Jack Tramiel saved Atari!

Debunking Jack Tramiel does it again!

Before we begin, a comment has to be made about the wanted poster at the start of the author’s post and idea that Jack Tramiel “murdered” Atari; since he took a brand that was perilously close to bankruptcy and turned it completely around in the space of a couple of years, the idea that what he did was somehow a bad thing is extremely amusing.

In 2012 I bought an Atari 65XE 8 bit computer, complete with Atari XC12 cassette based data recorder. I knew this was a compatible system to the Atari 800XL (which was nearly my first computer), but that it had been given a makeover after Jack Tramiel took over Atari in 1985.

Tramiel didn’t take over Atari in 1985; for a start the relevant transactions took place in 1984 and the sale wasn’t for Atari outright either, just the assets of the consumer division which dealt with computers and consoles; the deal included taking over all the debt Atari had at that point and Tramiel sunk pretty much everything he had into keeping the company afloat until it could be turned away from the brink.

Part of the sale agreement with Warner Bros was that he must continue to support the Atari 8 bit computers. This was why he continued to produce them, but revamped into new models called the 65XE (64K) and 130XE (128K).

Atari’s consumer division under Warner was a mess at this point (it had ridiculously large debts and unpaid invoices that had been sent to firms which were either in similarly wobbly financial boats or had already gone down with all hands) so the idea that Warner would be pushing stipulations on people when all they apparently wanted was to be rid of a toxic asset is extremely questionable; Atari historian Marty Goldberg has noted previously that at “the time of the implosion and splitting, [Atari] were working on moving to the next generation of computers” so it seems even more doubtful that a company looking to move on would insist contractually that Tramiel kept the line going.

If the author wants to comment here and provide links to his sources, your correspondent will check the details further with someone who really knows their Atari history, otherwise we’ll have to assume it’s just another flight of fantasy.

Unfortunately, I found out that I wasn’t allowed to load a BASIC program from tape, then unplug the XC12 data recorder and plug in the SIO2SD Micro device with the computer still turned on, because this would probably cause damage to the computer or the SIO2SD Micro device.

Connecting and disconnecting I/O devices and computers when the power is on has always been frowned upon because it can potentially cause hardware damage, especially where there’s a voltage on one of the pins like the 5 volt line in the Atari 8-bit’s SIO port. That isn’t to say it can’t be done of course and many people did back in the day, just that there’s a degree of risk involved.

But the problem the author finds himself with is because the designer of the SIO2SD didn’t allow for the XC12 rather than the other way around; trying to blame a decision made two decades ago rather than the one taken on a far more recent design of a device that could have had two SIO ports like the disk drives it was emulating but didn’t is laughable at best. Some of the fault of course lies with the author for not checking before purchasing the SIO2SD to make sure what he wanted to do was actually viable.

This means I’ve had to transfer programs by loading them, writing them down by hand, then typing them in again and saving them onto the SIO2SD Micro device!

Your correspondent tried to not laugh at this sentence but, sadly, it simply wasn’t possible; it would have been a crying shame if the listings being transferred were particularly long as well…

Another problem with the Atari 65XE compared with the 800XL is quality of construction. One morning, I turned on the 65XE and found the keyboard was totally dead! None of the keys were working at all. I managed to repair it myself after finding advice online, although I could never get the Select key to work again.

The machine in question is well over a quarter of a century old and, although users have looked after their 8-bit computers and consoles well to keep them running this long, they are still well past what their active lifespan was meant to be; expecting a machine that old to function flawlessly is perilously close to idiotic on the author’s part.

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