The funny thing about the Atari ST and its main competitor of the time, the Commodore Amiga, is that both machines could have been released by their competitors.
The Amiga developers were pioneers who developed much of the Atari 8-bit chipset (and later the Lynx) so were originally negotiating with Atari but Commodore swooped in and picked up the design. In response, Atari’s management picked up a design that had earlier been pitched to Commodore… and would become the ST.
In terms of graphics and audio the ST lagged behind the Amiga but it initially made up for it by being cheaper and having more memory (until the arrival of the Amiga 500). The major hardware difference was the addition of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) ports that allowed the machine to talk to instruments such as synthesizers and drum machines. The STe variant updated the graphics and audio chipsets to equal the Amiga’s capability but didn’t surpass it.
MIDI helped spawn a raft of digital music studio applications on the ST such as Cubase which defined the machine as the go to for music scoring and production. Even now, there are still some musicians using ST computers and companies selling ST based machines specifically for this purpose. Desktop publishing was popular too when an ST and its laser printer were MUCH cheaper than the equivalent Mac version of the time.
For me the ST was the first machine I learned to program (GFA Basic), where art would become a big interest and also help get my first taste of what the Internet would become via Telnet sessions to the University network. I also got to play one of the greatest games of all time.
Games of note:
The original 3D dungeon crawler ranks as one of the best games ever released on the ST. Extremely challenging, playable and intelligent. And how many games could let you kill a mummy with a loaf of bread? 🙂
More games to come…