They made for a pretty beefy machine, I ran ~20 users on one. That was when we had a pile students on a Vax 11/780, I had accounts on both and much preferred the Masscomp.
The comparable Apple machine (monochrome, 68000 processor, 512K RAM) was selling for $2,800.
Even given Apple's famously high margins and Jack Tramiel's equally famous "deal-making ability" (which some would call "gouging" :-)), it's clear that the ST retail pricing was pretty close to the bone.
The ST was a very capable machine built on a very small budget. Compared to that other el-cheapo 68K of the time (the Sinclair QL, a 68008 based machine) it worked wonders and it was the first 32 bit capable machine that I could afford.
And like everything else in silicon, sizes went down, production went up, costs went down. The Palm PDAs used, essentially, 68030 at 33MHz (a variant called Dragonball) and started selling at $499 for the system and were eventually around $79 each.
Now a slow, small Raspberry Pi runs $5, plus $25 in more or less required accessories.
I think that the National 32032 would have beaten the 68K in cost; National was pretty hungry and willing to make good deals. But their chips were rather extremely very buggy (which the Tramiels may not have cared about, since making software engineers suffer was part of their model), but it was a relatively poor performer, clock-for-clock, and that made the hardware engineers go "ewwww" and after a while we software guys realized that National wasn't being invited over for meetings any more.
Granted, the one for the 68010 sucked pretty bad.
For some real joy, check the 88000 pricing and see why it failed.
... at least then. now, there are. :)
What was unique about it was that it could run System 7 applications alongside your common System V/BSD tools.
I've still got a Quadra 800 at home running it.
A mirror of the well-known A/UX software repository, Jagubox, has been published at the Internet Archive.
Really sad that companies put these kinds of restrictions on their employees...
Employers really need to stop trying to control what their employees do while off the clock.
I won't sign a contract the restricts what I do on my free time. Any place that does that is not a place for me.
If you get a chance to edit that typo I'll delete this comment to reduce clutter. :-)
If the system beep occurred, the kernel would lose interrupts. Needless to say, this was not a good thing.
Keep in mind that this was a time when one was not guaranteed to have memory segmentation hardware, let alone floating point hardware. We take this for granted in 2015, but in the period between 1985 and 1995, it was a serious luxury for lots of computer buyers.
That said, with 4MB of 60ns RAM and a 68030 costing you $10k to start on a Mac IIfx and an upgrade to take you up to 8MB potentially costing you another couple grand, why not just go SGI and be done with it?
This prompted DEC (Ultrix), HP (HP-UX), IBM (AIX) and other companies to band together to develop their own standard Unix, which was OSF/1 (Open Software Foundation, or as Scott McNealy said, "Oppose Sun Forever").
This kicked off another round of Unix Wars, which was no doubt much appreciated in Redmond, where Windows NT was being developed.
The Atari SVR4 was ported by Unisoft and there's a video of it booting on a TT 030 workstation (which had a 68030).
I was at the Atari Unix SVR4 (pre-)announcement at CeBIT in Germany, but it's so long ago I've forgotten the details.
For those that are interested, SVR4 was released for the Amiga. It's a shame Commodore's management blocked it from reaching its full potential.
 - http://www.dadhacker.com/blog/?p=987
There was a brown box at the time, iirc by Torch (?) that ran a version of Unix on a 68K. Does anybody know which machine that was?
The 6809 OS that was 'unix like' referenced in the comments is about OS/9.
Which is a really neat little OS that you can run on the TRS-80 CoCo and the UK clone of it called the 'Dragon 32'.
The trick was to make it work without requiring an adder -- and subsequent carry propagation delay -- in the data path. Thus, "one gate delay" and simple replacement of address lines, and a simple "all zeros or all ones" check on the bounds, rather than a numeric comparison.
I ran into a related problem, I had a need to drive a whole pile of IO and only an 8 bit centronics port to work with (on the ST as well). So I ended up making a little demultiplexer using 4 bits of the 8 as address and the remaining 4 as data. The strobe was used to latch the data. Not super but it worked well enough to let the 68K drive stepper motors in real time near their maximum working frequency (30K steps / second or so).
The ST was a fascinating machine, lots of ports, relatively cheap and with all kinds of limitations that continuously drove the users to creative hacks. I loved that time. Thanks a ton for all your work.
Oh, one more for the road: we had a product that was copied quite frequently and obviously wanted to make that a bit harder. There was no budget for a dongle so in the end I looped one of the 8 bits of the port back to an input. If that wire wasn't present the software would exit with an 'out of memory' error :) Threw the copyists for a loop because all I did on not finding the wire was allocate all the remaining memory which would then cause a TOS Bomb on the next memory allocation, which could happen just about anywhere. Nasty little trick.
Edit: Ah, got it:
Indeed, the Torch Unicorn, Unix on a 68000. Makes you wonder what they did for MMU, apparently it ran Unix System 3
What annoys me is that the machines you mention were remarkably simple and elegant machines (Amiga was elegant, but very simple) while a modern PC is a matryoshka of nested computers all the way down to an 8088-powered IBM PC 5150. There must even be a cassette port (connected to nothing, of course) somewhere in a modern PC chipset.
I was afraid someone would detect the matrix print, but no one ever questioned my papers. I did have professors bleed red all over my papers though. My grammer was just horrid. My spelling was great though.
In one English class, a student plugged in a laptop(it was the size of a small suitcase) into a electrical socket. The teacher made some demeaning comment to the student. It was someting like, 'I never thought I would see the day where a student plugged in a computer? Ugh?' I remember thinking that student has some balls, but has a great tool at his disposal. Never liked that English teacher. He accused me of plagiarizing once--in a weird round about way. Ah, back then teachers had a lot of power. They could ruin a student's future.
I remember trying to get my girlfriend interested in my Atari. She was paying 2 dollars a page for someone to type her papers. I showed her the word program. I showed her the Paint program. She didn't like anything about the machine. She didn't even want be near the machine. She is now some big wig at some hedge fund. Her official title is chief of web technology, or something along those lines. I haven't gone one day where I haven't thought about her. Crazy?
I look back, and I couldn't get anyone interested in my computer. It was like people just hated them? Couldn't figure out why. I wasen't a big tech guy either, and only used the word processing program. I remember thinking, I guess the computer thing will never take off. I was so wrong.
I remember my last visit to the retail store that sold me the Atari, and I could tell they were about to close up shop. My last memory is of a big guy with a beard, and he looked so depressed. All the computers were nicely displayed, but no customers. They even turned off the shopping music. There was this weird silence, and a feeling of doom. I think the shop stayed open a few more weeks, and it turned into some shop that made custom doors?
Looking back, I just have fond memories of my college girlfriend. I wish I treated her better. I think I have holiday blues?
I'd say it was the opposite ;)
The PC today barely have the BIOS in common of the PC of the era.
This seems to have made developers lazy, as performance problems could always be fixed with an hardware upgrade (why it seemed that MS and Intel was in cahoots about some kind of tick-tock plan).
Also, the net happened. And thus a increased focus on security (to the point of paranoia perhaps). Thus where before a program could pull all kinds of "shenanigans" to maintain performance, these days it would throw multiple security violation errors. End result is that the computer is "wasting" cycles doing all kinds of checks where before it was full speed ahead.
I think not even that... I think Atari ST came out in 1985 and if I remember right, Linus started working on Linux in 1991, so not even in the picture at that time.
When AT&T and Sun were doing their joint Unix stuff with SysVR4, they had a deal with Microsoft to add 286 Xenix compatibility. Microsoft contracted with Interactive Systems Corporation (ISC) in Santa Monica, CA, to do the work (which made sense, because as part of ISC's contract to do the 386 port of SysVR3 for AT&T, ISC had done a 286 Unix binary compatibility system).
I worked at ISC at the time, and the 286 Xenix compatibility was done by Darryl Richman and myself. At one point Microsoft told us that there was a serious issue that had to be decided, and it was too important to handle over the phone or email. They wanted both Darryl and I to fly to Redmond. This annoyed me, because I strongly avoid flying . (During the flight, though, I did see something interesting. Over Northern California I saw a black aircraft very rapidly ascending. As far as I could tell, we were at around the right latitude for Beale AFB, which was a major starting point for SR-71 and U-2 spy missions, so one of those could have been what I saw).
So we finally get to the meeting, and they bring up the massive issue that could only be dealt with in person. There were one or two differences in signal behavior between Xenix and SysVR4 that could not be taken care of in our user mode code. They would need to add an option to the kernel to switch to Xenix behavior for programs running under our Xenix emulator. That was no problem--they knew how to do that.
What they did not know, and needed this urgent face to face meeting to discuss, was whether the interface to that option should be an ioctl or a new system call.
We told them to go with an ioctl (if I recall correctly), they said that would be fine, and the meeting was over.
If that wasn't annoying enough, when the project was done Microsoft said they were very happy with the results and they expressed this by sending Darryl a bunch of free Microsoft software.
They sent me nothing.
Now if Darryl had been the project lead or principle engineer or something like that on the project, that would have been fine. But we were equal...and I actually was the more experienced in that area because the 286 Xenix emulation was based on the 286 Unix emulation which had been done by Carl Hensler and me.
 I believe everyone is allowed, and should have, one stubbornly irrational fear, and I picked for mine flying on aircraft that I am not piloting.
AT&T had an early UNIX PC series, the 6300 (8086, in a rebranded Olivetti unit)) and 6300 Plus (80286). I think the former only ran DOS and Venix, but they had a System V implementation for the Plus, IIRC.