REVIEW: YOUR SECOND MANUAL TO THE ATARI ST by Ronny Hatlemark
This is the Hitchhiker's Guide to the ST. Not to the BIOS, not to
Betelgeuse 5. This manual will not help you to get into the ST;
this manual will help you to get around the ST. If the first one,
the Atari Corporation's ST Owner's Manual, tells you how to turn
on the machine, this one tells you how to use it. It is your
second (and better) Owner's Manual to the ST.
Oh, no! Not another manual! Who needs a manual? Yeah, I know, but
wait a minute, don't press 'Exit' yet, just read a few more
lines. That's all I ask! (Phuh! Stopped ya!) If you think that
this manual was written by a stupid jerk who thought that the
Owner's Manual (bundled with the ST) was just garbage, then
you're both right and wrong. Right, because the Owner's Manual is
(to some extent) just garbage. Wrong, because this manual is
definitely not written by a stupid jerk! It was written by
Andreas Ramos. Yeah, and who's that?
Andreas Ramos happens to be the Danish distributor of ST NEWS.
(Sure! So that's why you are so crazy about it). Andreas lives of
course in Denmark, and is very active at the 68000 User Group in
Aarhus. If I'm not completely wrong, he has also lived in the USA
for some years (his English is excellent). Paul Glover at The ST
Club in England encouraged him to have it published. At just
£3.95 the 100 pages should represent great value for money. And
it does! The manual is now due to be bundled with all STs sold
by Atari Corporation Scandinavia. And isn't that something!
Manuals can be read by four sorts of people. Firstly there is the
one who knows very well that he's no expert (rather a beginner),
secondly there's the one who likes very much to believe that he's
an expert, and there's also the one who really is an expert.
Finally there's Yngwie J. Malmsteen (Swedish guitar wizard) fans,
but since these people usually fall into one of the previous
categories, we say that there are just three sorts of manual
readers. Right! If you pressed 'Exit' once you had found out what
this article was all about, then I dare to say that you are one
of those who likes very much to believe that he's an expert
(Don't hit me, it hurts!) Well, of course, you might be an
exception... I have to admit, I have not read the Owner's Manual
completely, and I don't open a manual unless everything else
fails. This is stupid, because there is really much to learn from
a manual, and in the long run you save hours of work by reading.
Well, enough crap talk! Let's have a look at the manual. It's
white with 'Your Second Manual to the Atari ST' printed in black
together with a picture of an Atari ST. So what? Let's open the
thing! On the two first pages an introduction can be found. It
tells you the ordinary stuff (first printing, publisher, author
etc.) and that it was made entirely using an Atari Mega ST4 with
Atari SLM804 Laser printer and Publishing Partner. Great! Just by
reading the first paragraph you realise what kind of a manual
this is. It's not that technical, you can in fact curl up in bed
with it and read until the early hours. And it is mindshakingly
funny! I really like the author's sense of humour. Last but not
least; It tells you the things that you really need to know as a
(first time) user of the Atari ST.
"Users need a general introduction to the many different areas of
computers; users need a list of ready-to-run programs which can
solve problems; users need addresses to find further products,
both hardware and software, and information."
Andreas seems to know very much about the Atari ST, and the
things that are found around it, like user groups, BBSs,
magazines and so on. The fact that he's an ordinary user himself,
ensures that you are given the right information at the right
time and place. Finally, he's very straight. Here's an example:
Owner's manual: "ST BASIC resembles the mainstream dialects of
BASIC (as all BASICs do), yet takes advantage of
the unique features of the ST Computer."
Second Manual: "ST BASIC and ST LOGO are garbage."
Well, let's turn over a few more pages. The Table of Contents
shows that the manual is divided into 14 chapters (0-13), and
far back you'll find a Glossary of Terms, as well as some Special
Offers from The ST Club, it's for example possible to order all
the PDs that's mentioned in the manual from the club.
All chapters are literally stuffed with text. The manual is
printed on A4 pages, and each page is divided into two columns
that each contains almost twice as much text as can be found on a
pocket book page (those you read in the late hours trying to fall
asleep, 1001 Things To Do While Reading A Book, for instance).
The first chapter is 'An Introduction to Computers' for absolute
beginners. It's about RAM, ROM, input, output, storage, programs
and files (that stuff) and can be skipped by most users. However,
I found the 'Post Office' example nice to read.
'The Beginning' (next chapter) has nothing to do with the Big
Bang Theory. The author starts off by taking a look at the
desktop and all the menus that can be found there. Then comes a
part that I enjoyed very much reading, about the different
versions of TOS, followed by something about power supplies,
opening the box, and warranties. Finally there is 'More about
Atari', which I found very interesting (about Jack, Sam and the
rest of the gang, history).
Chapter 2, 'The keyboard - Keyboard Tips and Tricks' is about...
well, isn't that quite self-explanatory? Yes, but it also tells
you where to get a better (AT) keyboard, redefining the keyboard,
how to make a clever F-Key guide and fix broken keys using model
airplain glue (tell your shopkeeper that it's for your toy
computer). By the way, did you know that holding the right mouse
button enables you to work in non-active windows? I didn't.
Theia Nordentoft wrote the next chapter, about 'The Mouse'. Is
that a female? Anyway, (s)he tells you most of the things that
there is to know about these things. How to make a mousepad,
using SpeedMouse, cleaning, going walkies, repairing mouse-tails
and broken micro-switches. Don't play with your mouse, and if you
ever go to a saleswoman and ask for a small piece of wetsuit
material, don't tell her that it is for your mouse, at least not
in Scandinavian countries (a mouse means lotsa things here).
Turn a page, and the manual covers something I found to be of
enormous interest. 'Disks, Disk Drives, TOS, Formatting, File
Storage, Deleting, Copying, and Fixing Your ST'. Of course, most
of us knows a lot about this, but if you're in for the really
detailed details, then you should read this part. Why are files
located at clusters? How can you format a disk so that the head
of the drive can read it faster? Questions like those are
answered. This chapter has just about everything you could wish,
serial numbers, directory crashes, the famous 40 folder problem,
item selectors, the stupid triple checking, the quality of disks,
deleted files, copying disks, recovering lost files, fixing,
compressing, DIY (do it yourself) harddisks, etc., etc.
Next chapter is rather short, because it's just about ramdisks.
What they are, different types, how to get them and how to
'The Monitor and the Desktop' is the label of chapter 6. In the
beginning this reminds me of the chapter 'The Beginning', because
it covers the same area; the Desktop. Thereafter it takes a quick
look at the DESKTOP.INF file, and goes on by explaining how to
get yourself killed by playing inside a monitor. The last part is
more interesting. It even tells you how to 'Have Fun With Your
"Stand back about four or five metres and clear your throat. The
screen becomes wavy. Do this long enough and you'll get a sore
Chapter 7, 'Accessories'. Here you get to know them better and
you learn how to use them, which one you should use, why you
should use it, and things like that.
Most people use a word processor quite often, especially if they
have got a printer. I use 1st Word Plus (v3.10) every bleedin'
day, even though it's not the fastest around (understatement!).
Still, I think I will continue to use the shit, at least until
I've seen Tempus v2.0. What has my sorrows got to do with this
manual, anyway? Hell! Next chapter, chapter 8, talks about Word
Processing. First, a definition can be found, on text editors,
word processors, desktop publishers and typesetters. Then there
are some helpful rules to follow the day you're out in the stores
looking for a good word processor. However, following these rules
will bother the salesman a lot, but who cares about that (it's
just fun! Nasty me!). The next pages tell you a whole lot about
GST and their fantastic (?) word processor. For instance, if you
write a letter to your neighbour, make sure it's not over 100 KB
(tends to crash!). Writing a printer driver isn't the easiest
thing in the world, but Andreas helps you a bit. Word(-just-how-)
Perfect(-is-it-anyway?), Tempus, Le Redacteur (remember the ST
NEWS article by Andreas?) and Signum are also mentioned. At the
end of the chapter one finds a few notes about keymacros, making
your own clipboard, spelling checkers, printer ribbons, paper and
finally something that has got an awful lot to do with word
processing; The art of making 'Tennessee Bar-B-Que Sauce' and
'Bar-B-Que Ribs'. I've got to try those out one day!
Chapter 9 is mindblowingly interesting! 'Magazines for the Atari
ST', and guess what, ST NEWS is mentioned! Hooray! Even all the
distributors are listed with name and address. First there's the
take off (telling a story and explaining the importance of
magazines), then each country is covered in turns. I could
however not find anything about our own Norwegian disk-magazine;
ST-Klubben (ok, guys! just a small advertisement), in which yours
truly is the editor. Never mind, I guess it will be included in
version 6.0 of the manual (version 5.0 is now being reviewed).
After reading this chapter, I immediately ordered a faster-than-
light course in German on tape, because all the great magazines
appears to be published in that country. ST Computer, so the
manual tells, is the best ST magazine anywhere. In England, ST
World seems to be the best, and ST User is described as
"remarkably bad" (couldn't agree more!). Magazines in Austria,
France, Holland, Denmark, Belgium, Elsewhere (?), Australia and
in the USA are also described. There's also some words about
diskzines (disk(-maga)zines), newsletters and non-specific
Access to the right Public Domain programs is important to the
complete beginner, and I must say that it's downright crazy to
not include information about this in an "Owner's Manual". But
people get second help from the "Second Manual". Andreas tells
you everything you need to know. He first defines PD, shareware
and freeware. Then he informs you about your legal rights as a
user, and gives you the necessary information about PD, and how
to get PD (several PD libraries mentioned).
I've got to buy a modem! (ultimatum!) After having read chapter
11, 'Communications and BBS Systems', and some articles written
by a Norwegian freak (Lars-Erik 0sterud) in our ST-Klubben
magazine, I just got this sudden urge to buy a modem. I realise
that I've been missing an awful lot all these years. Anyway,
(bothering you with my sorrows again?) Andreas once again tells
you all you need to know about these things, for example, what is
a modem/BBS?, what you need (to do), how to find a BBS, what use
there is in a BBS, and the software needed. You can even follow
Andreas step by step as he calls up the 68000 UG BBS in Aarhus,
thanks to a log-file. The standards in file compressing, ARC, UUE
and UUD are also described.
In chapter 12, Andreas has managed to squeeze in 'Games, Midi,
Graphics and Chess'. He starts by admitting that there's very
little about these things (two pages) in the manual, just because
he doesn't use them himself. "Sorry, guys!" Still, is there
really much a user needs to know about games? Is it just to
insert the disk and press reset? Well, almost! Anyway, that's an
other discussion. The manual is written, nothing to do about it
(there might be more in a later versions). Chess? Is that games?
At last some criticism: I think Andreas should have tried to
gathered a bit more information about Midi and Graphics. Major
Finally, the final chapter! 'User Groups' is about user groups
(no shit!), what they are and where they are. A few groups are
listed at the end of the chapter. Again, nothing about ST-Klubben
(sigh!), but I don't blame him, it was started up only 22.12.88!
The Glossary is a funny thing! You can look up words
(alphabetically), but there sure aren't many words to look up. In
return the words listed are very well covered, with some
exceptions. If you look up 'Text Editors' you are explained that
these are "not to be confused with word processors". Ok, so what
is a word processor? Look up, and you'll find "WP: Word
processing, not to be confused with text editors". See? You
really get smart by using this Glossary! But then, other things
are explained thoroughly. A whole page is dedicated to the virus,
for instance. If you look up 'Cigarettes', the manual tells you
that these cause lung cancer, and that your lungs will rot and
you will die.
So, that's it! Just close the thing, and we're finished! To sum
up, I must say that the manual really covers some aspects very
well, and that you can turn out to be quite wise by reading it.
But it also covers other things less satisfactory, and there are
things that is not mentioned at all. But, what the heck! For the
low price it represents fantastic value for money, and who wants
to read about ALL topics (you can do that in a lexicon)? The most
important ones are discussed anyway! At the end, I would just
like to point out one thing. I've never seen a manual written
this way before. You can really curl up in bed with it, and while
reading it I got hooked, because it was downright funny to read
it (heard that, got hooked on a manual!? weird!). I often burst
out laughing! It even explains why they are using acoustic modems
in James Bond movies. And there's a "whole-lotta-things-more" (to
quote The Carebears)!
"Your Second Manual to the Atari ST" can be bought directly from
The ST Club in England, at £3.95. (If you live outside Europe,
add 5% for air mail).
The ST Club
49 Stoney Street
Nottingham NG1 1LX
Monday-Friday, 9.30-5.00, they can be reached on (0602) 410241.
- - -
I would like to thank a member of our user group, Svein Lieblein,
for lending me this manual, thus making it possible for me to
make a review of it. Thank you, pal!
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.