Computer Chronicles Revisited 52 — Amiga Workbench, Deluxe Paint, NEOchrome, and VIP Professional

The term “home computer” was always a bit vague. Even today, I know there is some debate among tech historians over what machines actually fit that description. For example, was the Apple II a home computer despite the fact it cost substantially more than, say, a Commodore 64?

In my own review of this period, I’ve come to look at the Home Computer Era as extending from roughly 1977 to 1985. It was in April 1977 that former Chronicles host Jim Warren’s first West Coast Computer Faire featured the debut of the Apple II, the Commodore PET, and the Tandy TRS-80, the so-called “trinity” of early home computers.

That still doesn’t explain what a home computer was, however. I would say that for the most part–the TRS-80 being a notable exception–the Home Computer Era featured 8-bit machines running some variant of the MOS Technology 6502 microprocessor. (The TRS-80 was based on the Zilog Z80, which was common in many CP/M machines, but less-so in home computers sold in North America.)

Now strictly speaking, a number of video game consoles used the 6502 as well, such as the Atari 2600 and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). This brings me to my next point. The home computer was essentially a merger of early hobbyist computers, such as the Altair 8800, and video game consoles. Put another way, a home computer was a machine that made it easy to both play games and learn programming.

By 1985, the Home Computer Era was in its twilight, with the Apple II and the Commodore 64 as the two survivors. That’s not to say that home computers stopped selling in 1985. To the contrary, Apple and Commodore continued selling their 8-bit machines well into the early 1990s. But you no longer saw any new entrants into the home computer market by 1985.

Two things basically happened. First, the video game console market reconstituted itself following the collapse of the original Atari, Inc., in early 1984. The NES took its first steps into the North American market in late 1985. The second thing was the release of the Atari 520ST and the Commodore Amiga, which was previewed in an earlier Chronicles episode featuring Commodore founder-turned-Atari savior Jack Tramiel.

The 520ST and Amiga–also known as the Amiga 1000–were 16-bit computers based on the Motorola 68000 CPU, which also powered the Apple Macintosh. They represented a clean break with the Home Computer Era. For one thing, these were not machines you bought to learn how to program in BASIC. And while the 520ST and Amiga are remembered today largely as gaming machines, they also introduced next-generation improvements in graphics and sound technology, which signaled the direction that the bigger players in the industry would move towards during the latter part of the 1980s.

This next Computer Chronicles episode from early December 1985 focused on the similarities and contrasts between these new 16-bit machines. Obviously, Commodore and the new Atari were linked by Jack Tramiel. But these companies that were once at the forefront of the home computer and video game console markets, respectively, now found themselves competing to catch up in a larger personal computer industry dominated by the IBM PC and Macintosh platforms.

Would Software Makers Step Up to the ST and Amiga?

Stewart Cheifet opened the program by showing off the prior generation of Atari and Commodore machines, the Atari 800 and Commodore 64, respectively, which he said represented the battle between the low-end manufacturers a year ago. Today, there was a different battle between the Amiga and the 520ST. Critics praised both machines but people were trying to figure out what to do with them. Was this another case of computer technology in search of a market?

Kildall said the Commodore 64 took us through the first generation of home computers, but now people were turning back towards VCRs and TV sets. So to get those consumers back, the second generation of home computers had to have higher resolution, color graphics, and better sound, which meant higher-performance processors and more memory. The Amiga and 520ST provided these capabilities, so now it was up to the software developers to make it happen.

Atari Makes Its Case at COMDEX

Wendy Woods opened her first report narrating B-roll footage of the recently concluded fall 1985 COMDEX show in Las Vegas. Woods said at the largest computer show of the year, Atari held court at one of the biggest booths on the floor, with the 520ST as the star. Nestled inside the Atari booth were dozens of software vendors, each with a sign and just enough space for a sign and a demo computer.

Woods said Atari seemed to have two goals: First, a highly visible presence at the show; and second, a message to dealers that this was one computer company that didn’t forget about software. From business to education to sophisticated graphics, the substance of Atari’s show was its extensive variety of software. Meanwhile, Woods said, the Commodore Amiga, was conspicuously absent from COMDEX. Commodore instead held private meetings with potential dealers in Las Vegas.

In spite of Commodore’s low-key sales pitch, Wood said Amiga had successfully wooed some unlikely dealers. Andrew Drexler, manager of The Computer Attic in Palo Alto, California, told Woods that he typically catered to business customers. So the Amiga represented a new focus for him on the home market.

Woods said the Amiga’s dazzling graphics and advanced hardware had also attracted equally sophisticated retail buyers. Drexler said it was about half-and-half between people who were anxious to have the “latest and greatest” machine and those interested in writing software for the Amiga. He added that a lot of developers were still holding off to see what the consumer response was before fully committing to writing software for the Amiga. But Drexler said that so far, the consumer response had been great.

The Graphical Power of the Amiga

The first round table segment focused on the Amiga. Commodore’s Rick Geiger represented the hardware side as general manager of the Amiga division. Tim Mott, the vice president of product development for Electronic Arts, represented the software side.

Gary Kildall asked to go right into the demo of Workbench, the Amiga’s graphical user interface. Geiger said there was also a command-line interface available for people already familiar with them. Geiger then showed off the famous “bouncing ball” demo, which showed off the Amiga’s graphics and sound capabilities.

A 3-D model of soccer ball covered with a red-and-white checkered pattern bouncing against a blue background overlaid by a square grid.

Kildall was impressed by the demo. Cheifet asked Geiger to explain why it was impressive from a technical standpoint. Geiger said this was an example of synchronized, moving color graphics with sound playing at the same time. In addition, thanks to the Amiga’s multitasking capabilities, there was still a separate word processor application running.

Kildall asked Geiger to go more into depth about the Amiga’s graphics hardware. Geiger said there were 25 direct memory access (DMA) channels that provided all of the graphics rendering functions. This meant the graphics did not bog down the Motorola 68000 CPU. It also made it much easier to run multiple office applications at once.

Cheifet turned to Mott, noting that Electronic Arts was heavily invested in writing software for the Amiga. Why was EA so excited about the Amiga? Mott said that when EA started three years earlier, they envisioned a “home computer of the future” that would support much higher-quality audio-visual effects than was possible at the time. EA realized the technology would get to the point it wanted around the current time frame. When EA first saw the Amiga prototype about two years ago, it was clear that this was the machine that had the potential.

Mott, with assistance from Geiger, then showed off Deluxe Paint, an EA-developed painting program. Mott said this was the first in a series of creativity products for the Amiga. Mott said Deluxe Paint had enough features, and indeed was powerful enough, for a professional user. But it was also simple enough for home users to learn.

Cheifet asked about other upcoming programs in this creativity series. Mott said EA was working on a printing program to create banners, notices, and greeting cards; as well as a “deluxe” version of EA’s existing Music Construction Set and a new Video Construction Set, which would let users produce video special effects.

Geirger pulled up several sample images that showed off Deluxe Paint’s abilities, including a rendering of Sandro Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus. Mott noted this image was done by a professional graphic designer from scratch using the software.

A computer-painted image of a nude woman with long, flowing brown hair and standing against a blue background.

Another sample image showed a waterfall. Mott explained that by cycling color pallets, the Amiga could actually simulate the effect of the water moving.

Turning to practical concerns, Cheifet asked Geirger who he thought would buy the Amiga. Where did he see the machine being used? Geiger said that first and foremost, the Amiga was a powerful, general-purpose computer. On top of that, multitasking was built in from the beginning. He noted that users often expressed frustration over performance issues once they started using any sort of graphical interface or application. Thanks to the Amiga’s custom hardware, they’d been able to address those problems.

The Musical Power of the 520ST

Switching back to the Atari, Bryan Kerr and Jim Tittsler joined Cheifet and Kildall for the second round table. Both men worked for Atari Corporation, Kerr as the marketing manager and Tittsler as an engineer on the 520ST.

Kerr opened by demonstrating the 520ST, which he noted had been out on the market for about four months. He showed off the graphical user interface, which was based on the GEM desktop developed by Kildall’s Digital Research. Specifically, Kerr demonstrated the GEM Control Panel (which looked a lot like the Macintosh Control Panel, albeit in color).

A box subdivided into multiple parts. On the top left there are red, green, and blue color sliders. On the top right there are sliders to control the response time of the keyboard and mouse. On the bottom there is a color palette selector with 16 colors.

Kerr next explained the sound features of the 520ST. He said there was a built-in MIDI interface. Tittsler elaborated that MIDI stood for the “musical instrument digital interface,” an emerging industry standard that allowed a computer to sequence a series of notes going to a synthesizer. For this demonstration, the 520ST was connected to a synthesizer under the studio desk, which played a prerecorded song. Tittsler added the interface could also be used to record an artist playing at the keyboard. It worked much like a word processor, he said, allowing you to edit the timing and notes.

Tittsler said the 520ST also had an internal, three-voice sound chip which could perform its own synthesis. But by building the MIDI interface into the machine, the user had the ability to spend as much on music as they liked. So if you were serious about music, that path for expansion was available.

Kerr turned back to graphics, using the 520ST to show a slideshow of images producing using an in-house Atari drawing package called Neo. (This program was also known as NEOchrome, which is how I’ll refer to it.) Kerr said NEOchrome offered similar graphics capabilities to Deluxe Paint.

A computer-generated image of a steam locomotive on a railroad track, with a plume of smoke coming out of the train’s stack.

Kildall noted these sample images were loaded directly from the 520ST’s hard disk drive. Tittsler said that each sample image was 32,000 bytes. Kerr added this also showed off the machine’s DMA port, which transmitted data at 10 MB/second, which was comparable to the local area networking speeds of many minicomputers. Kerr also showed that NEOchrome could do the same sort of waterfall movement by cycling color palettes as the Amiga’s DPaint.

Kildall asked how much the 520ST cost. Kerr said the base configuration, including a black-and-white monitor with a resolution of 640-by-400 pixels and a single 3.5-inch floppy disk drive, retailed for a suggested price of $799.95. Kildall asked about the configuration that was actually on the desk, which included a color monitor, two floppy disk drives, and a hard disk drive. Kerr said you could get configurations “up to the $2,000 range.” He said the ST with a color monitor started at $999.95. He couldn’t price the hard disk configuration, since it wasn’t on the market yet.

Kildall asked what it would take to actually get home users to buy the 520ST. Kerr said Atari considered the 520ST a “personal computer,” and believed that “people determined what computers were used for,” whether it was in the home or the office. (In other words, Atari didn’t want to call this a “home computer.”) He insisted that the 520ST was as powerful, if not more so, than any other PC on the marketplace. But yet it was priced at a consumer level–and that was the reason for buying the 520ST.

To demonstrate the potential business use of the 520ST, Tittsler pulled up a spreadsheet program called VIP Professional, which he said would be “shipping next week.” Kerr added that it was a “Lotus work-alike,” so it would recognize Lotus 1-2-3 files but allow the user to take advantage of VIP’s integration with the GEM desktop’s user interface.

Cheifet asked tongue-in-cheek if Kerr and Tittsler could show a bouncing red-and-white soccer ball demo like Rick Geirger did on the Amiga. They could and they did. Kildall joked this now seemed to be the standard demo. Kerr said it was a good example of graphics animation. Tittsler added that the 520ST featured four custom chips designed by Atari but the Motorola 68000 processor still did a lot of the work.

Finally, Kildall asked how many 520STs had actually been sold so far. Kerr said that as of the end of the third quarter, they had shipped 50,000 units. He added the computer was now available in over 30 countries.

Stoneware Betting on Atari’s Low Prices

Wendy Woods presented her second remote segment, reporting from Stoneware, a software developer based in San Rafael, California. Woods opened by noting that whenever a new computer entered the market, software companies faced the tough choice of whether to write programs for it. In the case of Stoneware, which produced the database program DB Master–that meant choosing between the Amiga and the Atari 520ST.

Stoneware chose Atari. John Dickerson, Stoneware’s president, said the decision not to develop for the Amiga was due, in part, because it would have tied up too much of his budget for investing in other machines. The 520ST was much easier to develop for in that respect.

Woods said the success of DB Master on the ST, which would be marketed under the AtariSoft label, would depend on the success of the machine itself. But Stoneware believed the machine would sell. Dickerson said he certainly wouldn’t bet against Atari. Woods added that Stoneware had a history of taking risks, having written the first “serious” business software for the Apple II and the Macintosh, which turned out to be the right choice.

In the case of the 520ST, Stoneware expected the machine’s “revolutionary low price” would make it a best-seller. Woods added, however, that Stoneware still planned to eventually develop for the Amiga. But for now, they planned to produce more low-price products for the 520ST.

Would Emulation Make the Amiga More Attractive?

For the third and final round table, Lewis Moore and Tim Bajarin joined Cheifet and Kildall in the studio. Moore was president of Home Computing Centers, a small chain of California retail computer stores. Bajarin was a vice president with Creative Strategies, a market research firm.

Kildall opened by noting that Moore’s stores were selling both the 520ST and the Amiga. Given the range in price for different configurations of the ST discussed earlier by Bryan Kerr, what was the price for a comparable Amiga setup? Moore said the basic Amiga system was $1,295. But you needed to add a monitor, and to get the system memory up to 512 KB, that brought the price up to $1,895.

Kildall asked if customers saw the 520ST and Amiga as two different computers due to the price range. Were they comparing the two directly? Moore said that consumers were doing such comparisons, but he also believed that both systems would sell well.

Cheifet asked Moore what consumers actually said when they came into the store and compared the two computers side-by-side. Moore said there was a range of comments, such as that the Amiga had more features but it wasn’t worth twice the price of the Atari. Other customers came in planning to buy a less-expensive system like the Commodore 128 but ended up purchasing the 520ST instead.

Cheifet asked Bajarin to explain what market these machines actually served. Were they just classy game machines? Were they business computers? Bajarin said with respect to Atari, the company’s past history meant consumers were looking at it as more of a home gaming and entertainment product as opposed to a business machine. And while Commodore also had a strong background in the home market, the Amiga had more of a crossover possibility between the high-end home and small business market, especially given the Amiga’s promised compatibility with the IBM PC through emulation.

Kildall asked Bajarin to elaborate further on emulation. Bajarin said based on demonstrations that he’d seen, it was software-based emulation that made the Motorola 68000 CPU believe it was an Intel 8088 CPU. Unfortunately, software-based emulation was very slow. Bajarin said he hoped that someday Commodore would introduce some form of hardware-based emulation.

Cheifet turned back to Moore and asked him how the Amiga and 520ST were positioned versus other machines on the market such as the Macintosh. Moore said he was seeing a lot of new buyers who hadn’t purchased computers before and have been thinking about it. Now that the 520ST and Amiga were on the market, Moore said his stores were getting 20 to 30 calls a day from such potential customers.

Kildall asked Moore what customers were actually looking for when they came into the store to buy a computer. Moore said that at this early stage of the 520ST and Amiga’s life cycles, you were mostly getting people who were enamored with the hardware itself–because there wasn’t much you could do with the machines right now. Then there were people who were interested in the software that had been announced.

Cheifet ended by asking Bajarin if there would be enough software available for both of these machines. Bajarin said his firm’s surveys found that software dealers were taking a “wait and see” approach. They saw the potential in both machines but also recognized both Commodore and Atari had “somewhat rocky” financial positions over the last year. So everyone was waiting to see if software channels would open at the start of 1986.

Was There Room for Two More Platforms?

George Morrow’s closing commentary noted that both the Atari 520ST and the Commodore Amiga were linked to one of the “magic names” in the computer business–Jack Tramiel. Morrow said that at Commodore, and now Atari, Tramiel proved second only to IBM in the ability to establish de facto standards. And he was the major reason the press and public were willing to give both of these new machines a chance.

That said, Morrow cautioned that a computer was never more successful than the available software. While many existing programs could be ported to the Amiga and 520ST, that alone would not give customers enough reason to buy either. And given that there were already three major computer operating environments occupying software developers–MS-DOS, Macintosh, and the Apple II–it seemed unlikely the talent pool was expanding rapidly enough to support even one more operating system, much less two.

Desktop Publishing the Talk of COMDEX

Stewart Cheifet presented this week’s “Random Access” segment, which was recorded in early December 1985.

  • Several industry executives and analysts predicted price cuts across the software industry, from games to business packages. DataQuest noted there were approximately 27,000 software programs on the market, with a new product introduced an average of every 11 minutes.
  • Cauzin Systems introduced a new product, the Softstrip, which encoded programs on paper barcodes, which could then be read by a scanner. Cuazin said 17 magazine and text publishers planned to include Softstrip programs in their publications. Cheifet said readers could then scan those programs directly into the computers.
  • Desktop publishing was a major focus of the recent COMDEX show in Las Vegas. Cheifet said some vendors were showing complete “personal publishing systems” priced at under $10,000, as well as new laser printers priced at under $2,000.
  • Also on the subject of desktop publishing, there were two new magazines dedicated to the subject: Desktop Publishing and Personal Publishing.
  • Paul Schindler reviewed Wizard of Wall Street (MultiSoft, $45), a stock market simulator.
  • RICOH introduced the Writeboard, an electronic blackboard (that was actually white). Cheifet said the Writeboard could save what was written on it to a computer.
  • The United States, Canada, and Japan agreed to eliminate most tariffs on computer parts and peripherals. United States Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter said the agreement would lower U.S. costs and save the industry about $172 million per year.
  • A major computer problem at the Bank of New York held up the delivery of $25 billion in U.S. government securities. Cheifet said the problem forced a large overnight loan from the Federal Reserve Bank and temporarily drove federal fund interest rates down.
  • The 1986 Buick Riviera featured 10 different computer systems that took over the functions of 91 controls and gauges found on conventional cars. Cheifet said all computer controls were represented on a touch-sensitive computer screen, and service mechanics could plug the car’s computer into their own computers to diagnose problems.

Tramiel’s War Planning Under Fire

Gorge Morrow said Jack Tramiel’s “magic name” would help drive public acceptance of the Atari 520ST. The reality wasn’t so simple. Tramiel was famous for his mantra, “Business is war.” But war isn’t so easy to wage when you’re outgunned and lack allies.

Atari’s own 8-bit home computer line, which Tramiel inherited from Warner, was effectively dead by 1985. Meanwhile, both Commodore and Apple continued to sell their respective 8-bit machines in substantial numbers. In 1985 alone, Apple sold 900,000 machines from the Apple II series, and Commodore moved another 2.5 million C64 units, according to figures compiled in 2005 by Jeremy Reimer for Ars Technica. (I assume the Commodore figure also included some early Commodore 128 sales.) Although I argued that 1985 was the end of the Home Computer Era–at least in the sense that no new 8-bit 6502 machines entered the market–Apple and Commodore would remain in this segment of the market until the early 1990s.

Atari, however, really had nothing else to fall back on in 1985. There was a new video game console on-deck–the Atari 7800–but it was not released until May 1986 due to an ongoing battle between Tramiel and Warner Communications over who would pay the third-party firm that actually developed the machine. And by the time the 7800 did make it to market, Nintendo had already completed its successful launch of the NES.

Tramiel also had a long history of alienating business associates, which hampered his efforts to build support for the 520ST. Journalist John Markoff offered just one example in this October 1985 report:

Several months ago, two software developers were meeting with an Atari Corp. official to hammer out what they thought would be the final details of a major contract.

Suddenly, Atari Chairman Jack Tramiel marched into the room, announced his displeasure with the contract, picked it up and tore it in half. He then turned on his heel and left the room, leaving the developers sitting in stunned silence.

This was not an isolated outburst. Syndicated tech columnist Dan Gutman reported in May 1985 that a number of third-party developers decided against developing for the 520ST early on because of what they considered Tramiel’s duplicity:

When Tramiel announced the Atari ST in January, he gave a speech to the Software Publishers Association saying, “I need your help. I will give you support, technical or financial help.”

As it turns out, instead of supplying the software companies with advance samples of the ST, Atari has charged them each $4,500 to get one. Many companies refused the offer, preferring to sit back and see how the computer sells.

(Incidentally, Tramiel also charged the 45 developers who displayed their programs at Atari’s COMDEX booth a $1,000 fee, a cost-saving move designed to recoup the costs of attending the show.)

Gutman said that many developers were skeptical the 520ST would even be released. Of course, it did come out. But there were some unfulfilled promises, such as the CD-ROM drive I discussed in my last post on optical storage. Atari touted the prospect of a CD-ROM for the 520ST that never materialized due to cost concerns. This likely strained relations between Tramiel and Gary Kildall, as the latter had been counting on Atari’s CD-ROM to help launch his new Activenture business.

Then again, Kildall’s other company may have caused problems for Tramiel. The London Guardian reported on November 21, 1985, that NEOchrome, the drawing program featured in this episode, was essentially a last-minute replacement for GEM Paint, one of two programs that Digital Research reportedly failed to deliver to Atari, the other being a document editor called GEM Write.

There’s also a bit of sad irony in that the one third-party Atari developer featured in this episode, Stoneware, was already on its last legs when the program aired in December 1985. Stoneware had actually filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy back in April after a potential investor pulled out. The company closed for good in August 1986 when it was unable to pay or restructure its $1.7 million in debts, according to the San Francisco Examiner. John Dickerson told John Markoff that the company never recovered from its delay in releasing the original DB Master, which started as an Apple II program, for the IBM PC. Colorado-based Macon Systems, Inc., took over the marketing of DB Master, which was originally developed by another firm.

Did the Quest for Compatibility Kill Geiger’s Commodore Career?

Meanwhile, Commodore already had the backing of a number of major software players when it came to the Amiga. In that same Dan Gutman column I quoted above, he said that just about every major software executive he spoke to had been praising the Amiga. In addition to EA’s Trip Hawkins, Broderbund vice president Cathy Carlston gushed, “The Amiga is going to blow everyone’s socks off.” Another former Chronicles guest, Pinball Construction Set developer Bill Budge, said, “I know that everybody is developing for the Amiga. People are banking on that one. Nobody is developing for the Atari.”

Obviously, Commodore still had its own problems and obstacles to contend with. As this episode addressed, it still wasn’t entirely clear who was the target market for the Amiga. It was priced too high for the home market served by the older 8-bit machines. And business owners were by this time skeptical of any machine that didn’t offer IBM PC compatibility.

Tim Bajarin mentioned the promise of such compatibility, but that turned out to be easier said than done. Sheldon Leemon reported on the state of the Amiga’s early software-based emulation for Creative Computing after attending the Amiga’s launch press conference in July 1985:

When I inserted a Lotus 1-2-3 program disk, the program loaded normally. You could also say that it ran, but it might be more appropriate to say that it walked. The operation was said to take place at about 60% IBM speed, which looked about right. Also, it was not possible to operate the graphics section of the program, because the emulator, in its current primitive state, will run only programs that are compatible with the IBM monochrome adapter.

Jay Miner, a former Atari engineer who later led the Amiga’s development, said in a 1992 interview that it was Rick Geiger who had pushed MS-DOS compatibility to satisfy his bosses at Commodore. (Amiga started out as an independent company that was later acquired by Commodore after Tramiel’s departure as CEO.) Milner said an early attempt to produce an MS-DOS expansion card for the Amiga proved unsuccessful and led to Geiger’s “downfall” at the company. However, Commodore’s German subsidiary did release the Amiga Sidecar in 1986, which was basically an IBM PC XT clone that plugged into the side of the Amiga.

Going back to the issue of Amiga-native software, it’s notable that EA’s Deluxe Paint would end up becoming something of a “killer app” for the platform, more so than any of the early games that EA released, most of which were just dressed-up ports of the company’s existing titles. Deluxe Paint–commonly known as DPaint–was basically an internal development tool that EA decided to turn into a product. It helped make the Amiga popular among other game developers. EA would continue to release new versions of DPaint, which was later expanded to MS-DOS computers, until 1995.

Notes from the Random Access File

  • This episode is available at the Internet Archive and has an original broadcast date of December 3, 1985.
  • Andrew Drexler owned and managed The Computer Attic in Palo Alto until 1995. Since then, he’s worked as a mobile and web developer.
  • Tim Mott was one of the original employees of Electronic Arts, although not technically a co-founder as Stewart Cheifet described him. Mott previously worked at Xerox PARC. In 1990, he left EA and became chairman and CEO of MacroMind Inc., an early multimedia company that later merged with Authorware Inc. to form Macromedia, Inc., which created the bane of Steve Jobs’ existence, Flash. Mott continued to serve as chairman and CEO of the combined company until 1993, when he effectively retired from the industry. Today, Mott owns Blue Farm Wines in Sonoma, California.
  • According to the New York Times, Mott turned down an offer to serve as CEO of Kaleida, an early 1990s joint venture between IBM and Apple to develop multimedia products. That job ended up going to another former “Chronicles” guest, Nat Goldhaber.
  • Bryan Kerr was among the few employees to survive the transition from the Warner Communications-owned Atari, Inc., to the Jack Tramiel-owned Atari Corporation. Kerr left his role as Atari’s director of marketing sometime before the end of 1985 to join Blue Chip Electronics, a PC clone-maker based in Arizona. Three years later, Kerr co-founded his own company, Positive Corporation, which produced PC clones under the name Tandon. Kerr bounced around a number of different companies during the 1990s and early 2000s before starting another firm, GTILITY, Inc., which apparently focused on marketing sports video games to bars and restaurants.
  • Like Kerr, Jim Tittsler was also a holdover from the old Atari. He ended up staying until 1991. Since the 1990s, he’s lived in Japan and New Zealand, and most recently worked with the non-profit Open Education Resource Foundation.
  • Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies became a regular contributor to Chronicles going forward, and would occasionally sit in the co-host’s chair after Gary Kildall’s departure in 1990. Bajarin is still with Creative Strategies today, currently serving as its chairman.
  • The company behind the 520ST spreadsheet program VIP Professional, VIP Technologies Corporation, apparently lived a short life. According to the California Secretary of State’s office, the corporation was formed in May 1985 and suspended operations in May 1987.
  • The “bouncing ball” demo seen in this episode was originally created by Robert J. Mical and Dale Luck for an Amiga prototype displayed at the 1984 Winter Consumer Electronics Show.
  • The Cauzin Softstrip might be considered an ancestor of the QR code. Cauzin developed the technology under a joint venture with Eastman Kodak. The Softstrip never quite caught on, apparently due to the fact users needed a $200 reader attached to their computer to actually access printed programs.
  • In 2015, Electronic Arts made the source code for the original Deluxe Paint available to the public for non-commercial use through the Computer History Museum.