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Falcon040 Motherboard (AHS Collection)

The Atari Falcon040 was the evolution of the original Falcon030 design, and in many ways was probably the computer many within the computer division would have liked to have launched first.  The Falcon030 and 040 are closely tied together , so here is the full story...

The fact that the original Falcon030 made it to market was testament to those within the company to push the computer to market under strong demands to actually phase the division out much earlier than actually planned.  The fact that the Atari Jaguar was becoming a number one priority within Atari at the time (1991/92), instructions were filtering down from senior management that the time was nearing when 100% of Atari's resources were needed to launch a new games system, and the clear signal was that Atari was planning a withdrawal from the computer market entirely.

It was a bone of contention for some senior managers that Atari would leave the computer market, although officially Atari made it clear to the press that this was not true, later statements would indicate that the writing was on the wall for the computer division.  When it eventually became clear in late 1992 that Atari was exiting the computer market, Atari still painted a picture that this was only a short "break" from the market, while the Jaguar was being developed and launched.

For a company that had limited resources at the time, it was important and appropriate to concentrate on their new gaming product in such a way.  Atari computers had suffered a severe sales slump, and the rise of the PC was a major concern for the company, so it was time to make a do or die decision and concentrate on making money with a new revolutionary games console.

Meanwhile, the Falcon had been launched and was available worldwide by the end of 1992.  Limited advertising and developer support had already caused the machine to falter from the start.  Although approximately 50,000 or more units were sold in its lifetime, the Falcon030 was obviously a compromised machine.

The fact that the original machine used the older ST case design was the first sign that resources for the machine were marginal.  Before the Falcon made its debut in Germany in 1991, many were expecting the Falcon040 at the show, after all that was the machine Atari had been talking about before hand.  It was to be the new high-end powerhouse computer, running Unix and TOS, and would once again provide the consumer with something Atari had done in 1985, "Power without the price".

It seems the Falcon030 was the compromise, a 16Mhz Motorola 68030 running on a 16-bit bus.  What the Atari world really wanted was the Falcon040, a 68040 CPU running on a 32-bit bus, expansion ports and a new system case.  What we didn't know at the time was that the Falcon040 was actually a reality, although this reality was still in the lab, along with the expansion cards and the new case.

We may never know the full reasons for the demise of the Falcon040, it was obviously close to completion, but the fact is Atari didn't have the money or resources to carry a computer line forward and at the same time engage in a worldwide launch and support programme for its new game system.


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