Sat, 3 September 2016
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.
"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!"
Video version of this interview: https://youtu.be/WT5MRiQN9Z0
Thu, 1 September 2016
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: http://archive.org/details/BardErmentroutRAMbrandt
Video of this interview at YouTube: https://youtu.be/YFU4LaVUrXA
Bard's page at University of Pittsburgh: http://www.mathematics.pitt.edu/person/g-bard-ermentrout
Caramel Knowledge film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VgU6vgi8dQ
Antic magazine review of Rambrandt: http://www.atarimagazines.com/v7n7/ProductReviews.html
Tue, 30 August 2016
In this episode of Antic the Atari 8-bit podcast, we reminisce about Atari Party and KansasFest, we bemoan the fate of the Atari 1200XL, and talk about Nir Dary’s one-man traveling Atari show.
What we’ve been up to
Deadline: Oct 22, 2016 (Portland Retro Gaming expo!)
New at Archive.org
Of the Month (Atari 1064 Memory Module for the 600XL)
Sun, 28 August 2016
Gigi Bisson, Antic Magazine
Gigi Bisson was an editor at Antic Magazine, one of the two major U.S. magazines devoted to Atari 8-bit computers. She was also editor of Antic Online, the magazine's forum on the CompuServe Information Service.
This interview took place on August 4, 2016.
"This indecipherable stuff written by these techie guys would come in and then I would have to massage the copy and make it seem like a story."
"They used to force me to play games. Again, I wasn't really a gamer; I was a writer. I remember, 'Oh, I've got to play a game. Ugh!'"
Fri, 26 August 2016
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."
California Historial Radio Society: http://www.californiahistoricalradio.com
Wed, 24 August 2016
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.
"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."
Mon, 22 August 2016
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.
"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.'"
Sat, 20 August 2016
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.
"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!"
Thu, 18 August 2016
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.
Lee's web site: http://www.leeactor.com
Tue, 16 August 2016
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.
"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."