Portfolio - Atari’s best seller

by Donald A. Thomas, Jr.

The Atari Portfolio is a stick of dynamite that has explosive power. For less than $US300.oo, an individual can obtain a fully functional and programmable MS-DOS command compatible computer that fits in the palm of their hand. Even adding the cost of peripherals, the Portfolio is more than a thousand dollars less than the its nearest competitor- The Poquet computer (retailing at $US1999). This is NOT meant to be a sales pitch, it’s pure fact. Anyone who has the need for a portable computer can link the Portfolio and quickly transfer compatible data within seconds. Not hours, not minutes, but seconds. And this link is not limited to MS-DOS platforms. Virtually any computer in the world can exchange data with the Portfolio.

The secret lies in two areas. The most significant of the two is the ASCII character set standard. A pure ASCII text file on one computer means exactly the same thing on another. Therefore, the files that are transmitted between two incompatible computers are 100% compatible. This has always been true, but is now being better understood by more and more people. The second part of this secret is the ease of the physical link.

There is an energy department in Canada which is looking at Portfolios as a remote, unmanned environmental data collecting device. Reporters and photographers are discovering the Portfolios’ ideal design for notetaking and scheduling. Salespeople are providing customers with quotes and receipts instantly. Marketing people are compiling statistics with up to a 15 pound lighter load than the laptop alternatives. Hackers like the uninterrupted on-line time since the desktop is difficult to take on vacation. Executives keep in touch with their E-mail and appointments all in one machine. Students find the Portfolio easy to carry between classes. The Portfolio has already proven its broad potential and is fast becoming a trusted tool.

I think the most amazing phenomenon I have encountered in regard to the Portfolio, is how well every platform is quickly learning to make the connection. The Portfolio has already been advertised as "the Portable Mac". Of course MS-DOS users get along fine with it and have since the beginning. Just about every category is covered. Well, except for the Atari ST market. I am simply dumbfounded at how many Atari 16-bit computer users struggle with the Portfolio. Now before you all start writing and telling me you get along fine with it, I am talking general terms here. It seems that the Atari 16-bit community has the most difficult time exchanging files with the Portfolio. Of course, you are probably an exception.

I personally feel that the Atari ST and MEGA computer user should investigate the Portfolio closely, even if it is not purchased. For those who are committed to help spread the Atari namesake around, the Portfolio is the easiest advertisement Atari has ever produced. One of those users referred to above is a broadcaster in the Los Angeles area. I spoke to him one day and he told me he was ready to buy a desktop. He said Memory Cards were beginning to cost as much as one anyway and the Portfolio inspired a confidence in computers. Since he was so pleased with the Portfolio, he wanted advice as to what desktop to buy. I sent him to our friends in Bellflower (Mid-Cities Comp Soft) and this broadcaster is now a proud owner of an ST. The Portfolio is CLEARLY THE MISSING LINK BETWEEN THE REST OF THE WORLD’S COMPUTERS AND THE ENTIRE ATARI LINE.

When I first learned of the Portfolio, I resented Atari’s apparent departure from the ST/MEGA environment. I still cringe from time to time to think that Atari could ever decide to abandon their traditional line of computers. It is obvious they will not as they have now the new STEs and TTs being introduced in the United States. As I learned more about the Portfolio, I was amazed at its total function abilities. The Portfolio is enhanced even more by optional software and hardware. I use mine for light spreadsheets, but mostly for writing my thoughts as I commute to work each day.

I also take it along on business trips for the address book functions. And everywhere I go someone stops and asks about it. If they heard about it, they are amazed that it is exactly as advertised. If they didn’t, then they are simply amazed.

If you have been considering to link the Portfolio to an ST/MEGA computer, then read on. It’s easy, inexpensive and some fun too. What you will need is the optional Serial Interface and a "DB9 (female) to a DB25 (male) null-modem serial cable". If that sounds like a lot, just know it is a rather standard cable and your computer dealer will know what all that means. The cable should not cost more than $20.

You will also need communications software on the host computer (the ST/ MEGA). One popular title is FLASH, but there are many good ones. You will not need a communications program on the Portfolio. Read my lips ... you will not need a communications program on the Portfolio. Make the connections between serial ports using the interface and cable. Run your communications software on the host and designate a TEXT receive. When that is set up, then go to the Portfolio and type COPY FILENAME.EXT AUX. This will issue a copy of your file out through the serial port. To receive a file on the Portfolio, type COPY AUX FILENAME.EXT. Please replace FILENAME.EXT with the true filename.

If you have problems, it may be because you have not initialized the serial interface through the SETUP menu or some parameters are mismatched. The only parameter you will probably need to set is the baud rate on the host computer. 9600 baud is the default on the Portfolio and the suggested speed.

As you become more sophisticated with the Portfolio, you may discover that your file transfer needs have grown. You will need a communication program on the Portfolio if you wish to do non-ASCII file transfers, for instance, ARTISAN SOFTWARE has just released TRANSPORT for the ST/MEGA computers to help you through the confusion. It is written specifically to link traditional Atari computers to the Portfolio. For beginners, an express menu system will enable fast file transfers and display exactly what and when to type the commands you need. Advanced users will learn to access two advanced menu option screens. Included is the ability to generate non-transferrable file reports, strip files on non-ASCII code characters, Xmodem file transfers and much more. It will work on color or monochrome systems and sells for $24.95. You may obtain TRANSPORT from your local Atari computer dealer or you may order direct from Artisan Software. Direct orders must add $1.50 shipping/handling and California must add 6.25% sales tax.

If you desire more information about the Portfolio, consider one of the many Atari publications, visit some users’ groups meetings and subscribe to GENIE or COMPUSERVE.

For information on how you can "JOIN THE REVOLUTION" and actively support the exposure of Atari computers, write: ARTISAN SOFTWARE, P.O. Box 849, Manteca, California 95336.


Xoterix, a start- up company out of West Hills in California, has expanded its range of Atari Portfolio add-on products. According to Mark Henderson of Xoterix, the tiny pocket PC, The PORTFOLIO, from Atari is being acclaimed in the U.S. with an equal positive sales response and success as in the UK.

Xoterix, now into its second year of operation, specializes in supplying add-ons for the Portfolio and, even more importantly, at prices notably lower than Atari’s competing product. Foremost among Xoterix’s new products unveiled at Comdex is a 512K RAM expansion module that’s 3 x 4 x 1 inches that connects to the Portfolio, giving the Portfolio 636K of total memory. The wonderful aspect is the outstanding fact that it has twice the capacity of the Atari RAM module, yet it costs considerably less, ($299). Available next month.

Xoterix also is showing its 20MB hard disk for the Portfolio. The $899 unit, which fits under the Portfolio case provides a 20MB hard disk, 512K of RAM expansion (with a D: drive configuration to allow existing expan- sion cards to be used on drive C:) and optional serial and parallel ports.

Addionally, Xoterix was exhibiting their Telecommunications package, Terminal Plus software. Although Xoterix is a start-up company, international support for its products is provided using the "Aportfolio" special interest group (SIG) on Compuserve. The company’s products are also stocked by a growing number of dealers across the US.

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MANTECA--- Artisan Software has just released a software system which unleashes the data transfer power between the Atari ST, STE and MEGA computers and the Atari Portfolio computer. Portfolio is the innovative palmtop MS-DOS command compatible computer. The new package by Artisan Software entitled TransporT(tm) is compatible on color or monochrome systems and is specifically written to be fast, easy and efficient.

The program offers two levels of interaction with the user. The initial menu appears on boot-up and permits efficient ASCII file transfers back and forth to the Portfolio WITHOUT SPECIAL SOFTWARE ON THE PORTFOLIO. The system prompts the user with the few exact entries required on the Portfolio to accomplish the transfer. More advance users will be able to enter two extended menu systems which support Xmodem, non-ASCII character stripping, on-line help and file viewing and more. A separate text file is included which offers constructive tips on using the Portfolio productively. A serial interface and null-modem serial cable is required at an nominal charge from Atari computer dealers.

TransporT is Artisan Software’s fifth software release. Their titles include the Word Quest(tm) series of word search and crossword puzzle construction systems and Graph Maker(tm). TransporT retails for $24.95 and may be purchased from better Atari computer stores or from Artisan Software directly. Direct orders should include $1.50 shipping and handling. California, add 6.25% tax. For more information or to place an order, write: ARTISAN SOFTWARE, P.O. Box 849, Manteca, CA 95336.


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