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TAT Editor in ST Computer! - The Atari Times

TAT Editor in ST Computer!

Humble editor appears in German magazine
by Gregory D. George

April 29, 2002
A few months back, I was asked to write an interview for Thomas Raukamp of ST Computer Magazine in Germany. I recently received my copy of the magazine and was very excited to see myself on the back page! The image is to the right. Click on it for a larger view!

Here is the interview in the original English (naturally, some had to be cut to fit in the magazine):

Greg, how long has the "Atari Times" been up and running?

I started writing it back in May of 1996. At the time, it was a 7 page paper-based newsletter that I would mail to all who requested it. As it was completely free, I ended up with a lot of subscribers! However, after about a year's worth of issues, the strain of writing, editing, folding, stamping, and mailing nearly 350 newsletters a month became overwhelming. For both my sanity and my wallet!

Before I ceased working on the paper version of the newsletter, I began to build the Online version where those interested could read back issues and articles. It languished for a few years while I pursued other things. There would be a new article every once in awhile, but nothing to really pique an Atarian's interest on a regular basis. However, this past March 2001 I decided to revamp the website and create what I think is a unique concept: The Online Newsletter.

Most Atari websites are such that they are updated and written by a single person. Or perhaps a group of close friends working together. My idea for The Atari Times was to have many contributors rather than a few select individuals. My hope is that those who read and enjoy the articles will give back to the project and write one of their own. I even pay a meager sum for quality articles.

The Atari Times is not a news service? So what is the main intention of the magazine?

When I started the newsletter, it purpose was to give Atarians something to read since the "big" named magazines like EGM and GamePro had pulled support almost before it even started. As an Atarian, I feel that it's important to continue to support Atari for their accomplishments lest they be forgotten.

The Atari Times is primarily a video game newsletter, however, I am keen to include computer articles as well.

How many people are involved in the project?

I consider myself the editor and webmaster. I will write the occasional article myself, but the bulk of them are from the many readers of the site. Since re-launching in March 2001, I'd say there have been well over 20 contributors. Several of them on a regular basis.

One thing that does help to bring in new articles is that I offer a small sum of money for them. While it isn't much, I think the writers appreciate getting a little something for their written work. My hope is that the recognition will help world-be writers get a jump on their career. Writing reviews and features is a great way to get experience in the business!

Side projects I have worked on include my Atari media collection which has become known as the Atari CD, the Lynx Book which will be an all-encompassing book of every Lynx game, finishing up the Four-F game, and doing some play testing for some Songbird releases.

Besides the reviews there are a lot of really interesting articles like the one about Atari-products at the movies. Where did you get all the information from?

That particular article originally appeared in the paper-based newsletter. I remember seeing an article in Atari Explorer Magazine where Walter Koening (Mr. Chekov from Star Trek) was interviewed about his new Mega STe. I believe in that same issue, or one prior, was a story about the Atari Portfolio in the movie Terminator 2. I got to thinking how someone needed to catalog all of the films and TV shows where Atari products had appeared.

After it appeared in the paper newsletter, I placed it on the site and asked for people to remember other movies and TV shows where they remember seeing an Atari. That page has grown considerably since the original article with so many people contributing to it!

This is really the spirit of The Atari Times. It is a group project that is continually growing and serving the Atari populace.

Another interesting figure on the website is "Mr. Fruitman", who has his very own style of answering letters from readers. What can you tell us about this guy?

I don't really know too much about him except that he is a very devout Atari fan. I discovered him back in 1991 on some Atari bulletin boards. (This was long before the Internet, mind you.) He would rant and rant about how great his 800XL was. I wrote him a few times, and we quickly become friends. Yet, I don't know too much about him except that he doesn't sell fruit!

A few months ago, we got to talking and I asked him if he would lend his unique writing style to the newsletter and write some reviews and features. Here was his response:

"You want me to do what? For FREE? Are you crazy? Look, I know that you and I have been friends for a long time, but this is just too much. I'll tell you what though. Give me the letters or questions that get sent your way. I don't expect you'll get too many of those. Besides, with the caliber of your clientele, I could probably answer any question while still sipping a margarita in one hand and playing Pong in the other."

Since then, he's been answering questions in-between his lengthy vacations. I don't know what he does for a living, but I'd like to get in on his action!

Well, Mr. Fruitman also appears in your new game called "Four-F". Tell us about a little bit more about it. I heard you've been working a long time on it...

Before Four-F, I worked on an RPG game with a little man walking around in a fantasy world. I used the experience I gained from that to write the code for character movement in Four-F. So, in actuality, it only took me about two weeks to write the primary game. (I was very proud of that at one time!) However, I spend another six months perfecting the graphics, adding features such as the screen saver and level editor, and building the first 70 levels.

The real reason it took so long to be released has to do with the music. I couldn't write an original song if I tried, so I was on the hunt for something to put in the game. I ended up acquiring a book of music by Bach from a friend's girlfriend. So, I converted some of the songs and put them in the game. But I was never happy with STOS's rendition of those classics.

So, I decided to include the Ninja Tracker STOS extension that would play .MOD files so the player could listen to and music they wanted to. While Ninja worked great with the STOS interpreter, I could never get it to compile with Ninja included! As time went on, I simply forgot about the game.

Then a few months ago, I decided to just finish it without Ninja. I spent a few weeks tweaking the code, finishing the levels, and added some secrets. (One of which is a hidden obstacle that I purposely did not include in the 100 levels. You can find it by using the editor.) I have a new compiler now, so maybe I'll write a Ninja version if someone asks me to!

I hope Atari players have some fun with it. I know I've enjoyed working on it and playing it over the years.

What's your personal Atari-story? How did you come to use the Atari?

Like so many others, my Atari addiction began with the 2600. I received my 2600 for Christmas of 1981 and then proceeded to play Space Invaders until I got cramps in my hands! I later received a 400 computer and took lessons in BASIC programming from a local computer store. (I'm still convinced that Atari BASIC is the best ever written.)

When Nintendo hit it big in the mid-80's, I bought an Atari 7800. I'm not ever sure there was a particular game I had to have, but I remember seeing all the great magazine articles on it several years before. The 7800 just blew me away, and I knew I had to have one. My first game for it was Food Fight, a true classic if there ever was one.

I continued to learn programming the Atari 8-bit line when I got an Atari 800XL and the much-coveted floppy disk drive. Next was the Lynx, which I actually brought to my college for speech class. While at school, I finally got an Atari 1040STe and met the local Atari retailer. (Whoever would have thought that there would be one where I was living!) I would visit him regularly, just to talk and play games. He also helped me whenever I had a problem with the ST.

When the Jaguar was released, I had been an Atari fan for well over 13 years. But, I held out buying one until the game I really wanted, Alien vs. Predator, was released. That was about a year after the Jaguar was released!

Which machines do you use today?

I actually have my Jaguar, 5200, 7800, and Atari 1040 STe hooked up at this very moment. The 5200 received for Christmas 2000. Before that, I was always upset that I had missed that important part of Atari's history. Even though I had played many of the 5200's games on my Atari 800XL, I still wanted an actual 5200, bad controllers and all!

My favorite Atari system is the Lynx. This was the most revolutionary product I had ever seen and was miles above the Gameboy in quality. It's such a shame that it wasn't a greater success.

What's your job besides Atari Times?

I am currently working on my degree in Technical Writing. To that end, I have worked as a Computer Network Instructor and a Computer Repair Technician. I'd like to write easy-to-understand computer books, manuals, and documents as well as write books and lab assignments for students wanting to learn computer networking.

One day, I hope to open my own computer training business with some LAN gaming on the side. Since the death of the arcade, I feel that LANs are truly the future of video games. Sure, it's possible to play against your friends in a game of Quake over the Internet, but you don't actually get to see their reactions in person. The first person to do this right will be the next Nolan Bushnell.

Hey, thanks for this opportunity to tell your readers a little bit about The Atari Times. Remember to support the project by submitting something for the cause!

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