When people ask me what computer I have, they always look surprised when I tell them it's an Atari. The usual response is "what? I didn't know they were still around!", or "Why not use a PC?"...
In fact, I do have a PC and I use it a lot - not least for writing things like this! But, the Falcon is my main machine and I can't see that changing for a long while yet. Of course if the Atari couldn't do what I needed I would almost certainly stop using it - but it can and in most cases with ease!
What is it that makes me stick with the Atari platform? Thats quite a long question to answer - and thats my reason for writing this article.
I'll start at the beginning - 1983
This was the year I got my first computer - a 48k ZX Spectrum +. It cost £200 and was the leading system of the time. At first I played games, nothing more, but as time passed I moved on to programming my own things. At first they were pretty basic but I was soon writing my own games!
This fascinated me but the Spectrum began to feel limiting. One day one of my friends got an Atari ST and as soon as I saw it I was hooked. It took a year but in the end I bought a 520 STe - one of the first available. After being used to playing games in 8 fixed colours on the Speccy I was amazed at the graphics the Atari could offer - 16 colours from a palette of 4096, it was heaven!
Of course, because of the huge number of ST games available I spent most of my time just mucking around! I was used to having Basic built into the Spectrum and the version supplied with the ST was less than impressive - this turned me away from programming for a couple of years. Then I saw STOS Basic in a shop window and I thought about the things I could program on the Atari. That was definitely £25 well spent!
In fact my first foray into writing Atari games was with the Shoot 'em Up Construction Kit written by Sensible Software. Although this was fun at first, by the time I'd written a few games - which were all the same - I got bored. STOS gave my games programming a whole new life!
Most of my other friends at the time had Amiga's - great for games, crap for anything else! They used to have a go at me for using an Atari but I'm glad I stuck with it. Most of these friends sold their Amiga's a long time ago - as soon as their supply of pirated games began to dry up! None of them really ever had any sort of loyalty to their system.
Instead of relying on expensive custom chips the Atari hardware was much steadier - thats one of the main reason for the Atari still being around. It's amazing that today, an 8 MHz ST is still capable of doing almost anything a Pentium PC can do, and thats without any upgrading!
This year I finally got myself a Falcon - it is quite literally the best machine I've used. Fair enough it doesn't have the graphic or sound capabilities of the latest PC's, but it is a strong, steady machine. I look at the Falcon as being the Volvo of the computer world whereas the PC is a Ferrari - if the PC is pushed to far it would crumble while the Falcon could hit a brick wall and still come off better!
Apart from all this though, my main reason for sticking with the Atari is the community. Not one other computer system has the same sort of support from the users and suppliers. There is hardly any competition in the Atari market these days and the platform is a much nicer one because of this. Everyone works together which inevitably brings out the best the Atari can offer.
In the Amiga market they're still trying to be the best system in the world, in the PC world you're nothing unless you have the latest Pentium running at some stupid speed whereas the Atari market is happily moving on without any major problems. Each Atari machine is looked upon in the same way.
This is why the Atari will be around for a long time into the next millenium...