The Atari ST was the successor the the Atari 8-bit line the same way that the Amiga was the successor to the Commodore 64. While incompatible with it’s 8-bit baby brother, it was a far more powerful 16-bit system. the Atari ST was not quite as technically capable as the Amiga but it was still a major step forward and was particularly popular among musicians who wanted MIDI capability. It was also quite a bit cheaper than the Amiga, especially before the Amiga 500 was released.
The original Atari 520ST was released in 1985. A slightly upgraded 1040ST was released two years later. While mostly a minor upgrade, the 1040ST was notable for being the first computer to come with 1 MB of RAM for under $1000. The 512ST as the model number would indicate only came with 512K of RAM.
The Atari 1040ST includes the following features:
- CPU: Motorola 68000 @ 8 MHz
- RAM: 1 MB
- Graphics: 640 x 400 mono, 640 x 200 with 4 colors, 320 x 200 with 16 colors
- Sound: Yamaha YM2149
- Disk Drive: 3.5″ 720kb
The Atari ST line used Digital Research’s GEM GUI which ran on top of Atari TOS which was basically an updated version of CP/M. This was also not as sophisticated as Amiga’s multitasking OS but again, the Atari ST was much cheaper and still quite powerful for its time. While I have owned a Commodore 64, Amiga, and Atari 8-bit computers, I have yet to own an Atari ST.
There were several more powerful successor systems to the 1040ST but it was really only the 520ST and 1040ST that gained any significant popularity in the U.S. The Atari 16-bit line of computers was far more popular in Europe where Atari made something like 75% of it sales.
The story of how the Amiga and Atari ST came to be is a pretty interesting one. Check out their respective articles on Wikipedia for a start.
Atari 1040ST and Atari SM124 Hi-Res monochrome monitor