The Transputer Workstation (also known as the ATW-800 or ATW) was a workstation computer manufactured by Atari Corporation in the late 1980s, based on the Transputer parallel computing processor technology, which was developed by British semiconductor company Inmos.
Why it had Failed
- The ATW sold for £5,000 to £7,000 GBP (£10,450 to £14,630 GPB when adjusted for inflation), making it far too expensive for the mass market.
- Atari was unable to market the ATW in any effective manner.
- Added to point #2 above, Atari did not appear to have invested much time and effort to supporting the ATW or develop successors for it. In short, they had little to no faith in it!
- Perihelion (the creator of the ATW's OS, the UNIX-like HeliOS) and Atari had a deal, in which the latter would deliver the hardware and perform distribution while the former delivers the software. There was going to be a bundle of documentation, along with registration and guarantee cards to be included with the ATW. On reception, Atari would deliver the registration cards to Perihelion. However, as it turned out, Atari did not deliver the registration cards. This became one of several major issues that broke the cooperation. Way to really screw that one up, Atari!
- Inmos folded around the same time that the ATW was released.
- Perihelion, which was a small company anyways, remained the only exclusive distributor for the ATW in England.
- HeliOS, as an operating environment, proved to be a little too exotic.
- Transputers, as a technology, failed to catch on due to problems in pricing, and later on, in performance, when compared to traditional processors.
- The ATW was a powerful system for its time, capable of being used advantageously in some niches, such as scientific computing.
- The Blossom video module used by the ATW was revolutionary for its time, with its ability to support several screen resolutions.
- The Mega ST-based I/O processor allows the ATW to use the standard Mega ST keyboard and mouse, as well as monitors compatible with the ST product line.
- The team which worked on the ATW's Blossom video system went on to work on another project, the Atari Jaguar video game console.
- That being said, it was rumored that the Blossom's hardware would have been used in the cancelled Atari Panther console.
- The miniature Mega ST which acted as the ATW's I/O processor could be used as a standalone Mega ST computer. Except, however, it has no joystick ports.
- There was going to be a single-card version of the ATW for use on the Mega STf computer, but it was ultimately never released.
- Inmos was bought in April 1989 by SGS-Thomson (now known as STMicroelectronics). Around the same time, work was started on a new enhanced Transputer, the T9000, which after encountering various technical problems and delays was scrapped, signaling the end of the Transputer as a parallel processing platform. However, Transputer derivatives such as the ST20 were later incorporated into chipsets for embedded applications, such as set-top boxes.
- Atari ATW at Old-Computers.com
- Wikipedia article
- Atari Transputer Workstation at AtariMuseum.com
- Atari Transputer Workstation at Daves Old Computers
- ATW800 at maedicke.de
- Atari ATW800 at randoc.wordpress.com