Atari Program Exchange

Atari Program Exchange

Atari Program Exchange (APX) was a division of Atari, Inc. that distributed software for the Atari 8-bit family of home computers through a quarterly mail-order catalog. APX started in 1982 when Dale Yocam "sold" the idea to Atari management. They published quarterly catalogs until 1984, when Jack Tramiel took over Atari and closed down the division.

When Atari first launched the 8-bit systems in late 1979, they kept most of the hardware details secret. They intended to be the primary supplier of software for the platform, as had been the case with the Atari 2600 console. This limited most 3rd party developers to using Atari BASIC and rudimentary graphics and sound. By the end of the first year on the market, however, many of these details had "leaked out" and increasingly sophisticated applications were becoming available. However, there were a limited number of distribution channels at the time.

Dale Yocam approached Atari with the idea of setting up their own 3rd party publishing arm. With Atari's distribution capabilities the products would be seen by many more prospective customers, and at the same time, Atari would make money with every sale, money that would otherwise be lost. As Chris Crawford later put it:

The guy who cooked up the idea, Dale Yocam, was trying to explain to the management that there are a lot people out there that like to write programs and if we can publish these programs for them, it's a win-win. The management was not very interested in it. He put together a business plan for it and said 'Look, we only need a little bit of money and this thing can be self sufficient and it might make some money.' They very grudgingly agreed to let him do it. And so he did it and very quickly made it into a monster success. It was a major profit center for Atari. They rewarded Dale for his initiative by bringing in another guy to be Dale's boss... so Dale, in disgust, quit about a year later."Fact|date=October 2008

APX was a mail-order catalog of user-written software for the Atari 8-bit family of home computers. APX allowed all programmers, not just professionals, to submit their programs for commercial distribution. If selected, that program was added to the catalog along with the credit to that programmer (unlike Atari's own mainstream software). Many APX programs were games, but also included a wide variety of applications, utilities, programmers' tools, and educational software.

APX typically featured programs too specialized to be distributed in Atari's main line of software distribution (such as utilities), but there were several hits including Chris Crawford's "Eastern Front (1941)", "Caverns of Mars", and "Dandy". Both "Eastern Front" and "Caverns of Mars" were later released on cartridge as official Atari products, while "Dandy" became "Dark Chambers" as well as serving as the inspiration for the hit arcade game, "Gauntlet".

APX ran an award program for the best submissions, the APX Star Award. The first winner, "My First Alphabet", garnered the author, Fernando Herrera, a $25,000 reward from Atari. He used the money to start First Star Software, which would later develop the successful "Boulder Dash" and "Spy vs. Spy" franchises.

After the demise of APX, Antic magazine published some APX titles as "APX Classics from Antic" and continued soliciting new software as Antic Software. "Antic Software" was bound into issues of Antic.

External links

* [ APX info at Atari Archives] including scans of catalogs and list of programs.
* [ APX: The Atari Program Exchange]

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