from 1989 to 1994. Bob was directly involved in many of the Atarifests in that timeframe and I recall personally meeting him at an Atarifest in Indianapolis. I think you'll find that he has many interesting stories and perspectives concerning his time working for the Tramiels and even a story involving an Atari 1450XLD. I personally want to thank Bob for the time he spent talking with me, even calling me back when he remembered additional information or stories he thought might interest everyone. Bob is a classy guy and I enjoyed talking with him immensely.
This interview took place on February 17, 2016.
“Oh, about 6 ½ feet up in the air, I see a 1450XLD, unboxed, just sitting there!”
Wed, 13 July 2016
John Harris: Jawbreaker, Frogger, Mouskattack
John Harris created the games Jawbreaker, Frogger, and Mouskattack for the Atari 8-bit computers. He worked at Sierra On-Line and later Synapse Software. He later created video character generator systems based on the Atari machines.
This interview took place June 10, 2016.
"Literally — I mean, a day or two difference could have made — gosh, my goodness, what a huge difference in my life if I had gone into that store a couple of days earlier."
"He just said, you know, 'I'll give you $1,500 a month to live on for two months, and if you haven't finished a game in two months, you won't make it in this industry anyway.'"
"The general public opinion was, 'Oh, this is just more Jawbreaker.' ... But I still kind of have a fondness for it."
John in Halcyon Days: http://www.dadgum.com/halcyon/BOOK/HARRIS.HTM
Jawbreaker in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jawbreaker_(video_game)
John Harris in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harris_(software_developer)
Mon, 11 July 2016
Bob Alkire and Steve Saunders, Rainbow GPU
Bob Alkire and Steve Saunders worked in Atari's Corporate Research lab under Alan Kay, where they worked on the Rainbow GPU. Rainbow was a next-generation graphics chip (after ANTIC) which was never released.
This interview took place on June 10, 2016. The first voice you hear is that of Bob Alkire.
Steve: "And they basically went around the table and said, 'This computer project has software in it, therefore it belongs in my division.' — 'No, this project has hardware in it, therefore it belongs in MY division.'"
Bob: "But he has a Kermit The Frog tie tack. I say, 'Nice tie tack.' He says, 'This is a close personal friend of mine.' I look up, and it was Jim Henson."
Steve: "A trunk of the research lab had a completely fictional manager named Arthur T. Fishel."
Wikipedia on Sierra and RAINBOW: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari_Sierra