HCM: The Atari-Panther Story
The Atari-Panther Prototype!

Due to high demands on the net I put together this page
collecting all the infos I have about the Atari Panther.
If you have any additional information please
keep me informed!

The Story
First of all here is the story of this particular machine as far as it is known:

The Panther with prototype number PDS0009 was sold within the liquidations items of "Atari Benelux" at the Hobbytronic (an electronic fair) in Dortmund, NRW, Germany - nobody seems to recall the exact date of this particular fair but I will find out asap. The Panther was sold along with other (now) quite rare Atari items like ATW800s, dozends of Atari Stacy and presumably some more very intersting stuff. Christoph Wissing was smart enough (unlike me - I was also at this fair) to buy the machine for 30 DM ($15) to see if he can get it to work. Due to the complete lack of documentation and software he did not succed and put the pather away for some years.

A few weeks ago Henning Schreiber a good friend of mine who has to endure my HomeComputer-Mania for some years now mentioned my "special interests" (he always calls it "collecting scrap") to one of his colleague at webtop media - this guy turns ot to be - surprise, surprise - Christoph Wissing. As Henning knew that my crucial 30. birthday was soon to come he decided that the Atari Panther Prototype would be the ideal birthday present and so this machine got part of the HomeComputer-Museum.


Some Pictures
After this story here are some pictures of the Panther Prototype:
really large really large
From the pictures you can see that there are no slots for carts visible looks like all the software had to be downloaded from a PC (?) via a parallel interface. Can anyone confirm this and/or has the software?


some new infos
15.08.98 by Jason Mazure (jtmazurenospam@nospamoakland.edu):
I was on someone's Atari website back about early '97, and they said they were "dumpster-diving" at Atari's HQ's after they went out of business, and they found a book of developers documentation on the Panther. They didn't find a Panther, just this big manual. I don't remember what page this was on. I think I found it after doing a search on Alta-Vista for Atari. It may not be there still though. I do remember for a fact, him saying that the manual contained the source-code for Panther-Pong. This would make sense as it would be the kind of simple demo they would include to show programmers how to get a game going. Since Minter admitted he programmed on the Panther, you think maybe he programmed Panther-Pong? Did you ever see his Plazma-Pong on the Jaguar in Defender 2000? He never mentioned anything about Cybermorph or Trevor McFur though. Hope this helps.
Other information from the net
Results of posting in rec.games.video.class on 98/07/30:

FAQ: Atari Jaguar Frequently-Asked Questions
by Robert A. Jung (rjung@netcom.com):
Quick history lesson: Sometime in the late 1980s, Atari Corp. was doing research and development on "next generation" video game consoles. There were two systems, a 32-bit machine called the Panther, and a 64-bit machine called the Jaguar. It is reported that work on the Jaguar was progressing better/faster than expected, so Atari abandoned the Panther to focus their energies on the Jaguar instead. Supposedly, if both machines were fully developed, the Jaguar would have followed the Panther only two years later.

Reports of development work on the Panther have been whispered since 1988; some people have erroneously mistaken those rumors to be about the Jaguar.

The Panther reportedly was considered a "32-bit" machine by Atari, though for reasons unknown. It featured three chips, consisting of a Motorola 68000 running at 16Mhz, an object processor called the Panther, and an Ensoniq sound processor called Otis, featuring 32 sound channels. The Panther could supposedly display 8,192 colors from a palette of 262,144 colors, and could display 65,535 sprites of any size simultaneously.

According to Jeff Minter, the Panther's sprite hardware was very similar to the object processor in the Jaguar, to the point where both had the same limitations. Putting too many sprites on a single scan-line, for instance, would require too much time to draw the line and caused a "tearing" effect in the affected row.

from Ernest R. Schreurs (ernest@wxs.nl) :
I know there is supposed to be some development kit with cross compiler, so that you can download stuff from the PC I believe.
from Curt Vendel (Cvendel@aol.com)
(Atari Historical Society's virtual Atari museum):
The Atari Panther was going to be Atari's original video game console system before the Jaguar, it was a kludged combination of the Atari ST and the Transputer Blossom video card. I have the spec's for the Panther and it was a horrible piece of junk. If Richard Miller from Atari's TX R&D division hadn't have had connections with John Mathieson over at Flare then Atari wouldn't have had a route to a better hardware console and they would have never have bought the system and made the Jaguar, the problem was Atari was run by impatient little narrow minded children and didn't understand that the Flare II in its present form was not ready for commercial release, it needed more time and work on the chips, cache and bus and they were not afforded the time they needed, also development kits were not put together properly to give programmers the tools they needed to easily create programs, in the end it lead up to a console that had potential but was plaqued with hardware and political issues well out of its control.

Panther's are very rare but useless for the most part, most are missing the Blossom video processor, there are only 4 games available, none are very good, Cybermorph was a direct port from it and unless you want it just to look at and you can get it for a very good price its just not worth it.

There were only 3 games that I've heard of for the Panther, Pather-Pong, Cresent Galaxy and Cybermorph were supposedly ported off of the Panther to the Jag (Just rumors, I have no solid evidence.

As for the joysticks, Atari always intended the use of the new joypads, so most likely the Panther was being designed for their use. As for loading software, there should be some sort of parallel interface on the unit to do a ROM dump from a PC into the Panther memory.

As for that, I really don't have much more. I just FINALLY got my scanner running again and I will be placing the Panther Spec's up onto the website within the next couple of weeks in both the Atari Archives section and the Atari Jaguar section of the website, keep peaking in from time to time you'll see them, plus lots more.

from Dan Mazurowski (smedley@gte.antispam.net):
Jeff Minter has talked publicly about having coded on the Panther before it was dropped.
from donner@prairie.lakes.com (Don):
I would have to say the rarest is the Atari Panther- little brother to the Jaguar, I do know of about 3 in existence. It was a 32-bit machine that really did not make it past the prototype stage!
(old posting from 1997/11/27)