Computers - Main Menu

Personal Computers :: ST Range



Atari ST Computer


The Atari ST was the computer that would either make Jack Tramiels new company a success or a failure.  After taking the helm at Atari and giving it a complete re-structuring, Jack Tramiel prepared his team to develop a new, more advanced home computer.

Although Commodore had purchased Amiga Inc. from under Jacks feet at the 11th hour and along with it the core of a new computer which Jack Tramiel wanted and needed for his new company, he was determined to turn the company around.

Jack assembled his key people to a meeting in his office in August 1984.  He told Shiraz Shivji, his key engineer, to build a computer which used 16-bit technology, was easy to operate, had cutting edge features, oh, and deliver it within 12 months at the latest.

In January 1985 in Las Vegas, Atari announced the Atari ST range.  This was an amazing story in itself, considering a new computer system was designed and built within this time frame, and even better for Jack because Amiga's new computer wasn't ready yet.  Engineers had spent sleepless hours getting working prototypes ready for the show - and the visitors were amazed at what they saw.

Announced were the 130ST and the 520ST, with monitors, disk drives and printers. (Also present was the new re-packaged 8-Bit XE line of systems).  The ST's presented had a Windows driven interface powered by an Atari implementation of DR's GEM (Digital Research's General Environment Manager), a standard mouse, 16 colour and high-res monochrome displays' and a range of add-on's such as the external disk drive and printers.

The 130ST wasn't launched (as well as a later 260STF/M), due to the low RAM, and Atari launched instead a 520ST (512Kb RAM) to market in 3rd quarter of 1985.  Later, Atari added the 1040STF which had the external floppy disk drive of the 520ST built-in the main system, the first computer to launch with 1MB of RAM for under a $1000.00 and the first computer company to utilise the 3.5" standard disk and drive.

Atari 1040STF Ad (UK 1986)

Within 2 years of the Atari ST's launch Atari was back in profit.  In 1984 Jack purchased Atari, a company  which had lost $528 Million the previous year ('83), $62 Million in 1984 and $14 Million in 1985.  In 1986, now a publicly traded company (ATC), Atari released revenue figures of $44 Million Net on sales of $258 Million.  Now that's what you call a turn-around!

The ST was an instant success making the cover of BYTE magazine, wowing the music professionals with it's built-in MIDI ports, and bringing true "Power without the Price" to the consumer. (and Germany in particular just couldn't get enough of this new computer - Atari's largest single market).

Atari were in a strong position with a 16-bit Motorola powered computer which was affordable and easy to use.  Less than 18 months later, Atari continued with a new range of ST computers named the MEGA series.  With detachable keyboards, more memory (up-to 4MB!), and the availability of a 300dpi laser printer this was the ultimate in power and affordability, especially in the DTP and Music recording/composing fields.  The Atari DTP package, which contained a 2MB or 4MB Mega ST, 30 or 60MB hard drive, Hi-resolution monitor and laser printer, came in at the base price of $2999.99 - Half the price of IBM's equivalent laser printer alone!

Atari ST Dev. Disk

But it was also in Music where the ST became an essential tool.  The clever inclusion of full MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) ports, meant musicians could plug their keyboards and sequencers directly into a computer.  The Atari ST became the breeding ground of some of today's best music composition software, and many ST's are still in use today at recording studios around the world.


 XL Range
 XE Range
 ST Range
 Transputer Workstation
 ST Book
 IBM PC Compatibles

 Topic sub-menu
 ST design variations
 Mega ST
 Mega STE
 Software highlights
 ACE Emulation Guide
 ST info-byte
 Jack Tramiel
 Go to the Forums