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Alive 8
        Still Flying at Ten!

A few assorted words on the Falcon's 10th anniversary.

To  write this piece successfully,  I have to put myself back to the way  we
were  ten  years ago.  Back in the early nineties,  the large ST  community,
demoscene  and non-scene alike,  was excitedly contemplating the arrival  of
the next generation of TOS machines. The ST in all its different forms was a
mature  system,  to  the point of needing replacement to keep it up to  date
with the newly arriving waves of beige boxes with an intel theme. What Atari
delivered, turned out to be their end of the line computer, the Falcon '030.

So  why have I got involved with such a machine to the extent that I did?  I
mean,  here I still am,  ten years later,  and to most rational people,  the
system is 'dead'. There is no sensible reason why I should still bother, but
I do.  Maybe it is something intangible,  part of a larger feeling,  but the
Falcon outlived the oblivion that Atari had lined up for it,  and now stands
triumphant at the culmination of its first decade.

I might that unlike the ST,  which had a commercially successful part of its
life,  the Falcon was a system which needed the enthusiasts to care about it
a lot earlier on in its life.  Happily,  the right people came forward! This
is their story as much as mine.

Also, people have a personal attachment to their particular part of the many
varied back catalogue of Ataridom. For example, our valiant co-editor STS is
a  big  STe fan,  many others rave over the hidden talents of the Jay  Miner
designed  800/XL series.  I met a bunch of people last summer who would  not
give  up their Jaguars until they are prised out of their cold  dead  hands,
but the Falcon is my personal fiefdom!

.:The Time Beforehand:.
There  was  a  rich  prehistory before we even laid  a  finger  to  a  Falcy
keyboard.  The rumour state prior to 1993 ran pretty wild.  At a time when a
68030  in an affordable computer was pretty advanced for most Atarians,  the
idea of a 'super-chip' like the DSP blew everyones mind. The rumoured versus
the  actual base spec were not so  far apart in retrospect,  but I  remember
some  bizarre  speculation on the way.  For example,  there was the detailed
conversation with somebody about a "virtual reality mouse"(*). Once the real
facts were out in the open,  there was still quite a bit of misunderstanding
over how powerful the machine really was. There were some wobbly comparisons
drawn  between  the theoretical and mythical hyper-machine,  and  everything
else  out  there.  If it were true,  then we wouldn't have had Bill Gates to
worry about anymore. Unfortunately it didn't turn out quite like that.

(*)  A  retrospective  scrutiny  of  an  Atari  glossy  brochure  from  that
optimistic period, DOES reveal the existence of something like that called a
"powerglove"!  So  this  wasn't  so  far from the  truth,  and  yet  another
promising prototype was canned by Atari corp!

.:Falcon Prehistory Trivia:.
Apart from what was to become the Falcon,  there were several other rumoured
Atari  prototypes in the period after the STe/TT launch.  These included  an
ST/Intel PeeCee 'combi' machine,  with both types of very different hardware
in  the same box.  Apparently,  some sort of 386 was to represent the PeeCee
end of things.

Of  course,  no retrospective trawl through the early history of the  Falcon
would be complete without a mention of the infamous 'STEE' or enhanced  STe.
News of this came to the world via Maggie issue 8.  This paraded a series of
confusing  but exciting range of different technologies,  from the expected,
such  as  a 16mhz 68000,  through the slightly off-centre in the form  of  a
credit  card  type  smart  memory  storage  system,  and  to  the  downright
fantastical,  in  the form of the Jaguar custom chipset being used!  As I've
recounted before, the mainstream press 'lifted' the story off an Atari press
release, which we're pretty sure was based on some writings contained within
a certain diskzine!

As stated earlier, in the pre-launch days people speculated wildly about the
real  capabilities  of the Falcon,  even when the basic specifications  were
fairly well known. Most confusion surrounded the role of the DSP chip, which
seemed to imply an increase in raw computing power, several dozen times over
that of a base ST!  ST Format wrote of its ability to decode "N-PEG movies",
which  makes me think that the Atari representative at the press  conference
wasn't  being heard too clearly.  Also that there weren't very many  printed
handouts being given out at these early press conferences?

One  persistent  story I keep hearing has the initial design of  the  Falcon
being made 'lite' with with a 16mhz 68000 cpu only.  The 68030 only appeared
on the blueprints, when a very cheap job-lot became available to Atari.

Another  persistent story concerns the initial batch of Falcons,  due for  a
Xmas  1992 release,  being rejected by faulty test equipment at the factory.
This delayed the proper launch until well into 1993.

.:Out of the Box:.
So  you've  waited patiently through the many broken promise  release  dates
being  pushed  forever  forward by Atari Corp.  You've kept the  faith,  and
finally been able to get your hands on the thing.  Eager hands pull open the
cardboard, to get at the expensive contents inside, what have we here?

A Falcon computer,  the very one that I am typing on right now.  A couple of
manuals,  one  for  the  machine itself,  another something to do with  some
Calenders and Appointment software,  a couple of disks, one of which was the
mislabelled 'language' disk, which was filled out with a bunch of utilities,
CPX stuff,  patches,  AHDI hard drive software,  and so on.  The second disk
'Extras' has mysteriously disappeared at time of writing,  but it is chiefly
memorable for the abysmal Atari adaptation of Breakout to the GEM desktop!

There were other goodies on the way,  which arrived sometime later,  such as
MultiTos,  and  some genuinely fun extras such as Audio Fun machine.  In the
meantime, we were left with this bare selection to kick off with.

I've still got a couple of booklets produced by Atari in the period  shortly
before or after the Falc was launched.

The first of these, and I think, the source of a lot of the wild excitement,
was  the  blue  pamphlet  describing the Falcon '030  as  the  worlds  first
"Personal Multimedia System".  It was produced by the European end of Atari,
the  US  head  office  isn't included on the addresses  on  the  back.  This
pamphlet  is  interesting,  as it describes the sort of add-ons  and  likely
applications  that came to characterise the PeeCee,around five years  before
that  machine started to hit the Multimedia pace.  Of great interest is  the
expectation that the Falcon could cut it as an all-singing and dancing audio
and  video  workstation,  with the "super fast" 68030 running at  4  million
instructions per second, and a DSP allowing processing times "up to 10 times
quicker than other personal multimedia systems."

But somehow,  in the light of long experience,  and in spite of all the good
things  that have happened with the Falcon,  I think Atari were living in  a
fools paradise to expect their 1992 design to be able to do any more than  a
weak imitation of today's multimedia, without some very expensive add-ons.

The  second of these blue leaflets,  produced at around the same time as the
first one,  gives a long and droolworthy list of great software coming forth
for this new machine. Oh how we all believed! It might be worth a quick look
to see how far these progressed, in the stony stark post-launch environment?

.:Missing in Action!:.
We never saw these listed items...

Falcon GCR, the updated Macintosh emulator based on Spectrum GCR.

Toki Line Test,  animation creation to professional video quality.  This may
have turned up in some studios? Not widely released??

Colour Thing, Falcon version of an Amiga 24 bit graphic card.

Picture Telephone, videophone, with the picture in a GEM window!

JVC Interface, software to control JVC range of hi-fi and video equipment.

FalcOS, Falcon version of AMOS/STOS.

Blackmail, voice mail system using DSP.

Yuppie's Land, Sonic type arcader, apart from that limited level demo.

Space  Junk,  only  got  a  level demo,  by the people behind 'Rise  of  the

Tornado Flight Sim, there was a nice PeeCee version of this.

Striker,  Chaos  Engine  etc.  In  fact  many games were promised,  and  not
followed up. Did we ever see the 256 colour version of 'Vroom'? This was one
of my local contact's main reason for his initial interest in the Falcon.

.:Picking up the Pieces:.
So the promised software is slow coming,  or not arriving at all.  Time then
to make the best of the situation, what were we doing back then in 1993?

I  had a favourite desktop colour.  This was anything apart from the  bright
green that glared from the ST desktop! The first thing to play with were the
default settings for the desktop. In my case, I went with a nice turquoisey-
blue.  Once you discovered how to adjust the settings and textures, you were

Next up,  was playing with the expanded range of colour icons.  This kept us
amused  for  a  short  while.  Then it was time to  set  up  your  preferred
screenmodes.  There  was  more of a choice of these,  than with the ST.  You
could  have  an  aspirational  640 x 480 pixels  in  256  colours  for  best
displaying those nudey .GIF's on a VGA screen.

Trying that on your old ST Philips monitor produced a flickerlace 640 x  400
high  resolution  mode.  This was alright for a short time,  but apart  from
Felice who seemed to stick with this for years,  most of us with RGB screens
gratefully  dropped down to an uglier but useable 640 x 200 mode.  A  little
bit  later on,  someone (Doug Little among them) discovered how to  activate
the 'hidden' overscan modes, which made using RGB a little more interesting.
Now why didn't Atari include these at the outset?

My   first   emotion  at  incomplete  Atari  software   welcome   pack   was
disappointment!  A  couple  of disks only,  and one of these containing  GEM

The first thing that showed off something of the extra power, after hours of
trying and failing with my existing ST game disks was the 3-D game  'Virus',
the  David  Braben shootemup.  It ran like the clappers.  It bootloaded fine
from the original disk as well!

The second thing that showed off the potential Falcon, was Griff's first DSP
based  modfile  player.  It  won  convincingly,  when  road-tested  with  an
identical  modfile,  against the sound output on an STe also at 50khz,  with
both machines linked to the same stereo.

I got an early 'warez' copy of the first application which was unique to the
Falcon.  This  was Musicom,  which led to hours of realtime DSP audio arsing

And  of course,  who can forget the first proper demo they got for their new
machine!  In  my  case,  it  was the legendary 'Terminal Fuckup' demo!  This
showed the way ahead,  in a cool hybrid oldie Amiga style, but with loads of
colours.  What  was  the  point  of  all those  funny  little  walking  bird
animations  that came beforehand?  My eternal thanks go out to Sh3 for  that

.:Falcon early years Trivia!:.
The  Maggie  issue  12 editorial referred hopefully  to  the  never-arriving
"consumer  Falcon",  expecting  it  'really soon'.  To be fair,  this was  a
favourite  theme  of the mainstream press too,  such as ST Format,  who once
referred  to such a machine having a total of 1.44mb of RAM!  It was a Paula
Richards issue, so such technical bloopers were easy to imagine!

The idea of a cheaper Falcon briefly revived itself during the C-Lab  years.
One  serious proposal,  disclosed to this writer by a C-Lab  representative,
was  to leave out the DSP,  with the option of adding that crucial  hardware

Atari marketing department were hoping to sell 150,000 Falcons in 1993. They
actually managed to sell 15,000 that year! (estimated)

Meanwhile  in  the  enemy camp....  Commodore US losses for 1993  were  $200
million!  They  really  needed to speak to the International  Monetary  Fund
(IMF) and the World Bank!

The widgets that were promised, but didn't arrive for the Falcon include the
following:-  There was a software modem,  which was supposed to use the  DSP
sound  synthesis to generate the required tones,  and an adaptor for the DSP
port to the phone socket. One wonders what sort of baud rate would have been
possible?   On  a related note,  Hisoft were floating around a D2D recording
digital answerphone. We never heard much of that in the end?

Legends of Valour, was touted as a flagship game for the Falcon in its first
year.  This  game  was  released  on the ST,  but the  promised  256  colour
identical to the PeeCee graphics version never made it to the Falcon. It was
all down to a clash of personalities between certain development managers at
Atari and US Gold. The personalities in question perfectly emulating that of
a two-year old screaming the house down because he didn't get his new toy!

Another  much-touted  'Falcon enhanced' game that came to  nought,  was  the
Bitmap  Brothers  'Chaos Engine'.  In this instance,  the brothers felt that
they  could not produce 256 colour graphics to fit within  the  constraining
1mb  base  memory  of the lowest spec Falcon,  which seemed  to  be  Atari's
preferred option for their non-appearing 'consumer' model.  Atari refused to
consider  a 2mb low-end Falcon,  so the Bitmaps said "Fine,  we won't bother

Other  'missing  in action' games may include a Falcon enhanced  version  on
'Zool',  described  in Maggie 15 as 'on a par with the A1200 version'.  This
was not going to be sold as a standalone release,  but bundled with a Falcon
Xmas  package  for the 1994 season by distributors Silica?!  A  sequence  of
events  so unlikely,  that the underlying scepticism seeped in even at  this
early stage!

The  expectation of a Falcon enhanced version of the classic STe  pinballer,
Obsession,  was  strong.  There were supposed to be extra levels added on as
well.  This ultimately didn't happen, with suggestions that much of the work
*was*  done by Unique Developments,  but the disks literally got lost in the

The first Dead Hackers production,  was reviewed in Maggie 14 in early 1994.
The end comment reads thus:- "A Nice dentro-type production. A little sparse
on  things  such  as fonts and original hand-drawn graphics,  but  well  put
together  and  no  rough  edges.  75%" Now,  Dead Hackers,  a promising  and
talented bunch of kids, wonder whatever happened to them?

And on the subject of those early demos...

My first "Bloody hell, they're actually *doing* something with the DSP other
than sound replay!" moment came from the EKO 'Papa Was a Bladerunner'  demo!
"The cubes, the cubes!!"

A first sighting of texture-filled tunnel came in the early Avena 'Dementia'
demo.  If  only we'd known just how many of these were to come to us in  the
future, we might just have stifled our initial enthusiasm a little!

The first 'Demo Gods' were clearly Lazer,  the Austrian team kicked off with
the 'Warum' demo in the summer of 1993.  This effort was ahead of everything
else,  and  the  first good multi-parter release.  They stayed ahead of  the
pack,  with  'Ungto'  in 1994,  peaking in 1995 with the still popular 'Lost
Blubb'  Dance-tro!  There  is nothing to be seen of them now,  apart from an
ancient web page,  which still hangs on in there. That will be due its tenth
anniversary in 2006!

And some wise words from Maggie 14 to finish this chapter off with.. "In the
absence  of  any encouraging signs from Atari,  the Falcon will become  'the
machine  they couldn't hang' with support at the enthusiast level  remaining

How right that was!  Who could have predicted a Falcon '060 a decade later??
There is also this bit, which might retrospectively amuse you.

"The only really major worry,  is that Atari,  in characteristic style, will
make  a premature announcement about the Jaguar computer long before  it  is
actually ready, thus killing off any interest in the Falcon altogether...."

.:A bigger bird:.
The  following  shows  the hardware evolution of the Falcon  over  the  past
decade.  This is mainly from a personal point of view,  but with added notes
to cover general trends at the time.  It is interesting to note that for the
majority  of software,  a 1993-era machine with little or even no expansion,
is still viable!

The 1993 Falcon, just out of a fresh new box:

16mhz 68030 (32mhz DSP), 4mb ram, 65mb hard drive.

This  was  the base spec machine,  as I first purchased it,  in April  1993.
There were cut-down versions with even less,  with no hard drive, and a tiny
1mb  of  ram.  Not too many of the latter,  as I couldn't get one,  and I was
"forced" to upgrade to the fully loaded spec detailed above. At the time, it
felt like a fairly luxurious and slightly expensive move,  but, as it turned
out,  a wise one. Of those software developers that did make the effort, no-
one  bothered  to cater for the 1mb version at all.  I don't think too  many
people managed without a hard drive for very long either.

It  was  possible  to  add widgets to boost  the  basic  performance  almost
straightaway.  From  the  Screenblaster resolution extender,  to a quick and
dirty  cpu overclocker ('Power Up' to 32mhz),  and even the mighty Compo 286
PeeCee board running Windows 3.1 at 16mhz!  Funny how the whole PeeCee board
add-on thing died on its arse,  once you hit the paltry upper limits on what
was possible on those, compared to the real thing.

The 1997 Falcon, been going for a bit, now thinking of improving it:

16/24mhz 68030 and 48mhz DSP (Nemesis overclock), 68882 fpu, 14mb ram, 520mb
hard drive(s), SCSI CD-ROM, 14.4k modem (Stop laughing, it was very cheap!)

By this time,  a fair share of upgrades had gone into it. An early candidate
for expansion,  was the hard drive,  which changed a few times, both for the
internal device,  and the external SCSI.  I got into CD-ROM fairly early, in
'95.  The 68882 was a quick and cheap purchase that same year,  which became
retrospectively  useful  in  with  the Orneta  4ktro!.  The  most  traumatic
process,  was in adding the Nemesis overclocker,  which went wrong at first,
but worked acceptably afterwards. The ever cheapening 14mb of ram started to
come into its own,  when ram-stealing third party multi-tasking O/S's became
popular.  1997 was the year in which the internet became popular,  and first
steps to get online were taken.

By  that time,  it was possible to take a base Falcon quite a long way.  The
most  powerful (in cpu terms) upgrade,  was the legendary Afterburner  68040
booster.  (Which had finished production by then.) Atari had talked about an
'040  Falcon,  but  nothing came of it,  before the guillotine came down  on
their  computer development.  System Solutions did a nice multi-part booster
increasing  the  ram,  cpu,  and screen modes,  sort of a "son of Power-up".
During  that  period  ,  people were also talking confidently  of  a  Falcon
successor,  in the form of the 'almost but not quite' Phenix. This is one of
the  more  tragic "If only" stories of our time,  but the creator,  Rodolphe
Czuba, was not daunted, as the next section now reveals.

The 2000 Falcon, and yes, it was Y2K compliant:

50mhz 68030 and DSP (CT2), 68882 fpu, 14mb ST-ram and 64mb EDO Fast-ram, 4gb
hard  drive(s),  SCSI  CD-ROM and Zip drive,  33.6k Modem.  And all this went
into a *second* Falcon that I got!

This is the point that the "My hardware is bigger than yours"  willy-shaking
starts  to get really interesting.  Rodolphe Czuba developed the Centurbo  2
(CT2) as a proper professional level accelerator board. No mere overclocking
of  the existing components here,  this was the real thing!  The addition of
EDO  Fast-ram  in particular lifted it above what was expected of  a  normal
stock  Falcon.  It turned out that compatibility with the existing  software
was better than I had dared to hope. Some people even bothered to write some
stuff for it. Oh, and we even managed to beat the Millenium bug!

The  CT2 was only meant to be a work in progress,  a cash-cow for the fabled
but dead Phenix computer project.  After that was killed, Rodolphe came back
with his proposal to stick a seriously powerful 68060 in a standard  Falcon,
this  was  to become the CT60,  eventually...  Others talked of an even more
powerful  PowerPC based accelerator called 'Tempest',  which would have been
seriously cool if it had made it, but it didn't in the end.

In  the  meantime,  (including the time of writing this paragraph),  the CT2
soldiers quietly on.

The 2003 Falcon, ultimate! for now:

66mhz 68060 (clocked DSP),  256mb SDram,  multi-gig hard drives, CD-ROM, Zip
drive,   56k  modem.   Recase  pending,  possible  100mhz  upgrade  pending,
Supervidel  graphics  card for CT60 pending,....  More to  come???  Internet
broadband via ethernet possible!

And  this  is where we are at the present.  Is this the ultimate step to  be

Even if it took a long time, the CT60 managed to reach the market, which was
more than can be said for the other great hope for Atari at the turn of  the
Millenium,  the aborted Milan '060. Still, that machine had little in common
with  the  Falcon heritage,  being more of a PeeCee-styled machine in  Atari
clothing.  There are still developments pending for the Falcon,  even in its
'060 expanded state, such as the SuperVidel add-on graphics card, which will
be nearly as big a step as getting the CT60 itself.

One wonders where this process might stop. Could a PowerPC or Coldfire based
Atari ever be made?  Will this old Atari ever get into USB interfacing? Some
people  like to think so.  Rodolphe is asking "What do you want to do next?"
Only time will tell.

.:A 'What if?' tale:.
What actually happened - The machine had a short manufacturing life starting
around  1992?  The first failed batch described earlier,  delayed the actual
launch  until  '93.  It has been postulated that there were several tens  of
thousands  actually  made,  (see  the last issue of Alive.)

A  proposed  and  prototyped(!) '040(*?) variant  called  the  Microbox  was
cancelled  when  Atari  shifted focus to the  Jaguar.  An  expected  cheaper
'consumer'  machine (with 16mhz 68000?) never appeared.  It lingered on when
C-Lab took over the rights,  and remaining stocks in '94,  but was gone soon
after.  The  C-Lab  intervention  produced a tidied up,  but  not  radically
modified product, new models were suggested, but nothing else happened.

(*)  It  is  generally  assumed the Microbox referred  to  the  '040  Falcon
variant,  but  I  seem to recall one report suggesting a more TT-like  32mhz
'030 with fastram combination.

What could have happened?  - In its present incarnation, I'd say the outlook
was  not  a  lot better.  The Microbox would have been launched,  to  polite
industry  applause.  Both machines would have been better supported by Atari
for a while.  But with the explosive growth in the PeeCee market, and in the
power of those machines, it is hard to see how the Falcon and Microbox could
have  kept  up?  Maybe a killer video app,  the visual equivalent of  Cubase
might have helped? Atari could either have killed off the whole thing a year
or  so later,  or perhaps would have followed the movements of Apple closely
by  getting  into  PowerPC based hardware.  This sort  of  suggests  another
generation, and another name, and the end of the bird?

What could have happened part 2! - Instead of the depressing scenario above,
Atari  could  have  had a fundamental shift in the design  of  the  hardware
before  it got to the marketplace in 1993.  Say Atari decide to use the  top
secret  Jaguar  custom  chipset  in its new  computer.  The  new  Falcon  is
radically different from the machine we know and love today. It is still TOS
compatible,  it  does have TOS 4 in the format we know.  It probably retains
the 16 mhz '030 too.  But underneath the casing,  it resembles more of a new
generation  Amiga,  which attracts the more intelligent and less  judgmental
parts  of the Amiga community,  who are disappointed with the mediocrity  of
Commodore's A1200. This hypothetical version of the Falcon doesn't penetrate
the  mass market to the extent that the ST did,  there are too many  PeeCees
around  for that,  but it does ship in substantially larger numbers than the
real world timeline Falcon ever did.

Assuming at least one major update to the chipset and CPU follows,  it takes
the  place  of  what  has been a 'missing link' in  the  home  and  personal
computing of the last decade, an amateur coder-friendly, scene machine, with
a distinct identity all its own.  This is enough to substain it, say for the
next few years, and give Atari breathing room to decide what to do next.

Wired magazine, July 1998..

"Atari sleeper hit console gains momentum!"

"Atari,   the  long-standing  veterans  of  the  video  games  and  hardware
manufacturing business,  have been enjoying something of a quiet renaissance
with  their  most  recent  entry to  this  competitive  market,  the  Jaguar

"Compared  with its perceived rival,  the keenly awaited Sony Playstation 2,
the  Jaguar  does not seem to offer a lot more at first  glance,  but  first
impressions  can be deceptive.  Atari have managed to quietly penetrate  the
marketplace  to a surprising extent,  given their limited resources compared
with the giant Sony corporation."

"Much  of the Jaguar's recent success has been down to an enlightened  'open
access'  policy  for  developers.   This  is  astounding,   especially  when
contrasted  with  the very closed down and restrictive  policies  taken  for
granted by the big Japanese console makers.  The Jaguar's open architecture,
easy-access  CD-ROM  software base,  and the sheer enthusiasm of the  people
behind the Jaguar project are all making a fantastic difference."

"Now we must say something about the people.  The thriving amateur developer
and coder scene,  with many years prior experience on Atari products are the
Jaguar's  secret weapon.  Most of them cut their coding teeth on a  computer
sporting an earlier version of the Jaguar chipset,  the Falcon.  The current
Jaguar chipset is an evolutionary and backwardly compatible outgrowth of the
earlier one,  and it is not too hard to see how skills honed in untold hours
of  bedroom  coding  on  the Falcon,  can be so easily  transferred  to  the

"This instant broad developer base has not been slow in coming forward  with
many new and innovative projects for the new console.  The only problem that
Atari  has,  is  in keeping up,  but several well-known 'names' in  software
publishing are more than happy to step in to help."

"Electronic  Arts  are the latest publisher to back the Jaguar,  it  is  not
surprising  to learn that their UK and European operations have a  fanatical
core of hardened Atari fans coding them!"

"We  consider  the Playstation cool,  but ultimately a distraction from  the
real  business  to hand.  We feel that the Atari Jaguar has got a  limitless
future!"  said  Martin  Griffiths,  head of the recently  expanded  in-house
Jaguar development facility, based at EA UK in Guildford.

"With this sort of backing, and with the past legacy of intelligent decision
making,  and  careful  niche market cultivation by Atari,  he could well  be

"It  is  strongly rumoured that the Jaguar console was  actually  prototyped
with  this  early chipset several years ago,  but a last minute  rethink  by
Atari canned the early version console, instead putting their resources into
the Falcon computer instead. Other rumours suggest that the Falcon was going
to  be  launched  in  the  92-93  season  with  a  much  more   conservative
specification  than the one we are now familiar with.  One can speculate  on
the  fate  of  Atari  being very different,  and not at all  happy,  if  the
decisions taken in 1992 had strayed from the path they actually chose?"

.:Where we stand now:.
Personally,  I  didn't think the Falcon would get this far,  but when the ST
series  still has obvious love and care devoted to it,  and new demos  made,
and that machine is now eighteen, which is old enough to buy itself a drink!
I suppose you have to think, why not stay with the Falcy?

Now  no celebration can go without a quick summary of how things are  going,
now and in the near future, so here we go...

Demos.  There  has been a  generally sparse picture this year.  Saying that,
there have been some nice releases.  I enjoyed seeing some of these at Error
in Line last Easter.  The tSCc produced "Beams" demo is particularly awaited
by  me.  It  shows  the  way ahead.  Unrepentant DSP abusers  Escape  nicely
reprised  the  'Hmmm'  demo at that same party.  We also  saw  an  oldschool
release from Cruor. Other new productions are in the pipeline from the likes
of Lineout/FUN, who gave us the massive 'Delta' demo at the beginning of the

The biggest cause of current excitement for the lucky people concerned comes
with  the  new  and vast possibilities raised by the release  of  the  CT60.
Several  people have promised demos for this,  and some are close to  having
something  ready  real  soon now,  as of time of writing!  I've also  got  a
feeling it will be a good idea to see what appears next Easter!

Games.  Erm, well, there's been a distinct falling off here. There have been
very few new games,  and none that are really Falcon specific. The major new
interest in gaming for this year comes with the CT60 again. Patrice Mandin's
longstanding  ports of Doom and Quake now start to come into their own.  The
Reservoir Gods have indicated they are getting back into the Falcon  slowly,
and  hopefully  there would be some other projects coming  forth?  Including
some long-delayed ones like Reekin' Rubber and Willies Adventures?  With the
extra power to hand, maybe Patrice would get more adventurous with his ports
as well?

Music.  The  big news for this year has been the release of the long-awaited
Ace  Tracker,  as  a follow-up to Ace Midi.  Both these programs are genuine
killer  apps  for the Falcon,  I wonder if they could have  transformed  the
fortunes  of the platform if they had been available at the beginning?  Some
further fixes to take the CT60 into account are on the way.  The other major
activity  is likely to mainly feature porting other long  established  music
apps and media players to the CT60 too. I would like to see a new version of
Flaysid sometime as well. (Well if you don't ask, you don't get!)

Graphics.  There is not too much that is distinctive happening here.  We are
still  awaiting Godpaint 2 (grin!) I daresay a portover of Escape  Paint  to
the  CT60 will be on the cards,  most existing GEM apps will finally  become

Multimedia.  Aniplayer is still brilliant,  but it has got stuck for a while
since  Didier got busy with CT60 support.  There is only so much one man can
do on his own.

Internet.  The  Highwire  browser  came of age this year,  see the  separate
review elsewhere in this issue. I won't go on too much more about it, but it
is super-quick compared with CAB,  virtually instantanous on the CT60, modem
download speeds excluded of course.  This is not Falcon specific,  but seems
to look more kindly on the higher spec hardware. Other internet applications
are  still  being  continually developed.  Such as Atari  IRC,  and  various
emailers.  I think Draconis is still under development as well,  making this
one of the healthier areas of the current market.

Hardware.  This has kept THE big news to itself for this year,  and probably
most  of  the future potential interest too.  We got the CT60 at  last!  The
Supervidel  is  the  next  area  of  interest,   and  will  complement  CT60
brilliantly.  Then  there  is the possibility of more coming from  Rodolphe,
providing he can make good his losses at the hands of idiots!

So the summary,  at year ten can be said to be generally tranquil.  The bulk
of  applications around are best described as 'legacy'.  The biggest  single
new  factor  is the belated arrival of CT60,  and the new possibilities  and
revival of interest for those people with one of those. There will certainly
be  new  demos,  more  game  portovers that need the  extra  power  to  work
properly.  I'd  like  to see a few more emulators myself ;-) Hopefully,  and
that is an extra-special act of faith,  somebody,  somewhere will be working
on an all-new project, especially for the CT60!

There  will  be more work put in on the internet experience,  with  Highwire
really  becoming mature and fully featured.  Hopefully Didier can return  to
Aniplayer  and that will gain more features and formats.  I seem to remember
some  sort  of commitment to a CT60 version of 'Whip!' And  I  think  Escape
paint was mentioned on the Czuba-Tech developers list.

The future is looking reasonable,  as long as there are even a few dedicated
people around. The only danger is in a gulf between CT60 and non-CT60 owners
now  opening  up,  but that depends on rate of activity from both sides.  In
other words,  if there is a thriving CT60 scene, but not much from the base-
spec hardcore rules end, there may be more scope for misunderstanding?

It's been a long and interesting ride, far longer, and more interesting than
I dared to hope as well.

Here's to the next ten years!

CiH, for Alive Mag,Dec '03.

Alive 8