"Q: How does Michael Jackson pick his nose?
A: From a catalogue."
Joke courtesy of the Dixie Flatline
THE FALCON CHRONICLES OF YOURS TRULY
by yours truly
THE FIRST MUSINGS - FRIDAY, AUGUST 21ST 1992 - LATE AFTERNOON.
I've just been to the Düsseldorf Messe in Germany where I have
seen the first revealing of the Atari Falcon 030 (thanks, Math,
for allowing me to drive with you!). To say that I had been
drooling from just about every pore and other cavity in my body
would be an understatement: I almost wet my pants - the Falcon is
any computer freak's dream, and I the thought of exaggerating
here has not even crossed my mind.
The Falcon 030 is to computers what "Terminator II" was to
special effects, what the invention of the wheel was to
transport, what the pyramids were to the Pharaohs, what Joe
Satriani is to guitar playing, what Teri Weigel is to some Monaco
prince and, to use Sam Tramiel's slightly less illustrative
words, "what the ST was to computers in 1985".
Of course you have also read various things about the Falcon in
the computer press in the recent half year or so - you'd have to
be pretty off the world and out of touch with Life (and the
Universe, and Everything) if you hadn't. Some of the things have
been true, some have been false. Let me therefore tell you all
about the Falcon 030 (henceforth to be called simply Falcon) in a
(Imagine top half of empty peanut here.)
The Falcon boasts a Motorola 68030 CPU running at 16 Mhz, a
Motorola DSP 56001 Signal Processor (runs at 32 Mhz), all the ST
custom chips in one (called Combo) and the Blitter (runs at 16
Mhz now). It can have 1, 4 or 14 Mb RAM. It has an internal 3.5"
1.44 (High Density) disk drive in its 1040-lookalike casing, with
a 65 Mb 2.5" IDE-interfaced internal hard disk optional.
Interfaces include an SCC port (like in TT and MEGA STE LAN),
video (VGA), TV, MIDI (in/out), joysticks (just like STE),
cartridge slot (identical to ST), internal expansion bus (like
MEGA ST), modem, printer (only bidirectional this time), SCSI-II
(hard disk - I'm not certain whether you can use the old Megafile
drives though), stereo headphones out, stereo microphone in, and
a DSP Port (although it is quite unclear so far what you can do
with it but it'd probably make you drool if it was).
The video specs.
I've heard it said that all video modes can be displayed on any
TV or monitor, with only the picture quality getting better or
worse depending on the bad-ness of your video device. This may
not be true. Anyway, according to the specs, we have the
following resolutions: VGA 640x480 with 256 colours from 262.144,
VGA 320x480 with 65.536 colours, VGA 320x480 with 32.768 colours
(with overlay bit), RGB/TV 768x480 with 256 colours from 262.144
(interlaced), 768x480 with 65.536 colours (interlaced) and
768x480 with 32.768 colours (interlaced with overlay bit).
'Overlay bit' means that, in addition to the computer picture,
you can have any TV or video screen image on top of it or in the
background by means of a Genlock device. Of course it also
supports the ST video modi, including the monochrome modus (as
well as the TT ones with the exception of the TT high res one).
As the Falcon has a VGA connector you need a small plug to use
old Atari monitors but this is supposed to be sold with the
Falcon at no extra price. Hardware scrolling is supported for all
modi (including ST mono?) and the border can be switched off by
software (i.e. hardware overscan modus).
The sound specs.
You thought the video specs were sortof OK, well here's the
sound specs. Of course the thing is ST compatible as well as STE
compatible so that the thing starts off with the YM soundchip and
the STE/TT030/MEGA STE stereo 8 bit PCM DMA sound. That's OK, of
course, but wait until you get to know what the Motorola DSP
56001 can do: 8 channel 50 Khz (i.e. better than CD quality) 16
bit DMA sound! This means true quality music. Using the
microphone input port you can just record it straight into the
Falcon (which has a 16 bit AD converter in the DSP) and you can
play it back just like that (because, incidentally, it also has a
16 bit DA converter built (in the DSP?) as well). The nice thing,
also, is that playing all that stuff costs zero processor time.
For the non-technos among you: You still have the 68030 left for
100% to do really interesting things with.
Some more miscellaneous stuff.
It has a real-time battery-backed clock. It has 512 Kb ROM (it
is not yet certain whether it will have MultiTOS on ROM though),
a space is ready to plug in an MC68881/68882 math co-processor,
an internal RAM bus and it has a new keyboard chip that can
handle 300 DPI mice (the normal one you'd use is 100 DPI). Its
TOS is supposed to be TOS 4.0. It has an internal mono speaker
built in (because VGA monitors don't support sound).
(Please imagine lower half of peanut shell here. Thank you.)
I've seen demos with amazing quality pictures being superimposed
on each other and all that usual horny demonstration stuff. Whoa!
I've heard this chap distort his voice without any hardware add-
ons (except for a plain microphone). I've heard CD-quality music
being played by a Harddisk-Recording-and-Playback-System (only
additional hardware required: A hard disk. It's all software). It
was really (I'm really sorry for having to use the following
word, but it really fits here in my humble opinion) f@*king
What about the software?
Well, of course the thing is ST-compatible to a certain extent
(which is supposed to be fairly large). Of course, this instantly
makes vast amounts of software available, and...
Hey ho. Wait a minute. I'm sounding like an Atari sales brochure
here. Let's revise this.
At the moment only demos could be seen, together with the
Harddisk-Recording/Playback program (which was made by Lynet
Systems Ltd.). Eclipse (yes!) are working on some Falcon games,
however, and I've already seen a smooth looking Llamasoft release
looking like an incredibly souped-up "Attack of the Mutant
Camels" (and, indeed, called that). Also, a British company
called Mirage (where Julia "Microprose" Coombs now works) is
developing a Falcon-specific space adventure called "Space Junk"
(due for release in 1993). So far the certain bits. In the field
of rumours I've heard that Hisoft should be developing a drawing
program for the thing, whereas someone else (in Germany, I seem
to recall) is developing a soundtracker for the machine. I've
also heard that The Exceptions (TEX - or at least some of 'em)
will work together with the Respectables on some first demos for
And, with ST NEWS working on it, what more is there to wish
According to the guy who distributes my virus killer in Germany
it is vitally important that I get one of these machines pronto,
i.e. by mid September I should have one at home. I can't wait. In
the mean time I've already heard several people proclaiming
they'll sell their ST and buy a Falcon instead (Marc Freebury,
Math Claessens, Kai Holst and possibly Bryan Kennerley so far). I
really can't blame them - and they haven't even seen the thing
(which would be even more prone to cause instant ST-selling and
Please take my word: The Falcon is a miracle machine. Sell your
ST while you still can. Get a Falcon a.s.a.p. You won't regret
it. I've heard a price of US$ 1000 quoted for a 4 meg system,
though it is not sure whether this is with or without a built-in
hard disk. The Falcon looks set for a decade of success - demo
groups that left the ST are getting interested, software houses
are developing stuff and yours truly will surely get one!
More details to follow...
MORE THOUGHTS - SUNDAY, AUGUST 23RD 1992 - EARLY AFTERNOON.
I've just been on the phone with Stefan, who visited the Atari
Messe yesterday with Timimanikin. He was very impressed by the
Falcon but will wait with a purchase until his financial
situation looks better and, even more importantly, until the
Falcon 040 will be released. Eclipse's Marc Rosocha mentioned the
Falcon 040 to me on Friday as well, stating that "it will be a
machine quicker than the quickest PC".
Stefan added an interesting thing to this: The Falcon 040 will
run at 60 Mhz! Of course, it will also have the Motorola 68040
chip built in instead of the 68030.
Suddenly my urge to get a Falcon 030 has mellowed down a bit. I
wonder how much more expensive the Falcon 040 will be and when it
will be released. I'll probably also check out what you'd have to
do to a Falcon 030 to get it upgraded to be a Falcon 040...
More to follow!
MORE THOUGHTS VOLUME II - MONDAY, AUGUST 24TH 1992, AFTERNOON
This morning I called Atari Benelux and inquired as to the
release date and all of the Falcon 040. I also inquired what the
differences between the Falcon 030 and the Falcon 040 would be -
apart from the obvious things such as the 68040 and the 60 Mhz
Well, Mr. Wilfred Kilwinger (Software support) told me that the
thing will have a full external VME bus (I don't know what that
means, but it's big and all and the TT and MEGA STE have it too),
some more DSP, some more cards, some more graphics and a lot
bigger case with separate keyboard. And, he added as an
afterthought, it will be approximately three times as expensive.
I have therefore decided not to desire a Falcon 040 and instead
to go for the 030 just like I intended. I mean I like a bit of
extra speed but I don't need the rest, really.
In the mean time I doubt whether I will be able to sell my old
Mega ST with TOS 1.6/1.0 switchable, as I suppose some of my
favourite games ("Super Sprint", "Bubble Bobble", etc.)
probably won't work on the Falcon. Also, it's a German one that I
probably couldn't sell easily here in the Netherlands.
More due very soon.
AND YET MORE - TUESDAY, AUGUST 25TH 1992, LATE MORNING
This morning I called Kilwinger at Atari Benelux (again).
Yesterday I had gone to bed with some questions that nagged me.
Could you for example still connect your old hard disks (say the
Megafile series) to the Falcon? What version(s) of the machine
would be available? And what would the blimmin' thing actually
The answers I got were the following: "Not yet, but two
companies are building an ACSI<->SCSI converter so it should be
no problem then", "We don't know about the Netherlands yet but in
Germany the thing will for now only be available in a 4 Mb model
with a 65 Mb hard disk built in" and "In Germany it will cost
around 2300 German marks".
Now that was some really interesting news. The price does not
include a monitor. Still, one helluva price for such a mean
I don't suppose I'll write more here until I'll actually be
able to touch my own Falcon on my own desk.
SO I WAS WRONG - THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 10TH 1992, LATE AFTERNOON
Yesterday I called Atari to see whether anything exciting was
up. As it happened, nothing exciting was up but Mr. Kilwinger did
tell me that he could send me some general Falcon info if I
wanted. Of course I told him to chuck it in the mail pronto so
that, in case the postage system didn't screw up, I could get my
hands on it today.
The postage people didn't screw up. I got it. I now know some
more things I am just craving to tell you.
For starters it seems that Atari have learned from their past
desasters (i.e. the STE and TT). Both times 'round, the problem
was lack of software. They've found a very clever way of solving
it: Including some software with the machine!
A personal information manager. Diary, alarm, import/export
data, that sort of stuff. Sounds naff but, hey, it's for free.
Sounds even naffer than the other one. It's a calculator
(surprise!). Might it be that Atari wants to push the Falcon as a
This sounds more interesting - at least to me. It allows you to
record sounds and connect them with Operating System functions.
Opening a window might then be accompanied with "Zonk", or
booting with "Welcome Earthman". A nice thingy. Probably costs
you a bit of memory to have resident, though.
A talking clock! Rather superfluous, of course, but it's the
kind of stuff that makes non-Falcon-people's mouths drool when
you demonstrate it at your local computer club. Atari claims it
won't slow the system down.
Atari is obviously set to do the Falcon as a serious machine,
judging by the overall naffness of the actual games they'll
include. For more info, see "Breakout".
Atari thought: "Hey, we have some old licenses lying around!
Let's make incredibly souped-up true colour stereo CD quality
music versions of them!"
So they did. For more info, see "Landmines".
Audio Fun Machine.
Now this sounds genuinely interesting again. It's a program that
makes full use of that nifty little DSP thing inside the Falcon.
All you need is a microphone and off you go, echoing and
reverbing and chorussing and equalizing and bitch fending (er...
Concluding, no matter how impressive the Falcon as a machine is,
the software titles enclosed with the machine are not very
impressive except for one or two of the titles that deserve to be
called "quite interesting".
The Atari leaflet also mentioned some software to be made
separately (and which should be available at the release
already). Digital Arts has "Retouche Professional CD" for the
Falcon, Compo has the "That's" series as well as a Compo/Sack
80386-based MS-DOS emulator. Matrix has a video digitizer that
utilizes the Falcon's 32,768 colour mode, Trade It has software
and hardware allowing 3D animations on video. Llamasoft has a
beta version of "Attack of the Mutant Camels". Last but not
least, the picture processing program "AIM" (from the Polytechnic
of Delft, Netherlands) will be available in a Falcon version.
The documentation also mentioned "MultiTOS" (pre-emptive multi-
tasking with adaptive priorization, piping and the whole shebang)
as system software. As they mentioned "TOS on ROM" and neglected
to put "on ROM" behind "MultiTOS" we'll just have to assume it
will be supplied on disk (which is not too bad as I suppose it
can be installed on hard disk as well).
So far the software. The leaflet also mentioned some more
hardware bits that were sortof unknown so far (at least they
were unknown to yours truly). The MIDI ports, for example, now
have their own interrupts (not via the keyboard processor). With
little external hardware you can fax and modem with the Falcon
(no expensive external modem needed). The SCSI II port has a
maximum data transfer rate of 4 Mb/second; the internal IDE hard
disk bus has one of 3 Mb/second (the old DMA reached a maximum of
1.3 Mb/second). The Dutch Falcons will also have the 65 Mb hard
disk built in and 4 Mb of memory, and their price will be around
2700 Dutch guilders. The custom chip I previously called "Combo"
turns out to be called "Combel". Other custom chips are the
"Videl" (soft scrolling, overlay mode and all other video
functions), the "SDMA" (does the sound DMA) and the "CODEC"
(which has the 16 bit AD/DA converters in it).
Now I'd like to look more extensively at the video modi, as they
were sortof complicated (or at least seemed to be) before.
It seems that some modi are reserved strictly for VGA monitors,
and others strictly for TV/monitor (SC 1224 and SC 1435,
The video system is quite flexible. With VGA monitors you can
(among others) have 320 or 640 pixels horizontal, and 240 or 480
pixels vertical. You can also select 1, 2, 4 or 8 bit planes
(corresponding with 2, 4, 16 or 256 colours possible on the
screen at the same time). All combinations are possible with
With so-called broadcast monitors (i.e. TV and non-VGA monitors)
you can have (among others) 600 or 400 pixels horizontal and 200
or 400 vertical - again with 1, 2, 4 or 8 bitplanes. With these
broadcast monitors you can specify an overscan of up to 20%,
making a resolution of 768x480 the best you can get (which is
quite enough if you ask me). The palette is 262.144 colours (so
there's plenty of colours to pick from).
All possible resolution combinations (excluding the 640x480 VGA
one, as the bandwith would be too big, or not enough, or
whatever) can support true colour. This means that you suddenly
get 16 bit planes, i.e. 65536 colours on screen at the same time.
You have no colour palette then, by the way - it works quite
Short explanation of this true colour mode: You can assign a
colour value to each pixel, the format being RRRRRGGGGGGBBBBB
(yes, 5 of each except for green that has 6). This mode is called
the slideshow mode, in case you were interested. It is not
supported by the VDI.
Why the six greens?
Well, you can switch off one of the greens (the last one) which
then gets down to 15 bits per pixel with the green being replaced
by an overlay bit which allows titling and genlock effects. This
allows 32,768 colours to be used. This 15 bits per pixel mode is
supported by the VDI, by the bye.
All in all, the stuff mentioned here already gets down to
literally dozens of different resolution possibilities, some of
which are the ST ones and the TT ones (the latter excluding the
TT high res one).
I guess I will now really not write further stuff until I get my
hands on one of these amazing machines!
WRONG AGAIN - THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1ST 1992, EARLY AFTERNOON
It seems that I have to wait for the Falcon yet. The deadline
before which this German guy had to supply me with a Falcon
passed last night at 00:00 hours, so I guess I've been conned
once more into believing things. I guess most software company
managing directors (with the exception, so I've heard, of
Microdeal's John Symes) are just a load of tossers who make lots
of hollow promises.
But I digress.
Today I obtained the latest "DBA Magazine", a brilliant fellow-
Dutch disk magazine made by (tada!) the DBA. I would not have
mentioned that here if it hadn't been for the fact that they
mentioned some more bits about the Falcon that I either didn't
know or had forgot to mention in one of my earlier revealings in
I will make a short addendum summary here.
* All the Falcon's RAM is fast RAM (16 Mhz), unlike the TT.
* HiSoft will be doing a Falcon drawing program called "True
Paint". This is not the program I had mentioned earlier in
the 'rumours' department, as the would-be author of that
particular rumoured program knows nothing about this and was
as flummoxed at hearing about "True Paint" as I was.
That's all, really, but I did not want to reveal more. I could
have told you about the new Falcon XBIOS routines but I decided
against that for two reasons: 1) The documentation is not
definite yet (at least so told me Mr. Kilwinger of Atari
Benelux), and 2) It's rather useless information for 99% of you.
THE LAST BITS THEN?
So my German distributor is certainly not very trustworthy to
say the least. I think I'm going to be involved in some law suits
here (all intiated by me).
Next time ST NEWS will be released I will certainly have a
Falcon. I will no doubt write more about it then.
AS A MATTER OF FACT... - MONDAY, OCTOBER 19TH 1992, EARLY EVENING
Before I leave you all I would like to say some more things.
Atari reckon the Falcon should have sold about 200,000 units by
the end of 1993 - in the UK alone. Unfortunately the machine will
also be sold in a 1 megabyte, no-hard-disk version there,
retailing at £499. The real version (let's pray that NOBODY BUYS
THAT OTHER ONE) should be available at £899.
One last bit about my German distributor: He contacted me at the
day of a new deadline and we agreed to postpone the deadline to
November 15th. We'll just have to see.
DEFINITELY FINAL LAST BITS - THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 12TH, AFTERNOON
This afternoon I was called by the German distributor of my
virus killer. He reckoned the Falcon would not be available until
March at the earliest, so he decided to pay me my royalties
So things seem to have turned out not too bad. The Falcon will
have to wait another day. It has been delayed, by the way, not
because it wasn't finished but because all shopkeepers will first
want to get rid of all their STs and ST software in stock during
the Christmas sales (which will basically mean they will be
selling dated machines to the audience, basically screwing the
consumer - tough shit).
Politics make me vomit.
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.