|Why Paul Nurminen uses Atari Computers
In the early eighties, a couple of friends of mine got Atari 800 computers. Naturally, after playing video games for a few years (Atari 2600 VCS, Intellivision, ColecoVision), I too was ready to make the move up to a computer. And, mainly due to my experience with my friend's Ataris, I went with an Atari 800XL.
The XL line was just coming out, and I liked the idea that it had a bit more memory than my friend's 800s. This was the winter of 1983, and fortunately, I was able to convince my parents that an 800XL without a disk drive was like a car without an engine. Needless to say, I got a Percom AT-88 floppy disk drive to go with the computer - and all for only about $700!
After using the 800XL for a while, I grew quite comfortable with programming it in BASIC, and created several little games and demos and such - most of which are available for download here on Nurmix Web Centralif you are interested.
At the time, another friend had an Apple II Plus, and I familiarized myself with that computer
too. This turned out to be a good thing since shortly after that, the High School I attended started
offering a computer class - using nothing but Apple IIs. I still preferred the Atari (as did the
class instructor!), and as a result, I recreated some Apple II programs on my 800XL. One of these Apple
programs was a cool little demo of a dancing guy on a TV called "AppleVision". I made my own
version, and called it, what else?
(And in case you're wondering, yes, it's available here for download too).
I continued to use the 800XL until it died around 1987. After this, I basically went
"computerless" for a few years. Why exactly? I'm not sure. I guess it was partly due to the fact that I
was doing a lot of DJing back then. But more importantly, I was really
getting into creating my own electronic MIDI music with
keyboards and drum machines. And without a doubt, the old Atari 8-bit music (found in many
of the games and demos of the day) influenced my interest in this musical genre.
Then around 1989, I started getting the "itch" to get back into computers. I had bought a lot of
music equipment, recording and sequencing my own original songs, and I knew I wanted another
computer to further my musical goals.
The Internet (at least the World Wide Web) hadn't really taken off yet, but the BBS
(Bulletin Board System) thing was HUGE. Now I didn't have much experience in the whole
"on-line" sub-culture (aside from some early Compuserve time on a friend's 800XL around 1984), but I
decided to get back into the computer I had used a few years earlier, the Atari 8-bit.
The problem was, very little remained of my original collection; aside from a broken 800XL, a Percom disk drive, and most of my software. So, I located a large stash of 8-bit Atari stuff in a local newspaper classified ad, and bought it all. There was quite a bit of gear - most of which I didn't have before - including several disk drives, interfaces, a modem, a ton and a half of software, and the Atari 130XE.
After this acquisition, I got completely hooked on the BBS thing, and through that (and the then burgeoning Internet), I determined that if I wanted to use a computer for sequencing and recording electronic / MIDI music, an Atari ST was the way to go. So in 1990, I bought an Atari 520 STE with 4 megs of RAM, a MIDI sequencing program called Cubase, and an extra external floppy disk drive.
I eventually added a hard drive, and more software than you can shake a stick at to my STE, and my MIDI sequencing capabilities were very much improved as well. MIDI with the STE worked better than I had ever imagined. And in addition to that, I was able to participate in BBSes and the Internet a great deal more than with my previous 8-bit. I was very happy indeed. But then, my desire for a digital multi-track recorder (mainly for vocals and guitar) was growing stronger, and I began looking into "stand alone" recorders, not realizing that Atari themsleves were about to come to the rescue once again.
Around this time, I was seriously considering getting an Akai 4-track hard disk recorder. I had been using a Tascam 4-track cassette deck (syncronized to the Cubase sequencer on the STE) for all of my vocal and "real instrument" parts like guitar. However, I found this to be too limiting and unreliable. I knew Atari had a new computer out called the Falcon030 which was capable of doing everything the STE could do, plus multi-track digital audio. The problem was that it was quite expensive (around $1,300 at the time). So, I was looking for more affordable alternatives like the Akai, when I noticed that the store I was in (Guitar Center in Hollywood, California) was selling it's remaining inventory of Atari Falcons at around HALF of it's then market price. Needless to say, I bought one that day, and my Atari saga continued.
The Falcon, when combined with Steinberg's Cubase Audio software, enabled the Falcon to not only handle all the MIDI sequenced tracks, but also 16 tracks of CD quality digital audio too. It was everything I was looking for, at a great price. And with the eventual addition of a digital interface, DAT recorder, and a very large hard drive, I had a complete digital recording setup, capable of doing pretty much everything I needed.
And on top of that, the Falcon was proving to be quite a nice all around computer as well. Everything
from the aforementioned music software, to graphics, word processing and Internet are available. I can
create inserts and j-cards for my music CDs and tapes, browse the World Wide Web, get my e-mail, FAX
and play games, all on my Falcon. Sure, most of the major software houses [in the PC / MAC market]
have abandoned the Atari, but smaller companies and shareware programmers have taken up the
slack, and in many ways surpassed the commercial offerings.
With powerful multitasking operating systems and hardware accelerators available for the Falcon
(not to mention the TT and all of it's high perfomance clones), I can
do pretty much everything on my Atari that I can do on a "modern" PC or MAC, and often easier.
Now I realize that most people out there think that a PC or MAC are the only viable
computer platforms available today. But they are mistaken. It's just that with huge monopolistic power
mongers like Bill Gates overshadowing the often superior competition with his bloat-ware,
most people fail to see that there are indeed, alternatives! And I'm not just talking
about Atari as an alternative here either, as even I realize that the Atari platform is not for
everyone. But things like LINUX, BeOS, Amiga and MAC are but a few of the many alternate choices
available to today's computer user. But sadly, most of these go unoticed, and under-appreciated, due
in no small part to Mr. Gate's insatiable appetite for total control of every last computer on this planet,
and the general sheep mentality of the computer using public
("Well, if everyone uses it, it must be the best, right?").
Well, enough ranting for now. Heck, even I now own a PC! I built it myself. It's a Pentium III
800MHz / 256MB RAM machine, and I do enjoy using it - especially for Internet related things. But my
Atari falcon is still the center of my electronic music studio. Anyway,
just remember, there are other choices out there - if you're a bit adventurous and you
care to look. Visit the links section of
Nurmix Web Central for a start in a different
What's my current Atari setup, you ask?
As my primary computer, I use an Atari Falcon030 that has the Nemesis hardware accelerator installed. This accelerator increases the speed of the CPU and DSP substantially. It also allows higher graphics resolutions than are available on a standard Falcon.
My Falcon contains 16 megabytes of RAM (only 14 are really available to the user), and a Conner 84mb internal IDE drive. In addition to that, I've got an external Seagate 4.29gig SCSI drive, a SyQuest EZ Flyer 230mb removable drive, and a Yamaha 4416sz CD-RW drive attached.
Scanning is handled by a UMAX Astra 1200s SCSI scanner, while printing is taken care of by an Epson Stylus Color 600 ink jet printer. A Pioneer 36x speed CD ROM drive, a Zoom 56k modem, a CTX 15" SVGA monitor, an Alfa Data mouse, and the Steinberg / SoundPool FDI (Falcon digital interface) complete the setup.
Future plans call for another accelerator or graphics card to increase performance even more.
And of course, I still have an Atari 520 STE with 4 megabytes of RAM, an
SC1435 monitor, a Golden Image external floppy drive, and a
ton of software, magazines, books, manuals and other miscellaneous hardware bits,
not to mention a rather large Atari 8-bit computer collection; consisting of four
800XLs, one 130XE, an 850 interface, several disk drives,
including an Atari 1050, Percom AT-88, Indus GT,
Rana 1000, and a B&C Happy 810. And I've got hundreds
of floppies full of 8-bit games, utilities, demos, applications and everything else in between, in
addition to a couple boxes full of magazines, books and manuals.
This site is 100% Atari made!
This entire web site was created on the computer I use every day: a Nemesis enhanced Atari Falcon030.
The HTML was written using the text editor QED, the pictures were scanned with Scan-X, and processed with Positive Image 2, Image Copy 4, and PixArt 4 graphics software. Some graphics were also imported from CD ROM, made possible by ExtenDOS Gold. The CAB (web browser) was used to view and check the HTML code (made easier by OLGA), NEWSie was used to upload the HTML documents and pictures to my web server (both utilizing the STinG TCP/IP stack) all under the multitasking OS MagiC 5, using NVDI 4 and HD Driver 7.61).
Paul Nurminen (Atari computer user since 1981)