You are here

C-lab Falcon MkX, Ease, Papyrus v4

Atari Tips & Techniques
Published February 1996

C-lab Falcon MkX, Ease, Papyrus v4

Ofir Gal reports back from a show in London which proves, once again, that there's life in Atari computers yet — even if Atari themselves don't agree!

The Atari World‑sponsored Atari shows were held in Birmingham and London in December. Many new products were on show, as well as older ones at bargain prices. Even if the range of non‑MIDI Atari software is not what it was in terms of diversity, the quality of current products is very encouraging. There appears to be a hardcore of Atari enthusiasts who remain unswayed by Bill Gates and his PC propaganda machine. Several hundred devotees gathered in the small hall, watching with rapt attention as new programs ran on STs and Falcons which had been completely taken apart and turbo‑charged with a variety of accelerators, graphics cards and other electronic contraptions.

The products on show could be divided into two categories. Old, unsupported products were on sale at ridiculously low prices. A rumour persisted around the hall that someone has actually managed to get Timeworks and NVDI to work together — something I cannot confirm myself. I learned a long time ago not to buy unsupported software, no matter how cheap it is. My interest, and therefore this instalment of Atari Notes, is focused on the new products that were on show. The last year or two (or three) has been a rough time for Atari users, as market forces have forced many developers out of the Atari scene and onto the PC. Steinberg, previously an Atari‑based company, were not represented, choosing to ignore the fact that the majority of Cubase users happen to run their software on an Atari.

The Products

C-lab Falcon MkX, Ease, Papyrus v4

First on the list is one of my favourite programs — Papyrus v4 was on show at the HiSoft (01525 718181) stand. This version has suffered many delays, and is still under development — this was its first UK appearance. A powerful word processor, Papyrus has received a facelift, and now uses a 3D interface, provided you run it in 16 or more colours. It sports several new features including Unicode support, improving handling of non‑Roman languages, a multiple page preview mode, text‑style tags and many other enhancements. Unfortunately, the demo version was German (see picture), and there is no firm release date as yet.

Titan Designs (0121 693 6669) were showing off the highly‑regarded Apex, along with Exposé. The combination of the two allows real‑time video grabbing and editing of images. Version 3 of Apex is now under development, but was not on show. The new version will feature real‑time image editing tools and sound support, and is expected to ship around April.

Digital Awareness (0181 597 2513), the UK distributors for the C‑Lab Falcon, had a few new hardware prototypes on display, and some new programs as well. These included two new Falcon products from Sunrise Electronics. The SE600 provides eight analogue outputs, promising a frequency response of 15Hz to 22KHz, and comes with either standard jack outputs or balanced XLRs. The SE800 does the same, but also provides eight high‑quality analogue inputs.

A new, re‑cased Falcon (the Mark X) was to be launched around January, but all Digital Awareness could show at the time was an artist's impression of the new case, which should allow more expandability (see picture). Other than the new case, and the addition of proper jack audio inputs and outputs, it will be identical to the current MkII. You can read more about these products and the new C‑Lab Falcon MkX next month.

Moving on, 16/32 (01634 710788) had a bunch of new Atari shareware CDs, including All Things Falcon — a collection of Falcon‑specific shareware. They were also selling cost‑effective Falcon memory upgrades. The TUS Developments (01625 503448) stand displayed the latest crop of hard disks and memory upgrades, while the Calamus user group offered expert advice on DTP matters at their stall. The Compo stand was displaying the full Compo range, including Geneva, the multi‑tasking operating software, and NeoDesk 4, a very popular alternative desktop.

I was also pleased to see that you could obtain almost any Atari spare part you wanted at the Best Electronics stand, who never miss an Atari show.

New Solutions

C-lab Falcon MkX, Ease, Papyrus v4

However, one company stood out, having the largest stand and also the longest queue of anxious customers waving their credit cards about. Trying to get hold of one product or another, we were often told that stocks had run out. System Solutions have managed to dominate the Atari UK market through sheer persistence. The company now distributes more Atari products than any of its competitors, and consequently dominates this show report. On display were the latest SoundPool products (as featured in December's Atari Notes), including the new FA4 for the Falcon. Also present was the BlowUp Falcon extender hardware accelerator and screen enhancer, which combines the extended video modes of BlowUp, producing higher screen resolutions, and also accelerates the Falcon up to 40MHz. Best of all, it allows you to upgrade your Falcon memory to 6, 8 or 10Mb.

I stopped to look at MagiC v4 (for all Ataris including the Falcon), which should be available by the time you read this. This replaces tired old TOS with a true multi‑tasking operating system, enabling you to run several programs at the same time. Apart from Falcon compatibility, the new version has an improved desktop, long file name support and other enhancements. It is compatible with Notator Logic, but sadly doesn't work with Cubase. On the subject of MagiC, MagiCMac, the Mac‑compatible version of MagiC, is now at version 1.2.5. Besides incorporating all MagiC 4 features, it now runs on Power Macs, including the latest PCI‑based models.

Still on the System Solutions stand, I saw NVDI v4, the screen accelerator and font engine. This new version includes an added utility that enables you to view and install fonts on the fly, and some minor bug fixes. The imaginatively‑named hard disk driver HD Driver has also seen a major update, to version 4.5. It now supports buss arbitration, making it compatible with many more hard disks, has a brand‑new, simple‑to‑use installer, and can now read PC‑formatted SCSI drives.

Still, I found it impossible to break away from the Systems Solutions stand. Ease, I discovered, has just been upgraded to version 4. This friendly and reliable replacement to the Atari desktop is proving very popular with users. Version 4 comes with a new manual, desktop notes, pop‑up menus showing folder contents, and other minor improvements (see picture). In addition, it is fully compatible with MagiC v4. And there was more... ExtenDOS Pro is now at version 2.2, and is capable of 'lifting' audio from CDs directly to your hard drive — and by using the new Panther graphics card, ST and STe owners can finally get high resolution displays. This ET4000‑based card comes with 1Mb of VRAM (non‑upgradable) and is capable of displaying true‑colour and extended screen resolutions on an SVGA monitor.

ATAPI is a new device that enables you to connect a PC IDE CD‑ROM drive to your ST via the cartridge port. It's not much use if you're running Cubase or Notator, but it does work well. I also saw a CD authoring package for Atari computers which is available now. It includes the required Atari software and a quad‑speed CD writer. The final products I saw were E‑Copy — a clever floppy disk formatter and copier, which is not available just yet, and the Epson GT5000 scanning package.

Last of all, there were the new Rack Magic units, of interest not only to Atari owners. These come in a variety of sizes, and allow you to rackmount a Mega ST or a desktop Mac or PC.

Show Comment

Even Atari don't care about Atari computers anymore, but that does not seem to matter to a core group of developers, as this show demonstrated amply. These developers just continue to create excellent products for the Atari range (like MagiC and NVDI, to name a couple). Nevertheless, it's becoming pretty obvious that developers are shying away from major applications that take a lot of time to create. Most new products on show were utilities that help you use your computer, but there were very few new applications — the sort of programs that actually produce something, like word processors, sequencers or graphics programs.

This trend is unlikely to reverse, but market forces and the herd instinct aside, I wouldn't swap the Mega ST in my studio for anything else. It's been running Cubase faithfully for years, and has been on the road more than once. The case is battered, the monitor needs replacing, but like those alkaline batteries on TV, the old beast just keeps on going... That said, it is soon to be retired to a backup status, and replaced by a C‑Lab Falcon running Cubase Audio — more on this soon.