De Re Atari

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De Re Atari
Author Chris Crawford, Lane Winner, Jim Cox, Amy Chen, Jim Dunion, Kathleen Pitta, Bob Fraser
Country United States
Language English
Subject Atari 8-bit family
Publisher Atari Program Exchange
Publication date
1982
Pages 250 pp
Followed by The Art of Computer Game Design

De Re Atari ("All About Atari") is a book written by Atari, Inc. employees in 1981 and published by the Atari Program Exchange the year after. Targeted at developers, it documents the advanced features of the Atari 8-bit family of home computers and includes ideas for how to use them in applications. The information in the book was not available in a single, collected source at the time of publication. Atari released official documentation for the hardware and a source listing of the operating system the same year, 1982, but they were not as easily obtainable as De Re Atari and tutorials in magazines such as Compute!.

Background[edit]

An article on Player/Missile Graphics by De Re Atari coauthor Chris Crawford appeared in Compute! in 1981:

Another article by Crawford and Lane Winner appeared in the same month in BYTE:

De Re Atari was serialized in BYTE in 1981 and 1982[1] in ten articles:

  1. Crawford, Chris (September 1981). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 1: The Display List". BYTE. p. 284. 
  2. Crawford, Chris (October 1981). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 2: Graphics Indirection". BYTE. p. 70. 
  3. Crawford, Chris (November 1981). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 3: Player-Missile Graphics". BYTE. p. 312. 
  4. Crawford, Chris (December 1981). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 4: Display-List Interrupts". BYTE. p. 166. 
  5. Crawford, Chris (January 1982). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 5: Scrolling". BYTE. p. 26. 
  6. Winner, Lane (February 1982). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 6: Atari BASIC". BYTE. p. 91. 
  7. Fraser, Bob (March 1982). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 7: Sound". BYTE. p. 80. 
  8. Fraser, Bob (April 1982). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 8: Generating Sound with Software". BYTE. p. 134. 
  9. Pitta, Kathleen; Winner, Lane (May 1982). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 9: Even More Colors!". BYTE. p. 148. 
  10. Crawford, Chris (June 1982). "The Atari Tutorial / Part 10: Human Engineering". BYTE. p. 302. 

Description[edit]

Atari at first did not publicly disclose technical information on its computers.[2] De Re Atari ("All About Atari") was sold by Atari Program Exchange (APX) in its mail-order catalog, which described the book as "everything you want to know about the Atari ... but were afraid to ask" and a resource for "professional programmers" and "advanced hobbyists who understand Atari BASIC and assembly language".[3] The book came as an unbound, shrink-wrapped set of three-hole punched pages.

The magazine series and De Re Atari were the first public, official publication of Atari 8-bit technical information. The series was based on Atari's confidential, 8-bit development documentation written in 1979-1980 for third-party developers under non-disclosure agreements. Individual chapters are devoted to making use of the features of the platform, which included ANTIC and the display list, "graphics indirection" in the form of color support in the GTIA and customized character sets, player/missile graphics, using the VBI and display list interrupts (aka HBI/Raster interrupt), smooth scrolling and sound, including a discussion of "volume only sound" which offered higher-resolution volume control for digitized sample playback. Additional chapters covered utilities in the operating system, Atari DOS and Atari BASIC, and design of intuitive human interfaces.

Crawford, the lead author of the book, used many of these features in the seminal wargame Eastern Front (1941) released the previous year. Eastern Front made extensive use of smooth scrolling, custom character graphics, and some use of player-missile graphics and basic sound. Another of the book's authors, Jim Dunion, used custom display lists in the DDT tool (a 6502 debugger) to produce a partitioned, IDE-like display.

By 1985 De Re Atari was out of print.[4] It is available for viewing on a site maintained by Kevin Savetz, the Atari Archives.

Reception[edit]

De Re Atari was very successful; the manager of APX later said that it and Eastern Front "paid the bills, i.e. were our biggest sellers".[5] Mapping the Atari described De Re Atari as "an arcane, but indispensable reference to the Atari's operations and some of its most impressive aspects".[1] The Addison-Wesley Book of Atari Software 1984 stated that the book had "a wealth of information, but tends to be obscure and includes numerous errors".[6]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Chadwick, Ian (1985). Mapping the Atari - Revised Edition. Compute! Press. pp. Preface. ISBN 0-87455-004-1. 
  2. ^ Nelson, Ted (1983). "The Atari Machine". In Small, David; Small, Sandy; Blank, George. The Creative Atari. Creative Computing Press. ISBN 0916688348. 
  3. ^ "The quarterly APX contest / APX: Programs by our users...for our users / Publications / Hardware". APX Product Catalog. Fall 1983. pp. 34, 72. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  4. ^ "I/O Board". Antic. March 1985. p. 6. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  5. ^ Kevin Savetz, "Fred Thorlin: The Big Boss at Atari Program Exchange", April 2000
  6. ^ Stanton, Jeffrey; Wells, Robert P. Ph.D.; Rochowansky, Sandra; Mellid, Michael Ph.D., ed. (1984). The Addison-Wesley Book of Atari Software. Addison-Wesley. p. 418. ISBN 0-201-16454-X.