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

Alison Woods, Atari Graphic Designer

Alison Woods was a graphic designer at Atari from 1982 to 1984. She designed the packaging for the computer versions of Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior, Pole Position, Robotron, Food Fight, and other products. Later, she was Vice President and Creative Director at Kidsoft, a CD-ROM based software magazine for kids.

This interview took place on May 26, 2016.

Teaser quotes:

"I wanted to have an exploding robot on the front of the package, and that was deemed too violent."

"One guy said to the other guy, 'See? I told you not to pay 'em!' I'm thinking, 'Oh my god, what am I dealing with here?'"

Alison's web site:

Direct download: Alison_Woods.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

Mitchell Waite, computer book author and publisher

Mitchell Waite is a prolific computer book author and publisher. His first book "Projects in Sight, Sound and Sensation" was published in 1974. He founded the Waite Group in 1977, which published more than 80 titles in the computer programming field. He co-authored Computer Animation Primer (with David Fox) and Your Own Computer (with Michael Pardee), the 8086/8088 Microprocessor Primer with Christopher Morgan, CP/M Bible, and wrote, co-wrote, or published dozens of other computer books. 

This interview took place on June 16, 2016. 

Teaser quote: "'I don't even have an office yet,' you know? And he said 'Well you better get one.' And I said, 'But I don't even have a corporation.' He said, 'You better start one.'"

Video version of this interview:

Mitch's web site:

Mitch on Wikipedia:

Full text of Computer Graphics Primer:

Full text of Computer Animation Primer:

Mitch on Triangulation:

Apple ad featuring ibird:

Antic podcast interview with David Fox

Direct download: Mitchell_Waite.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

David Duberman, Antic magazine editor

David Duberman was an editor at Antic magazine (one of the two major Atari magazines in the United States). Later he was in customer support at Synapse software, then user group coordinator at Atari during the Tramiel era.

This interview took place on June 17, 2016. In it, we discuss Jim Capparell, whom I previously interviewed.

Teaser quotes:

"We were now in the computer age, so we had to print these weird [ATASCII] characters that were probably never printed in a magazine before."

"They [the Tramiels] would not spend a single penny that didn't absolutely have to be spent."

David's articles in Antic

Jim Capparell interview

Direct download: David_Duberman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT


Michael Boucher, MECC

Michael Boucher was a programmer at MECC — Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium — from September 1980 through August 1984, where he worked on educational software for the Apple // and Atari 8-bit computers. His projects included Oregon Trail and Odell Lake.

This interview took place on June 14, 2016.

Video of this interview:

Teaser quotes:

"I had the honor of working with the finest group of dropouts I have ever had the pleasure of associating with."

"...Fairly sophisticated bit of code. And happily, nobody told us that it was hard, and being high school students, we didn't have the experience to know it was difficult. So we just did it."

Direct download: Michael_Boucher.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

Hung Pham, APX Game Show

Hung Pham wrote one program for Atari Program Exchange: Game Show, a game based on the Family Feud TV program (although the catalog never says that explicitly.) Game Show was first available in the Winter 1982-1983 APX catalog.

This interview took place on June 10, 2016.

"The reviewer was playing, and pretty soon he turned around -- a crowd of people was standing behind him, looking over his shoulder, trying to play. So, hey! This might have some potential."

Game Show in the Winter 1982-1983 APX catalog

Game show at Atarimania

Direct download: Hung_Pham.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

Steve Stone, POKEY and ANTIC layout design

Steve Stone worked at Atari from 1977 through 1980, where he was a chip layout designer and engineer. He worked on the layout design for the POKEY and ANTIC chips. After Atari, he founded Macro Dienamics, Inc., a chip design firm that worked on custom chips for the Amiga computer.

This interview took place on August 29, 2016.

Video of this interview:

"The concept of someone flying in from Manhattan for the week, wearing thousand-dollar suits, being chauffeured around the valley and then flying out on the weekends -- was quite a contrast..."

Steve sent me a follow-up email after our interview:

"It was a pleasure speaking with you yesterday. The conversation jarred my memory. There is a few more comments, and some clarification that I would like to add.

I believe I stated that the disk capacity we used for the chip layout was 25-80KB. While it was literally as big as a washing machine, it was 25-80MB.

Also, I may have left out Warren questioning me about what I would put in that secret room. I told him that it should announce that the player had won a prize, and give them a phone number to call to collect.

I gave you a brief overview of the chip layout procedure used at that time. Our workload was driven by the schedule of displaying products at the CES. Our work-load had peaks and valleys. In the off-time (the valleys), I was allowed to do whatever I wanted, or do nothing at all. With some tutoring from Warren, and an APL programing book borrowed from Jim Huether, I spent my off-time writing programs to simplify the layout task. My code eliminated the drawing and digitizing phase, as the group became "on-line designers." My programs, then called "gate generators," were close to what is commonly used in chip design today, now called pcells. This is probably more information than you ever wanted to know about chip layout, but I thought it worthy of mentioning. The bottom-line is that, with these programs, we had a distinct edge over most companies that designed chips.

I'm really glad that we used Skype for our conversation rather than a phone call. Although, one could argue that if ever there was a FACE best-suited for a phone conversation, I may be it. But watching your expression, at the moment of epiphany, connecting the very old Star Trek game to Star Raiders, was enjoyable to see. I’m pretty sure Doug Neubauer would have got a kick out of that as well."

Direct download: Steve_Stone.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:11pm EDT

Gary Furr, AtariWriter Product Manager, Printer Drivers

Gary Furr was Product Manager for productivity software for the Atari home computer division, where his claim to fame was being the manager for the AtariWriter word processor. He also published a set of AtariWriter printer drivers, which were first published through Atari Program Exchange — the product first appeared in the fall 1983 APX catalog, with support for 10 printers — then was sold directly by Gary, and eventually grew to support about 150 printers. After Atari, he worked at Datasoft.

This interview took place on August 29, 2016.

"I left the meeting, went directly back to my cubicle, called the programmer, and said 'There's been a little hiccup.'"

AtariWriter Designer Sells All (1997)

AtariWriter Printer Drivers in the fall 1983 APX catalog

AtariWriter Printer Drivers at AtariMania

Inverse ATASCII on AtariWriter

Direct download: Gary_Furr.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

Bob Frankston, co-developer of Visicalc

Bob Frankston was co-developer of Visicalc, with Dan Bricklin, and co-founder of Software Arts, the company that first published Visicalc. Bob was also involved with the Atari 800 port of the program.

If you're like to see our talking heads, a video version of this interview is available at the Internet Archive and YouTube, at the links below.

This interview took place on August 22, 2016.

"So we were really lucky there. But the important thing is to appreciate the luck factor ... A lot of people, especially in the .com boom days and everything, thought they were geniuses because the first thing they did worked. Well, no. They were lucky."

Video of this interview at YouTube:

Bob and Dan wrote about the history of Visicalc for Creative Computing magazine: 

Bob's web site:

InfoWorld magazine article

Inverse ATASCII podcast on VisiCalc:

Wikipedia on VisiCalc:

Wikipedia on Bob Frankston:

Direct download: Bob_Frankston.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

Brian Johnston: Manager, Atari Home Computer System Software Group

Brian Johnston was Manager of Atari's Home Computer System Software Group, where he worked on projects including DOS 3. He worked at Atari from 1978 through 1982, then moved to Fox Video Games where he programmed Atari 2600 games. 

This interview took place on August 4, 2016.

Teaser quote:

"But Atari was poisoned by money, 

And in death throes was free-falling up, 

Lining pockets of sycophant beggars

Whose main talent, the art of the cup!"

Poem by Brian Johnston:  Remembering Atari: Part 1

Video version of this interview:

Direct download: Brian_Johnston.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

Bard Ermentrout, RAMbrandt

Bard Ermentrout was the creator of the popular Atari graphics program RAMbrandt. Subtitled "The Atari Design Studio," RAMbrandt was released in 1985 by Antic software. Written in ValForth, it supported joystick, keyboard, Koala Pad, and Atari Touch Tablet for input. He also created an add-on Solid Object Module which allowed users to combine mode 9 geometric primitives to make what appeared to be 3D-shaded objects.  The predecessor to RAMbrandt was a drawing program called "Paint 10" which was unreleased.

This interview took place on July 25, 2016.

After the interview, Bard sent me a box of floppy disks — which appears to contain the source code for RAMbrandt, some picture disks, and the object module — but so far I have not been able to read any of the disks. It doesn't look good, but I haven't given up hope yet.

If you would like to see this interview as well as hear it, a video from this Skype conversation is available on YouTube and Internet Archive.

"I had some crazy ideas with the Atari 800 to get more colors, one of them which worked but gave you a really bad headache."

Video of this interview at Internet Archive:

Video of this interview at YouTube:

AtariMania's list of Bard's software

Bard's page at University of Pittsburgh:

Caramel Knowledge film:

Antic magazine review of Rambrandt:

Bard’s disks, archived

Direct download: Bard_Ermentrout.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT