Un­li­censed To Thrill

While many of us were en­joy­ing play­ing the lat­est ar­cade con­ver­sions and big-name movie li­cences on our home com­put­ers a whole dif­fer­ent soft­ware scene was emerg­ing on the Atari 8-bit in Eastern Europe, a far less of­fi­cial one that of­fers up a fas­ci­nat­ing

Retro Gamer - - A MOMENT WITH - Words by Kieren Hawken

When we talk about 8-bit com­put­ers in the United King­dom we tend to only fo­cus on the so-called ‘Big 3’ – the ZX Spec­trum, Com­modore 64 and Am­strad CPC. It’s not hard to see why with their huge range of big name movie li­cences, of­fi­cial ar­cade con­ver­sions and bona fide clas­sics. So it’s easy to for­get some­times that there were other

8-bit mi­cros that had ter­rific suc­cess out­side of the UK. The MSX dom­i­nated in Ja­pan, Spain and the Nether­lands. In North Amer­ica the Ap­ple II and Tandy Coco proved to be ex­tremely pop­u­lar. And then in Germany and Eastern Europe we have the Atari 8-bit, which very much ruled the roost across the for­mer Soviet states. In fact, it was so pop­u­lar in that part of the world that the re­gion even got its own model of the com­puter – the Atari 800XE, which was in pro­duc­tion right up un­til 1992, just a year be­fore Atari un­leashed the 64-bit Jaguar con­sole on the world. As you would no doubt ex­pect, this pop­u­lar­ity led to a lot of re­gion-ex­clu­sive soft­ware be­ing re­leased for the Atari 8-bit com­put­ers in Eastern Europe. The ma­jor­ity of this came from Poland, which was of course the home coun­try of Atari Cor­po­ra­tion owner Jack Tramiel, and it’s at this point where we’ll fo­cus on fur­ther to be­gin to un­ravel this in­trigu­ing story.

Jack Tramiel was not just a savvy busi­ness man, he also knew the home com­puter mar­ket bet­ter than any­one, hav­ing pre­vi­ously founded Com­modore and ce­mented the Com­modore 64 as the world’s best-sell­ing home mi­cro. He knew the value of ex­ploit­ing key mar­kets and, shortly af­ter his ac­qui­si­tion of Atari’s con­sumer di­vi­sion,

he iden­ti­fied his for­mer home as be­ing ripe for busi­ness. At this point the vast ma­jor­ity of home com­put­ers in Eastern Europe were shod­dily built clones of other peo­ple’s ma­chines that had been sneaked over the bor­der, in par­tic­u­lar the cheap and easy-to-repli­cate ZX Spec­trum. Jack knew that peo­ple wanted more, but he needed to find a way into this ter­ri­tory. Do­ing this wasn’t as easy as many might think as this re­gion was still very much un­der Soviet con­trol and im­port­ing goods from the west wasn’t just frowned upon, it was out­lawed. Con­sumers could only pur­chase elec­tronic items from gov­ern­ment-ap­proved re­tail­ers which had a tight grip on the mar­ket. Thank­fully for Jack, he

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.