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Article #318 (376 is last):
From: aa399@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Len Stys)
>Newsgroups: freenet.sci.comp.atari.general,freenet.sci.comp.atari.news,freenet.sci.comp.c64.forum
Subject: Falcon 030 Released #4--Boston
Reply-To: aa399@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Len Stys)
Posted-By: xx004 (aa399 - Len Stys)
Date: Sat Sep 26 13:05:01 1992



Organization: Boston University, Boston, MA, USA
Lines: 270
Originator: markjl@acs.bu.edu

Wednesday, September 23rd, 1992.

        BOSTON--Atari Corporation debutted its Falcon 030 to the American
public at the Boston Computer Society's general meeting in the New England
Hall.  Over two-hundred members filed into the hall, where a large, fifteen
foot videoscreen projected Falcon 030 GENLocked video directly, audio was
directly output to the hall's amplified system.  Three working Falcon's sat
atop tables in front of the stage.

        After initial opening and welcoming procedings with an award to
visually impaired computing leaders, Mike Newhall, Director of the BCS Atari
ST Users Group, introduced the Atari Corporation presentation.  Sam Tramiel,
President and CEO of Atari, began the presentation of the Falcon 030 by stating
Atari's new goal of Personal Integrated Media for consumbers.  He stated that
Atari had gone through transitions and consolidation, and now was poised for
growth.

        He diagrammed a map of the market Atari is interested in, which looked
like this:
+--------------------------+-----------------------------------------+
|Personal Computers        |    Traditional Entertainment/Video Games|
|                     Apple|Nintendo,Sega                            |
|Business------------------+-------------------------------------Home|
|             Microsoft,IBM|Phillips,Cable TV,Sony                   |
|Multimedia                |                          Interactive TV |
+--------------------------+-----------------------------------------+
In the corners were market categories, each box had some companies that
represented the market for examples (I've put in some I remember).  Tramiel
noted that a lot of the market categories were overlapping, and companies
have begun to enter into new markets.  Tramiel outlines a lot of statistics
showing market penetration of television, CD players, personal computers, etc.
into American households.  Now the industry can provide computers that can
handle current consumer audio and video, Atari wants to deliver a full
functioned computer for a reasonable price.  Atari wants to tap the
market with the Falcon series of computers, which exceed stereo CD audio
quality capabilities, which come fully equiped (just open the box and plug
it in), have an existing software base (the entire Atari ST/TT series library),
and which are priced well (the Falcon 030 costs the same amount of money as
all the video/audio augmented hardware add ons required on personal computer
other platforms alone).

        Richard Miller, Vice President of Research and Development was the
next to speak.  [I noted his British accent and asked him if he was from Atari
UK when I spoke to him after the presentation.  He came from Perihelion, which
was involved in the Atari Transputer Workstation OS, and then did a brief
stint at Atari UK.  By the way, he said the ATW is a dead project.]  Mr. Miller
led the development of the Falcon 030 system architechture, and he envisioned
a computer that his mother could utilize.  She didn't want a PC, or a Mac, she
wanted a computer that could make tea, answer the telephone, turn on the lights,
and mail her letters.  Miller then stated that customers want the most
sophisticated technology, highest quality, and lowest price.  "You can never
underestimate the consumer," Miller said, so the computer should be just as
good as the consumer's CD player or television at audio and video, respectively.
With a CD player as low as $100, a color television as low as $200, and a FAX
machine as low as $200, etc., consumers want the same performance and combined
price for a computer that can do all of these things.

        The Falcon 030 achieves this for consumers with its power at a low
price.  The Falcon's power comes from its distributed processor architecture:
  - CPU: Motorola 68030 (32 MHz) central processor unit
  - GPU: Blitter graphics co-processor (16 MHz): 64 million pixel per second 
  - DMA: DMA engine: fast memory access to/from SCSI, audio, peripherals, etc.
  - DSP: Motorola 56001 (32 MHz/16 MIPS) Digital Signal Processor unit
Optionally available is the:
  - FPU: Motorola 68881/2 Floating Point mathematic co-processor unit
  - 3rd party: 286/386SX CPU for IBM PC emulation
Atarians are used to the CPU/GPU/DMA from the ST/TT series computers.  The
new Blitter has some new functions and runs at twice the speed of the STE
Blitter.  Chip sockets for the optional processors are on the Falcon 030,
I believe.  SACK (of Germany) is working on the 286/386SX emulation now.

        The digital signal processor (DSP) performs functions entirely in the
digital domain, providing an answer to analog signal processing's problems.
Immediate applications of DSP are audio processing: sixteen band graphic
equalization, echo, reverb, chorus, flange, compression, distortion, surround
sound, pitch shifting, synthesis of sound/music, speech generation and speech
recognition.  [Most exist already on the Falcon, Atari is working hard on the
speech recognition, according to Tramiel.]  DSP also loans itself to these
areas: array processing, optical character recognition, video compression and
decompression, etc.  Atari will utilize the DSP's high performace mode to
create a virtual 19.2Kbaud modem and a virtual 9600 baud full-duplex FAX.
Future Atari Falcon applications include an all digital telephone answering
machine and voice-mail for the home.  [These too, are being worked upon by
Atari, developers, and other 3rd parties.]

        The video section of the Falcon 030 is capable of:
VESA video output at 72Hz, 640 by 480 pixels, Genlock, digital Chromakey,
video overlay, PAL and NTSC broadcast signals, 1/2/4/8-bit graphics, and
overscan.  [Sorry, he went quickly there, and I'm not 100% sure of all of the
definitions of some of the features.]  These video capabilities loan themselves
to these applications: television picture in picture, video effects, CD Photos
(just add a CD ROM player).

        The audio section of the Falcon 030 is capable of:
16-bit digital audio at 50kHz, eight-track digital recording and playback,
stereo 16-bit CODEC, an input for an external microphone, and a headphone
output jack.

        The Falcon 030 also has the following output ports: stereo audio out,
SCSI II port, DMA port, DSP port, MIDI IN/OUT ports, LocalTalk LAN port, RS-
232-C port, and two enhanced joystick ports (for lightguns, etc.).  The Falcon
030 contains MultTOS operating system in a four meg ROM and is available with
1, 4, or 14 megabytes of RAM.

        Bill Reincock, Director of Application Software, showed the audience
bundled software with every Falcon 030.  He stated that the Falcon 030 has been
in developers hands since May 1992.  Some of the things that the Falcon 030
can do is address the needs of the consumer who wants to create video and audio,
as evidence he cited "America's Funniest Home Videos" and the popularity of the
camcorder.  The Falcon 030 loans itself to home video titling, video presenta-
tions for business or education, etc.

        The first piece of software demonstrated was Falcon D2D, a basic audio
sampler and waveform editor which can sample directly to the hard drive for
recording.  Sample waveforms may be loaded and graphically edited, spliced, etc.
Then waveforms may be arranged into a small cue list sequencer for flexible
playback.

        The second piece of software was the Audio Fun Machine, basically a
digital audio effects processor.  There were two, full color equalizers (one
for left and right input each) which were adjustible filters manipulated with
the mouse.  Using the external microphone input, you can apply the 10 band
EQ filters in realtime as well as add the following effects: "surround sound"
ambience, concert hall reverberation, phase shifting, distortion, etc.  You
can also edit the effects waveforms.

        The third piece of software demonstrated was the System Audio Manager,
where one can assign sounds/samples to system events, each function key, and
any key on the keyboard.  The sounds play without any system slowdown, you can
use Atari samples from the D2D program or import Microsoft Windows *.WAV files
and Mac sounds.

        Additional bundled software mentioned: CALAPT - a calendar and appoint
ment scheduler program [a la Portfolio, I imagine], ProCalc - a full-featured
scientific calculator, Talking Clock - displays time and announces the time at
user set intervals, and two games: Landmines and Breakout.

        The Falcon 030 can output to the VCR directly the user's own 3-D
animations (via Lexicor software, etc.), titles, etc. to create home videos.
"The Falcon 030 is the only 16-bit true color computer in its class," said
Reincock.  With a low cost telephone line interface (on the way, 1st quarter
1993, by a Scottish company: it'll be the size of a cigarette box and it will
have international telephone ports on it, according to Tramiel) this can lead
to FAXing and low-cost videophones through the Falcon 030.

        The Falcon 030 uses the GEM desktop, based on Digital Research's
DRI GEM, for its graphical user interface.  The icons are now animated and
color, the desktop is customizable.  [From what I saw, animated means this:
when you select an icon, it does not reverse itself to show it is highlighted,
it changes to a new icon.  Eg: the trashcan opens, the file folder has a file
pop up, the disk opens its shutter, etc.]  With the OS in ROM, there is no
possibility for virus corruption of the OS or wait for the entire OS to boot
off of the hard drive.

        MultiTOS is preemptive multitasking with adaptive prioritization, so
as to make the current user process appear to have no slow down.  It is compat-
ible with existing software [as long as they didn't use illegal OS tricks!],
it allows for messages and pipes: this yeilds interprocess communication.  It
uses a hierarchical file system with loadable drivers for compatiblility with
UNIX/Mac devices, the forthcoming Atari CR-ROM player, etc.  MultiTOS will have
other disk extensions for future expansion.

        James Grunke, Director of International Music Marketing, was the last
to speak at the presentation.  He outlined this period as historic for music
and Atari:

1985 - Atari Corporation was the first to realize the potential of MIDI and
       placed MIDI IN/OUT ports on their ST series of computers.
1986 - Atari was the computer company to market directly to musicians, it
       places an advertisment in Keyboard magazine.
1987 - Atari was the first computer company to attend the NAMM convention.
       (NAMM = National Association of Music Merchants, I belive.)

Atari computers were also the first to directly synchronize to SMPTE time code.
Today, Atari still holds fifteen percent share of the music market.  The OS has
rock solid timing, essential for music and MIDI sequencing.  With features like
stereo CD audio, the DSP Motorola 56001 chip, the SCSI II port for access to
samplers/hard drives, and true color video, the Falcon 030 has standards that
musicians want.  The Atari ST/TT series of computers also has a mature music
software base.

        Where a Max IIci with 5 Mbyte RAM (street pricing) plus software ($1000)
costs $2500 per stereo track, the Falcon 030 4/65 with 4 Mbyte RAM and 65 Mbyte
hard drive at full list price ($1299) costs $849 per stereo track.  With an
additional hardware expansion to bring system capabilities up to eight stereo
tracks, which includes XLR inputs plus DAC and clock chips, the Atari system
comes to $1699 + $800 HW expansion: it costs $312 per stereo track.

        The demonstration concluded with a summary of specifications, pricing,
and availability: dealers will recieve a demonstration Falcon in November, but
the real production rollout of Falcon 030's will be in January, 1993.  Atari
will begin a regional rollout, when that is completed national advertising
shall follow.  Sam Tramiel said that back in 1987, Atari sold 10,000 units a
month and ran into the Japan/US dynamic RAM troubles.  Atari never came back
in the US market, it developed and expanded the European market since then,
but now Atari wants to come back into the US market with the Falcon 030.

        A question and answer session followed: the LAN port is Localtalk,
which is hardware identical to AppleTalk, it is not ETHERNET, but that will
proabably be addressed by 3rd party developers.  DVI boards are currently
being worked on by 3rd party developers, hopefully under $500.00.  ASEUB
digital interfaces can be done: a chip for digital bandwidth offload may be
necessary in an external interface.  Video overlay is accomplished with a
3rd party GENlock device, it can be controlled down to the pixel.  The DSP
port will be able to access external analog to digital chips, the port can
support one megabyte per second data rates.

        Atari readied a demonstration of the Falcon 030's video capabilities.
Approximately 2-3 minutes of a music video had been sampled into the Atari
and saved to the hard drive previously.  The Falcon 030 was able to pull off
the 92 megabytes of video data off of the hard drive and display the video
as 24 frames per second in full screen, true-color mode with CD stereo audio
IN REAL TIME.  This elicited quite an applause from the audience.  There was
no compression involved, performance was based solely on the Blitter and 030
processors.

        When asked about the reason for Atari's choice of 16-bit true color
as opposed to 24-bit color, the response was that the eye can see about one
million colors, and 24-bit allows 16 million colors: the 16-bit color was a
good compromise for the real world and brought Falcon expense down without
cost to performance.  MS-DOS 3.5" floppy file compatibility was confirmed.
When asked about Falcon developers, Atari reported that there had been an
overwhelming response from old ST developers who were coming back to Atari,
interestingly, a lot of NeXT developers are coming over as well.  Some Amiga
developers claimed they'd rather develop on the Falcon 030 than the A4000
platform.  Atari said they'd like to get into universities, but would have
to come in through the "back door" with Desktop Video and Desktop Radio and
music applications.

        Inexpensive third party frame grabber and scanners are coming.  The
Falcon is Logitech Fotoman compatible.  Atari envisions the Falcon to have 98%
of the Video Toaster capabilities soon, and for significantly less than the
Video Toaster alone.  You will be able to use multisync VGA monitors on the
Falcon, but make sure that they can "go down" to NTSC broadcast specifications
for true-color modes.  MultiTOS will be partially disk based for extensions,
the OS is a 4 Mbyte ROM containing all of the languages/keyboard layouts to
further enhance compatiblitity throughout the world for developers.

        The 1040ST style case was used for production expediency, it's a darker
grey/light brown color with dark grey keys.  But Sam Tramiel said this was
the "beginning of exciting, different machines... more birds" in the Falcon
series.  [New Atari computers will be named after birds, videogame consoles
after cats.  Eg: Lynx, Jaguar (which probably will be based on the Falcon and
have all of its resolution modes, plus some peripheral compatibility, ie:
joysticks, lightpens, Atari CD-ROM, etc).]  Atari was asked about customer
support and service for the hardware: Atari is working to re-establish old
dealers and will have a 1-800 toll free number.

        When pressed about Falcon 040s, the audience was told "before you
see 486's emulated on the Falcon 030."  The Q&A session ended here, and Atari
gave away a door prize: a Falcon 030!

        I followed up to Sam Tramiel and asked him a few things, Atari is
talking to Kodak about Photo CD development, Phillips wants development of
an Atari Falcon of a CD-I card (but no mention was made of who would do these
things).  Atari is working on an inexpensive CD-ROM player, connected via the
DMA or DSP port as opposed to SCSI II.

[This concludes my report, but I have another report based on the BCS Atari
 ST user group's visit by Bob Brodie and Bill Rehbock with two Falcons the
 next day.  It's coming!  I tried to keep this article in a formal style, but
 I dropped out of it towards the end.  I hope you appreciate my efforts, I'm
 sure 99% of the information is correct, as I heard it, and have pointed out
 places where I wasn't sure of things, so this should be a legitimate guide
 for you learn about the Falcon.]
-- 
\\  This is a copy of the .signature virus, pass it on.
//If you want something interesting to read, finger me.
\\  Internet: markjl@acs.bu.edu.us (Boston University)
//Compu$erve: 72545,1236

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