final phase of computing includes the 16-bit 520ST, 1040ST, STacy
Laptop, the 32-bit TT and Falcon, and the venerable Portfolio palmtop.
The ST line of computers
featured a custom version of Digital Research's
for it's graphical environment. DRI would forever be
known as the company who "missed the boat" in 1981 when IBM came
knocking for an OS for their new PC computer. That contract would go to
Microsoft which catapulted them into riches and DRI into obscurity.
The actual operating system however would be a derivative of DRI's CP/M
operating system modified by Atari and
called "TOS." Some claim that TOS stands for "Tramiel Operating System"
while others insist it means "The Operating System." Both monikers are still
debated today and no one knows for sure what TOS stands for.
The Atari ST's main competition would come from it's 8-bit rival
Commodore, in the form of the Amiga computers. (Incidentally, the Amiga was
designed by former Atari engineers.) Atari beat Commodore to the market with
it's 16-bit computers and I remember a quote from Jack Tramiel when asked
about them. (Paraphrasing) "I saw nothing new from Commodore at the show."
The Atari ST is often berated for it's lack of graphics and sound
capabilities, even though it was once the pinnacle of music development due
to it's built-in MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) ports. Graphics
for the ST were limited to 16 onscreen colors of a palette of 512 (later
4,096) and there was no built-in sprite hardware making game coding more
Notable games for the ST include Dungeon
Master, Starglider, Gods, Wings of Death, No Second Prize, Stunt Car Racer, Time
Bandit, Ishar series, Cannon Fodder, Bard's Tale, Captive, Battle Command,
Elite & Elite 2: Frontier, Populous, Sensible Soccer, Epic,
Towards the end of the ST's life-cycle, the makers of the popular game
Civilization were not going to release an ST version. This caused an
uproar in the ST community such that the game makers decided to release an
ST version after all. This reminded me of the letter-writing campaign that
convinced NBC to keep Star Trek on the air for another year. Power of the
Here is your typical Atari ST desktop. This is from TOS 1.62. Later
versions for the Mega STe, TT, and Falcon added many more features. And
NeoDesk from Gribnif software made the ST even more useful and flexible.
The Atari 1040 STe
Atari ST Specs:
(Note: Each systems specs are slightly different. The Falcon and
TT are exceptionally different!)
Processor: 68000 (16-bit @ 8 MHz)
Sound: 3 channel
Resolution: 320x200 (16 colors), 640x200 (4 colors), 640 x
400 (2 colors)
Colors: 512 colors with 16 onscreen
Memory: 1 megabyte, expandable to 4 meg
Ports: Printer, serial, RF for television, RGB for monitor,
ASCI highspeed data, mouse, joystick, MIDI, cartridge
Floppy Drive: 720K
Original 1986 price for the Atari ST: Under $1,000
Extra Features of the STe: 4,096 color palette,
BLiTTER chip, hardware scrolling, SIMM memory modules, analog
joystick ports (compatible with Jaguar pads), IBM compatible
floppy drive, L/R audio ports.
Extra Features of the TT: 68030
processor @ 32 Mhz, 256 colors @ 320x480, 48 or 80 meg hard
drive, detached keyboard.
Extra Features of the Falcon:
68030 processor @ 16 Mhz, 65,000 colors @ 640x480, 1.44 meg
floppy drive, 4 meg RAM (expandable to 14), internal 65 meg
hard drive, DSP processor, SCSI-2 port, Price: $1,299.
about the Atari line here