Atari Is Underground Computing!

by Ian Smith


I got into Atari at the age of 17. I wanted a new computer to relive my Spectrum 48K days. It was my birthday Christmas Eve, so a few days before, my dad took me to Dixons. It was a toss-up between buying a Commodore Amiga  or an Atari STE. All my friends had Amigas, so I really wanted one of those. But I had heard of Atari because of its video games from the eighties. Now I wasn't so sure what I wanted as I realized here was an Atari computer.

At first sight the Atari and Amiga looked pretty similar. The same all in one case with a sloped keyboard and disk drive at the side. They even both had a fairly same looking operating system at first glance with their disk icons. The Atari though was slightly cheaper than the Amiga. Since my dad was buying and I wanted a monitor with the computer, well the fates decided - actually my dad's wallet did. I ended up buying the slightly cheaper STE and Phillips low/medium resolution monitor. A fairly standard set-up for the day.

All these years later having bought two Falcons and two STEs, various hardware add-ons and loads of software, I'm glad I originally bought the cheaper option. In many ways it was the better long term investment and it's good it sparked in me an interest in Atari. I actually have two Amigas as well, bought second hand out of curiosity about a year and a half ago. I still haven't unpacked them, my space is devoted to Atari machines.

I'm glad now to be part of a computer scene which is very much keeping the machines we love alive today. I've always been part of fringe things, either getting into them at their birth or when they're old. At the age of 11 I was into Hip Hop which was unusual considering that's almost 20 years ago. I embraced rave and dance music at its inception around 1988, much of it made with Atari machines. So I suppose it's only natural now that Atari computers being old (not passť though) and more of a fringe thing that I should be interested in them more than ever.

If you think about it, if the modern "Atari" games company turned around and said it was going to start making STs and Falcons again, well, there wouldn't be the same mystique about these machines, would there? The way it is now with ST emulators written for most modern machines and Atari bargains on eBay and such, now is the exciting time. Which is probably the reason why people collect antiques. Modern things might do the same job, or do it even better. But how much greater when you know your Atari was doing that thing before some modern day computer users were even born.

So that's why I painted the picture for MyAtari and gave it the slogan, "Underground Computing". Some people might consider our scene dead and our machines obsolete. And I attend the Cheshunt Computer Club which I think is the last Atari-oriented computer club in Britain. But the scene still lives on in many new and exciting ways, all be it in the domains of the underground.


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MyAtari magazine - Feature #4, November 2003

Copyright 2003 MyAtari magazine