just a small corner. It's a wide world! And so, what does the Atari user/owner do to access the World Wide Web? Well, previously, there simply wasn't a way to do it in a fashion that one could palate.
PHOENIX will change that. Aptly named after a creature that burns itself up and then rises anew from the ashes, the Atari 8bit IS the modern PHOENIX!
The Atari Corporation cast itself into the fiery furnace of history's pages, never to return. But the Internet has breathed new life into the Atari, and the Atari 8bit rises from the ruinous flames of obsolescence to a whole new world! In many ways, the Atari 8bit was ahead of its time: its specially designed integrated chips were so closely integrated that they were essentially ONE! And the timing display of the Atari 8bit was directly integrated with the cycle of a television set, with many of the graphic (ANTIC) features tied into that cycle to give it that "behind the scenes" appearance. And of course, there is much more to the Atari than I am going to expound on at this point.
Returning to the issue of Atari's rise from obsolescence, the Atari 8bit, while just as powerful today as it has always been, has no means to access the internet beyond what I mentioned at the outset, and so the Atari owner/user is being left out of a whole new world. To me, that's as unthinkable as the Atari's abandonment by the public at large!
Having been a programmer in former days on the Atari (not commercially-- but out of necessity!), I was familiar with BASIC and 6502 Assembly. However, it has been at least seven or eight years since I last did any Atari programming, and so I have been spending the past month or so gathering up what information I could to reacquaint myself with the Atari. Lance Ringquist had generously offered to send me some information and I eagerly anticipate its arrival!
At the same time, I've been accumulating information regarding protocols that the Atari 8bit will need to handle if it is to serve as an interface for the Atari owner/user. Such things as PPP, TCP/IP, SLIP connections, HTTP protocols… were always taken for granted by me and handled by my Windows 95/98 and Netscape programs. Of course, I have become familiar with HTML, so that will prove to be useful, too. But the rest of the work that typically goes on behind the scenes to the PC user (mentioned above) now needs to become more than that if I am to make PHOENIX work as the first web browser for the Atari 8bit. Needless to say, I've been very busy with this!!
That is what the "Project: PHOENIX" is that I have been discussing in the Atari 8bit newsgroup (comp.sys.atari.8bit) lately: PHOENIX is a web browser that will run on the Atari XL/XE series of computers.
It is being geared towards the XL/XE line simply because those computers are the ones I am most familiar with. Early indications are that the software will likely run on an Atari 800, but not the Atari 400 because of memory constrictions. I am hoping to design the software to run on a 64K machine, but don't be surprised if it's going to require at least a 128K machine!
I've been asked if it's going to be cartridge-based. Yes, it seems to me that the final product will be most feasible in a cartridge, but the beta releases will be disk-based. The final product, while most desirable in a cartidge, will have a disk-based version, but it's looking as though it will either be a stripped-down version, or will require nothing less than a 128K machine to operate. Keep in mind that there is going to be a lot going on "behind the scenes" in your Atari while you browse the internet, and all that "behind the scenes" activity means program, and program means memory utilized. In a cartridge, bank-switching is going to be the catch-all phrase, but a disk-based version won't have that luxury, and so will demand appropriate RAM. I'm sure you get the picture!
The beta releases aside, the final product will offer a text-based web browser. Any enhancements beyond that are not being considered or I will want to try to incorporate them into the initial version. That DOES NOT mean that I'm not going to try to enhance the product! It's a matter of practicality actually: get a working Web Browser, then do the add-ons/enhancements.
Because of the way Atari handles graphics, PHOENIX will never serve as a reasonable means of displaying the pictures one would find on any given web page, unless someone designs an IC that can replace the internal one that drives Atari's graphics modes and the number of colors that can be displayed. With that said, don't ask if it will have that feature.
Will it have the ability to support SMTP/POP3 mail features, FTP, newsgroups, and whatever else you can dream up? Only the future knows, but if the Atari 8bit that everyone thought dead can come back from the flames of obsolescence and support a browser for the internet, then who is to say it can't do anything else?
I'll try to keep you up to date on PHOENIX here at Atari 2000 as best as I can, but hopefully this brief discussion has produced more questions than it has answered… ;-)
--- Morloc ---