Skip to main content

Full text of "WACE NZ Atari Club Newsletters"

See other formats


TAR I 

COMPUTER 
n ^ENTHUSIASTS 

Y ELLINGTON 

A# : V Wellington Atari Computer Enthusiasts 

Dear MeHbers, 

Herewith the WACE newsletter for November ♦ A fair hit has happened in 
the past «onth, and Much of it is worth connenting on, hut of More iMMediate 
interest is the following announceMent» 



NEXT MEETING!!! CHANGE OF PLACE AND DATE!!! NEXT MEETING!!! 

j 

As notified at our last gathering, we are changing the location of our 
Meetings* no longer will we Meet at the TAB, MeMbers are suMMoned to the 
"LOAVES AND FISHES", which is situated behind the ANGLICAN CATHEDRAL in 
MOLESWORTH St, Molesworth St, of course, begins at ParlisMent Buildings and 
is near the Wellington Railway Station, so our Meeting place cannot be More 
centrally located (See Map attached)♦ The advantages of the change are that 
we will have rooM to Move, to set up More than one display at the one tine, 
as well as air to breathe! 

For DeeeMber only, the Meeting will be held on the second Wednesday of 
the Month, ie 12 DeeeMber (in the New Year we will revert to the first 
Wednesday), j 

At our next Meeting, we hope to have the usual deMonstrations of new j 
software, while Ross PalMer has proMised to introduce us to the intracacies ; 
of Action! language. A new club tape will be available for distribution, j 
This tape will be a C30, have a strong XMas/gaMes thene and (given the ! 
prograMMes currently available) it should be a beauty. New MeMbers Might ! 
also wish to obtain last year's Xmss tape (no. 9), which is also a ! 
XMas-oriented C30, | 


LAST MEETING ij 

Two blokes froM the Post Office deMonstr3ted Modens and Videotext, Most f 
interesting. Using ModeMS, one easily and econonically call up the UK, the l 
USA or even Auckland and get into their bulletin boards. Your coMMittee is I 
actively investigating the introduction of Modens into the club, I 


NOTICE OF SPECIAL GENERAL MEETING j 

Your coMMittee proposes to call a Special General Meeting at the first f 
Meeting of 1985, ie, February, to discuss the following notion? 

"That the nenbership fee for 1985 be set at $20.00". j 

It night be thought that this proposal is indecently close to the end of the j 
price freeze, but we have good reasons for it, nanely, to ensure that the | 
club can pay the rent for the "Loaves and Fishes" (this is $385 pa) plus f 
Meet the cost of a noden as well as beat the effects of inflation. I 



THE CLUB DISK LIBRARY 


Members know that we have a large collection of "public domain" 
progrsMMes in our library* all held on disk* The disks in the library are 
available for hire at $5*00 per Month* plus $5*00 deposit which is 
refundable when the disk is returned unharMed* Dennis Dawson <ph 736176)* 
the prograMMe librarian* adMinisters this schewe. What disks to hire? I 
suggest the disks in "The Best of ACE" series, ACE's Educational Disks, 
ANTIC'S disks and the "Action!" and "Pilot" disks* The contents of the 
library will be be published in the Februry newsletter* There are two other 
pointsJ the newly received of these disks are a Major source of prograMMes 
for our club tapes, so we hold theM for three Months before they are 
available for hire. Secondly, there is a liMit of 2 disks at anyone tine* 
Out of towners can write to Dennis Dawson at Flat 2/205 Cecil Rd, Wsdestown, 
Wei1ington* 


PRINTER UTILITY DISK 

Michael Munro is putting together a disk of printer utility prograMMes* 
If you have any of sufficient Merit,please let Michael know (ph793363)* 


CASSETTE DECK ENHANCEMENT 

At long last, we can offer a scheMe, to enhance the reliability of Atari 
tape decks* How to take advantage of this offer? Ring Me at ph736716 and let 
mo have your naMe and address plus a proMise to hand over $10*00 when asked. 
The Modification that will be done is the "Hi-Rel Mod" as set out in a 
recent newsletter. CallaM Katene* a servicenan* will carry out the work* 


THE BUDGET 

Few expected Rodger Douglas to reduce the tax on coMputers* The changes 
are welcoMe, with sone ©Mazing prices (by New Zealand standards) coMing into 
operation- a 1050 and an 800XL can be had for about $1500, which is a little 
More than the sum your Secretary paid in 1982 for his 16k TOO and tape deck* 
Lets hope that as a result of these favourable tax Moves New Zealanders will 
r apid1y becone comp uter 1iter ate. 


SPARE PARTS 

Neil llpton (ph328T73) has somo spare joystick parts. 


Yours sincerely, 
Des Rowe 
(Secretary) 






ft 


t ar an ak i rtews 1 ©t ter 

Dear WACErs, 

I thought it was about time that one of the out-of-towners contributed 
something to the club newsletter. This article is in two parts; one to 
tell about activities of Atari-ites in New Plymouth, and the other to 
tell about my recent experience of attempting to find some Atari 
hardware or software in the U.K. 

Part 1 - New Plymouth has a considerable number of Atari users. 
Sufficient to set up a users group of its own, known as T.A.C.E 
(Taranaki Atari Computer Enthusiasts), with a membership totalling 33. 
Not bad for a little place! The club meets the first Thursday of each 
month at Einsteins’ New Plymouth shop. The group has been in existence 
for about 15 months and is relatively unstructured. The meetings are 
an opportunity for people with similar interests to swap ideas and 
information. 

Part 2-1 have just returned from a business trip to London, where I 
attempted to find shops which sold Atari hardware (out of curiosity, as 
I don’t need anything else at this time), or software (which 1 did 
want). Perhaps I didn’t go to the right places but 1 found it 
extremely difficult to find very much Atari hardware or software of any 
kind around central London. The shops which had anything at all had a 
very poor selection and seemed to be wanting to get out of that line. 

the extent that I could have bought Atari Word Processor for 
PdslO (NZ$25) ! SOOXL's are selling for Pdsi69(NZ$420). There is 
certainly no shortage of Spectruros, and other unmentionable brands. 

There appears to be an active second-hand computer market developing, 
with a weekly magazine ’MifcroMarf (35p), specializing in this field. 

While there I noticed the “1st London MicroMarket* advertised. So 
early on Saturday morning I took the Underground to a station near to 
the Wembley Conference Centre and the famous soccer ground. Again I 
was to be disappointed! At a market with over 100 stalls and displays 
THERE WAS NOT ONE PIECE OF ATARI HARDWARE!! I heard at least one other 
disgruntled Atari owner mumbling about lack of support by Atari. On 
the software side the news was not quite so bad - there was ONE stall 
selling Atari software - and the prices - Pds5.95(NZ$15) for Telengard 
and Legionnaire (the most expensive) down to Pdsl.95(NZ$5) far Stocks 
and Bonds. Only a small selection, but quite good. Overall the show 
very informative. There was a good display of printers and robots 
in addition to many other brands of computers, peripherals, software, 
etc. Very interesting. 

Having come to the conclusion that Atari is about to sink out of sight, 
at least in the U.K., I caught the Tube back to central London and 
consoled myself by going to the stage show “Cats“ - fantastic!!! 

Regards from New Plymouth. 

Maurie Bath 

P.S. Article written using Atariwriter and printed on a Super 5 - CP80. 


v 






























*v 




fi\I@ws and Reviews 

by Mike Dunn, Co-Editor 

We have received a number of phone calls from Atari explaining 
they are trying to produce the 800XL's and provide customer support. 
They are beginning with a new magazine, called The Atari Explorer, 
edited by Neil Harris, formerly an editor of a similar Commodore 
magazine. Mr. Harris appears to be very interested in customer sup¬ 
port as well as User Group support. Each issue will feature a User 
Group. The first will be ours since we were the first! They want to 
write about both large and small groups and show how they help Atari 
owners. At the present time, the entire customer support group con¬ 
sists of only 6 people, so Atari is very interested in supporting user 
groups all over in providing help such as our BugBusters we are trying 
to form. We want to have a list of people willing to help others by 
phone or mail. We'll put the list in the Newsletter with the hours 
you’re available to be called. This will be for only as long as you wish, 
and hopefully we of ACE as well as other groups all over the country 
could set up a network to take the place of the support system former¬ 
ly supplied by Atari. 

Many new items are going to be available soon for the Atari 800XL. 
Rumor tells us our good friends at MicroBits in Albany, OR will be 
coming out with a 1200 BAUD modem as well as a hard disk with an 
OS by Bill Wilkinson of OSS. These will be sold at their usually 
unbelievably low prices! AXLON will be releasing the fabled expan¬ 
sion interface box for tne 800XL and Batteries Included will add an 80 
column board. I don’t know anything about any future Atari com¬ 
puters, but again doubt if they will have any compatibility with our 
800's. However for the price (now $170 and dropping), you can not 
beat an Atari system. 

There are new products coming out for the Atari now. Synapase has 
lowered the prices on all their products now if you get them direct 
from their office at 5521 Central Ave., Richmond, CA 94804. They even 
have very low prices on bulk orders for user group members. The Scar¬ 
borough System 25 N. Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591, has released a 
new improved MasterType for $40. They have a very nice line of pro¬ 
grams, including the fabulous Your Net Worth (see below). AMDEK is 
selling to user groups their 3" disk drives very cheaply. One of the 
members of the Portland Atari Group has been able to get hold of a 
large number of brand new Osbourne Executive computers, CP/M bas¬ 
ed portables with two disk drives, 7" Amber screen, 128K etc for only 
$895 with a ton ol software. I bought one to go with my ATR 8000 
CP/M system. If anyone is interested, call Jim at 503-646-3467 for 
details. 

This month, we introduce a new regular contributor, Ralph Walden. 
Ralph will be writing a column for advanced users in Assembly 
language and C. He has modified the Deep Blue C from APEX, and the 
original author will allow ACE to put it our library for members! Not 
quite ready, but expect a lot on C in the future. Ralph likes C so much 
because tie can use the same program for various computers, in¬ 
cluding big mainframes. He was also the first volunteer for the 
BugBusters for help in C and assembly language. 

Reviews 

by Mike Dunn 

Your Personal NotWorth (Scarborough System, 25 N. Broadway, Tar¬ 
rytown, NY 10591, $80) 

Brought to you by the people who produced MasterType and other 
fine programs for a variety of computers comes this very comprehen¬ 
sive quick and easy to use home accounting system. When the 
package arrives the first thing noticed is the very attractive presenta¬ 
tion of their produuct. It comes in a nice plastic box holding the 
manual, two disks, and in front, a real silver dollar, so if you spend 
your last penny on the package, you still have $1 worth of assets. The 
manual is a model for the industry in its clarity, not only about using 
the program, but the explanation of accounting in general. It explains 
assets and liabilities, as well as when and why to use each. Also in¬ 
cluded in the package is the book by Silva Porter on money manage¬ 
ment. , ...... 

After booting in the program disk, you begin by establishing your 
accounts. You have a choice of many accounts to use. There are 32 
expense accounts, 30 asset accounts, 16 liability accounts and 16 in¬ 
come accounts, plus you can add your own. You then begin by enter¬ 
ing your initial balances for asset and liabilies. You can make entries, 
post entries in a journal of accounts, make budgets, keep bank 
records, make inquiries, and print out your complete balance state¬ 
ment anytime you want. You can have as many as 10 bank accounts, 
350 different account categories, and up to 4000 transactions per disk. 
Other features include household inventory, stock portfolio analysis, 
all kinds of help features and trace features, easy bank statement 
reconciliation, and many other features too numerous to mention. 

tit tns'fy. 


Not only is the manual outstanding, there are many help screens to 
guide you in any operation. The screens are attractive and easy to use; 
the special features of the Atari are well utilized, a surprising feature 
in a program available for many computers. The program is written in 
machine language and all operations are fast! If you need such a pro¬ 
gram, plan on spending several hours entering all your original ac¬ 
counts and data, then it is very easy to keep it up. A perfect program 
to get for the New Year, and then next year, to get your complete 
balance sheet, as well as all your income tax information, just press a 
button!! 


The XL Boss (Allen Macroware, FOB 2205, Redondo Beach, CA 90278, 
$80) 

From the makers of DiskWiz and PrintWiz comes Jerry Allen's first 
hardware project. This is a chip for the 800XL or 1200XL (different one 
for each) — an OS replacement. It allows you to run almost all of the 
Atari Software without having to use the translator disk. Other 
features include not having to hold down the OPTION key to de-select 
BASIC, the ability to select the "hidden" 4k of RAM for word- 
processors, spreadsheets, etc., and, most interesting, the ability to 
have a RAM rather than ROM operating system. You can then easily 
customize your operating system as you wish, without having to burn 
an EPROM, etc. You can also use this feature to load in Jerry’s 
monitor program MacroMon XL, then using the warmboot command, 
boot in any disk, switch back and forth from the monitor to the pro¬ 
gram, and see how they do various tasks on commercial boot pro¬ 
grams. This monitor, besides the usual functions, has split screen 
capabilities to compare two parts of memory, has a find command 
can read and write directly to the disk. 

The manual gives you ideas on how to modify your OS, such as 
changing the cursor arrow keys to work without the shift key. As Jerry 
always has done, the chip will be updated occasionally; the first one 
out in 2 weeks to allow you to shift back and forth from the standard 
OS and the Boss XL, so if anyone comes out with an expansion box, 
etc., you can use it. 

In using the chip, I find most programs will load in and run, but 
some of the older commercial terminal programs didn't. The manual 
says to switch back and forth between the various options of the XL 
Boss and the Monitor, when using the function keys, to push the keys 
just right — so true! The keys are very touchy and need to be pressed 
the way Jerry states, not because of the chip, but because the keys 
are not the best quality and are touchy. The installation of the chip in 
my 800XL required taking the entire computer apart, but the total 
operation was easy and well explained; it took about 20 minutes. The 
1200XL model is $1fl more. 

PrintWiz (Allen Macroware, $30. 

This is an update of the program we have used for quite a while to 
dump the pictures seen in ACE of our programs. Present owners can 
send their old disk in and get the upgrade for only $5. New features in¬ 
clude adding the DMP-80, Panasonic KXB1090, Mannesman-Tally 
Spirit 80 & IDS MicroPrism printers to the Epson, Nec, Prowriter and 
Okidata already supported, a program to directly use Atari Paint and 
Koala Pad files for dumping and using the LOGO cartridge with Print¬ 
Wiz. Jerry will continue to update the program and provide those up¬ 
dates at a nominal charge to present owners. { 



By DA VID SHIRES 

THE Atari video game and 
computer distributor in 
Australia, Futuretrcnics 
Ply Ltd, has gone into 
receivership, becoming the 
first sizable victim of the 
slowdown in the video 
games industry in recent 
months,. 

! Two receiver-managers, Mr 
| Geoff Crawford-Fish and Mr 
Andrew Home, of Deloitte, 
Haskins and Sells, were 
appointed by the National 
Australia Bank on Monday. 

Creditors include the 
National Australia Bank and 
the company's two advertising 
agencies, McCann-Erickson 
and Concorde Advertising 


and Marketing Pty Ltd, which 
between them are owed more 
than S500.000. 

In a statement late last 
night, Mr Crawford-Fish said 
that the company had substan¬ 
tial orders for Christmas from 
major retailers “which we are 
going to supply”. 

“We are negotiating with a 
large public company in 
regard to the future operations 
of the business.” he said. 

“There is no lack of confi¬ 
dence about the company’s 
future." 

Futuretronics gave no hint 
that it was in trouble until 
October 15, according to the 
managing director of Con- 

Continued :i „ 7 




BimiPAS REVIEWS 

The Writer’s Tool (OSS, $99 until Dec. 31, a $30 discount) is a 
cartridge-based word processor of 20k with a disk containing utilities, 
demos, and configuration files for numerous printers. This is a full- 
function program which will meet the needs of the busiest writer. Yet I 
believe it is easy enough to use in its default configuration for anyone 
familiar with a typewriter. 

You need at least a 48k system and a disk drive. Double density 
drives are supported. Atari, Epson, Gemini, Prowriter, NEC, Okidata 
and Comrex printers are directly supported by configuration files pro¬ 
vided on the disk. There is also a "generic” printer file for all others. In 
addition, you may put printer control codes directly into a text file in 
order to use unsupported printers more fully. It usually takes 6 
keystrokes to toggle these unsupported features, but with a printer 
like mine (IDS480) you're just happy to be able to use the features at 
all! 

OSS informs the user of one known bug: double-wide printing is not 
properly supported when the line is justified. Double-wide printing 
works fine in any other context. I think they mean only to speak of 
supported printers here, because I experienced anomolous behavior 
in any line in which I combine double-wide with any other printing. I 
must say this same experience occurs with any word processor I've 
used for unsupported printers. 

The opening screen permits the user to begin typing text im¬ 
mediately. A prompt at screen bottom tells you to press the Option 
key for the main menu. All full-function word processors should start 
you off this way. But OSS is one of the few to do so. OSS has provided 
the most extensive set of cursor controls I've ever seen on a word pro¬ 
cessor for the Atari. In addition to the usual Tab and cursor arrows, 
you can move to Beginning or End of file, beginning or end of a line, 
beginning of the next line, beginning of the next word, and beginning 
of the next page or the previous page. The cursor may also be moved 
by the search process. During a save operation to disk, if the cursor is 
not at the top of file, you will be warned only part of the file will be 
saved. If you answer “Y" to the prompt for saving all the file, the cur¬ 
sor will then move to top of file. You can also choose a block or 
underline cursor, and you can adjust the rate at which the cursor 
flashes. 

Editing can be accomplished easily in either an insert mode or a 
typeover mode. In addition to the usual insert commands, you can 
also insert all available space (pushing all text after the cursor to the 
end of the 24k buffer), allowing you to type in some material and then 
delete all space to the next character to close up the gap. Most 
editing commands require only one or two keystrokes, and this is 
where you’ll find the economy of keystrokes the most important. Two 
keystrokes will also "undelete" the last line deleted. This is a nice 
feature. Previously entered text can be converted to upper or lower 
case automatically with a 2-keystroke control sequence, saving you 
some re-typing. The search and replace function also provides a 
means to delete strings of text by failing to replace the string. You 
may also delete all text before or after the cursor. 

Block operations allow moving text by copying a block to a new 
location, then deleting the original block. Blocks are highlighted in in¬ 
verse video. A status line at screen bottom will show you when in¬ 
verse video is active, and when the caps lock key is active. You are 
also told how many characters and words are in the buffer, arid how 
much space remains. 

Supjjorted printers with the capability can print in the following 
modes: emphasized, double-wide, italics, double-strike, underline, 
superior sub-script. In addition, “split justification" (dividing a line at 
any point, with characters to the left blocked left, those to the right 
blocked right), soft hyphens (not used if the word fits in a line) and 
hard spaces (forcing characters split by a space to be printed on the 
same line) are available for your use. 

Headers and footers can be set to any number of lines and can con¬ 
tain any editing or formatting commands available in the rest of text 
with the addition of page numbers. The printer can be directed to stop 
at any point (to change print 'wheels, for instance). 

Dynamic page breaks are not displayed in the editing mode, but on 
the print menu you can preview the printed text to see where the page 
breaks occur. Print formatting commands include all the usual page 
and line lengths and spacing, footer placement, centering, tabs, 
margins and indentations. But they also include page eject, condi¬ 
tional page eject (to make sure certain lines may be printed on the 
same page), and alternating the sides of split justified lines on even 
numbered pages. A page wait command is available for single sheet 
printing. And double-column printing is accomplished by the simple 
expedient of telling the program how many spaces you want between 
the two columns. All your other formatting commands are adjusted 
automatically for the second column! (This is a great feature!). Two or 
more files may be "linked” together for chain printing. 


/ICE fw 


The program makes good use of sound to warn ol errors and to note 
different actions. There are 20 custom error messages to lead you to 
the correct action after a mistake. A buzzer warns and the prompt is 
re-displayed upon any other error. A Basic program is included on the 
disk to create custom "macros" to set formats you commonly use and 
which differ from the defaults provided. The 174-page manual comes 
in a yellow vinyl 3 ring binder and describes how to incorporate 
graphics into the body of your printed text. An errata sheet also pro¬ 
mises the future ability to program key sequences to translate to 
graphic sequences. The example they give is Control-C micht be used 
to print copyright symbol. They are also working on developing con¬ 
version programs to use to print graphics from MicroPainter, Koala 
Pad, Atari Artist Pad, etc. files within your text files. If you buy the pro¬ 
gram now, you will receive the next update free of additional charge. 

I like this program. The relatively high price may keep it out of most 
people's libraries since other full-function word processors can be 
purchased for as little as $50. But for someone who does a lot of 
writing on the Atari, this program will pay for itself with its quality. 

SynTrend (Synapse Software, $70) is a two disk package for 
graphing, statistical analysis and forecasting. Those familiar with Syn- 
Calc and SynFile+ will recognize the.pull-up menus which lead you 
through the program. A student of statistics, or someone using 
statistics a lot may find this package very helpful. 

The two disks contain the programs SynStat and SynGraph. 
SynStat is really a spreadsheet with some partiularly special func¬ 
tions for use in statitical analysis. SynTrend is fully compatible with 
SynCalc and SynFile + , and with VisiCalc. Once the data file is 
created or loaded into the program, the "Analyze Data" option on the 
menu. The program then lists all the variables (column labels in the 
spreadsheet) you used. Picking one, the choice ol "Descriptive” will 
show the number of entries in the column, their average, standard 
deviation, variance, standard error, minimum, maximum, and range. 

The other analysis performed by SynStat is "Regression" analysis. 
For this mode you select one variable as a dependent variable and one 
or more independent variables. This mode is designed to show the 
relationship between variables. The screen shows calculations for 
coefficient, standard error, Rsquared, and AdjRsquared. The manual 
advises the user to refer to a text book on statistics if these terms are 
not familiar. 

The results of regression analysis may also be shown on a screen 
titled "Residual Analysis". Here columns showing the actual entries, 
together with the predicted entries and the dillerence between actual 
and predicted (residual). Any of these screenfulls of calculations can 
be dumped to a printer. 

SynGraph is used to create labeled, high resolution, color-coded 
graphs from data entered in SynGraph, SynStat, SynCalc, SynFile + , 
or VisiCalc. You may choose a line graph, bar graph, scatter plot, or 
pie chart. The bar graphs may be of the cluster or stacked types. 
Graphs may be rescaled and relabeled. Up to three factors at a time 
may be placed on the same graph. The graphs may be saved in disk 
files for later use, or dumped to a compatible printer. 

This is a fun package to use. And for small business use, one might 
find it helpful for analysis of sales data. If you're a student, the printed 
output will make your papers and projects very profession! indeed. 


! From page 1 

corde, Mr Ivan Abbott, when 
it defaulted for the first time in 
his three-year relationship 
with the company. 

That was followed by a 
creditors’ meeting last Friday, 
Mr Abbott said. 

“We’ll be making an appli¬ 
cation late in the week for a 
provisional liquidator to be 
appointed,” he said yesterday, 
although Mr Crawford-Fish 
indicated that such an action 
was unlikely to be necessary, 
and negotiations with the 
agency were continuing on the 
matter. 

/ The company had appar¬ 

ently been attempting to redi¬ 
rect its marketing efforts more 
heavily toward computers 
than software. 

i The change in 'marketing 
strategy saw the appointment 
of McCannrErickson to han¬ 
dle the bulk of the company’s 
advertising business at the 
expense of Concorde as 
recently as May. 

It also saw the appointment 
of new senior marketing and 
public relations personnel. 


But despite these moves,'the 
company now faces receiver¬ 
ship just as it is moving into 
the peak sales season in the 
video game marketplace. 

As recently as last month, 
the Future!:onics manager for 
public relations, Mr Greg 
Every, told The Australian 
Financial Review that Austra¬ 
lian < ! of Atari games this 
year -d increased 10 to 15 
per cent over last year's 
figures, a*d estimated that 
about'250,090 gime units had 
been sold here ••.ee their 
launch. 

but he added that :>. : s of 
hand-held video games had 
levelled off while sides of 
television and personal com¬ 
puter games were climbing. 

Atari itself was in serious 
trouble until carliir this year 
when Warner Communi¬ 
cations Inc sold the company 
to an ex-president of rival 
manufacturer Commodore, 
Mr Jack Tramiel. 

Mr Tramiel immediately 
sought to reposition tie trou¬ 
bled US manufacturer from a 
video games company to a 
computer comnanv. 




Atari Appears Set to Cut 80QXL’s Price 


By Michael W. Miller 

Special to Tiik Asian Wall Street Journal 

SUNNYVALE, California — Atari Corp. 
apparently is planning to cut the price of its 
800XL home computer but denied 
speculation it is considering phasing out the 
product. 

The closely held computer and video- 
game maker said it would announce next 
week “a redirection in pricing and market¬ 
ing strategy for the 800XL.” The computer 
currently retails for $179 and accounts for 
about one-third of Atari’s current sales. 

James Copland, Atari’s vice president 
for marketing, stressed that next week’s 
announcement wouldn’t foreshadow a move 
to drop the product, which is the company’s 
only computer on the market. “We fully 
expect to manufacture and market the 
800XL in 1985," he said. 

Holiday Sales 

Mr. Copland said that any price reduc¬ 
tion on the 800XL would be made solely to 
improve holiday sales and to give Atari a 
higher profile in the market. He denied 
speculation by some industry analysts that 
Atari is considering cutting the price to 
generate quick infusions of cash to help 
finance its ambitious new-product plans. 
“We are not doing it for quick cash. We are 
doing it to insure that our presence within 
the market is realized," he said. 

While emphasizing Atari’s commitment 


to the 800XL. Mr. Copland noted that, as 
reported, the company plans in January to 
bring out a new computer line that includes 
products of similar power to the 800XL as 
well as ones two and four times as 
powerful. 

Meanwhile, he said, two factories in Asia 
and Ireland that build the 800XL are 
producing the machines at full capacity. 

A spokesman for Commodore Interna¬ 
tional Ltd., Atari’s fierce rival in the home- 
computer market, said several major 
customers recently reported that Atari of¬ 
fered them the 800XL at $105 each whole¬ 
sale. Home-computer retail prices generally 
aren't far above wholesale prices. 

Commodore Won’t Match Cut 

The spokesman said Commodore 
wouldn’t respond to an Atari price cut with 
similar reductions. “From our point of view 
it’s a close-out and it's the beginning of a 
discontinuation of the line,” he said. 

Douglas Cayne, an industry analyst with 
the Gartner Group, asserted that the 
SOOXL’s days are numbered. “Atari is los¬ 
ing a great deal of credibility and market 
momentum ... and the (SOOXL’s) technology 
cycle is clearly at or -past its peak," he 
said. 

A pre-Christmas price reduction would 
be true to form for Atari’s chairman. Jack 
Tramiei. Before he bought Atari this sum¬ 
mer, Mr. Tramiei had turned Commodore 


into a home-computer giant chiefly through 
cutting manufacturing costs and slashing 
prices. 

Mr. Tramiei cut the SOOXL’s price this 
summer, to $179 retail from its previous 
range of $229 to $249. A second cut in price 
would indicate that the first reduction didn’t 
provide enough of a sales boost for the 
800XL. Home-computer vendors generally 
are reporting disappointing pre-holiday 
sales. 

Left Market 

The Commodore 64 home computer, 
which retails for $199, has 32% of the 
home-computer market, compared with 3% 
for the 800XL, according to InfoCorp, a 
market-research company. 

Several U.S. home-computer makers 
have dropped out of the market in recent 
years as consumer interest has failed to live 
up to the industry’s once-lofty expectations. 

Texas Instruments Inc., Timex Group 
Inc., and Mattel Inc., among others, have 
bailed out of the home-computer market in 
the last two years because of persistent 
losses. 

As reported, Coleco Industries Inc., 
which makes the Adam computer, also 
appears to be preparing to get out of the 
market. Coleco said it isn’t “closing the 
door on Adam,” but a supplier said Coleco 
had canceled its contract for printers for 
the machine. 


By David Lammers 

TOKYO (AP) — Sales of personarcom- 
puters world-wide will exceed S80 billion in 
1988, up from about $26 billion this year, 
according to Dataquest, a California-based 
technology research firm. 

“Personal computer sales will continue 
to see very steady growth, at a 25% 
compounded annual growth rate," predicted 
0. Ralph Finley, general manager of 
Dataquesi’s technology information 
division, preceding an industry seminar 
here Thursday. 

Mr. Finley also noted that the prices of 
computer hardware are falling about 20% a 
year. 

‘Nowhere Near Bottom’ 

“We are nowhere near the bottom (of 
personal computer prices),” he said. “Just 
as mainframe (data processing) prices have 
come down 20% per year for 20 years, and 
minicomputer prices have dropped 20% for 
10 years, we'll continue to see those same 
curves for mainframe, minis, and now per¬ 
sonal computers.” 

A personal computer system similar to 
the Apple II model, including a floppy disk 
drive, printer and monochrome monitor, 
cost about $3,000 in 1980. The same system 
now costs about $2,000, and the price will 
drop to the $600 range by 1988, he said. 

Similarly, more powerful 16-bit personal 


'P ntcr Sulcs Seen Climb in 


computers with larger internal memories, 
color monitors, and much larger storage 
capacities will drop to less than $3,000 in 
1988 from about $6,000 now, he said. 

The biggest increase in computer usage 
will come in the office, according to 
Dataquest, which estimates that, of all U.S. 
white collar workers with the potential to 
use a computer or data terminal, about 
one-third will do so in 1984. 

Joan Grim, manager of a joint market 
research effort by Dataquest and its parent 
company, A.C. Nielsen Co., said many peo¬ 
ple who come into contact with small com¬ 
puters at the office or at school are buying 
other computers for the home. A.C. Nielsen 
recently was acquired by Dun & Bradstreet 
Corp. 

About 20,000 randomly selected house¬ 
holds throughout the U.S. four times a year 
are being asked about their attitudes toward 
personal computers. Miss Grim said. 

In November 1983 only 6.2% of the house¬ 
holds had a personal computer, with 4.4% of 
those having a computer costing less than 
$500 and 1.8% having a computer costing 
$500 or more. 

Six months later, in May 1984, a 60% 
increase was recorded. About 9.4% of the 
contacted households owned a computer, 
6.37o with an under-$500 machine and 3 . 1 % 
with a computer costing $500 or more, she 
said. 


“Our estimate now is that the growth (in 
home computer ownership) will continue to 
about the 18% level,” Miss Grim said. “It 
will take some kind of breakthrough for if to 
exceed that level, with the breakthrough 
probably being in the area of com¬ 
munications." 

Nearly one-fourth of the $500-or-over 
computers are equipped with modems, 
devices which allow computer data to be 
transmitted over telephone lines, she said. 

Computer Shopping 

She added that home computer pur¬ 
chases might be stimulated by such tele¬ 
communication services as computer 
shopping. 

Most of the more expensive homes com¬ 
puters are used for word processing as well 
as playing video games, which continue to 
be popular because of their growing 
sophistication. 

“Games will probably continue to be the 
computer application used most often, but 
they are not the reason why people buy 
computers," she said. She added that 80% 
of the computer owners said they were 
“very satisfied" with their investment. 

“Once the computer is in the home, 
people find uses for it. The hard part, for 
the manufacturers, is to get one into the 
home,” Miss Grim said. 




Atari boomtimes . . the hurut a ironies Australia showroom at Botany, Sydney in li)B2. 

HE 
MAN 
FALL OUT 

Futuretronics Pty Ltd, the Australian distributor of 
Atari video games and computers, was placed in 
receivership last week. Another nail in the coffin of 
the group which brought us Pac Man and E.T. games 
and in eight years sped from nothing to a $3 billion 
annual turnover and then back to obscurity. PHILLIP 
MCCARTHY reports from New York 




M O COMPANY in recent busi¬ 
ness history belter fitted the 
definition of a corporate 
meteor than the video game 
: computer outfit. Atari. 

In eight short and spectacular years it 
flashed from nowhere to being a company with 
a $US3 billion turnover and 11,000 employees. 
Overnight it flashed back into darkened 
obscurity. When the business publishing giant 
McGraw Hill printed a slim, corporate history 
of Atari in June it simply and fittingly called 
the bool. Zap! 

Last week Australia — like a lot of other 
Atari markets since the big burnout at the end 
of 1982 — got a spray of the cosmic fallout. 

Atari's Australian videogame and computer 
distributor, futuretronics Pty Ltd, went into 
receivership alter it defaulted on debts to 
creditors including its two advertising agen¬ 
cies, McCann Erickson and Concorde, to 
which it owed more than $500,000. But the 
receivers said the) were confident about, its 
long term health 

Little explosions like that — sort of like the 
bleeps in one of the company’s Pac Man, 
Space Invaders or E.T. Games — have been 
cropping up in Atari's troubled galaxy 
tegular!) as its latest owner searches for a 
solution. Atari changed hands in July. The 
giant Warner Communications Group, owner 
for the past eight years, decided finally to 
unload it. 

So for the bargain price of SUS240 million 
— remember this was a company that was 
making $150 million a quarter. 18 months 
earlier — a tough entrepreneur called Jack 
Tr amici took it over. He has been busy cutting 
its staff back to 1,000, turning over its 
management and moving most of its American 
production to low cost Asian plants. 
v - It is not an easy task and, as the Australian 
receivership attests, it is not at all clear that it 
will work Lssentially Atari fell to earth with 
such a thud because it was built on a couple of 
fads. And the fads went as quickly as they 
came. The first was video games and the 
second was the cheap, limited home computer. 

They are often classed together at the "junk" 
end of the computer business. After the novelty 
of playing pac Man and E.T. wore 6IT 
consumers wanted computers that could 
perform more utilitarian functions. Two things 
hap|>ened: more sophisticated personal com¬ 
puters got a lot cheaper and competition got 
mote fierce at the cheaper end. 

Atari and rivals like Mattel, Coleco, 
Commodore and Texas Instruments started a 
round of ferocious inventory or pure survival 
costcutting. Texas Instruments, for example, 
decided to get out of the field all together. 
Some models it had once sold for $US 1,100 it 
started discounting to SUS49 last Christinas 
just to clear its stock. 

Whatever market was left to them was 
saturated at a level that produced very little 
piolil for any of them. The industry lost $1 
billion in 1983. 

Two of the ramifications of the Atari 
collapse have gone beyond the gee-whiz 
business of computer games and cheap 
computers that it once dominated. 

Atari at one stage was threatening to sink 
Warner Communications — or at least make 
that motion picture, cable and publishing giant 
susceptible to takeover bids like the one that 
Rupert Murdoch mounted - because its 
extraordinary losses were putting the whole 
corporation in the red. Last year Atari lost 
SUSSJ6 million. 

Warners as a whole ended the year with a 
loss of $US424 million. It share price plunged 
from SUS63 to $USI9. Which, of course, is 
why it sold. 

Another of the wider repercussions of the 


Atari debacle is that it undercut the economic 
theory about employment trends in developed 
countries. 

The theory was that as jobs disappeared on 
the assembly lines of manufacturing hi tech 
industries would replace them. Former Atari 
plants in hi tcch centres like California’s 
Silicon Valley and Texas’s El Paso are now as 
deserted as the steel plants of Pcnnsylvannia 
and Ohio: the Atari high tech jobs went 
offshore too. 

Yet a few years ago Atari was the model of 
the way forward for American business. 
Typically, it was the sensational concept of one 
very smart man, Nolan Bushnail, who will go 
dow n in history as the father of the video game. 
He was the first to capitalise on the possibilities 
of hooking a television set up to a miniature 
computer. 

He was very smart. He got out with his 
millions early on and invested them in sensible 
things like piz/a parlours and venture capital. 

In 1976 Warner’s flamboyant chairman 
Steven Ross bought Atari from Bushnail for 
$US28 million. For some years it was not a bad 
business and enhanced his reputation. In a 
couple of years it came to represent half of the 


conglomerate’s sales and 60 per cent of its 
profit. And so Ross and his lop brass pretty 
much left it alone. 

It was a big mistake, of course; but at the 
time it seemed sensible because the head office 
crowd did not know much about computers or 
games. 

When that best selling anatomy of corporate 
success. In Pursuit of Excellence, was pub¬ 
lished it cited Atari as one of the prime 
examples of excellence in action. Busines¬ 
sweek magazine recently stated quite baldly 
that the company should never have been 
there: it breached virtually all the rules the 
authors themselves laid down for success. 

One of the rules was a company’s need to 
keep an ear close to the ground to detect and be 
ahead of changes in consumer preferences. 

Certainly, that was a major failing at Atari. 
The company’s video games were so wildly 
successful that Atari executives were deluded 
into complacency and did not see fundamental 
shifts taking place in the consumer electronics 
market away from computer games and 
towards home computers. 

By the time they picked up on that the 
market was moving away from home comput¬ 
ers and towards personal computers. They 
never caught up Their home computers were 
not perceived in the market place to be any 
better than the opposition. Its 400XL and its 
K00XL were also very often more expensive 
than the comparable Commodore model. 

But the optimism of Atari’s runaway results 
filtered up in Warner’s. Because Atari was 
pumping between SUS100 million and $200 
million a quarter into the parent company 
Warner embuiked on a some risky ventures — 
like a very expensive cable television scheme 
with American Express — convinced that it 
would always have Atari’s cash flow to fall 
back on. 

When the awful truth finally dawned 
Warner's and Atari tried all sorts of things. 
They started moving production offshore. 

And they started making software that 
would fit competitors' computers (which 
seemed to be a tacit admission that if you can’t 
beat them join them). Finally they brought in a 
marketing honcho from Philip Morris ciga¬ 
rettes, James J Morgan, as chief executive; he 


came promising to “Minimise bureaucracy and 
duplication of effort". 

lie had a point: even at Atari’s Silicon 
Valley headquarters only two of his 15 senior 
executives worked in the same building as he 
did. 

Morgan vowed: “I believe over the next 12 
months this beleagured company is going to 
surprise a lot of people." 

A couple of months later, however. The New 
York Times reported: “So far Mr Morgan has 
not been able to stem Atari's problems. 

“After announcing the introduction of lour 
new computer products only two, the 600XL 
and the 800XL have made it on to the market 
so far. Atari’s entry into the software market 
has been poorly timed, its much heralded 
Ataritel division has never gotten off the 
ground and no new computer products arc 
expected in the near future. 

"Some analysts estimate that Atari still has 
some $300 million to $500 million in write olf 
ahead." 

In January this year Morgan did announce a 
major shake up of Atari’s management There 
had long been evidence that lack of supervi¬ 
sion by the parent company had led to 
questionable practices in the subsidiary. In 
September 1983 Morgan’s predecessor as 
chairman, Raymond Kasser, was charged over 
breaches of the corporate code. 

But it has all badly dented Steve Ross's 
image as an astute businessman. At Warner’s 
there has been speculation that he might lose 
his preminent role. Fred Anschcl, an analyst 
with Dean Witter Reynolds, said: "Unless he 
can keep all these people at bay it is difficult to 
see where Steve Ross will end up." 

In Zap!author Scott Cohen wrote: "The role 
of Steve Ross in the Atari problem was hard to 
figure. Many analysts and stockholders 
blamed the mess on Steve Ross and his 
decentralised policies and laissez fairc 
approach." 

How could Ross, he asked, let a subsidiary 
that contributed 60 per cent of group profit gel 
so out of control? 

Certainly it was the debilitated state that 
Atari’s staggering losses had burnt on to 
Warner’s bottom line that prompted Austra¬ 
lian publisher Rupert Murdoch's abortive, but 
profitable, bid to take the patent over earlier 
this year. Murdoch started by buying 6.7 per 
cent of the company in December last year. 

Later he announced plans to buy between 25 
per cent and 49 per cent. Finally Warner's 
bought him off — but not before selling oft' 
Atari themselves. 

Most likely, if Murdoch had succeeded in 
the bid he would have sold Atari also: the last 
thing he needed was another lemon. 

Buyer Jack Trimicl, 51, was no newcomer to 
the low priced computer business. It was he 
who founded Commodore 25 years earlier and 
brought a certain acumen to its operations. But 
he had resigned from that company in January 
after a dispute with its board over whether he 
could give his son a top job there 

The perception was that he probably wanted 
Atari so he could settle a few old scores with 
those he left behind at Commodore. 

He has already had a couple of brawls with 
them. Commodore sued Atari when Trimiel 
recruited four key employees from them. 
Commodore wanted ail assurance that they 
would not use their inside knowledge of 
Commodore products and techniques. Later 
Trimicl sued when Commodore took over a 
small computer firm called, Arnica 

He claimed that Arnica, developer of a new 
and efficient computer, had already agreed to 
sell out to him. 

He has also been spectacularly putting the 
cleaners through Atari again — sacking stall, 
closing plants and discontinuing lines 

Trimiel is taking Atari into the mote 
lucrative personal computer area which will pit 
it against successful firms like IBM and Apple. 
In an interview this week Trimiel disclosed 
plans for two new personal computers Alan 
plans to introduce next year. He said they 
would sell for under SUS1000. 

He also announced a cut in the price of the 
company’s 800XL home computer by about 
one third. TTns was because of savings he had 
made in manufacutring costs since acquiring 
Atari. He estimated that sales of the 8O0XL 
would reach 500,000 in the last six months of 
the year and generate revenue of up to SUS100 
million. 

In describing his strategy for Atari’s new 
machines, T rimiel outlined a strategy similar to 
the one he used to build Commodore selling at 
cheap prices through mass market channels. 
He said: “I’ll sell personal computers to 
individuals. I do not intend to sell actively sell 
products to the office " 

He also claims that the company »* solvent 
again. But one thing is certain Alan docsti t 
want E.T. phoning home in the near future. 


POINT PIPER 


AUCTION 




Modern palatial Home or 2 apartments 

This 6 bit contem{X>rary homo has it all. 
Pool and sauna included. Spacious enter¬ 
taining areas Prestigious location. Archi¬ 
tect designed and soundly built. Council 
approved lor conversion to 2 luxury apart¬ 
ments. 


Details DOUBLE BAY 327 7971, a h. 90 1120. 

Co-agent, RICHARDSON & WRENCH DOUBLE BAY 327 5825 Ext. 2. 
8 CROSS STREET, DOUBLE BAY 327 7971. 


Raine & Horne 

Pty Lid 








atarilab starter 

SET 


A tool for measuring temperature in 
laboratory experiments, for ages 
nine and up. 

HARDWARE: 

Atari micros (16K 
cartridge) 

SOURCE: 

Atari, Inc. 

P.O. Box 61657 
Sunnyvale, CA 94086 

COST: 

$89.95 

BACKUP: 

Not provided 

PREVIEW: 

Contact retail outlet 



L ESCRIPTION: HOW FAST 
I does a cold soda “lose its cool” 
in a warm room? Do crickets 
chirp faster as the summer nights get 
hotter? 1 he Atarilab Starter Set gives 
you a practical, inexpensive method of 
answering these, and many other ques¬ 


tions, by turning your microcomputer into 
a laboratory for conducting scientific ex¬ 
periments. 


This first module in the Atarilab Sci¬ 
ence Series is used specifically for measur¬ 
ing temperature. (Other modules are be¬ 
ing designed for measuring light intensity, 
degree of angle, and heart rate, and will 
be available soon.) 

The Starter Set comes with an AtariLab 
interface, which you plug into the game 
port of your computer. You then insert 
the temperature module cartridge, and 
connect the temperature sensor to the 
interface device. 


Tlius equipped, your Atari Laboratory 
Station can measure temperature 
changes (between 23 and 113 degrees 
Fahrenheit) over a period of time (from 
ten seconds to 24 hours), record and ana¬ 
lyze the data, display results graphically 
or in a thermometer bulb pictured on the 
screen, and print them out for a hard 
copy record. 


Ihe program setup and instructions 
are detailed in the Starter Set manual and 
project guide. This useful manual also-dis¬ 
cusses some of the principles of heat and 
temperature, and describes seven begin¬ 
ning projects you can do that will enhance 
your understanding of the software and 
equipment, while experimenting with ev¬ 
eryday phenomena. These include, for 
example: evaporation, condensation, and 
dew point; graphing temperature changes 
over time; Newton’s Law of Cooling; and 
the effect of salt on ice. 

The manual includes reproducible ta¬ 
bles and graphs for recording information 
as you experiment. It also suggests how 
to write your own programs, in BASIC 
and Logo, that will record and analyze 
temperatures and display them on the 
screen. 

Applications: Due to space require¬ 
ments, the Starter Set may be most prof¬ 
itably used with groups of students or in 
class demonstrations. Teachers could as¬ 
sign small groups to a particular project, 
or students could design their own proj¬ 
ects and test them at the laboratory sta¬ 
tion. 


Comments: As an introduction to scien¬ 
tific inquiry through hands-on experi¬ 
ments, the Atarilab Starter Set is very 
complete. By “doing” rather thaifhear- 
mg, students can grasp the true nature 
of the concepts they are studying. 

The program also offers an excellent 
visual display of graphing. We heard sev¬ 
eral students comment, as they were us¬ 
ing the program, “Now I understand what 
a graph is.” 

The Starter Set is also remarkably easy 

to hook up and use. It allows for the 
printing of graphs and data, which is im- 
• P orta nt in evaluating and interpreting re¬ 
sults. It also makes it easy to convert 
Fahrenheit temperatures to Celsius, and 
to change time scale limits, making it 
quite adaptable to different experiments. 

It does not, however, allow the user to 
set temperature gradients, which is a real 
drawback. This means that for some ex¬ 
periments you have to manipulate fluid 
temperatures to fit the graphing capabili¬ 
ties of the program. To remedy this, the 
temperature scale should be.extended, to 
well below freezing and slightly above 
boiling. Also, it would be nice if a second 
probe were available as an option. 

The Starter Set is a good example of 
valuable computer use in the science and 
math curriculum. The computer can pro¬ 
vide quick and accurate measurements 
and rapid translations of data—all of 
which encourage further questioning and 
experimenting. 

Teachers who spend time in the lab 
with their students should find lots of 
applications for the Starter Set, and will 
find it easily adaptable to their needs. 

Students will also come up with their 
own ideas for using the set—and this is 
perhaps the real value of the program. It 
is a tool, one that provides a context for 
you and your students to supply the con¬ 
tent. The computer records the data; you 
do the thinking. 

Reviewed by: 

Bill Platt, Teacher 
Dave Bliss, Teacher 
Redwood Valley Middle School 
Redwood, CA 


i U.S. Software 

Maker Challenges 
‘Hackers’ Trying 
to Break Codes \ 


By William M. Bulkeley 

Special to The Asian Wall Street Journal 

NEW YORK — Most businesses fear 
computer hackers. But, an Albany, New 
York company is challenging them. 

: Elite Software Systems Inc. makes A 
software program called Encomp that 
encrypts information stored on computer 
disks. The $99.95 program makes the disk 
unreadable without the right password, and 
Elite is offering $10,000 to anyone who can 
break its system using a personal computer. 

The contest is an effort to distinguish 
Elite from the numerous companies that 
have developed systems to foil hackers. 

Three Replies So Far 

; The company has sent out 6,000 entry 
forms but has received only three replies — 
all wrong, says Philip Cohen, vice president 
of sales and marketing. A systems analyst, 
he says, “called up to bust my chops” and 
outlined a way to crack the code using a 
million-dollar mainframe computer. That 
doesn’t count, .Mr. Cohen says; only 
personal-computer users need apply. 

A North Haven, Connecticut company. 
Optimum Electronics Corp., recently 
completed a similar contest. First prize: its 
president's 1984 Pontiac Trans Am. Based 
on a mailing list compiled by the Computer 
Security Institute of Northboro, Massachu- 

' setts. Optimum sent out 55,000 post cards | 
challenging people to crack the device it I 
developed to protect computers from un¬ 
authorized entries. 

Donald Moseley, the marketing vice 
president who came up with the idea — but 
not the car — says more than 750 people 
called the company’s computer. But no one 
managed to obtain the Secret message that 
would have entitled them to the car. 

j Risky Challenge 

' Challenging people to break codes can be 
risky. Several years ago Ralph Merkle, a 
• computer scientist, offered a $1,000 reward 
to anyone who could break a new type of \ 
code he devised as a graduate student at 
j Stanford. 

j Last month he wrote a check to Ernest 
F. Brickell, a scientist at the Sandia Nation¬ 
al Laboratories in New Mexico, who spent 
two years working on the problem. To solve 
the code, Mr. Brickell devised a formula 
| that can be run on a Cray supercomputer in 
1 less than two hours. But renting time on the 
Cray costs about $2,000 an hour, Mr. 
Brickell says. 

Despite such risks, officials at Elite 
Software are confident that their system is 
secure. Adds. Mr. Cohen, “We will not pay 
for the psychiatric bills if anyone has a 
I nervous breakdown trying to crack it." 


1 


1 - 


li 

1 


{' 


k 


fi¬ 


ll 




Do Drives 

Need 

Cleaning’? 

t .Xi K v 

, By PETER H. LEWIS 


E ffOW often should diskette 
g I drives be cleaned? A sur- 
J l v ey of manufacturers, 
computer dealers and serv¬ 
ice technicians yielded conflicting 
•suggestions. 

The advice seems to fall into two 
camps. The people who build and in¬ 
stall the disk drives said cleaning is 
rarely necessary, and some of them 
emphatically warned that the drives 
can be seriously damaged by the 
inexpensive cleaning kits sold in most 
stores. 

On the other hand, some of the peo¬ 
ple who sell Uje computers and the 
disk drive cleaning kits recoiled at 
the thought of letting even a week go 
by without swabbing the decks. 

Although fancy cleaning kits can 
cost as much as $50, the most popular 
versions cost about $10 and consist of 
a slightly abrasive floppy disk clean¬ 
ing pad and perhaps a vial of alcohol. 

Why would one need a disk drive 
cleaner in the first place? Floppy 
- disks inevitably introduce tiny bits of 
grit into the drive unit, either through 
hitchhiking dust particles or as loose 
flecks of the magnetic material that 
holds data on the diskette. If this de¬ 
bris builds up significantly, it can 
harm or even ruin other diskettes. 

But how long does it take for a sig¬ 
nificant risk to develop? According to 
a representative in the service de¬ 
partment of one of the large retail 
computer franchises in Manhattan, 

[ users should clean their drives “at 
least” once a week. This was echoed 
at a several other retail computer 
dealerships. , 

Such advice makes computer 
manufacturers howl “fatal error.” 

“Perhaps once every six months,” 
a technical adviser at Kaypro al¬ 
lowed, “but you wouldn’t want to 
clean it much more than that. Some 
kit disk cleaners on the market are 
mildly corrosive and if used fre¬ 
quently might harm the disks.” 

A spokesman at Apple said the , 
company does not recommend the 
cleaning kits at all. “Users who try 
the store-bought cleaners could end 
up messing up the drives more than 
fixing them,” he said. “If there’s a i 
problem, take the drive to an author- j 
ized dealer.” 

Even Verbatim of Sunnyvale, ; 
Calif., which makes Datalife, one of t 
the most popular kits, says cleaning ( 


the drives daily is silly unless “hun¬ 
dreds or thousands” of diskettes are 
run in and out regularly. For the 
average home or office user, a Verba¬ 
tim technician said, once every 
month or two would suffice. He 
denied that his company’s kit would 
harm disk drives unless it was used 
improperly. Verbatim engineers ran 
a cleaning disk nonstop for two days 
— the average use Is a few seconds — 
and there was no measurable wear, 
he said. 

Obviously there is a disagreement, 
but the weight of the evidence cer¬ 
tainly goes against frequent cleaning, 
say, more than once every few 
months. If the drive has been func¬ 
tioning well, the adage “if it ain’t 
broke don’t fix it” would seem sensi¬ 
ble. If the drive is not functioning 
well, it probably requires the services 
of a qualified repair technician. 

A recommended course of action 
would be to invest the cost of one of 
the cleaning kits in Henry F. Beech- 
hold’s “The Plain English Repair and 
Maintenance Guide for Home Com¬ 
puters” (Simon & Schuster, $14.95). 
Mr. Beechhold gives clear and well-il¬ 
lustrated instructions on how to prop¬ 
erly clean a disk drive in just a few 
minutes and for just a few cents 
worth of materials. 


Fun and Gaines 


Using a computer exclusively to do 
spreadsheets is like owning a car ex¬ 
clusively to drive to the dentist, as far 
as many computer game enthusiasts 
are concerned.'There comes a time to 
put the top down, hit the accelerator 
and have some fun. 

Despite all the somber intonations 
about integrated environments, data 
base blueprints and the like, some 
estimates say half of all software 
being sold is for fun and games. 

So, who makes the best games? 1 
More than 10,000 readers of Elec¬ 
tronic Games magazine voted on that 
question, and winners were honored 
recently with the industrv’s equiva¬ 
lent of the Oscars, the Arkies. 

This year’s top Arkie award went to 
“Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One on 
One,” distributed by Electronic Arts 
(2755 Campus Drive, San Mateo, 
Calif. 94403, telephone 415-571-7171). 

It costs $40 and is available for the 
Apple II family, Atari, Commodore 
64 and I.B.M. PC, and requires a joy¬ 
stick and disk drive. 

Magazine reviews have been en¬ 
thusiastic. The software designers 
did not just license the names of the 
two professional basketball stars; 
they actually sat down with Julius 
Erving and Larry Bird and worked 
with the players to impart each 
man’s special moves and strategies 
into the software characters. 

Arkies were awarded in more than 
20 categories. The full list of winners 
will be published in the January issue 
of Electronic Games magazine. 


I This past week I attended a seminar in the San Francisco area In, 
! two days. Since I don't get down to that region very often l took the 
opportunity to plan several meetings while I was there Theresas 
much to do. so I scheduled 4 days in the Bay area. 

My first stop was a visit with our (riends at ANTIC maqazine Yn„ 

US a ER GROUP'-'in h m r rh' be PlaCln9 3 S,r 2"9er emphasis on 
UbcK oROUPo in the future. They will be workina clnspiv in < 

for, with MICROBITS and OSS (Optimized"system 
viding meaningful support to the User Groups. ANTIC will also be 
making a special effort to keep you all abreast of the current news 
from or about ATARI. {More about ATARI later). I spent a very pleasant 
afternoon w„h Jim Capparel and Gary Yost, discu^tteTse! 
Group issue as well as technical qoodies such as HARD nirtK 

tor me S xf X co A m NS, t ON C ^ ASSIS ' 80 C ° LUMN CARDS and RAMONS 

WATFRFRnNT PU h erS (h ary ^ ' had a very P lRasant lunch at THE 
Wi amticT ' the prawns are outrageously delicious. Before I 

ini ,mo T P ^ prese . nted me with a copy of "THE BEST OF ANTIC 
vo ume 1 In some of my slower moments I have perused this line 
vo ume and wish I could give you a review, but am a bit busy as yet l 

Them in Hn y ' hiS '° 3 TRUSTED member of ACE long enough foi 
them to do a proper review next month ^ 

™ e h ne , Xt day 1 visi,ed OSS. Bill Wilkinson and Mark Rose were kind 
enough to devote the afternoon to discussions of exactly which 

nR VF Vu e l ' mp ° rtant 10 have in a DOS (or a PARALLEL HARD 
cessor 8 S ° demons,rated the nR w WRITER'S TOOL word pro- 

AT LAST, somebody has a really powerful DOS comoa* ; b!p w-wd 
processor. (I have alwa>*s used LETTER PERFECT bv i IK and 
my artides ready tor submission has been an^ise in s^S 
L norm 3 ! ly transmit them over the MODEM ) The WRITER S 
tool has NEARLY ALL of the capabilities of LETTER PERFECTitm) 
and 'f " aer ' ,riend b to boot - Don't get me wrong, I think Letter Perfect 
will rnnT "T' pcworlul word Processor available for the Alar, and 

niii 1 oniheTh^r " PerS °" al MleS ' ° SS Pas a ~ ^ 

KERR 7rid JOHN 6 RKRiTrii 3 blt . early in order ,0 mee! with BRIAN 
KfcHR and JOHN SKRUCH, marketing managers of Hardware and 

fbouTwhin P m C nhTh' ' Wen a in '° ,he meetind wi,h some reservations 
BHan a^d nh 9h K h if r ^ ^ a " d WaS very P'ea^rantly surprised. 
Brian and John are both enthusiastic and knowledgeable They are ex- 

ATAR y |„ a r, r 7' 'T Pircums,aoces resulting in the virtual death of 
ATARI, Inc. and are determined to avoid those pitfalls There is a nnw 
spin, a, ATARI. Indeed, there is a new ATARI at ATARL Take heart The 
venerable 800 XL will continue to be produced in quantities and at 
prices which will probably induce people such as myself to go’out and 
buy an extra or two. (spares, you know) 

rJn? pedpheral Products the old ATARI released with their equip- 
™ nl h! .t'" 9 evaluated ' and ,hose not measuring up will be drop- 
ped, while the company will pick up lines of TOP QUALITY peripherals 
o replace them with. NEW and exciting software is being selected for 
future release. Negotiations are under way with various suppliers ven¬ 
dors marketing types.and such. 

I expect the January CES to be a banner event for ATARI. I have 
reason to believe they will have some SHOW STOPPERS!! Overall I 
think the purchase of ATARI by the Tramiel family is probably going to 

TarkicdT™??,,' 0 llappen t0 A,ari since lamentable take-over by 
WARNER COMMUNICATIONS. After all, If Jack Tramiel can take a 
second-rate turkey of a computer like the COMMODORE 64 and make 
it the NUMBER 1 SELLER among home computers, think what he can 
ATARl'h the help ° f hiS SOnS and 3 FIRST RATE com Puter like the 

ATARI USER GROUPS will not be abandoned. Many of you are 
aware the old ATARI spent a small fortune on “support" in the past 
The support amounted ,o very tittle in the way of worthwhile or 
legitimate assistance to the user groups. While the new ATARI is not 
able to spend large amounts of cash on this, a plan has been 
ataT?™ ’° all0W lhe USER GROUPS, 3RD PARTY VENDORS, and 
ATARI CORP. to mutually help each other to the fullest extent at a 
minimum of cost. ANTIC, OSS, MICROBITS, and CHAOS were heavily 
involved in the development of the new system. You will undoubtedly 
hear more of this in the next few months. 

I came away from San Francisco with a deep sense of relief a, the 
attitudes and willingness to commit time and resources displayed 
among those I spoke with. Peace be upon you, my children; all is well 
in the land of ATARI, 


^K£ 


— Kirt E, Stockwell 
Roving past president 



Computer magazines’ programme for 
reader friendliness 


The boom in computer maga¬ 
zines is ending. Smart publishers 
are now preparing for the bust. 


of the most recent in Britain. 
Indeed, it has beaten MSX ma¬ 
chines into the marketplace. But 


The number of non-academic other magazines have already 
computer magazines in America folded up. Jr and Desktop Com- 


has almost doubled in the past 
four years, to around 200. In 
Britain, computer buffs can 
choose from 127 magazines, 
160% more than in 1981. This 
growth has given publishers a 
batch of entrepreneurial success 
stories to rival those pouring out 
of Silicon Valley itself. It may 
soon also provide some spectacu¬ 
lar failures. Competition is 
fierce, and the glutted market for 
computer magazines is changing 
as fast as the technology. 

A few years ago, there were 
only two types of computer mag¬ 
azine readers: data-processing 
professionals and games-playing, 
programme-writing amateurs. 
Today personaf computers are 
popping up on the desks of even 
technically near-illiterate execu¬ 
tives and professionals. Although 
advertisers of everything from 
electronic spreadsheets to whisky 
want to tout their wares to such 
an audience, computer-magazine 
publishers are not proving equal¬ 
ly adept at reaching them. With 
the increase in the number of 
computer magazines, advertisers 
are becoming more selective. 
Some advertisers—particularly 
producers of business software— 
are even switching to general- 
interest publications in search of 
new customers. 

Today’s computer magazines 
fall into two broad categories: 

© General ones, such as Person¬ 
al ComputihpsrrdtJatamarion in 
America and Computer Weekly 
in Britain, which aim at comput¬ 
er-users with similar interests (ie, 
business computing or games- 
playing) no matter what sort of 
machine they own. 

© So-called machine-specific ti¬ 
tles, such as Softalk/Apple and 
Sinclair User. They concentrate 
on a particular type of computer 
and review all the software and 
hardware available for it, what¬ 
ever task the new products are 
meant to perform. 

New magazines still appear all 
the time. Hayrnarket's MSX 
Computing, aimed at users of 
new Japanese computers using 
the MSX operating system, is one 


puting, both published by CW 
Communications, were two in 
America to close. JR’s demise 


shows the perils of machine-spe¬ 
cific titles: it flopped along with 
IBM’s PC Jr, the computer at 
whose users Jr was aimed. In 
Britain, Soft, Bunch Books’ 
monthly about software, and 
Computer Merchandising Inter¬ 
national, an International Thom¬ 
son Business Press publication 
aimed at the European market, 
folded earlier this year. 

On both sides of the Atlantic, 
advertising revenues decide the 
fate of computer magazines. At 
first glance, advertising seems to 
be booming. In the first half of 
this year, the total advertising 
revenue of American computer 


its total in the same six months of 
1980. For successful publishers, 
computer magazines are a gold¬ 
mine—even by the magazine in¬ 
dustry’s well-padded standards. 
In America, gross profit margins 
of 25%-plus are commonplace— 
more than double the industry’s 
average. But observers reckon 
that the bulk of advertisers' cash 
goes to established titles. Smaller 
magazines and newcomers can 
starve amid their rivals’ plenty. 

Traditional, computer-hobby¬ 
ist magazines have been put on 
the harshest diet. Their readers 
have low incomes—many are stu¬ 
dents—so not the sort whom ad- 


magazines was $85m, five times vertisers want to reach. In Brit- 




-• ‘'f" % i. 





America’s top 10 computer magazines- 


-by circulation, 1983 



Title 

Frequency 

Circulation 

Publisher 

Audience 

Launched 

Computers and Electronics 

(Monthly) 

590,084 

Ziff-Davis 

Computer professionals/ 
business users 

1954 

Personal Computing 

(Monthly) 

536,150 

Hayden 

Business users 

1976 

Byte 

(Monthly) 

409,387 

McGraw-Hill 

Computer professionals 

1975 

Family Computing 

■ (Monthly) 

315,830 

Scholastic Inc 

Hobbyists 

1983 

Popular Computing 

(Monthly) 

301,829 

McGraw-Hill 

Hobbyists 

1979 

Compute! 

(Monthly) 

289,048 

ABC Publishing 

Computer professionals 

1979 

Creative Computing 

(Monthly) 

245,066 

Ziff-Davis 

Computer professionals/ 
business users 

1974 

Electronic Games 

Magazine 

(Monthly) 

192,260 

Reese 

Hobbyists 

1981 

Softalk/Apple 

(Monthly) 

165,522 

Softalk 

Apple owners 

1980 

PC World 

(Monthly) 

161,621 

PC World Comms 

IBM PC owners 

1982 


Sources: Foho; Advertising Age; Standard Rale and Data Service Inc. 










CSV 




Britain’s top 10 computer magazines 1 —by circulation, first half 1984 


Title 

Your Computer 
Computer Weekly 
Computing 
Computer News 

Sinclair User 

Personal Computer World 

Computer and Video Games 
Micro User 

Engineering Computers 


Popular Computing Weekly (Weekly) 


Frequency 

I Monthly) 
Weekly) 
Weekly) 
Weekly) 


Monthly) 

Monthly) 

Monthly) 

Monthly) 

Bimonthly) 


Circulation! Publisher 

154,334 IPC 

112,265 IPC 

111,332 VNU 

100,000* CWC 

96,271 EMAP 

93,625 2 VNU 

87,625 EMAP 

72,802 Database 

57,079 Findlay 

56,052 Sunshine 


Audience 

Hobbyists 

Computer professionals 
Computer professionals 
Computer professionals/ 
business users 
Sinclair owners 
Computer professionals/ 
business users 
Hobbyists 

Micro-computer users 
Computer professionals/ 
engineers 
Hobbyists 




Launched 

1981 

1966 

1973 


'Exdudes Big K, MSX Computing and What MSX. which claim print runs ot 100.000. but for which there are no audited sales figures, fAudit Bureau 
of Circulation figures, ‘‘Jul-Doc, 1963. "Controlled circulation. Source; Sportscene Specialist Press. 

THE ECONOMIST NOVEMBER 10,1984 


mfJm 





ain, the 85 or so computer 
magazines aimed at the business 
reader are buoyant; the 40 or so 
magazines that go to the home- 
computer owners are the wobbly 
ones. In America, the number of 
advertising pages in hobbyist 
computer magazines dropped by 
nearly 30% in the year to Sep¬ 
tember, 1984, while those aimed 
at business users rose by 10%. At 
nearly $19m, business-computer 
magazines took nearly twice as 
much in advertising revenues as 
hobbyist ones. 

Jobs ads alone are likely to 
provide the business side of the 
computer press with a steady in¬ 
come. Hobbyist magazines are 
less secure. In Britain, home- 
computer makers such as Sinclair 
and Commodore plan advertising 
campaigns costing £4m and £6m 
respectively this Christmas, but 


the retail market, is sent to 7,000 
software dealers and some 500 
software houses. 

Hobbyist magazines, mean¬ 
while, are setting their sights on 
the sort of businessman who has 
been inspired by the personal 
computer on his desk to buy a 
second computer for his home. 
Even Sinclair User has optimisti¬ 
cally started publishing reviews 
of word-processing packages 
alongside those of games. 

In America, Dun & Brad- 
street’s Datamation and CW 
Communications’ Computer- 
world are pioneering examples of 
magazines that try to appeal to 
the general business reader who 
may be semi-literate in comput¬ 
ers. But the irony of computer- 
magazine publishing is that the 
most successful English-language 
computer magazine. McGraw- 


BUSINESS BRIEF 

Britain’s lop 10 computer magazines— by ad pages, 1983 


Title 

Publisher 

Ad pages* 
(Jan-Sep 1984) 

Computing 

VNU 

5,500 

Computer Weekly 

IPC 

4,000 

Personal Computer World 

VNU 

2,400 

Computer News 

CW Communications 

1,600 

Micro Decision 

VNU 

1,400 

Personal Computer News 

VNU 

1,300 

What Micro 

VNU 

1,300 

Your Computer 

IPC 

L200 

Micro User 

Database 

1,200 

Datalink 

VNU 

1,200 


America’s top 10 computer magazines—by advertising revenue, 1983 


Title 

Publisher 

Revenue $m 

Ad pages 

Byte 

McGraw Hill 

28.8 

4,394 

Personal Computing 

Hayden 

23.9 

2,306 

PC Magazine 

Zifl-Davis 

15.0 

4,225 

Creative Computing 

Ziff-Davis 

11.9 

2,159 

Computers and Electronics 

Ziff-Davis 

11.7 

686 

Into World 

CW Communications 

10.1 

2,611 

PC World 

PC World Comms 

8.2 

1,966 

Compute! 

ABC Publishing 

7.7 

1,787 

Popular Computing 

McGraw-Hill 

7.4 

1,428 

Sottalk/Apple 

Softalk 

7.3 

1,947 


Source: Adscope 

most of the money will go on 
television commercials. 

The problem for computer- 
magazine publishers, therefore, 
is to find the readers advertisers 
want to reach. About 70% of the 
advertising in computer maga¬ 
zines now comes through adver¬ 
tising agencies. Unlike the often 
unsophisticated electronics engi¬ 
neers and games-writers who 
placed many of the advertise¬ 
ments a few years ago, the agen¬ 
cies aim at specific readers. Un¬ 
fortunately, many businessmen 
shun computer magazines be¬ 
cause they cannot tell a microchip 
from a small french fry. 

One solution to the publishers’ 
problem is to put computer mag¬ 
azines on controlled circulation— 
ie, to give them away to the 
readers thought to be of special 
interest to advertisers. Scientific 
Computing and Automation is a 
recent free-sheet, sent to 70,000 
scientists and administrators in 
America who use computers in 
laboratories. 

In Britain, Leisure Electronics 
Trader restricts its circulation to 
8,500 high-street retailers and 
distributors of computer and 
electronic games and toys. Soft¬ 
ware File, another of 1983’s new¬ 
comers and little more than a 
directory of software available in 

THE ECONOMIST NOVEMBER 10,1984 


Hill’s Byte, is also among the 
most technical. 

Like other successful computer 
magazines. Byte has a problem 
that causes many of its younger 
rivals to turn green with envy: it 
has to reduce the number of ad¬ 
vertising pages it carries because 
disgruntled readers can no longer 
find the editorial amid all the 
glossy photographs of new prod¬ 
ucts. Byte made a profit of $9m in 
1983 on sales of $36.6m. That was 
equivalent to more than 7% of 
the group net income of its own¬ 
er, McGraw-Hill, the books-to- 
broadcasting conglomerate. 

Big Byte 

Byte is aimed at owners and users 
of microcomputers. Its serious¬ 
ness is indicated by its subtitle, 
the Small Systems Journal, and 
its hefty $3.50/£2.10 cover price. 
It has a loyal circulation of more 
than 400,000 for each monthly 
issue in America and 50,000-plus 
in Britain. 

In more senses than one. Byte 
is the industry’s heavyweight. It 
regularly runs to 500 or more 
pages, 60% of which are advertis¬ 
ing (and which can cost up to 
$6,000 a page—almost twice as 
much as Britain’s best-selling 
computer magazine can com¬ 


Source: VNU. 'Adjusted to A4 format 

mand). Byte has been known to 
run 400 continuous pages of ad¬ 
vertisements. Last year, its ad¬ 
vertising revenues were $28.8m, 
79% of its total revenues. One of 
its issues carried around 800 
pages, a record for any magazine. 

Byte is now slimming by raising 
its advertising rates. It increased 
its advertising revenues in the 
first six months of this year by 
19.2%, to $14.3m, while cutting 
its advertisement pages by 6.1%. 

Some way behind Byte come 
the magazines from the Ziff-Da¬ 
vis group. It too has raised its 
advertising rates and publishes its 
most successful magazines more 
frequently. Its PC Magazine, 
once a monthly, now appears 
every fortnight. That increased 
the total number of advertising 
pages by 66% in the first half of 
this year. With higher rates as 
well, its total advertising reve¬ 
nues rose by 350%, to $9m. 

The big publishing corpora¬ 
tions are increasingly dominating 
the top of the computer-maga¬ 
zine market in both Britain and 
America. McGraw-Hill, owner 
of Byte, has another top-10 ad¬ 
vertising-revenue earner in Popu¬ 
lar Computing. But one of the big 
boys’ most effective methods for 
staying on top has been to buy 
the best of the torrent of new 
publications coming from the 
publishing industry’s equivalent 
of the Silicon Valley garage. 

McGraw-Hill acquired Byte in 
1979 when it bought it from Mr 
Wayne Greene, who founded the 
magazine four years before. A 
wealthier Mr Greene went back 
to scratch and set up a new em¬ 
pire—Micro-computing, inCider 
(for users of Apple machines, 
geddit?), 80 Micro (for Tandy 
owners) and the ill-fated Jr (for 
IBM PC Jr users) and Desktop 
Computing. I'hese he sold in 
1983 to CW Communications, 
owners of Infoworld, for $16m. 

Computer publishing has 
spawned another giant. Three of 
America’s top five revenue-earn¬ 
ing computer magazines, PC 
Magazine, Creative Computing 
and Computers and Electronics, 
are still owned by one man, Mr 


William Ziff. Although the busi¬ 
ness and general titles in his Ziff- 
Davis group are up for sale for 
$500m, Mr Ziff plans to keep his 
13 computer titles. 

The big three in British com¬ 
puter publishing are Reed Inter¬ 
national’s I PC subsidiary, the 
Dutch-owned VNU and East 
Midland Allied Press (EMAP). 
Each has a big-seller in the Brit¬ 
ish lists. 

IPC’s success-story is Comput¬ 
er Weekly, an 18-year-old tabloid 
that is said to reach one in 10 
British businessmen. It has a con¬ 
trolled circulation of 112,000. Its 
big rival is Computing, born in 
1973 and bought by VNU from 
Haymarket Publishing in 1980 for 
£7m. Edited by Mr Richard 
Sharpe, Computing has a slightly 
smaller circulation than Comput¬ 
er Weekly, but is regarded as 
being better designed and runs a 
glossy supplement each week. 

With a circulation of 120,000- 
plus, IPC’s monthly Your Com¬ 
puter is the best-selling hobbyist 
magazine. A third of its sales are 
outside Britain. The hobbyist 
magazine with the biggest adver¬ 
tising revenue is Personal Com¬ 
puter World, which VNU bought 
from Bunch Books two years 
ago. PCW has graveyards of 120 
pages of continuous advertising. 
Net quite in Byte’s class, but they 
help bring in VNU more than 
£2m a year in revenues. 

Mr Graham Andrews, manag¬ 
ing director of VNU’s British 
operations, says that his company 
has no plans for more hobbyist 
titles. Its next big launches will be 
magazines for computer-using 
businessmen. VNU and EMAP 
also make money from computer 
shows, cashing in on their maga¬ 
zines’ names. Personal Computer 
World's show is the best-attend¬ 
ed computer exhibition in 
Europe. 

The trend towards a business 
audience is clear. EMAP’s sales 
from computer magazines in the 
year to March, 1984, were £llm, 
up 70% on a year earlier. While 
sales of its hobbyist titles rose by 
21%, those of its business ones 
were up by 59%. 


81