The Atari TT
(Thirty Two/Thirty Two) was a machine born of rumour and myth. Dubbed the
"Super ST" for months before it's launch, the system was Atari's most serious
play for the Apple dominated business sector. The system was a huge leap forward
for the company, and it was innovative as it was powerful. Utilising the Motorola
68030 CPU, it was an impressive system at a price Apple couldn't (and didn't) match.
The system also looked innovative, with a clever "block" type design, housing
the CPU and HD separately and a "lip" for the keyboard to sit on if preferred.
system was designed at Atari's Dallas R&D centre, along with the new
had obviously put a lot of time and money into the TT, it had been the culmination of over
4 years work by Atari engineers.
for the first time in Germany, then the UK, the five TT models shown (which were
overshadowed by Atari's new 286 PC and Portfolio computers at the 1989 PC Show held in
London) were flown in from Germany just in time according to an Atari source at the
show. The TT was available in limited supply by the end of 1989 in Europe, but
wasn't launched officially in America for another 12 months.
name of the Atari ST derives from the nature of its microprocessor, the 68000 -- a
so-called "sixteen/thirty-two bit" processor (hence "ST"), by virtue
of its 16-bit-wide data bus and 32-bit-wide internal registers. As early as 1986 Atari
realised that it would have to begin taking steps to exploit the added power offered by
successor chips in the 68000 series. At the time, the most important of these was the
68020 -- the first "thirty-two/thirty-two bit" chip -- capable of fetching a
32-bit quantity in one cycle, and of addressing four gigabytes of RAM. The first TT (from
"thirty-two/thirty-two") was prototyped around this chip.
time went on, however, Atari realized that the 68020 was not an ideal stopping-point for
the TT technology it was developing. Though powerful, the 68020 still lacked certain
important features offered by the next successor in the 68000 line, the 68030.
the next three years, several revisions of the TT architecture surfaced in Atari's R&D
labs, designed around chips spec'ed between 8 and 16MHz. At the same time, Atari's
Industrial Design Division, under the direction of lra Velinsky, began developing the
aesthetic that would mark Atari's new top-of-the-line flagship system as unique. From the
beginning, Velinsky steered away from the "gray wedge" and "gray box"
aesthetics that dominate the ST line. Even very early case designs suggest the glimmerings
of a more sophisticated sensibility, drawn from classical architecture.