Retrocomputing podcast about the Atari 8-bit line of personal computers
hosts: Randy Kindig, Kevin Savetz, Brad Arnold
email: antic@ataripodcast.com
twitter: @AtariPodcast

Richard Watts, Macrotronics

Richard Watts was a programmer at Macrotronics, a company that was primarily focused on the RM-1000 radio modem, hardware that connected amateur radio receivers to personal computers. The company also created Morse Code Tutor, programmed by Richard, which was published by Atari Program Exchange and first appeared in winter 1982-1983 APX catalog.  Morse Code Tutor cost $22.95 and was APX catalog number 20092. Macrotronics did contract work for APX as well, including fixes to Caverns of Mars prior to its release. The company also released a parallel print interface, which allowed a parallel printer to be connected to the Atari 400 and 800 through joystick ports 3 and 4, eliminating the need for an Atari 850 interface.

This interview took place on July 28, 2016.

"You couldn't afford any of the inefficiencies of a higher-level language. Basically what you're writing is a software UART, so that you're taking the signal, and you're detecting a dit from a dah, you're looking at the spacing of all of that and you're trying to ignore noise."

Morse Code Tutor in the winter 1982-1983 APX catalog

California Historial Radio Society: http://www.californiahistoricalradio.com

Direct download: Richard_Watts.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Comments[0]

Gregg Pearlman, ANTIC and STart Magazine

Gregg Pearlman was an editor at Antic Magazine and STart Magazine from 1986 through 1989. 

Antic magazine was devoted primarily to 8-bit Atari computers, with some emphasis on Atari ST computers. It was published from 1982 to 1990. STart magazine was dedicated primarily to Atari ST computers, with some emphasis on Atari 8-bit computers in later issues. It was published from 1986 to 1991.

This interview took place on July 12, 2016. It in, we discuss Jim Capparell, whom I previously interviewed.

Teaser quotes:

"I said something like, 'Well, geez, I couldn't do this for less than 6 bucks an hour.' And I knew, immediately, that I had made a huge mistake."

"Not exactly threatening, but he's like, 'Why don't you just fire me again?!' You know, it was desperately embarrassing."

Gregg's articles in Antic magazine

Gregg's articles in STart magazine

Jim Capparell interview

Direct download: Gregg_Pearlman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Comments[0]

Scott Scheiman: SIO, 850 interface, Telelink I

Scott Scheiman worked at Atari for about seven years, where he was part of the 400/800 design team. He worked on the computers' SIO interface, the Atari 850 interface, and the Telelink I communications cartridge. He also wrote the Educational System Master Cartridge software, for use with the Talk & Teach cassette tapes.

This interview took place on July 12, 2016.

Teaser quotes:

"I think what happened was that all the parts were mounted on the top of the board in the computer but the board was mounted inside the console upside down, with all the parts facing down."

"User of the educational system was being punished for having the wrong answer as opposed to being told 'No, try again.'"

Direct download: Scott_Scheiman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Comments[0]

Kathy Forte, Atari's early applications group

Kathy Forte worked at Atari in the applications group for about a year beginning late 1979. She worked on an unreleased relational database application, and for a while spent half of her work time as Atari's puppeteer.

This interview took place on April 27, 2016.

Teaser quotes:

"And it said 'What is the Atari 800?' And I saw ... 'It's game machine! It's a personal computer! It's a salami sandwich!'"

"Kind of a sarcastic game. ... The helicopter would spray malathion and people would become deformed. It was really sick!"

Direct download: Kathy_Forte.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Comments[0]

Lee Actor, Advanced Musicsystem

Lee Actor created Advanced Musicsystem, which was published by Atari Program Exchange. It first appeared in the spring 1982 APX catalog, where it won first prize in the Personal Interest and Development category. He also published Jukebox #1, which first appeared in the summer 1982 APX catalog. (There was no followup Jukebox #2.)

He was also involved with the MIDI Music System by Hybrid Arts, a product that connected the Atari 8-bit computers to MIDI instruments. He worked at Videa, where he wrote the game Lasercade for the Atari VCS; and Sente Technologies, where he created the coin-op titles Snake Pit and Hat Trick.

This interview took place on May 23, 2016. In it, we discuss Ed Rotberg, whom I previously interviewed.

Advanced Musicsystem in the spring 1982 APX catalog

Jukebox #1 in the summer 1982 catalog

2013 San Jose Mercury News article about Lee

Digital Press interview with Lee

Lee's web site: http://www.leeactor.com

Ed Rotberg interview

Direct download: Lee_Actor.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Comments[0]

Stacy Goff, Founder of Atari Computer Enthusiasts

Stacy Goff was founder of ACE, the Atari Computer Enthusiasts. The group was based in Eugene, Oregon, but grew to more than 50,000 members in 250 chapters in 15 countries.

This interview took place on May 6, 2016. In it, we discuss an Atari videotape about users groups, called Keeping In Touch, which is available in the link below.

Atari - Keeping In Touch video

"My vision was constant in the early '80s: that microcomputers were the human interface because you could make the information user-friendly as opposed to a bunch of green lines on a terminal, which is the way that most people saw computers in that era."

Direct download: Stacy_Goff.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Comments[0]

David Troy, Toad Computers

In this episode, I sit down with a long-time Atari dealer back in the 80’s and 90’s, Mr. David Troy.

David ran the Toad BBS from 1984-1988 starting at the age of 12 and then in 1986 as a sophomore in high school, he and partner Ray Mitchell founded a small computer mail order firm specializing in the Atari line of computers.  They shortly moved into a storefront in Severna Park, Maryland and the company grew into a million dollar plus business until they closed shop in 1997.

This interview took place February 27, 2016.

Teaser Quotes

  • “Commodore 1702 color monitors, that we sold to a company in Baltimore, that we later figured out was using them to install the monitors inside of peep show booths”
  • “I remember one time we got some kind of a call from Minnesota where they needed, I think it was a battery pack for a Stacy portable, and they needed it like pronto because Prince was going to be pissed”
  • “Jack Tramiel’s son just called me up and blasted me out, you know this is the guy who designed the Commodore 64; he thought it was worth his time to call me up and bother me about this”

Links

Direct download: DavidTroy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Comments[0]

Bill Lapham, Atari Continuation Engineering

Bill Lapham was Manager of Continuation Engineering in Atari's consumer division. He worked at Atari from 1980 through 1984.

This interview took place on April 25, 2016.

"They had an entire booth set up for us. Nobody had ever seen this device. But Atari just went ahead and said, 'OK, we're going to do this.'"

"Look, these people are going to die from that! You need to change your ways."

Direct download: Bill_Lapham.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Comments[0]

Ron Hartman, K-Byte Software

Ron Hartman was systems coordinator at K-Byte Software, a company that produced four games for the Atari 8-bit computers: Krazy Shootout, Krazy Kriters, Krazy Antics, and K-Star Patrol, as well as K-DOS, an alternative disk operating system. The company also programmed games for CBS Software.

K-Byte Software was a division of Koltanbar Engineering, an engineering company that did CAD/CAM, engineering, and design work. It was founded in 1960 to supply the auto industry with electronic test equipment.

This interview took place on April 12, 2016. There's some slight glitchiness at the start of this interview, but it clears up quickly.

After the interview, Ron sent me his KDOS cartridge, which I dumped as is now available on the Internet Archive. He also send a few photos of K-Byte ephemera - check the show notes at AtariPodcast.com to see those.

"And the production of the cartridges was not one of these enormous production lines that you might see sometimes. It was three or four high school students putting parts in a cartridge."

KDOS discussion: http://atariage.com/forums/topic/252299-k-dos-cart-help/

KDOS cartridge dump: https://archive.org/details/Kbyte_KDOS

Photos from Ron: http://imgur.com/gallery/78ZAS

Direct download: Ron_Hartman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Comments[0]

Mitch Balsam: NY Atari Research Lab

Mitch Balsam was hired at Atari to work as a game programmer for the Atari 2600, and worked on an unreleased game called Electric Yoyo. Later, at Atari Research in New York, he worked on more unreleased products including The Graduate, an add-on computer keyboard component for the Atari 2600; and a buildable robot toy. At Scholastic, he developed educational software titles for the Apple ][ computer.

This interview took place on April 3, 2016.

Teaser quotes:

"Each game developer had a room, and the more successful ones had checks on their door, which were their royalty checks. ... So there were checks there for $200,000, $300,000."

"Yeah, it was rough. I'd still say that programming for the 2600 was probably the hardest thing I've ever done."

"We'd call California, 'Hey, are you our boss?' No. 'Are YOU our boss?' No."

The Graduate Computer:

http://www.atarimuseum.com/videogames/consoles/2600/a3000.html

Mitch on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mbalsam

Scholastic Success with Reading for the Apple ][

Direct download: Mitch_Balsam.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Comments[0]