Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Welcome Addition

Table of Contents ]

A Welcome Addition
US News And World Report

This A Welcome Addition ad appeared in the pages of U.S. News & World Report magazine in 1982.

The ad shows a young, expecting couple, thoughtfully analyzing their household budget, which was prepared with their ATARI 800 home computer. The concerned look on their faces show that their actual budget may not have matched their anticipated budget.

Displayed on the shelf above and behind the couple are the ATARI software packages for Mortgage & Loan Analysis, Graph It, Conversational Spanish and Caverns Of Mars. Yes, this is another ad where I needed to get out the magnifying glass.

The ad copy mentions both ATARI's Personal Financial Management System and ATARI's Home Filing Manager. The small print at the bottom of the ad states that the "estimated product availability of Personal Financial Management System, My First Alphabet and Home Filing Manager" to be "mid-1982".  

Personal Financial Management System

At the bottom of the ad is a stock ATARI HOME COMPUTERS photograph showing a television, the ATARI 400, the ATARI 800 and the following software packages: Graph It, Missile Command, Mortgage & Loan Analysis, Energy Czar, Stock Charting, Conversational Spanish, ATARI Word Processor, Mailing List, Star Raiders, Statistics I and Music Composer. The television displays what appears to be My First Alphabet. This photograph has been used in multiple ads, with only the image that is displayed on the television changing from ad to ad. You can find the same photograph in other ads with the television shown to display Star Raiders, States & Capitals or other ATARI software.

If you are interested, you can find more detailed information about Mortgage & Loan Analysis, Graph It, Home Filing Manager, Stock Charting, ATARI Word Processor, Mailing List, Statistics I and States & Capitals on Wade Ripkowski's InverseATASCII Atari 8 Bit Productivity Podcast.

So whatever happened to ATARI's Personal Financial Management System software? I'm so glad you asked. Read on ...

Personal Financial Management System
1981 Software Catalog Announcement

ATARI's Personal Financial Management System was announced in an ATARI 1981 SOFTWARE CATALOG with an estimated availability date of Second Quarter 1981.

It was mentioned as a new product in the ATARI News section on page 9 of issue #3 of ANALOG Computing, stating that "A Personal Financial Management System designed to help an individual plan and figure their personal budget ... the program requires 32K, an 810 Disk Drive, and will retail for $74.95. Release date to be announced." It was also announced as "... a database-oriented system designed to help the user plan and analyze a home budget ..." in the pages of Compute! magazine on page 158 of the June 1981 issue. An ad for it appears on page 6 of the September 1981 issue of SoftSide magazine.

Also in September 1981, the Fall 1981 issue of Atari Connection magazine,Vol. 1, No. 3, highlighted Personal Financial Management System in the New Product section beginning on page 4. The article stated "Two program diskettes and one diskette for your data. Requires an ATARI 800 Computer with a minimum of 32K RAM and an ATARI 810 Disk Drive.  Suggested Retail Price: $74.95. Estimated date of availability: November 1, 1981."

Personal Financial Management System was eventually released by ATARI in the first half of 1982.

There is a detailed review of the product by Ed and Sharon Middlebrook beginning on page 23 in the February 1982 issue of the M.A.C.E. Newsletter, a monthly publication by and for the members of the Michigan Atari Computer Enthusiasts Users Group.

Ed and Sharon Middlebrook state that "It was with great delight that we agreed to test the Atari Personal Financial Management System." They cover the features and documentation of the product. They also mention a few "irritations" and a "major fault" in that "IT DOESN'T WORK PROPERLY". They go on to state "At this point, we simply cannot recommend the ATARI Personal Financial Management System under any circumstances. If and when ATARI fixes the programs, it will be a worthwhile addition to almost anyone's library. As it stands, it rates a straight 'F' for failure..." Wow, that is a no holds barred review!

Personal Financial Management System
Instruction Manual Cover

Months later, in the August 1982 issue of the M.A.C.E. Newsletter, there is a product recall announcement on page 3 stating:
ATARI Personal Finance Recall - The Personal Financial Management System has been dropped by ATARI. You may remember that MACE member[s] Ed [and Sharon] Middlebrook was [were] the first to report the serious bugs in the system earlier this year. A new release was quietly shipped and pulled again when the new version was found to be not much better than the old. Anyone who purchased the package and doesn't have an overwhelming personal attachment to it may receive a full refund of the purchase price by returning it to ATARI along with the original sales slip. They'll also throw in a certificate worth $10 toward the purchases of the APX's (Atari Program Exchange) home budget system.
ATARI's Personal Financial Management System is offhandedly mentioned AGAIN as a new product in an editorial by Lee Pappas on page 4 of issue #7 of ANALOG Computing (September 1982).

Family Budget Is Right!

In the following issue of ANALOG Computing, issue #8 in November 1982, ATARI's Personal Financial Management System is reviewed beginning on page 28 in an article titled Budget Programs Review. This review starts off well enough, "... people might be tempted to buy because of the superb packaging job. This program consists of 3 diskettes and a 3-ring binder instruction manual written with ATARI's typical step-by-step thoroughness ...", but that, unfortunately, is the high point. The review ends with an endnote that states "NOTE: Some little bugs have been discovered in the ATARI Personal Financial Management System, and we have learned that this program will be taken off the market temporarily for corrections."

ATARI's Personal Financial Management System was again mentioned in an article titled Whither Atari? beginning on page 4 of issue #9 of ANALOG Computing:
ATARI released their Personal Financial Management package and then recalled it after about six months. It contained undocumented bugs and was very slow in operation. However, it did allow the user to maintain up over 100 budget categories, which made the program very flexible. I have been told by ATARI representatives that there are no plans to revise the program, however, the latest ATARI product catalog gives the first quarter of 1983 as the new release date. ATARI currently recommends that the APX home finance programs be used. This is less than ideal solution due to the limited scope of the user written APX programs.
In an article title ATARI In 1983 starting on page 117 of the same issue of ANALOG Computing mentioned above, Lee Pappas states that "FAMILY FINANCES replaces the Financial Management System which was pulled from the market in mid-1982 ..." 

So, there you have it. ATARI's Personal Financial Management System was announced with a late 1981 release date, then re-announced in the A Welcome Addition ad with a mid-1982 release date, released, updated and re-announced with a First Quarter 1983 release on page 17 in ATARI's 1982 Discover the World of ATARI HOME COMPUTERS catalog, then quickly discontinued, never to be seen again. Users were then pointed to the Family Budget software package by Jerry Falkenhan published by APX. Yes, that's right, an expensive, professionally written, well documented and exhaustively marketed software package, years in the making (and marketing), was replaced by what was basically a homebrew. Good for you, Mr. Jerry Falkenhan! You can read about Family Budget on page 10 of the Summer 1982 APX catalog.

Family Budget
By Jerry Falkenhan
Atari Program Exchange

Note that ATARI's Personal Financial Management System was also announced as part of ATARI's The Home Manager Kit (CX418), one of many quick start kits that ATARI marketed, with an estimated availability date of First Quarter 1983, on page 5 of the 1982 Discover the World of ATARI HOME COMPUTERS catalog. As released, this kit contained The Home Filing Manager and Family Finances, but not the Personal Financial Management System. The Family Finances software was originally two separate APX programs, Family Cash Flow and the aforementioned Family Budget. There is a review of Family Cash Flow on page 45 of issue #13 of A.N.A.L.O.G. Computing magazine. These two programs were repackaged and added to ATARI's mainline catalog.
ATARI's Unreleased
The Home Manager Kit
Personal Financial Management System

The AtariWiki has more detailed information on ATARI's Personal Financial Management System, including disk images, screenshots, photographs, documentation, and other ephemera.

If you have some spare time and are interested in fixing the bugs in the Personal Financial Management System software, it consists of multiple ATARI BASIC-based programs and the source code is available on the AtariWiki.

2021-10-31: On October 23, 2021, the ANTIC Podcast published ANTIC Interview 428 - Dave Johnson: Demon Attack, Atlantis; APX Lookahead; Atari Personal Financial Management System, an interview episode with Dave Johnson, the programmer of the Atari Personal Financial Management System.

2021-12-23: The Atari Personal Financial Management System manual was recently posted on archive.org.

-- @BillLange1968