Atari Program Exchange
Atari Program Exchange (APX) was a division of Atari, Inc. that distributed software for the Atari 8-bit family of home computers through a quarterly mail-order catalog. APX, the brain-child of Dale Yocum, started in February 1981 and later managed by Fred Thorlin. APX published quarterly catalogs until 1984, when Atari CEO James J. Morgan closed down the mail-order division.
When Atari first launched the Atari 8-bit family in late 1979, the company kept most of the hardware details secret. It intended to be the primary supplier of software for the platform, as had been the case with the Atari 2600 console. By the end of the first year on the market increasingly sophisticated applications from outside Atari were nonetheless becoming available. There were, however, a limited number of distribution channels at the time.
Dale Yocum approached Atari with the idea of setting up their own third-party publishing arm. With Atari's distribution capabilities the products would be seen by many more prospective customers, and at the same time, Atari would make money with every sale, money that would otherwise be lost. Chris Crawford later stated:
The guy who cooked up the idea, Dale Yocum, was trying to explain to the management that there are a lot people out there that like to write programs and if we can publish these programs for them, it's a win-win. He put together a business plan for it and said 'Look, we only need a little bit of money and this thing can be self sufficient and it might make some money.' They grudgingly agreed to let him do it because the Atari platform desperately needed a larger software base, a void not being filled by the other publishers of the day. And so he did it and very quickly made it into a monster success. It was a major profit center for Atari. They rewarded Dale for his initiative by bringing in another guy to be Dale's boss... so Dale, in disgust, transferred to the new Atari Research Division under Alan Kay about a year after APX launched.
APX was a mail-order catalog of user-written software for the Atari 8-bit family of home computers. APX allowed all programmers, not just professionals, to submit their programs for commercial distribution. If selected, that program was added to the catalog along with the credit to that programmer (unlike Atari's own mainstream software). Many APX programs were games, but also included a wide variety of applications, utilities, programmers' tools, and educational software.
As of June 1983[update] Crawford's Eastern Front (1941) was APX's best seller. Other hits included Caverns of Mars and Dandy. Both Eastern Front and Caverns of Mars were later released on cartridge as official Atari products, while Dandy became Dark Chambers as well as serving as the inspiration for the hit arcade game, Gauntlet.
Atari Star Awards
In 1981, Atari Software Acquisition Program (ASAP) ran an award program, the Atari Star, for the best quarterly submissions, the grand prize being the Super Star trophy and $25,000. The first Super Star winner was My First Alphabet by Fernando Herrera. He used the money to start First Star Software, which would later develop the successful Boulder Dash and Spy vs. Spy franchises.
According to Atari CEO Morgan, APX was losing money in its mail-order business so that part was shut down:
Moreover, Atari had to come to grips with the fact that Atari is not in the mail-order business. However, APX will continue to review products sent to Atari by outside programmers," he says. "If the programs are topnotch, they will be added to the main Atari catalogue. Otherwise, they will not be sold by Atari in any fashion."
After the demise of APX, Antic magazine published some APX titles as APX Classics from Antic and continued soliciting new software as Antic Software. The Antic Software catalog was bound into issues of Antic.