Atari (U.S.) Corp.
1196 Borregas Avenue
It is a pleasure for me to share some of my thoughts with the readers of ST-Magazine. It is most appropriate that a magazine devoted to 68000 based personal computers is responsible for putting out this new magazine.
The »engine« of the Atari ST is the Motorola MC68000 microprocessor. The processor was first introduced in the 1979, 1980 timeframe and appeared in super-micro or super-mini workstations.
It was introduced in an affordable new technology »Peoples Computer« (»Volks-Computer«) by Atari in 1985. The question is when will the latest microprocessor from Motorola - the 68030 - be available to the readers of this magazine.
I believe that it will be much sooner than it has been in the past. It took five to six years for the 68000 to be made available at an affordable price (for the masses). I believe that the 68030 can be made available as the engine for a »Volks-Computer« in a very short time.
The 68000 is a very successful microprocessor because of the strength of its architecture - a nice orthogonal instruction set. This makes it very powerful and an 8 MHZ 68000 is rated between 0-3 to 0.6 times the popular VAX 11/870 for non-floating point applications. There is, however, plenty of power left in the 68000. A 16 MHZ 68000, for example, is still »faster« than a VAX 11/780 for non-floating point operations.
In the same way, the Atari ST architecture is very sound. We provide good performance - making the most use of the 68000 chip. A personal computer architecture normally assumes the construction and execution capabilities of the whole system - both software and hardware. It is normally agreed that systems that are simple yet powerful yield great results. This is what we have tried to do with the ST architecture.
In the same way that the 68000 has evolved to a 68030 (and hopefully the 68040) and also coexists with it, we hope that the ST will spawn a family of products with different capabilities that will coexist with it.
The base machine, however, does not exist in a vacuum. It has been designed with fairly standard interfaces to allow the computer to take advantages of mass storage devices (CD ROM), communication devices and laser printers (including Atari’s own laser printer).
We live in very exciting times. The pace of change in electronics is amazingly fast. The »engine« of our computer (the 68000) evolved in a few years from roughly 0.3 MIPS to 3-4 MIPS (for a 68030) in the space of only a few years. The next »engine« will be perhaps 10-15 MIPS. The user (consumer) of personal computers has never had such a high level of performance for what he pays for before. There is roughly a performance improvement of 200-300 % every 3 years for the same price level. If we can achieve this level of improvement in other fields, the world would have no problems in food, transportation and shelter. Also, this phenomena is only true in electronics. So we must make the most of it and enjoy our personal computers.
Shiraz M. Shivji (Vice-President Research Development)