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About elmer

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  1. That's really cool of you! I hope that somone can get that stuff working and make good use of it.
  2. FYI, none of what you mention there sounds like any kind of unusual investigation or special handling was really required at all for those issues ... the things that you've described, the chip select, the 8 clocks, and the initialization, are all part of the well-documented MMC/SD card access standards. See here for SPI mode, or you can download some of the official standards docs online (although they can be hard to find without paying money). That doesn't take away from the fact that "yes", it can be a total pain to actually get reading and writing and error handling to actually work reliably!
  3. I'm not quite sure how you can say that the CPC was "never used to ithe full potential" in the UK, and then list five games that "showed what it was capable of" that were all developed in the UK! The Amstrad was a lovely machine to program for ... the problem with getting too many Spectrum ports (especially early on, 1984-1986) was because the game publishers often contracted small teams, or even single programmers, to develop both Spectrum and Amstrad versions of a game, and gave them neither the budget nor the development time to take advantage of the Amstrad's capabilities. That was less of a problem later on (1987+) when the Amstrad market was large enough for the big publishers to justify enough time/budget to create Amstrad-specific versions of games. The CPC's biggest problems from a game development standpoint were the lack of pixel, or at-least byte, horizontal scrolling, and the overall lack of memory (because games were targeted at the base 64KB machine, since that was approx 2/3 or the overall sales).
  4. There are the official development documents, circuit schematics and pictures of the development board (to confirm all of the above) ... that is actually one heck of a *LOT* of information! All of that information also exists online for the Genesis and the SNES. It seems very, very clear that the Panther (in its 32KB SRAM configuration) would have been uncompetitive against the Genesis or the SNES ... especially since most publishers would not have had any reason fund the difficult development of games for its specific hardware (since it is so unlike any of the other competing products). Yes, the Panther could do a couple of really nice hardware tricks that the other two consoles couldn't ... but that shared memory bus, the lack of sufficient SRAM, and the 32-color-per-line limits are things that would have limited the quality of any games.
  5. I am definitely interested in the capabilities of the SIDE3, but there is absolutely no way that I would take a file to my beautiful 1200XL just to use one, nor am I willing to use just a bare-board. I am possibly in the minority here, but I guess that I'll just have to wait and see if there is a future revision to the board and/or cartride shell so that it fits.
  6. Well, for anyone that can actually read technical specifications and has done commercial game developement, that is the link that would have been nice to see posted 18 pages ago. IMHO the tech docs that Valentino links to (especially the TIMINGS doc) confirms his interpretation. So when drawing graphics from cartridge ROM, that's a 1.8x screen overdraw capability (i.e. effectively 1 tiled-bitmap backround layer and 0.8 screen's worth of sprites) vs a 3x screen overdraw on the Genesis and the SNES (2 tile layers plus enough sprites to cover a whole screen). If you use the whole bandwidth of the Panther chip to draw that much data, then the CPU will be stalled for most of the frame time, and unable to actually do any processing and updates of the objects list ... yuk! Things look a lot better if you can copy your graphics data from cartridge ROM to SRAM, where you could have 64 16x16 16-color Bitmap Objects per line, basically giving you the same 3x screen overdraw as the Genesis and SNES. Except that once-again, in order to get that level of overdraw, your CPU is totally stalled for the entire draw time of the frame ... and that still doesn't take the cycle time to traverse the BO list itself into account. It could have been an interesting, but difficult, machine to develop for (which mainstream developers wouldn't have done until it sold a million or more), and as others have said, basically a 2D-game-only 7800-on-steroids. IMHO it looks like it *BADLY* needed more 32-bit SRAM memory on the board in order to even be competitive against the Genesis and SNES in 1991/1992 ... say 64KB minimum, but 128KB would have allowed it to do a lot more.
  7. A 48KB 400 was the first computer that I bought with my own money back in 1982, from a computer dealer in Birmingham (UK), two bus hops from Edgbaston and somewhere near Aston University IIRC. 🙂 Could that have been one of your upgraded machines? If so, THANK YOU! I loved that machine for many years until I could afford to replace it with an 800 so that I could stop getting bruised fingers.
  8. Pretty much this, and I'm not even a great fan of the machine ... but it really is probably the best machine for a newcomer to "retro computing". If you're not already well versed with the machines and the capabilities of the time period, and you go on to find that you really don't see *something* to like in the C64, then IMHO you're unlikely to like any of the other machines of that era. Having said which, I would always recommend anyone new to try emulation before they start spending money on hardware that they don't know.
  9. I apologize ... I had a brain-fart and confused the old 1702 monitors (without RGBI), with the later high-resolution-capable 1080/1084 monitors (with RGBI). So you would have absolutely *needed* to buy a new monitor if you wanted to see 80-columns on the C128 .... at an extra cost. That horrible pricing differential applied to pretty much all electroinics, and was much complained about. US prices seemed to be converted nearly 1:1 into GBP, even though the Pound was worth approximately double the Dollar at the time. It wasn't called a "tax", and AFAIK it still exists. Households in the UK legally *have* to pay an annual "License Fee" for each TV in the house to help pay for running the BBC (which doesn't have adverts, and so no advertising revenue). It was substantially cheaper for a Black-and-White TV license than a Color TV license. Dedicated computer monitors didn't need to pay the license fee because they couldn't display broadcast-TV programs. So "yes", that was another attractive feature (for new computer owners) about the CPC's inclusion of a monitor.
  10. You're right, the Commodore 128 added CP/M support, and an 80-column text mode (and a bitmap mode, although Commodore didn't even tell anyone about until 1986). But to use that 80-column mode, and have it actually be readable for any length of time, then IMHO you would have had to go out and buy a CGA monitor, because your old C64 RGBI-TTL monitor certainly wasn't designed to clearly display text at that high a resolution! The C128's CP/M mode was gimped by the memory access timings on its 4MHz Z80, and by having the CP/M BIOS calls need to switch in 6502 mode for handling ... resulting in CP/M performance that reported runs like a 2MHz Z80. The Amstrad runs a 4MHz Z80, so if you actually *wanted* to run CP/M software, then the C128 was a bit of a joke. As for monitors, well maybe every American kid in the 1980s had a nice new color TV in their bedrooms, but in Europe lots of kids were lucky to even have a hand-me-down black-and-white TV in their bedrooms ... the color TV was downstairs in the living room, and their parents were watching it! That made Amstrad's inclusion of a monitor rather attractive to a lot of consumers, and the 80-column-capable high-resolution green monitor version sold very well, especially since you could easily see the 16-color games on it ... just in shades of lovely green. Adding the 1985 price of the C64 to my earlier list gives ... Commodore 64 (no cassette, no floppy, no monitor) GBP £149 Commodore 1541 floppy drive GBP £150 Commodore 64 (1985 Christmas bundle with cassette and software) GBP £199 Amstrad CPC464 (with cassette integrated) and including green-scale monitor GBP £199 Amstrad CPC464 (with cassette integrated) and including color monitor GBP £299 Amstrad CPC6128 (with floppy integrated) and including green-scale monitor GBP £299 Amstrad CPC6128 (with floppy integrated) and including color monitor GBP £399 Commodore 128 (no cassette, no floppy, no monitor) GBP £269 at launch Commodore 128 (1570 floppy, no monitor) GBP £450 after two price drops Atari 520ST with monochome monitor GBP £749 For more about the C128's difficulties in the UK, and Commodore's price drops, you can read this and page 4 of this. It is also important to remember that whatever *my* perceived pricing or technical issues are with the C128, it still outsold the CPC range, with approximately 4.5 million sold vs Amstrad's 3 million CPCs sold (2 million of them CPC464 models).
  11. The C64 port of Salamander is lovely, and yes, the Amstrad's "lazy Spectrum port" is horrible! What you are missing (whether deliberately or not), is that the C64 version of "Head over Heels" isn't a lazy port ... it is just a particular type of game that shows the technical limitations of the C64, and the strengths of the CPC ... much like your Salamander example does in the opposite direction (even if the Amstrad port had been better). It is absolutely the best that the C64 can do with that kind of a high-resolution (256 or higher pixels per line) bitmapped game, rather than the 160 pixels per line (with scrolling) tile based game that the C64 does best. The C64 just can't display 4-color (2bit-per-pixel) graphics at that resolution. It isn't "laziness" on the part of the programmer, it is a limitation because of the difference in the memory bandwidth that became technically affordable for manufacturers between the C64's 1981 design and the CPC's 1983 design. At that resolution the C64 is monochrome, and adding color attributes for the 8x8 tiles would only introduce horrible color clashes that would have made that kind of bitmapped graphics look awful, which is why it wasn't done on the Spectrum either. The screenshots show how much nicer 2bit-per-pixel high-resolution graphics can look in comparison to monochrome high-resolution graphics ... something that Nintendo also showed the American market later on in the decade.
  12. The Amstrad CPC definitely had some serious limitations, and AFAIK it was *briefly* sold in the US ... where it totally failed. Yes, the CPC464 was released in 1984, and not in 1985, I know. IIRC it did rather well in 1984. The 1985 comparison was to point of the difference in UK prices between the CPC6128 and the Atari ST, both models with floppy drives, since you were making a point about the importance of computers having the price of floppy drives included in anyone's purchasing decision. I'm sorry if I didn't make that clear. As for whether there was room for something better than the CPC in the American market; I understand your belief in the position that there wasn't, and that the US market was definitely different to the UK market.
  13. I guess that we'll have to disagree on our definitions of "mid-range" then, which is OK, these are all just questions and individual opinions. You're right that the CPC was better in some ways, and worse in others, and C64 fans will always be able to point out that the CPC can't scroll worth a damn, and doesn't have sprites, while CPC fans will say that it didn't need sprites, and that its colors blew away the muddy grey-and-brown look of C64 games. That's the joy of the 80s fanboi wars that still continue today. For myself, I have no difficulty seeing *some* kind of middle ground in the following screenshots ... Commodore 64 Amstrad CPC464 Amiga / ST And heck, I'm not even really talking about the CPC as some wonder machine anyway, because the CPC was cost-reduced to the bare bones. My point is that in 1984-1986, hardware designers *could* have come up with something between the C64's and the Amiga's capabilities, and that they did so in other regions, such as the MSX2 in Japan, or the Enterprise 128 in Britain (which is roughly like a CPC with a larger color palette, and that could scroll). Your point seems to be that people wouldn't have seen enough difference to upgrade their Apples, Ataris or C64s, and I'm not going to disagree ... what I consider to be the potential "middle ground" market is all of those people wanting an affordable first computer for their kids, or perhaps gamers upgrading from an Atari 2600, an Intellivision or a ColecoVision. Perhaps that market didn't even exist in the US, although the sale of 3 million Amstrad CPCs in Europe, and the sale of 8 million of the more business-oriented Amstrad PCWs suggests that there was *some* demand that wasn't filled by the existing 8-bit machines, while some people waited for the price to drop on the 16-bit machines and IBM clones. It certainly helped to make Alan Sugar a very rich man. This matches my experience of the times. At some point the PC clones became the obvious choice, for all of the reasons that the people here have talked about, and I personally spent a lot of time and money from the very early 1990s onwards upgrading mine and running the latest-and-greatest software and games. PC clones went through the 386, 486, Pentium, Pentium Pro, Pentium II, and Pentium III, with various sockets and CPU slots. They had ISA, VLB, PCI and PCI-66 slots for graphics, and if you weren't running a recent motherboard, with the latest graphics card on the latest bus technology ... then it felt like you were going to miss out on some feature in some exciting new game. Each of those motherboards back then seemed to introduce yet another new version of RAM, and maybe even a new hard-disc standard (ST-506/SASI/SCSI/IDE). It was a fun time and experience ... but it wasn't cheap, and there seemed to be little real practical reuse of components, unlike what some folks here seem to be suggesting as one of the advantages of the slot-based IBM clone. Technology was just moving too fast in that decade, and any CPU/RAM/HD/graphics-card/sound-card that you bought was obsolete within 2 or 3 years. But that is all about the wonderful 1990s, and I thought that this thread was started to talk about the computers in the 1980s, and the effect of the 1983 videogame crash on that time period, specifically in relation to gaming. That is what interests me ... While it is easy to point out how the C64 won the home-computer wars, and was the gamer's choice in the US (and nearly everywhere else) for many years, there were other computer choices available, and technology kept on moving forwards. In the US, no decent 8-bit computer appeared after the C64 that really challenged it, and so the NES (designed only about a year after the C64) was able to stroll into the US market in 1985/1986 and begin to steal back the hearts of gamers towards the dedicated videogame console. In the UK, I don't even remember the NES as being a relevent machine in any way. Home gamers stayed on computers until the Genesis and SNES appeared, except for those affluent few who imported PC Engines and got to exerience CD-ROM games many years before everyone else.
  14. Because *most* gamers/users didn't have a stereo TV or monitor back then ... the Beeb didn't broadcast NICAM stereo until 1991! If you're going to pick quotes from that article, you might as well post the whole thing ... This! Adding STE colors was easy, but redesigning major game features to take advantage of something that only a few customers could take advantage of ... that just wasn't going to happen in 1989. It can't shift/rotate graphics (unlike the Amiga), which means that it is a lot less useful for drawing sprites, and that you still need to store multiple pre-shifted copies of the sprite data in memory (unlike the Amiga). Yes, if you had the memory available to store pre-shifted sprites, then it was a LOT faster to use the blitter than drawing sprites in software ... but it's still not as useful as the Amiga's blitter.
  15. Yes, that was rather my point ... there was a rapid pace of change, and regular price drops made *all* machines more affordable as time went by, both at the top and the bottom of the ranges, and at any theoretical "middle" range. The mid-range option that I'm missing in the US market is precisely what I just pointed out ... some theoretical US machine that could compete with the Amstrad CPC range, because that was what was *affordable* to build in 1984/1985. A cheap computer with an 80-column text mode, and 16 colors in chunky-pixel 160x224, or 4 colors at 320x224. To put it in terms that might make sense to an American ... lets call it the computer equivalent of what Nintendo was designing in 1982 ... the hardware technology that knocked American companies out of the ring as home-video-game manufacturers. Unless I'm missing something, American computer companies didn't release anything significantly *new* (I do NOT include cost-reduced versions of existing machines) for the home market in 1983/1984/1985. The Coleco Adam comes the closest ... but since it was just a retread of the 1982's ColecoVision, with its 1979 graphics chip, and based on the same Texas Instruments reference design that gave us the Spectravideo, the Tatung Einstein, the Memotech MTX, and the original MSX1 ... it hardly counts as either uniquely interesting, or as a technical upgrade. The Commodore 128 in 1985 offered far too few improvements to be worth discussing, and while the CoCo3 was a lovely upgrade to the Coco2 in 1986, it was still too-little, too-late. Anyway ... I believe that the answer has really already been given, and its not about some technological superiority of computers-with-slots (which doesn't seem to have stopped the iPhone/iPad), it is about corporate fear and comsumer herd-mentality. Commodore and Atari tried to make something different, and gave it their best try, but everyone else jumped on to the IBM clone bandwagon, and the sheer number of the alternatives made their success seem both desirable and innevitable to both consumers and businesses ... which then became a self-fulfilling prophecy. As was said earlier, in business "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM", and by the late 1980s most buyers didn't want to make a "mistake" and so buying an IBM clone was the "safe" bet.
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