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Atari History :: Chapter 11 - Let's play games again

1993 - The Atari Jaguar was Atari Corps. last official product.   It was the culmination of years of work behind the scenes at Atari - work which not only included the purchase of technology from Flair, a UK based technology company, but tough re-structuring of Atari world-wide.  If Atari was to survive into the 21st century, this product had to pave the way for it to do so, and unfortunately, it did not.   The Jaguar was also the death-knell of Atari's Computer division - Mass produced PC's from new direct companies such as Dell and Gateway were becoming more and more affordable, even Apple were feeling the pinch of the Windows operating system - Atari did not have a large enough user base to carry on making TOS based computers and having already tried it's hand at PC's, Atari didn't have the capital or expertise to re-enter that market.

One market Atari did know however, was the gaming market.   It had the made-to-measure brand name to re-enter the console market, and if executed properly and smartly, Atari would become a household name once more.

The Jaguar wasn't the first console Atari R&D had been toying with, in fact, Jaguar was been developed in parallel with a 16/32 Bit Console codenamed Panther.   1992 - Leaks about Panther had been around for months, some early rumours mentioned it was even based on existing STE technology - suggestions in the press said it was to be "an STE with a cartridge slot".  Panther was a real project, being developed in Dallas (U.S.) and Cambridge (UK) and it was supposed to be close to completion - this Nintendo Killer, as Sam Tramiel liked quoting only too often, was shelved because development on Jaguar, Atari's 64-Bit system, was well ahead of schedule.  Panther utilised a 12Mhz MC6800 and could produce 4,096 colours on screen from a palette of 16 Million; sound was produced by four 8-bit sound channels.

Soon, Jaguar was being quoted everywhere, and if this was deliberate on Atari's behalf, it certainly excited everybody - after all, this was the newest console from Atari since the XEGS back in 1987.

So it became clear as the months went by and restructuring continued, such as the closure of more European offices and the sale of Atari's Taiwan Facility, that Atari were betting heavily on entering back into the video console market - and the noises, as Jaguars specifications started to leak, were that this cat could be a killer system.


Not since the launch of the ST had I witnessed as much gossip and press for Atari's new machine - there was genuine interest in Atari, the share price was approaching $5.00 after a lengthy depression, and all the time, magazines looked forward to reviewing the new 64-bit system.  Atari began issuing official press announcements, such as the OEM agreement with IBM.  This was the OEM contract for IBM to source components, build, assemble, and box the new Jaguar console for Atari.   The Atari share price "ATC" reached $12.00 on the announcement, it seemed Atari was, after-all, getting things right with the Jaguar.

 1972 - the birth of Atari
 The world goes Pong crazy
 Launch of the VCS
 Atari grows up
 Just before the crash...
 1984 - The crash
 The new Atari Corporation
 Computer wars
 Playing the game
 Survival of the fittest
 Let's play games again
 1996 - Game over

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