Interview with David Encill, Titan Designs

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How long have you been an Atari user? And, how has the Atari scene changed in your eyes during this time?

Hey, that’s two questions ;-)
I’ve been using Atari computers since 1982 when I first purchased a 16KB 400 for the then princely sum of #365.00. And the reason? Mainly because of the graphic capabilities over other computers on the market. I had considered an Apple Mac and BBC ’B’, but the former was so damned expensive (about #1,800 if memory serves me correct) and the BeeB was limiting. Not only that, Atari had the best game at the time with Star Raiders! ;-)

Following this, I then upgraded to an 800XL (64MB) and bought a 1050 5.25“ floppy drive (what a revelation that was!). When the ST series was first talked of I immediately placed an order and purchased one of the first to arrive in the UK. I believe this was late 1985, or early 1986. Whichever, it cost me #749.00 for a 520ST, SM124 mono monitor (no modulator!) and SF354 (360KB) floppy, which was soon upgraded to a SF314 (720KB) floppy for a further #50. There can’t be many of these left, so it must be as rare as rocking horse doo-doo. It also had the original 128KB TOS ROM which meant using a boot floppy disk - without this the ST defaulted to a ’reminder’ screen which was quite dramatic in itself, having a diagonally scrolling rainbow background effect.

When I first went into business in 1987 I then purchased a Mega ST2 with SLM804 laser printer. This equipment served me well for a good many years until the Falcon was announced and, as a registered Atari developer, one was purchased in late 1992 (I think) and has the serial number 2000026 - i.e. the 26th ever made by Atari!

This machine has been through several trials (and torments, to be truthful :-)) and was used to develop all our hardware products but is still hacking it with an Afterburner040 installed. The torments, as you’re bound to ask, include various atrocities performed on it to develop hardware such as Exposé and Nemesis, happily all of which it survived without the need for repair. Says a lot for the early Falcons I suppose...

The market itself has changed dramatically during this time. Back in 1982 I think most Atari users were game players as there wasn’t too much in the way of business applications. In my opinion, some of the best games ever appeared during this time; Loderunner, Rescue on Fractulas, Boulderdash, etc. Games these days seem to have moved towards becoming highly sophisticated 3D versions which, of course, need ever more processing power and a lot of the sparkle seems to have gone.

Nowadays the Atari has evolved into a home and small business machine, or used in music studios, with much less emphasis on the gaming side. This was inevitable with the growth of consoles and PCs.

Which Atari systems do you use? Describe your current Atari setup…

Falcon mainly, of which I have two. The original ST and Mega ST I still have, but they tend to gather dust these days. One Falcon is mounted in a C-Lab MK.X case with Afterburner040 installed along with 32MB TT-RAM, 14MB ST-RAM, Nemesis, Exposé and a 720MB IDE drive, but I also use a SyQuest EZ-Flyer (230MB) removable drive to archive larger files. To be honest, the Atari is so conservative with filespace that I’ve never really needed to think in terms of Gigabytes. The other Falcon also has Nemesis with a 64MB IDE (the original Seagate one) and shares the SyQuest. I need to keep a stock Falcon incidentally for testing hardware and software.

These are connected to a Panasonic 15” multisync monitor and a Hewlett Packard 870CXi colour Deskjet for the most part, although an HP Laserjet 4P is occasionally connected.

Oh, I still have a Jaguar kicking about as well.

What is your Atari’s main use?

Graphics. The whole of Titan’s development business is geared towards this aspect of computing - APEX Media, Exposé, Videlity, with Nemesis providing the Bus speed to realise high resolution, true-colour. DTP was a major usage, but DA’s Layout does work better on the Mac.

If the Atari platform was still a viable platform for mainstream developers, do you feel we’d be better or worse off as Atari users?

Without a doubt I think we’d be better off. The sheer diversification of software that’s available on the PC, for instance, proves this without any doubt. It would have meant hardware development keeping pace with the software demands and we’d probably be looking at the Atari Falcon with 200MHz Power PC processor being an entry level system if Atari had kept going.

What is your opinion of the Atari market today?

It has shrunk, there’s no doubting that, but the interest and loyalty of users that remain is still very high. It would be nice to hope that the introduction of the Milan will create a renewed interest in the Atari platform, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Certainly this is a positive step in the right direction, providing they aim towards specific vertical markets such as music and graphics.

Hopefully the Atari 68K will survive to the year 2000 (it is already Y2K proof ) without attaining too much of a cult status (which isn’t a bad thing anyway!).

What are your favourite Atari programs at the moment?

Leading question ;-)
APEX Media is the program I tend to use most, and I still think it’s the best program for art and animation. As APEX is by far and away the best animation software, creating animated GIFs in conjunction with the AGATe utility is an absolute must for web use. DA’s Layout is another well used program, although I will admit to mostly using it on the Mac.

What do think of the current Atari magazines (both paper and disk based)?

Considering the size of the market, I think they are excellent productions. It would be great if we still had a mainstream colour paper magazine, but we have to be realistic and I think that Atari Computing, Atari Times, Maggie, etc. are all worthy publications.

Are you tempted to move away from the Atari platform? If not, what is keeping you with us?

Not at the moment. We still have more ideas and will continue supporting the Atari platform while it’s commercially viable. That is the only determining factor - it obviously would not make sense for us to develop new hardware and software unless a market existed.



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