A DAY AT THE ATARI MESSE IN DUSSELDORF by Richard Karsmakers
It was at half past eight that I had to be on the Eindhoven
Central Station on Saturday, September 19th, 1987. Packed with
disks containing the previous issue of ST NEWS, with one original
of Issue 5, a Dutch-German dictionary and things that always turn
out to be necessary for 'flying reporters' - being a pen and
paper. In the hurry, I nearly forgot my business cards, but I
thought about those just in time not to forget them (and, indeed,
they would prove to be very useful the whole day!).
I didn't have to wait long at the aforementioned station, since
Robert Heessels and Eerk Hofmeester of the STRIKE-a-LIGHT group
came to fetch me and drove to Hubert van Mil's residence
(although 'residence' might actually turn out to be too gentle a
word for the heap of trash he tends to call 'home'). Alas! We
were to drive to Düsseldorf in Hubert's pre-WW II Volvo, and it
turned out that we had to drive there with five people in the car
- Arjan Pot was fetched a little later and we headed to the
After not too long a drive and a trip by 'Pendelbus' we arrived
at Messehal 1, the hall where the Atari Messe was held. Neither
of us knew that the day was to be a big success, being as
pessimistic as we were (and as we are).
First thing I did was going to visit the G-Data stand. It wasn't
hard to find, since it was one of the stands from which a
constant noise was coming forth. They were demonstrating their
new "AS Sound Sampler II", a truly impressive piece of hardware
that e.g. enabled high quality play-back of sampled sounds
through use of a MIDI keyboard (more about that in a seperate
review in this issue of ST NEWS). I left the stand with a review
copy of the program, and went to the Heim Verlag stand, where the
company behind the German magazine "ST Computer" was exhibiting.
I talked with Harald Schneider (their Public Domain) man about ST
NEWS and there was but one slight problem: The 10-sector format
of the last two issues. He dumped a copy on harddisk anyway and
would let me know if it was worth my while to make a special
version for them (that was a bit smaller, so that it could be put
on a regularly formatted disk). Our conversation was overheard by
two guys from Eusax PD Service, that showed immediate interest in
including ST NEWS in their PD Library. So I gave them an issue.
The Application Systems stand was manned by several people,
amongst which one of the members of the notorious Denise Team -
someone commonly known as "The Pale Rider". I gave him some empty
disk and (of course) an issue of ST NEWS and asked him if he
could possible write something for it with regard to advanced
graphix effects. He would think about it and send me some new
demos on the disks (And I have indeed received some stuff! ED.).
Now for Electronic Arts. I walked to their stand and I really
didn't expect much. Maybe "Sky Fox" or "Arcticfox". And maybe
even "Chessmaster 2000". But what I saw made nearly drop fluids
from the corners of my mouths: "Marble Madness" and "Bard's
Tale". One of the members of TEX, that was also standing there,
was very impressed by the latter, whereas I was juST dying to get
my hands on "MM"! Unfortunately, so Electronic Art's Director of
European Distribution Mr. John Forrest told me, the game was not
for sale at that moment. By giving him a copy of ST NEWS Volume 2
Issue 6, he assured me that he would contact me about obtaining
review status at his company.
So far so good. Microdeal was also present at the Messe (though,
unfortunately, not Ms. Many Brett - who was said to have
married recently (as a matter of fact, it turned out to be in
June this year already): Congratulations Mandy!) and I stopped
there for a while to see the "Tanglewood" demo. It surely looked
very impressive, and a man that ran the demos told me that Pete
Lyon had drawn the graphics. I could have guessed - they're
great! The man also showed a non-beta-pre-version of a strategy
game called "Omega Run", that offered good graphics as well, but
not yet any sound (and it bombed out now and then). Microdeal is
definately fighting hard to keep on the top of ST entertainment
software, whereas they also do a lot with regard to application
Another English company that I visited was Kuma. Talking to their
Marketing Director, Jon Day, assured me of a copy of their
program "K-Roget" for review purposes. I had already sent them an
issue of ST NEWS a little more than a week earlier and he had
already had a sneak look at it. Since he had had to leave for a
Paris show just one day later (and the Atari Messe of course) he
hadn't had the possibility to look at it thoroughly, but that was
At 15.00 hours, Atari's Vice President of Research and Technology
Mr. Shiraz M. Shivji, was talking at the Messe's workshop about
future Atari developments. First thing he mentioned was the
launch of CD ROM in November of this year at a price under $500.
The device could play audio as well.
The main part of his speech was dedicated to the new RISC
(Reduced Instruction Set Computers) machines that Atari is
currently developing for use with the MEGA STs. They are planning
to show prototypes early next year, based on the T800 transputer
chip (32-bits, 12-15 MIPS - Million Instruction Per Second). The
chip has a built-in floating point processor that can calculate
1,5 MKLOPS (Million Floatingpoint Operations Per Second). Having
a transputer box with 13 transputer chips (of which the price
should be below 20.000 German marks, so Mr. Shivji added), one
should be able to reach 150 MIPS (thus making the Atari calculate
at the speed of a small Cray computer). The transputers were said
to have four video modes (1: 1024x768 pixels, eight bits/pixel;
2: 1280x960, four bits/pixel monochrome; 3: 256 colors at once,
16 bits/pixel, color palette of 256000 colors, 4: No color
palette, 24 bits/pixel, 16 million colours at once). You would
need at least one transputer for this, which would cost you about
6000 German Marks.
Something that Mr. Shivji also talked about was the 68030-bases
computer, that would run at about 4 MIPS. Actually this is a CISC
(Complex Instruction Set Computer) machine, that enables twice
the speed of the 68020 processor when run under the proper clock
frequency. Four or five VME slots would be built in, and the
computer chould allow use of UNIX (still running ST software on
ST speed), NSF (a network standard), and ExWindow capability.
Three to four users could use a standard system (priced between
6000 and 10.000 German marks), whereas 16-32 users could use it
when cards were added. A harddisk controller will be built-in.
Some more things that were mentioned: The MS-DOS emulator will
not be made by Atari (the engineers simply think it's crazy to
emulate such a backward machine on an ST or MEGA ST). Also, Atari
intends to launch a blitter-kit for the 'old' STs in November.
This will consist of a blitter chip and the necessary ROMs. The
last thing he mentioned was the new tapestreamer, that will use
DAT (Digital Audio Tape) technology. One to two gigabytes can be
stored with a speed between 250 Kbits and 1,5 Mbits per second.
It should be available within a year.
After all this talk, it was made possible for people to ask
questions. The only question that seemed to cause him a little
trouble answering was a question about the AMY soundchip, asked
by yours truly. Nothing particular was known with regard to this
fabulou soundchip, but it definately didn't work yet. If it would
be launched one day, it would be a MIDI box, that might even be
attached to a regular MIDI synthesizer (without an ST).
When I had a little private chat with him after the session, I
came of with the old idea of a Commodore 64 emulator for the ST.
Mr. Shivji told me that Atari didn't consider this to be useful.
After Mr. Shivji's speech, I strolled around a little more, quite
accidentally bumping in Mr. Wolfgang Nimmerrichter, publisher of
the Austrian Atari magazine "XEST". He knew about ST NEWS already
(by the way, Mr. Shivji had already seen ST NEWS as well, when he
was back in Italy some months ago) and they were going to include
it in their Public Domain library soon.
I visited GfA Systemtechnik several times that day, only to find
out that Frank Ostrowski was never there. When he finally was
present, it was the biggest letdown of the day: Mr. Bigshot (ever
so good a programmer he might be) was too busy and would not let
himself be interviewed by ST NEWS because he was already
interviewed by a German magazine called "Der Stern". Gosh what a
jerk (sorry, readers, but I think he really is - he already
disappointed me earlier by not answering some quite simple
questions for which I had even added International Reply
Some guys calling themselves Argonica were seated at the stand of
the company A-Magic. These Swiss guys showed a program called
"War Heli" that looked very good but with some daft music. I had
them contact TEX, so they'll probably end up with some bleedin'
good music in the end. The game will be due for launch in
December, and will probably be distributed through Microdeal.
While actually preparing to leave, I visited some more companies
on my way out, thus assuring a review copy of Omikron Basic and
accidentally meeting Matthias Greve (writer of "Aladin"). I
really had expected someone entirely different to be the
programmer of such a terrific piece of soft-/hardware, rather
than this under-twenty, quite spontaneous young man. Hubert van
Mil gave him issues 4-6 from ST NEWS Volume 2 (unfortunately, I
had run out of copies a little earlier, giving them to someone of
Omikron and the boss from Soft Paquet). I went back to the Atari
stand once more, to run into Mr. Sig Hartmann, the software boss
from Atari Corporation in the U.S. He assured me that "Word
Perfect" for the ST was ready, and I gave him my original from ST
NEWS Volume 2 Issue 5. My heart bled as I parted with the disk,
but Mr. Hartmann assured me he would read it.
The way back to Holland was a lot faster than the way to
Düsseldorf (at least, so it seemed) and we arrived at "Strike-a-
Light"'s office around eight in the evening. I copied back an
issue of the ST NEWS I had given to Mr. Hartmann, and later took
the train back home. The day had been quite a success and
immediately wrote down some concept material for this article so
that I would not forget anything that had happened. And indeed I
hope I haven't!
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.