Commentary on an Atari ST Marketing Brochure
I’m not sure where I got this, but I have an Atari ST marketing brochure from 1987. I think it is rather interesting and worth a closer look. I didn’t write much about marketing in my Atari ST: What went wrong post, but looking at this brochure might give us a sense of how Atari thought it should be marketing the Atari ST.
1986 was the heyday of the Atari ST and 1987 started off strong. It’s not clear from when exactly this brochure is from, but I suspect early 1987 since it does not make mention of the Mega ST which came out later in the year.
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The front of the brochure, when expanded, is a picture of a 1040ST setup. It is in color, but there is not much color to be seen. Everything is a drab gray with the only color being the “power without the price” slogan under the Atari logo and the blue Atari logo on the 1040ST itself and the coffee mug.
The setup highlights the computer with a monochrome monitor, a printer and the mouse. The coffee cup is poorly placed, blocking the disk drive and in the way of the mouse, which is partly off the desk. On the left is a book, The International Software Catalog (I’m not sure it ever really existed as a real ting), which is clearly padded for thickness.
It’s hard to tell with the mug in the way, but I don’t think there is a floppy disk in the drive because if so, the eject button would be sticking out.
On the screen of the monitor is a word processor, Microsoft Write. Even though that word processor was objectively terrible, it is a good choice for a static screen such as this as it shows off multiple fonts (something the Mac was good at), the high-resolution display and infers that the Atari ST is supported by Microsoft.
I’d like to see more colors here, but I like the cover of the brochure.
No we move on to the inner pages of the brochure where the Atari ST is introduced. Since this is the eighties, the brochure is text-heavy. No one today would read this much text (except for all you wonderful blog readers, of course).
Congratulations on your fine selection of an Atari product. Did you know that in addition to its famous Video Game Systems, we are also one of the world's leading producers of advanced personal computers?
Please review the outstanding features of our popular 520ST and 1040ST systems.
You will be amazed at their superior performance. And when you are ready to enter the fascinating world of computers, we invite you to visit your nearby Atari dealer. You'll be equally amazed at how little a powerful Atari costs.
I find it odd that the first paragraph seems to imply a purchase has been made. Why would anyone want a brochure if they’ve already purchased? Congratulations just seems weird here.
Atari believes that its commitment starts with computing power. ST Computers offer more raw computing power, more speed, more versatility, and better graphics than any other computer in their market.
Computing power makes the ST Computer easy to use. It is so intuitive and friendly that virtually everyone can sit down and start computing immediately.
Computing power also means results. Spreadsheets fly. Words fall into place. Pictures dazzle and come alive. And music soars. The Atari ST lets you work faster, smarter, and with more versatility than ever before.
With the ST series of computers, personal computing has gotten a whole lot better. When you combine power, intelligence, and productivity, you get computing at its best.
It seems like they forgot about the Amiga when stating “better graphics than any other computer in their market.” The Amiga was definitely in the ST’s market and definitely had much better graphics1.
WITHOUT THE PRICE
Atari is also committed to bringing you computing power at a competitive price. With an ST Computer you pay less. A lot less.
Atari believes in sound pricing principles- take the cost of manufacturing, add a reasonable profit margin, and you have a price that is both fair to the consumer and profitable for the company. Everyone profits when technology is used to produce high quality at a low cost.
Just because you pay less, don't think you're getting less. Atari ST Computers come standard with TOS™ the operating system, GEM™ , the windowing system, and, of course, the mouse.
Unlike most of the competition, all expansion capabilities are built into the ST. No video display or printer cards to buy. This computer comes equipped with everything you need.
Atari firmly believes in its commitment to "Power Without the Price."
Please visit your professional Atari retailer and ask him to show you how much Atari power you can own at extremely competitive prices.
There is a lot of talk here about price, but no specifics. They leave it to the dealer to quote a price that is filled out in the “Prices” section after this paragraph.
“All expansion capabilities are built into the ST” is a bit of a stretch. The ST could not be upgraded in any way. You could not upgrade the RAM, you could not improve its graphics capabilities, you could not swap out any parts. All you could do is add peripherals. And saying no display cards or printer cards are needed is strange because by 1987, all computers came with these built-in.
And this wouldn’t be the 80s without a little mysogeny, provided by the line “visit your professional Atari retailer and ask him to show you…”
Now we move on to the inside of the brochure, were the real content is.
The first two panels talk about software, which makes sense.
The power of the Atari ST Computer means that software can really work for you. With the vast library of available software, you can choose programs from any of the standard software categories.
The first is word processing with another picture of Microsoft Write (although it is not mentioned by name — in fact, the software product names are only mentioned in the fine print with the copyright information at the end.)
The Atari ST Computer has a word processing program to fit any need, for the student or the wordsmith. Combine the ST's high-resolution monochrome display with laser printer support and you have a system suitable for the most demanding professional environment.
Word processing was easily the most common usage for computers back then so it makes sense to start with this one.
Next up is spreadsheets, the 2nd-most popular usage of a computer. Here EZ Calc is shown with a picture from a color display.
Computing power means number-crunching at its fastest. Just plug in the numbers and you're ready for financial planning, budgeting, or any accounting function. The ST is the accountants' and home managers' most personalized tool.
Database Management is next and it shows DB Master One.
From simple databases to complex data sorting comparisons, the ST handles relational data-bases, mailing lists, and filing systems with ease. The power and speed of the Atari ST are uniquely suited to this fundamental computer operation.
For Graphics & Design, Easy-Draw is shown.
For artists, architects, and busi ness people, the ST has the software to animate a picture, design a skyscraper, or chart your third-quarter profits. High-resolution graphics mean interactive page layout, dynamic design, CAD, and much more.
Music Composition shows Music Studio. The Atari ST was very popular with musicians.
The ST Computer is the modern musician's instrument. With the ST's built-in MIDI port, amateurs and professionals involved with digital sound now have a low-cost, high-tech recording studio.
Choose from hundreds of programs and start composing today.
Entertainment shows Star Raiders. Although this was a popular game with the Atari 8-bits, I’m not sure it had much recognition in the wider world.
Atari invented computer entertainment. Hundreds of games are available, from adventure classics to flight simulations. The same technology that makes the ST a business person's assistant, makes it the supreme computer entertainment system.
Education shows Planetarium. The ST never got much of a toe-hold in education.
The ST Computers low cost and high performance make it the ed ucator's computer of choice. Take a look at the array of educational software, and place an ST into the classroom today.
Peripherals and Comparisons
The next two pages focus on peripherals and a computer comparison chart.
In the 80s it was common for computer manufacturers to provide most of the peripherals for their systems. This made sense because a lot of things were proprietary back then and some of that was also true of the Atari ST. Sure, it used industry-standard ports for printers and modems, but the displays, floppy and hard drives all used special connectors.
Atari’s usage of separate color and monochrome monitors was unique and somewhat limiting. Most people would pick one display and stick with it. Two displays took up a lot of space and switching between them was a pain — swapping plugs was annoying and risky.
The comparison chart compares the 520ST and 1040ST to an Apple Macintosh 512K, Macintosh Plus, and an IBM PC AT. It is notable that they chose not to include the Amiga in this comparison.
The comparisons don’t really mean much and are written in such tiny font that it seems impossible that anyone would have bothered reading through them. The best thing they convey is that the ST computers had similar hardware to much more expensive IBM and Macintosh computers.
To be honest, I was a little surprised to learn that the “power without the price” slogan was still being used in 1987. I suppose it still rang true, for the most part. After all, you could get a 1040ST color system for about $1000 and a monochrome system for about $800 (520STs cost less of course, but were not as good a value in my opinion). A Macintosh would have been about $1800 or so and up and a PC AT would have been twice that.
But as I wrote about in Atari ST: What went wrong, other computer makers continued to update and upgrade their computers in 1987 while Atari stood pat with its designs.
And for what it’s worth, its pricing didn’t continue to drop. I got my 1040ST monochrome system in January 1989 for $770, which was about the same price they were selling for two years earlier!
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At least when it came to color. The ST’s monochrome display was amazing for the time, but I doubt many people used it for “graphics”.