Atari 1040STFM

Power Without The Price

In the mid-1980s, several of the home computer manufacturers moved from the 8-bit MOS 6502 CPU to the Motorola 68000 which featured a 16/32-bit architecture (a 16-bit data bus and 32-bit registers and instruction set). In 1984, Apple introduced the 128KB Macintosh for $2,495. In 1985, Commodore brought out the Amiga 1000 with 256KB of RAM. In that same year, Atari launched the Atari 520ST with 512KB for $799 (with monochrome monitor; $999 for color). Atari would later bring out the 1040ST with 1MB for $999 with a monochrome monitor, making it the first computer to break the $1000/MB price barrier.

At launch, the Amiga had a lot of technical advantages: the Amiga had a multitasking operating system. It also had chips dedicated to graphics that allowed hardware scrolling, sprites, fast memory moves (blitter operations), and more onscreen colors than the ST. It was not until the release of the Atari STE in 1989 that Atari was able to close this technical gap. But Atari would not get a multitasking operating system until four years later in 1993. The Atari vs Amiga debate was a heated one, and it still goes on today. Atari's catchphrase was "Power without the price," and if price was your driving concern, there was no debate.


However, the Atari ST had other advantages. The ST had built-in MIDI in and out ports, and there was a lot of software that could work with MIDI hardware, making it hugely popular with musicians. Using software called a MIDI sequencer, you could lay down tracks on a MIDI keyboard or guitar connected to the ST's MIDI-in port, edit them in the sequencer, and assign them to whatever instrument you wanted and play it back on a MIDI synthesizer connected to the ST's MIDI out port. By successively laying down tracks, a single musician could compose complex multi-instrument arrangements.

Software such as Cubase, Band-in-a-Box, Logic Pro (previously Not