THE LATEST ST SOFTWARE NEWS IN THE FORM OF A
ROUNDUP BY LES ELLINGHAM OF THIS YEARS PCW SHOW
The Personal Computer World Show of 1986 turned
out to be the showpiece for the ST with around 95% of the Atari area
devoted to ST products and with a fair number of exhibitors on the
main floor also showing or announcing ST products. Rather than
offering a direct commentary on the show itself, I will concentrate
on reporting those items of software and hardware that have recently
become available or that you should be seeing soon. Bear in mind
that this summary excludes the vast majority of American software,
as there were few direct American exhibitors, so this really is only
the tip of the iceberg!
Let's start with Atari. You have probably read it
elsewhere but the main announcements were 2Mb and 4Mb
versions of the ST called (unsurprisingly) the 2080ST and 4160ST.
Prices with mono monitors are £1149 and £1459 respectively.
Perhaps more interesting to existing owners was the 'Blit' chip
which increases the speed of graphics processing up to six-fold.
Atari states that this will be available from authorised dealers for
£60 plus VAT as an upgrade kit for the complete range of ST
computers. Software from Atari included dbMAN, a dBASE III
clone for just £99 and FASTCOM a GEM terminal program with
just about every facility you may need for communications in an easy
to use format. Price is £49. Atari also had a catalogue of ST
software for sale. It looked interesting but as they wanted me to
pay the full retail price of £14.95 for the privilege of reviewing
it for you (and thereby gaining more sales for them) I declined the
offer. I am not paying £14.95 for a catalogue without knowing if it
is worth it, how about you?
Jeff Minter from Llamasoft is working on an
enhanced version of Colourspace, now that he has learned more
of the capabilities of the machine and this should be out quite
Anco Software appear to have a licensing deal with
Artworx from the U.S.A., a company that produced several Atari 8-bit
titles in the early days and then seemed to disappear. The one
interesting thing that sets Anco apart is price. For the first time
you will now be able to get software for as low as £12.95! At this
price is Trivia ST for two to four players, Peggamon
which is a new approach to backgammon, a graphics adventure called Willy
The Kid and Flip Flop, another version of Reversi. At
£19.95 comes the old Artworx classic, Strip Poker plus ST
Golf, Thai Boxing and an arcade game entitled Space
Pilot. It seems that golf and karate are all the rage at the
Timeworks concentrates on the professional side of
computing with a word processor, a database and spreadsheet. The
word processor, Word Writer ST includes three spell checkers
and an integrated outliner and uses full GEM interfacing. The
specification looks very interesting for the price. Data Manager
ST is a flexible database which again uses GEM and includes
charts, reports and sample applications. Finally SwiftCalc ST
is a standard spreadsheet with graphics supporting 8192 rows by 256
columns and some interesting graphics and other features. Each
program is £74.95 and they can be interfaced with one another.
Rainbird was showing the long awaited Starglider
which is a Star Raiders style intergalactic exploration selling for
£24.95. Many game lovers raved about this one as the star of the
show. Rainbird also have The Pawn and the Level 9 collection of
adventures, jewels of Darkness.
Cumana were over in the business hall and may have
been missed by many ST owners. Their single and dual 1Mb 3½"
drives were on display but most interest centred around a combined
5¼" and 3½" drive allowing software developers or
owners of IBM PC's to access a wider range of software from one
unit. A spokesman for the company also promised something 'very
interesting' for the ST shortly, but declined to give any further
U.S.Gold should be releasing several titles for
the ST soon, including Microprose's established classic flight
simulators and others. Silent Service is already available.
Two major coin-op games coming are Gauntlet and Xevious which
should add a sparkle to any gamesters eye!
Grafox were on the Atari stand with an ST version
of Logistix an integrated database, spreadsheet and timesheet
which has received very good reviews in the more serious computer
press. Some regard this as the best spreadsheet of all so its
conversion to the ST is a welcome sign of acceptance of the machine
by the major serious software producers.
Picked up somewhere was a leaflet on an arcade
adventure from System 3 entitled Dominator of which little
was explained and two games, Bangkok Knights and The Last
Ninja which they classified as 'addictive computer game' and 'exciting
computer game' respectively. Is that enough to make you rush out and
Robtek have recently signed an agreement with
Shanner Corporation in the U.S.A. and caused the greatest excitement
with the long awaited Mac-Emulator which they call Ultra-68k.
This is being cleverly marketed as an upgrade to the Mac with
instructions to remove the chips from your own Mac to gain the
advantage of the faster processing and greater capacity of the ST.
Fair enough if you already have access to a Mac and software which
you can port across but how long will it be before all of the
existing Mac software has its equivalent on the ST? Robtek also have
a number of other ST products including a Real Time Clock, Macro
Manager, Colorwriter, a unique word processor using
colour to highlight and distinguish text. Also a Professional
Midi Sequencer and a Games Compendium. A lot of product
worth checking out.
Microdeal continue to push out product unabated
and seem to be getting the right balance between quality and
quantity. To detail everything fully would take a whole page but
look out for Karate Kid II with superb graphics, a shuttle
simulation, Trivia Challenge, Electronic Pool, Pinball
Factory, a new BBS program, a British Payroll
program and a back-up system for Hard Disks. There will
undoubtedly be more added to what is already the widest collection
of ST software from any manufacturer.
One of the most talked about accessories came from
Computer Concepts. Back-Pack is a ROM based set of
accessories comprising a calculator, clock and alarms, a diary,
notepad and typewriter as well as an address book, a printer buffer
and ramdisk. Being a cartridge, no extra RAM is used by the
accessories which are always available. Disadvantage at the moment
is that you can't also plug in a real time clock although others are
working on multi socketted plug in boards to solve the problem.
Price is £49. Computer Concepts also have Fast Basic on ROM
which also received a lot of favourable comment.
Silicon Chip finally launched their long awaited STAccounts
which has a very impressive specification and uses GEM. Containing
Sales Ledger, Purchase Ledger, Stock Control and Nominal ledger, the
package is aimed at the small businesses and, with extensive help
facilities, should be easy enough for most businessmen to use.
Launch price was £150 plus VAT.
My choice for star of the show was undoubtedly
Mirrorsoft and from comments received at the PAGE 6 stand, a lot of
people agreed. Mirrorsoft had three incredible packages, two
graphics programs and a desktop publishing program that will head
the whole desktop publishing market. The graphics packages are Art
Director and Film Director and they are quite simply the
very best so far for the ST. Over a year in development by Andromeda
in Hungary, Art Director is a truly top-class professional graphics
program with applications from creative fun to commercial mock-up
and visuals. Film Director can take images from Art Director and
animate them in almost any way. The results are professional enough
for full video use and the ease of use has to be seen to be
believed. The prices are £49.95 and £59.95 respectively which is
truly a fraction of the real worth of programs of this quality.
To explain Fleet Street Publisher would
take pages. Just take my word that it is the most advanced desktop
publishing program to yet appear on any standard micro. One or two
things still need to be completed but I can't wait to begin to use
it and will bring you a full review in due time.
Professional musicians must be delighted with the
ST for a couple of companies were demonstrating how the machine can
be used in the music studio to achieve results which would normally
require equipment costing 10 times the price. Steinberg Research had
Pro-24 Midi Sequencer and Hybrid Arts also showed a sequencer
as well as a 16-bit sound sampler that sampled at the same speed as
a compact disk. Samples were taken which were indistinguishable from
the original and which could then be easily edited with the mouse.
N-n-n-nineteen probably took a long time to do, but on the ST you
could achieve the same result in a few seconds!
A gentleman from Avila Associates had a small
table on the Atari stand to show Make It Move, an excellent
system for producing slide shows, animated business reports and more
from Neochrome or Degas pictures. Anybody could produce a 'script'
outlining a presentation or just use it for fun to enhance their own
artwork. U.S. price is $49.95 but your retailer will be able to
confirm his own price. Continuous updates are promised making it a
very powerful program.
Another couple of products which gained a lot of
attention were a Video-Digitiser and The Sound Master
professional sound-digitiser from Print Technik in Vienna. Quality
on both was excellent with a superb sound and graphics demo disk
that many (including me) thought was a video cassette. The
Video-Digitiser is now being distributed in this country now by
If you need a cheap clock for your ST, a British
company producing one is Tregarthen Systems in Gloucester. Called ST
Timepiece it retails at £34.44 including VAT.
Infocom, now part of Activision, continue to
produce their acclaimed range of adventures on the ST. By the time
you read this two new adventures should be available, Leather
Goddesses of Phobos and Moonmist. The first begins a new
Infocom Comedy genre with three 'naughtiness' levels to select
yourself and Moonmist is an interactive fiction tale of ghosties and
ghoulies. Both are £29.99
Miracle Technology now have a comms package
available which is GEM based and fully supports Prestel. SuperTerm
has all the usual features and costs £52.13 plus VAT. An inclusive
package of the WS4000 auto-dial, auto-answer modem and software is
available at £199.95 exclusive of VAT.
Eidersoft who had previously produced Mission
Mouse, one of the few mono games for the ST came in with an
unexpected bang with five games all running in colour and featuring
full optional midi sound. ST Karate topped the bill with
digitised sound. ST Protector is a platform style game as is Space
Station which features 3D action. Other arcade titles include War
Zone and Fire Blaster. If the software lives up to the
packaging (which is superb) there should be a feast for ST garners.
What about books? There weren't that many but one
that arrived mid way through the show looks like being the best yet.
From Glentop it is called The Concise Atari ST 68000 Programmer's
Reference Guide and gives an excellent guide for the programmer.
Glentop have at least eight other titles which we will bring you
details of in due course. First Publishing continue to expand their
range of ABACUS books and are now supplementing these with software
from the same company. Finally one from Sybex to look out for is Understanding
the Atari ST a 'combined tutorial and reference guide'.
And there was more .... Mercenary from
Novagen, a number of new things from Kuma, upgrades from Haba and a
whole host of stuff that I did not get a chance to see or for which
literature was not available. A chap from Germany even showed me
something called GFA BASIC which, as demonstrated, was a BASIC
running as fast as C. Is that enough to keep you interested for now?