So how did I avoid Bill Gates??

It all happened quite unexpectedly way back in late 1991. I was sitting by my fireside enjoying yet another offering from the BBC, there came a tapping at my door which turned out to be my neighbour Jackie who was looking for a place to hide a christmas present she had just received in the post for her sons. It was a family curriculum pack containing an STE 1040 and a selection of software. I was given permission to open it and have a muck about just to see that it was working alright. My experience with computers at that time was limited to a short familiarisation module during a recent Hotel Management course at college where we were of course using PC's Apples and Apricots. So I had never seem anything quite like the STE!! During those few weeks leading to christmas '92 I became quite familiar with the operation of the Atari and wondered if I might be able to get one of my own.

Christmas came and I said goodbye to the Atari and then it was all forgotten. Until, a few months later, a work colleague who was moving house asked me if I would be interested in purchasing his Atari STFM and a printer (Star LC10). Yes I said, I would. Eventually, after a few weeks of using this on a small B&W television he came back to me offering an RGB monitor as well and that was the turning point. When I finally saw the quality that was possible on this humble machine I began to take an interest.

I wanted to do everything at once, send FAX's, perhaps get on the Internet? Well FAXing was no problem but the internet?? No way, not in 1993 anyway!!. The STFM was a little less capable than the STE had been but I soon got used to it's short fall.

Next came the purchase of a Hard Drive from Dave at the Upgrade Shop, now I had 235Mb of storage space and the world was my oyster, how had I managed without it I wondered, programs loaded in the blink of an eye and I had unlimited storage capacity, no problems with large programs and bitmapped fonts now. But I could do with some more memory.

So a 1 Mb upgrade was fitted and now we were flying. At this point I was still just using the Atari for word processing and doing my banking at home. I eventually purchased a copy of Timeworks 2 and found out all about desktop publishing!! This was fantastic and indeed Timeworks is still a very capable program although version 2 does not support vector fonts, but then, I didn't know what they were so I was delighted.

At this point I began to wonder about speed, as I was now working with large documents and of course, images, within Timeworks. Sometimes I was able to go and make a coffee while waiting for images to load and display!! More memory might help, someone said, so I fitted a Marpet upgrade, which meant I had to remove the original 1 Mb upgrade and fit the, quite complex, Marpet board populated with 2 Mb. Still slow!! A few programs worked a little faster, and to be fair, Timeworks was one of them since it used data slaving and was able to load more of the overlays into RAM at each session, however it was still a bit slow with images.

Around about this time, 1994'ish, I had my STFM upgraded to TOS 2.06 as my original operating system was a little outdated and clunky, I also invested in my first Modem, a Supra 144LC, and began my online life with Ad-Lib BBS. This was a total eye opener and, again, I wondered how I had gotton along without being on line. Help was readily available and software easy to find and download and all at 14,400 Bpm. So, for a while, I forgot all about my speed problem and settled down to enjoy bulletin boards.

I went along like this for a while, still reasonably happy. I eventually invested in the full 4 Mb upgrade for the Marpet board and, due to my finding employment with the Ambulance Service, I purchased a Deskjet 320 Portable printer. This made an enormous difference to print quality and speed over the LC10. Still, I would like to see my graphics in colour.

At some point in all of this someone started talking about Atari Internet software!! Hmmm, thought I, interesting. But I didn't jump on the bandwagon until 1996. At that point I joined up with Zetnet and met David Henderson through my online struggles with setting up. I then proceeded to conduct a very successful on line existence using a 4Mb STFM my trusty Supra Modem and loads of help from David and the Zetnet Atarians mail list which was born around that time.

I still wanted some colour in my life though so I began to scan the newsgroups for a Falcon, and, found one!! Only 4 Mb and with no internal Hard Drive but, a Falcon. So I purchased it and burst onto the Internet in full colour? No, actually it was alittle more complicated than that, the Falcon OS was total crap and it refused to web browse in colour without locking up the hard drive. Never mind, at least I could manage 16 colours now!!

Things began to change rapidly now on the Atari scene. ST Format magazine had died and it had begun to look as if the Atari was at last going to be laid to rest. There were still users around, we knew that, but we needed a magazine as a focal point and just to give the Atari a sense of reality. Things were looking grim for a while until a rumour broke on the Internet that a new magazine was on the way. And it was! Atari Computing was born and lives to this day keeping the small but active UK Atari scene alive and kicking.

Eventually I invested, once more, in a memory upgrade, this time to 14 Mb and, while I was at it, I fitted the wonderful Nemesis accelerator board to bring my relative CPU speed to about 50Mhz. Apart from that it also sorted out many of the bugs with the Falcon hardware and allows me to, at last, web browse in 256 colours or even true colour although I prefer to stick with 256.

My modem suffered a sudden end from a lightning strike and had to be replaced last year. Since then it's replacement, which was never as good as the Supra, has turned it's toes up three times and is currently away for replacement once again. I treated myself to a USR Courier this year as I became fed up with the modem being away for weeks at a time getting repaired. The Courier turned out to be worth every penny of it's substantial price tag giving faultless performance, good connection rates (31200 to 33600) and amazing stability, it does not even get fazed by the call waiting beeps!! so definately to be recommended. As things moved on the Internet was hit by the next big advancement which was 56K access. The Courier already had a standard called X2 but Zetnet did not support this. USRobotics came to the rescue with a V90 upgrade (V90 being the standard which became accepted) and soon we were surfing at 48000bp!!

So now we are up to date. The original hard drive from the Upgrade Shop is still humming away happily after all this time and has been supplemented by an EZflyer 230 Mb for backups and extra storage, well eventually you fill any hard drive, but you show me any PC that could operate, as I could to this day, with only 235 Mb of Hard Drive space!! or 14 Mb of ram for that matter.

The Atari remains a flexible and powerful little home computer and keeps me, and others like me, Microsoft free. It is interesting to note that on new years day 01/01/00 all Atari's will remain operational with few, if any, problems from the so called Millenium Bug. Should really be called the Microsoft Bug *

* As it happened no one suffered from this bug and it turned out to be another scare story

My final setup then is

So thats it, my system history, as accurately as I can remember.

In the middle of 2002 I was finally forced by the growing up of children and the increasing complexity of the Web, to invest in a Windoze box. The Falcon still graces my desk but gets less and less use thee days as it is such a hassle swapping cables from monitor, printer and modem, that laziness dictates I spend most of my time in Windows. I have however continued my avoidance of all things Microsoft and immediately dumped Internet Explorer and Outlook Express from my program compliment. I am not getting rid of the Atari just yet though. The time will no doubt arrive when I will be glad of a backup system. My early experiences with Atari Computers taught me a lot and I find that navigating my way around computers is now very intuitive due to the extremely hands on nature of setting up the Atari's on the net. I am constantly called upon to help my friends and family with minor computing problems and rarely fail to suss it out!
And now,

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Copyright 1998