ERA OF WEBZINES
Two up and coming English language Atari Webzines assessed.
Think back to this time last year, the final issue of Atari Computing was
just about to hit the letterboxes of a tearfully nostalgic nation. Tearful,
because this was the very last issue, of the very last English language
paper mainstream magazine. Nostalgic, because they remembered a golden age
of newsagents shelves bulging with Atari related publications such as ST
Format, (well, maybe not quite as golden as we first thought!)
It seemed we were left with the likes of the valiant but spasmodic 'ST Plus'
fanzine, and a host of excellent online news providers. Which is where the
story comes right up to date, as it were.
Someone, in another diskmag somewhere, wrote, "The internet promoted the
survival of the smaller more obscure non-Wintel computer platforms, in this
age of mass conformity." Or something like it. Anyway it is the internet
that we have to thank for this latest initiative, as there is not one, but
two new contenders for the leading English language magazine, running rife
on the net!
With HTML being the preferred information carrier of the new Atari age, it
is therefore unsurprising that they both have adopted a webzine format. The
two new entrants are known as 'Atari Active', and 'My Atari' respectively.
The inspiration behind this project, is Matthew Bacon, who might be better
known as the person behind Cadenza Software (Web Wizard). He has made a
strong start, getting more or less a complete set of articles online
The style is bright and attractive, black on white text, fairly
conventional, with a graphical main menu for the different sections of the
magazine, with suitable graphics for sub-menus such as 'News', 'Features',
and so on. (There seems to be a problem with some of these not loading in
and leaving blank spaces. Whether this is a case of missing graphics, or a
problem with my browser, CAB, is unclear at this point?)
Turning to the articles, there is a reasonable range of these. The 'News'
neatly sidesteps the issue by referring to the URL's of the main existing
news providers such as Dead Hackers, Place2Be, and MagiC Online. Thus freed
from the burdensome duty of trying to scrape together a different 'angle' on
the days news, My Atari is free to concentrate on other areas.
Features and Reviews are two areas which are worth stopping by. In the
features section, we get detailed reviews of the Centurbo 2 (with
screenshots of the enhanced Truecolor desktop!) A useful user report on the
virtual memory manager 'Outside'. "When Milan met SCSI" gets in there too.
There is even a nostalgia piece on the great days of the Atari 2600 console.
The style of articles is professional or semi-professional, and very much
like the sort of thing seen in Atari Computing, or the last great serious
webzine, Atariphile. Article length is encouraging, and detail levels are
well up to the best diskmag standards. The other bonus of going for a
webzine format, is that the constriction of paper availability on article
length no longer applies. So it is therefore possible to expand your textual
There is quite a bit in the vein of introducing the site, and the concept of
My Atari to first time readers. This includes a subscription form, and a
handy style guide for intended contributors. (Hint for potential Maggie 10th
anniversary contributors, we don't need no stinking HTML tags in our
articles! Or even anything that makes much sense. I'm the maschochistic mug
who will happily sit down and sort it all out!)
There are other nice touches too. A sub-menu marked 'Public Domain' reveals
a batch of essential utilities such as Newsie, the last non-commercial
version of CAB (v1.5) and ST ZIP. Old history to most of us, but useful to
someone who may be discovering Atari for the first time.
The site is updated on a regular basis, presumably as soon as new articles
appear, they are added to the site. Some areas, such as demo scene coverage
are missing at the moment, although steps are being presently undertaken to
put this right (hem hem!) Generally, prospects for My Atari are good, as
Matthew Bacon has a reputation as one of those rare people on the Atari
Scene, WHO GETS THINGS DONE!
This is the other debutante to the suddenly competitive arena of Atari
related publications. Atari Active, comes courtesy of the old ST Plus team,
to be more specific, the bulk of the activity seems to be coming from that
Northern pie master, and perpetually frustrated coding party visitor,
The layout is fairly conventional, menu to submenu system, and so on. The
style of the site seems to be sleeker than that of My Atari, with a smart
light text on black background being favoured, and a choice of cool stylised
green neon icons to highlight the different sections of the 'zine.
Clicking on a main menu icon, leads to the appropriate sub-menu. There are a
wide bunch of topics that Atari Active is intending to cover. I say
"intending", as the bulk of these come up with a test menu, as there are no
articles in place as yet. In this vein, we wait and see what such categories
as "Demo Scene" will bring forth? There is a news icon, which is semi-
regularly upated, with the headlines of the time. There are one or two
reviews, Smurf, the image processing package, gets in there, and with a
similar level of detail to the material that appears in My Atari.
There is also a chat forum or message board, similar in style to the
Atari.org forums, although it is very early days here as yet.
The level of content seems to be where Atari is least active at the moment?
Most of the categories are still awaiting developments. It looks like Atari
Active could have used some more time in getting some text together, as it
looks rather bare and undersupported in places. He is making a valiant
single handed effort at keeping the news up to date, and general updating is
taking place, very slowly.
This is also the aspect of Atari Active that most worries me. It seems that
Carbon is running this as a one man band, with very little help and support
from elsewhere? I wonder if any of the rest of the former ST Plus team,
(Atari Mad) are going to be involved, or alternatively, how successful is
Carbon going to be in soliciting outside help, especially now that there is
this rich diversity of new publications, diskmag and webzine alike, for
people to write for?
One way or another, Carbon is going to have to face the problem that has
defeated countless wannabe amateur Atari publishers over the years, that of
getting or writing sufficient text, to make the project worthwhile.
We have two new publications for Atari computers, both of which richly
deserve to succeed. It remains to be seen if there is room for one or both,
in the suddenly crowded Atari electronic media market?
Time will tell who thrives, and who is left updating at Reservoir God
CiH, Alive! Magazine, Oct '00