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Is the C64 too different to A8 to ever have meaningful comparison?


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#26 sack-c0s OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 5:03 AM

I don't think the computers are that different - they're similar enough to invite comparison and to do reasonably similar things, but different enough to make it a long running debate.

I think the bigger problem in these discussions is that the users are the same as each other, so it ends up turning into the online equivalent of a pub carpark fight with nobody prepared to back down.

#27 Bryan OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 8:00 AM

How many 8-bits had dedicated sprite hardware? I can think of 3 types:

1. Atari 8-bits
2. C-64/C-128
3. Anything based on a TI video chip

Any I've missed?

How many 8-bits used a custom built sound IC?

1. Atari 8-bits
2. Anything from Commodore

Everything else used an AY or TI chip or had no sound chip at all.

So maybe the A8 and C64 are too similar to make them easy to compare. ;)

#28 carmel_andrews OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 8:21 AM

Thinking about this, the question is, would we have a commodore, let alone a c64 if commodore didn't buy out MOS, bearing in mind that MOS designed and created most of the c64, vic and pet hardware (less the motherboard, keyboard, screen etc), whereas Atari pretty much designed most of it's own hardware

#29 Mclaneinc OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 8:50 AM

Surely the point of this question is based upon what we do have and not what we may have or not had, just seems to be pulling it off topic.

Edited by Mclaneinc, Fri Mar 2, 2012 8:51 AM.


#30 JamesD OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 9:12 AM

Thinking about this, the question is, would we have a commodore, let alone a c64 if commodore didn't buy out MOS, bearing in mind that MOS designed and created most of the c64, vic and pet hardware (less the motherboard, keyboard, screen etc), whereas Atari pretty much designed most of it's own hardware

I guess those Commodore engineers sat around and did nothing.

#31 Rybags ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 9:20 AM

I'm just eagerly awaiting the book release:

"Atari, Commodore, and the home computer wars of the 80's: What REALLY happened!"

#32 Mclaneinc OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 9:44 AM

Many people sat spliffed out of their heads and did nothing.

#33 R6502A OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 9:48 AM

I'm just eagerly awaiting the book release:

"Atari, Commodore, and the home computer wars of the 80's: What REALLY happened!"


Such a book would have to be written by a kid from the Playstation 3 / XBox 360 / Wii generation to avoid any fanboy bias. :-)

Edited by R6502A, Fri Mar 2, 2012 9:51 AM.


#34 potatohead OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 9:55 AM

What about basic things?

Compare line drawing, for example. What peak number of lines can be drawn, given any angle and 4 colors? 2 colors?

Softsprites?

Full screen? Regions?

Another one might be color resolution. C64 has 320 pixel color resolution, Atari has 160 pixel. (40 byte screen)

Seems to me, those kinds of comparisons make sense.

#35 Osbo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 9:57 AM

I think the main problem with the A800 was in the day, Atari didn't released the necessary documentation needed to truly unleash the machine. The C64 was a bit more friendly towards letting people write software to use in their system.

#36 Rybags ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 10:34 AM

I don't think it was a problem for long.

The hardware & OS manual were available after a short while. And 3rd party software was reasonably widespread by 1980.

#37 www.atarimania.com OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 10:45 AM

That's exaggerating things a bit, third-party software was practically non-existent in 1980.

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#38 Bryan OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 11:34 AM

I don't think it was a problem for long.

The hardware & OS manual were available after a short while. And 3rd party software was reasonably widespread by 1980.


The problem wasn't that you couldn't get it, the problem was that Atari was too restrictive about its distribution and considered the custom chips to be trade secrets. Apple built their empire by putting the technical docs in everyone's hands and supporting the user community. Atari started out trying to control who got the docs and they charged for them. They saw themselves as the primary software provider and some early developers reverse-engineered the system themselves. This meant that they were in a worse position to survive with increasing competition. Apple charged much more for hardware, but they had an army of people banging away on it.

#39 JamesD OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 11:52 AM

What about basic things?

Compare line drawing, for example. What peak number of lines can be drawn, given any angle and 4 colors? 2 colors?

Softsprites?

Full screen? Regions?

Another one might be color resolution. C64 has 320 pixel color resolution, Atari has 160 pixel. (40 byte screen)

Seems to me, those kinds of comparisons make sense.

Don't forget BASIC benchmarks. :D

#40 oky2000 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 11:56 AM

From a game buying point of view in 1982 the A8 games here in the UK were around £30 (cart/disk imports), Spectrum games were £6 and C64 games about £7.

The only reason I didn't get a cheap 800XL in 1985 when they were selling for £99 in shops was not software prices (US GOLD and others now had tape games and they were 1.99 to 9.99 same as C64) but it was the constant hyping up of the ST. My interests then were more creative than games playing at that time.

At the time just before the 800XL stock dumping by the Tramiels there were some nice games coming out for the A8 which were either quite close to or better than the C64 version (Koronis Rift/Elektraglide etc)

I think they were very similar machines but had radically internal ways of achieving the things they did. I guess it's like Xbox 360 DirectX 10 or Sony PS3 bespoke graphics library producing very much identical results today.

Edited by oky2000, Fri Mar 2, 2012 11:56 AM.


#41 JamesD OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 11:56 AM

I've been over and over the "why didn't the Atari 8 bit sell better?" question in my head.

Timing was wrong. Apple, Tandy, and CBM had a foothold, existing software, and loyal customers.
Documentation was late coming which hampered development and delayed 3rd party software.
Apple and Tandy had stores. Atari didn't do enough to develop a retail presence.
The product was marketed to the average consumer but the price was too high for the average consumer.
Atari had an image problem. They were a game company and almost nothing they released early on said "this machine can do business."
People that wanted an Atari wanted the 800, but most could only afford the 400 which was seen as a game system and it couldn't do everything the 800 could (no 2nd cart slot for starters).
When 3rd party software really started to come out, suddenly Atari had more competition and they were being beat on price.
The first updated Atari in years had compatibility issues and fewer joystick ports.
Cheaper to produce Ataris were late to market.
Atari BASIC was horribly slow. One of the reasons for putting BASIC on a cart was so you could upgrade. Where was Atari's upgrade? An upgrade should have been released from Atari in '81. Instead it had to be done by OSS and released in '85 which was too late and it didn't fully compete with Extended Basics from other companies.


Face it, management just didn't fully understand the product or the market early on and later management had different goals.

#42 Faicuai OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 12:42 PM

To me, the most generally comprehensive/condensed sources of "fresh" knoweldge on HW-intricacies (platform-wide) are the head-authors and developers of the TOP-NOTCH emulators, especially when lots of attention is paid to detail (such as timing, demos, sound reproduction, cycle-accuracy, undocumented tricks, memory-management, you name it).

It would be a blast to have, for instance, the head-developer of Altirra (my top-choice for 8bit emulation, and Atari 800, on its absence), vs. hopefully the head developer of the overall best emulator for C64 (which I am not sure which one is, nor I have been that interested, after selling pretty much all popular 8bit and 16bit machines you can think of, in the past), involved in a candid, challenge-filled conversation.

Having these two folks, enabling such comments, anecdotes, direct comparisons and observations on specific implementation tricks, following how the "hardware" renders some specific software or conditions in one machine. vs. the other (hopefully with some simple, specific examples), would the THREAD OF THE CENTURY... and the best part is that, because it would be extremely technical and objective, and also illustrated (readers could run the emulators and test the differences without having the HW), it would also be naturally sterilized / shielded from the classical stupidity and immaturity that comes with the A8-and-C64 comparisons.

It could potentially drive NEW sales in BOTH bands (C64 folks buying A8 HW, and A8 buying C64 stuff, as well as the perks and expansions involved!)

That would be something worth watching and witnessing, indeed.

F.

#43 oky2000 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 2, 2012 3:55 PM

To be fair the old 467 page A8 vs C64 locked thread did make me personally go and find Atari stuff, and it was nice to play some new games (and some long forgotten ones I used to play on my friend's Atari 800 as US doubler setup).

Price was an issue I guess but given the number of hobbyist/bedroom coders in the UK for the Sinclair ZX81/Spectrum from 1980-82 I'm sure quite a few more tape games for 16kb A8 machines would have been made....which in turn would have helped the machine. So the keyboard was not an issue really, nor was only having 16kb etc

Looking at the choices available in 1981 say I don't think the 400 was a bad choice, and actually if you start reading things like volume 1 or 2 of Computer and Video Games magazine you will see a lot of games listings to type in. Maybe it was bad marketing then.

I guess having a 64kb machine at launch helped C= from both a marketing point of view as well as the complexity of the base software for the machine.

#44 potatohead OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Mar 3, 2012 12:08 AM

Type-ins were popular where I lived. We got really good at converting programs for other systems too. Most people started out on tapes, passing them around, dubbing them too. Mostly it all worked.

As disk drives showed up, a few folks with modems brought big software, which we didn't treat any different from the type-ins at first.

#45 peteym5 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Mar 3, 2012 5:45 PM

Hope this does not end up being a 300+ page thread which is better. I recently played around with a Commodore 64 emulator to check out how things were mapped in memory. I have considered porting something that I did on the Atari 8-bit over to the C64. I had to do a few experiments, but I think it is not too hard to port my Adventure/RPG engine to run on a Commodore since it is geared to work with a 40 column screen Antic 4 screen. I see that the C64 has a multicolor character mode, but can it be split to have a couple of text lines on the top? I know something about a Raster Interupt, but does it function like DLIs? Sprite part should be easy since I don't have to any multiplexing or less intense multiplexing if I intended to put more sprites on screen.

I said this before, its hard to say Commodore 64 or Atari 8-bit is better. However, think the management at Commodore (Jack the Hutt) was where problems came from. They had several different platforms. Pet, CBM, VIC-20, Plus-4, and 64 all unable to run each others software. Where every other company like Atari, Apple, IBM kept their computers backward compatible before going to 16 bit machines. Only the IBM compatible 16bit systems were still able to run PC 8bit software. My 130XE is able to run most 400 software without hardware mods, just use a translator disk. By no strange coincidence after Tremail came to Atari, he started to mess things up with releasing several platforms on the market, ST, XE, 7800. Wasn't there an issue between some TT and ST models for compatibility?

#46 Rybags ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Mar 3, 2012 6:51 PM

C64 multicolour text mode also allows normal text - bit 3 of the attribute byte controls which mode each character uses.
Each MC character has 3 shared colours + 1 selectable from the lower 8, hires has common background + 1 selectable from the lower 8.

Raster IRQs are the DLI equivalent but there's no WSync, other tricks have to be used to get the program to a known location in a scanline.

ST and successors had some compatability problems due to various things, like Tos version differences and the fact that some 68000 software used the high byte of pointer double-words for flags or other storage which means it breaks on >= 68020 systems.

C= 8-bit machines aside from C=128 were never really intended to be compatible other than some shared peripherals, some common OS calls. Such drastic change of architecture every 2-3 years, standard industry practice for many in the 1980s but as we found out is part of the reason proprietary architecture was pretty much dead by the mid 90s.

#47 atarixle OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Mar 3, 2012 10:03 PM

Imagine an Intel Mac compared to an AMD PC ...

-with different graphic carts
-with different sound carts
-once machine had twice the speed (cpu clock)

... and with having no driver for each other machine('s sound and graphics hardware ... ) ...

and you got a lil idea of the many differences between A8 and C64.

Edited by atarixle, Sat Mar 3, 2012 10:05 PM.


#48 emkay OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Mar 4, 2012 3:36 AM

Imagine an Intel Mac compared to an AMD PC ...


The difference is more like a 300PS Truck compared to a 200PS Racing Car.

#49 wood_jl OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Mar 4, 2012 7:32 AM

JamesD made many excellent points, above.

The Atari 400 (my first computer!) had to be an overall mistake for the line. The "McDonald's Cash Register Keyboard" only aggravated the situation where the brand was seen as game machines. To the casual observer, this thing reminds them of an Odyssey 2. The VIC-20 got a real keyboard! The 400/800 were just too expensive, early on. $550 (??) for an 8K 400 and $1100 for an 8K 800 doesn't just sound expensive. It certainly was. If you consider the "real" value today of those 1979-1982 dollars, it's damn expensive.

The fact that one could not upgrade an Atari 400 - OFFICIALLY - until very late in the machine's life caused some people to abandon the A8 computer line. Anecdotal case in point: I knew 2 kids in "Jr. High School" who both had 400s and 410s like I did. Nobody (this age) could afford an 800 or 810. Everybody hated waiting on the 410 to load games, badly. Cartridges were super-expensive, so most kids only had a few, and trade carts for the weekend (etc.). Most gaming was still done on cart, because of the dreadfully slow 410. If anybody wanted a disc drive, they'd have to get an unofficial $190 48K upgrade. At the time, the 810 was about $599. Then, you'd still be stuck with that keyboard, or some yuck aftermarket chicklets if you could find them.

Lots of 400/410 owners - rather than re-invest into Atari the dollars necessary to buy an 800 computer and 810 disk drive - just switched brands. They considered the investment into the 400/410 to be a waste because it essentially wasn't expandable, or at least perceived to be, or at least easily expandable. One guy finally got an Apple II, which is what most kids wanted at the time but it was $3500 with drive(s) and monitor. Other got C64 and 1541 Floppy and finally got the RAM, the real keyboard, he was wanting, and the disk drive he wanted - at a price significantly lower than Atari offerings at the time. Besides that, the awful keyboard and 410 slowness seem to be the most salient of the machine's "virtues," when I asked these guys years later about the "Atari 400 days." They associated those attributes (or rather, perhaps memories of those attributes) to Atari computers as had been their experience. The guy who got the Apple II figured it was what he should have done in the first place. The guy with the C64 was happy with how much bang for his buck he got, as the games were pretty good for the time. Neither seemed interested in investing hundreds of dollars again in the Atari line for an upgraded version of the same thing, essentially what they consider Atari should have sold them in the first place.

I sure enjoyed my original 800 and 1050, though!

Edited by wood_jl, Sun Mar 4, 2012 7:34 AM.


#50 atarixle OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Mar 4, 2012 9:00 AM


Imagine an Intel Mac compared to an AMD PC ...


The difference is more like a 300PS Truck compared to a 200PS Racing Car.


What I forgot to mention:
-different gfx, different sound, no drivers for each other machine
-same CPU! (or at least bin-compatible, 6502@1,7MHz and 6510@1MHz)




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