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

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”


Direct download: DavidTroy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST

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 EST

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 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:

KDOS cartridge dump:

Photos from Ron:

Direct download: Ron_Hartman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST

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:

Mitch on Twitter:

Scholastic Success with Reading for the Apple ][

Direct download: Mitch_Balsam.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST

Wes Newell, Newell Industries

Wes Newell was founder of Newell Industries, a company that produced a number of popular hardware upgrades for the Atari 8-bit computers. Products included Fastchip, which sped up floating point routines by 300%; Omniview, which provided 80-column text output; and RAMrod, which provided memory upgrades and enhanced ROMs; and Omnimon, a hardware monitor. Wes was also author of Pro Bowling, which was published by Atari Program Exchange.

This interview took place on June 9, 2016.

After our interview, Wes sent me his collection of Newell Industries paper: documentation for every product that they released, and a large collection of printed source code for Atari 8-bit and ST products. He generously placed all of the Newell Industries material in the public domain. I've digitized all of it: you can now find it at the Internet Archive (see the links in the show notes at

Teaser quote:

"Well I sold 'em pretty cheap... that's probably why I went out of business... it was more or less just a hobby for me. I wasn't out to get rich."

AtariMania's list of Wes' software

Extended Directory article in ANTIC:

Pro Bowling in the winter 1982-1983 APX catalog

Collection of scanned material from Wes:

Discussion about Newell scans

Direct download: Wes_Newell.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST

John Reese, Tronix CEO

John Reese was the founder and CEO of Tronix, the software company that produced two games for the Atari 8-bit computers: Kid Grid (in 1982) Juice! (in 1983.) The company also produced other games for Commodore computers, including Sidewinder, Deadly Skies, and Gold Fever! for the VIC-20; and Suicide Strike for the Commodore 64.

John was simultaneously founder and CEO of Monogram, the software company that produced Dollars and Sense, home financial management software that was available for the Atari ST and IBM PC. Both companies were subsidiaries of Softsel, an early software distributor. 

This interview took place on March 12, 2016.

Teaser quotes:

"...told them that the right thing for them to do was to push out game software ... they didn't tell me that it's supposed to take six to nine months to go get that done."

"Piracy was there but it wasn't something that we had a handle on. It was sort of viewed at the time, by me at least, as the cost of doing business."

1982 InfoWorld article about John Reese and Tronix

Atarimania's list of Tronix software

Direct download: John_Reese.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST

Gregor Novak, Math*UFO and Ringmaster

Gregor Novak is the author of two educational games which were published by Atari Program Exchange: Math*UFO and Ringmaster. Math*UFO first appeared in the fall 1982 APX catalog, where it won second prize in the education category. ("A mysterious spaceship floats to the top of the screen. Is it a Martian? No, it's MATH*UFO flashing you number drills! MATH*UFO is a very competitive , one- or two-player educational game that turns math drills into a fast-moving, arcade-style challenge.")

Ringmaster first appeared in the fall 1983 catalog, where it won second prize in the education category. ("Step right up to the circus! Watch the elephants and the camels on parade as the music plays. Everyone's in a carnival spirit, especially one rambunctious monkey. ... Using your joystick controller, you're the ringmaster ... you make sure he jumps successfully. He'll make it if he leaps onto the back of an elephant or camel numbered with a multiple of the number he started from at the bottom of the screen.") Ringmaster was also released as Under the Big Top by Main Street Publishing. 

This interview took place on February 7, 2016.

Teaser quote: "I would have gone even without the money. In fact, I was shocked when Math*UFO made a couple thousand dollars. I didn't think it would do that."

Math*UFO in the fall 1982 catalog

Ringmaster in the fall 1983 catalog

Gregor's games at Atarimania

Direct download: Gregor_Novak.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST

Volker Multhopp, DSEMBLER

Volker Multhopp wrote DSEMBLER, which was sold by Atari Program Exchange and was first available in the winter 1981 APX catalog. 

This interview took place on March 21, 2016.

DSEMBLER in the winter 1981 APX catalog

Direct download: Volker_Multhopp.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST

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.

Teaser quotes:

"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."

Midas Touch in the summer 1982 APX catalog

Advanced Fingerspelling in the fall 1983 APX catalog

Direct download: Duane_Bolster.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST

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.

Teaser quotes:

"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:

Some of Tom's articles in Compute!

Nessie game

The Basics Of Atari Graphics in Compute!'s First Book of Atari Graphics:

Direct download: Tom_Halfhill.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST