I first heard about the VBXE and Rapidus from watching FlashJazzCat's and The Modern Atari 8-bit Computer's channel. These upgrades got me interested in revisiting the 8-bit world again. Many thanks to Flash for answering my dumb questions. I have a lot of catching up to do.
At the time I decided to give up my 8-bit computer, I had a 130XE with a 256K MIO and a 20 meg hard disk. I got the MIO for demo-ing it at the 4th Atari Computer fair in the Allentown Hilton back in 84 or 85. It was shipped to me with a 5 meg Hollywood block of a hard disk, but I wanted to demonstrate the MIO as an easy upgrade so I bought the 20 meg drive at the show and demonstrated installing and formatting it, then copying floppy after floppy up to the drive. When that started to lose interest, I got the idea of embarrassing the ST demo'ers that were loading hi-res pictures as quickly as they could. Dozens of them, one after another from a single 31/2 inch floppy.
I loaded dozens of nice graphic images from the club disks (did I mention I was the librarian for Abe's Aces at the time) onto the new hard drive and and when I couldn't match the speed of the ST, I cheated and started loading them from a ram disk faster than the ST could load pictures. There was a lot of interest from the 8-bit side as they enjoyed seeing the 130XE drubbing the ST in a head to head contest, and so did I!
So what's the point of the story above? When Jack Tramiel took over Atari and announced that his new computer was not going to be backwards compatible to the 8-bit, I was furious. How dare he bring his Commodore people to Atari and make plans to bin the 8-bits? I was a total Atari fan-boy at the time and I hated the Commodore computer and felt that the Amiga was the future of Atari, at least on a conceptual basis. What I really wanted though was an Atari IIGS. I wanted backwards compatibility and new graphics and sound modes to make that upstart C64 look like the piece of junk I was sure it was. I drew a line in the sand at anything that wasn't backwards compatible.
Why hadn't Atari brought out all those wonderful 1400 series models they promised? Why wasn't the Maria chip from the 7800 somehow being grafted into the 8-bits? I wanted more colors and higher resolutions from Atari but I still wanted to be able to run my 8-bit software. I mean I started with a 400 computer, and maxed out the ram and installed a B-Key keyboard. I upgraded to an 800 and added an 810 disk drive. I bought an 800XL and a 1050 drive and bought then bought a doubler chip for the drive and made my own Rambo upgrade to add 256K memory. This followed by a 130XE and the MIO and hard drive.
My 8-bit was getting more and more powerful and yet it was still my 8-bit Atari. The only thing I wasn't getting was a faster system with high-res graphics. Why couldn't this go on forever? By this time I had PCs also and had gone from 286's to 486's and graphic cards that went from CGA to SVGA, and I was getting pulled away from the Atari by the amazing graphics and sound of DOOM and Quake. I wondered why I could upgrade these PC's and still play old style games on the newer models. It was because backwards compatibility was important and doable on PC's that could be incrementally upgraded. We could have had that if a standard expansion bus had been developed for the Atari line. The PBI bus could have been that bus, but the 1450XLD that would have made it a standard never got made. A 1450XLD would have been our Apple II and could have been the basis for CPU and GPU upgrades that would have made this discussion about drawing lines in the sand about what is and isn't an Atari moot.
We could have NVidia and AMD fighting over who has the best next graphic card for the 65864 CPU based Atari and you wouldn't think twice about whether it draws a line in the sand or not. It would still be an Atari, just...better! And it would still be backwards compatible. Yeah, there have been watersheds in PC development that broke backwards compatibility, but people do things like keep an older PC for games that require some specific piece of hardware.
As I've become less of a fan-boy and just a fan of 8-bit computers, I still want that Atari IIGS that never was, (I also want a C64 and an Apple IIGS) and that's why the VBXE is so interesting to me. It's a chance to revisit what might have been if time, and Warner Communications (and Tramiel) hadn't done the dirt they did to a nice old computer line and we'd still be using it today.
In truth, the only thing that I tended to draw a line in the sand over is FPGA based clones of the Atari. When the Modern 8-bit Atari user demoed an FPGA clone on his channel I asked why you would want that when you could put a 65816 in a REAL Atari. I didn't realize that the Rapidus and VBXE were actually created on FPGAs and that the EclaireXL probably already had a 65816 core and maybe even a VBXE core as well. Considering that the Eclaire has no actual Atari parts in it, would you draw a line in the sand over using one, or only if it had the upgrade cores also? Having thought more about it, I think the FPGA based computer is a good idea, because the original Atari's won't last forever. Maybe it's a non-issue because who's going to want an original or clone once us old farts all die off?
Well, I've rambled on enough for one night, time for Gramps to get to bed.